In this special guest post, the Secret Victorianist tells us about her secret life blogging about Victorian literature
In my wallet I keep two business cards, but only one has my real name on it. On the other I masquerade as the Secret Victorianist – the pseudonymous blogger I created to keep my interest in nineteenth-century literature alive, after I left academia to work a nine to five job.
At first being the Secret Victorianist didn’t really impact my day-to-day life. Sure, I had to set some time aside to write and publish blog posts and had a few more social media accounts to juggle, but the novels I was writing about I’d written about many times before, as an undergrad and graduate student, and I had a wealth of notes, lecture hand-outs, and essays to draw upon for material.
In those early days I shared general thoughts and tips – for example, on the misconceptions people often expressed to me when I told them I liked Victorian writers, or the shorter texts people could dip into if they didn’t know where to start. I also mined old projects for blog-length topics, using my series Women in the Witness Box on female characters as witnesses in fictional trials to make some of the points I made in my Master’s dissertation widely available.
But soon I wanted – and needed – to expand my horizons and start looking for things that were new. Seeking out places to go, events to attend, and performances to watch, that all had a link with the nineteenth century, became part of the fabric of my everyday life. How I used my holidays, my weekends, and my evenings changed. Rather than just dutifully visiting top tourist attractions in any given city or going along with whatever friends wanted to do for fun, I’d be visiting Victorian properties during Open House Day in London, watching an avant-garde twenty-first century adaptation of a nineteenth-century melodrama in Brooklyn, getting tickets to a very Irish Ibsen production during a short trip to Dublin.
I started reading new books too. Readers of the blog suggested texts to me that I hadn’t come across previously. One of my favourites has been Grant Allen’s What’s Bred in the Bone – a prizewinning 1891 novel featuring snake charmers, identical twins, and a dramatic railway crash. And sometimes I get sent books being produced now (like the fascinating Self-Defence for Ladies and Gentlemen (2015)) for the wide range of other people who are just as fascinated by the Victorian period as I am. These kinds of interactions and discoveries are what make blogging so wonderful – it’s always a two-way conversation.
For me, blogging isn’t primarily a way to publish, or to push my opinions about literature. It’s really a way to be inspired, and I very much enjoy the unexpectedness of what’s going to happen next. At the moment I’m writing a series on Neo-Victorian Voices – looking at the twenty-first century novelists who are setting their stories in the nineteenth century. It’s fascinating and unchartered territory for me. Up until now anyone I’ve written about has been dead but now I’m blogging about real life writers who I can easily communicate with via Twitter – it’s a very different dynamic.
I may know what I’m going to write about in the next few weeks, but I’m definitely not sure where my blog will be in a year – or two – and I’m happy with that. If you have an interest, a hobby, or a passion, for a period of literature or anything else, I’d recommend lifting a virtual pen. What I’ve learned is that, if you have something to say, you’re always sure to find people who want to listen!