|Figure 1.J. Herbin ink and some of my pens.|
There's an article on Vox, a precursor article on xojane from a couple of years ago, and innumerable pieces like this snarky one on Deadspin that point out the things that get left out of this vision like, oh, slavery, racism, colonialism, imperialism, industrial oppression of workers, and all those wrongs that we are at least trying to right.
My most immediate reaction on reading the article when she mentioned ink "from a company started in 1670" was "Cool! She uses J. Herbin ink, just like me!" I have written with dip pens, although I don't currently own one due to an act of heroic resistance to buying one when I was in Research City this summer. I cook and bake from scratch (cakes, bread, pizza, Yorkshire pudding, etc.) using cast-iron pots, so there's that.
But think about it: who among us doesn't have some vestiges of the Victorian age that we carry over into our lives? Isn't that what a lot of craft-people are actually doing with scrapbooks, quilts, and so on? We/they just don't write blog posts patting themselves on the back about living like the ancestors. And is this different from the many other acts of impersonation that populate television reality or reality re-enactment shows like Pioneer House or its brethren?
And who doesn't remember the implicit "Thank DOG I now have a sewing machine" in Ma Ingalls's voice when she had to do all that sewing for Laura's wedding in These Happy Golden Years? Okay, that's not what she actually says, which is this:
"[Pa] lifted the blanket away, and there stood a shining new sewing machine.
"Oh, Charles!" Ma gasped.
"Yes, Caroline, it is yours," Pa said proudly. There'll be a lot of extra sewing, with Mary coming home and Laura going away, and I thought you'd need some help." . . .
A long time ago, Laura remembered, a tone in Ma's voice when she spoke of a sewing machine had made Laura think that she wanted one. Pa had remembered that.(241-242)
And when Laura decides to sew the long seams of the sheets down the middle instead of using the traditional method, Ma agrees: "Our grandmothers would turn in their graves, but after all, these are modern times" (265).
Why, yes, Caroline Ingalls. Yes, they are. Caroline would have shooed Victorian Lady out of the house with her ever-handy broom.
I think a lot of the condemnation that Victorian Lady has received is due to her smug tone, insistence that she's living as a Victorian rather than doing this as a hobby, and condemnation of the 21st-century's pace, as if she herself doesn't have a website and a business plan for monetizing her way of life. She's living a medical age of penicillin and pretending that she's not, so to speak.
Or maybe it's a fear that, like some other re-enactors (see Tony Horwitz's Confederates in the Attic) this kind of cosplay will encourage the erasure of historical evils.
But the counter-argument is this: Victorian Lady obviously has plenty of money to indulge her hobby, and what's the harm?
What's your take on her decision to cosplay (or is it steampunk?) by "living" in a different era?