What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew

What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew

From Fox Hunting to Whist-the Facts of Daily Life in Nineteenth-Century England

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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  • Touchstone | 
  • 416 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780671882365 | 
  • April 1994
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Read an Excerpt

The Basics

Currency

Guineas, shillings, half-pence. You know what they are?" Mr. Dombey asks his little son Paul. Paul, Dickens tells us, knew, but the average reader of today is not always likely to be so knowledgeable.

In the 1800s, British money was calculated in units of pounds, shillings, and pence. These were the units of value -- like the American mill, cent, and dollar -- in which all transactions were reckoned, regardless of whether the value was represented by a bookkeeping entry, by coin, by bank notes, or by notations written on a check. The actual physical instruments of currency were paper... see more

Articles About This Book

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Posted on Off the Shelf

Posted by Suzanne Donahue

I love reading historical novels set in19th century England. But as much as I love to read them I am sometimes stumped about what the characters aretalking about, wearing, eating, or doingandwhy they are choosing to wear, eat or do that particular...

About the Author

Daniel Pool

Daniel Pool received a doctorate in political science from Brandeis University and a law degree from Columbia University. He lives in New York City.

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