Jane Austen's England

Jane Austen's England

4.4 5
by Roy Adkins, Lesley Adkins
     
 

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A cultural snapshot of everyday life in the world of Jane Austen

Jane Austen, arguably the greatest novelist of the English language, wrote brilliantly about the gentry and aristocracy of two centuries ago in her accounts of young women looking for love. Jane Austen’s England explores the customs and culture of the real England of her everyday

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Overview

A cultural snapshot of everyday life in the world of Jane Austen

Jane Austen, arguably the greatest novelist of the English language, wrote brilliantly about the gentry and aristocracy of two centuries ago in her accounts of young women looking for love. Jane Austen’s England explores the customs and culture of the real England of her everyday existence depicted in her classic novels as well as those by Byron, Keats, and Shelley. Drawing upon a rich array of contemporary sources, including many previously unpublished manuscripts, diaries, and personal letters, Roy and Lesley Adkins vividly portray the daily lives of ordinary people, discussing topics as diverse as birth, marriage,  religion, sexual practices, hygiene, highwaymen, and superstitions.

From chores like fetching water to healing with  medicinal leeches, from selling wives in the marketplace to buying smuggled gin, from the hardships faced by young boys and girls in the mines to the familiar sight of corpses swinging on gibbets, Jane Austen’s England offers an authoritative and gripping account that is sometimes humorous, often shocking, but always entertaining.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This encyclopedic and entertaining volume will suit readers who daydream about going back in time to walk alongside literary figures such as Austen. The Adkinses (Nelson’s Trafalgar), a husband and wife archeology team, dive into Austen’s world to provide a fuller view of Regency life, covering everything from the smallest domestic details to the broadest legal codes. The writers also strive to illuminate voices from all classes, though they obviously rely a great deal on members of literate society, such as clergyman Reverend James Woodforde and governess Nelly Weeton. Austen, too, wends her way through the volume, and there are quotes and examples from her novels and correspondence. While familiarity with her work will surely enhance reader delight, knowledge of the primary sources isn’t necessary. The writing moves at a breezy pace, though it occasionally becomes bogged down by the multitude of examples, and at other times becomes dizzying, as readers leapfrog among topics (for example, from cosmetics to tooth powder to bodily functions). Though the book might have benefitted from deeper analysis overall, readers will still appreciate its exciting sweep. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
"This is … a lively and impressionistic guide to the age, enjoyable for those entirely new to the subject, but also for the better informed, who will not only discover new facts in its wealth of material, but appreciate the immediacy and flavour of its eye-witness accounts."
~Rosemary Goring, Sunday Herald

"In reconstructing the lives of ordinary people in Georgian England, Roy and Lesley Adkins vividly evoke the ways in which wealth and poverty coexisted … This excellent book reminds us that Georgian England was as remote and alien to a modern sensibility as the Roman Empire."
~Nick Rennison, Sunday Times

"A comprehensive survey of daily life in the time of Jane Austen, full of nuggets of surprising information ... a fine book for browsing."
~Peter Lewis, Daily Mail

"A fascinating read, incredibly well researched ... what stands out for me is the style in which it is written: when I had finished reading it, I kept dipping back into it!"
~Sam Simmons, Folklife Quarterly

"A brilliant chronicle of the period ... Start to finish, this is an authoritative and entertaining sketch of life during Jane Austen’s time, to be savored again and again."
~George Jepson, Quarterdeck
 
“[An] enjoyable history."
~The New Yorker

"In the end, readers will probably do much better [in reading about Jane Austen’s life] with Jane Austen’s England by Roy and Lesley Adkins … a fascinating look at all sorts of social history stuff."
~George Fetherling, The Vancouver Sun
 
"As this immensely useful and informative book makes clear, Regency England was no laughing matter."
~Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post

"The authors provide a fascinating view of daily life in Britain during the late Georgian and Regency eras ... an excellent read, with each chapter offering a treasury of insights into the lives of Austen’s contemporaries, both rich and poor."
~Carmela Ciuraru, USA Today
 
"Jane Austen's England paints a marvelous, comprehensive tapestry of daily life in Regency England ... a delightfully readable narrative, with many references to Austen's own life and novels that genuinely illuminate her stories. This is a wonderful companion book for anyone who fancies themselves a fan of Jane Austen or the Regency era."
~Dana L. Huntley, British Heritage
 
"This encyclopedic and entertaining volume will suit readers who daydream about going back in time to walk alongside literary figures such as Austen ... While familiarity with her work will surely enhance reader delight, knowledge of the primary sources isn’t necessary ... readers will appreciate its exciting sweep."
~Publishers Weekly

"For fans of Austen and English history, a deeply informative picture of Regency life."
~Kirkus Reviews

"This is fascinating reading for any classical fiction or history enthusiast. And for Janeites? It’s an essential guide to getting your Austenian life accurate to the last detail."
~Kate Hutchings, Huffington Post

"Here, we are at the heart of what drives Austen’s characters, what preoccupies their minds and what must have preoccupied the mind of Austen and her sister Cassandra."
~Katie Baker, Daily Beast

"A fascinating insight into a long gone world."
~Jad Adams, Who Do You Think You Are?

