The Victorian Demagogue: 19th Century Words on a Modern Day Danger

“No organist can manipulate the stops and keys of his instrument with more dexterity than the demagogue exhibits in playing upon the different weaknesses, errors, and absurdities of the untutored mind.”  
Kent & Sussex Courier, 1874.

The House of Commons by Sir George Hayter, 1833.
National Portrait Gallery)

The word demagogue is thrown around quite a bit in politics today, but the term itself is nothing new.  The Oxford English Dictionary defines a demagogue as a “political agitator who appeals to the passions and prejudices of the mob in order to obtain power.”  In the Victorian era, such a man was considered dangerous.  Philosophers, poets, and newspapermen alike sought to warn the public, reasoning that the better one understood the repertoire of a demagogue, the less chance the demagogue would have of success.  Their commentary is incredibly modern and (as in the case of a poem on demagoguery) occasionally quite humorous.  In today’s article, we look at a few of the highlights.

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Victorian Sportswear: Tennis Fashions of the Late 19th Century

“As a nation we ought to welcome the healthy, hearty girl who can beat her brother in managing a tennis ball, in rowing a boat, and very often in managing a frisky horse.”
Ladies Home Journal, 1891.

A Rally by Sir John Lavery, 1885.

The game of lawn tennis was invented in the 1860s by retired British army officer Major Walter Clopton Wingfield.  He patented the game in 1874 and, within a few short years, lawn tennis had become one of the most popular sports for women in Victorian England.  Ladies played it at society garden parties and at tennis clubs.  By the mid-1880s, they were even competing at Wimbledon, leading the 1891 edition of the Wright & Ditson Officially Adopted Lawn Tennis Guide to declare that:

“Lawn tennis has done more to develop among girls a taste for outdoor sports than have all other exercises combined.”[…]Continue Reading

The Dogs’ Toilet Club: Bond Street Luxury for Victorian Canines

“The fact is, mere ordinary folk have not the remotest notion of the extravagant extent to which canine pets are pampered nowadays by their highly-placed mistresses.”
The Strand Magazine, 1896.

Portrait of a Maltese dog by Anonymous British Painter, 19th Century.
Portrait of a Maltese dog by Anonymous British Painter, 19th Century.

In 1896, an enterprising young lady named Mrs. Nugent opened a fashionable club for dogs at 120 New Bond Street in London.  It was called the Dogs’ Toilet Club and offered many services for the pampered pets of the wealthy and well to do, including grooming, pet sitting, veterinary care, and dentistry.  For those who wished to dress their dogs in the latest fashions, there was even a dogs’ tailoress who worked tirelessly to produce the finest in 19th century canine couture. […]Continue Reading

A Victorian Fancy Dress Ball: Popular Costumes of the Late 19th Century

The Kiss by Auguste Toulmouche, 1870.
The Kiss by Auguste Toulmouche, 1870.

During the Victorian era, fancy dress balls were one of the grandest and most fashionable ways for a society hostess to make her mark. These magnificent, costumed affairs were widely reported in 19th century newspapers, with a great deal of attention paid to who was wearing what. Guests dressed up as historical figures such as Marie Antoinette or Napoleon.  They also wore more creative costumes—many of which were recommended in fancy dress advice manuals and costume books. In today’s article, we look at a few of these costumes and at some of the more famous Victorian fancy dress balls held at Brighton Pavilion, Warwick Castle, and Devonshire House.

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The Notorious 1880 Police Raid of the Cross-Dressing Ball at Temperance Hall

“…one of the foulest and most disgraceful orgies that ever disgraced any town.”
The Huddersfield Daily Chronicle, October 1, 1880.

Illustrated Police News, October 9, 1880.
Illustrated Police News, October 9, 1880.

On September 24, 1880, the Manchester City Police received information that a fancy dress ball scheduled to be held that night at the Temperance Hall in York Street, Hulme, was going to be of an improper character.  According to the September 27, 1880 edition of the London Evening Standard, the hall had been engaged a few days prior by the Association of Pawnbrokers’ Assistants.  However, upon investigation, Detective-Sergeant Jerome Caminada discovered that the association knew nothing of the ball and that “the room had been hired under false pretence.”[…]Continue Reading

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