Product Placement in 19th Century British Novels

September 8, 2010 | 2

A recent survey of 19th century British literature uncovered advertising subtly placed within classic texts by authors like Dickens, Austen, and Thackeray. From Vanity Fair, for example: “‘My sisters say she has diamonds as big as pigeons’ eggs,’ George said, laughing. ‘How they must set off her complexion! Surely she avails herself of Madame A.T. Rowley’s Toilet Mask (or Face Gloves)…’” (via Book Bench)

is an associate editor for The Millions. She works for the New York Civil Liberties Union, the NY Chapter of the ACLU. She was formerly a writer for The Atlantic's news website The Wire, and a co-editor of NY media blog FishbowlNY. Her writing has appeared in The Millions,, Newsday, National Journal, The Rumpus, and elsewhere, and is partly collected at her website, Follow @ujalasehgal.


  1. As far as I can tell, this article is a hoax. There was no add agency with that name in the 16th century (not until the late 20th century), and most of the cited examples don’t exist, they are made-up.

  2. A very amusing hoax! I was jolted by the extracts from Great Expectations and Vanity Fair, two books I had studied at school, never had I heard Miss Havisham speak so salaciously!
    Checking my copies of Mansfield Park and Vanity Fair, and even when unable to locate my Dracula or Dickens I confirmed my suspicions.
    However, do look at Wilde’s short story The Canterville Ghost, with at least three
    products mentioned unabashedly in the text, by the American family who are completely unperturbed by the presence of the spirit who had been haunting Canterville Chase for centuries! I very much doubt any of the products mentioned (Pinkerton’s Champion Stain Remover and Paragon Detergent, Tammany Rising Sun Lubricator and Doctor Dobell’s tincture) are real but would have to verify that statement.

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