ABSTRACT

Attentiveness to earth, air and water in the home supported the view that the environment comprised numerous organic, chemical and physical phenomena. It was a domain that provoked considerable curiosity - though frequently anxiety - regarding the dependencies arising between living things and inanimate matter involving the causal subordination of one to the other. Well-cultivated 'vegetable mould' caused flowers and shrubs to thrive in the garden, for instance, though humans suffered when mould of a different kind appeared on interior walls and furnishings. Spaciousness imbued mind and body with vigour according to some experts, though only if the atmosphere of a room was free of dust and grime. If not, then even the largest and noblest of rooms amounted to little in terms of health and well-being. While books on domestic architecture and gardening and household economy alerted readers to the reasons for such phenomena, the living conditions they engendered were ultimately caused by human negligence, given the moralizing tone of many manuals. The Victorian home was a means for moral and social improvement as it provoked residents to think a lot, particularly about their surroundings and their responsibility for them.