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

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  5,326 ratings  ·  562 reviews
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 hu
Paperback, 416 pages
Published April 21st 1994 by Touchstone (first published 1993)
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 ·  5,326 ratings  ·  562 reviews

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Feb 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
I'm astonished by how well the author knows the details of Victorian literature, which aids greatly in contextualizing his explanations. All in all a great overview, also the Victorians sucked ASS. ...more
Sep 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: nerds like myself
Shelves: to-reread
i love shit like this. nothing pleases me more than to know the proper table setting for a victorian outdoor tea (though you wouldn't know it to watch me eat). regardless of that, sadly, this book (which i read immediately before it) did not help me understand what the damned peasants in "the return of the native" were saying, and, then, spark notes ruined that work for me, as detailed in my review, thereof. hardy might have been proud of that sentence, tho'. but that's all to the side. if you w ...more
Katie Lumsden
Jul 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Maybe 2.5. This book has a lot of useful and interesting information in, but it's presented in a very dry way. It reads more like a textbook than anything else. I also take slight issue with the amount of novels it spoils, and the fact it fails to distinguish between words, concepts and traditions that were 19th century or are simply British. Overall, a mixed bag. ...more
Mar 01, 2017 rated it liked it
A fun and informative book, but occasionally a little disjointed. Daniel Pool, an American lawyer by training, a lover of British novels by avocation, really digs into the the customs, mores and behaviors of Nineteenth Century Englanders. He illustrates his discussion of elaborate balls, courting rituals, stylish dress, transportation, education, royalty and aristocracy, city and country life and so much more by referencing characters from period novels -- not only Jane Austen and Charles Dicken ...more
Abigail Bok
Jul 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is a broad survey of how life was led in England over the course of the nineteenth century. It addresses both material and social arrangements, with a few dips into economics and history.

As you might imagine from such a broad mandate, it treats its many subjects shallowly; nevertheless it offers a wealth of detail that illuminates many confusing or half-understood elements of British fiction.

This book is better dipped into as a reference source than read through from cover to cover.
Nov 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of Brit Lit
Shelves: nonfiction-adult
It's not exactly everything one needs to know about nineteenth-century England, but it does a fine job at hitting upon most of the little knowledge gaps that can crop up for modern readers of Dickens, Hardy, Trollope, Austen, and their contemporaries. Particularly devoted readers of such Brit Lit may be surprised at how many times they are struck with a sense of dawning clarity and realization as they peruse this book---whether by the discovery of the name and rules of the card game Rawdon Crawl ...more
Mary Lou
Feb 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an amazing resource for anyone who enjoys 19th century English literature. I made a mistake by sitting down and trying to read it cover to cover (well... the first section, at least - not the wonderful glossary). There is so much information packed in this book that reading it straight through is a bit overwhelming, and no good for retention. What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew is best kept close by on the coffee table, ready to be called into service any time Dickens, Austen, ...more
David Eppenstein
Anyone that is interested in the classic 19th century British novels, novels centered on 19th century British life, or 19th century British history would be greatly assisted by possession of a copy of this little book. It is a relatively short volume that reads like a combination almanac, compendium of antiquated British manners, social customs, and protocols. The author uses references to the classic novels of this era as a guide through life as it existed in the England of the 19th century fro ...more
May 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of 19th Century Historical Fiction
Covering the span of 19th century England, the author shared bits and pieces of what life would have been like if you lived back then. All I knew is that as a woman, I very much appreciate living now. Pretty much, if you were not a member of the peerage and/or royalty, you had a difficult life. And even then, nobility had a very controlled life; many things were expected of them. No wonder it was so easy to fall out with the ton!

Water, roads, sewerage and the air were, for the most part, deplora
Nov 29, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: the overprecise
Shelves: nonfiction
Sooo....wanna know who's who in the hierarchy of the Anglican church (you need this if you read Trollope, my little sweetie)? Would ya like to learn all those card games they played way back when people actually faced one another IN PERSON when playing a game? Care about old food, fashion, and social customs? Then this is the book for you. A great browser for when nothing suits and all is vile in litrachuah. I just loved this and wish I still had my copy. ...more
Melissa McShane
Nov 22, 2013 marked it as did-not-finish
Shelves: history, non-fiction
I'm not sure what to make of this. I found a mistake that suggested the author was depending on the wrong sources, which made me wonder about other possible inaccuracies, which in turn ruined my enjoyment of the book (and since I was reading it as research, I was doubly disappointed). A good starting point, but it might be a good idea to check anything you really need to know with another source. ...more
Dec 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
I am a huge fan of Jane Austen and I enjoy reading the works of Charles Dickens. Emma, would be my favorite works of Jane Austen. I know most people enjoy and would say Pride and Prejudice, but Emma is more up my alley. As far as the works of Charles Dickens, I would have to say A Christmas Carol, Great Expectations and David Copperfield.

What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew is a very informative book on the lives of those living in England in the 19th. The author, Daniel Pool though, m
Oct 03, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, research
Good for general reading, but the author mixes the Victorian and the Regency eras together -- that's a 100 year spread. If you're looking for research, look elsewhere. ...more
Tristram Shandy
Apr 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sociology, history
What Noah Claypole Had to Do as an Informer, and a Lot of Other Things

Reading Oliver Twist, I was always at a loss as when I came to the following passage:

”Mr. Noah Claypole, receiving a free pardon from the Crown in consequence of being admitted approver against Fagin, and considering his profession not altogether as safe a one as he could wish: was, for some little time, at a loss for the means of a livelihood, not burdened with too much work. After some consideration, he went into business as
What is a lord chancellor? What, exactly, was a pound worth? How much weight was a “stone”? Is a peer a hereditary or bestowed title? Which of society members constitutes a peerage? Give up?

