It is a strange thing to view the attitudes to poverty that many of the reasonably well off and better off Victorian citizens had. There was a consensus that “honest poverty” was good for the soul, and was, therefore a boon to those who had to endure it!
Indeed, the idea of the man or woman struggling to survive as their lives took downward turns was a favourite with novelists, short story writers and even playwriters.
NO PLEASURE IN POVERTY
Of course, the reality was far, far different than the romanticised and sanitised versions of the lives of the poor and downtrodden that were served up for the delectation of the better off and well to do.
Starvation in Victorian London was very real and ever present problem, and, if the truth be known, it claimed the lives of more victims than Jack the Ripper ever did, as can be seen in our video on deaths from poverty in the second half of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century.
THE PLEASURES OF POVERTY
However the perception of poverty as virtuous persisted.
I was recently researching for the above video, when I came across an article that, to be honest, I couldn’t be sure wther it was done tongue in cheek.
Read it for yourselves and see what you think:-
“When husband and wife, are true-hearted, there is no greater aid to happiness than a few deprivations and hardships in commencement of their married life.
It is a great thing for each to realise that he or she is sacrificing something for the other.
TOILING AND DENYING
The wife came with empty hands to a husband who had no rich gifts to bestow; but while she is struggling and saving, and he is toiling and denying himself, the consciousness of doing it for the other’s sake confers a happiness nothing can equal.
It will be in more prosperous days alone, perhaps, that both will realise the pleasures of the poverty that they endured in youth.
THE OLD HOME
In that grand new house there is nothing lacking that taste can devise or wealth procure.
Yet, amidst the splendours and delights, the hearts of both – the wife’s oftenest, without doubt – will turn with wistful affection to the little home of old times, poverty-stricken and inconvenient as it was.
A HUNDRED SIMPLE JOYS
The hardships and discomforts endured within its walls have passed away like mist before the sunshine, and memory only recalls the delights of contriving, managing, and arranging.
The fun enjoyed over amateur attempts at carpentering and surprises in cookery; the brief, sweet holiday stolen from weeks of toil, saved for so anxiously, and looked for so eagerly – these and a hundred other simple joys, are the pleasures of poverty, in fact, undreamt of by the rich and worldly.