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Archive for the ‘Regency Customs’ Category

Happy Easter, gentle readers. Many of the customs followed in the early 19th century by Jane Austen and her family are still followed today in one fashion or another. For this blog post, I have gathered information already known to many, and some that might be new. The following quote sums this holiday up nicely:

Easter during the Regency was both a holy day and a holiday.” – Lesley-Ann McCleod

Pancake Races Before Lent:

The 40 days before Easter or Lent began on Wednesday with a church service. This day was preceded by Shrove Tuesday, on which one would confess one’s sins. The date was also the last day to eat all the foods that would be prohibited during abstinence. This meant emptying the larder of rich foods, such as milk, eggs, butter, fat, wheat flour, and spices—ingredients commonly found in pancakes. An alternate name in Britain for Shrove Tuesday was Pancake Tuesday! Pancakes were made for consumption or for public races:

At the sound of a pancake bell, often the bell from the local church, women ran a course carrying a frying pan with a pancake in it. They had to successfully flip the pancake at least three times before they reached the goal. Some communities held pancake parties, with people dressed up [as] the Protector of the Pancakes, irst Founder of the Fritters, Baron of Bacon-flitch, and the Earl of Egg-baskets.” –  Regina Scott, guest author on The Regency Blog of Lesley-Anne McLeod

Pancake races with female contestants are still held today. In addition, street football, or hurling, where teams of men (country men against city dwellers, for instance) hurled the ball against the opposing team until one team won, is also a time-honored Easter tradition.

Easter Sermons:

Easter Sunday, which commemorated Christ’s resurrection from the dead, was a solemn occasion and one of obligation for parishioners, such as the Austen family and the community of worshipers. In the book, Jane Austen and the Clergy, Irene Collins writes that clergymen in Jane Austen’s day were not expected to write original sermons every Sunday, except on a few occasions.

Henry Crawford, assessing Edmund Bertram’s commitments at Thornton Lacey, judged that ‘a sermon at Christmas and Easter ‘would be’ the sum total of the sacrifice.”

She also wrote that Mr. Collins produced only two sermons between his ordination at Easter and his visit to Longbourn in November of the same year.- p. 96. Jane Austen and the Clergy, Irene Collins, August 1, 2002.

cover of Religion and Philosophy of a stack of Bibles and the title of a sermon Thomas Lloyd preached in a parish church on Easter-Day, April 8th, 1787

Easter Music

I will always remember Sunday Easter service with my parents when singing this uplifting Methodist Church hymn, “Jesus Christ is Risen Today.” (14th C. song rewritten in 1739 by: Lyricist Charles Wesley, Composer Samuel Arnold, initially titled Hymn for Easter Day). This hymn was also popular during Jane Austen’s day. My emotions well up when I watch this YouTube video of the King’s College choir singing the hymn.

Easter in Pride and Prejudice

When Elizabeth Bennet visits Hunsford and Rosings, she becomes aware of Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s omission in inviting the Collins’ and their guests in advance for this most important holiday:

In this quiet way, the first fortnight of her visit soon passed away. Easter was approaching, and the week preceding it was to bring an addition to the family at Rosings, which in so small a circle must be important.”

Elizabeth understands that Lady Lady Catherine de Bourgh has no time for herself or Mr and Mrs Collins, but an invitation finally came:

Colonel Fitzwilliam’s manners were very much admired at the parsonage, and the ladies all felt that he must add considerably to the pleasure of their engagements at Rosings. It was some days, however, before they received any invitation thither, for while there were visitors in the house they could not be necessary; and it was not till Easter-day, almost a week after the gentlemen’s arrival, that they were honoured by such an attention, and then they were merely asked on leaving church to come there in the evening. For the last week they had seen very little of either Lady Catherine or her daughter. Colonel Fitzwilliam had called at the parsonage more than once during the time, but Mr. Darcy they had only seen at church.”

The ladies, we presume, arrived wearing their new Easter bonnets and gowns made especially for such an important holiday. One assumes that Easter must have presented a busy schedule for Mr Collins, the vicar of his parish. Elizabeth Hawksley, who has written an interesting article about the clergy in Jane Austen’s novels, describes Mr Collins during the days surrounding Easter. His schedule is far from busy:

So what did the vicar of a parish actually do? Elizabeth Bennet and Sir William and Maria Lucas visited the Collinses around Easter – today, the busiest time of the church year. Nevertheless, we hear of Mr Collins driving his father-in-law round the countryside every day during his visit, and of dinners at Rosings with Lady Catherine de Bourgh; but there is no mention of any church activities.” – Jane Austen and the Clergy: How the System Worked, Elizabeth Hawksley.

