My Victorians is a hybrid in both form and content, part memoir/extended lyric essay but also a work of biography, photography, and cultural, literary, and art history. This is a travelogue of writer Robert Clark’s attempt to work through a sudden and inexplicable five-year-long obsession focused on Victorian novelists, artists, architecture, and critics. He wends his way through England and Scotland, meticulously tracking down the haunts of Charles Dickens, George Gissing, John Millais, the Bloomsbury Group, and others, and documenting everything in ghostly photographs as he goes.
As Clark delves deeper into the Victorian world, he wonders: What can its artists offer a twenty-first century writer by way of insight into his own life and work? His obsession with Victoriana bleeds into all aspects of his life, even the seemingly incongruous world of online dating. My Victorians is in the spirit of Geoff Dyer’s Out of Sheer Rage and Rebecca Mead’s My Life in Middlemarch. This book considers what happens when heartbreak, eros, faith, and doubt drive us to take refuge in the past.
“Writing fiction or nonfiction, Robert Clark is always mesmerizing. But this small masterwork of historical exploration is something special, moving deftly from personal obsession to cool historical consideration, never losing the narrative beat. My Victorians is passionate, clear-eyed, acute in its analysis. But are these Victorians? Surely he’s shown us ourselves.”—Patricia Hampl, author, The Art of the Wasted Day
“My Victorians is an astonishing blend of literary history and autobiography. Alternating between frank memoir, rigorous research, and ecstatic ekphrasis, Clark illuminates the griefs, uncertainties, pieties, and odd hopes of his Victorians. His success is that he manages to make his infatuations ours as well, drawing us into his own idiosyncratic world that thrums with poetry and painting and nineteenth-century ghosts. The book is called My Victorians, but as Clark shows, they’re very much our Victorians, too.”—Ted Scheinman, author, Camp Austen: My Life as an Accidental Jane Austen Superfan