Sex and the Victorians

Goblin Market

Despite the fact that Dickens had an affair with an actress, and George Eliot lived “in sin” with a married man for 30 years, and Wilkie Collins had two mistresses at the same time, and the age of consent was thirteen…we have decided that no one in the Victorian Age had sex, and that we will keep pushing the notion that Victorians were sexually uptight because someone made up a story about covering up piano legs. We here at Snorton are determined to keep perpetuating myths to make narrow-minded categorization our motto. If we encouraged students to think with any complexity about the subject, the staff at Snorton would be out of work.
For additional evidence that the Victorians were uptight about sex, we have provided an excerpt from Christina Rossetti’s poem “Goblin Market” (1857)

“Those goblin men are hard
Their long and pointy fruit
Poked and smeared me
I sucked their fruit globes fair or red:
I sucked and sucked and sucked the more
I sucked until my lips were sore;

But my lovely sister
I’m not hard, I’m squishy
So rub my cheeks with juices
Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices
Suck and lick the moistness from my fruit”

The editors of the Snorton Anthology need to take a cold shower. We’ll be back in a moment. Please feel free to entertain yourself freely. We promise not to look.
So as you can clearly see, the Victorians didn’t like sex, but really liked to write about two women who really enjoy eating each other’s fruit.

Today’s really easy homework assignment: Write an essay and include photos of yourself sucking the juices off your sister. All photos will be used for purely academic purposes. And remember, if it isn’t heavy, thick, and unreadable…it isn’t Snorton

For more about those uptight Victorians: Matthew Sweet’s Inventing the Victorians is available at or perhaps your local bookstore or library…
Also a review in the New Criterion declares “Debunking misconceptions…has been the chief occupation of Victorianists since at least the 1950s.”
a link to the poem Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti with links to other items of interest on

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Genesis of Frankenstein? “we rubbed it before the fire, and it lived”

Mary Shelley’s description of the night during the summer of 1816 at the Villa Diadoti, in which she was encouraged to invent a ghost story, and the dream she had as a result, is generally determined to be the genesis of her novel Frankenstein. However, an incident recorded in her journal, dated 19 March 1815, points to an earlier dream which can more certainly earn the distinction of being the actual birth of the idea that inspired the novel.

Dreamt that my little baby came to life again; that it had only been cold, and that we rubbed it before the fire, and it lived. Awake and find no baby. I think about the little thing all day. Not in good spirits. (MWS, Journal, 70)

Mary Shelley chose not to write a story about a man resurrecting a dead loved one; Victor Frankenstein’s object for resurrection couldn’t have been more impersonal. He attaches random body parts from several strangers and reanimates them. His act was meant to be an unselfish Promethean aid to humankind. This journal entry provokes the question of whether Mary Shelley considered the possibility of her main character reanimating one of his murdered loved ones.

Resurrecting a dead loved one for the sake of alleviating the pain of a profound personal grief would become a familiar theme in 20th century horror literature. From W.W. Jacob’s 1902 short story “The Monkey’s Paw” to Stephen King’s novel Pet Sematary, the theme of resurrecting a dead child or any loved one produces a more complicated personal horror than the incident depicted in Frankenstein. This may have been the inspiration for the resurrecting of Elizabeth scene in Kenneth Branagh’s film version of the novel (Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein) and the resurrection of Justine in Brian W. Aldiss’ novel Frankenstein Unbound.

Mary Shelley never wrote about the link between her dream and the incidents depicted in her novel. However, the psychological implications are very evident to a modern reader. There is also an element of remorse and failure in this journal entry similar to the guilt and feeling of failure expressed by both Justine and Victor in Volume One, Chapters 6 and 7. Victor’s culpability in the events is clear, but like Mary Shelley’s indefinable expression of culpability in the death of her baby, Justine’s feelings of guilt are equally elusive. Justine is innocent of the crime she is charged with, so perhaps it is a lingering guilt brought about by her mother’s accusation that Justine was responsible for the deaths of her siblings.

Both Mary Shelley’s journal entry and the novel suggest that the genesis of guilt is as elusive as a dream.