Tithing at Easter

Interestingly, people were punished for non-payment of tithes or attendance at Easter. In his book, The Parish Registers of England, Charles Cox (1843-1919) writes:

“…On conviction for divers of the less serious offences, such as non-payment of tithes or Easter dues, or for the non-observance of Sundays or Saints’ Days, offenders were admonished, and if obstinate excommunicated; but in such cases absolution and discharge could  usually be obtained on payment of a fine…”


The Monday After Easter—Merriment at Greenwich Park:

This image depicts Easter day for the masses in Greenwich Park in London. At the top of the hill is the Royal Observatory with astronomical equipment. According to a contemporary description, a sojourn to the park is well worth the visitors’ time! The Monday after Easter the park is filled with throngs of merry makers (ten to thirty thousand) from all walks of life and many ages. The hill is steep, with celebrants running down it in pairs or groups of males and females, sometimes tumbling head over heels, and most likely giggling.

Black and white engraving of Greenwich Park with crowds celebrating Easter

Greenwich Park with the Royal Observatory on Easter Monday, Modern London, Edward Pugh

Greenwich is crowded at these holidays.  In the public-houses is dancing from morning to evening.  Almost every private house of the lower and middle sort make tea and coffee; yet it is often difficult to find room even for a small company; and it is very usual for parties to take a cold repast and wine with them, and dine beneath the trees in the Park, in spots a little retired from the throng. “Mapping Modern London, Horwood’s Map, Greenwich Park

To view the incredible details of the park, click on an image, which will open to enlarged version.

Food:

Hot cross buns, ham, lamb in season, and potatoes were common dishes at Easter, as were colored eggs for an Easter egg hunt. These foods are still popular today. Kirstin Olsen writes about Pastor Woodforde, the author of Diary of a Country Parson,

Woodforde and his friends tended…to prefer the grass lamb, and it is in the spring that most of his references to eating lamb occur.” – Kirstin Olsen, Cooking with Jane Austen (pp. 66-67)

Grass lamb, or young lambs that still drink milk from their mothers were prized by many. Soon after they are born, the lambs start to eat hay, grass, or grain, but much of their food intake is still from their mothers’ rich milk. The lambs are slaughtered within 2-15 months of birth, weigh from 135 to 140 lbs, and are available only from April to September. Their taste is not as intense as an older lamb’s, but it is one that Pastor Woodforde prefered.

Jane Austen’s Easter

This 2011 article from the Jane Austen Centre, written by Laura Boyle, is worth reading in full. It is a comprehensive discussion about Jane Austen’s celebration of Easter, both as a solemn religious holiday and as a festive event. Click here to enter it.

All Things Georgian

I also recommend this website and its many fact-filled blog posts with well-researched, hard to find information. This link lead to an article entitled “An Early Easter Miscellany.”

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Have a happy Easter everyone. As with many of you, mine will be spent with the family. The sky is cloudless, the day is warm and perfect for the smaller fry to find Easter eggs.

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By Brenda S. Cox

“Give us a thankful sense of the Blessings in which we live, of the many comforts of our Lot; that we may not deserve to lose them by Discontent or Indifference.” — Jane Austen’s Prayers I

Jane Austen talks a lot about thankfulness. In all three of her prayers, she gives thanks to God and also prays to be made more grateful for all our blessings. In her novels and other writings, she uses some form of the words thanks or gratitude 722 times! That means each novel probably includes at least a hundred references to thankfulness.

Austen uses thanks in many ways. Surprisingly, she often uses gratitude in talking about marriage proposals and the development of love that leads to marriage.

Thanks for Asking!

An offer of marriage was expected to provoke gratitude, whether the woman said yes or no.

When Emma advises Harriet on how to refuse Robert Martin, she says that Harriet will know how to write “such expressions of gratitude and concern for the pain you are inflicting as propriety requires.” (Italics are added, throughout these quotes.) Obviously, propriety required that if a man asked a woman to marry him, she should thank him.

