Victorian Christmas

Yet another of my Lulu stores is Victorian Christmas. It is never too early to start preparing for Christmas! What is this store about? I enjoy collecting Victorian scrapbooks and Victorian Christmas cards. These are often battered and grubby. With the images in this store I have tried using digital photography to tidy up and enhance the images. You will soon notice that some of these images seem more appropriate today to spring than Christmas.

I have put a wider selection of images on a separate Victorian Christmas Cards page.


To help get you in the Christmas mood, here are some snippets about Victorian style Christmases.



A Commercial Melody, 1826.

These Christmas bills, these Christmas bills,

How many a thought their number kills

Of notes and cash, and that sweet time

When oft' I heard my sovereigns chime

Those golden days are passed away,

And many a bill I used to pay

Sticks on the file, and empty tills

Contain no cash for Christmas bills.

And so 'twill be - though these are paid,

More Christmas bills will still be made,

And other men will fear these ills,

And curse the name of Christmas bills!

[HONE] Copied from a 19th century magazine. Author not given.


DICKENS by Susan Watkin

Holly, mistletoe, red berries, turkeys, puddings, fruit and punch are just some of the Christmas trimmings described by Dickens in "A Christmas Carol" (1843), showing how little the traditional Christmas has changed over the years.

Most of Dickens' works were first published in serial form. Over twenty years ago I bought two volumes of "All The Year Round." I looked inside and saw the pencil marking, £2-40 2 vols. Great Expectations 1st edn." They were bound volumes of the weekly magazine "conducted", as the title page states, by Charles Dickens. Needless to say I bought the two books, which were published in 1860-1. One chapter of the novel was serialised in each weekly instalment. "Great Expectations" was preceded by Wilkie Collins' "The Woman in White", and followed by Bulwer Lytton's "A Strange Boy."

There are also a wide variety of articles in the magazines. "Boxing Day" describes the unmusical playing of trombones and clarinets by dustmen and lamplighters, in the hope of receiving a Christmas box. The predecessors of modern carol singers! Many of the pieces show Dickens' concern with contemporary social problems. The way the Boxing Day players spent their Christmas boxes was disapproved of. They were seen "to oscillate in their walk, to regard passers-by with a fixed and vitreous gaze, to enter into long explanations not remarkable for clearness, to give a wide berth to drinking-fountains, and sometimes to do obeisance, even in the mud, before objects not normally associated with worship, such as lamp-posts, gin-shop doors, coal plates and the like."

The magazines contain advertisements for Dickens' readings of his works. He seems to have been a very powerful actor, and his readings - he gave hundreds - were very popular. He gave two readings at Cambridge Guildhall, and he describes one (in March 1867) in a letter to his sister-in-law: - "The reception at Cambridge last night was something to be proud of in such a place. The colleges mustered in full force from the biggest guns to the smallest, and went far beyond even Manchester in the roars of welcome and the rounds of cheers. All through the readings, the whole of the assembly, old men as well as young, and women as well as men, took everything with a heartiness of enjoyment not to be described. The place was crammed, and the success the most brilliant I have ever seen."

© Susan Watkin



Have you looked at yourself closely in a mirror recently? Do you have red eyes?

I once managed to get myself stranded in the wilds of Morocco. The only so-called hotel was a dreadful looking dump - there was no handle on the bedroom door, the loo was of the hole in the floor variety and was leaking onto the landing, and I could almost see the fleas walking round. I could not possibly spend the night there. There were no buses until the next day. The only way I could get away that night (and avoid spending a night in that ghastly hotel) was by taxi. Which is how I came to be sitting next to a young Moroccan schoolboy for a long taxi journey. He was about nine or ten years old. We chatted away in French. At one point I noticed he was staring into my eyes.

"Do you drink?" he asked.

"When I am thirsty, yes."

"What do you drink?"

"Tea, coffee, fruit juice, or water," I answered.

"Do you drink alcohol?" As he spoke his eyes opened even wider.

"Yes. Wine, cider, shandy."

His eyes looked deeper into mine, and then he said, "Is it true that your eyes turn red if you drink alcohol?"

Now, my eyes are not noticeably redder than most peoples. I am sure that the average teetotaller had eyes with whites roughly the same colour as mine. From the way my young Moroccan friend questioned me, I suspect that Moroccan children are told to be good little Moslems and keep off the booze. If they don't they are warned that their eyes will turn red and everyone will know what they have been up to. A harmless myth of the Father Christmas type. I did not want my young friend to start experimenting with drink at his tender age. A little white lie in a good cause never does any harm. I therefore stressed to my little neighbour that I rarely drank alcohol, and any way had not done so recently, so he could not see the redness in my eyes. But if little Abdul had an alcoholic drink his eyes would turn red, Mohammed Almighty they would!

How red are your eyes? No doubt some mornings they are redder than others. You know the feeling. You had the teeniest drop too much to drink last night and you feel - well, how would you describe the way you feel? I recently came across a marvellous set of descriptions of that drunken feeling, dating back to 1825


Drunk must not be spoken, for it is impolitic; but you may say hocus, non se ipse, elevated, electrified, non compos mentis, or beside himself. Professionally as a barber, in the suds, lathered up, well powdered, or terribly cut. A Jack Tar would talk about being half seas over, across the line, out of his latitude, beside his reckoning; while others would say he had bung'd his eye, was knocked up, how came ye so, had got his little hat on, top heavy, been in the sun, in for it, very much disguised, clipped the King's English, swipy, quite happy, boskey, fuddled, muddled, tippy, dizzy, muzzy, sacky, rocky, groggy, moppy, blind as Chloe, mops and brooms, and many other appellations, as polite as they are indicative of the public indulgence.

When you have over-indulged you may recognise the feeling of the Irishman mentioned by Horace Smith

Droll, though not very logical or conclusive was the reply of the tipsy Irishman, who, as he supported himself by the iron railings of Merrion Square, was advised by a passenger to betake himself home.

'Ah now, be aisy; I live in the square; isn't it going round and round, and when I see my own door come up, won't I pop into it in a jiffey?'

Did you know that the phrase "Drunk as a lord," arose out of an earlier proverb, "Drunk as a beggar?" It was altered later when drunkenness became more common among the upper classes. Or that in the 1800s in the city of Mexico, carts were sent round by the police to collect drunkards. Drunkards were kept a night, and made to work in the streets for three days with a ring round their ankle. Or that some authorities say that "honeymoon" is another name for hydromel or mead, of which Attila the Hun drank so much on his wedding-day, in 453, that he died from it.

If all else fails to cure excessive drinking, you could try an advert along the lines of that placed by James Chalmers just 200 years ago: -

Advert from the Bahama Gazette, June 30, 1795

Whereas the subscriber, through the pernicious habit of drinking, has greatly hurt himself in purse and person, and rendered himself odious to all his acquaintance, and finding there is no possibility of breaking off from the said practice, but through the impossibility to find the liquor; he therefore begs and prays that no persons will sell him, for money or on trust, any sort of spirituous liquors, as he will not in future pay it, but will prosecute any one for an action of damages against the temporal and eternal interests of the public's humble, serious, and sober servant,



Nassau, June 28, 1795.

© Susan Watkin


> 'Twas the Night Before Christmas

(perhaps by Clement Clarke Moore - there is some doubt over the author )

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;

And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,

Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow

Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now, DASHER! now, DANCER! now, PRANCER and VIXEN!


To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!

Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,

So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,

With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,

And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes — how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;

He had a broad face and a little round belly,

That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,

And laying his finger aside of his nose,

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,