Book Review: Daniel Pool’s What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist – the Facts of Daily Life in 19th-Century England

Posted March 15, 2013 by Kathy Davie in

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Daniel Pool’s What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist – the Facts of Daily Life in 19th-Century England

What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist - the Facts of Daily Life in 19th-Century England


is a paperback edition on April 21, 1994 and has 416 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.
four-stars

A non-fictional exploration of life in 19th-century England. It’s a “4” simply because it is not complete. But, really, how can any one book or person be a complete catalog of such a huge subject area??

My Take

This was excellent, although not complete. However, anyone writing in this time period would be well advised to purchase it. I would hesitate to borrow it from the library simply because by the time you took down all the relevant notes, you’d have spent a hellacious amount of time rewritting the book, time you could have spent on your novel!

Pool has done an amazing job of addressing so many issues that would provide such authenticity to writers working in this time period. The titles, proper modes of address, and orders of precedence; manners; food and drink — the section about used tea leaves was just disgusting!; games; transportation includes horses and carriages; dances; lighting(!); furniture; staff; MONEY! He discusses the calendar with terms, quarter days, and holidays. Pool discusses society and the season as well as their haunts from London to Bath to Brighton. The use of calling cards and the real time when morning calls took place. Considerations for when a ball or a country house visit might occur, hunting rules, how money figured into earning livings and what an entail meant, how government was made up along with the who and the how, the military and why cashiering was such a grave event, clergy, schools including tutors and governesses, a brief touch on sex, pant, pant, pant, and yet more…!

It touches on enclosures and industrialization. Rules behind marriage (and divorce!) and the why of Gretna Green — careful with this one as there’s a time when it stopped being useful. The bit on cleaning one’s person, the house, or clothing was, um, interesting, and does provide some thoughtful reasons why. There’s the evolution and purpose of staff from butlers to the maid-of-all-work (get a copy of Isabella Beaton’s Book of Household Management for the real low down on this topic) including the hierarchy within this class. Pool includes an interesting, although short, section on diseases and illnesses along with a discussion on the differences between doctors and surgeons. Some important data in here as these two fields evolved.

There’s over 150 pages dedicated to a glossary alone with another eight pages in the bibliography. A fabulous resource!

Even better, Pool writes in an engaging style so that you want to read on and on!

Please, please, if anything — pick this book up and learn how to properly name and address people of the various ranks!!

The Cover and Title

The cover is fun with a cameo in the upper left corner of a lady presenting either a very fancy cake or a toilet roll cover (which of course hadn’t been invented yet — the TP, I mean) while on the right is another cameo of a bearded gentleman declaiming. It has a mauve outer border with a green marbled inner border with a final centerpiece in a rich cream with an ecomium, the very lengthy title, and the author’s name in a variety of fonts, sizes, and colors. Very lively!

The title covers it all with the first half of it referring to Pool’s use of many of Austen’s and Dickens’ stories and the second half referring to what he covers within. Yes, it’s definitely What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist – the Facts of Daily Life in 19th-Century England.

four-stars

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