Over the last four months, Sherry Ashworth has been running a reading course at the House – Reading the Nineteenth Century. We’ve read four Victorian novels, not only for the stories – though these have been exciting – or for their literary merit – which has often, if not always, been evident – but to see what the books can tell us about the preoccupations of the society these novelists were writing for, and the social and psychological issues they were exploring through their stories.
We’ve read North and South ( probably impossible to hold the course in Elizabeth Gaskell’s house and not read one of her novels!), Charles Dickens The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Wilkie Collins helter skelter of a sensation novel The Woman in White, and the one probably none of us had ever heard of, let alone read, Mrs Henry Woods Danesbury House. We’ve reflected on the theme of alcohol abuse in Danesbury House, written in six weeks as an entry for a competition launched by the Temperance Society, and the ambivalent response of Victorians to the development and growth of the British Empire as depicted in Edwin Drood. We’ve pondered the gothic freakishness of the technicolour characters in The Woman in White, and admired the global scope of North and South.
Sherry has challenged me to reflect on the issues raised in these books more deeply than I would have done without her guidance and direction. And taking part in the discussion with the group has been stimulating and great fun. It’s been a winning combination of noisy discussion from us grounded in Sherry’s deep knowledge of Victorian literature -she’s the one with her back to us in the photograph below. I think you can tell how much I’ve enjoyed it!
The next course will be held in January 2018. Keep an eye on the What’s On section of our website for details and booking information. There’s always something interesting happening in the House – do come along and join us!
Lesley – House Volunteer