Monday, October 3, 2011

A woman's heart explained

I have to thank Maria Popova, curator of the wonderfully curious site,, for this lovely Victorian illustration. Popova scours the web constantly looking for interesting things. This "Map of the Open Country of a Woman's Heart" is the work of one DW Kellogg and was drawn some time around the 1830s. You can find more beautiful maps here.

But this map - how intriguing it is to me, especially after spending so much time lately in old newspaper archives as I researched social life in my home town, Auckland, in the 1880s. It was so much a man's world then. At least by the 1880s activism was starting to show its face. By then a few lady doctors were touring the world giving lectures on health to female audiences who were probably completely ignorant of the workings of their own bodies. Some women were beginning to call for the abolition of smoking. There was even an Anti Plumage League, whose members were outraged at the killing of birds so their feathers could be used as hat adornments.
But 40 years earlier, a woman's heart - at least according to this fanciful map - was a morass of sentiment and vanity. The largest font sizes are reserved for her vanities - love of dress, love of display and love of admiration. There are lands labelled Coquetry, Selfishness, Sentimentality, Affectation and Fickleness.
The lower right quadrant goes give the woman's heart a little praise. It contains (if in small letters) Hope, Enthusiasm, Good Sense, Discrimination and Prudence, close to the border of the Country of Solid Worth. It does tend to balance up the opposing border marking the Land of Oblivion. Too much laudanum, perhaps?

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