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“From [a husband] that loves any thing besides me, [except that which] is very just and honourable—deliver me!”

I came across this prayer in The New Lady’s Magazine, October, 1791. I can just imagine some of Jane Austen’s heroines praying it. Here’s the prayer, entitled “A Young Lady’s Prayer for a Husband”:

“From a prophane (profane) libertine, from one affectedly pious, from a profuse almoner, from an uncharitable wretch, from a wavering religioso and injudicious zealot—deliver me.

“From one of starched gravity, or ridiculous levity, from an ambitious statesman, from a restless projector, from one that loves any thing besides me, but what is very just and honourable—deliver me!

“From an extasy’d poet, a modern wit, a base coward, and a rash fool—deliver me!

“From a Venus darling, from a Bacchus proselyte, . . . from all other masculine affectations, not yet recounted—deliver me!

“—But give me one, whose love has more of judgment than passion, who is master of himself, or at least an indefatigable scholar in such a study, who has an equal flame, a parallel inclination, a temper and soul so like mine, that, as two tallies, we may appear more perfect by union.

“—Give me one of as genteel an education as a little expence of time will permit, with an indifferent fortune, independent of the servile levees of the great, and yet one whose retirement is not so much from the public, as into himself; one (if possible) above flattery and affronts, and yet as careful in preventing an injury, as able to repair it; one, the beauty of whose mind exceeds that of his face, yet that not deformed, so as to be distinguishable from others by it’s ugliness.

“—Give me one that has learned to live much in a little time; one that is no great familiar in converse with the world, nor no little one with himself; one (if two such happinesses may be granted at one time to our sex) who with these endowments may have an easy honest disposition; who by his practice, as well as principles, has made himself so, let him be truly virtuous and pious, and me be truly happy in my choice.” –Inamorato.

Where do you see Austen’s characters in this prayer? How about:

Deliver me from Mr. Collins (one of starched gravity), from Mr. Parker (a restless projector, starting overly-ambitious projects), and from Mr. Willoughby, Wickham, or Crawford (profane libertines). Also deliver me from Sir Walter Elliot (who is “servile to the great”).

I’m guessing a “Venus darling” is a fop, for which I need to go to Georgette Heyer’s The Unknown Ajax and say, deliver me from Claud Darracott. A “Bacchus proselyte” is obviously a drunk, so we might say deliver me from Mr. Hurst (?) or any of the party in “Jack and Alice” of Austen’s Juvenilia, all of whom were carried home “dead drunk.” 

Deliver me from Mr. Collins, a man of “starched gravity.” Mr. Collins proposes, Pride and Prejudice, C.E. Brock

What kind of man does this young lady pray for instead?

A man who:

  • Loves her based more on judgment than on passion.
  • Has mastered or is learning to master himself.

That is, he does NOT love her as Mr. Darcy first professes to love Elizabeth. She tells him: “you chose to tell me that you liked me against your will, against your reason, and even against your character” (ch. 34). Instead, Darcy learns to love her AND “what is very just and honorable,” which he shows by rescuing Lydia, blaming his own reticence for her predicament.

Darcy’s first proposal, based on passion, not judgment and self-mastery. Pride and Prejudice, C.E. Brock, 1895

The “young lady” also prays for a man who:

  • Is reasonably well-educated
  • Does not flatter or take offense easily, but avoids injuring others and can help repair injuries unwittingly inflicted.

I think Henry Tilney is a good example of this. When he finds out what Catherine has been imagining about his father, he does rebuke her, but he obviously doesn’t hold a grudge. He does all he can to make her comfortable later. Henry is also obviously well-educated.

Henry Tilney confronts Catherine, but immediately afterwards he is kind to her and helps heal her “injuries.” Northanger Abbey, C.E. Brock

The young lady also prays for someone who:

  • Has an easy, honest disposition
  • Is more handsome in mind than in face (but not obviously ugly).

Elinor sees this beauty of mind and honesty in Edward Ferrars, who “was not handsome, and his manners required intimacy to make them pleasing. He was too diffident to do justice to himself; but when his natural shyness was overcome, his behaviour gave every indication of an open, affectionate heart. His understanding was good, and his education had given it solid improvement.”

