okay, try this

I have a more specific research request for all you Victorianists.

I’m looking for poetry written no later than 1871, on the topic of the London Underground. Yes, I know that leaves only a narrow window of time in which the Underground even existed. Failing that, poetry (also before that date) about railroads.

No, I don’t have a title yet. I have any number of awesome phrases, but none of them are my title.


0 Responses to “okay, try this”

  1. ratmmjess

    Hi, Marie–

    I’m at home, so I can’t look this up at the library, but–have you joined Victoria-L? It’s a very helpful, very good listserv for Victorians, and I’d bet that at least some of the questions you’ll have could be answered there. They are very helpful, and most of the folks there are academics.

    I did a search there for Underground poems and didn’t find anything–I’ll try to check when I get to work.

    • Marie Brennan

      How much traffic does it get? I confess to being a little leery about joining a listserv that might swamp me with more than I ever wanted to know about the Victorian period. (That corner of my brain does not need to be fed Mirace Gro, if you know what I mean. <g>)

      • ratmmjess

        This is what the first week of November looked like. I don’t find it too much, but I have a high tolerance for this sort of thing. And you could always go for the Digest option.

        Anyhow–just an idea. I’m of course happy to do research for you as well.

  2. katfeete

    Unfortunately, you may be barking up the wrong tree here. The Victorian poets at the time were a rather backward-looking lot: poetry about Arthurian legend and Roman gods was the norm. Stuff like Browning’s Poems Before Congress which explicitly referenced the modern day was the exception, not the rule. So what you’re going to find, I fear, is maybe a few sideways references to something like the Tube buried in some obscure chivalry poem… and you probably will need the Victorian listserve to dig that out: it’s well beyond my level of expertise.

    The Victorian era was, however, the age of the novel, and there are a *lot* of railway references both fair and foul in Victorian novels. If you’re willing to go a bit further afield I could dig through some of my Dickens, Collins, Gaskell, etc, and see what there might be.

    (Side note: researching the poetry end of things has exposed me to Ode on the Mammoth Cheese Weighing Over 7,000 Pounds. Damn. I will be using this to mock my Canadian husband for years to come.)

    • Marie Brennan

      My primary reason for seeking out poetry instead of novels is that novel prose — especially in the Victorian period — tends not to be pithy enough. I’ve found entire paragraphs of Dickens that achieve the mood I’m looking for, but I can’t exactly use a paragraph for my title. I’m looking for a nice, condensed image, and that’s hard to find when the bastard was paid by the word. <g>

      But yes, I know the Victorian poets weren’t exactly falling all over themselves to grapply directly with modernity. I’m just hoping I might be able to find a few who did.

  3. unforth

    I’m not a Victorianist, and I know next to nothing about poetry. A thought I have, though, is that for railroads you should probably look to the US. Is that obvious? 🙂

  4. tybalt_quin

    This could be a complete red herring, but London Underground do feature poetry on their website here:


    which might be worth a trawl through. They have this big thing about putting poems in stations and on trains (I think it’s supposed to soothe passengers when they stuck ina tunnel because of an incident at Liverpool Street or wherever). On a quick squint, some of it’s pretty obviously not relevant (I don’t think Shakespeare ever took the Picaddilly line) but there are some Victorian poets featured so I figured it was worth a link.

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