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Hitchcock: Books and Plays That Inspired His Films

rear window birds-daphne-du-maurier

Ashenden (The Secret Agent)  by W. Somerset Maugham

Before the Fact (Suspicion) by Francis Iles

The Birds by Daphne du Maurier

Dial “M” for Murder  A play by Frederick Knott

Easy Virtue By Noel Coward

Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square (Frenzy) by Arthur La Bern

The House of Dr. Edwardes (Spellbound) by Francis Beeding

Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier

The Lady Vanishes by Ethel Lina White

The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes

The Manxman by Hall Caine

Marnie by Winston Graham

Personal History  (Foreign Correspondent) By Vincent Sheean

Psycho by Robert Bloch

Rainbird Pattern  (Family Plot) by Victor Canning

Rear Window by Cornell Woolrich

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Rope: A Play by Patrick Hamilton

The Secret Agent  (Sabotage) by Joseph Conrad

A Shilling for Candles (Young and Innocent) by Josephine Tey

Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith

The 39 Steps (Richard Hannay series) by John Buchan

To Catch A Thief by David Dodge

Topaz by Leon Uris

The Trouble with Harry by Jack Trevor Story

Under Capricorn by Helen de Guerry Simpson

Vertigo by Boileau-Narcejac

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Before John Was a Jazz Giant: A Song of John Coltrane

Weatherford, Carole Boston.  Before John Was a Jazz Giant: A Song of John Coltrane.Illustrated by Sean Qualls. Henry Holt and Company, 2009. 32 pages.  ISBN-13: 978-0-8050-7994-4

What’s the story?

This non-fiction children’s book is creative biography of the childhood of John Coltrane, of one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time, who first had to listen to great music before he could write and play music of his own.


This Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People of 2009 in the category of biography presents the childhood of Jazz great John Coltrane with a primary focus on the musical sounds of his childhood. The book explores some of the inspirations for his desire to be a musician and the people, things, and music that influenced him. Each page is filled with beautiful, mostly abstract images in muted shades and limited colors. An author’s note at the end of the book provides a more detailed biography that parents, teachers, and librarians can use to answer questions from children who want to know more about Coltrane. There is also a list of some of Coltrane’s music available on CD and a list of books and a website about Coltrane’s life.

 Awards and Recognition

American Library Association Notable Children’s Books
Coretta Scott King Honor, Illustrator
Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year
Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People
Golden Kite Honor Book for Picture Book Text
CPL: Chicago Public Library Best of the Best
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Independent Bookstores: Santa Cruz

Logos Books and Records

1117 Pacific Ave.

This fairly large shop has lots of inexpensive books, CD’s, DVDs, and an ecletic bunch of old LP’s. You can spend hours browsing the shelves and bins in here. I picked up a Coldplay CD,  an old 1960’s comedy LP of The First Family, and an incredibly rare collection of naughty recordings . It’s like searching through your really cool Grandma’s attic.

Literary Guillotine

204 Locust St

This popular used book store is for both UC Santa Cruz students and for the amateur reader of novels and literary theory. It also features a smaller collection of other subjects. Visually it resembles the secret book collection found in the film Fahrenheit 451. Books are shelved floor to ceiling and wall to wall, and sometimes just in piles in multiple corners of this literary wonderland.

They also run an independent press to promote more eclectic work: Literary Guillotine, Ink

Book Shop Santa Cruz

1520 Pacific Ave

Rebuilt after the devastating earthquake of 1989, this well stocked bookshop offers book signings and a wide variety of new books, as well as a small selection of used books. It’s also an excellent source for international and national newspapers.

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Book Festival: Hay on Wye 2012

This year the Telegraph Hay Festival (Hay-on-Wye, Wales) will take place from May 31 – June 10.

One of the highlights is the chance to view some personal memorabilia of Lucinda Dickens Hawksley whose great-great-great-grandfather was Charles Dickens.

For more info about the author and her works:

For more info about programmes and tickets:

There’s also a separate event for families and children called Hay Fever that “runs across the ten days of the festival where children have the chance to meet and talk to their favourite writers and take part in workshops to create wonderful memories and develop new skills in imaginative thinking and self expression.”

For more information go to: Hay Fever

The Hay Festival also features films from around the world: Film Festival

and the always popular comedy programme

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Children’s Book Review: First the Egg

Seeger, Laura Vaccaro. First the Egg. New Milford, CT: Roaring Brook Press, 2007. 32 pages.  ISBN-13: 978-1596432727

What’s the story?

This book presents the concepts of how first there is an egg and that egg becomes a chicken. Then the story depicts other “firsts” that occur in nature: first tadpole, then frog; first seed, then flower, etc. Then a different process emerges: first there is a word and then there is a story and then there is an artist who paints the story and a writer who tells the story which leads back to the egg which is now the second part because first there is a chicken and then there is an egg.