Even if the proposal was unwanted, the woman had to say thank you. Elizabeth Bennet tries to avoid Mr. Collins’s proposal, but still, when he asks, she has to say:

Accept my thanks for the compliment you are paying me.”

When he insists, she says, “I thank you again and again for the honour you have done me in your proposals, but to accept them is absolutely impossible.” Even though she doesn’t want his proposal, she is obligated to thank him for it.

Even for a proposal from Mr. Collins, Elizabeth Bennet had to express gratitude.

There is one exception, though, which might have shocked the original readers.

When Darcy proposes the first time, Elizabeth says to him,

“In such cases as this, it is, I believe, the established mode to express a sense of obligation for the sentiments avowed, however unequally they may be returned. It is natural that obligation should be felt, and if I could feel gratitude, I would now thank you. But I cannot—I have never desired your good opinion, and you have certainly bestowed it most unwillingly.”

Gratitude was an obligation; the woman was obliged to feel grateful that a man liked her enough to ask her to marry him. But she is so angry at his words, and so prejudiced against his character, that she just can’t thank him for his proposal.

Of course, she soon changes her mind. After she reads his letter, we find that,  “his attachment excited gratitude, his general character respect.” What a switch!

Once Elizabeth reads Darcy’s letter, her attitude changes from ingratitude to gratitude.

And it continues. When at Pemberley, after talking to Mrs. Reynolds, Elizabeth “thought of his regard with a deeper sentiment of gratitude than it had ever raised before.”

First Comes Gratitude, Then Love and Marriage

Elizabeth’s gratitude, of course, led eventually to love.

Charlotte Lucas had told Elizabeth earlier on in Pride and Prejudice, “There is so much of gratitude or vanity in almost every attachment, that it is not safe to leave any to itself. We can all begin freely—a slight preference is natural enough; but there are very few of us who have heart enough to be really in love without encouragement.”

In other words, the boy likes the girl. She starts to like him back, and shows that she prefers him to other boys. He is “grateful” for that, so he likes her even more. Then she likes him more because he shows he likes her. And so on. This, my friends, is Jane Austen’s theory of how love develops. We see it again and again in her novels.

First, think about this question: For which of Jane Austen’s characters was gratitude the beginning of falling in love?

The obvious ones are Elizabeth Bennet and Henry Tilney. We’ll come back to them later.

Fanny Price

But how about Fanny Price?

Early in Mansfield Park, Edmund shows kindness to little Fanny. Then, “her countenance and a few artless words fully conveyed all their gratitude and delight, and her cousin began to find her an interesting object.”

Fanny and Edmund’s relationship starts growing with gratitude—her gratitude to him awakens his interest in her. Further kindnesses lead to more gratitude—Fanny is by nature a very grateful person. Edmund’s love for her, brotherly at first, grows. It takes a long time, but Edmund finally realizes that the perfect woman for him is right in front of him!

Earlier, though, because gratitude leads to love, both Mary Crawford and Edmund Bertram were convinced that Fanny would accept Henry Crawford out of gratitude. Mary tells Henry, “The gentleness and gratitude of her disposition would secure her . . . ask her to love you, and she will never have the heart to refuse.” Edmund tells Fanny, “I cannot suppose that you have not the wish to love him—the natural wish of gratitude.” However, Fanny’s gratitude toward Edmund is much greater than her gratitude toward Henry, and it is Edmund she loves.

Gratitude is not enough to cause Fanny Price to accept Henry Crawford.

Harriet Smith

In Emma, “Harriet certainly was not clever, but she had a sweet, docile, grateful disposition.” All Harriet’s loves are all based on gratitude. First, she is grateful to Robert Martin, who got her walnuts and brought in the shepherd’s son to sing for her. Then she is attracted to Mr. Elton, because Emma says he is attracted to her. Her next love is Mr. Knightley, who rescues her at the dance. She thinks of him with “gratitude, wonder, and veneration.” Of course, Emma thinks Harriet has fallen in love with Frank Churchill, out of gratitude to him for rescuing her from the gypsies. Then when Robert Martin proposes again, Harriet is so grateful that she immediately says yes, not waiting for anyone to dissuade her this time!

NOT Captain Benwick, though

In Persuasion, Captain Wentworth is surprised that Benwick has fallen in love with Louisa Musgrove. Wentworth says, “Had it been the effect of gratitude, had he learnt to love her, because he believed her to be preferring him, it would have been another thing. But I have no reason to suppose it so. It seems, on the contrary, to have been a perfectly spontaneous, untaught feeling on his side, and this surprises me.” He is assuming that gratitude is the normal, most obvious reason for love. If it’s not there, that is unusual.

