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The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian England from…

by Kristine Hughes

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268484,889 (3.29)2
A study of everyday life in Regency and Victorian England derived from anecdotes, written histories and first hand accounts. The author covers subjects from contemporary recipes, to courtship rituals, and popular slang, to common occupations.
  1. 00
    What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool (Booksloth)
    Booksloth: A much better and properly researched work on the subject.
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Showing 4 of 4
That was a mouthful. Happily though, the only long-winded thing about this book was its title. Published in 1998, it is a relatively informative book, focusing primarily on the Victorian Age. Ms. Hughes divides the book, rather helpfully in three primary sections: Everyday life, Government War and the Economy, and Society.

I thought the strongest, most informative section was Everyday LIfe. Lots of details that I never knew about digging up the streets of London to run gas pipes for lamps, food that sounds more like a dare to my modern mind than a regular repast, and interesting facts about servants from what they were entitled to do to what they made.

The Government War and Economy section left something to be desired. The military information as far as how commissions were purchased, advancements, and so forth was interesting. However, the banking and general money issues were glossed over so that simple things like what the hell a guinea is and why it came to be were never covered (1 shilling 1 penny; it was considered more refined).

Lastly the Society section, covered mourning at length, but skirted over courtships, engagements and married life generally. So much of what I seem to read in period books focuses on society and the interaction between different groups. So this was disappointing.

I think as a “get your feet wet” with life and times sort of book on the Victorian period, this'll do. ( )
  mullgirl | Jun 8, 2015 |
With the exception of a couple of good charts, practically useless for a writer interested in the Regency. At least 75% of the material is explicitly geared toward the Victorian period. Even worse is the purported general or overview material that doesn't acknowledge its Victorian bias. ( )
1 vote MuseofIre | Oct 20, 2009 |
This book could be very useful, but often more as a guide to other sources, rather than as a authority in its own right. The appendices, listing numerous references sources as well as a very useful list of relevant museums should be valuable to anyone starting out to do research. Particularly relevant sources are also collected at the end each chapter.

If this is intended to be a reference source for writers, then they need detailed information laid out in an efficient format. Hughes does this sometimes, and other times seems to wander off into writing an anecdotal social history. I wonder whether it was a good idea to pack 90 years that saw enormous social changes into one book. I think that Hughes has often wasted space including extensive quotes that would have been better paraphrased and condensed, as well as including information of marginal use, such as numerous recipes and a list of the number of servants advertising for jobs in the Times on January 10, 1870.

One might also wonder why 1801-1810 is not covered, especially since there is a writer's guide covering the 18th century. The period isn't completely ignored, but it must be frustrating for anyone wanting information about the turn of the 18th-19th century. Granted, the Regency, strictly speaking, was 1811-1820, but that wasn't the start of the Victorian era either. Many people consider the Regency period to go back to 1800 or even 1780.

The chapters themselves are uneven in quality. The first section, on lighting, is precisely the sort of thing a writer would need: the different types of lighting are carefully described in detail with dates given so that the reader knows precisely what was in use when. Rather than simply saying that gaslights began to be installed in London in 1807, Hughes carefully explains that only certain small areas were lit at first. There are also very useful lists like the terminuses for the stage coaches, papers in circulation, naval insignia, prohibitions to marriage, etc.

On the other hand, Hughes tells us that flush toilets were invented by 1777 and then leaps to the 1860s to talk about Victorian bathrooms. What about the near century in between? Were people installing flush toilets, or were they simply experimental? On a number of occasions, Hughes throws in an interesting quote on some subject, such as the excerpts from The Habits of Good Society, published in 1864 without any indication of whether the information is valid for the entire era or only for the immediate period.

In the chapter on clothing, Hughes wisely tells us that she is not going to attempt to give a history of fashion in one chapter and provides an extensive bibliography. She then takes up the chapter with long quotes from various sources, but this hit or miss information isn't very helpful, and could have been summarized in a few sentences. I think that Hughes would have done better to warn the reader about tricky subjects that may not be covered in a basic history of fashion and need to be researched. Court dress, for example, was codifed, and a writer should not necessarily send a character to court in a fashionable outfit, however fine. I'm not an expert, but I believe that the rules for court dress also changed during this period: an author would need to look this up so that the outfits are appropriate to the specific time. I believe that this is also the period when the special-purpose wedding dress came into fashion. Early in the century, brides were married in their best day dress, cut according to ordinary fashion, not a special design. If she could afford a trousseau, it might be new for the wedding, but it would not be any special color. Veils and the one-use fantasy dress came later.

Hughes does give us some information relating specifically to the middle class and the poor, which is good, but she often describes customs, particularly mourning customs, which can only have applied to the wealthiest, without much indication of the shift in customs as one moves down the social scale. She does include a useful list of mourning fabrics, though oddly enough, it does not include paramatta, which is mentioned several times in the text.

I'd love to see a second, greatly revised edition. Meanwhile, I think that writers interested in the Regency Era would be better served by Jennifer Kloester's Georgette Heyer's Regency World, as well as various companions to Jane Austen's writings. ( )
2 vote PuddinTame | Aug 20, 2009 |
A nice overview of life in the Regency and Victorian eras. Separated into three parts: Everyday Life; Government, War and the Economy; Society. ( )
  runaway84 | Aug 20, 2009 |
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A study of everyday life in Regency and Victorian England derived from anecdotes, written histories and first hand accounts. The author covers subjects from contemporary recipes, to courtship rituals, and popular slang, to common occupations.

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