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A Visitor's Guide to Jane Austen's England

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Immerse yourself in the vanished world inhabited by Austen’s contemporaries. Packed with detail, and anecdotes, this is an intimate exploration of how the middle and upper classes lived from 1775, the year of Austen’s birth, to the coronation of George IV in 1820. Sue Wilkes skilfully conjures up all aspects of daily life within the period, drawing on contemporary diaries, illustrations, letters, novels, travel literature and archives.

•Were all unmarried affluent men really 'in want of a wife'?
•Where would a young lady seek adventures?
•Would ‘taking the waters’ at Bath and other spas kill or cure you?
•Was Lizzy Bennet bitten by bed-bugs while travelling?
•What would you wear to a country ball, or a dance at Almack’s?
•Would Mr Darcy have worn a corset?
•What hidden horrors lurked in elegant Regency houses?

Put on your dancing gloves and embrace a lost era of corsets and courtship!

237 pages, Kindle Edition

First published October 30, 2014

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About the author

Sue Wilkes

12 books24 followers
Sue Wilkes has lived in Cheshire with her family since 1981. She grew up in Salford, just as many of the great relics of the Industrial Revolution were being demolished. Her grandfather and great-grandfather were Lancashire miners. Her great-grandmother was a mill-worker, and her grandmother was a weaver at a mill.
Sue is a regular contributor to print and online magazines in the UK and USA. She is a fact-checker for a UK history magazine. Sue is married, with two children, and is a member of the Society of Authors.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 91 reviews
April 13, 2021
What shines through in this book, is that Jane Austen was a jolly young woman who loved dancing, clothes and dining out, and it was that social life that informed her books so well. I had presumed she was a kind of serious person who lived in a somewhat impoverished circumstances due to her father having more children than a parson could support. Not a bit of it, he borrowed money and hived off his son to rich relatives who needed an heir. And so his daughters were educated, had fine clothes, did the season and went to every ball and social occasion they were invited to.

There was a phrase I liked in the book that absolutely summed up the (aristocratic) attitude to marriage, it was addressed to the Earl of Westmoreland by "the fabulously wealthy Robert Child" who wanted his daughter to marry into the nobility, "Your blood is good, my lord, but money is better." I wonder if that is still how they think today?

Snobbishness reigned. The aristocratic upper classes lived off their land - house and farm rentals, and investments and did not need to work (a dirty word, that was for the middle and lower classes). There was no mention that the land might be plantations in the West Indies and the income for balls, carriages and diamonds derived from the work of slaves.

The middle classes who might be doctors and solicitors were not considered marriage material by Jane and her class, unless they had elevated themselves, as had Mr. Darcy, by purchasing a country estate and house of note.

Parsons, who had no money unless the family or a patron gave it to them, were ok though, because the eldest son inherited the estate and family money, the second son generally went into the military and the third became a parson.

Everyone has heard of 'resurrection men' who stole fresh corpses from graves for medical men to dissect, which led to the modern science of medicine, and especially surgery. But who has heard of 'Waterloo teeth'? There was an equally gruesome practice of extracting the teeth of dead soldiers strewn across a battlefield and these made 'lifelike' false teeth.

There was one fashion for young women that very much a sexual tease, 'look but don't touch'. we've all seen the dresses in costume dramas, high-waisted, low-necked long white dresses, pretty and almost Grecian. But the reality was these were semi-see through and often worn over sheer underclothes. But no man could as much as write letters let alone kiss and fondle a woman he wasn't engaged to.

I enjoyed the short book a lot. It was well-written and well-researched and definitely added to my knowledge of the period but more it added to my knowledge of Jane Austen as a person, rather than an author.
Profile Image for Sophia.
Author 5 books334 followers
February 8, 2016
I picked this up for a few reasons- love of anything Jane Austen, love of history, and research. I chose to read it straight through, but kept my notebook handy. This turned out to be a real gem and much more than I was expecting. The author took a light and amusing tone even while imparting fascinating historic detail.