Also in Persuasion, William Elliot is excused for marrying a rich woman because she was “excessively in love with him . . . She sought him.” Gratitude was an obvious and acceptable reason for marriage.

Elizabeth and Darcy

For Elizabeth Bennet also, love begins with gratitude.

After she sees Darcy at Lambton, she lies awake trying to figure out how she feels about him: “But above all, above respect and esteem, there was a motive within her of goodwill which could not be overlooked. It was gratitude.–Gratitude, not merely for having once loved her, but for loving her still well enough to forgive all the petulance and acrimony of her manner in rejecting him . . . Such a change in a man of so much pride, excited not only astonishment but gratitude—for to love, ardent love, it must be attributed . . . She respected, she esteemed, she was grateful to him. . .”

Austen later explains, “If gratitude and esteem are good foundations of affection, Elizabeth’s change of sentiment will be neither improbable nor faulty.” But, she says, if it is “unreasonable or unnatural” that love should come from gratitude and respect, rather than coming from simply seeing the other person, then “nothing can be said in her defence,” except that she had tried love at first sight with Wickham, and it had not gone well.

When Darcy proposes the second time (if you can call it a proposal), Elizabeth tells him her feelings are so different that she can “receive with gratitude and pleasure his present assurances.” What a change from the first time!

Henry and Catherine

In Northanger Abbey, we find the same justification for love. When Henry Tilney proposes to Catherine Morland, they both know she already loves him. He is now “sincerely attached to her,” but “his affection originated in nothing better than gratitude.” Knowing that she was partial to him “had been the only cause of giving her a serious thought.” Austen adds, “It is a new circumstance in romance, I acknowledge, and dreadfully derogatory of an heroine’s dignity; but if it be as new in common life, the credit of a wild imagination will at least be all my own.”

Henry Tilney’s love for Catherine begins with gratitude, because she thinks highly of him.

Apparently for Jane Austen, gratitude at being loved by someone else was the best first step toward falling in love yourself.

Gratitude to God for the Engagement

Both Anne Elliot and Emma Woodhouse also express gratitude after they are engaged. But now they are expressing it to God, though we might not recognize what they are doing.

The word serious in Austen’s time often signalled something religious. According to Stuart Tave’s A Few Words of Jane Austen, serious reflection or meditation actually meant prayer.

After Anne Elliot accepts Wentworth’s proposal in Persuasion, she needs “An interval of meditation, serious and grateful.” So, “she went to her room, and grew steadfast and fearless in the thankfulness of her enjoyment.” This serious, grateful meditation means that Anne is thanking God for finally bringing her and Captain Wentworth back together.

Emma Woodhouse gets engaged, but she’s still worried about Harriet. However, once she heard that Harriet was also engaged, “She was in dancing, singing, exclaiming spirits; and till she had moved about, and talked to herself, and laughed and reflected, she could be fit for nothing rational. . . . The joy, the gratitude, the exquisite delight of her sensations may be imagined. . . . Serious she was, very serious in her thankfulness, and in her resolutions; and yet there was no preventing a laugh, sometimes in the very midst of them.” Have you wondered how she could be both serious and laughing? Serious tells us that her focus is on God. She is rejoicing and thanking God for bringing both herself and Harriet together with the men they loved.

So, the next time you receive a marriage proposal, be sure to tell the person “Thank you” before you answer. And if you decide to say “Yes,” you may want to thank God as well!

Thankfulness

If you want to think more about thankfulness, and its place in some of our favorite classics, I recommend both of Rachel Dodge’s lovely devotional books:

Praying With Jane, and

The Anne of Green Gables Devotional, which is brand-new.

Each includes gratitude as well as other valuable themes we can apply to our lives. And both would make great Christmas presents! Rachel Dodge, of course, writes regularly for Jane Austen’s World.

If you want more ideas for Austen-themed Christmas gifts, you might want to check out my post on Jane Austen Christmas Presents.

Austen’s novels are full of examples of gratitude and ingratitude. These were important issues for her. Who do you think gives the best example of gratitude, or ingratitude, in Austen’s novels?

