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  • Summary

  • On the surface, the Victorian age is one of propriety, industry, prudishness and piety. But scratch the surface and you'll find scandal, sadism, sex, madness, malice and murder.

    Presented by Stephen Fry, this series delves deep into a period of time we think we know, to discover an altogether darker reality. The stories we're told offer a different perspective on an era which underwent massive social change. As education, trade, technology and culture blossomed, why was there an undercurrent of the "˜forbidden' festering beneath Victorian society?

    Across 12 episodes, Stephen presents a series of true accounts of the dangerous low life and debauched high life of Victorian Britain.

    This is an Audible Original Podcast. Free for members. You can download all 12 episodes to your Library now.

    ©2018 Audible, Ltd. (P)2018 Audible, Ltd.
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Episodes
  • Ep. 2: The Buckingham Palace Freak Show

    Oct 18 2018

    Step right up, step right up and don’t be shy - welcome to Victorian Secrets, and the secrets of... The Freak Show. The secrets of enormously fat men and bearded ladies, the secrets of exotic women with enticingly large buttocks, the secrets of Siamese Twins and dwarf families and, in particular, the secrets of our own, our very own Aztec Children, seen by half a million people on the European continent before they publicly revealed their own, personal, extraordinary secret.

    We’ll go backstage to hear the terrible secrets of the freaks themselves, we’ll lift the lace curtains of Buckingham Palace, where our own Queen, god bless her, took tea with the tiny, the towering and the terribly formed.

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    37 mins
  • Ep. 3: Pornography, Pleasure and the Press

    Oct 18 2018

    This episode will penetrate some of the secrets of Victorian sexuality, public and private and will challenge some deeply held misconceptions.

    We tend to think of the Victorians as dyed in the wool prudes, and we have latched onto the idea that the Victorians felt their values of self-discipline, temperance and hard work were threatened by the temptations of the flesh. This episode will show in enjoyable detail that ordinary Victorians’ attitudes to sex was for the most part enthusiastic, unembarrassed and surprisingly well informed. Apart, that is, from one secret sexual practice that was loathed, feared and tragically misunderstood.

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    34 mins
  • Ep. 4: 40 Elephants and Other Dangerous Women

    Oct 18 2018

    This episode examines how the role of women in education, marriage, divorce, sexuality, psychology and politics were all debated in the Victorian era. Some women were becoming active in society, whether men liked it or not- and some used the power of the pen to assert themselves.

    In particular we’ll meet Mary Carr, ‘Queen of the Forty Thieves’, an all-female criminal gang, later known as the 40 Elephants, well known for attracting men and then turning what looked like seduction into extortion. They were shoplifters, blackmailers and dab hands at swindling people – mainly men - out of money....

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    45 mins

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What listeners say about Stephen Fry's Victorian Secrets

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Please remove the piano background

The piano is like chinese water torture - I can practically guarantee whoever added it did not sit and listen for long enough to understand its negative impact. Stephen Fry is brilliant as usual and makes the subject interesting but it is difficult to listen for very long.

49 people found this helpful

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  • Z.
  • 02-06-20

UNNECESSARY BACKGROUND MUSIC.

I detest talking programs with music in the background. To me is pointless , unnecessary , distracting and irritating .

17 people found this helpful

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Ruined by the intrusive musak

Stephen Fry was brilliant. The historians were brilliant. The subject matter was brilliant.

But.

The music "behind" the speech was so loud that there were times when I could not hear what the interviewees were saying. As a result, listening to this was not relaxing, but hard work. Such a shame.

91 people found this helpful

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Why the infernal background music?

The topic and delivery of this podcast are wonderful (I assume). I can only assume this as I was forced to stop halfway through thr first due to that intrusive, annoying and unnecessary background piano music. We have the intelligence to listen to something without being continually prompted that tension or focus is necessary.
Why ruin a potentially first rate podcast?

10 people found this helpful

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Distracting music.

I found this book impossible to listen to. The incredibly annoying, distracting, all pervasive piano music throughout the readings by Mr Fry completely destroyed the listening experience for me. Such a shame, because I really enjoy his narration.

108 people found this helpful

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loved it, very interesting & entertaining. heard the narrator before somewhere, he's very good. top marks

10 people found this helpful

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Fascinating look at our not too distant past

Beautifully performed, as always by Mr Fry, but also an excellent supporting cast; telling an intriguing, fascinating history of Victorian life, from the perspective of "secrets". Thoroughly recommend and wondering how folks in a couple of hundred years time would look at our society today!... So fascinating to realise - as is often the case when you study history - how you can draw the threads of the past into how we have turned out today.

17 people found this helpful

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Fascinating listen

As everything Stephen Fry does, it's an excellently made podcast. It intrigues the listener and I like the acting pieces which add life to the performance.