The book makes a natural progression by topic. It brings the reader along like listening to a person present their traveling experiences who narrates, but occasionally speaks directly to the reader. There are quotes from sources, but if something from Jane Austen's life or her books directly corresponds, it is given attention. Common references, contemporary terms, and obscure words are explained. One doesn't need to be a scholar to enjoy and appreciate this. I delighted in the familiar, the new, and the startling. Let's just say that getting sick, needing to use the necessity, getting dressed, life as a servant, making a bad marital choice, traveling, hygiene... And God forbid you get diagnosed with a mental illness as I think that would be the worst. Prison looks better than that. These have definitely cured my desire to live in the past

Since it is touted as a travel guide, it starts in a logical place for that. I'm going to list the chapters and sub chapters to show just how many details are on offer here.
Transportation- equipages, methods, travel conditions, lodgings, food, currency and amounts, customs, hazards, purpose, etc.
Gracious Living- homes, water source, bathing, Plumbing (On a side note, I finally put two and two together from a Georgette Heyer used slang term 'wish him at Jericho' and now learning that going to the privy was referred to as 'going to Jericho'. What a hoot!) lighting, heating, vermin & bugs (ugh), beds, country houses & landscapes, daily necessities.
Socializing & Dining- never realized just what a big production this really was- Morning activities, entertaining, meals.
The Latest Modes- fashion- headdresses (w0uld leave one with a headache from the weight and they were worn for days causing lice infestations and the need for instruments called head scratchers, but hey you could get an elegant one in ivory), wigs, 'dressed to kill' (referring to the many changes required each day and the tight fit of the clothes), hats, shoes, accessories.
Macaronis & Dandies- bucksins & unmentionables, men's linen, beavers & boots
Money Matters- Eldest sons & Entails, the right connections, wives & daughters, fashionable accomplishments, money & the single women, the servant problem
Shopping, lounging, and leisure- buying a gown, loungers, pickpockets & beggars, books & prints, men's clubs & gambling, Almack's, music & culture, Sundays, The wild ones, a point of honour, sports, keeping in touch
The Perfect Partner- Looking for Mr. Right, Looking for Miss Right, A certain step toward falling in love, heartfelt delight, wedding preparations, beginning married life, runaways
In Sickness & In Health- a tooth amiss, making a spectacle of yourself, kill or cure, quack cures (I got queasy here, but the Lozenges of Steel for impotence and the Celestial Bed for guaranteed healthy babies and lord have mercy, the display jars at the shop with intestinal worms labelled by the person's name who was cured- um, yes I'm serious), childbirth & children, death & mourning, taking the waters, the sea cure
Illustrations (even my ecopy was clear and easy to see the details)
Index (very extensive and will be welcome later, I'm sure)

So all in all, I deem this a great informative read to companion Regency novels and for light research.

Profile Image for Wee Lassie.
120 reviews59 followers
February 6, 2023
An excellent and fascinating look into the world of Jane Austen, with a slightly sad ending.
Profile Image for Nicola Michelle.
1,085 reviews5 followers
April 15, 2020
I love learning about history and I absolutely adore Jane Austen’s books so combined this book was a definite read for me. It was great to read a deeper insight into the times of the books writings and tidbits about Jane’s life. It was a fantastic insight into the era and what life entailed then, a true guide through what you might expect living in those times.

The books are such timeless classics, it can be so easy to detach yourself from the times they were actually living in and how herself and her characters would actually have lived, so learning the intricacies of life in that time was great.

