In A Human Moment

Miscellany from the 19th century

Transgender Victorians: Do clothes make the Man?

Originally posted on viceandvirtueblog:

I’m in the last few weeks of my phd atm, so there’s not a lot that makes me raise my head above the parapet, but ‘Fanny and Stella, the pioneer transvestites who fought Victorian anti-gay laws‘ out on the Guardian yesterday was, apparently, enough.

The article opens with ‘In prudish Victorian England’ and a collective sigh from every 19thC and/or sex historian was heard across the internet. The Victorians, especially those of the 1870s, were not prudes. This is the time of Annie Besant and her publication of a sex and contraceptive guide for the masses, sexologist Richard Kraft von Ebbing (who is to blame for far more problems than he should be celebrated for) coined the term sadism, and sex manuals and guides were published throughout the century – give my 9 Books That Will Change Your 19thC Sex Lifea go, if you want more…

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The man whose wife had sex with the lodgers

Originally posted on Criminal Historian:

adulteryIn 1900, a Pimlico hairdresser and waiter sought a divorce from his wife, on the grounds of adultery.

His wife seems to have been a busy woman – she and her husband rented out their spare rooms to lodgers, and she was accused of sleeping not just with one but with all three of them.

The husband, Ephraim Riseley, had married Emily Elizabeth Murkett at St John’s in Fitzrovia on 9 May 1886. Ephraim, a coachman’s son, was 23; his bride, the daughter of a carpenter, was 24; both were originally from Huntingdonshire.

They moved into a house at 15 Glasgow Terrace in Pimlico, and had two children, Edwin Ephraim, born in February 1889, and May Emily, born in August 1891.

Ephraim had been working as a footman and butler since his marriage, but wanted to invest for his and his family’s future – so he took over a…

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Social Subversion and Monarchic Mistrust: The Use of Mesmerism in The Notting Hill Mystery

Originally posted on The Victorianist: BAVS Postgraduates:

Sam Saunders is an MRes student at Liverpool John Moores University, studying female characters and their various depictions in archetypal character-roles in Victorian detective fiction. He completed his undergraduate degree at Bangor University, where his third year dissertation explored the evolution of the use of medievalism as social commentary in literature over the nineteenth and twentieth century. His general research interests lie in nineteenth century-crime, detective and sensation fiction, the Victorian novel and print culture.

The Notting Hill Mystery, called ‘the first detective novel’ and authored by the pseudonymous Charles Felix, was originally published between 1862 and 1863 as an eight-part serial in the magazine Once a Week. [1] It remains relatively obscure in the face of more recognisable crime-fiction works, such as those by Wilkie Collins and (later) Arthur Conan Doyle, however, due to recent republication from The British Library, awareness of its importance as a precursor to the…

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The Sex Institute on Euston Road

Originally posted on NOTCHES:

Rebecca Saunders

At the Wellcome Collection’s new exhibition ‘The Institute of Sexology’, visitors must surreptitiously part a curtain to peer at a rosy clay vagina set inside a bifurcated case. Made in the early twentieth century as a teaching aid for health professionals, the Gynaeplaque sits behind a glass pane covered in fingerprints where people have erroneously reached out to put their hands inside. The abiding fascination with laying one’s hands on the hidden ‘truths’ of the sexual body, of rendering sexuality and its psychological corollaries tangible and knowable, forms the drive of the discipline of sexology. This scientific study of human sexual behaviour grew distinct with the work of the German psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing in the late nineteenth century, whose seminal work Psychopathia Sexualis explored the ‘perversions’ of non-procreational sex.

Gynaeplaque model, black leather carry case with sponge model that opens to show a section through the vagina of female internal organs, used to help teach medical professionals how to insert a cervical cap, U.S., c.1930s. Gynaeplaque model, black leather carry case with sponge model that opens to show a section through the vagina of…

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Bringing a Murderer to Life

Originally posted on Criminal Historian:

Broadside of Robert Blakesley's execution, 1841 Broadside of Robert Blakesley’s execution, 1841

Look at a criminal broadside from the 19th century. There are the drawings – generic depictions of people hanging, of gaols, of crowds, together with more personalised portraits of the murderer, or the victim.

There is the text – the melodramatic, overly detailed, story of the crime, the penitence of the murderer before he or she is dropped into oblivion.

These are the forerunner of the tabloid newspaper; designed to be bought, read, thrown away.

But now they are in museums, sold in auctions, a historical artefact. The individuals that are written about in these broadsides are somehow lost to us in the present. They are abstract, viewed from a historical distance, fictionalised by their broadside-producing contemporaries.

