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Gigs, Cabriolets and Curricles

Mr Thorpe is very boastful of his newly acquired gig in “Northanger Abbey”. He has just purchased it and he describes it as ‘curricle hung’. He goes on to say, “seat, trunk, sword case, splashing-board, lamps, silver moulding, all you see complete, the iron work as good as new, or better.” The whole cost him only 50 guineas. Much of this is, of course lost to us now, but while we might not know the detail, we understand that he is as proud of his gig as any young man might be of his first car.

So what was a gig and what was all that detail about? For a start, a gig referred to a light two-wheeled vehicle which usually comfortably seated two people and was drawn by either one or two horses – in Mr Thorpe’s case he has a single horse to draw his vehicle along. Another gig mentioned by Austen can be found in “Persuasion”, and with much less pretension. It is driven by the Admiral, and can fit three when Anne squeezes onto the seat with him and his wife.

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