I also loved the references to Jane Austen’s writings and many of the books she had written in regards to certain aspects of life, such as how you’d expect to travel, where you might go, live, eat, what leisure you might enjoy etc... I will certainly look and read Jane Austen’s work with more insightful eyes now I now what it was like to live in Jane Austen’s England!
Profile Image for Anne.
487 reviews13 followers
October 7, 2021
Interesting introduction to Regency England. Most of it was not new to me because i may or may not have a Regency England obsession, but the quotes from books, letters, and diaries of the day were fascinating. It was a bit confusing to follow, because they focused on the entire span of Austen's life, and there were significant changes in culture and politics and fashion throughout that time. The book was organized by topic/category rather than chronologically, so it was occasionally difficult to place various tidbits of information in the correct time frame.
Profile Image for Jo.
3,293 reviews119 followers
December 12, 2015
These visitors' guides to historical periods have become a popular type of book in recent times and I find them a non-academic way of learning more. Here we find out what to expect if we're in the southern parts of England in the Georgian era. Entertaining and informative and I don't think you necessarily need to be a Jane Austen fan to appreciate this.
Profile Image for Georgiana 1792.
1,841 reviews111 followers
February 11, 2021
Un saggio sulla vita di tutti i giorni nell'Inghilterra di Jane Austen diretto a un immaginario viaggiatore del tempo, in cui si spiega cosa ci si può aspettare e per cosa non scandalizzarsi o essere disgustati. Naturalmente ciascun aspetto potrebbe essere approfondito, ma le dritte generali con i riferimenti a Jane Austen sono molto interessanti per spronare il lettore a farlo individualmente. Mi ha ricordato un po' What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist—the Facts of Daily Life in 19th-Century England, che però è più particolareggiato riguardo ad alcuni aspetti.
Un libro interessante per chi legge romanzi ambientati in periodo Regency - o anche semplicemente Jane Austen - e non capisce tutti i dettagli.

A fascinating essay on everyday life in Jane Austen's England addressed to imaginary time travelers, where the author explains what they can expect and what they should not be shocked or grossed out for. Of course, each of the issues discussed could be explored further, but the general advices - with connection to Jane Austen - are so intriguing they encourage the readers to do it by themselves. It reminded me of Daniel Pool's "What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew", even though that one is more thorough on some aspects.
A very interesting book for readers enthusiastic about the Regency Era - or just about Jane Austen - who want to better understand every detail.

Many thanks to NetGalley and to Pen & Sword Books for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Penny.
329 reviews82 followers
July 7, 2015
There's been a trend in the last few years for Visitor's Guides to England's past (Ian Mortimer in particular has written a couple of corkers).
Sue Wilkes book whisks us right back to Jane Austen's England with chapters instructing us on manners, food, clothes, travel etc.
It's really well written, amusing and informative, and it taught me a lot about a period I thought I already knew pretty well. Wilkes mixes up information about Austen's characters with events from Austen's actual life and that of her peers. Enjoyed it very much.
Profile Image for Federica.
433 reviews11 followers
January 23, 2021
I love everything *history" and I love Jane Austen, so, easy to say, this was the perfect read for me!
This book is a real gem, entertaining and informative, full of interesting tidbits about Austen's life and her writings. Also a great insight into Regency England and what life was about in that era. And a very well written one, too!
Loved it from beginning to end!

Thank you to NetGalley and publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review
Profile Image for Nicki Markus.
Author 63 books267 followers
January 24, 2021
A Visitor's Guide to Jane Austen's England is a book that presents the facts of Regency life in a fun and entertaining way. The tone of the 'narration' of the text feels like someone tell you a story, and while much of the information included was already known to me from past research and reading, Wilkes goes into detail in some sections on topics that are often only glossed over in other works. As such, I think this is a valuable work both for the Jane Austen fans and for writers looking to pen their own works set in this period.

I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Ashley Dang.
1,155 reviews
January 16, 2021
A immersive and wonderful guide to Jane Austen’s world! perfect for fans of Jane Austen. It has everything you need to learn about the interesting world! From letters, dinner guides, funny character notes, little facts and tidbits, it’s just an all around fun read!

