Another form of entertainment involved ‘spectacles’ where paranormal events, such as hypnotism, communication with the dead, ghost conjuring and the like, were carried out to the delight of crowds and participants. Such activities were very popular during this time compared to others in recent Western history.
Queen Victoria had the longest reign in British history and the cultural, political, economic, industrial and scientific changes that occurred during her reign were remarkable. When Victoria ascended to the throne, England was essentially agrarian and rural; upon her death, the country was highly industrialized and connected by a massive railway network.
During the Victorian era, science grew into the discipline it is today. In addition to the increasing professionalism of university science, many Victorian gentlemen devoted their time to the study of natural history. (Darwin’s ‘Origin of the Species’ was published in 1859 and had a tremendous effect on the popular mindset.)
In 1882, incandescent electric lights were introduced to London streets, although it took many long years before they were installed everywhere. The heightened social location of the common man lead to new tenets of public behavior – and also to an increase in personalized taste in styling – inside and outside the house.
Good behavior on the public promenade marked the gentleman most effectually; rudeness, incivility and disregard of ‘what the world says’ marked the person of low breeding. A real gentleman would never pick the teeth or scratch the head; swear or talk uproariously; smoke upon the walk; stare at anyone, man or woman, in a marked manner; jostle a lady or gentleman without an ‘Excuse me’; and never fail to raise his hat politely to a lady acquaintance.
A true lady, on the other hand, was modest, discreet, kind and obliging. If she was to the contrary, she forfeited her right to be called after the truly genteel. The truly well-educated, well-born and well-bred never betrayed vanity, conceit, superciliousness or hauteur…history.