If you’ve looked back at pictures from the Victorian era, then you’ve definitely noticed that nobody is smiling. Everybody looks so serious, that the pictures suggest that people in the 1800s simply didn’t know how to have any kind of fun. They seemed like miserable, pompous people, who didn’t enjoy life. There are tons of theories as to people from the Victorian era usually looked dismal is pictures.
Long exposure times probably had everyone so tired and frustrated that smiling was rather difficult to do. Staying in one position, doing absolutely nothing for such lengthy periods wasn’t enjoyable. This clearly impacted how individuals looked at the end of the portrait. The entire process for getting portraits in the 1800s took several hours.
The high costs of having a portrait done definitely wasn’t a smiling matter either. Back in the earlier days, getting pictures taken were not as readily available like today. During the lengthy process of doing the portrait gave individuals enough time to calculate and think about how much of their finances were being spent on these portraits; a thought probably showed on their faces.
Poor dental hygiene made people uncomfortable and reluctant to show their teeth or whatever teeth they had left. Being uncomfortable with how they looked, especially when it would be seen by others for years to come definitely could have impacted how the Victorians presented themselves. The best option probably felt like keeping a straight face to hide imperfections and help with insecurities.
Thomas Lawrence was a famous joker during the time and he often made jokes like: “Marry a woman with a wooden leg. When you want a spree, steal the leg, she can't run after you! Boom boom”. “You know I'm very fond of the ladies - I say bless those wives that fill our lives with little bees and honey. They ease life's shocks, they mend our socks - but can't they spend the money!”. In his time, the audience would bring down the house with laughter.
Also, some of the punch cartoons and magazines show variations of the Victorians jokes. The jokes, in those days when there was no divorce , and extended families all lived clustered in the same house, were about hating your relations and most importantly, your mother in-law; they were about sexual frustration, drunkenness and poverty. The jokes were based on their lives and personal frustrations, to most people they weren’t funny at all.
History has not been kind to Victorian jokes. While all the great art and literature have been preserved and celebrated by generations, people from the era are usually imagined and referenced as terminally humorless.
Attempts have been made to find these long-forgotten jokes and bring them back to life. Researchers have found hundreds, if not thousands of Victorian era jokes, songs, comics, punch lines and the like lying around in the dust. Some of these jokes have made their way on social media and have even become memes. Even the most ridiculed Victorian puns can still raise a smile.