Nineteenth-century Britain was one of the birthplaces of modern vegetarianism in the west, and was to become a reform movement attracting thousands of people. From the Vegetarian Society's foundation in 1847, men, women and their families abandoned conventional diet for reasons as varied as self-advancement via personal thrift, dissatisfaction with medical orthodoxy, repugnance towards animal cruelty and the belief that carnivorism stimulated alcoholism and bellicosity. They joined in the pursuit of a more perfect society in which food reform combined with causes such as socialism and land reform. James Gregory provides an extensive exploration of the movement, with its often colourful and sometimes eccentric leaders and grass-roots supporters. He explores the rich culture of branch associations, competing national societies, proliferating restaurants and food stores and experiments in vegetarian farms and colonies. 'Of Victorians and Vegetarians' examines the wider significance of Victorian vegetarians, embracing concerns about gender and class, national identity, race and empire and religious authority. Vegetarianism embodied the Victorians' complicated response to modernity. While some vegetarians were averse to features of the industrial and urban world, other vegetarian entrepreneurs embraced technology in the creation of substitute foods and other commodities. Hostile, like the associated anti-vivisectionists and anti-vaccinationists, to a new ‘priesthood’ of scientists, vegetarians defended themselves through the new sciences of nutrition and chemistry. 'Of Victorians and Vegetarians' uncovers who the vegetarians were, how they attempted to convert their fellow Britons (and the world beyond) to their ‘bloodless diet’ and the response of contemporaries in a variety of media and genres. Through a close study of the vegetarian periodicals and organisational archives, extensive biographical research and a broader examination of texts relating to food, dietary reform and allied reform movements, James Gregory provides us with the first fascinating foray into the impact of vegetarianism on the Victorians. In doing so he gives revealing insights into the development of animal welfare, other contemporary reform movements and the histories of food and diet.
By the time that Queen Victoria ascended the throne in 1837, the list of crimes liable to attract the death penalty had effectively been reduced to murder. Yet, despite this, the gallows remained a source of controversy in Victorian Britain and there was a growing unease in liberal quarters surrounding the question of capital punishment. In this book, James Gregory examines organised efforts to abolish capital punishment in Britain and the Empire in the Victorian era, focusing particularly on the activities of the Society for the Abolition of Capital Punishment. The amelioration of the notoriously ‘Bloody Code’ of the British state may have limited capital punishment effectively to a small number of murderers after 1840 but, despite this, capital punishment was a matter of perennial debate, from the local arena of school debating societies to the ‘imperial Parliament’, and a topic to trouble the minds of thoughtful Victorians across the British world. Drawing on a wide range of sources, from pamphlets by abolitionists or their opponents to gallows broadsides, official inquiries, provincial newspapers, novels and short stories, Gregory studies a movement acknowledged by contemporaries to be agitating one of the ‘questions of the day’ - challenging as it did contemporary theology, state infliction of violence, and prevalent ideas about punishment. He explores important aspects such as: capital punishment debates in the ‘Lex Britannica’ of British colonies and dominions, the role of women abolitionists and the class and gendered inflexions to the ‘gallows question’, the representation of the problem of capital punishment in Victorian fiction, and the relationship between abolitionists and the Home Office which exercised the royal prerogative of mercy. While the abolitionism of Nonconformist reformers such as the Quakers and Unitarians is familiar, Gregory introduces the reader to the abolitionist debates in Jewish, secularist and spiritualist circles, and explores themes such as the imagined role of the Queen as ‘fount of mercy’ and the disturbing figure of the hangman. Studying the provincial, national and international aspects to the movement, Victorians Against the Gallows offers an important contribution to our understanding of Victorian reform activities, and Victorian culture.
The nineteenth century was a time of ‘movements’ – political, social, moral reform causes – which drew on the energies of men and women across Britain. Radical reform at the margins of early Victorian society is studied by James Gregory in this book, focused on decades of particular social, political and technological ferment: when foreign and British promoters of extravagant technologically-assisted utopias could attract many hundreds of supporters of limited means, persuaded to escape grim conditions by emigration to South America; when pioneers of vegetarianism joined the ranks of the temperance movement; and when working-class Chartists, reviving a struggle for political reform, seemed to threaten the State for a brief moment in April 1848. Through the forgotten figure of James Elmslie Duncan, ‘shabby genteel’ poet and self-proclaimed ‘Apostle of the Messiahdom,’ The Politics and the Poetry considers themes including poetry’s place in radical culture, the response of pantomime to the Chartist challenge to law and order, and associations between madness and revolution. Duncan became a promoter of the technological fantasies of John Adolphus Etzler, a poet of science who prophesied a future free from drudgery, through machinery powered by natural forces. Etzler dreamed of crystal palaces: Duncan’s public freedom was to end dramatically in 1851 just as a real crystal palace opened to an astonished world. In addition to Duncan, James Gregory also introduces a cast of other poets, earnest reformers and agitators, such as William Thom the weaver poet of Inverury, whose metropolitan fêting would end in tragedy; John Goodwyn Barmby, bearded Pontiffarch of the Communist Church; a lunatic ‘Invisible Poet’ of Cremorne pleasure gardens; the hatter from Reading who challenged the ‘feudal’ restrictions of the Game Laws by tract, trespass and stuffed jay birds; and foreign exotics such as the German-born Conrad Stollmeyer, escaping the sinking of an experimental Naval Automaton in Margate to build a fortune as the Asphalt King of Trinidad. Combining these figures with the biography of a man whose literary career was eccentric and whose public antics were capitalised upon by critics of Chartist agitation, this book will be essential reading for anyone interested in radical reform and popular political movements in Victorian Britain.
William and Georgina Cowper-Temple were significant figures in nineteenth-century Britain. William Cowper-Temple, later Lord Mount Temple, was private secretary to one Prime Minister, his uncle Lord Melbourne, and junior minister in the government of his stepfather and probable natural father, Lord Palmerston. He was also groom in waiting to the young Queen Victoria. Through his positions in the Board of Health and the Board of Works, he sought to improve the nation’s health and rebuild London. Before his retirement from a long career in the Commons, he famously amended the Education Act in 1870. Cowper-Temple’s charismatic wife, Georgina, was also champion of diverse social and moral reforms, and friend to an array of notable Victorian figures. Georgina was John Ruskin’s ‘Egeria’ and ‘Isola Bella’, his confidante and maternal figure during his tragic relationship with Rose la Touche. Georgina's friends also included the writer George MacDonald, the poet and artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Mrs Oscar Wilde - to whom she was an adored ‘Motherling’. Admired by other prominent Victorians from Robert Browning to Frances Power Cobbe, she supported causes from antivivisectionism and female sanitary reform to teetotalism and vegetarianism. In the first full-length biography of this distinguished couple, James Gregory explores the Cowper-Temples’ varied roles within the Whig-Liberal establishment, philanthropy and social reform. Inspired by evangelicalism, spiritualism and mysticism, the Cowper-Temples were pioneers of Christian ecumenicalism - and sought to modernise the Church, address dire sanitary conditions, advance female education, elevate taste and improve the treatment of animals. This is a fascinating insight into the private lives of two aristocrats who, in partnership, were dedicated to using their powers of influence within ministerial office, family connections and social networks to alleviate the problems of a society in transition.