Time Well Spent Is Priceless

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#1
Pteridomania.jpg

"Gathering Ferns" by Helen Allingham, 1871.
Our Victorian friends didn’t have access to television or the internet, but they found plenty of ways to "spend" their free time. Here are a few of the hobbies that were popular during the Victorian era. Be forewarned, some might seem a little strange to us today.

Fern collecting became all the rage in the 19th century. It was even given an official name: pteridomania. This hobby took off in 1829 when Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward, a British botanist, famously started cultivating ferns in glass cases (what we refer to as terrariums). The idea caught on and Victorians (particularly Victorian women) began searching for ferns to grow in their own homes.

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Felines in formal wear in Walter Potter’s tableau “The Kittens’ Wedding.”
(Photo courtesy Joanna Ebenstein, New York Times.)

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(Photo courtesy Joanna Ebenstein, New York Times.)
Taxidermy, especially the art of positioning “stuffed” animals in typically human scenario was very popular. Walter Potter and Hermann Ploucquet became famous for their efforts to make scenes come to life. Some memorable pieces from the era depicted ice-skating hedgehogs, a classroom full of rabbits, and a wedding attended by kittens dressed in highly detailed regalia. “The Kittens’ Wedding,” an elaborate tableau by the Victorian taxidermist Walter Potter, was on exhibit at the Morbid Anatomy Museum in 2016.

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"The Seaweed Raker" by James Clarke Hook, 1889.​

Victorians were also obsessed with seaweed scrapbooking. After collecting the specimens, they would paste the strands onto sheets of paper. The designs were intended to be aesthetic with the seaweed usually arranged to spell out words or form images.

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"Crystal Ball" by Thomas Kennington, 1890.
Crystal gazing saw a revival in the late 19th century. In his 1896 book "Crystal Gazing and Clairvoyance," John Melville provided the instructions for using a crystal for spiritual purposes: “The crystal or mirror should frequently be magnetized by passes made with the right hand. The magnetism, with which the surface of the mirror or crystal becomes charged, collects there from the eyes of the gazer, and from the universal ether, the Brain being as it were switched onto the universe, the crystal being the medium."
 

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#3
Crystal gazing would be okay, but other paranormal "arts" like the then popular "automatic writing" make me feel a bit uncomfortable. From Wikipedia:
"Automatic writing as a spiritual practice was reported by Hyppolyte Taine in the preface to the third edition of his De l'intelligence, published in 1878.[12] Besides "ethereal visions" or "magnetic auras", Fernando Pessoa claimed to have experienced automatic writing. He said he felt "owned by something else", sometimes feeling a sensation in the right arm he claimed was lifted into the air without his will.[13] Georgie Hyde-Lees, the wife of William Butler Yeats, also claimed she could write automatically.[14]Sri Aurobindo as well as The Mother (Mirra Alfassa) regularly practiced Automatic writing."
 
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#5
Eleanor. Thanks again for the continuing education of Victorian social values of the nineteenth century. I agree that crystal gazing would be an art form attributed to your special psychic talents. On the other hand, Ellie, I do see our friends, Zella and FarawayFriend as practitioners of the great Victorian art of pteridomania or fern collecting. :bounce:David.
 
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#6
Alright ladies and gents, which hobby would you prefer? @Zella, @grace, @FarawayFriend, @Northern Light, @NH Civil War Gal, @captaindrew, @mofederal? I think crystal gazing would suit me just fine. :smile:
Forget the crystal ball! I just want to lose myself in the gaze of that fantastically beautiful young woman in Thomas Kennington's portrait. That would be a worthy hobby in its own right. Wow. OMIGOSH. Wow again.

(...just the opinion of an artist, you understand....)
 

Zella

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#7
Forget the crystal ball! I just want to lose myself in the gaze of that fantastically beautiful young woman in Thomas Kennington's portrait. That would be a worthy hobby in its own right. Wow. OMIGOSH. Wow again.

