The Victorian era was chock-full of bizarre customs and traditions. Victorians favored strange fashions, including hats made from taxidermied birds and animals. They followed morbid and creepy traditions centered on death and mourning. They practiced peculiar manners and rules of etiquette. They even followed curious habits depending upon the season.
One bizarre seasonal norm was that chimney sweeps would sleep in trees in the winter in order to prevent respiratory problems. Of course, there were many detrimental repercussions associated with this practice. For example, frozen cadavers of chimney sweeps were a common sight on snow covered tree-lined streets in Victorian cities and towns.
Pictured at the right: Chimney sweeps in trees during the winter of 1873.
Fortunately, the practice of chimney sweeps sleeping in trees in the winter died out in the mid-twentieth century. If not, I suspect we might see many a frozen sweep in the streets tomorrow due to frigid, arctic temperatures associated with the “bomb cyclone” making its way up the east coast.
The blizzard-like conditions called to mind Emmett Lee Dickinson’s now-classic poem “Talk not to me of winter freeze” (below on the left). His poem inspired third cousin Emily to pen her poem “Talk not me of Summer Trees" (below on the right).
By Emmett Lee Dickinson:
Talk not to me of Winter Freeze
Abolish it from my mind
This Temperature is for the Birds
The harsh Siberian kind
And winds that howl that way all day
Through Hyperboreal Homes
Whose Blasts transport us quickly to
By Emily Dickinson:
Talk not to me of Summer Trees
The foliage of the mind
A Tabernacle is for Birds
Of no corporeal kind
And winds do go that way at noon
To their Ethereal Homes
Whose Bugles call the least of us
To undepicted Realms