NOTES ON ISSUE 5: HISTORICAL GLOSSARY
PART 2 OF 2
a truckle-bed that disappeared
A "truckle bed" is a small
bed on wheels, which can be pushed under a higher bed during
the day. The common American term for this type of bed is a
Uniting, and leaguing, and
engaging to stand by one another
Labor unions and the right to unionize were controversial in
Dickens's day, and Dickens's often ambivalent attitude toward
them in Hard Times reflects this fact. Unions had been
banned outright until 1824, and in 1825 an act was passed to
limit their sphere of operations to the most basic of labor
rights: wages, prices, and work hours. However, unions flourished,
despite general mistrust of their aims during the 1830s and
1840s, decades marked by serious labor unrest. By the 1850s,
however, unions were attempting to build a more mainstream and
less militant image. Many middle-class Victorians, however,
retained the view that unions were likely to be violent and
revolutionary, as we see in Mrs. Sparsit's characterization
of workers as "restless wretches," and Bitzer's answer
that they are forming a union. And, of course, unions remained
anathema to manufacturers such as Bounderby, who mistrusted
their aims and were not eager to pay workers more, reduce their
hours, or improve their working conditions.
a shower-bath of something
The process of carding cotton, prepatory to spinning it, produced
fine dust. Workers who inhaled it often suffered lung problems
and emphysema; these consequences are represented in the character
of Bessy Higgins in Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South
(1854-5). This offhand, flippant remark indicates the speaker's
This word, a somewhat disparaging way to refer to a young woman,
is a rare moment of frankness from Mrs. Sparsit.
Cornet of Dragoons
The officer of a cavalry troop. It was not uncommon for well-to-do
young men such as Harthouse to bounce from career to career,
at least if novels of the day are to be believed. This dilettante
type recurs in later novels by Dickens in such characters as
Henry Gowan, in Little Dorrit, and Eugene Wrayburn, in
Our Mutual Friend.
If you are one of those who
want us to consume it
The Town Improvements Clauses Act of 1847 required manufacturers
to construct fireplaces and furnaces with special equipment
that "consumed" the smoke produced, rather than releasing
it into the air. However, this had not solved the problem of
air pollution in the industrial cities, as many manufacturers
simply did not comply with the act.
Turkish carpets, a luxury good.
An English family with a charming Italian motto. What will be,
A translation of the familiar phrase Che sarà, sarà—the
family motto of an aristocratic English family, the Russells.
Studying from blue books.
polonies and saveloys
These are types of sausages, normally made from pork but sometimes
including horsemeat, which made the sausages firm. Adulterating
food in this manner was a common Victorian practice.
rarer tobacco than was to
be bought in those parts
The best tobaccos, mainly from the Middle East, were found in
flat as a warming-pan
Flat is used here to mean inexperienced or dull; a warming-pan
was a long-handled copper or brass pan with a cover, which was
filled with coals and used to heat a bed. This illustration
of a warming-pan is taken from the Dictionary of Daily Wants: