Monday, 9 December 2013

Pool, Daniel "What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew"

Pool, Daniel "What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist - the Facts of Daily Life in Nineteenth-Century England" - 1993

Even though this book is a non-fiction one, the first part reads like a novel. If, like me, you love your English classics, especially Jane Austen, the Brontës, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Anthony Trollope, Wilkie Collins and similar authors, this is the book for you. It's not just about food but, as the second part of the title already suggests, about every important or not so important fact about life in the 19th century in England. If you always wanted to know how they play whist, what a Rear Admiral of the White is, why the ladies need all sorts of clothing that we are not aware of today and why Mr. Collins in Pride & Prejudice has to inherit the Bennett estate rather than the daughters of the family, this book gives you all the explanations.

The authors of that era wrote, same as most authors of any era, for their contemporaries. After all, they were the ones who would pay for their work. They didn't want to hear explanations about the food they ate or the celebrations they had, they already knew the background. Now you can, too. I have read a lot of that literature and about the background, so I had learnt a lot before I picked up this book but I never found a piece that was as explicit as this one. It has so many details.

Daniel Pool has done a lot of research and came up with a great book about that time of life in England. Even though he wrote this for Americans in the first place (and it does come up quite frequently), it is also interesting for the rest of us. While the first part is divided into chapters where everything from politics and public life up to customs and rituals are explained in a narrative form, the second part is a dictionary, a reference book that you can always go back to and check out the exact job description of a scullery maid or what the difference was between a physician and an apothecary. And is a baron more than a marquis or less (he is lower) and what on earth is the difference between a curate and a perpetual curate? You will find all the answers to those questions you never asked yourself in this book.

Any work about everyday life in Regency or Victorian England couldn't be more fascinating. A great companion to your English classics.

From the back cover: "For every frustrated reader of the great nineteenth-century English novels of Austen, Trollope, Dickens, or the Brontës 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," here is a "delightful reader's companion that lights up the literary dark" (The New York Times).
This fascinating, lively guide clarifies the sometimes bizarre maze of rules, regulations, and customs that governed everyday life in Victorian England. 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 "a
gue" to "wainscoting," the specifics of the currency system, and a lively host of other details and curiosities of the day."


  1. I was given this book as a Christmas gift several years ago and really enjoyed it.

    1. I found this in a shop and thought it looked great. And it was.

      Have a good day,