 

You can connect with Brenda S. Cox, the author of this article, at Faith, Science, Joy, and Jane Austen or on Facebook.

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Inquiring readers, I once enjoyed afternoon tea in Fortnum and Mason’s in London. It was an exquisite, elaborate, and unforgettable experience. It was so elegant that I thought of it as high tea, but its presentation and intent had nothing in common with high tea in Jane Austen’s day, or in our present time. This post is meant to complement Rachel Dodge’s excellent post entitled “Jane Austen’s Regency Women: A Day in the Life , Part 1.” 

Afternoon tea:

The tradition of tea in the afternoon as we understand it began in 1840 with the Duchess of Bedford (1783-1857). She requested light food with tea and a few refreshments in mid-afternoon to stave off hunger pangs before dinner, which was served at 8 p.m. The Duchess soon began to invite friends to her rooms to join her in taking tea, and so a tradition began. This custom, which we celebrate to this day, began years after Jane Austen’s death in 1817.

High tea:

High tea was generally known as dinner or supper by the working classes.

For workers in the newly industrialized Britain, tea time had to wait until after work. By that hour, tea was generally served with heartier dishes which were substantially more than just tea and cakes. Workers needed sustenance after a day of hard labor, so the after-work meal was more often hot and filling and accompanied by a pot of good, strong tea to revive flagging spirits.”- Lemm

It seems that the term ‘high tea’ had more in common with furniture than a lofty service.

“Today, the evening meal in working-class households is still often called “tea” but as working patterns have changed yet again, many households now refer to the evening meal as supper. The addition of the word “high” to the phrase “high tea” is believed to differentiate between the afternoon tea that is traditionally served on low, comfortable parlor chairs or relaxing in the garden and the worker’s after-work high tea that is served at the table and seated on high back dining chairs.” – Lemm

Afternoon tea was therefor served on comfortable chairs in a drawing room or lady’s sitting room, or as a refreshment in the garden.

“Afternoon tea, also known as “low tea,” is the most often taken a a low table, like a coffee table in the sitting room before a warm fire. (Of course, it can also be served at a dining table.) High tea gets its name from its tendency to be served at a high table, like a dining table or high counter at the end of the workday.” – Brown

Breakfast:

Jane Austen was in charge of her family’s tea and sugar stores. She made her family’s breakfast at 9 a.m. The simple repast consisted of toast, rolls, or muffins and butter. Jane toasted the bread over a fire using a long handled fork or a metal rack that held the bread in place.

The typical ‘tea and toast’ breakfast that Jane Austen enjoyed was a relatively new invention. Traditionally, British breakfasts had consisted of hearty fare that often included beef and ale.” – Wilson, p. 21

Evening tea:

Tea was also served one or two hours after dinner. The time was variable, because people during the Regency era ate dinner at different times. Some ate early in the afternoon, as Jane Austen’s parents did when they were younger; some at 3 p.m., like the Bennets in Pride and Prejudice; the Bingleys dined at the more fashionable hour of 6 p.m.; and the Duchess of Bedford, a trendsetter, dined at 8 p.m. Kim Wilson quotes Captain Harry Smith in 1814 as saying, “I breakfast at eight, dine at three, have tea in the evening…” People who did not follow the latest fashion in dining kept the earlier dinner hours they and their families had always adhered to.

Confusing the issue further is that people of the time referred to all hours before dinner as ‘morning’, and the period between dinner and teas as ‘afternoon’, even if it fell in what we now call the evening. To them, ‘evening’ started after tea.” – Wilson, p. 91

In the evening after dinner, the assembled guests returned to the drawing-room. Tea was made by the ladies of the house to prevent servants from taking portions of this expensive commodity for their own use. After tea, “…when the tea-things were removed, and the card-tables placed” (Pride and Prejudice) the diners would play games, such as riddles or charades, or read to each other and partake of other pleasures. In Hartfield, “Mr. and Mrs. Weston and Mr. Elton sat down with Mr. Woodhouse to cards.”- (Emma)

Tea was also provided at balls, when suppers were served at midnight, in private alcoves in pleasure gardens, on visits when “Mr. Woodhouse was soon ready for his tea; and when he had drank his tea he was quite ready to go home” (Emma), and at musicales —”The first act was over. Now she hoped for some beneficial change; and, after a period of nothing-saying amongst the party, some of them did decide on going in quest of tea” (Persuasion).

