At last I'm giving my review of What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist -- the Facts of Daily Life in 19th-Century England. I would highly recommend this book! It's almost like an encyclopedia of background information on 19th century English life. But, unlike a real encyclopedia, it is much less daunting. Which means the way it is written makes it easy to read.
Some of my questions it answered were:
- How exactly do you play whist, commerce, vingt-et-un, piquette, casino, etc.?
- Where did country houses get their names?
- Why were horses such a status symbol?
- What exactly did all the servants do?
- When is Michaelmas?
- What's the difference between an apothecary and a surgeon?
- "The Basics," with subcategories "Currency," "The Calendar," "London," etc.
- "The Public World," with "The Titled," and "Esq., Gent., K.C.B., etc." and so on
- "The Country," with "The Midland, Wessex and Yorkshire" and "Shire and Shire Alike: Local Government in Britain," etc.
Besides Mr. Dickens and Miss Austen Mr. Pool looks at works primarily by Anthony Trollope, Thomas Hardy and Charlotte and Emily Brontë. He covers the upper class, lower class and working class, transportation, titles, government (local and national), vocabulary, food, social life, crime, money, marriage, fashion -- from an "abigail" to a "yew," he'll inform you on all the important points of life in the nineteenth century.
I'd recommend it as a very interesting and helpful investment for any reader of 19th century novels!