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red tape

Government papers and legal documents were once bound with a reddish tape. Thomas Carlyle—to whom Dickens dedicated Hard Times when it appeared in its first volume edition—popularized the term to denote excessive bureaucratic regulations.

"In the little safe in young Tom's closet, the safe used for petty purposes, there was a hundred and fifty odd pound." "A hundred and fifty-four, seven, one," said Bitzer.

Bitzer's clarification reveals that the safe contained exactly 154 pounds, seven shillings, and a penny before the robbery. Before the British monetary system was decimalized in 1971, there were 20 shillings to the pound and twelve pence to the shilling. It is difficult to make exact comparisons of value between past and present currencies, as the factors that affected cost of living were so different, but recall that Mrs. Sparsit's annual salary was £100. Many male workers, with families, made about £1 per week. Thus, £154, 7s., 1d. is a relatively substantial sum.

The money would have been kept in a safe that might have looked similar to this depiction of a patent fireproof safe made by Chubb, a new design that was shown at the Great Exhibition of 1851. This illustration appeared in the Illustrated London News on July 26, 1851; note the legend "Bankers Safe" on the door.

Dutch clocks

Inexpensive German clocks, made in the Black Forest region, were popular in middle- and lower-class British homes. ("Dutch" was a corruption of "Deutsch.") They made a loud sound before they struck the hour, which Mrs. Sparsit refers to here. This picture of such a clock is taken from The Dictionary of Daily Wants:

floor the Established Church

The Church of England was the state church and was therefore referred to as the Established Church; Mr. Bounderby implies that Stephen Blackpool, in seeking a divorce, sought also to divorce church and state. As the nineteenth century went on, the establishment of the Church became controversial.

Mr. Bounderby, like an Oriental dancer, put his tambourine on his head.

Dancers in the Oriental style raised up their tambourines to signify the end of a performance.

on the mangle in the laundry

A mangle was a hand-operated machine used to dry and press items after washing. Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management includes this illustration of a mangle:

"not your sherry warm, with lemon-peel and nutmeg"

This combination was a popular Victorian drink, known as negus.

she arose, put on a loose robe, and went out of her room in the dark and up the staircase to her brother's room

Louisa and Bounderby apparently have separate rooms. This was not uncommon for well-to-do Victorian couples.



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