A lady at a public assembly ball was dependent on a gentleman to escort her to the tea-room.

At a grand ball in Bath, Catherine Moreland of Northanger Abbey, and her friend Mrs. Allen, feel awkward and out of place until “they received an offer of tea from one of their neighbors; it was thankfully accepted, and this introduced a light conversation with the gentleman who offered it…”-Martyris

So many unanswered questions remain about tea taking in the Regency era, especially among the working classes and this post does not begin to address them or pretend to. Tea was so universal during this age, that anyone who could afford it (or smuggle it in) drank it, including Emma’s Mrs. Bates, who was “almost past every thing but tea and quadrille.

Sources:

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Happy 2020 everyone.  In the spirit of learning more about Jane Austen and the world she lived in, I am determined to finish reading the 12 books highlighted in this post. I purchased most of these books years ago and have used many for reference. Alas, I finished none completely. By the end of 2020, I will have read them all.

Like many of you, my rooms are filled with stacks of books on the floor, by my bedside, and in piles on tables. I purchase more than I can read.

What are your resolutions regarding your reading goals? Do you own any of the books listed below? Have I piqued your interested in purchasing a few? Inquiring minds want to know.

Book covers of Eavesdropping on Jane Austen's England; Jane Austen's Country Life; Jane Austen at Home; and The Real Jane Austen.

Four books that help readers understand the world Jane Austen lived in.

  • Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England: How Our Ancestors lived Two Centuries Ago, Roy and Leslie Adkins, Abacus, 2001, 422 pages, ISBN: 978-0-349-13860-2, Amazon. Product Information: A survey and guide to daily life in Jane Austen’s England.
  • Jane Austen’s Country Life: Uncovering the rural backdrop to her life, her letters and her novels, Deirdre Le Faye, Francis Lincoln Limited Publishers, London, 2014, 269 pages, ISBN: 978-0-7112-3158-0, Amazon. Product information: “Richly illustrated with contemporary depictions of country folk, landscapes and animals, Jane Austen’s Country Lifeconjures up a world which has vanished more than the familiar regency townscapes of Bath or London, but which is no less important to an understanding of this most treasured writer’s life and work.”
  • Jane Austen at Home: A Biography, Lucy Worsley, Martin’s Press, New York, 2017, 385 pages, ISBN: 978-1-250-13160-7, Amazon. Product Information: “…historian Lucy Worsley visits Austen’s childhood home, her schools, her holiday accommodations, the houses–both grand and small–of the relations upon whom she was dependent, and the home she shared with her mother and sister towards the end of her life.
  • The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things, Paula Byrne, Harper Collins, New York, 2013, 380 pages, ISBN: 978-0-06-199909-3, Amazon. Product Information: “Just as letters and tokens in Jane Austen’s novels often signal key turning points in the narrative, Byrne explores the small things – a scrap of paper, a gold chain, an ivory miniature – that held significance in Austen’s personal and creative life.”

Book covers of Reading Austen in America; Jane Austen, the Secret Radical; and Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity

The three books discuss the factors that influenced Jane Austen’s writing and understanding of her world, and how and why her fame spread.

  • Reading Austen in America, Juliette Wells, Bloomsbury Academic, 2017, 256 pages, ISBN-13: 978-1350012042, Amazon. Product Information: “Reading Austen in America presents a colorful, compelling account of how an appreciative audience for Austen’s novels originated and developed in America, and how American readers contributed to the rise of Austen’s international fame.”
  • Jane Austen, the Secret Radical, Helena Kelly, First Vintage Book Edition, Alfred A. Knopf, 2016, 318 pages, ISBN:978-0-525-43294-4, Amazon. Product Information: “Kelly illuminates the radical subjects–slavery, poverty, feminism, the Church, evolution, among them–considered treasonous at the time, that Austen deftly explored in the six novels that have come to embody an age. The author reveals just how in the novels we find the real Jane Austen: a clever, clear-sighted woman “of information,” fully aware of what was going on in the world and sure about what she thought of it.”
  • Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity, Janine Barchas, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 2012, 336 pages, ISBN: 9781421411910, JHUPbooks. Product Information: “InMatters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity, Janine Barchas makes the bold assertion that Jane Austen’s novels allude to actual high-profile politicians and contemporary celebrities as well as to famous historical figures and landed estates. Barchas is the first scholar to conduct extensive research into the names and locations in Austen’s fiction by taking full advantage of the explosion of archival materials now available onlin”

Three book covers of Madams: Bawds & Brothel-Keepers of London; Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling; Bitch in a Bonnet: Reclaiming Jane Austen from the stiff, the snobs, the simps and the saps.