Edward Ferrars, “the beauty of whose mind exceeds that of his face,” proposes to Elinor. Sense and Sensibility, C.E. Brock

And finally, and presumably most importantly, the young lady prays for a man who:

  • Is truly virtuous (treating others as he wants to be treated) and pious (honoring God) in beliefs and practices. And, he
  • Makes her happy.

Sometimes in Austen’s novels there is a test of virtue. In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy acts virtuously when he humbles himself and gets Mr. Wickham to marry Lydia. Wickham shows his lack of virtue by eloping with Lydia with no intention of marriage.

In Sense and Sensibility, Colonel Brandon shows his virtue in continuing to serve Marianne and her family any way he can, without really believing Marianne will love him. He also shows loyalty to his first love, Eliza, even after her disgrace. Willoughby, of course, shows his lack of virtue by seducing and abandoning Eliza’s daughter, then abandoning Marianne for a rich woman. 

And, we can see that each hero is the very one to make the heroine happy! Prayers answered, courtesy of Jane Austen.

Colonel Brandon passes the test of virtue; Willoughby does not. Sense and Sensibility, C.E. Brock

Do you see other Austen characters in “A Young Lady’s Prayer for a Husband”? (Or Georgette Heyer characters, if you wish!) Tell us in the comments!

The “Young Lady’s Prayer” can be found on google books

Inquiring readers: Summer is my favorite time to eat vegetables – with corn succulently sweet, tomatoes bright red and juicy, blueberries plumb and flavorful, and oranges burst-in-your-mouth ripe. I’ve wondered for ages how people in centuries past stored, preserved, and prepared foods in a world without packaging, refrigeration, freezing, or canning. Out of necessity people ate foods that were fresh, and therefore nutritious and flavorful. This post discusses foods that were plucked, eaten, and prepared during the months of July through September (and beyond, depending on their preservation.)

Fantastic Hairdress with Fruit and Vegetable Motif 18th C, anonymous,French

Fantastic hairdress with fruit and vegetable motif, 18th c., anonymous. French. Public Domain, The Met Museum

Luckily, I found two websites that made my search for British food easy: one is for the seasonal foods of England at the The European Food Information Council. (See the list of fruits and vegetables below.) In that site I looked up fruits and vegetables in Great Britain, clicked on August, and received the following information on the food during this month. 

Fruits:

Bilberry, blackberry, blueberry, cherry, crab apple, elderberry, gooseberry, greengage, loganberry, plum, raspberry, redcurrent, strawberry, watermelon

Vegetables:

Artichoke, aubergine, beetroot, bell pepper, broad bean, broccoli, cabbage, carrot, cavolo nero, celery, chard, chili, courgette, cucumber, fennel, garlic, haricot bean, kohlrabi, lamb’s lettuce, mangetout, marrow, mushroom, onion, pak choi, pea, potato, radicchio, radish, rucola, runner bean, samphire, spinach, spring onion, sweet corn, tomato,  turnip, watercress

I also checked the National Trust site, which discusses foods in season in August  – July – and September. This site includes a more extensive list of foods, and suggests recipes as well. 

The foods listed in the EIFC are those available in Great Britain today. The variety of foods in Jane Austen’s day were different. I was curious to know which fruits and vegetables were readily available for a family in Steventon or Bath’s markets, particularly in late June through early September. For centuries, foods were imported into the British Isles through trade from far flung lands. Over time, the choice of produce increased, but which recipes were adapted by Austen’s contemporaries to take advantage of the influx of new spices and produce?

Eighteenth-century cookery books, such as Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, provide vital clues, as do contemporary journals, such as James Woodforde’s Diary of a Country Parson. This man’s musings are filled with food references and dining habits. Both books provide colorful, real time descriptions of late 18th century dining habits. (I’ve chosen a time during Austen’s formative years, when her parents labored with family and servants in raising fruits, vegetables, and farm animals in Steventon.) Another good resource is Martha Lloyd’s Household Book, annotated by Julienne Gehrer, which discusses the recipes used by the Austen family and Jane’s close friend, Martha.

British food of yore:

This post concentrates primarily on fresh fruits and vegetables. Meat was plentiful for aristocrats throughout the year, and for the gentry, middle class, and landowners. (Rural poor suffered from the land enclosure acts (1604-1914), when communal lands were fenced off, which forced agricultural workers – who once fed their families in a communal fashion – to find menial work elsewhere.) This post does not discuss the difficulties the dispossessed found in finding food and work in cities, but focuses on Austen’s life and the people with whom she associated, and the food eaten by her social strata.

