Victorian valuables online

 

"Is the red nose from the corset or the liquor?" wondered The Lady's Magazine of 1867: apparently, unknown to most of us, the worry that one's sweetheart was secretly knocking back the port had its place in the pantheon of anxieties of the 19th- century male. I am indebted for this fascinating information, not to the usual sources, i.e. a footnote in a book on Victorian women, or a scholarly article in some academic journal, but to a home page called Victoriana Resources for Victorian Living (http://www.victoriana.com/). The Victorians and their domestic worries are alive and well on the Internet. (If you feel compelled by personal experimentation to discover the answer to the above question you can venture onto Victoriana's corset page and discover how to construct one of your own.) For locating online information on the 19th century, there are several major sites worth visiting, beginning with The Victorian Web (http:// www.stg.brown.edu/projects/ hypertext/landow/victorian/ victov.html) housed at Brown University in the US. It provides essential background information on the era and covers almost every conceivable topic from Trollope to Theosophy. In addition, if you have a craving to publish your own research, you can have the instant gratification of submitting your work for online publication after your visit.

Another multifaceted site, the Victorian Research Web (http:// www.indiana.edu/victoria), lets you look up not only the biographical details of an author's life but also read their works, look at a sample curriculum using their novels, and connect you with an academic journal which deals with their period.

The site also contains instructions on how to join the Victoria email list, a discussion group of around 1,700 members. This resource is especially useful for those who have email access but cannot connect to the Web, and list members are extraordinarily willing to provide sources, information and even complete syllabuses for courses.

Indiana University has a second major site, the Victorian Women Writers Project http://www.indiana.edu/letrs/vwwp/index.html) which is dedicated to publishing electronic texts of minor female authors, including Speranza, Lady Wilde, some of whose poetic subjects are a little unexpected (Yet was ever the Potato our old, familiar dish, and the best of all sauces with the beeves and the fish).

For anyone who has ever scoured the bookstores looking for these writers this is a rare (and free) treat, especially when combined with the fact that you can search online texts for specific phrases and words. If you still haven't found anything that stimulates your interest, try the site at Nagoya University in Japan which provides an eclectic mix of links to other locations (http://lang.nagoya-u.ac.jp/~ma- tsuoka/Victorian.html).

Sites maintained by universities and individuals coexist and interconnect with each other quite happily: Paul Lewis's Wilkie Collins' pages (http:// www.deadline.demon.co.uk) are the result of his personal interest in a favourite author, but are referred to by many academic sites. Chris Redmond's Sherlockian Holmepage (http:// watserv1.uwaterloo.ca/ credmond/sh.html) is the first place a university site will send you for information on Arthur Conan Doyle. This willingness to lend authority off to non-academic experts enriches the online community and can deliver some quirky insights on the Victorians and their enduring power.

Interesting sites dealing with 19th-century Irish history and literature on the Net are thin on the ground. The best places to visit are online projects dealing with the Great Famine. A visit to http://www.pilot.infi.net/

cksmith/ famine/PotatCom.html is recommended.

There is also a site by students at Vassar as part of their course work on cartoons from Punch, which deals with "The Irish Question" and Victorian representations of Ireland and the Irish (http://vassun.vassar.edu/ victstud/punchpage1.html). In addition, the Irish Writer's Centre provides some links to other locations that deal with Irish writers. Research on the Internet has the wonderful merit of delivering you to places all over the world, and giving you unparalleled access to more students of a subject than any other medium (or, at least, I don't know of anywhere you can post a question on Trollope to 1,700 people in the morning and have 20 or so answers from around the globe by noon). It removes geographical and academic barriers and promotes a marketplace of ideas where both academics and non academics contribute equally.

For this reason, it's a shame there is little attempt from Irish institutions to use the Internet as a way to display and explain their scholarship to Ireland and to the world. The Internet is having a growing influence on the way information is transmitted and cultures are perceived: by remaining aloof we lose our chance to represent our history, literature and culture to the world outside.

Siobhan McElduff is at: smcelduff@mta.ca