Monday, April 18, 2011

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 19th Century England. Daniel Pool. 1994. Simon & Schuster. 416 pages. 

I enjoyed reading What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew. I enjoyed reading about various aspects of life in 19th Century England. I won't lie. There were chapters and sections more appealing, more interesting than others. (I'll admit to "skimming" the sections on lawyers.) But, for the most part, I enjoyed it. I liked all the bookish references. I would say most--if not all--sections reference at least one or two British authors. Charles Dickens and Jane Austen, of course, but also including Anthony Trollope, Emily and Charlotte Bronte, Thomas Hardy, George Eliot, etc. (Sadly, he does not include Elizabeth Gaskell or Wilkie Collins.) He takes the time to name specific characters and situations from specific books to highlight and illustrate social customs. Readers may not be familiar with all of these characters, and sometimes what he says about a book could be considered spoilerish. But since these are books that have been around over a hundred years, keeping things spoiler free isn't a necessity.

This one is in two parts. (I read the first part. The second part is a glossary.) As you can see, it covers a little bit of everything--both public and private.

The Basics:
  • Currency, 
  • The Calendar, 
  • Hogsheads and Drams: English Measurement, 
  • England, 
  • London.

The Public World:
  • Precedence: Of Bishops, Barristers, and Baronets,
  • The Titled,
  • How To Address Your Betters
  • Esq., Gentl., KCB., etc.
  • Status: Gentlemen and Lesser Folk
  • Society: Society and "The Season," Basic Etiquette, How To Address the Nontitled, "May I Have This Dance?', The Rules of Whist and Other Card Games, Calling Cards and Calls, 
  • The Major Rituals: Presentation at Court, The Dinner Party, The Ball, The Country House Visit
  • Money: Being Wealthy, Entail and Protecting the Estate, Bankruptcy, Debt, and Moneylending
  • Power and the Establishment: The Government, Britannia Rules the Waves, The Army, The Church of England, Oxford and Cambridge, Schools, "The Law Is An Ass," Lawyers, Crime and Punishment

  • The Horse
  • Please, James, the Coach
  • The Railroad
  • The Mail

The Country:
  • Life on the Farm
  • The Midlands, Wessex, and Yorkshire
  • Who's Who in the Country
  • Shire and Shire Alike: Local Government in Britain
  • "The Theory and System of Fox Hunting"
  • Vermin, Poachers, and Keepers
  • Fairs and Markets

The Private World:
  • "Reader, I Married Him"
  • Sex
  • An Englishman's Home
  • Houses with Names
  • Furniture
  • Lighting
  • How the English Kept Clean
  • "Please, Sir, I Want Some More."
  • Pudding!
  • Tea
  • Drink and the Evils Thereof
  • Women's Clothing
  • Men's Clothing
  • Servants
  • The Governess
  • A Taxonomy of Maids
  • Victorian Recycling

The Grim World:
  • The Orphan
  • Occupations
  • Apprentices
  • The Workhouse
  • Disease
  • Doctors
  • Death and Other Grave Matters

And if you'd like to read Jane Austen or Charles Dickens for the Classics Circuit blog tour, you've still got through tomorrow--April 19th--to sign up!

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Jillian said...

Such a useful book!! I read it a couple years ago and learned SO MUCH about England. Of course, at that time, I'd never read anything by Dickens or Austen.

I love how you paired this with the Dickens/Austen circuit. :-)

scotlandprincess said...

My English professor hated that book, I've read it and it isn't all that accurate.

Annette said...

I read this book a few years ago and thought it was really interesting.
I learned too a lot of about life in the 19th Century--England.

Carrie K. said...

I really enjoyed this one, too - such a useful reference tool. :)

Lector Benevole said...

Sounds like a good book! I don't know much about that period of English history. :)

Mel u said...

I read this book a few years ago-I also found it a very useful book-I like to know basic information about how people lived, what the ate etc and this book has a lot of good data-I enjoyed your post a lot