26 May 2009

An Evening’s Entertainment in Victorian England

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Terrierman has an eminently politically incorrect posting discreetly lamenting humanitarian reform and the abolition of the Rat Pit.

Just look at those four obviously extremely naughty girls, one smoking a cigarette (in public no less), another casually lifting her skirts just clear of the fracas below. The young ladies’ enthusiasm for blood sport and obvious ease in masculine surroundings almost makes one want to classify them as consoeurs of Pierce Egan‘s Corinthian Kate in Life in London (1821), representatives of the Pooter-free epoch predating Victoria, the epoch of the Mohawk, the Corinthian, and the Buck. But, just look at their dresses!

The young ladies are obviously representatives of the gas-light era of Sherlock Holmes, not of the Regency. Moreover, there is that cigarette. The cigarette did not become commonplace until after James Bonsack’s invention of a machine for their manufacture in 1881.

The Rat Pit may have been outlawed in England in 1835, but there they are, enjoying a bout of ratting considerably after the date of the ban. My own surmise would be that these ladies have every intention of concluding their evening at yet another completely illegal establishment of entertainment, too.

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Again, hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

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