This winner of the 2008 Theodore Seuss Geisel Honor and the 2008 Caldecott Honor has a fairly simple story that begins with a particular of which came first the chicken or the egg? There are a variety of cut-outs that by turning the page reveals a connection. The egg leads to a picture of a chick; a tadpole cut-out leads to a frog, and other progressions within nature are depicted. The illustrations are a rich palette of colors that appear to be painted on canvas. The most ingenious aspect of the story comes near the end when the reader discovers the story they are currently reading is part of the story they are reading. Children may be too young to appreciate this clever bit of metafiction, but it may plant the seed in their minds about the complexities of writing stories as well as reading them. An illustration at the end of the story incorporates the animals and objects mentioned before. Seeger proves herself to be a masterful artist and storyteller using the picture book form. Just when the reader thinks the book verifies that the egg came first, the story ends with the chicken laying the egg.

Other Awards and Recognition

New York Times Best Illustrated Book of 2007
New York Times Best Seller
Horn Book Fanfare Best Book of 2007
Oppenheim Platinum Award, 2008
ALA Notable Book, 2008
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Children’s Book Review: Blackbird (Coretta Scott King Award 2004)

Bryan, Ashley. Beautiful Blackbird. Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing, 2003. ISBN-13: 978-0-689-84731-8


 What’s the story?

This is the story of Blackbird who was voted as the most beautiful bird in the forest and the envious birds who want to be black, too.

Book Review

This winner of the Coretta Scott King award for 2004 is an adaptation of a folktale from Zambia. Blackbird is considered the most beautiful, so all of the other birds who are in different colors want to be black too. They ask if Blackbird can make them black, but Blackbird tells them that what counts is how they are inside. Blackbird mixes up a batch of blackening and gives everyone marks or designs in black. This book is a celebration of the beauty of the color black. The captivating illustrations resemble shapes cut from colored paper placed together in a collage. The book has the positive message that beauty comes from pride and confidence.

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Children’s Book Review: Flotsam (Caldecott Medal Winner 2007)


Weisner, David. Flotsam. Clarion Books, 2006. 40 pages.  ISBN-13: 978-0-618-19457-5


What’s the story?

A little boy playing on the beach discovers a camera that has washed ashore. He has the photographs developed and discovers that a strange world exists beneath the sea.


This Caldecott Medal winning wordless book features a collection of visually stunning illustrations that can captivate both a child and an adult’s imaginations. A boy playing on the beach follows a crab into the water and is caught up in a powerful wave. He then discovers that an underwater camera has washed ashore. The boy decides to take the film into a shop to be developed, and then his adventure begins as he views the wild assortment of photos. The photos depict normal sea life mixed in with some unusual creatures engaged in extraordinary behavior and activities as well. This wordless book can provoke a child’s imagination to invent a story of why an octopus is sitting in an armchair reading a book, and why there are a series of photos of children holding up pictures of other children from various periods of time. Most of the illustrations are in the bright colors that capture a sunny day at the beach. The underwater pictures are drawn in darker colors, yet the images are clearly and vividly depicted. A few illustrations in black and white add to the mysterious mood the book provides. This is a perfect book to spark a storytelling session.  Even the littlest of children can find an image within this book to make up a brief story.

 Other Awards

American Library Association Notable Books for Children 2007
Quill Awards 2007
Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year 2006
Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Books 2006
Red Clover Award 2008

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My Cat, the Silliest Cat in the World (ALA Notable Books for Children in 2007)

Bachelet, Gilles. My Cat, the Silliest Cat in the WorldNew York: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2006. 24 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0-8109-4913-3


What’s the story?

This book explains what life at home is like when you have a pet elephant who thinks he’s a cat.


This international award winning book is a delightfully silly story that convincingly presents the behavior of an elephant who for some unexplained reason believes that he is a cat. He uses a small litter box, sits on top of the TV, and sleeps in the dryer. The illustrations are in bright vibrant colors that highlight the silly behavior of an elephant who is just too big to utilize the objects and spaces used by cats. The illustrations are the highlight of the story, depicting the elephant compensating for his large size. There are also nine small illustrations of elephants with the colored fur patterns of real cats. This book will keep parents and their children entertained with the creative goofiness of it all. There was a sequel called When My Cat Was Small that has unfortunately gone out of print.

Awards and Recognition

American Library Association Notable Books for Children in 2007

Other Formats and Versions

Spanish Language version
Bachelet, Gilles. Mi Gatito Es El Mas Bestia. Molino Editorial, 2007.
ISBN-13: 978-84-7871-500-8
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