*Thanks Netgalley and Pen & Sword for sending me an arc in exchange for an honest review*
Profile Image for Jessica.
817 reviews
March 14, 2021
Thank you to NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

This was a fantastic introduction to the Regency period. It does focus on what would have been Austen's world- the middle and upper classes, so anyone else is largely left out, but it does cover them thoroughly. It has an easy-to-read tone and doesn't dwell for too long on any one topic. I think that Austen's novels work well as a frame work for these types of books- you can quote Austen and historical sources for more emphasis.
Profile Image for Karen W.
111 reviews
January 27, 2022
Fun and informative. I had to stop reading several times to fact check cause I just couldn’t believe what I was reading 😅
Profile Image for Ashley.
308 reviews
March 24, 2021
Wow! This book is incredible! It is so entertaining, and, as a lover of Jane Austen's works, I was immersed from the first page to the last! Whenever I picked up "A Visitor's Guide to Jane Austen's England", I was whisked back in time to Regency Era England, and felt like I learned so much while reading this fun book!

This is the first book I have read by Sue Wilkes, and I can't wait to read more, as she truly brings history to life in such an amazing way! I can only imagine the amount of research Ms. Wilkes must have done, as each and every aspect of this book is incredibly creative, intriguing, and engaging. She is truly knowledgable about the eras she is writing about, and, as the reader, you feel the amount of respect and love she has for the subject matter.

I truly feel like I stepped back in time while reading this book. Focusing on the "middle and upper classes" of Jane Austen's England, I can't wait to re-read Ms. Austen's books again, and truly appreciate them that much more (if that is possible!).

If you love history, the Regency Era, Georgian Era, and / or anything related to Jane Austen, I highly recommend this book! I truly felt like I went back in time without ever leaving my couch, and I can't wait to now go and do more research on this era on my own!

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Pen & Sword History for the review copy of this book, I loved it! All opinions expressed in this review are my own!
Profile Image for Lorna Vivi.
29 reviews3 followers
March 6, 2021
I appreciated the creative approach the writer took to educating the reader about the time Jane Austen lived, instead of a dry history text the reader is led on a tour of the various places and experiences Jane Austen and her characters would have encountered The book covers a huge variety from the mundane to the more exciting, such as highway men. The details are very impressive and show a great deal of research, for example the price of lodgings for a gentleman in London, or a clear and concise explanation of the currency at the time. References are made not just to characters and the works of Austen, but to friends and family of the author herself, however the use of various contemporary sources from diaries, writings, letter or news stories provide some real gems such as as a Exeter Mail Coach that encountered an escaped lioness.
I can only imagine the time it took to research and then write this book and I feel lovers of Jane Austen, history and writers seeking to do their own research would enjoy this book and find it enriching.
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,555 reviews93 followers
April 28, 2021
Fancy a visit with Jane? Sue Wilkes has created here a light introduction to Austen’s society, the landed gentry of the mid-Georgian period. Although its approach reminds one of A Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England and the series that followed, Jane Austen’s England is far more restrictive in examining only Austen’s class, but has unique appeal for Austenites in how heavily it draws for illustrations from her letters and the books, in addition to steady support from period newspapers and letters. As a social history, it’s thus shallow — but as a work giving background for reading an Austen novel, it’s quite fitting and fun.

Leaning in to the framing device of her book, Wilke opens with information a traveler would be especially interested in: roads, lodging, and payment. We receive helpful tips, like sending our servants ahead of us with the baggage to secure lodging and stabling in advance, and are supplied with some of the better gentleman’s clubs and restaurants to support us on our travels. Some of the curiosities we may see along the way, like bodies hanging from gibbets, are also explained. We move then to the Georgian household, learning what “plucking a rose” means, and how to make sure the bedbugs don’t bite. We learn, too, of the social structure of the household, of the roles of the husband and wife and the importance placed on the eldest son for keeping the family estate intact. After an extensive section on fashion of the day — far more risque than one might imagine, what with the sheer material and the plunging necklines — we get a general introduction to the shopping and ‘dating’ scene. The book wraps up with a few odds and ends like Georgian medicine.

