Ladies and Gentlemen: visualising character mentions by gender in the novels

In early 2015, Adam Calhoun created a (now quite famous) series of images that visualise the punctuation from famous novels.  These rather lovely images demonstrate clearly how differently writing can be structured, particularly in regard to features like punctuation: hiding in plain sight, punctuation renders writing intelligible, but goes practically unnoticed by the reader.  (Until…

Out for a jaunt

Around the turn of the 19th century, if you wanted to get around in Ireland, it seems that a jaunting-car was the main way to go.  These light two-wheeled carriages (which come in “inside” and “outside” varieties) make a number of appearances in our novel collection, and can also be found illustrating a number of…

Insult of the Week: Blockhead

It seems ‘blockhead’ was a popular insult in the nineteenth century. In our corpus Emma tops the league table of blockheads with three, but Austen also employs it in Mansfield Park and Sense and Sensibility, where the caddish Willoughby proclaims: though I have been always a blockhead, I have not been always a rascal So…

On the Joy of Tea-Making

In  chapter 25 of Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret (1862),  the narrator meditates on tea as a bewitching accessory for the attractive lady of Victorian sensation fiction.    “Surely a pretty woman never looks prettier than when making tea. The most feminine and most domestic of all occupations imparts a magic harmony to her every movement,…

Alas! Or, Some Titles of “Interest”

Ada Maria Jocelyn, £100,000 Versus Ghosts: A Novel.  1888. UK’s Most Haunted: The 19th Century Edition Anonymous, The Life and Adventures of Toby, the Sapient Pig; with his opinions on men and manners. Written by himself.  1805 (although this date may be inaccurate?). Toby was quite the celebrity in his day, and his memoirs were…

Nineteenth-century lolz

In Great Expectations, Pip’s note-writing looks remarkably like a (drunk?) text message: MI DEER JO i OPE U R KR WITE WELL i OPE i SHAL SON B HABELL 4 2 TEEDGE U JO AN THEN WE SHORL B SO GLODD AN WEN i M PRENGTD 2 U JO WOT LARX AN BLEVE ME INF…

Image of the Week: Zounds!

In The Absentee, by Maria Edgeworth (1812), the lads go to visit Count O’Halloran and are ushered into his study where he has some sort of menagerie, as you do. Colonel Heathcock cries ‘Zounds! what’s all this live lumber?’ and the goat and eagle attack him, probably for speaking so foppishly. After the ensuing pratfall…

One Million Images: the British Library Labs Collection

*WARNING: CONTENT IS VERY DISTRACTING AND MAY INTERRUPT YOUR WORKDAY* Unless otherwise specified, the images we’ve been using on The Sea of Books all come from the British Library Labs scanned images collection.  This is a project which is very dear to our hearts, as it consists of a massive, confusing and wonderful dataset, full…

What’s in a name? Waverley and The Sea of Books

The protagonist of Sir Walter Scott’s 1814 historical novel, Waverley, comes from a wealthy family and has the good fortune to be brought up with access to an enormous collection of books: The library at Waverley-Honour, a large Gothic room, with double arches and a gallery, contained such a miscellaneous and extensive collection of volumes…

Insult of the Week: Intolerably Stupid

We may be a little biased, but we feel there’s some truth in this pointed comment from Henry Tilney: The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. From chapter 14 of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, published 1817. Read the novel for free at Project Gutenberg!