Is it possible to crave literature, art and culture as one craves food? I do. I stepped out into an English morning today. The grey swirled all the way down to overcast sidewalks through the cooled atmosphere of fall. I imagined myself walking the cobbled streets of Oxford on my way to an English lecture. The smell of engines and industry started to put a Dickens-like perspective on everything I saw about town this morning. I could feel the hardened edge of a changing society through the gilded glint of gotten gold. I craved British Victorian literature.
Thus, I first turned to Robert Browning. I find it easy to relate to a man who wore audacious lemon-yellow gloves with fine waistcoats, loved to dine at fancy restaurants with friends and harbored a resistance to publish his work openly or speak about it with others. He preferred instead to hide behind his many literary masks. As writers we all hide behind masks. Whether it be a pen name, other responsibilities we mistakenly let take priority over our true passion or imagined writers block*.
As OriginalTitle, there’s minimal risk involved in showing my true character-I can be bold, rash and opinionated. It would be impossible for people look at the facade I choose to present to the world, compare it to their perception of my personality and simply say, “poser,” as is so often done in real life. This is because the blogosphere provides a convenient curtain to one’s full persona by allowing you to pick and choose what you would like to display to the world. Thus, people don’t actually know** who I am. They may know OriginalTitle which is the persona I choose to show the world.
At the start two years ago, OriginalTitle was a way to hide, but now I see that the fronts we create for society are the personalities we wish others to know us by because no one is “one” type. This is what Browning did. It would be hard to blame him in an era where the defining characteristic is restraint to want to anonymously explode in the facets of his various characters, to become a chameleon possessing whatever theme or personality he wished free of society’s constraints.
I’ve started to reveal myself and people that I know are reading the blog along with people I’ve never met, but I’ve also shed a lot of the parts of my life that made me feel like I had to hide my true character, so now I can be the REAL me. Robert Browning did the same. Eventually, after the passing of his wife Elizabeth Barrett Browning, he shed his mask and that is when he truly gained notoriety for his writing. Perhaps it is time for me to shed my mask, but first, I must satiate my craving for all things Victorian.
British Victorian Poetry Crave:
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “Aurora Leigh“
British Victorian Fiction Crave:
Charles Dickens, “Hard Times for These Times”
Mary Elizabeth Braddon, “Lady Audley’s Secret”
Lewis Carroll, “Through the Looking Glass“
Victorian Era Clothing Crave:
Victorian Era Art Crave
Edouard Manet, “Luncheon on the Grass“
John William Waterhouse, “Lady of Shallot“
Victorian Era Music Crave
Felix Mendelssohn’s ‘Fantasy on “The Last Rose of Summer” for piano in E major, Op. 15′
A Modern Victorian Day: Make a cup of Earl Grey Tea and perhaps slice off some pumpkin walnut bread. Then, snuggle up with “Lady Audley’s Secret,” and a warm comfortable blanket in your favorite chair. Listen to “The Last Rose of Summer,” whilst reading and staring out your window into a dreary rainy Tuesday. When you’ve become quite detached from life, go to a museum to see some Pre-Raphaelite, or Impressionist artwork. Or, visit a local greenhouse/hothouse. Maybe you can go so far as to create your own terrarium at home and feel the modern version of Victorian Era domesticity (if you don’t feel it right away, just do a ton of chores, forget you have the right to vote [women], and wear a corset [women, well, or men], inhale all of the industrial fumes nearby, and that should do the trick). Finally, live in excess, go out for a nine course meal and hit the town for a show, just try not to notice the disparities around you and those who may not be able to live out a Victorian day of their own.
*Writer’s block: In my opinion, this is generally more a problem of procrastinating actually writing the big ideas rolling around in the grey matter rather than a lack of ideas altogether which is the way it’s generally perpetuated.
**To know someone: How many people actually KNOW us? I’ve thought about this a lot quite recently and the poem Archetypes by C.K. Williams make sa point I can relate to, that we all live in our own seperate worlds, even when we’re right next to the ones we share our lives with, the ones we think we share everything with. It’s not that we try to hide anything, but can you ever really let a person see the inside of your soul? It’s a tough thing to share when we don’t always fully understand it ourselves.
What Culture are you currently craving? Any thoughts on more Victorian Era Culture Craves to disperse to other readers?