Although not nearly as substantial as Ian Mortimer’s similar works, I thoroughly enjoyed this dip into what life was life for the Georgian genteel, though as with the inspired source it completely ignores the servants & such. Wilkes is to be commended for her heavy integration of primary sources in way that doesn’t overhelp her narrative. If you’re into Austen and want to learn more about the background of her novels, A Visitor’s Guide reccommends itself: but as I’ve found this past week, there are numerous social histories of the Georgian period if you want to learn more than just the goings-on of the landed gentry.
Profile Image for Iraku.
38 reviews
June 17, 2021
A well-written and occasionally hilarious introduction into Regency era England. A great read for anyone wanting to learn more about the world that Jane Austen lived in.
101 reviews
February 19, 2021
Jane Austen fans and readers of other Regency novels will appreciate this brief guide to everyday life in England from 1775 to 1820. The novels gloss over the real hardships and challenges of daily life that lie behind the dinner parties, balls, and visits that make up the social calendar, from cooking the food for the meals to purchasing and maintaining a wardrobe and traveling between town and country.

All stages of life from birth through childhood, courtship, marriage, maturity, illness, and death are covered. The focus is on middle and upper class society, and readers will come away with a much better understanding of life beyond the genteel confines of the novels.

More detail and more information about the class structure and life of the servants and lower classes would have been useful though.
313 reviews
February 24, 2021
A Visitor’s Guide to Jane Austen’s England, Sue Wilkes, Pen & Sword History, 2019 and 2021 by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CRO 4YY

Sue Wilkes’ introduction clarifies the purpose of the book: ‘This book is a visitor’s guide for a gentleman or a lady entering the world of the middle or upper classes. Through their eyes you will experience the lifestyles of the men and women in the society which Austen knew and wrote about in her novels’. The chapter titles provide a further opportunity for readers to begin to immerse themselves in Jane Austen’s world. Travelling in Style; Gracious Living; The Latest Modes; Money Matters; Shopping, Lounging and Leisure; The Perfect Partner; and In Sickness and in Health all resonate with Wilkes’ statement: Jane Austen’s novels which I have loved and re-read many times since my childhood, were the major inspiration for this book…’
Quotes from Austen’s novels open the chapters, for example, Travelling in Style opens with: ‘It was a sweet view – sweet to the eye and the mind. English verdure, English culture, English comfort, seen under a sun bright, without being oppressive (Jane Austen, Emma, 1815)’; Gracious Living with ‘At that moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something (Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, 1813)’ and, hiding the realities even more markedly, In Sickness and in Health begins: ‘Oh, I am not at all afraid of her dying. People do not die of little trifling colds. (Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, 1813).
Jane Austen’s novels are the inspiration, set the scene at the beginning of each chapter and provide beguiling quotes and examples to suit the events throughout the chapters. All of which is delightful. However, Austen’s romantic observations are not allowed to overwhelm the realities that Wilkes also exposes. Austen’s world was not only one of romantic liaisons, beautiful scenery, pleasant travel, and balls, spoilt only by the need for money, fear of spinsterhood and mud on a long skirt. As unsatisfactory as these events may be, and indeed, the novels do not always hide the realities, Wilkes work takes the “lady or gentleman visitor” who join her in life in the Guide into some truly appalling conditions.
Wilkes’ ability to draw the reader into the world of ‘water closets [that] often give rise to unpleasant smells’ and the sometime requirement to take night soil through a house to night carts; the horrors in “lunatic asylums”; or the shortcomings of medical practice (which belie the quote from Pride and Prejudice above) and the less dramatic, but ever-present concerns with class, money and rules is impressive. She draws on Austen’s letters; her family’s recall, and writings; further fictional accounts, such as Maria Edgeworth’s Tales and Novels, Vol. XV11, 1833; as well as a plethora of non-fiction works. The bibliography provides a wealth of sources, unpublished, contemporary, books, works published after 1900, and online sources. Such listing cannot truly show the varied nature of the works, so some brief details are worth recounting. Local studies included: amongst many diaries, Diaries of Dolly Clayton of Lockstock Hall (1777, 1783, Lancashire Archives; A Receipt Book of Mrs Owen (18th – 19th centuries), Lancashire Archives DDX; Annual registers of spending and incomes, a medical register, Edinburgh registers; A View of London, or the Stanger’s Guide to the Metropolis 1803-04, London, 1804 (a contemporary forerunner to Wilkes? What fun that would have been to read); an 1823 Encyclopaedia Brittanica; Lady’s Magazine or Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex, Vol. X11, London, 1781, amongst other fascinating titles; and books ranging from those about the life of Princess Charlotte Augusta of Saxe-Coburg and, at the other end of the social scale, Adams, Samuel and Sarah, The Complete Servant: Being a Practical Guide to the Peculiar Duties and Business of all Descriptions of Servants, Knight&Lacey, 1825.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this Guide, the story telling approach working adeptly to make this factual work universally accessible. The links with Austen were nicely made, without overpowering the factual nature of the work – at the same time, I began to feel that re-reading my favourite Austens (novels and biographies) was a must. The index was detailed and informative, and the bibliography, impressive. So, an academic reader can easily join with one who wants a popular reading of Jane Austen’s time in perfect harmony. Both will be thoroughly satisfied, I combine both aspects of the exacting reader and loved the book.
Profile Image for Jessica.
104 reviews6 followers
February 11, 2021
*I was sent a copy of this book by the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

