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What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew (1993)

de Daniel Pool

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2,651413,998 (3.75)136
A "delightful reader's companion" (The New York Times) to the great nineteenth-century British novels of Austen, Dickens, Trollope, the Brontës, and more, this lively guide clarifies the sometimes bizarre maze of rules and customs that governed life in Victorian England. For anyone who has ever wondered whether a duke outranked an earl, when to yell "Tally Ho!" at a fox hunt, or how one landed in "debtor's prison," this book serves as an indispensable historical and literary resource. Author Daniel Pool provides countless intriguing details (did you know that the "plums" in Christmas plum pudding were actually raisins?) on the Church of England, sex, Parliament, dinner parties, country house visiting, and a host of other aspects of nineteenth-century English life--both "upstairs" and "downstairs. An illuminating glossary gives at a glance the meaning and significance of terms ranging from "ague" to "wainscoting," the specifics of the currency system, and a lively host of other details and curiosities of the day.… (mais)
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  pszolovits | Feb 3, 2021 |
This is a very interesting and useful book. Victorian Literature is full of details that may or may not be noted in the edition you are reading. Daniel Poole has drawn on the genre to detail the important ideas, events, and objects of the period. It is a good reference and fun book to read on its own. ( )
  Steve_Walker | Sep 13, 2020 |
It's okay, but most of it is pretty common sense really, and if you've read books or watched movies from that era, you already know all of these things. I think the only thing I learned is that surgeons were considered below physicians. ( )
  bookswithmom | Dec 18, 2019 |
Reference book to look up stuff from Victorian era so I can understand what Doyle is talking about. Like it says on the cover. Very to the much which I appreciate. ( )
  Joanna.Oyzon | Apr 17, 2018 |
Delightful; a sort of a time-traveling tourist’s guide to 19th-century England with specific focus on various terms that turn up in period literature. I used to consider myself fairly knowledgeable here, but I confess on reading this that a lot of my assumptions on the way things worked were just plain wrong.

The book has two sections; the first three-quarters or so are chapters on each aspect of 19th century life - etiquette and social graces, transportation (around the country, not to Australia - that comes under “Crime”), the Church, personal life (courtship, marriage, and “a taxonomy of maids”), and how to be an orphan, get sick, and die. The remaining quarter is a extensive glossary, with many words explained that I only thought I knew the meaning of (“paraphernalia”, for example).

Essential if you want to know:

* Who goes into dinner first, a duke or an archbishop?

* The difference between nurse maids, parlor maids, ladies maids, scullery maids, house maids, kitchen maids, maids of all work, dairy maids and charwomen.

* The difference between a Nonconformist and a Dissenter.

* How to tell a groom from a footman.

* The correct classification of rectors, vicars, deans, canons, prebendaries, vergers and other churchmen.

* How to get a handle on the immense variety and subtle differences in horse-drawn vehicles: curricles, berlins, barouches, landaus, stanhopes, gigs, victorias, phaetons, diligences, etc.


There are lots of curious little facts. I was impressed to find that 16% of the national work force, even in 1891 when various labor-saving devices were starting to come into use, was “in service”. I suppose various pundits of the time must have reflected on the decline of service positions and wondered where all the dispossessed butlers and footmen were going to find jobs. Similarly, it’s amusing to find that there was always a reason to resist any technological advance on religious or social grounds (although not quoted in this book, the Duke of Wellington reportedly was opposed to railroads because “they would encourage the lower orders to move about”). The fanatical delicacy about being “in trade” is also pretty funny; a barrister’s wife could be presented at court while a solicitor’s could not. This was because you paid a solicitor to engage a barrister; the barrister did not take your money directly, instead receiving a “gift” from the solicitor, and thus was not “in trade”. If you think the law is slow now, it’s worthwhile to consider the Jennings case (the basis for Jarndyce versus Jarndyce in Bleak House). The case was over the will of a man who died in 1798 - it was settled in 1915 (after soaking up £250K in court costs). Life was grim for orphans; only one third of the prostitutes in London had both parents living. And, for those who claim that global warming will inflict topical diseases on us, malaria and yellow fever were both endemic in England until widespread swamp drainage in the middle of the century (although yellow fever was normally confined to ports; presumable the mosquito carrier was unable to overwinter).

Recommended, even if you were forced to read Far From The Madding Crowd in high school and swore never to touch Thomas Hardy again. ( )
  setnahkt | Jan 1, 2018 |
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A "delightful reader's companion" (The New York Times) to the great nineteenth-century British novels of Austen, Dickens, Trollope, the Brontës, and more, this lively guide clarifies the sometimes bizarre maze of rules and customs that governed life in Victorian England. For anyone who has ever wondered whether a duke outranked an earl, when to yell "Tally Ho!" at a fox hunt, or how one landed in "debtor's prison," this book serves as an indispensable historical and literary resource. Author Daniel Pool provides countless intriguing details (did you know that the "plums" in Christmas plum pudding were actually raisins?) on the Church of England, sex, Parliament, dinner parties, country house visiting, and a host of other aspects of nineteenth-century English life--both "upstairs" and "downstairs. An illuminating glossary gives at a glance the meaning and significance of terms ranging from "ague" to "wainscoting," the specifics of the currency system, and a lively host of other details and curiosities of the day.

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