‘Roy and Lesley Adkins vividly portray fascinating aspects of the daily lives of ordinary people in Georgian England. The book is eminently readable from cover to cover, or can be dipped into from time to time’
~Julian Stockwin

Library Journal
09/15/2013
In the England of novelist Jane Austen (1775–1817), the cost of postage was paid by the recipient of a letter—not the sender; almanacs sold well owing to the details they contained on when the moon would rise and set—important information for anyone traveling at night; and rhubarb "dried and powdered" was a popular home remedy for ailments ranging from earache to congestion. In this comprehensive book, coauthors Roy and Lesley Adkins (Nelson's Trafalgar: The Battle That Changed the World) discuss how people lived in England two centuries ago; their narrative describes daily life—marriage, birth, work, religion, entertainment, travel, illness, and death—for the different classes of English people. Through meticulous examination of diaries and letters, travelogs, journals, and newspapers as well as histories and local records, the authors document the accepted beliefs, common practices, and everyday activities of Austen's time. VERDICT This well-documented text is easily accessible and includes lengthy quotations from primary sources and numerous references to Austen's novels and letters that highlight the middle- and upper-class society she knew best. An excellent resource for Austen devotees interested in rich details of late 18th- and early 19th-century English life.—Kathryn Bartelt, Univ. of Evansville Libs., IN
Kirkus Reviews
2013-09-01
It wasn't all courtship, corsets and carriages--the grim reality behind a great author's world. Jane Austen (1775–1817) was more genius than realist, delicately creating a world richer in psychological insight than in documented reality. In this cultural history of Austen's era, Roy and Lesley Adkins (Jack Tar: Life in Nelson's Navy, 2009, etc.) show the England that Elizabeth Bennet and Emma Woodhouse never much discussed. It was a society where life was nasty, brutish, short and smelly. Standards for cooking, cleaning and personal hygiene were abysmal, and there was no running water. Not only did homes easily burn, but there was also no bathing as we know it. ("What dreadful hot weather we have!" Jane wrote to her sister Cassandra. "It keeps one in a continual state of inelegance.") Chamber pots were emptied out of windows, people urinated on the street, toilet paper did not exist, and women had little (and some nothing) in the way of sanitary protection. Superstition prevailed over medicine; one diarist describes trying to cure a sty by rubbing it with the tail of a cat. No one in Austen's day had teeth like Emma Thompson or Colin Firth; some, like Dorothy Wordsworth, were toothless by the age of 30. The poor had it worse, especially children; provided they survived infancy, they were often consigned to a barbaric existence working in the mines or sweeping chimneys. Austen didn't write entirely in a vacuum, of course, and the Adkins' frequently point out just where her novels reflect the domestic and social world she knew, particularly as in regards to clothing, footwear and social customs. The authors let their facts tell the story, which is a wise choice given the often bland writing style. For fans of Austen and English history, a deeply informative picture of Regency life.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780670785841
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
08/15/2013
Pages:
448
Sales rank:
519,426
Product dimensions:
6.42(w) x 9.12(h) x 1.39(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"This is … a lively and impressionistic guide to the age, enjoyable for those entirely new to the subject, but also for the better informed, who will not only discover new facts in its wealth of material, but appreciate the immediacy and flavour of its eye-witness accounts."
~Rosemary Goring, Sunday Herald

"In reconstructing the lives of ordinary people in Georgian England, Roy and Lesley Adkins vividly evoke the ways in which wealth and poverty coexisted … This excellent book reminds us that Georgian England was as remote and alien to a modern sensibility as the Roman Empire."
~Nick Rennison, Sunday Times

"A comprehensive survey of daily life in the time of Jane Austen, full of nuggets of surprising information ... a fine book for browsing."
~Peter Lewis, Daily Mail

"A fascinating read, incredibly well researched ... what stands out for me is the style in which it is written: when I had finished reading it, I kept dipping back into it!"
~Sam Simmons, Folklife Quarterly

"A brilliant chronicle of the period ... Start to finish, this is an authoritative and entertaining sketch of life during Jane Austen’s time, to be savored again and again."
~George Jepson, Quarterdeck
 
“[An] enjoyable history."
~The New Yorker

"In the end, readers will probably do much better [in reading about Jane Austen’s life] with Jane Austen’s England by Roy and Lesley Adkins … a fascinating look at all sorts of social history stuff."
~George Fetherling, The Vancouver Sun
 
"As this immensely useful and informative book makes clear, Regency England was no laughing matter."
~Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post

"The authors provide a fascinating view of daily life in Britain during the late Georgian and Regency eras ... an excellent read, with each chapter offering a treasury of insights into the lives of Austen’s contemporaries, both rich and poor."
~Carmela Ciuraru, USA Today
 

"Jane Austen's England paints a marvelous, comprehensive tapestry of daily life in Regency England ... a delightfully readable narrative, with many references to Austen's own life and novels that genuinely illuminate her stories. This is a wonderful companion book for anyone who fancies themselves a fan of Jane Austen or the Regency era."
~Dana L. Huntley, British Heritage
 
"This encyclopedic and entertaining volume will suit readers who daydream about going back in time to walk alongside literary figures such as Austen ... While familiarity with her work will surely enhance reader delight, knowledge of the primary sources isn’t necessary ... readers will appreciate its exciting sweep."
~Publishers Weekly

"For fans of Austen and English history, a deeply informative picture of Regency life."
~Kirkus Reviews

"This is fascinating reading for any classical fiction or history enthusiast. And for Janeites? It’s an essential guide to getting your Austenian life accurate to the last detail."
~Kate Hutchings, Huffington Post

"Here, we are at the heart of what drives Austen’s characters, what preoccupies their minds and what must have preoccupied the mind of Austen and her sister Cassandra."
~Katie Baker, Daily Beast

"A fascinating insight into a long gone world."
~Jad Adams, Who Do You Think You Are?

‘Roy and Lesley Adkins vividly portray fascinating aspects of the daily lives of ordinary people in Georgian England. The book is eminently readable from cover to cover, or can be dipped into from time to time’
~Julian Stockwin

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