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My Skype Date With Those Curious Neo-Victorians

A couple of years ago, we brought you the story of Sarah A Chrisman, who lives a Victorian life in the 21st century. We got another update this year, when Chrisman published her book This Victorian Life. Now, Lisa Hix has interviewed Gabriel and Sarah Chrisman about their Victorian life together, and had a chance to ask questions about the nuts and bolts of living anachronistically.

My understanding is that the Victorian era was a very consumeristic time with a lot of waste and pollution.

Gabriel: If you look at what people are consuming now, it makes what people were consuming in the 1880s and ’90s seem tiny. Yes, the Victorians were definitely consuming a lot of fuels. Industrialization was, at that point, just starting to ramp up. If you look at those exponential curves that they show of technological advancement and fossil-fuel burning, it was right at that tight bend in the curve. The 1880s and ’90s were where everything started to accelerate. You had the beginnings of globalization. You had the beginnings of high technology in everyday life for average people. You had the beginnings of just about everything that we have now. For us, it’s the period when people were first wrestling with a lot of these issues. Understanding that point in history, I think, is the key to understanding where we are now and how to move forward.

Sarah: One of the things we like about it is that the technology was still at a point when every person could see the resources they were using in a tangible way. Part of the reason consumption is so massive now is that it’s done through black boxes. Flick one switch, power comes. Flick another switch, heat comes. Another one, food is ready. It’s very easy for people to forget that every single one of those switches represents a huge infrastructure of resources that are being dumped into making life comfortable.

Take our oil lamps. To get light, we have to light one. We watch the level of the oil as it goes down, and then I have to fill it again. It makes us a lot more conscious about asking ourselves, “OK, is it really dark enough to need the lamp yet, or is the sunlight all we need right now?”

The Chrismans also discuss bicycles, underwear, housework, women’s rights, hygiene, and other aspects of living the Victorian life, at Collectors Weekly.  

(Image credit: Don Willott)


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