Renowned British food historian, Ivan Day, and Phillip Effingham, whose organization runs a Love Your Greens campaign, discussed the quintessential British vegetable in a 2011 article by BBC News. Food fads come and go, but Mr. Day chose the humble garden pea for its longevity in British food history.

“It grows easily throughout Britain, and has done for centuries. Its name dates from Chaucer’s time, when it was known as pease. In its dried form, the pea is the basis for traditional staples such as pease porridge. When eaten fresh, with little more than butter as a garnish, it was prized by Tudor kings and commoners alike as a welcome burst of bright green in summer.” – What is the UK’s national vegetable? – BBC News

Mr Effingham chose four vegetables: 

“Cauliflower, cabbage, carrots and onions. If I had to choose one, in terms of sales, versatility and year-round production in Britain, it would come down to the carrot …. Not the white, knobbly wild carrots native to Britain. He means the orange carrot, developed in the Netherlands during the reign of William of Orange.” – BBC News

As I researched information about foods eaten during the late 18th century, I found the following passage in Pastor Woodforde’s diary:

I read a good deal of the History of England today to Nancy whilst she was netting her Apron. Very dry again. I feed my Geese with Cabbage now. – Pastor Woodforde, July 24, 1781: Full text of “The Diary Of A Country Parson”

The cabbage growing season lasted year round, with planting scheduled in sequence. Therefore, the good pastor could feed fresh cabbages to his geese during a time of drought.

  • Summer cabbages: sow from late February/early March (under cloches or similar cover) until early May; transplant in May/June
  • Winter cabbages: sow in April/May; transplant in late June/July​
  • ​Spring cabbages: sow in July/August; transplant in September/October — Cabbages (RHS.org.uk)

Cabbage was also used in a Hannah Glasse recipe “To make Gravy for Soups, Etc.” She added two onions and a carrot, thus three of Mr Effingham’s choices were included. Mr Day’s peas were cooked in this manner: “If you have peas ready boiled, your soup will soon be ready made.” 

Hannah Glasse's recipe for making gravy for soups
Hannah Glasse’s recipe in The Art Of Cookery : Hannah Glasse : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive

Hannah also included a recipe of Peas Soup, which is so reminiscent of my Dutch mother’s pea soup. Her only addition was carrots, but Hannah’s recipe could be in my family’s recipe bank.

Peas Soup recipe

In a July entry in his diary, Woodforde mentioned peas and a gooseberry tart, in August he wrote of consuming mulberries and pears after dinner. The following passage from October 12, 1770, described the enormous amount of food he and his guests consumed in one day. Fruits and vegetables played a pale role against the copious servings of meat and liquor. Still, they were fresh. 

“Mrs. Carr, Miss Chambers, Mr. Hindley, Mr. Carr, and Sister Jane dined, supped and spent the evening with me, and we were very merry. I gave them for dinner a dish of fine Tench which I caught out of my brother’s Pond in Pond Close this morning, Ham, and 3 Fowls boiled, a Plumb Pudding ; a couple of Ducks rested, a roasted neck of Pork, a Plumb Tart and an Apple Tart, Pears, Apples and Nutts after dinner; White Wine and red. Beer and Cyder. Coffee and Tea in the evening at SIX o’clock. Hashed Fowl and Duck and Eggs and Potatoes etc. for supper. We did not dine till four o’clock — nor supped till ten. Mr. Rice, a Welshman who is lately come to Cary and plays very well on the Triple Harp, played to us after coffee for an hour or two . . . the Company did not go away till near twelve o’clock.”

The Parson’s fresh Tench, a fish that often substituted for carp, is rarely eaten today. (Wikipedia)

Little imagination is needed to understand why gout presented a common problem in the 18th century, for the condition is caused by excessive consumption of alcohol, meat, and sweets. The Pastor was a hardworking man, however, and on August 17th, 1770 he described a day of work, inserting comments about food and drink:

“Begun shearing my Wheat this morning and gave the shearers according to the Norfolk custom as under, a good breakfast, at ii o’clock plumb cakes with caraway seeds in them, and some Liquor, a good dinner with plumb Puddings and at 4 Beer again. N.B. the above are called elevens and fours’. Only Ben and Will my shearers of Wheat. Before the dew is off in the morn’ they mow Oats. My Wheat this year not above 4 Acres. They shear with sickles instead of Reap-Hooks. The form of them like a Reap-Hook but the Edge of it like a saw, and they do exceeding well. Will brewed this morning a barrel of Ale before he went shearing Wheat at 12 o’clock. – Woodforde

One can only imagine the calories the men expended before dining!