12 people found this helpful

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The Quintessential Englishman!

Well, well, Stephen Fry appearing in Victoria(sic) Secret! Now there's an image to conjure with . . . though I am sure that even Stephen himself would agree that it's maybe not one to conjure with too long! He really is an absolute star on Audible and this is another fine series that he's helped bring to life with his narrating talents.

To suggest that the quality of this offering is based on Fry alone would be to do it a massive disservice though. This is a fascinating part of both British and world history and it's explored with a genuine relish for the subject. I was a little perturbed at first at how much the program seemed to be relying on expert contribution from US Universities but the subjects had global reach and the quality of the insight offered was excellent.

Never falling into the trap of glorifying or just simply titillating this is a very wry adult look at some of the quirkiest and at times darkest of aspects of Victorian life.

83 people found this helpful

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Episodic delivery infuriating

Since Audible cannot even muster the cutting-edge technology of a playlist function to their customers, presenting something in 30 minute episodes requiring you manually to move it on to the next listen makes this a monumental irritation and impossible to listen to at night. Great content, excellent narration but a waste of time.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 22-09-20

Please remove the horrible music

The awful piano background music sadly makes these very interesting and beautifully narrated stories unlistenable. Can't go on listening, it's too irritating.

17 people found this helpful

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  • Matthew Henry
  • 11-03-21

Interesting

Ignore the guy complaining about the piano background music. It's totally fine. :-) I learned some things and Stephen Fry is great as always. Well worth a listen.

15 people found this helpful

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  • P. Schroeder
  • 06-10-20

Informative and Fun

This series was fun, insightful, and engrossing. I listened to all 12 episodes within 24hrs and wish there were more.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Candice C
  • 28-10-20

Well Done!

I loved everything about this production. This is a perfect one for a road trip with your spouse. Don’t have the kids tuning in though.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Jenny
  • 05-03-21

Fun, enlightening, and well narrated

I was excited to see Stephen Fry narrating something new because I’ve liked everything he has read aloud. The pacing of this series was engaging, making each episode seem to quickly go by. The added theatrics (music, additional voice actors, sound effects) were fun, and they were used in the right quantities to spice up the podcast without being annoying. The information was interesting and well delivered. I often shared the details I’d learned from the podcast with friends and family, and they were entertained and interested in the bits of new knowledge about the era. Overall, this was fun, entertaining, engaging, and quick.

5 people found this helpful

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  • dinah jolie
  • 21-03-21

Absolutely Smitten!

I agree with Mathew Henry’s assertion to respectfully disregard the prior complaint about the background piano music...I found it atmospheric in the most unobtrusive way.

Stephen Fry’s storytelling prowess is quite legendary! An added bonus is the regular appearance of guest experts who add richness and flavor to each episode. Victorian Secrets shines an humorous, sometimes shocking, cross cultural spotlight on the people, places, and stories unique to the Victorian era whose existence have been denied historically in mainstream media and academia. I appreciate the inclusion of primary historical resources like personal diaries. I also love that the performances given by the voice actresses and actors never feel forced and caricature-like.

You will laugh, wince, cry, and contemplate throughout. You will be compelled to perform multiple Google searches to further enrich your self-education of Victorian his and her-story. While this podcast may not feel appropriate for children under the age of 12, I feel caregivers are ultimately responsible for deciding their child’s maturity and comfort level with subjects like sexual identity, death, mental illness, human anatomy, mythology, pornography, and political scandal. Used as a learning tool and with responsible adult “supervision”, each episode holds the power to catalyze important conversations between adult caregiver and child about class, sex, race, discrimination, diversity, disease, innovation, abuse, empowerment, and disenfranchisement.

I look forward to learning more about the Victorian era as well as listening to more of Stephen Fry’s creative content. Cheers and thanks for reading!

3 people found this helpful

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  • Nicole Steinmetz
  • 06-11-20

Very entertaining!

Over the course of two days, I listened to this wonderful podcast series. It served as a good stepping point for me to learn about Victorian era England, a new obsession of mine now. I wish they would do a second series!

3 people found this helpful

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  • Valérie
  • 09-02-21

Quite Enjoyable

I'm starting to think that Stephen Fry is incapable of being dull, These episodes are all interesting, enjoyable and quite informative.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Heather Hyink
  • 17-10-21

Simply Brilliant

I have listened to this production right the way through at least 5x. Highly entertaining and educational. Thought and conversation provoking. Well done.

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  • Callandra
  • 14-10-21

excellent, as to be expected from Fry

As per usual, Stephen Fry's offerings were entertaining and informative. Looking forward to listening to the follow-up Edwardian series.