A Visitor's Guide to Jane Austen's England by Sue Wilkes is the ideal book for someone who wants to have a detailed list of what life was for the gentry and aristocracy in Regency England. I think this book would be an ideal book for reference purposes if you are writing historical fiction set during this time. It has all the answers to any question you might think to have about the rich at the time from fashion to hygiene to primogeniture and travel,

If you are picking up A Visitor's Guide to Jane Austen's England to try to better understand the time period in which Jane Austen writes in a way that isn't just stating facts I find this book severely lacking. I think I would have enjoyed this book if Sue Wilkes wrote a more straightforward history book of the time period and not this surface level presentation of what everyday life was like at the time. A Visitor's Guide to Jane Austen's England doesn't even try to go into the politics at the time which is an interesting choice if you're trying to talk about the day to day lives of people of the Regency Era. The book doesn't really try to critically engage with things like the expansion of the British Empire and impact, class, gender, and race relations and for me it is a weaker book. Excluding those elements doesn't really reflect the day to day life of people from the Regency Era where Jane Austen wrote her novels and leaves leaves A Visitor's Guide to Jane Austen falling flat. Especially so since things like gender and class are themes in some of Jane Austen's works.

I do enjoy reading Jane Austen's books and they are some of my favorite books, but this book really just felt like the notes section at the back of a book to try to explain the contexts the modern reader might not understand. Informative and well researched but doesn't need to be it's own separate book.
Profile Image for Wednesday.
149 reviews1 follower
February 16, 2018
A great book for anyone interested in everyday life in Regency England. Full of all sorts of interesting information answering many questions that the great history books don't - just what was a toothbrush made of ; what mode of transport should a genteel woman of little means safely take etc.
I particularly enjoyed the chapter on transport, coaching inns and the value of the currency of the day. As a reader of regency romances, I have often wondered just how much it would have cost a titled gentleman to keep a coach and four as well as his racing high-perch phaeton or curricle, (the equivalent of a sports car today, I imagine), not to mention all the horses that would be required both for his own leisure and for the running of his estates. As this book describes, a single horse cost many guineas and a guinea being worth 21 shillings, that means a bucket load of money for that one animal. Imagine having to outfit an entire stable!
This was a period of great advancements in all areas, many of which we owe so much to today. This would make the book an enlightening read for high school students in social and historical studies.
The only criticism I would have, is the lack of illustrations. They would be really helpful when reading about costume, the afore-mentioned modes of transport etc. There are a few plates stuck together in the centre of the book, which is always annoying as you have to keep flipping back and forth to their reference. There is a wealth of illustration available for this period, so it was disappointing not to find them here.
Profile Image for Debbie.
3,216 reviews59 followers
February 8, 2021
This book talked about what daily life was like in England for the middle and upper classes during 1775-1820. The author included quotes from diaries, letters, and such from the time period, including quotes from Jane Austen's letters. She also looked at quotes from Jane Austen's books to help the reader better understand the nuances of what was going on. The information was interesting and provided insights into books written in the Regency period. Overall, I'd recommend this book to fans of Jane Austen's books and those interested in daily life during this time.

