Do not be put off with the comments that a reader must be well-learned in the Classics and the literature of this time to understand this book. I had never read Peacock before and read it online, with no notes or commentary, and although there are many Latin quotations and some obscure references, do not give up. If you are really interested in works from this time period (Shelley, Byron, Coleridge, Gothic, and Romantic) then persevere and it will pay off. I do not know what the notes are like in this edition, but the Latin and Greek phrases used are mostly well known so just typing them into google will give you their meaning. And you may find yourself becoming a little better learned in such phrases - however I had not yet used them in conversation so I am not sure how anyone I am talking to would respond to the use of *charivari* (hubbub) or *taedium vitae*.
Peacock appears to be a great lover of words, using many obscure words, and, as a Classical scholar, has coined many Greek-esque words for an amusing effect: hyperoxysophistical (over specious) being one of them. But do not let them scare you, usually they are used in the context of mocking the character, and in this case, it is used more for the obscurity and complex length of the word to mock the complexity and obscurity of the metaphysics of Mr. Flosky (Coleridge), than its particular meaning. For example:
I will take it for granted that it is so, Mr Flosky; I am not conversant with metaphysical subtleties, but---
Subtleties! my dear Miss O'Carroll. I am sorry to find you participating in the vulgar error of the reading public, to whom an unusual collocation of words, involving a juxtaposition of antiperistatical ideas, immediately suggests the notion of hyperoxysophistical paradoxology.
Indeed, Mr Flosky, it suggests no such notion to me. I have sought you for the purpose of obtaining information.
MR FLOSKY (shaking his head)
No one ever sought me for such a purpose before."
Peacock is very witty and very learned. But it is light-humoured satire, being mostly conversation, or sometimes farce, and not biting or offensive in its caricatures. Many of the subjects were Peacock's friends or acquaintances, so it is fascinating to see his portrayal of Shelley and others.
Towards Mr. Cypress however (a portrait based on Byron) Peacock seems a little less forgiving, but the character's statement that:
"Sir, I have quarrelled with my wife; and a man who has quarrelled with his wife is absolved from all duty to his country."
And the references to passages in *Childe Harold* are amusing to whoever has read his work.
If this sort of humour appeals to you and maybe you study a little bit of the Romantics, or just enjoy reading them, then I cannot recommend this work more. I am only saddened that it is so little read and wish Penguin would continue to publish it (I cannot find it on Penguin's website).
I am not yet a Peacock devotee, but Nightmare Abbey seems the most approachable of his works, and I am looking forward to later reading Crotchet Castle - I only hope it is as good as Nightmare Abbey!