(...just the opinion of an artist, you understand....)
Definitely better than some of the alternatives. . . .

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#9
@christian soldier, I thought you would understand my fascination with crystal gazing. :smile: @FarawayFriend, I've never heard of "automatic writing" and it does sound a bit unnerving. The sight of someone's arm being lifted into the air without his will would be a little disconcerting to say the least. Our Victorians were very intrigued by divination and I always enjoy reading about their explorations into the unknown.

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"The Teller" by Ernst Hanfstaengl, 1871.​

@Patrick H, I thought you would appreciate the beauty of the woman in Thomas Kennington's portrait. Her eyes are mesmerizing. I could easily believe she was clairvoyant. And @Zella, you're right. The feline bride is beyond strange.
 
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#10
I think I'm a seaweed scrapbooker!
Hi Tina!!! Seaweed scrapbooking was extremely popular amongst the Victorians. I bet you could create some masterpieces.

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The album labelled “Miss Mary Carrington” and one of the book’s pressed seaweed samples, circa 1830.

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These pressed seaweed specimens were likely collected near Martha’s Vineyard by Mary A. Robinson, circa 1885.
Courtesy the Harvard Botany Libraries.

I do wonder about the smell.
 
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#12
@christian soldier, I thought you would understand my fascination with crystal gazing. :smile: @FarawayFriend, I've never heard of "automatic writing" and it does sound a bit unnerving. The sight of someone's arm being lifted into the air without his will would be a little disconcerting to say the least. Our Victorians were very intrigued by divination and I always enjoy reading about their explorations into the unknown.

the-teller-by-ernst-hanfstaengl-1871.jpg

"The Teller" by Ernst Hanfstaengl, 1871.​

@Patrick H, I thought you would appreciate the beauty of the woman in Thomas Kennington's portrait. Her eyes are mesmerizing. I could easily believe she was clairvoyant. And @Zella, you're right. The feline bride is beyond strange.
And this painting by Ernst Hanistangl is beautiful in its own right! (Did I get the spelling correct?)
 

lelliott19

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#15
Im not really fond of seaweed, but I just love these dried flowers and plants. Had I lived in the 19th century, I feel certain that, like Emily Dickinson, I would have adopted the hobby of herbaria. Would that make one a herbarist or a herbarian?
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Herbarium sheet, c.1839–46 Pressed flowers on woven paper, 33 × 49.5 cm / 13 × 19½ in Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
“These flowers are more important for the identity of the person who pressed them than for themselves,” the book explains. “This is a page from a sixty-six-leaf herbarium, or album of dried flowers, put together in the mid-nineteenth century by fourteen-year-old Emily Dickinson - later one of America’s most beloved poets - as a schoolgirl in Massachusetts." https://www.phaidon.com/agenda/art/articles/2016/december/15/the-art-of-the-plant-emily-dickinson/
 
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#17
It seems our Victorians were passionate about collecting and organizing all aspects of nature (i.e. seaweed). This was connected to the development of science as an occupation, to the expansion of trade and to Christian morality. The study of nature was viewed by Victorians as a way to gain a deeper appreciation of God.

The Victorians found lots of ways to bring nature into the home, like with the display of taxidermied animals or the incorporation of animal or nature motifs into fashion and home furnishings. One of the most interesting ways was through drawing, another popular hobby for young ladies that was intended to put them in touch with the natural world and a sense of serenity.
 
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#18
Of course I was intrigued when @FarawayFriend, mentioned "automatic writing." I found this engraving from the April 2, 1887, edition of “Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper.” It appears to show a séance with a floating guitar and a spirit hand writing automatic messages.



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(Courtesy of MysteriousPlanchette.com)
Has anyone heard of spirit trumpets?

Spirit_Hodge_Spirit_Trumpet_Spread_WM.jpg

(Courtesy of MysteriousPlanchette.com)​
 



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