A food that Parson Woodforde mentioned repeatedly, regardless of the season, was plum pudding. Interestingly, this pudding’s traditional recipe is “made with raisins, currants and … suet — that’s the solid white fat surrounding the kidneys and loins of animals like cattle and sheep…”  – Plum pudding has no plums, and what it does have is odd. In other diary entries he also referenced Sugar Plumbs and Plumb Tart.

On May 1, 1772, the parson wrote, 

“In the evening Mr Creed, myself and the Counsellor [Melliar] walked down into Cary and saw the Fair, it being Cary Fair today I saw’ Miss Hannah Pew in the Fair and I gave her some Sugar Plumbs.”

Having never tasted a sugarplum, I researched the recipe.

“A 1668 British cookbook described sugarplum as being ‘small candy in the shape of a ball or disk; a sweetmeat.”  – A Sugar Plum is What You Make Of It – Washington Post

Sugar Plumps-description_image_Diderotcomfit1

Panning: adding layers of sweet which give sugar plums and comfits their hard shell. Visions of Sugar Plums, Jane Austen blog

The Historical Cookery Page provides detailed instructions for making sugar plums. It prefaces its recipe with this statement:

“The dictionary defines a sugarplum as a small round or oval piece of sugary candy. English being the flexible language it is, the name could have come from the resemblance to a small plum. Or it could have come from actual plums preserved in sugar, a relatively new idea in 16th Century England. Prior to this time sugar was so expensive that it was used very sparingly … In the 1540’s, however, sugar started being refined in London which lowered the price considerably … Preserving with sugar allowed the sweet fruits of summer to be enjoyed all year round, especially during the holiday season.”

plum variants

Screen shot of a few variety of plums

Plums were also known as a stone fruit, or a fruit with a hard pit, like cherries, peaches or apricots. The diversity of plums in color and size is astounding – over 2,000 varieties exist in the world. The plum traveled from China, where it was cultivated for thousands of years, and made its way across the world. With the various species grown in different climates, it was no wonder that nutritious plums (dried as prunes) were available year round. And yet … plum pudding had no plums!

As sailors discovered, fresh fruits in the form of oranges and lemons maintained health, preventing scurvy and promoting healthy gums and teeth, important to one’s health when dentistry was in its infancy and, frankly, barbaric. Plums (and many summer grown vegetables), attained peak season from July to August, although many were available from June through October. 

Pickling was one means of preserving fruits and vegetables for the long fall, winter, and early spring months. This pickling recipe from Martha Lloyd is all encompassing and can still be followed today:

India Pickles

Take half a pd: of Ginger put it in water one night scrape it & cut it in thin slices put it in a bowl with dry salt & let it stand till your other ingredients are fit. Take half a pd: of Garlic, peel & cut it in pieces put it in dry salt three days then wash it and put it in the sun to dry. Take a qt: of a pd: of Mustard seed bruised very fine; and oz: of Termrick [tumeric], a Gallon of the strongest vinegar, ptu these ingredients into a stone jar, let it be three parts full. Take white Cabbage, & quarter it keep it in dry salt three days, then dry it into the Sun. (to is scratched out.) Take white Cabbage & quarter it keep it in dry salt three days then dry it into the sun. So do Calliflowers, Cucumbers, Mellons, Peaches, plums Apples or any thing you of this sort. Radishes may be done the same way leaving on the young tops, also french beans & asparagus the three last are to be salted but two days & dried as the others. You need not empty your jar, but as things come in season put them in and fill it up with fresh vinegar. The more every thing is dried in the sun the plumper it will be in the pickle, if the pickles are not high colour’d enough, add a little more term’ric [tumeric] which makes it the colour of the india Mango. Never put red Cabbage or Walnuts because they spoil & discoulor all the rest. – Martha Lloyd, p 104

Preserving foods:

The methods of preservation Martha mentions in this recipe are salting or brining, pickling, and drying in the sun. Another method of preservation included boiling fruit in sugar or in a heavy syrup. If there was no sun, one method of drying was to place the fruit or vegetable in a cooling oven to draw out the moisture. 

