- Paperback: 194 pages
- Publisher: Improbable Fictions (April 6, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0992492203
- ISBN-13: 978-0992492205
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #839,525 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Cant - A Gentleman's Guide: The Language of Rogues in Georgian London Paperback – April 6, 2014
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There are several breaks from the lists: extended passages the author classifies as Digressions, which constitute the book’s second function, that of a colorful history lecture. Cant reminds us that cheese suppliers would color their product with red lead, while bread was whitened with pipeclay and ground bone. Powdered wigs fell out of fashion because of heavy taxation on product, not because of fickle English tastes. Beggars would carry soap for when performances required they foam at the mouth. And more on the subject of beggars, the trade experienced heavy specialization, even required the practitioners to swear a sacred oath.
But more than this, Cant transcends linguistics and history and offers a hilarious, page-turning trek. The Georgian-era death sentence is nicknamed Cramp Words, likely because of the defendant’s reaction thereto. England’s first anti-sodomy law was passed in 1533, formally named An Acte for the Punysshement of the Vice of Buggerie (the Buggery Act, for short). A “Corinthian” is “a frequenter of brothels” and the slang for resting six feet under is “Put to bed with a shovel.” Indeed.
Perhaps Cant’s conciseness is also its primary flaw. A little etymology would go a long way; afterward the reader can always look up “Myrmidon” (a term for bailiff), but we would rather pay the author to do it. And it would be interesting to know the relative preference between one term and another, or one crime and another. Was the Noisy Dog Racket as commonplace as the Toby Lay? By all means it does not sound as lucrative.
Stephen Hart wrote Cant after researching The Unfortunate Deaths of Jonathan Wild, his historical urban fantasy set in 1724-1725. Yet this book stands fully on its own: a credible and irreverent take on the landscapes of Georgian England.