Saturday, June 21, 2008

Who Knew?

On the plane trip home, when I wasn't sleeping (from London) or taking pictures (from Cincinnati on), I was reading a book called "The Victorian House" by J. Flanders. It is really interesting. Of course, I am fascinated by social history: what people ate, wore, how they lived and died.

In the course of this book I came across a section that cleared up something I had always wondered about. Having read Anne of Green Gables from a very early age (and often), I recalled clearly that Anne said that after the death of her parents she was brought up "by hand" by a neighbor. She remarked on it in a way that made me think that "bringing up by hand" was a way of saying the woman took especial care with her, or at least claimed to have done so. But no.

"Bringing up by hand" is a Victorian euphemism for BOTTLE FEEDING.

It makes sense, that an older neighbor lady would feed an orphan baby by bottle, especially since the Victorians were apparently rather squeamish about breast feeding, at least for the upper classes and the middle classes and anyone with pretensions to gentility. (Mrs. Beeton, whose late Victorian household management book has provided me with much amusement, even refers to babies who nurse at night as "vampires".) Though the Victorians did love their children I must say that I have grown to prefer our own child-centered culture to their strict notions of health and propriety. (I'm also grateful I don't have to battle black beetles in the kitchen, haul coal and water up and down five flights of stairs daily, or wear corsets.)


Pamela said...

Thanks for that info, Charlotte. I read Great Expectations aloud with Emeline, and there is a darkly humorous reference there to the same phrase -- the hero is orphaned and then brought up by a relative "by hand," which generally means getting his ears boxed, face pinched and a general "by hand" beating.

Em and I loved Great Expectations, by the way, and listen to it a lot on cassette. Griffin didn't care for it as much. I think he viewed it as less than manly.

Dr. Croc said...

Dickens, less than manly?
You should have him read "Oliver Twist."
Maybe he would at least like Bill Sikes. (Heh)

Birrd said...

Now I know what the Rabbit's problem is-- she's a vampire!