Of all the objects people choose to have show up in their mailbox once a month, works of literature may be the most common. But mail-order clubs have become significantly more adventurous with their offerings since book-of-the-month subscriptions started popping up close to a century ago: pies, beer, panties, barbeque sauce, and Dean Martin Show DVDs are but a few of the things people look forward to receiving every four weeks.
The Web has allowed these clubs to expand in ways that are less consumable, and more artistic and fun. Michael J. Colitz, Jr., a patent attorney based in Tampa Bay, Florida, has been sharing his Wacky Patent of the Month with the public for more than a decade. This to That, a Web site offering adhesive advice, presented its preferred Glue of the Month for several years. Numerous sites offer Font of the Month subscriptions to type-conscious designers. And a defunct site based in the U.K. once offered up monthly photos of electricity pylons.
In an effort to indulge her fascination with all things Victorian, the Toronto-based illustrator and author Kristi-Ly Green joined the fray in January, 2006, when she sent her first Victorian of the Month mailing to about twenty people. Consisting of a drawing and brief, colourful biography of a randomly selected personality from the era of the Crystal Palace, Jack the Ripper, and the Marrie Women’s Property Act, Green’s list now reaches a small but devoted audience.
“I had a show of drawings called Irregular Slubs, in 2005—pen and ink drawings mixed with collage—of Victorians, and I got a lot of addresses in the guest book,” Green says. “I just decided to keep going.”
Partially inspired by Monkey Mondays, a free weekly subscription of monkey illustrations by Rob Elliott, an artist living in Kincardine, Ontario, Green settled on a less breakneck pace. “I think the perfect number of Victorians you need is one a month,” she says. “I got an E-mail from one woman I didn’t know asking if she could have two Victorians a month. I had to say no. One is enough to tide most people over.”
To date, Green’s Victorians have included Edgar Allan Poe, the BrontÎ sisters, and Josephine Butler. Her inaugural Victorian was, unsurprisingly, Queen Victoria, Britain’s longest-serving monarch, for whose reign the 1837 to 1901 era is named.
“Cinch belts, dark shadows, flickering fireplaces, widow’s weeds—what’s not to love about the Victorian era,” says Green. “Plus, it’s nice to subscribe to things. You come home and it’s just there waiting.”
The nurse Florence Nightingale.
Edgar Allan Poe, author of The Raven.
The acrobat and trapeze artist Miss La La.
The cookbook author Isabella Beeton.
Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, the French painter, physicist, and (one) inventor of photography.