and Charles Dickens Knew.
This is the book I am reading this week, given to me by a friend. For my fellow Regency writers as well as just plain 19th century fans, this is an incredible resource. What card games were likely to be played at a dinner party? What was the difference between a barouche and an brougham? How much land did Mr. Darcy actually own, and how did he manage it all?
The book is well organized around topics of frequent interest, such as marriage, money, letters, and travel. The second half of the book, a glossary of 19th century terms, makes fascinating reading on its own.
For literature fans, there are frequent references to Dickens and Austen, also quotes from lesser known English works such as Tess of the Durbervilles, Eustace Diamonds, and Middlemarch. I found myself wanting to go back and read books mentioned in passing, knowing that I will now be able to understand them better with the help of this remarkable book.
Two cautions–this is not a book to simply sit down and read from beginning to end. Because of its exacting details, it is better enjoyed as a reference than a narrative. (How often do you really need to know exactly who sat behind who in Parliament?) Secondly, it covers both the Regency and Victorian eras, and as a result there are some errors. If you want to use this book as a reference for your own writing, you would be wise to double check unfamiliar facts with another source first.
If you have found any other books that help you understand 19th century England better, please feel free to list them here!