"Victorian Secrets is a small publishing house devoted to making the works of neglected Victorian writers available to the modern reader.
Although over 60,000 novels were published during the nineteenth century, only a very small number have remained in print. In some cases there’s a very good reason for that, but others have been undeservedly forgotten"
This is the introduction on the About page over on the website of this fascinating publishing house - do please check it out on http://www.victoriansecrets.co.uk/about-2/. As a lover of Victorian literature I was simply delighted to discover all these quirky and interesting books being hunted out and republished. I found out about it via a contact at OUP who is also on Facebook who has a friend who is the MD and so it goes - fascinating to stumble across places like this and when this happens I rejoice in the internet and its facility to produce such serendipitous discoveries.
I was very kindly sent two books which they have published in the last year. The first is The Perfect Man by David Waller "The Muscular Life and Times of Eugen Sandow Victorian Strongman" and the cover is adorned with a photograph of this fine figure of a man wearing nothing but a strategically placed fig leaf. Bet that caused many a heart to flutter... He was incredibly famous body builder and well known on the stages of the Victorian Music Hall and, naturally, took commercial advantage of his fame. It was possible to purchase a Sandow's spring-grip dumbell, made in different sizes for Gentleman, Ladies and Boys and Girls and could only be purchased from 'Athletic Outfitters' which conjures up the rather wonderful picture of shop assistants vaulting over the counter to serve their customers.
He is even mentioned in Ulysses where Leopold Bloom tried 'the indoor exercises prescribed in Eugen Sandow's Physical Strength and How to obtain it" and it seems that PG Wodehouse was also an adherent, contributing articles to Sandow's Physical Culture magazine while working for the Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank in the City of London. Mr Sandow seems to have been a superstar and returning to Britain in 1905 after an 18 month absence he received an amazing reception, being greeted by a large crowd while a bank played See the Conquering Hero Comes.
He died very suddenly, probably of an aneurysm, by which time his fame had started to decline. HIs widow, Blanche organised a funeral very hastily and two days after he died there was a brief service and then was quietly buried. She never granted interviews or spoke about him and when admirers of Sandow visited his grave they found it neglected and overgrown with weeds. One wonders why his wife behaved in this way and there are several interesting theories put forward by the author.
A superb book - quirky, interesting and totally fascinating. As I love all things Victorian this is definitely staying in my library.
The second book I was lucky enough to read ws Dorothea's Daughter by Barbara Hardy. It is a new collection of short stories based on novels by Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Dickens, George Eliot and Thomas Hardy and I fell upon it with shrieks of joy. Just look at the titles:
- Twilight in Mansfield Parsonage
- Mrs Knightley's Invitation
- Adele Varens
- Lucy Snowe and Pauline Bretton: the Conversation of Women
- Edith Dombey and Son
- Harriet Beadle's Message
- Lucy Dean
- Dorothea's Daughter
- 'Liza-Lu Durbeyfield
I am not identifying any of the novels on which these are based as I know that all my Random Readers are intelligent and well read and can guess straight away .....
These are all little gems and I am not going to say anything about them at all as I want you to buy and read for yourself. I will say, however, that Dorothea's Daughter was my favourite.
I note that Victorian Secrets has a biography of Jerome K Jerome coming up - another to go on my Wish List.
Please do check out this marvellous publishers- these are the kind of ventures that should always, always succeed.