Getting Lost in Victorian London – Christy Carlyle


Frith, William Powell; The Railway Station; Royal Holloway, University of London;

Echoing Michelle’s post from yesterday, I’m one of those authors who writes historicals because I really love research. I read books about Victorian history chock full of details that will probably never make it into my stories. Still, I have this notion that I need to know as much as I can about Victorian England in order to put characters there. You can pretty much ask me any day of the week, and I’ll be reading one Victorian history book or another. Right now I’m reading Victorian Women by Joan Perkin.

In particular, I seek out details about Victorian London, where a lot of my stories take place.

24Thankfully, writers, photographers, and artists of Victorian London are plentiful. I’m speaking both of contemporary Victorians who photographed, painted, and wrote about the city at the time, and those who are still studying and writing about 19th century London. Photography, even film, were being innovated throughout the late Victorian era, so we have lots of images that capture the era. I have a few favorites posted near my desk to help me get in the Victorian mindset when I write.

To be honest, I find it easy to get lost while researching Victorian London. There’s enough information to draw me in for days at a time. Research rabbit holes, I think they call them. I’ve certainly fallen down a few! My favorite general contemporary research book for basic descriptions are Charles Knight’s series of books on London, all of which are available free at Google Books. For a modern historian’s take, Liza Picard’s Victorian London is my favorite.

leadenhall_street_j_hopkinsNo matter how much I learn about the era, I find myself revisiting the topics of maps and travel times with every book. I rely on this map to orient my characters when they’re traveling around London. And when they leave London? Figuring out logical travel times can be tricky, but I’ve done everything from buying a replica Bradshaw’s Handbook, which was one of the most trusted travel guides of the era, to contacting a railway museum in Britain.

What kind of historical details do you like to see in historical romance? Any burning questions about the Victorian London? If they ever have a Jeopardy episode that’s exclusively 19th century questions, I’m ready!

14 Responses

  1. ki pha

    I too love research and getting lost in them. I definitely like knowing little tib bits about the time period that aren’t really known, like travel time as you pointed out. But I also love knowing what invention was being created and the process of how it was being tested, like the use of water for hydroelectric power. I’m no engineer but I’m just fascinated by its origin.

    • Christy Carlyle

      I love learning about technology and innovations in history too! I think that’s why I love the late Victorian era so much. There was just so much going on in terms of new designs and experimentation in almost every field of industry and business.

    • Christy Carlyle

      Me too, Denise! Total history geek. When I was in college, I considered a couple of majors, but history was really the only thing that interested me enough to make me stick with it. 🙂

  2. Alyssa Alexander

    Oh, the research rabbit holes… I’ve been down many. But all that research is what brings the books to life!

    • Christy Carlyle

      I agree, Alyssa! I justify my history book buying addiction by convincing myself it’s valuable, even if all the details don’t make it into my book. 🙂

  3. Barbara Monajem

    I find too much information about an era overwhelming, so I probably will never write Victorian Era books. I can just barely manage Regency, and if I try a different era, I suspect I will go back in time to Anglo-Saxon or Roman Britain, because there’s so much less information!! Weird, I know. But I enjoy reading Victorian Era stories, and I love going through early photographs of London and Londoners. 🙂 So nostalgic, almost as if I can be with my ancestors.

    • Christy Carlyle

      Oh, I don’t include even half of what I read in history books in my novels. 🙂 I just love learning about history. I was a history major and a history teacher, so I think it’s pretty much baked into me now. Sometimes a historical person, fact, or event might inspire a story, but then the story just takes off in my head.

  4. Lana Williams

    Any time I read a book and learn something new, especially romances, I’m a happy camper! Love rabbit holes! I’ve been reading Lee Jackson’s Dirty Old London. Fascinating stuff about filth! LOL Keep writing awesome books, Christy!

    • Christy Carlyle

      Oh my gosh, I love Lee Jackson! Do you follow him on Twitter? He’s hilarious and a FABULOUS 19th century resource. I have his book on my TBR list. 🙂

  5. Maggi Andersen

    I love Victorian mysteries. A fascinating time in history. It’s said it was like a duck, smooth on the surface, but paddling hard underneath.

    • Christy Carlyle

      I think that’s a perfect description, Maggi! I’ve been studying the era for years, and I’ve never been bored for a single moment. 🙂