From the 21st century perspective, Victorian era may seem a time of good manners, adventure and discovery. But if we take a closer look, this period may become less bright… or even very obscure.
5.1.- The dehumanization of society
Most employment was to be found in the newly industrialized cities, so many people abandoned their rural roots and converged on the urbanized areas to seek work. Large numbers of both skilled and unskilled people were looking for work, so wages were low, barely above subsistence level.
London was not an exception, but the epitome of this situation. As depicted by Charles Dickens, families had to put children to work at an early age, or even turn them out onto the streets to fend for themselves; there were also numerous homeless, destitute children living on the streets of this city. Great wealth and extreme poverty lived side by side because the tenements, slums and rookeries were only stones thrown from the large elegant houses of the rich.
What to say about healthcare. Operations were horrific procedures until 19th century: most patients died from post-operative shock, infection or loss of blood. With protagonists like Louis Pasteur, Robert Koch or Florence Nightingale, this century gave birth to modern medicine, featuring anaesthesia and the development of both antiseptic and aseptic operating theatres among the most powerful new techniques. These advances supposed outstanding changes… for those who could afford them. There is no need to say that ordinary people were not so fortunate.
‘In London, in 1830, the average life span for middle to upper-class males was 44 years, 25 for tradesman and 22 for laborers. Fifty-seven of every 100 children in working class families were dead by five years of age’.
Source: A Victorian Obsession With Death
La fée verte (the green fairy) inspired artists such as Ernest Hemingway, Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Amedeo Modigliani, Vincent van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, Aleister Crowley and Alfred Jarry. Drugs became both a blessing and a curse.