Questions tagged [nineteenth-century-english]

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Meaning of “rubber” in “You might put ME into a Jail, with genteel society and a rubber, and I should never care to come out.”

In David Copperfield, Mrs Markleham: “You might put ME into a Jail, with genteel society and a rubber, and I should never care to come out.” What is the meaning of rubber here?
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What is the meaning of "physical character of of the people"?

Sir John Barrow, 1st Baronet published the book "Travels in China" in 1804. In Chapter VII. Government—Laws he said It is sufficiently evident, that the heavy hand of power has completely ...
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What is the meaning of "native" in a seafaring / fishing context?

I stumbled upon the use of the word "native" in a way that I am unfamiliar with / which I don't understand. In The piscatorial atlas of the North Sea the word "Native" is ...
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Who are "bully boys" in sea shanties?

In various sea shanties the term "bully boys" comes up now and again. Here for example in The Wellerman, first verse: There once was a ship that put to sea The name of the ship was the ...
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Is this “by this time” in “On Liberty” a typo for “at this time”?

Here is a passage from On Liberty, written by J.S. Mill: This mode of thought, or rather perhaps of feeling, was common among the last generation of European liberalism, in the Continental section of ...
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Looking for a single word for 'not meaning what you say' [closed]

I'm trying to find a word which conveys the meaning that the speaker knowingly uses empty words, or words to a specific effect, that he does not believe in. I have gone through all the possible ...
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Is "honor is satisfied" correct and have the meaning I think it has?

I'd like to verify the correctness of a verbal statement or phrase that I might have heard or read somewhere but I don't have the source anymore. The context is the conclusion of a duel in the ...
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I am looking for the origin and meaning of the phrase "...it's the candy"

I was perusing an 1877 city directory for Mannington, West Virginia. There was an ad placed in it for a hotel called the Bartlett. The ad stated The Bartlett "is the candy". I imagine it was ...
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Is "harlot" considered to be a derogatory word?

I'm working on a short story based around the Victorian age where the protagonist is a prostitute by profession. I was keen on using the word "harlot" in my title as it not only describes ...
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Why is there a space in the bowdlerised "L– ." in Jane Eyre?

I have been reading Jane Eyre recently and came across a sentence the other day: ...and away we rattled over the “stony street” of L— . There is a blank between "–" and the full stop, which ...
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Was "The 'F' Word" in common usage in the 1800s?

I started watching "Deadwood" a few days ago and only got a few minutes into it before I shut it off. The reason I hit the "ejector seat" was that a character in the show used &...
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Addressing a person by occupation

In Dorothy Gladys “Dodie” Smith’s 1956 children’s novel, The Hundred and One Dalmatians, the author writes: But though you can call a cook ‘Cook’, the one thing you cannot call a butler is ‘Butler’ ...
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Usage of "see" in English 1800s, stereotype or real?

When people are jokingly imitating how those in the 1800's USA are speaking they often use "see" at the end of a sentence instead of at the beginning like we might do so now. An example ...
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Olden pejorative/word for a "fancy-pants"

What word would someone around the era of the Wild West (1850) use to describe a "posh fancy-pants"? I see that "fancy-pants" first known usage was in the twentieth century, so it'...
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19th-century phrasing: Her sympathy was ours

The following is an extract from Frankenstein; I'd like to know what the clause in bold means. Does it have anything to do with being saintly? Does the word sympathy refer to a two-way or one-way ...
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"Knave upon the Cross" and lines by Edward Bulwer-Lytton origin

My great-grandfather included the lines below in an entry in his Civil War diary dated 4/17/1863 to note the 6th Corps of the Army of the Potomac added a white cross to their hats. I believe it's by ...
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"his" usage in Victorian English [duplicate]

From Pride and Prejudice: “My dear Mr. Bennet,” replied his wife, “how can you be so tiresome! You must know that I am thinking of his marrying one of them.” What is the function of "his" in this ...
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What is the meaning of the sentence "I'll serve you out" from Dickens' Great Expectations?

