by Michelle Jean Prima
Now that summer is upon us, we delight in the warmer days and longer
evenings. Our weekends are filled with fun activities that we can't
enjoy during the winter months, such as picnics, outdoor concerts,
sailing, and a day at the ball park. But what did the Victorians
do to fill their leisure time?
Diversions changed over the years and across social standings. For example, the working classes only had weekends to enjoy, while the aristocrats could spend months at a time visiting relatives in the country. Also, as transportation improved, access to such holiday spots as the seaside became more popular by the end of the century.
Whether one stayed in town, or visited the countryside, there were always dances, horseback riding and picnics. Balls were more elaborate in town, and usually larger, while country dances were more relaxed and limited to those who could travel to the estate.
Riding and picnics could be enjoyed both in the City and in the country. Just the venue changed. City dwellers often went to Hyde Park, while in the country, guests could enjoy lakeside or hilltop views.
Cultural entertainments were much more accessible in London. There were the museums: The British Museum, The National Gallery, The Crystal Palace, and Madame Tussaud's Waxworks. And the theatres: Covent Garden, The Drury Lane Theatre, The Haymarket and many more. Men had their clubs, and women had their afternoon soirees where they read poetry or had musical entertainment. There were also the Zoological Gardens, and by 1876, the Royal Aquarium.
Physical activities and athletic diversions were more popular in the country. One could ride a bicycle, play croquet, play a round of golf, or go hunting. And with the advance of railroad transportation, many people of all social levels were able to travel to the seaside.
So yes, it is possible to entertain oneself without televisions, movie theatres, video games or computers. Perhaps it's time to get back to the basics and enjoy the pleasures of life outdoors.
The Ladies of London by Kristine Hughes
Victorian Delights edited by John Hadfield
For more information on Victorian Life, see our Researching the Romance page.
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Copyright 2007, Michelle Jean Prima