when belle said “i want much more than this provincial life” and aurora said “i carry more than you see, my dreams are bigger than me” and marina said “are you satisfied with an average life?” and the smiths said “please, please, please let me get what i want this time” and amy said “i want to be great or nothing”… it’s all just too much for me
Architectural decay portrayed in art pieces
‘Roman Ruins’ by Hubert Robert, 1760
‘Capriccio of Classical Ruins’ by Giovanni Paolo Panini, 1725 and 1730
‘Landscape with Classical Ruins and Figures’ by Marco and Sebastiano Ricci, 1725-1730
‘Ruins in Baalbek’ bu Jules Louis Coignet, 1846
‘Gothic Church Ruin’ by Carl Blechen, 1829-1831
‘The Ruins of Holyrood Chapel’ by Louis Daguerre, 1824
‘Christ and Adulteress’ by Ascanio Luciano, 1669
‘Detail of View of the Arch of Constantine with the Colosseum’ by Canaletto, 1742-1745
‘Ruins of the Palace’ by Ramon Martí Alsina, 1859
I relate to this character more every day
* Altbachtal temple complex, Trier
* 2nd century CE
* Rheinisches Landesmuseum Trier
Source: museum-digital:rheinland-pfalz; By-line: Thomas Zühmer Copyright Notice© Rheinisches Landesmuseum Trier & Thomas Zühmer ; Licence: CC BY-NC-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)
Rain, Steam and Speed – The Great Western Railway (1844) by J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851)
The Victorian funeral
In the Victorian age, a person must wait to receive a formal written invitation, it was not suitable to send invitations to a funeral of a person who died from a contagious disease. If that was the case, there would just be a simple notice of death with the phrase “ funeral private”. Funeral guests were expected to arrive an hour before the service began. Unpon entering the funeral parlor or the house of the family of the deceased, men had to remove their hats. It was forbidden to laugh and talking in loud voice, same as today. In the funeral parlor as well as at home, the body of the deceised were to be placed and exposed to view and after the discourse, the guests may see the same by passing, in single file past the coffin, going from foot to head. On the way to the burial ground, there were six pall bearers who walked in three, on each side of the hearse, while relatives follow the hearse, behind relatives followed friends and people connected to the family. Ladies couldn’t follow this ritual by strict social etiquette.
Parents who lost a child were in deep mourning for 9 months and half mourning for 3 months. Children who lost their parents mourned for the same amount of time. The death of a sibling requie 3 months of deep mourning and 3 months of half mourning. In laws, uncles, aunts, cousins and other relatives all had mourning periods that ranged from 6 weeks to 6 months. It would not be unusual for a person to be in mourning for the most part of the year.
A woman’s remains would usually dressed in white rope and cap, while children were dressed in white cashmere robes. The casket was usually made of hard wood or cast iron if the decesead died because of a contagious disease. The coffin would be plain on the outside while the inside was usually satin lined. Another addiction to the coffin’s interior was usually a bell. Diagnosis were not always precise in Victorian Age and there are accounts of people that woke up in the coffins or in family crypts so the bell was put inside to be used in case the “deceised” woke up. Catalepsy was one of the reason why many people were buried alive, little was known about this disease.
In Victorian Paris there were several night clubs that celebrate death. In Montmartre, one could ponder their mortality in the Cabaret du Néant ( Cabaret of Nothingless). People were served by monks and funeral attendees who offered drinks named after diseases which were imbided on coffins and caskets. At the Cabaret of the Inferno ( Cabaret de l’Enfer), a satanically themed nightclub, devil musicians would playing selections from Faust. Red imps would serve beverages and food. Next to this place there was its “opposite”: the Cabaret du Ciel ( Cabaret of the sky).
In cultural terms there was a dichotomy between Good death and a bad one. The good death derives from the medieval concept that a good person deserte a good death, it means dying in your own bed, surrounded by family and friends, telling last words. This part was really important and anaesthesia was discouraged to allow the person to be enough lucid for final pronouncements. The worst fate was to die alone. London offered many examples of Bad death: people who died in prison, homeless people, poor, suicides. The last ones were the most criticized. Choosing death before dishonour was acceptable but the Church condamned suicide and it was illegal under English law, so the suicide was regarded as something unspeakable. People who committed suicide were denied burial in consacreted ground and the rituals of mourning. They were buried at night, at crossroads, their bodies desecrated with a stake hammered through their heart because there was the belief that they could come back to haunt the living as vampires or ghosts, and bury them at crossroads was a ritual to confuse the souls so they couldn’t know the right direction to take. This tradition to bury suicides at crossroads was still observed in the early 19th century.