The Regency era wasn’t all civility and manners. Georgian London boasted over 50,000 prostitutes and young heirs won and lost fortunes gambling. Austen’s wit, as evidenced in her letters, novels, and Juvenilia, could be biting, as Robert Rodi points out in his analysis of her novels.

  • Madams: Bawds & Brothel-Keepers of London, Fergus Linnane, The History Press, 2009, 256 pages, ISBN-13: 978-0750933070, Amazon. Product Information: “Fergus Linnane reveals the other side of London’s years of pomp and splendor, painting a vivid picture of the bawds, their girls, and their clients. Madamsis fresh and original, offering humor, insight, and a very candid view of the sexual behavior of Londoners through the ages.”
  • Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling, David G. Schwartz, Gotham Books, Penguin Group, New York, 2006, 570 pages, Amazon, ISBN 1-592-40208-9. Product Information: “Gambling is the second oldest profession. Dice were found in the tombs of the ancients. Roman soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ garments at the foot of the cross. Gambling, it seems, has had a role in virtually every civilization, from the earliest of times. It is sometimes important to be reminded of this reality. Roll the Bones: The History of Gamblingdoes just that.”-William R. Eadington, University of Nevada.
  • Bitch in a Bonnet: reclaiming Jane Austen from the stiffs, the snobs, the simps and the saps. (Volume 2: Emma, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion), Robert Rodi, Creative Space Independent Publishing Platform, 2014, 526 pages, ISBN-13: 978-1499133769, Amazon. Product Information: I bought this book because I loved, loved, loved Rodi’s bitingly sharp, often satiric male take on Jane Austen’s novels in Bitch in a Bonnet, (Volume 1), which covers Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Mansfield Park. The reviews are mixed for Volume 2– some people think Rodi is off on Northanger Abbey, but even a Rodi book a little off its feed is better than 90% of critical essays about and analysis of Austen’s great novels. I can’t wait to read Volume 2. – Vic

Covers of Brighton and An Introduction to Regency Architecture.

A day well spent is a day perusing used book sales and digging up fantastic finds, like these two early 20th century books, which are hard to find in their original editions. A Brighton edition sells online for $150 U.S., but ABE books offers a single second edition for $26.78. Shipping to the U.S. costs another $24.68, bringing the total cost over $50 U.S. My book was published in 1948 and contains a smattering of black and white photographs.

  • Brighton, Osbert Sitwell & Margaret Barton, 2nd edition, 1938, Published by Faber, London, 1959, 294 pages. Hardcover edition, very good, clean and tight. Jacket has loss to the rear. ABE books.

 

Paul Reilly’s Introduction to Regency Architecture has been republished by Forgotten Books, which offers a treasure trove of books now out of print as downloadable PDFs, ebooks, or print purchase, such as Georgian England, 1714-1820 by Susan Cunnington. My heavily illustrated hardcover book shows no date of publication, but according to the inside jacket it originally cost $2.50. Lucky me purchased it at a library sale for $1.50.

  • Introduction to Regency Architecture (Classic Preprint), Paul Reilly, Forgotten Books, 2018, 100 pages, ISBN-13: 978-13330278703. Product Information: With this book, author Paul Reilly had two ends in view. The first is to introduce the ever fewer examples of Regency buildings while they still exist. The second is to explain the historical role of Regency architecture, to show in what way it was a true descendant of the 18th century and in what way it broke new ground.”

Image of the title page of An Introduction to Regency Architecture

Treasures of old books can be found anywhere. I hope to uncover more during 2020.


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Detail of sprigs of ivy in window, Bowles and Carver print, London. Circa 1775

Sprigs of ivy in window panes and a bough of mistletoe overhead. Detail of a Bowles and Carver print, London. Circa 1775

On Christmas Eve the children laid out the traditional holly branches on the window ledges…” Jane Austen: A Life, Claire Tomalin, p. 4.

Christmas decorations during the Regency era were relatively simple compared to today’s standards, or even Victorian standards, when Christmas trees and wrapped packages made major appearances in common households.

