Transportation In the Victorian Era



During the Victorian Era the most prominent forms of transportation were carriages, bicycles, and walking. However, the most common mode of transportation was horses, used by both the rich and poor. Depending on ones social status, the various types of carriages would differ among families. Although railways began emerging during the Victorian Era, they predated the novel Pride and Prejudice by twenty years.


Carriages In The Victorian Era:


Hack Chaise (below)- The Hack Chaise, generally a rented carriage, consisting of four wheels and seats up to three people. This carriage was typically a standard vehicle for middle class families who were "respectable" but not extremely wealthy.

"If he had been so very agreeable he would have talked to Mrs. Long. But I can guess how it was; Everybody says that he is ate up with pride, and I dare say he had heard somehow that Mrs. Long does not keep a carriage, and had to come to the ball in a hack chaise." (Austen, 21)

This carriage was presented in the novel, Pride and Prejudice, at the first ball. Mrs. Long arrived in the rented carriage (Hack Chaise) because she does not own one herself. Charlotte Lucas while talking to Jane, comments on Mr. Darcy's refusal to talk to Mrs. Long because she came in that type of carriage. Her low social status was conveyed through Darcy's reaction to the way she arrived. This displays the idea that one's form of transportation is directly associated with their place in the social hierarchy. Mrs. Long was quickly judged by the members attending the ball, specifically Darcy. Just by observing her entrance to the ball, she was instantly deemed inferior to the rest of the people there. This emphasizes the theme of reputation within the novel; Darcy did not want to subject himself to partake in a conversation with one of lesser nobility. Darcy was unwilling to jeapordize his reputation and therefore secluded himself from Mrs. Long the entire ball.

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Chaise and Four (below)- The Chaise and Four is a carriage drawn by four or more horses. This contains at least two rows of seats in the inside, as well as seats on the top. The "box" exists as a luggage compartment to the front of the main carriage, where the driver usually sits. These coaches are used by wealthy families and for long distance public transportation. It cost an average of 800-1000 pounds to maintain the horses and carriage.

"Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says that Netherfield is taken by a young man of large fortune from the north of England; that he came down on Monday in a chaise and four..." (Austen, 1)

The chaise and four was mentioned at the start of the novel in the midst of Mrs. Bennets frenzy over the new neighbor, Mr. Bingley. Mrs. Bennet was awed by his arrival in such a well- known and high-priced carriage. Mrs. Bennet was already classifying Mr. Bingley as a person of upper social status because he arrived to town in such a carriage. This automatically sparked her attention, as she is a woman who is obsessed with material wealth. Just by seeing how Bingley was introduced into the novel, it is evident that he was instantly placed into the upper class. This shows how important it was to Mrs. Bennet that her daughters associate themselves with such a man that was wealthy enough to own a chaise and four. The "four" in chaise and four is directly related to the number of horses that are used to pull the carriage. This number therefore correlates with how wealthy a person is.

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Curricle (below)- As a typical means of transportation, this carriage is favored by young men. It is drawn by two horses and runs by two wheels. The curricle only seats two people - one of which is the driver.

"...When the sound of a carriage drew them to a window, and they saw a gentleman and a lady in a curricle driving up the street." (Austen, 290)

Mr. and Miss Darcy go to visit the Gardiners and Elizabeth the first day that Miss Darcy arrives at Derbyshire. What makes this quote ironic is the fact that a curricle is not representative of the Darcy's overwhelming fortune. Since a curricle is only drawn by two horses, and seats only two people, it is strange that the Darcy's do not arrive in a more ostentatious and prestigious carriage. Being the two richest characters in the novel, it would be expected for them to ride in a carriage that is much more luxurious. The reader at this point is uncertain as to where Miss Darcy is actually coming from.

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"The marriage of a daughter, which has been the first object of her wishes, since Jane was sixteen, was now on the point of accomplishment, and her thoughts and her words ran wholly on those attendants of elegant nuptials, fine muslins, new carriages, and servants."


Walking:


To walk in the Victorian Era was the cheapest, simplest, oldest and most natural method of travelling. It was certainly the safest technologically wise because the walkers did not have to worry about their carriage breaking down, or a horse injury. Despite the fear of robbers and strangers, most of the lower and middle class resorted to this form of transportation.

No, my dear, you had better go on horseback because it seems likely to rain, and then you must stay all night." (Austen, 34)

Mrs. Bennet says to Jane to take the horses to Netherfield because it was raining out. Mrs. Bennet conceals her true motive by bringing up the point that if Jane happened to stay at Netherfield with their only carriage, then the rest of the Bennets would be stuck at home and unable to travel elsewhere. Furthermore, the Bennet's only have one carriage, indicating that they do not have a substantial amount of money. As a family with seven members currently living at home, it would be assumed that they need more than one carriage. However, because of their lack of wealth, they can only afford one. Ironically, this wasn't genuinely why Mrs. Bennet wanted Jane to take the carriage. Her real intention was for Jane to end up staying overnight at Netherfield because the weather wouldn't permit a safe journey back for the horses.

"To walk three miles, or four miles, or five miles, or whatever it is; above her ankles in dirt, and alone, quite alone! what could she mean by it? It seems to me to show an abominable sort of conceited independence, a most country town indifference to decorum." (Austen, 40)

Miss Bingley judges Elizabeth because she walks to visit Jane instead of taking her own carriage. In Victorian society, this act is greatly uncommon. Most women are dependent upon men for security, wealth, and material items. Just because Elizabeth is independent and does not rely on men to take care of her, Miss Bingley ridicules her for walking alone. Elizabeth is one of the few women who are not married so other women believe that she should always be looking to impress the people she encounters. That is why walking in the mud is so outrageous to Miss Bingley.

Transportation in the Victorian Era was not only a form of movement, but symbolized a person's wealth and social status. Depending upon the type of carriage one owned, or the number of horses used to pull the carriage, one's wealth was illustrated by these factors. The expense of keeping a carriage or a horse is undoubtedly greater than maintaining any other possession. That is why wealth was so important during this epoch.



Work Cited:


D.W., "Carriages and their parts." Webmaster 2006 <http://www.georgianindex.net/horse_and_carriage/carriages.html>.

Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Enriched Classic. New York: Pocket books , 2004 .

G√ľnther, Pablo. "Travelling Carriages." 2001. Hergensweiler. 28 Oct 2007 <http://www.giacomo-casanova.de/catour4.htm>.

Rosen, Bruce. "Victorian History." 09/09/06 <http://vichist.blogspot.com/2006_09_01_archive.html>.