Historical Context in The Old Nurse's Story

Victorian England and the Gothic Tradition: The reign of Queen Victoria provided a period of relative peace and prosperity for England. The majority of people remained religious Christians in some form despite advances in science and technology questioning previously held beliefs. One way this manifested was writers’ experimenting with different themes in literature from the past, pushing back on the popular romantic texts that had espoused human virtue, beauty, and power. A reaction to traditional romanticism, Gothic literature, a genre under which “The Old Nurse’s Tale” falls, saw an increase in popularity throughout the 19th century. Some tropes of the style that also appear in the story are aristocratic decay, ghostly apparitions, and psychological explorations of unstable characters.

Historical Context Examples in The Old Nurse's Story:

The Old Nurse's Story 3

"and that if ever they gave her help, or food, or shelter, he prayed that they might never enter heaven...."   (The Old Nurse's Story)

In Victorian England, Christian beliefs and customs were widespread. The worst fate imaginable to religious believers at the time would be the inability to enter heaven after their deaths, which explains why the servants take the old lord’s threat so seriously.

"as she was called in those days, Miss Grace, for she was the younger sister...."   (The Old Nurse's Story)

Because of their emphasis on heritage and inheritance, Victorian naming conventions were strict and based on a hierarchy of formality. The eldest child of either sex was given the title of Mr. or Miss followed by the family name; the younger children, Mr. or Miss followed by their first names. When an elder sister married and took on a new last name, the next-eldest daughter inherited the title of Miss and the family name.

"but just lived to see her dead baby, and have it laid on her breast, before she sighed away her life...."   (The Old Nurse's Story)

Miscarriages and stillbirths were not uncommon in the Victorian era; likewise, there was a much higher risk of a mother’s dying in childbirth than there is today. However, it is unclear what exactly led to the death of Rosamond’s mother.