Pickled vegetables and eggs were stored in glazed crocks, and soaked with vinegar (as Martha’s recipe directs), and were then covered with leather or a pig bladder. Sugared fruits preserved in heavy syrup was a costly method of preservation. Mold developing on top was scraped off.

Martha also mentioned curing, jugging, and potting. She made vinegar, jellies, and wine from fruits  in season including raspberries, currants, elderberries, and oranges. In addition to wine, her cookbook included beer recipes made with ginger or spruce. 

298px-Illustration_Ribes_uva-crispa0

Gooseberry (Ribes uva-crispa – botanical illustrations), 1885, wikimedia commons

Gooseberries were quite versatile. Martha’s recipes included the fruit to make cheese, wine, and vinegar. They were also dried, including grapes, and plums (which turned into prunes.) Gooseberry season started in June, but the fruit didn’t sweeten until July. They are suitable for cooking, but needed sweetening unless they were used as a savory. (Laura Mason & Catherine Brown, The Taste of Britain, British Food History)

The rich had additional methods of preserving food and eating fresh foods out of season. Orangeries, or a Georgian form of green houses, enabled fruits and vegetables to grow year round. Ice houses, dug deep into the ground, had thick walls for insulation. Straw or sawdust provided additional protection. Great blocks of ice were shipped from far northern climes and transported to grand houses all over England.

As a final comment, no matter how well vegetables and fruits were preserved, the best way to eat them was in season when they were freshly obtained from the earth, tree, bush or vine. 

Resources:

Inquiring readers: Are you tired of Zoom workshops? Don’t be. At times the easiest way to attend workshops abroad is via the internet. This workshop is sponsored by The Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton. (Austen fans will recognize the house!)

Jane_Austen's_House_Museum,_Chawton

Jane Austen House Museum, Chawton, Wikimedia Commons

The following text is from the website (click on the link of the title below)

VIRTUAL BOOK CLUB: NORTHANGER ABBEY

northanger_abbey-01

Northanger Abbey, H.M. Brock, Wikimedia Commons

Back by popular demand… snap up a ticket to our virtual book club! Bring your thoughts, ideas and observations on ‘Northanger Abbey’… bring tea and quotes and questions… expect stimulating discussion and debate!

“Join us for a lively online book club, discussing all things Northanger Abbey! We’ll get the ball rolling with questions, ideas and provocations about this bright, brilliant novel, and then it’s over to you – as a group we’ll share thoughts, theories, favourites and best-bits.”

Date: Tuesday 6 September

Time: 7pm – 8pm (British Summer Time – 

those in other countries are responsible for figuring out their time)

Location: This event will take place online. Join us from the comfort of your own home!

Tickets: £6.50 (Major Credit Cards are accepted)

(Note: As of August 17, 2022 

6.50 British Pounds = 7.831456 US Dollars

1 GBP = 1.20484 USD

1 USD = 0.829986 GBP)

As of August 17th, 8 PM U.S. EST, 49 seats are still open

BOOK HERE  (please make sure you select the right date on the calendar!)

  • 💻 This event will take place on Zoom. Please provide a valid email address, as you will be emailed a link to join the tour in the run up to the event. 
  • 🎫 If you are joining as a group or household, please buy one ticket for each person attending.  All proceeds go towards the upkeep of the Museum. 
  • ⏰ Timings are given in UK time (British Summertime) – please do check what the event time is in your territory, to ensure you log in at the right time.

___________

If the time is inconvenient for this workshop, Jane Austen & Co., based in the U.S., offers free zoom presentations of past workshops. Click on the above link to enter the site. Click on this link to enter videos and workshops of past events since 2020.

Videos Jane Austen+Co

Image of past videos available to the public: Staying at Home With Jane Austen; Race & the Regency; and Asia & the Regency

Having just made a big move myself, I was intrigued by the thought that Jane Austen herself—not to mention several of her characters—knew what it took to move an entire household from one place to another.

One of the best resources available to us regarding a big move is the letter Austen wrote to Cassandra on January 3, 1801, prior to their family’s move to Bath from Steventon. From it, and from the details in her novels, we learn many interesting details about what a big move entailed.

If you’ve ever wanted some Regency advice on moving house, this is for you!