The author used a conversational tone, advising a visitor to England about what life will be like or what your options will be. She started by talking about travel, from the different ways to travel to what to expect at lodgings as well as hazards to watch out for, the costs, etc. She then talked about housing (including bathing, using the bathroom, the lighting and heating), what activities you might do (including shopping, gambling, letter writing, sports), what the meals will be like, details about the current fashions for both men and women, and what the different parts of clothing were like. She talked about how young men and women found their marriage partners and the advantages and disadvantages of a long engagement. She finished by talking about options in healthcare, childbirth, death and mourning, and things like quack cures and the sea cure.

I received an ebook review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.
Profile Image for Eule Luftschloss.
1,647 reviews52 followers
February 11, 2021
trigger warning

Let's assume time travel is a thing, and you need to prepare yourself for your stay in Regency Era England. This book will give you the basics.

Alternatively, if you're a writer who wants some background to their work or just love Jane Austen's work, this book will be for you.

It's very accessible and the contents are sorted into various chapters, starting with travel and ending with medicine and death. Both Jane Austen's work and writings from contemporaries are quoted, but I'd liked some footnotes. Since I have an arc, I am not sure if they might be in the finished version of the book - this is basically my only point of critique, so it would be neat if the end product would have them.

While I knew a few things due to having read a bit of literature set in the period and watched historical dressmaking youtubers, my hoard of useless knowledge has grown quite a bit. For example, now I know that in 1801, fashion created a lack of pockets in dresses and by 1806, even reticules were out, which made me very angry for some reason.

The writing appears very british in the way of dancing around issues like peeing or showing skin. It fit perfectly to the content matter.

After the regular chapters, we have a short biography of Jane Austen so we can place what we've just learned.

I don't think I'll read this again, only if I ever have a project going on that would need some of the knowledge collected here, but I had fun.
The arc was provided by the publisher.
Profile Image for Christine.
508 reviews17 followers
February 12, 2021
Whether you're a fan of Jane Austen's books, their countless adaptations, or simply any book set in the Regency era, this is a fantastic read that is oddly difficult to put down.

Sue Wilkes gives us a friendly, grounded look at the "ins and outs" of life during Jane Austen's lifetime. To book covers everything from how to get to London, where to stay, what to wear, who to hire, what to do for fun (and what is "the thing" according to the fashionable crowd). If you've ever scratched your head about what a barouche or a post chaise are while reading a book set in this period, this is the solution to your problem.

I particularly appreciated that Wilkes used so many primary sources to illustrate the information about households, social mores, and little details that need to be lived. The book is peppered with extracts from contemporary publications, personal letters, memoirs, and details from Jane Austen's life. Did you know Austen had a cousin who was widowed when her husband was guillotined in France?

Overall, this was a must-read and I cannot wait to get a hard copy for my bookshelf. Anyone who reads this will gain a new appreciation for the Regency era and the stories it brings us (be they contemporary like Austen's novels or new like, say, the Bridgerton series?). Incidentally, it's also perfect for historical research! (Where else will you learn about Regency-era bathrooms?)

Thank you to the publisher Pen & Sword and Netgalley for granting my request for an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Opal Edgar.
Author 3 books4 followers
February 8, 2021
A Visitor's Guide to Jane Austen's England by Sue Wilkes is a thoroughly researched practical guide covering everything in England’s genteel life during Jane Austen’s time. From gentleman’s entertainment to clothes, waking habits, outhouses, being sick and how much things cost.

If you are a fan of that era, and especially Jane Austen, it will no doubt give you a lot of insights into a lot of things Austen talks about and put it in context. A lot of Austen’s life is actually used as exemple, some of her letters are cited, some of her books too, as well as circumstances in the life of her famous contemporaries. We learn about many odd little events at the time, it’s very anecdotal and easy to read. The chapters are short and entertaining.

