Just another GR refugee. Other than that, I had a stroke in 2004, and read almost anything I can get my hands on, though I have a particular weakness for history, mystery, and historical fiction.
This book is a portrait of the England of Jane Austen - the British world of 200 years ago, which is not that long ago, historically speaking. But what changes in the ways people live!
Baby's first meal should be wine. Swaddling clothes have just gone out, but diapers have not yet come in; babies of both sexes wear long "foundling dresses," and are cleaned frequently. If they should get something like "diaper rash," the standard treatment is brandy mixed with extract of lead. (And we wonder why the infant death rate was high?) If the baby is teething and cries a lot, just dose it with "Godfrey's General Cordial," a mixture of opium, morphine, and mercury (also a treatment for rickets and to prevent miscarriage).
It is not uncommon for women to marry in their underwear ("smock marriages"), or even in the nude, to avoid passing on debts. (What a sight that must have been for the priest!) After childbirth, they must be "churched," being ritually unclean. The vicar charges sixpence for this, but most priests routinely give the money back to poor women. (The government tried taxing the registration of weddings, christenings, and burials in the 1780s, but found the result was that only the rich were taking out these licenses, and repealed the law the next year, as it was "against public morals.")
Running water is likely to be found only in the houses of the rich in London and the larger towns, and even when it is - be careful. The pipes may be made of wood, and then again, they may be made of lead.
The most shocking number of crimes (220) are death penalty offenses (the term "hung for a sheep rather than a lamb" dates to this period - and both were hanging offenses), including theft of items worth more than 40 shillings. Jury nullification is also widespread; many a jury ignores the evidence to rule that 39 shillings' worth was stolen, in order that the lesser punishment of 7 years' transportation to Australia may be given instead.
Only two hundred years separate us - but what changes in how we live!