Image of Steventon Rectory, Wikimedia Commons
Steventon Rectory, Wikimedia Commons

Send Your Servants Ahead

In terms of logistics, members of the genteel class usually sent servants ahead of them when they went from one house to another, as we see when Mr. Bingley goes to Netherfield:

Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says that Netherfield is taken by a young man of large fortune from the north of England; that he came down on Monday in a chaise and four to see the place, and was so much delighted with it that he agreed with Mr. Morris immediately; that he is to take possession before Michaelmas, and some of his servants are to be in the house by the end of next week.

Pride and Prejudice

Similarly, Elinor and Marianne, when arriving in London with Mrs. Jennings after three days of travel, are greeted by “all the luxury of a good fire.” The house is “handsome, and handsomely fitted up.” Elinor writes to her mother before a dinner that will not “be ready in less than two hours from their arrival.” It’s clear that Mrs. Jennings employs servants who clean, cook, shop, and prepare the house for her visits.

Hire Good People

When preparing to move to Bath, Jane Austen’s mother wanted to keep two maids: “My mother looks forward with as much certainty as you can do to our keeping two maids; my father is the only one not in the secret.”

With her typical flair for humor, Austen hoped to engage other servants as well: “We plan having a steady cook and a young, giddy housemaid, with a sedate, middle-aged man, who is to undertake the double office of husband to the former and sweetheart to the latter. No children, of course, to be allowed on either side.”

Do Your Research

In Austen’s letter, she talks about several areas of Bath where they hoped to find a house: Westgate Buildings, Charles Street, and “some of the short streets leading from Laura Place or Pulteney Street.”

About Westgate Buildings, Austen wrote: “though quite in the lower part of the town, are not badly situated themselves. The street is broad, and has rather a good appearance.” Regarding Charles Street, she thought it “preferable”: “The buildings are new, and its nearness to Kingsmead Fields would be a pleasant circumstance.” And concerning the third area: “The houses in the streets near Laura Place I should expect to be above our price. Gay Street would be too high, except only the lower house on the left-hand side as you ascend.”

4 Syndey Place, Bath

Mrs. Austen seemed to have a preference: “her wishes are at present fixed on the corner house in Chapel Row, which opens into Prince’s Street. Her knowledge of it, however, is confined only to the outside, and therefore she is equally uncertain of its being really desirable as of its being to be had.”

None of the Austens were in favor of Oxford Buildings: “we all unite in particular dislike of that part of the town, and therefore hope to escape.”

Bring Your Art

We know from Austen’s letter that they planned to take the following pictures and paintings from Steventon to Bath: “[T]he battle-piece, Mr. Nibbs, Sir William East, and all the old heterogeneous miscellany, manuscript, Scriptural pieces dispersed over the house, are to be given to James.”

Good artwork is hard to find.

Of special note, Jane tells Cassandra, “Your own drawings will not cease to be your own, and the two paintings on tin will be at your disposal.”

Good Furniture is Worth Moving

Apparently, Rev. and Mrs. Austen had a very good bed that was irreplaceable: “My father and mother, wisely aware of the difficulty of finding in all Bath such a bed as their own, have resolved on taking it with them…” Austen wrote this about the rest of the household beds: “all the beds, indeed, that we shall want are to be removed — viz., besides theirs, our own two, the best for a spare one, and two for servants; and these necessary articles will probably be the only material ones that it would answer to send down.”

When it came to their dressers, they decided it was time for an upgrade: “I do not think it will be worth while to remove any of our chests of drawers; we shall be able to get some of a much more commodious sort, made of deal, and painted to look very neat…”

Image of dining room at the Jane Austen House Museum
Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton.

As to the rest of their furniture, they decided it would be better to replace most of it in Bath: “We have thought at times of removing the sideboard, or a Pembroke table, or some other piece of furniture, but, upon the whole, it has ended in thinking that the trouble and risk of the removal would be more than the advantage of having them at a place where everything may be purchased. Pray send your opinion.”

Jane’s final comments to Cassandra are amusing as ever: “My mother bargains for having no trouble at all in furnishing our house in Bath, and I have engaged for your willingly undertaking to do it all.”

Visit People on the Way

In Austen’s letter, she explains their family travel plans: “[M]y mother and our two selves are to travel down together, and my father follow us afterwards in about a fortnight or three weeks. We have promised to spend a couple of days at Ibthorp in our way. We must all meet at Bath, you know, before we set out for the sea, and, everything considered, I think the first plan as good as any.”

