Tag Archives: Daniel Pool

The English Calendar Holidays

Cross of St. George


Terribly confusing to be reading along in Austen or Dickens or even Miss Read, and come into a passage describing something happening in Michaelmas Term.

Boxing Day is a little more familiar, but still kind of wispy or vague to most Americans.

Hence, some lists for quick reference. It may be helpful to others; certainly it will be for me.

Reference guide for older literature

Twelfth Night January 5
Epiphany January 6
Plough Monday First Monday after Epiphany
Hilary Term (law courts) Begins in January
Hilary Term (Cambridge) Begins in January
Hilary Term (Oxford) Begins in January
Candlemas February 2

Lady Day (a quarter day) March 25
Easter Term (Oxford)
Easter Term (Cambridge)
Easter In March or April
Easter Term (law courts) Begins after Easter
Ascension 40 days after Easter
Whitsunday (Pentecost) 50 days after Easter
May Day May 1

Midsummer(a quarter day) June 24
Trinity Term (law term) Begins after Whitsunday
Trinity Term (Oxford) Begins in June
Lammas (Loaf Mass) August 1

Michaelmas (a quarter day) September 29
Michaelmas Term Begins in October
Michaelmas Term Begins in November
All Hallows, All Saints November 1
All Souls November 2
Guy Fawkes Day November 5
Martinmas November 11

Christmas (a quarter day) December 25
Boxing Day Generally first week after Christmas
~~
“Term” refers to both academic and court sessions. Session was the preferred word after 1873 for the court.

Quarter days were the beginning day for a quarterly commitment for a labor contract or rent.

Modern Calendar Public Holidays
New Year’s Day January 1
Good Friday variable
Easter Monday variable
May Day Bank Holiday 1st Monday in May (formerly Whit Monday until 1971)
Spring Bank Holiday Last Monday in May
Late Summer Bank Holiday Last Monday in August
Christmas Day December 25
Boxing Day December 26

~~
St. Andrew’s Day, honoring the patron saint of Scotland is an official holiday in Scotland and is celebrated on November 30.

However, St. George’s Day (honoring the patron saint of England) is not an official bank holiday, but celebrated by patriotic English citizens. Wikipedia says: “The date of St George’s day changes when it is too close to Easter. According to the Church of England’s calendar, when St George’s Day falls between Palm Sunday and the Second Sunday of Easter inclusive, it is moved to the Monday after the Second Sunday of Easter.”

Information was gathered from the book “What Jane Austen At and Charles Dickens Knew” by Daniel Pool and this Wikipedia article on English Holidays.

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English Money – Old Style

(L)1797 penny (R) 1967 penny (from Wikipedia)

Quick! What’s the value of a florin? A groat?

I can’t ever remember either, even though I’ve read a ton of English books (both fiction and non-fiction) over the years. Their old money system – pre-decimilization – stumps me. When an author mentions a crown or a bob, I have to hunt up a reference chart. So, for quick reference and borrowed from the author Daniel Pool, is the following list:

Note: Terms in italics are slang.

1/8 pence: half farthing
1/4 pence: farthing
1/2 pence: half penny ha’pence
1 pence: penny, copper
2 pence: twopence, tuppence
3 pence: threepence, thruppence
4 pence: groat
6 pence: sixpence tanner or bender
12 pence: shilling, bob or hog

2 shillings: florin
2 1/2 shillings: half crown, half a crown note
5 shillings: crown, bull
10 shillings: half sovereign, 1/2 pound note
20 shillings: sovereign, 1-pound note, quid
21 shillings: guinea

5 pounds: 5-pound note, fiver
10 pounds: 10-pound note, tenner
20 pounds: 20-pound note
50 pounds: 50-pound note
100 pounds: 100-pound note
200 pounds: 200-pound note
500 pounds: 500-pound note
1,000 pounds: 1,000-pound note

“Sovereigns and half sovereigns were gold; crowns, half crowns, florins, shillings, sixpences, and threepences were silver; pence, ha’pence, and farthings were copper until 1860, after which they were bronze.”

“To abbreviate their money, Britons used £ for pound, s. for shilling, and d. for pence, although five pounds, ten shillings, sixpence could be written L5.10.6. ‘Five and six’ meant five shillings and sixpence, and it would have been written ‘5/6’.”

(From “What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew” by Daniel Pool, 1993.)

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Dancing Jane Austen Style


(Click on image to enlarge)

The dances described in “Pride and Prejudice” are described as being glorified square dances, “in which three or more couples, the men and women in separate lines some four feet apart, facing one another, danced their way through a series of figures.

A figure was merely a sequence of movements, like those in square dances in which men and ladies opposite one another advanced and then retreated, or locked arms and swung around, or do-si-doed (from the French dos-a-dos), or wove their way through the other dancers.”

“Quadrille – Originally a card game played by four people with forty cards that was the fashionable predecessor of whist. Also, the dance that became popular in the mid-century, which had five figures, or sets of movements. It was basically a slowed-down square dance, involving four couples who started from the four points of an imaginary diamond. Even couples who started from the four points of an imaginary diamond. Even by the mid-century the dance had slowed down practically to a walk. It was used as the lead-off dance at almost all dances and balls, the waltz and the polka following.”

The Sir Roger de Coverley, although common in Dickens literature was mentioned as early as 1695. It is defined as: “A jolly type of country dance used to finish off dances and popular at Christmas. It involved the first man and last lady and last man and first lady from two lines of parallel men and women swinging out and then back, then swinging round, then weaving their way through the lines and then promenading, etc. The dance is known in the United States as the Virginia Reel.”


Excerpts are from “What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew – from Fox Hunting to Whist~the Facts of Daily Life in 19th-Century England” by Daniel Pool (1993).

The illustration of The Five Positions of Dancing is from the book “Jane Austen” by Brian Wilkes.

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