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…

Pride and Prejudice and People

Are you one of Jane Austen’s legion of obsessive fans?  Have you read Pride and Prejudice once, or occasionally, or until the covers are falling off?  Do you know your Sir Lewis de Bourghs from your apothecary shopboys?  If so, we need your help! We’ve put together a survey which contains the full list of…

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…

Coxcombs and Foppish Haircuts

In chapter 25 of Jane Austen’s Emma, the titular character is somewhat perplexed by Frank Churchill’s “foppish” decision to travel sixteen miles for some nineteenth-century “manscaping”. “Emma’s very good opinion of Frank Churchill was a little shaken the following day, by hearing that he was gone off to London, merely to have his hair cut. A sudden freak seemed…

An injured body: novelists disapproving of novels

In chapter 5 of Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen starts off by describing the activities of Catherine Morland and Isabella Thorpe, but gets sidetracked rather quickly, and spends almost the entire second half in a delightful rant about the hypocrisy of novelists who deride their own genre: I will not adopt that ungenerous and impolitic custom…

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…

A disappointing lack of Easter eggs

In our novels, relatively little happens at Easter, although it’s mentioned incidentally quite a bit, generally as a marker of the passage of time – things are due to happen before or after Easter but rarely take place on the holiday itself. One of the few mentions of anything actually taking place during Easter is…

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…

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!