This is a comprehensive—at times almost staggeringly so—look at what life was like for the highborn and lowborn living in 19th-century England. It’s mainly a sort of glossary about those parts of novels written during this time that might baffle modern day readers but which would have been obvious to people
K.M. Weiland
Jun 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book from the moment I read its title. It's a jolly delightful look at perhaps the most popular century ever. And the best part? It pays high tribute to the classic novels of the era - including Austen, Dickens, Eliot, Hardy and more. As a lover of all these authors, as well as the period in general, the book offered up one delight after another.

As other reviewers have noted, it does grow repetitious (sometimes word for word) in areas, but I suspect this is to make it more useful fo
Nancy (essayist)
Nov 08, 2008 rated it it was ok
I was expecting more from this book. I knew it wasn't a scholarly treatise, but it bothered me that there was so little acknowledgement of the sources for the pronouncements here. It was also annoying that the author would sometimes reveal key details of the fictional works he referred to, along the lines of this kind of thing: "Prisons were quite grim places at the time as we see in So and So's great novel where the main character dies alone and peniless in prison." Uh, guess I won't bother rea ...more
Aug 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting especially since I read a lot of books from this era. This book filled in a lot of blank spots in my knowledge about the nineteenth century.
Oct 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Funny and charming. A great reference.
2016 - Re-reading for a Pride & Prejudice RAL

2015 -
Having waited for a price drop to below $10 on the Kindle edition, I have to say I am disappointed. Perhaps having read a few other, somewhat similar books, like Georgette Heyer's Regency World, I expected more than this book really offered.

First off, this is much more focused on the latter half of the 1800s than the Jane Austen/Regency era. Most of the references to literary cites and characters are to books by Dickens, Trollope and that era'
Dec 13, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book describes 19th century life using short extracts from novels as examples. This is a great idea but I don't think that I'm the person the writer is aiming to instruct. He (Daniel Pool) assumes either that the reader has read the major works of Dickens ,Thomas Hardy and George Elliot, the Palliser and Barsetshire series by Trollope , all of Jane Austen and the Bronte Sisters, as well as Vanity Fair by Thackery , Or that they do not mind the plots of these books being partially re ...more
Sep 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
2019 Review
What Jane Austen ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool is an excellent reference for all things 19th century British. For the most part, I read this cover-to-cover (skimming only the sections that gave too much detail about stuff I wasn't interested in) but I don't recommend that unless you really find this interesting. Pool covers pretty much everything from clothes to servants to money to government to modes of transportation. If you're reading the 19th century British classic
Mary Ann
Mar 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I never wrote a review for this as it's one of those things I've had for nearly twenty-five years. But I recently had occasion to check a point on debtors' prisons, and I was struck again by how fun and useful this book is, especially if one is neither an English major or normally a big reader of 19th century English literature but who might be venturing into something by Austen, Dickens, Thackeray, Trollope, the Brontë sisters, Hardy, or Wilke Collins (all favorites of mine), novelists who, as ...more
Jan 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
"The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there".- quote from novel, the Go-Betweens. The past is "foreign" enough to modern Brits, but even more so to those of us across the pond.

For anyone who has read Victorian-era British novels or watched film adaptations and been confused by some of the customs and cultural references made by the characters- this book is a godsend. The authors of these novels wrote assuming their audience would know things like social hierachy, ettiquette
Apr 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
Over 400 pages of definitions, facts, and glosses for the most alien aspects of 1800s England. And there are a lot of them! The nineteenth century saw the birth of much of what we think of as unremarkable necessities of civilization: a police force, basic schooling for all children, a national mail system...This is truly a fascinating read, and one I highly recommend for anyone reading regency or Victorian-era literature.
Emma Rose Ribbons
Feb 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: victorian
What a wonderful read! Even though this was the third book on Victorian England that I read this month, this one did have a lot of information the other two didn't, especially to do with specific 19th century vocabulary. It's very obviously intended for an American audience but I learnt a lot. One of the best books on the topic, to be sure, and the writing flows really easily since there's just the right amount of quotes and commentary. ...more
Mar 08, 2008 rated it liked it
I like what I read so far in this book; however, I haven't yet finished it, and unfortunately must move on to something else. For me, this is less a book to read from cover to cover and more of a reference to use when reading 19th C. English fiction. Or, dare I say it, a book to keep in the bathroom to read a little at a time. ...more
Alicia Riley
Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
To start off with this was a gift from a friend. That being said.

What Jane Austen Ate is good book that gives bit and pieces of life in 19 century England with their confusing currency, etiquette , fashion, law and how life was different between nobility and the working poor. Great starting point if you looking books about life in 19 century England.
Faith Rivens
Mar 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-of-2017
A brilliant little resource and one I look forward to making good use of in the near future. Fun and informative with a priceless glossary. If you're looking for a rounded glimpse of the 19th century, consider your search to be at an end. ...more
Jan 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very helpful for reading Austen, Dickens, Hardy, etc....I feel it could have been organized better. Sometimes the information was redundant, but overall it was very helpful in enlightening some of those phrases you read and don't get. ...more
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Daniel Pool has spent most of his adult life teaching and practicing law in New York City. His first book, What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew (Simon & Schuster, 1993) has sold more than 80,000 copies. It was an alternate selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club, QualityPaperback Book Club, and the History Book Club, as is his second book, Dickens' Fur Coat and Charlotte's Unanswered Lett ...more

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