Evergreen plants that bore fruit in the winter season, such as holly, mistletoe, rosemary, bay, laurel, box, yew, and fir have been popular British holiday decorations for centuries. Their meaning as symbols of everlasting life is derived from pagan days (Sciencing). It is uncertain when these evergreens began to be used as Christmas decorations, but carols mentioning the holly and ivy appeared before the 15th century. In addition to the holly and ivy, this early 17th century carol describes Christmas customs that are still popular.

[A Christmas Carol, by George Wither. From his “Juvenilia,” first printed in 1622.]

So, now is come our joyfulst feast;
Let every man be jolly;
Each room with ivy leaves is drest,
And every post with holly.
Though some churls at our mirth repine,
Round your foreheads garlands twine;
‘Drown sorrow in a cup of wine,
And let us all be merry.
Now, all our neighbours’ chimnies smoke,
And Christmas blocks are burning;
Their ovens they with bak’d meats choke,
And all their spits are turning.
Without the door let sorrow lye;
And if for cold it hap to die,
We’ll bury’t in a Christmas pie,
And ever more be merry.

 

In Susan Drury’s 1985 study of  “Customs and Beliefs Associated with Christmas Evergreens: A Preliminary Survey,” the tradition of putting up and taking down evergreen Christmas decorations varied across England. Observing the superstitions of a particular region (and the strict rules for their length of stay), decorations were put up on either Christmas Eve or on Christmas day.  Some regions dictated that decorations be taken down on Twelfth Night, or the 12th day of Christmas, while others recorded that they should remain up until Candlemas Eve on February 2, or the 40th day of Christmas. To make matters more complicated, the manner of disposing the evergreens differed according to local superstitions. “In Cornwall, as probably in Devon, evergreens would appear to have been hung on Christmas Eve… On Twelfth Day every piece of evergreen had to be removed, because it was believed that for every leaf left a ghost would be seen in the house in the ensuing year.”

 

We all know of Jane Austen’s years in Bath, Somerset. Drury mentions that in this region no holly or mistletoe “was to be hung up before Christmas eve,” which gives us an idea of when the Austen’s purchased evergreens (for they were now city dwellers) to festoon their house. Drury’s passage for Somerset is somewhat confusing in the disposal of evergreens, for she jumps from Somerset to South Somerset to the customs of local churches, which all differ. She writes that “The importance of Christmas evergreen decorations in England is shown by the strict rules regarding their length of stay and the care taken in disposing of them when they were removed from the walls, a process which varies between and often within each county.”

In closing, Robert Herrick describes the best time of the year for the disposal of a variety evergreens throughout the calendar year in this poem…

CEREMONIES FOR CANDLEMAS EVE

Down with the rosemary and bays,
Down with the misletoe;
Instead of holly, now up-raise
The greener box, for show.

The holly hitherto did sway;
Let box now domineer,
Until the dancing Easter-day,
Or Easter’s eve appear.

Then youthful box, which now hath grace
Your houses to renew,
Grown old, surrender must his place
Unto the crisped yew.

When yew is out, then birch comes in,
And many flowers beside,
Both of a fresh and fragrant kin,
To honour Whitsuntide.

Green rushes then, and sweetest bents,
With cooler oaken boughs,
Come in for comely ornaments,
To re-adorn the house.
Thus times do shift; each thing his turn does hold;
New things succeed, as former things grow old.

Sources:

Tomalin, Claire, 1999. Jane Austen: A Life. New York, Random House, First Vintage Books Edition.

Specimens of Old Christmas Carols: Selected from Manuscripts and Printed Books, Volume 4, London: Printed for the Percy Society. By T. Richards, for the Executors of the late C. Richards, 100, St. Martin’s Lane. 1841.
 

Customs and Beliefs Associated with Christmas Evergreens: A Preliminary Survey, Susan Dury. Folklore, Vol. 98, No.2 (1987), pp. 194-199. Published by Taylor & Francis, Ltd. on behalf of Folklore Enterprises, Ltd. Accessed 09-12-2018 at https://ww.jstor.org/stable/1259980

“Ceremony Upon Candlemas Eve,” Hesperides, or, The works both humane & divine of Robert Herrick, Esq.  London: Printed for John Williams and Francis Eglesfield, 1648.

Christmas in Prints, Michael Olmert, 2008, Colonial Williamsburg

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