Etikettarkiv: Bohuslän

The Victorian Zoom Room

In our family, we now have a “Zoom Room”. We have always Skyped with family members and had professional conference calls using a variety of platforms. Now, with the coronavirus pandemic, Zoom has become the popular way to connect. And with Zoom, one needs a room with the right lighting and some decent background. No more kitchen table conference calls with family members walking in the background.

TV hosts and their guests have also started to broadcast from home and it is interesting to study their choice of backgrounds – bookcases and artwork and portraits of family members.

So how would one decide what to have in the background and what would it signal?

Bohuslän’s Newspaper

Last night I was reading a Swedish newspaper, Bohusläns Tidning, from 1845. I had searched on Augusta’s family name and found an announcement in this paper that Augusta’s family had arrived at Gustafsberg’s Spa. In itself, it was a fascinating find and I will continue to follow that thread. But what else did the paper cover that day?

Well, there was a ball to be held at the spa the forthcoming Sunday and the tickets could be purchased at Anton Ahlbom’s for 24 skilling banco.

And Carolina Charlotta Bruhn was advertising her café where she served tea, coffee, and lemonade daily. One could also order all kinds of baked goods and especially the not-so-well-known meringues with rose-, punch-, vanilla-, or chocolate flavoring. Not to mention, ice-creams!

The Real Gentleman

And then, Hallman’s Book & Music store listed the arrival of the latest prints, musical notes, and books. There were prints of the Swedish opera singer, Jenny Lind, and pianoforte notes for a selection of songs from the opera La fille du régiment by the Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti.

And what about the books? The book with the most interesting title was The Real Gentleman, or Principles and Rules for Decorum and a Keen Sense under Special Conditions of Social Life. The actual title, once I found this book online, had the additional subtitle: A Tutorial for Young Men to make them liked in Society and by the Opposite Sex. The book was originally written in German by Professor J. G. Wenzel and now translated to Swedish.

This book is a gem for anyone who wants to understand the societal rules of the mid-1800s. I scanned the topics: The Beauty of the Body, The Gaze and the Countenance, Body Positions and Movements, and so on. Then it got to a very interesting chapter: Furnishing of the “Reception Room”.

Furnishing of the Reception Room

During Victorian times, visitations were important and visitors would be received in the reception room (or drawing room, or parlour, depending on the regional differences in naming this room). According to the author, the furnishing of the reception room was of utmost importance if you wanted to be liked in Society and by the opposite sex!

And these were the important considerations for furnishing the reception room:

“…Everything here should betray a purified taste as well as knowledge of the world and times. Paintings, household utensils, and ornaments must make it clear to the visitor that he is in a house where understanding, taste, and fine customs abide.

…This room, designed for the reception of strangers, should be suitably furnished so that neither cabinets, dining tables, desk, dressers, toilet mirrors, nor beds are visible. Chandeliers or lamps, game tables, ottomans, divans, sofas, canopies, or so-called bouncer, etc., are the things that belong in a reception room…

…Well-polished tables and chairs of mahogany or good native tree species and in a modern style make a favorable impression.

…If there are several wide walls in the room, then it is necessary, between the chairs, to set appropriate tables with a vase, a clock, a beautiful alabaster figure, etc. To decorate the tables in the reception room with glass, porcelain, or other everyday objects is of low taste, even as it has often been fashionable.

…If one wants to hang paintings or etchings in the reception room, then they should be made by a master artist and have a suitable subject. Naked figures are obscene, even if they were made by the greatest master. Family portraits, mostly of the present owners, also do not fit in the reception room. One should not want to place one’s dear self everywhere.

Finally, it is obvious that the room should be tidy and free of dust.

Furnishing of the Zoom Room

Today’s Zoom Room is what the Victorian Reception Room was, a room where you will meet your friends, discuss, debate, and share stories. So what can one learn from The Real Gentlemen’s principles and rules? What should be the background in your room when you greet your visitors on Zoom?

  1. The room should be suitably furnished so that dressers, toilet mirrors, and beds are not visible.
  2. Everything should betray a purified taste as well as knowledge of the world and times.
  3. If one wants to hang paintings, they should be made by master artists.
  4. No paintings of nudes even if they were made by the greatest master!
  5. No family portraits.
  6. Keep it tidy, and no dust!

What about bookshelves? It seems to be popular today. Did the gentlemen of Victorian times not read a lot?

