Thursday, May 14, 2009

Another Liberal Myth Bites The Dust

Laban, 2004.

"Yes, Victorian Values. They covered their piano legs !"


Jonathan Calder channels clinical psychologist Professor Strange :

"The truth – and I am indebted to Matthew Sweet’s 2001 book Inventing the Victorians for what follows – is that the Victorians did not cover the legs of their pianos at all, unless it was to keep off the dust or children’s boot.

The idea that anyone would worry about the eroticism of furniture first surfaced in Captain Marryat’s A Diary in America, published in 1839. He reported that the word ‘leg’ was not used in polite society across the Atlantic, and that when he visited a ladies’ seminary his guide informed him that the mistress of the establishment, in order to demonstrate her ‘care to preserve in their utmost purity the ideas of the young ladies under her charge had dressed all these four limbs in modest little trousers, with frills at the bottom of them!’

No doubt the guide was making fun of Marryat’s credulity, but the story soon caught on in nineteenth century Britain. How those Victorians enjoyed poking fun at the straitlaced Americans! Nothing so absurd would ever be seen over here.

Somehow the story remained in circulation, and when the publication of Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians made it fashionable to scoff it was recycled to make fun of the people who had originally found it so funny."


Mr Calder seems a thoughtful chap :

Just as the Bloomsbury lens distorts our picture of the Victorians, so the Swinging 60s have given us a false view of the 1950s. But they want to close the College Library and there are macaroons for tea, so that story will have to wait for another day.


The Swinging Sixties only happened in the 1970s. Look at the Kop or the World Cup Final crowd to see how swinging they were back then. Most people wore ties to the match.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's true: it was the 70s when all the fun started to happen. Have a read: http://davidsouthmedia.wordpress.com/welcome/journalism-1990-1997/pop-culture/freaky-the-70s-meant-something/

wildgoose said...

I've long thought there's a 40-year cycle for some reason.

In the 1890s we had the decadence of the fin-de-siecle, Art Nouveau, and the like.

Then the 1930s we had Art Deco, flappers and so on.

Then the "interesting" fashions and sexual mores of the 1970s.

So I reckon we're about due for some intriguing societal changes.

dearieme said...

I spent the summer of '66 in the US where I was treated as a guru of all things swinging. Did I know the Beatles? No; but I had a good tale about the Animals. etc, etc. Don't mock - it led to an afternoon of free wine at Sausilito, amongst other delights.