The Victorian funeral was an important rite. Many people spent more money for their funeral rather than for their lives. An elaborate funeral was a sign of respect but the costs were really high. The choice of a coffin and the type of funeral was dictated of course by prices. There were different types of funerals, ranging from £3 5s to £53. The cheapest provided “a patent carriage, with one horse, smooth elm coffin, lined inside, bearers, coach man with hatband…” a funeral costed £4 14s and included “ hearse and a pair of hourses, mourning couch, 15 plumes of black ostrich – feathers, complete velvet covering the carriages and horses, stout elm coffin, covered with black cloth…”
The most expensive one ( £53) was the typical example of Late Victorian funeral:
hearse and four horses, two mourning couches with four, 23 plumes of rich ostrich feathers, complete velvet covering for carriages and horses, and an esquire’s plume of best feathers, strong elm shell, with tufted mattress, lined and ruffled with super fine cambric, and pillow, full worked glazed cambric winding sheet, stout outside lead coffin, with inscription plate and solder complete, one and a half inch oak case, covered with black or crimson velvet set with three rows round, and li dpanelled with best brass nails, stout brass plate of inscription, richly engraved four pairs of best brass handles and grips, li dornaments to correspond, use of silk velvet pall, two mutes with gowns, silk hatbands and gloves, 14 men as pages, feathermen, and coachmen, with trencheons and wands, silk hatbands, use of mourner’s fittings, and attendant with silk hatband…
The hears, especially, was the centre of the funeral procession. It comes from a French word for “ harrow” a frame with metal teeth for breaking up the earth. Funeral couches followed it and it was common especially for rich families. The number of couches attending a funeral was indicative of a family’s status. Black funeral horses with plumes of death was one of the most famous icon of the Victorian funeral.
the funeral goods added cost to a funeral, everything had to be bought new and of course the clergymen requie a fee. Even the day upon which one was buried was an indicator of status. Saturday was the aristocratic day for funerals, to be buried on Sunday was regarded as vulgar but at the same time was the only option for poor famiglie since they would work for all the rest of the week.
Queen Victoria lost her mother in 1861 and 9 months later she lost her husband Prince Albert. The impact of these losses on her, led to a nervous break down. The Lord Chamberlain’s office decreed on 16th December 1861 that the ladies attending court must wear black woollen stuffs, trimmed crape, plain linen, black shoes and gloves and crape fans while the gentlemen had to wear black cloth, plain linen, crape hatbands and black swords. The Prince himself had left instructions for a modest ceremony, solemn but simple obsequies. The funeral took place in Windsor, on 23 December 1861. Bells tolled throughout the land and in many churches special services were held. In towns, shops were closed and window blinds in private residences were drown down. The queen’s mourning was estreme even for Victorian standards. In Kensington Gardens was erected the Sir George Scott’s Albert Memorial. Prince Albert’s rooms were immaculately preserved, a shaving jug of hot water provided everyday. She continued to wear mourning dresses, long after the statuatory two years period. By 1881, Queen Victoria defined the mourning rituals. A middle class woman would be expected to conform to etiquette. A young woman would wear deep mourning for at least 1 year: black clothes of a non – relative fabric such as bombazine, Parramatta or black crape. Matt black was felt to be lugubrious but appropriate. A widow wore funeral lingerie as well: white broderie anglaise, threaded with black ribbon. The underwear was not black, as the dye might wear off on a woman’s skin. Over the hair went a long black veil, reaching to her waist and decorated with weepers or black ribbons. The veil covered the face toh ide tears and deter the curious. The veil was originally made from crape, but this garment afflicted women with asthma, catarrah and even cataracts as a result of exposure to the black dyes. In the end of the 19th century a lighter material started to be used. When a young widow did go out, her coat was trimmer with black fur, or sealskin, she could wear mourning jewellery such as a brooch or locket containing a tress of a loved one’s hair, worked into the design of a willow tree or encased in glass and engraved with the motto “ In memoriam”. This trend of locks of hair dates back to Ancient Greece. Black enamel jewellery was popular, it could contain a miniature painted on ivory, or an urn. Sometimes these were imbellished with seed pearls, like tears. Once a widow had completed her first year, she dressed in secondary mourning. This had a less strict dress code, and white collars were permitted.
The ordinary mourning lasts 3 months in which women were permitted to wear fabric such as silk and velvet and also gold and silver jewellery with sombre precious stones. After this period, a window entered the 6 months of half mourning when colours such as grey, purple and lilac were permissible. Black evening dress was accessorized with a black fan, trimmed with ostrich feathers. Children were dressed in black as well because white was allowed only for infants. Servants also adepted mourning. A woman who would/could not afford mourning goods and clothes was highly criticized.
Commerce around death and mourning was really exploited by Victorian manufacturers. There were more than four mourning emporia in Regent Street. The most famous was Jay’s London General Mourning Warehouse, founded in 1841. This store saled only mourning costumes and all the goods necessary for a funeral. Black silks were a speciality of the house.
Another peculiar thing of Victorian funeral was the costum to photograph the dead. Post mortem photography was part of the Good death, a means of preservino the memory of a loved one. These photos were designed for circulation within the family and preservation in memorial album. In 1850s the development of the ambrotype made photography cheaper, it consisted of imaging a negative on glass backed by a dark surface. Then came tintype, positive photographs made directly into iron plate and varnished with a thin sensitised film.
Victorian era superstition regarding death
1) It’s bad luck to meet a funeral procession. If you see one approaching, turn around. If this is not possible, hold on to a button until the funeral procession passes.
2) You must stop the clock in a death room or you will have bad luck
3) If you hear a thunder following a burial it indicates that the soul of the dead has reached Heaven
4) If you don’t hold your breath while going by a grave yard you will not be buried
5) If the deceased has lived a good life, flowers would bloom on his/her grave, otherwise only weeds will grow
6) If you smell roses and no one is around, someone is going to die.
7) If a picture falls off a wall, there will be a death of someone you know
8) A single snowdrop growing in the garden is a presage of death.
Source: Catharine Arnold – Necropolis: London and its Dead
picture 1 - 2: hearse from Victorian era
picture 3: undertaker’s paper
picture 4 - 5: mourning jewerly
picture 6: Peter Robinson’s mourning store paper
picture 7: Queen Victoria in mourning clothes