Amelia Bloomer was an American temperance and women's rights advocate, and a supporter of the Rational Dress movement. Mrs Bloomer did not invent the eponymous trousers, but her support of the style led to them being named in her honour.
The bloomer was invented by Elizabeth Smith Miller, who designed it as part of a more sensible costume for women, consisting of loose trousers gathered at the ankles, worn under a knee-length dress or skirt. It garnered more mockery than support from both sexes.
Mrs Bloomer eventually ceased to wear bloomers in favour of the crinoline, which she thought an acceptable improvement on preceding fashions.
Thirteen was the age of consent in the Victorian period, and having sex with a girl younger than this age carried much more severe penalties. In 1897, almost 50% of a sample of 100 "fallen" women and girls given shelter by the Salvation Army were under 16 and almost 75% under 18 (source). Eye-witness accounts of child prositution and the solicitation of children can be found here.
Henry Mayhew, in his seminal London Labour and the London Poor (1851), recounts the difficulty of accurately estimating the number of prostitutes in London:
"the Bishop of Exeter asserted the number of prostitutes in London to be 80,000, the City Police stated to Dr. Ryan that it did not exceed 7000 to 8000. About the year 1793 Mr. Colquhoun, a police magistrate, concluded, after tedious investigations, that there were 50,000 prostitutes in this metropolis. At that period the population was one million, and as it is now more than double we may form some idea of the extensive ramifications of this insidious vice." (source)
Another estimate from 1859 comes from O'Daniel's Ins and Outs of London:
"In a police report, I recently noticed a return of four parishes, containing in all, about 12,900 houses, and 70,000 inhabitants. Of the houses, 510 were of ill-fame, and of the inhabitants about 4,000 were prostitutes." (source)
Flagellation for erotic purposes was so associated with the English that it came to be known as "le vice Anglais" (the English vice) by the French. It is certainly true that this fetish was well represented in pornographic material of the time.
The poet Algernon Swinburne (1837-1909) claimed that his taste for flagellation originated in the corporal punishment commonly used at Eton, the expensive boys' boarding school which he attended. If this theory is true, it would perhaps explain why this fetish was most common in the upper classes, who would have attended similar expensive private schools.
The Marquis de Sade (1740-1814) was a French nobleman whose name is the origin of "sadism". He was a scandalous figure who spent much of his life in prison or mental asylums as a result of the obscenity and blasphemy of his work. He was the author of several books which combine philosophy with pornography, frequently of a violent or peverse nature, and express his libertine political, social and sexual views.
Thomas Bowdler (1754-1825) was an English doctor made famous by his censored edition of the works of Shakespeare, from which he removed anything he did not consider suitable for a family audience. Among the unsuitable elements removed were instances of the word "damned", "God" as an exclamation, and a bawdy prostitute character.
Examples of Victorian written pornography still exist: full editions of The Pearl, an erotic magazine published between 1879 and 1881 can be found here. The first issue includes stories of flagellation, female orgasm and ejaculation, and the seduction of a thirty-year-old man by an eleven-year-old girl.
Sarah Waters tackles the subject of Victorian pornography in depth in her novel Fingersmith.
The 1890s was a decade of looser social proprieties in the fashionable urban circles of England. There were corresponding changes in culture in America (where the decade is known as the "Gay Nineties") and francophone Europe, where the period is called the "fin de siècle".
Henry Mayhew (1812-1887), mentioned in the bookmark to page 258, was a social researcher and campaigner for social reform. As well as co-founding the satirical magazine Punch, he wrote a serious study of the working classes of London: London Labour and the London Poor (1851). Based on months of first-hand observation and interviews with a huge variety of working class people, this is one of the most important and most detailed social documents of the Victorian era.
A large number of investigative Commissions were set up in this period, with the task of examining a variety of social and economic questions, from the conditions at Broadmoor or among the agricultural workforce, to the causes of railway accidents and the state of sewers and roads. After making their inquiries, the commissions wrote long, detailed reports to the government which have survived as highly useful historical sources. Examples of these reports can be found here.
Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) was an English poet and novelist. His novels are set in Wessex, the ancient name for much of southwest England (now the counties of Dorset (in which Lyme Regis lies), Wiltshire, Somerset, Devon and Hampshire as well as some parts of Berkshire and Oxfordshire). The novels are tragic, focusing on the trials of individuals whose lives, desires or morals come into conflict with restrictive Victorian society.
Pandora is a character in Greek mythology. In the story, she is a woman living shortly after the world was created, who is given a large sealed jar (or box) by Zeus, king of the Gods, and told never to open it. Curiosity gets the better of her and she does open the box, releasing all the evils of the world (e.g., disease and hard work) which were trapped inside.
The Tolpuddle Martyrdom was the 1834 persecution of a group of farm workers who had formed a secret workers' friendly society, an early form of trade union, with the aim of resisting wage-reduction. The prosecution was based on an archaic law against swearing secret oaths. They were convicted and transported to Australia becoming, in the process, heroes to the working classes.
The Atreids were the descendants of Atreus, a king of Mycenae. The family suffered appalling misfortune due to the actions of the Gods. Atreus' two sons were Agamemnon and Menelaus. Menelaus married Helen, whose kidnap by Paris was the trigger for the Trojan War. As well as being implicated in the original kidnap, various Gods interfered in the course of the war.
When preparing to sail to his brother's aid in this war, Agamemnon's fleet was stuck in the harbour due to a lack of wind. An oracle told Agamemnon the waters were becalmed because he had angered the Gods and advised him to sacrifice his daughter to appease them. He did so, but this triggered a cycle of family violence in which Agamemnon was killed by his wife and her lover, who were in turn killed by Orestes and Electra, the children of Agamemnon.
The full text of this revealing poem can be found here.
The poem from which these lines come is 'The Photograph', written by Hardy in 1890.
Toby jugs are pottery jugs shaped like a sitting figure, most often that of a jolly man. The figure commonly wears a tricorn hat, which makes a useful spout.
The name is thought to come from the character of Sir Toby Belch in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.
Ralph Wood was a member of the famous Wood family, who were important Staffordshire potters in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Jorrocks is a character from comics published in the New Sporting Magazine in the 1830s, drawn by Robert Smith Surtees. He is a cockney grocer with a great fondness for upper-class sports.