For people who like me are writing stories/plays/video games set in that era it is really a wonderful guide full of information that can give life to your work (like for example which inn to stay at to get the best view, how people travel and what are the risks and what gentlemen’s club is the most sought after and what are there secret practices…. Yes, you can find all those answers in the pages of that book!).

I highly recommend the guide to all creatives and fans. A great collection, not too dense, not too restricted, that will give a good overview all in one place without having to exert any research efforts. If you are a history buff thought, and want depth and analysis this isn't for you.
1,105 reviews10 followers
January 24, 2021
See Georgian England through the eyes of Jane Austen and those who lived in that era in this absolutely fascinating, riveting, humorous and fun book without having to deal with the inconveniences of living it! I have read all the books on this subject I can get my hands on and was thrilled with this one and was happy to increase my knowledge. Class structure and gender, of course, are amongst the most identifiable "features" of England at that time. Marrying well (not too high above or below your station) was crucial and so was keeping appearances, at all cost. But there is so, so much more. Glimpses such as this into real lives is exciting and revealing.

Learn details about modes of transportation, the sights which greet you from the outskirts of communities, a story of a lioness attack (!), frozen chamberpots and night soil removal procedures, different types of candles to burn, how NOT to light a fire in the fireplace, heavily taxed items to pay off war debt, "bosom-friend" definition, clothing and fashion, education, occupations, childbirth and so on. I like that the costs of many things are mentioned including home upkeep and salaries. You will read about etiquette, "coming out", marriage and how to fashion a toothbrush! One of my favourite topics is about dentistry and medicine.

A lot of the information was found in books written at the time, including those of Jane Austen, as well as other documentation. The author writes in an engaging friendly tone, very enjoyable.

Jane Austen fans and those who treasure information on the era will have hundreds of reasons to be smitten with this. The author is entertaining as well as informative, certainly not dry or a slog.

My sincere thank you to Pen & Sword and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this charming and delightful book in exchange for an honest review. It really made me smile with joy!
Profile Image for Connie.
1,980 reviews62 followers
January 30, 2021
I have always loved and read many historical romance novels over the years and enjoyed this book because it explained so many things I have read in those novels and may not have understood at the time.

The book starts with the hierarchy of the time period: King George III and the Prince of Wales. Much has been written about his huge size and the money he wasted on gambling, clothes, and horses. Aristocrats, nobles, and gentry follow. Jane Austen’s family was considered middle class. In addition, the war with France was ongoing during that time.

The book is written as if the reader is visiting England for the first time and is being introduced to the ways to travel; hotels and their amenities; restaurant food; and the need to always be on the lookout for highwaymen.

Next we learn about the London Season running early in the New Year and ending in early summer, then the little season in autumn.

There are many references to Jane Austen’s comments plus quotes from some of her books.

I think this is a perfect book especially for all authors of historical romance to have right by their computers while writing. So much valuable information. I really enjoyed it.

Copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Profile Image for Becks.
136 reviews
February 10, 2021
The most honest review of this book that I can give is that it is probably exactly what you think it will be. If you're someone who enjoys a good Austen novel or anything similar from this era, then this could be your thing.

It takes you on a journey through all the ways that people lived in the early 1800s, from dress and events to travel and food and basically anything you can think of in between. It's certainly an interesting look at what they day to day would have been like. I did find that a lot of it were things I knew already which I suppose is the peril of writing a book for such a specific audience. It's likely to be picked up by people who are already interested in the time period and that means they come with quite a bit of knowledge already.

Nevertheless, it's engaging enough to be enjoyable even if it's not all new. The writing style is light and funny, although I found the approach of writing like you're actually a person who will be doing these things a bit off=putting. It's not a heavy read at all which much of this kind of non-fiction can be. It's more something you might flick through on a Sunday afternoon.

Defininitely a bit of fun and something I'd recommend to big Austen fans in particular. Thanks to Pen & Sword for letting me read the ARC.
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