In Chapter 18, Mr Wopsle is at the Three Jolly Bargemen, giving his audience a theatrical rendition of a murder case as reported in the newspaper: The victim faintly moaned, "I'm done for," and the ...
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What did daughters (roughly 19 and 11) affectionately call their mothers in the 19th century (1883ish)?

I'm writing a short historical fiction essay on Mercy Brown and family, and was wondering what Mary Brown (19) and Mercy (11) would have called her while she was on her death bed with consumption. ...
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Where does 'talking through your hat' come from?

I've looked it up on phrases.org.uk, which gives the following quote as the first usage: This began life in the USA, in the late 19th century, with a slightly different meaning from the present one....
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What does Scandinavian Home mean? Late XIX, early XX century. Great Britain

Joseph Conrad, "The Nigger Of The "Narcissus": A Tale Of The Forecastle": the two young Norwegians looked tidy, meek, and altogether of a promising material for the kind ladies who patronise the ...
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Difference Between "letter" and "paper in 19th century English

Recently, I found a civil war journal of a family member of mine who fought and eventually died for the North in the US Civil War. He notes what he receives from home, and he talks about receiving ...
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Is "Who art" correct?

I came across these lines in a hymn: Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,Which wert and art, and ever more shalt be. I noticed that "wert", "art", and "shalt" were used with the subject ...
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Ad­dress­ing boys and girls dif­fer­ently in (Vic­to­rian?) English schools

In Jane Eyre by Char­lotte Brontë I read: “Burns” (such it seems was her name: the girls here were all called by their sur­names, as boys are else­where)... So my ques­tion is: were there (or ...
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What does "d-d" mean? Possible 19th century profanity?

I have several quotes of late-19th-century speech (by British men) which use the abbreviation "d-d" for a word. I'm not sure what it means, but from the context I assume this is profanity of some sort....
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What did it once mean to "get up" a chapter of history?

In John Henry Newman's article (circa 1854) entitled Discipline of Mind, he writes "what a lesson in memory and discrimination it is to get up, as it is called, any one chapter of history" What ...
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What does this Victorian sentence mean?

Talking about guns and shooting in the 19th century what does the following mean? I have seen no good shots among them ; and they look on a shot flying as a great performance.
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What does John Stuart Mill mean when writing the following: [closed]

Those who admit any limit to what a government may do, except in the case of such governments as they think ought not to exist, stand out as brilliant exceptions among the political thinkers of ...
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17 votes
2 answers
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Was Zink ever valid spelling for Zinc?

On the Genealogy & Family History Stack Exchange I asked What might 'pitt Zink' in 1873 South Australian diary mean? and the first answer I received more or less aligns with my thinking that Zink ...
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"Boards are made of wood; they are long and narrow."

What is the origin of the English phrase "Boards are made of wood; they are long and narrow.", and what is its general connotation? I just ran across this quotation in Edward Everett Hale's The Brick ...
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Help me undersand what Emily Dickinson means in this letter

From Dickinson's correspondence with Thomas Higginson: I smile when you suggest that I delay "to publish" -- that being foreign to my thought, as Firmament to Fin. If fame belonged to me, I ...
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Getting on or off a horse-drawn carriage [closed]

I am writing a story and I was wondering if there was any particular way of saying that the protagonist got off a horse drawn carriage? She is the passenger in the carriage and I wanted to make the ...
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Meaning of "Tay-Boy"

From Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray. Major O'Dowd, who had served his sovereign in every quarter of the world, and had paid for every step in his profession by some more than equivalent ...
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A Wild, Wicked Slip

From Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë: A wild, wicked slip she was—but she had the bonniest eye, the sweetest smile, and lightest foot in the parish […] What does "slip" mean?
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6 votes
1 answer
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What does the expression "old soldier" mean?

In the story "An Unprotected Female at the Pyramids", one of the female characters is twice referred to pejoratively (by men) as an "old soldier". It's clearly an idiom, since she's young ("about ...
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5 votes
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Confusing sentence in an 1858 novel by George MacDonald

I’m not a native English speaker, and I was reading George MacDonald’s fantasy novel of 1858 Phantastes: A Faerie Romance for Men and Women. Everything was going fine but suddenly I saw this ...
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