I am sure the author would have suggested a bookshelf if the books betrayed a purified taste and knowledge of the world and the times, if there were no nudes on the dust jackets, and if there were no dust on the shelves.

Victorian men using Zoom




Augusta in Marstrand

Kerstin and I are on standing on the deck of S/S Bohuslän, the steamer that will take us on the same journey that Augusta and her family made in July of 1850 – from Gothenburg to Strömstad. It is a beautiful day – no clouds in the sky and a slight sea breeze. We are not alone enjoying this day out at sea. We wave to families in sailboats and small yachts and they wave back. Even people onshore wave as we pass by because S/S Bohuslän is such a beautiful and historic steamer.

S/S Bohuslän
Our 2019 summer sejour: A cruise with S/S Bohuslän from Gothenburg to Strömstad. Augusta made the same journey in 1850 onboard S/S Freja. (Picture credit: Gunilla Rietz).


Marstrand, July 2019

In the distance, we suddenly discern the island of Marstrand. This is and has been since the 1850s, Sweden’s most fashionable sea resort. So when Augusta visited Marstrand, it should not have come as a surprise that she met several of her wealthy friends from Stockholm

“At Marstrand, where the steamboat stopped for a short time, I met several Stockholm acquaintances, including Augusta Holmqvist and Lieutenant Claes Bergenstråhle.” (Augusta’s diary, July 1850).

Getting close to Marstrand

As we get close to Marstrand with its myriad of boats and people, I try to imagine what the small town would have looked like 170 years ago. What did the wealthy visitors from Stockholm do during their visit to Marstrand? How did they live and how did they entertain themselves?

The answers can be found in an autobiography by Johan (John) Georg Arsenius

John Arsenius description of Marstrand in July, 1850

John Arsenius (1818-1903) was a military man. He was also a professional oil painter, specializing in painting horses. Arsenius was staying in Marstrand in July 1850 with several of his Uppsala University friends. In his autobiography, he writes about this fun and memorable summer sejour. The amazing coincidence is that he was there when Augusta visited Marstrand. Did they have friends in common?

Yes, they did, because he mentions his friends by name. He writes about Augusta’s friend, Augusta Holmqvist (who I wrote about in an earlier blog) and Count Figge von Schwerin who Augusta describes in her diary the following year:

…in the evening we saw the great opera, “A Tale of the Queen of Navarre.” There I met Count Figge Schwerin who escorted me home and was quite himself, much disposed to let his lady alone carry on the conversation and himself look like he was sleepwalking. (Augusta’s diary, Stockholm 12 March 1851)

And then there is a Baron Rehbinder, who could be the same person Augusta describes in her diary in 1851 as the “the extremely beautiful Baron Rehbinder” with whom she is secretly enamored.

So, what did they all do to entertain themselves in Marstrand?

Playing Whist in Marstrand 1850

Arsenius describes boat rides, mention picnics, and vividly describes the card games, drinking parties, and the singing. Leading the singing is the famous songwriter and composer, Gunnar Wennerberg. Julius Günther, the famous Swedish tenor, is also in Marstrand to rest his voice (he also figured in a previous blog about Augusta).

In addition to all these activities, the group of friends decides to organize a play. After the dress rehearsal, they are in such a good mood that the 14 members of the cast imbibe 30 bottles of wine or porter with their dinner. They are a little worried about their first performance which is scheduled shortly after dinner. But the play is a success and it inspires them to set up two more plays.

The dinner before the opening night. Notice the pile of bottles in the corner.


The play: Four young women working in a fashion store get a surprise visit by their lovers. In order to hide them, they pretend their heads are wig blocks and continue to work on their heads as if they were working on wigs. One of the lovers takes care of the old owner of the store and flatter her by drawing her portrait.

Entertainment, then and now…

As we pass Marstrand, I look back at where the old clubhouse (Swedish: societetshus) would have stood (and which is now replaced by another clubhouse from 1887) and the park surrounding it. This is where they would have had their parties, plays, and picnics and Augusta would have walked there in her summer dress under a silk parasol.

The old club house (societetshuset) that was built in the 1840s.

But if Augusta was in Marstrand today, what would she be doing?

Two girls on a jet ski catch my eye. They weave in and out of the wake from our boat, excited as they jump the waves. Yes, Augusta could be one of them. And Arsenius and Rehbinder might be the two guys who race the girls on their own fast jet ski…..

All Arsenius’ drawings are from his autobiography, published posthumously in 1924: John Georg Arsenius Minnesanteckningar – Kulturbilder från 1800-talet.