Weirds Habits From the Victorian Era

Emma Linfield

Have you ever watched the “Victoria” miniseries? Or the “Crown”? Or any movie or TV Show that deals with the British 18th and 19th century?

If you have, then I’m certain your head is already filled with images of grand manors, elaborate balls, flamboyant dresses and impeccable coifs.

The truth is though, that the Victorian Era was certainly weirder than that.

Much, much weirder…

And today I’m gonna walk you through a few things that might sound downright bizarre to you rears, but they were definitely a thing back then!

Welcome to the dark side!

Belladonna Eye Drops

Victorian women were obsessed with bright eyes.

They admired them, craved them, and apparently, they were willing to do anything to attain that seductive, doe-eyed look.

Even drown their eyeballs in the distilled essence of a toxic plant!

You see, belladonna might mean “beautiful lady” but there’s a pretty good reason why this plant is also called deadly nightshade.

While the use of these eyes drop did indeed dilate the pupil and give the eye a certain glow, they also had a plethora of adverse side effects. Blurry vision, red dry skin, fever, rapid heartbeat, difficulty with urination and sweating, hallucinations, spasms, mental health issue, and, if used over a prolonged period of time, even permanent blindness and coma.

If that ain’t a bargain, I don’t know what is!

The Garden Hermit

Yes, you read that one right!

Victorians had a penchant for the bizarre and the unusual.

Among other things that would be considered utterly preposterous nowadays, the people of that Era liked the disheveled look of a hermit.

Large landowners in the 18th and 19th century were unusually fond of the eccentricities of forest people, and they often employed people to assume the role of the live-in hermit.

Picture this: you’re walking down a cobblestone path, with fragrant flowers arranged beautifully all round you. You’re whistling a happy tune as you walk, perfectly content.

And then, the whistling turns into a scream.

Because right ahead, staring at you is an old man with a long beard, tangled hair, and wearing dirty, Druid-like clothes.

These hermits would often spend decades living in an aristocrat’s garden. When they no longer could perform their duties either because of age or sickness, they were given sums of money large enough to get them through the rest of their days.

I do wonder what was written on that job description!

-John Bigg, the Dinton Hermit (via Wellcome Library)

Fasting Girls

Now, considering how big of an issue eating disorders are nowadays, this particular “craze” makes you wonder what exactly were the Victorians thinking back then.

Fasting Girls were women who appeared to possess the ability to survive without sustenance of any kind. “Appeared” being the keyword here. Obviously, these miraculous women were frauds down to the very last one, pretending to possess the unearthly power to live off on nothing more than air.

Of course, as you can imagine, once the show was over, these “special” women ate a feast all on their own.

Why would they day such a lie, I can hear you asking…

Money, fame, the chance to be picked by a rich nobleman as their personal entertainer.

Perhaps the most famous of Fasting Girls was Mollie Fancher, who supposedly lived fourteen whole years without touching food.

-Mollie Fancher(1848-1910), Known is a photograph by Mary Evans Picture Library which was uploaded on January 18th, 2018.


Victorians had a thing for medical therapies.

From hydrotherapy to pelvic finger massages, the people of the Era had a penchant for turning new inventions into medical treatments (many of which were entirely unsuitable for the ailment they were supposed to be a treatment for).

Why would electricity be any different?

Electropathy involved using electricity to alleviate medical problems ranging from gout, muscular weakness, rheumatism and torpid liver to (of course) hysteria.

Essentially, patients paid to be given electrical shocks. Willingly. And they paid for it!

Strange timed indeed! 

-Antique Davis & Kidder’s Patent Magneto Electric Machine for Nervous Diseases

Professional Mourners

Compared to modern attitudes, the Victorians had a morbid fascination and peculiar obsession with death.

And professional mourners, also known as Mutes, were all the rage.

They would usually just stand in their mourning clothes around looking very sad and miserable. Walking around with a big stick, they would follow the hearse and coffin.

Considering the number of deaths during the Victorian Era, demand for the job was high.

I have to give it to Mutes though, they sure did know how to be fashionable!

Cocaine as Dental Care

Yes, you read this one right too!

Apparently, normal dental care was just too mainstream for Victorians.

Back then, toothpaste was not overly famous or regularly used (no surprise there), and instead, people chose to use a homemade tooth powder, which often included cocaine as an ingredient.

I’m not entirely sure why that was, though I presume it served as a numbing agent for the gums.

Even more disturbing was the dental care products that were used on children.

Those were almost entirely made of cocaine!

Oh dear! Can you imagine that?!

So, tell me! Did you know any of these strange habits from the Victorian Era?

Do you know any peculiar fact that belongs on this list?

Oh, please do tell!

Written by Emma Linfield

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