Ibthorpe, Photo by Rachel Dodge

Not So Different

Moving house in Jane Austen’s day was not quite so different from today. Though the modes of transportation and the methods of research and communication were somewhat different, I was delighted to find that the Austens’ moving plans were surprisingly applicable to mine! (Except for the servants.)


RACHEL DODGE teaches college English classes, gives talks at libraries, teas, and book clubs, and writes for Jane Austen’s World blog. She is the bestselling author of The Little Women DevotionalThe Anne of Green Gables Devotional and Praying with Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen. Coming this fall: The Secret Garden Devotional. You can visit Rachel online at www.RachelDodge.com.

Inquiring readers; Almost a week ago I attended an author’s gathering and book signing in Columbia, MD. The occasion was held at The King’s Contrivance Restaurant, a suitable setting for this lovely get together with Jane Porter and Denise Holcomb, who found the restaurant, invited guests, and kept tabs on RSVPs. I counted around 21 people. You might recognize Denise’s name, for she is a regular visitor to this blog and frequently leaves a comment.

masthead

Jane Porter’s masthead forjaneporter.com. Learn about this NY Times bestselling author’s accomplishments at this site.

I first thought this event was Jane Austen related. Jane Porter’s charming presence and the beauty of the location overcame my brief disappointment when I realized it was not. All the guests were authors, editors, or bloggers and book reviewers, so I was in good company. The event celebrated Jane’s recent release of her latest novel: Flirting With Fifty.

(Hover cursor over images for description.) I had only a short discussion with Ms Porter about her latest publication which deals with a late life romance for contemporary women. This book has been promoted by AARP, a membership organization for people 50 years and older. Her earlier novel in this series, Flirting With Forty, was turned into a successful cable movie. Our talk ranged over the dearth of novels of romance for women over a certain age and how her recent novels addressed the issue, and how women change in outlook and attitude as they mature. I agreed that there was a market and interest for women who had lived past their 20’s and 30’s and learned live’s lessons, both personally and career wise. Jane was gracious to spend a few minutes chatting with me, for there were others who wanted her attention.

denise

Denise Holcomb

I sat at a table with Denise and a friend of hers, who writes romance book reviews. We ordered our lunch. Mine was delicious, starting with a shellfish bisque, a main entree of fruit of the sea with shrimp, calamari and crabmeat, and ended with an English trifle. (I won’t describe the other choices :) When one lives in a mid-Atlantic state near the Chesapeake Bay, one must take advantage of the fresh seafood!}

After our delicious lunch (and a glass of pinot grigio in my case nursed over two hours), Jane Porter spoke to the group. She had already introduced the authors and the editor to her publishing house, Tule Publishing. Porter, among the many novels she has written and published, is also the founder & editorial director of Tule Publishing.

Whew! Where does she find the energy? She also plies homes between Sacramento, CA, and Hawaii, for her husband is a surfer. (Be still my romantic heart.)

menu

The menu with an edible orange and cardamon cookie

One thing I have learned attending Jane Austen related conferences and meetings, and Romance Writers Conferences of America is that getting one’s foot in the door as an author is an arduous ordeal. Once one is successfully published, the work of getting one’s book noticed through publicity and personal appearances starts. It’s a nonstop effort.

jane porter swag

Swag: Free book: Christmas Night; Pink Bag with ‘Read Jane;” “Flirting With Jane” signed book bought with substantial savings; Banana Bread Recipe; sticky note pad, round emery board, and at the top an orange cardamon “cookie” with a frosted image of Jane’s latest published book.

After lunch, Jane talked about her motivation as a writer, which began in her childhood when she wrote stories. Six-seven other authors discussed their passion for writing in various stages of their lives that compelled them to follow that arduous though satisfying road. None said it was easy (believe me, I know), but all sallied forth and found a home in Tule Publishing. 

I left so uplifted with the conversation afterwards and entered my car with gifts in hand. (I purchased Flirting With Fifty at an incredibly low price and had the book signed.) Leaving the meeting sated, I mused about the conversation on my way back over busy throughways and byways. When I arrived home, I realized that I had agreed to review one of my favorite new author’s books from Tule Publishing: Katherine Cowley’s The Lady’s Guide to Death and Deception. My review of this mystery series based on the middle sister in the Bennet household — Mary — is scheduled for early September.

Small world.

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