I own a broadside – and admit to being fascinated by the stories they tell and how they tell them. But can I build a picture of real…

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Productive Procrastination: On Reading Gail Carriger’s Neo-Victorian Fantasies

Originally posted on The Victorianist: BAVS Postgraduates:

Daný van Dam is a second-year PhD student at Cardiff University. For her PhD, Daný  researches representations of racial and sexual stereotyping in neo-Victorian fiction. Secretly, she also remains interested in science fiction and fantasy novels that play with norms of gender and sexuality. More on her work can be found on her academia page (

With the increasing critical attention garnered by contemporary rewritings of the Victorian period and its fiction (what has become known as ‘neo-Victorianism’), the connected subgenre of steampunk has also made its way onto the critical agenda. In steampunk novels, science fiction meets Victorian industrialism to create a kind of retrofuturistic narrative where all kinds of Victorian machinery come in high-powered steam versions. Think, for example, of high-speed zeppelins or steam-powered computer systems that rival today’s world wide web. Although steampunk is certainly worth the attention it gets, it does tend to overshadow…

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Carl Gustav Jung and the Clairvoyant, Mrs. Fäßler

Originally posted on Forbidden Histories:

The investigation of ‘occult’ phenomena associated with spiritualism and mesmerism occupied the minds of psychologists much more than this has been reflected in standard histories of modern psychology. From Gustav Theodor Fechner and William James to Théodore Flournoy and Hans Eysenck, many prominent psychologists were not only interested in the psychodynamics of altered states of consciousness (such as hypnotism and mediumistic trance), but also in the reality of supposedly transcendental capacities of the mind, such as telepathy, clairvoyance, and psychokinesis.

Jung's M.D. thesis Jung’s M.D. thesis

Carl Gustav Jung’s occupation with the occult is of course well known. In fact, Jung’s M.D. thesis, On the Psychology and Pathology of so-called Occult Phenomena, is a study along the lines of the work of Frederic Myers and Théodore Flournoy, though it is purely concerned with psychodynamic rather than parapsychological aspects of mediumship. Jung never published any systematic studies to scientifically evaluate the occurrence of…

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Heart of darkness: from the time-honoured barbarity of the Tudors in Ireland to Islamic State

Originally posted on Mathew Lyons:

The leader of a small military force – perhaps 500 strong – is determined to subdue a province, and to do so quickly. Terror is his explicit policy. Every inroad he makes into enemy territory is followed by indiscriminate slaughter and destruction. Every man, woman and child is killed. Houses, churches, crops – everything is burned and despoiled.

Each night, the heads of all those who have been killed are lain in a path to the commander’s tent so “the people . . . see the heads of their dead fathers, brothers, children, kinsfolk and friends, lie on the ground before their faces, as they come to speak with the colonel”.

If this sounds like the barbarity that Isis has made commonplace in the news in the last couple of years, think again. It is not Isis. It is the English in Ireland in 1569 and the leader in question…

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The case that revolved around the age of a goat

Originally posted on Criminal Historian:

120px-Goat_PortraitIn 1839, a rather ludicrous case was heard at the Drumcondra Petty Sessions in Dublin regarding a goat stolen from a former policeman – where the case hinged on the age of the said animal.

The former policeman, Samuel Stephens, who was now working as a labourer, accused Conliffe Mill proprietor Mr Dollard of having a goat that Stephens swore had been stolen from him some three years earlier.

Magistrate Captain Cottingham noted that the case had been held over from a previous day in order for someone to be called to prove the age of the goat.

Stephens stated that his goat was around seven years old, whereas Dollard argued that HIS goat was only four.

In evidence, Stephens told the magistrate that in mid 1836, three goats had been stolen from him, and that he had received information that they had been stolen by a man and woman…

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Seduction in Stevenage: sex, marriage and keeping it in the family

Originally posted on Criminal Historian:

Székely_Woman_StretchingWilliam Swaine was a Hertfordshire farmer, who had grown accustomed to the help of his young niece around his Stevenage farm.

She had been living with his family since she was two and a half, and he looked on her as his own child. This young girl, Matilda Winters, spent her days looking after the farmhouse whilst her uncle farmed.

Living down the road was the Brown family. Young master Brown lived with his parents, and they all got on well with Farmer Swaine.

The farmer noticed that Brown got on particularly well with Matilda, but thought nothing of it; he supposed “that a man at his time of life was not likely to take advantage of the confidence that was placed in him.”

Unfortunately for William Swaine, his faith was misplaced. Matilda was a good looking girl, who looked younger than her age. Although Brown had known her since…

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