The Six Most Impertinent Things Ever Said By Elizabeth Bennet

Elizabeth is one of the truly great heroines of English literature.  She has fine eyes; she’ll walk three miles of muddy countryside without fear of censure or ruined hemlines; she has tremendous chemistry with Colin Firth, and these days she’ll even put down a zombie uprising for you.  But there’s one thing that really keeps…

The 5 Least Important Characters in Pride and Prejudice

Two weeks ago we sent out a call to fans of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, to come answer a survey on how they rate the importance of the characters in the novel.  And the results are in! While we’re not going to release the full list of rankings just yet, I can assure you…

These Three Weird Tricks Will Help You Write 47 Victorian Novels

As I journeyed across France to Marseilles, and made thence a terribly rough voyage to Alexandria, I wrote my allotted number of pages every day. On this occasion more than once I left my paper on the cabin table, rushing away to be sick in the privacy of my state room. It was February, and…

Discerning drinkers?

While the Temperance Movement gained ground in the nineteenth century, authors writing about Ireland were sure to include references to drinking. In The Nun’s Curse, however, one of Charlotte Riddell’s characters is disappointed with her Guinness, while the locals are disappointed with her disappointment. Great effects spring, we know, from little causes; and had Miss Dickson, mourning…

Insult of the Week: Deftly chosen expressions of contempt, the maid edition

From our corpus it seems that even maids were subject to snarky comments about their appearance, often made by their employers. In chapter 1 of H. G Wells’ The Invisible Man, the narrator describes Mrs. Halls’ servant Millie as “her lymphatic maid”: “Mrs. Hall lit the fire and left him there while she went to prepare…

Wot larx: men in ladies’ clothing edition

While characters in some of our novels adopt the typical clothing of the opposite sex for serious purposes (for example, the title character in Katherine Cecil Thurston’s Max), others – especially gentlemen – disguise themselves solely for the lolz. Jane Eyre‘s Mr. Rochester famously dresses up as a fortune-teller in order to spy on his…

Insult of the Week: Not one agreeable quality

After her beloved sister Jane’s romantic disappointment, Lizzy has had enough of pleasant, wealthy bachelors: I have a very poor opinion of young men who live in Derbyshire; and their intimate friends who live in Hertfordshire are not much better. I am sick of them all. Thank Heaven! I am going to-morrow where I shall…

All the toads and serpents

Sir James Brooke, of The Absentee, does not relish the prospect of the return of Lady Dashfort and her daughter to these shores: ‘…one worthless woman, especially one worthless Englishwoman of rank, does incalculable mischief in a country like this, which looks up to the sister country for fashion. For my own part, as a…

A tip for sobering up

In Great Expectations Pip, Joe and Mr Wopsle visit a tavern, where a few drinks are consumed. Joe’s sobering-up methods are somewhat unconventional but perhaps worth a try? Joe went all the way home with his mouth wide open, to rinse the rum out with as much air as possible. #wotlarx

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,…

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…