Jane Austen’s England

Written by Lesley Adkins Roy Adkins
Review by Arleigh Johnson

With the exception of the character of Fanny Price from Mansfield Park, Jane Austen’s novels portray the gently bred class rather than the greater part of the population: the poor. This study, however, focuses on both sets, with particular emphasis on everyday life. Using entries from contemporary diarists, personal letters (including those from Jane Austen to her sister), and newspaper articles and ads, the authors uncover facts about events of the day, living conditions, and the very thought process of contemporaries with a realistic view of life around them.

This era, leading up to the Industrial Revolution, still seemed practically medieval for the majority, with most barely scraping a living and taking on dangerous work to survive. Even after laid to rest, the corpses of the poor were prime targets for theft, sold to medical schools – a grisly, though lucrative underground trade. Though this is most definitely not the idealistic Regency era that Austen fans adore, for serious readers, this is an indispensable guide to every aspect of society, from the lowers classes to nobility. This volume includes maps, illustrations, portraits and timelines.