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Book reviewers are not supposed to reveal their thoughts until the end of their review. I am breaking that rule: I LOVED this book. 

martha-lloyd

Book Cover from Bodleian Shop

The book begins with Deirdre Le Faye’s excellent foreword, which, among many other good points, mentions how contemporary readers who belonged to the same gentry class as the Austens readily associated the family’s culinary choices to their own food preferences.

Martha’s book…was compiled for a family of the Middling Sort, as the expression was—unpretentious households of the literate and professional classes, not landed gentry and not necessarily well off.” – (p viii, Household Book)

Martha Lloyd in her own light

Julienne Gehrer’s comprehensive discussion of Martha Lloyd’s friendship with Jane Austen, her relationship with the Austen family, and her late-life marriage to Sir Francis Austen, Jane’s brother, had me mesmerized. Previously, I only had a general knowledge of Martha’s friendship with Jane, but this book placed their relationship into a clear and loving perspective. Four years after George Austen’s death in 1805 in Bath, the Austen women, with Martha in tow, moved from one rented house to another, until they settled in Chawton Cottage in 1809 on Edward Austen’s Hampshire estate. There, Martha was given a large bedroom. This must have been quite an honor!

Martha’s relationship with the Austens did not end with Jane’s death in 1817, but lasted throughout her life. Her marriage at 62 years of age finally made her an Austen in name as well as in spirit. While Gehrer describes the sisterly affection between Jane Austen and Martha Lloyd in a concise 30 pages, there is so much more to this book that is represented in that short account of their friendship. 

Historical context of Martha’s household book

In this section, Gehrer places Martha’s book in historical context.

… a lady’s household book was an essential tool for managing her home.” (p. 31)

These household books were written by the reigning ladies of the house to communicate with their cook and housekeeper. Early on they were private, not published, and described their own preferences. The books  included recipes and information they inherited from their mothers, relatives, and friends. The women felt free to copy from each other and from popular cookery books, such as Hannah Glasse’s seminal book from 1775. 

Lloyd’s contemporaries would not have known of The Housekeeping Book of Susanna Whatman, written in 1776-1800. It remained a private household book until it was found and published in 1952. My copy from The National Trust reveals Whatman’s knowledge of housekeeping and daily oversight of her servants via her specific instructions. She married young and one can imagine that as a new bride ruling her first household, she must have clung to her mother’s and grandmother’s advice for guidance and comfort. 

Gehrer traces the evolution of these household books and their varied uses. Country or city settings influenced the information that the women included.

Household books compiled in country setting often include ‘A Cure for Mange in Horses or Dogs and the necessary for ‘the cure of the Bite of a Mad Dog’, as does Marrha’s book.” – (p. 37)

The author also gives us tips on working with period recipes, cautioning us about creative spelling during the Georgian period, common word abbreviations, and the variable quantities mentioned, such as ‘a piece of dough the size of a walnut’. Often instructions assume that the cook already knows about which preliminary steps to take or how many hours of preparation might be expected. The modern cook has no such knowledge. Gehrer also cautions:

Many original recipes, both culinary and medicinal, contain ingredients now known to be toxic and are not advised for consumption or use.” – (p. 41)

Nevertheless, many interesting historic recipes remain that can be safely followed, through which this book guides the reader.

Unique details and connections to Jane Austen in Martha’s book

Gehrer then examines why Lloyd’s household book is of such historical importance. Rosa Mary Mowll, a great-granddaughter of Francis Austen and granddaughter of his child, Edward Thomas Austen, wrote a letter to a trustee of the Jane Austen Society about the book, but failed to mention the direct Austen contributions. Her offer was not deemed important and thus this primary source wasn’t initially accepted by the Austen experts from the Society. Thankfully,  her insistence and persistence influenced better minds to prevail and helped the book find its rightful place in history.

In June 1956, Martha Lloyd’s Household Book became part of the collection at Jane Austen’s House…” – (p. 44)

A full description of the book, including missing pages, descriptions of Martha’s script (with photographic images), dates of contributions and the names of contributors are included. The book then makes direct connections to Jane Austen and the recipes in her novels, and her family’s favourite dishes and recipes. Fancy French fare and dinners for the middling sort are described.

…examples of simple and abundant country foods permeate Jane’s writing and Martha’s household book. It is easy to envision Mrs Austen’s Steventon dairy producing pails of milk, pints of cream and pounds of butter, inspiring young Jane’s food-laden ‘Lesley Castle.’” – (p. 60)

Particulars of Martha Lloyd’s household book

This section, which starts on page 67, is the piece de resistance of this book – the first facsimile publication, in color, of this notebook ever. It is followed by a complete transcription of Georgian era cursive writing, and includes detailed annotations that help the modern reader interpret the recipes in ways we can understand. A glossary, extensive notes, and bibliography are included, as well as beautifully reproduced images. 

Contrast this book to The Knight Family Cookbook from the Chawton House Press, 2014. I bought this book at the AGM in Williamsburg in 2019 in support of this important institution and do not regret its purchase, but I would love to see a reissue. The preface by Richard Knight and Introduction by Gillian Dow were a scant 7 pages, followed by a grey and black facsimile of the cookbook without a transcription of the cursive writing, which at times was hard to read or follow, making it hard to interpret the recipes. Again, my purchase went to a good cause, but for practical purposes, I could not make heads or tails of a majority of the recipes.

In conclusion

For those who are intrigued with the story of Martha Lloyd and Jane Austen, a wonderful current companion piece is the recently published Jane Austen’s Best Friend by Zöe Wheddon, which adds so much color and flavor to Martha Lloyd’s Household Book: The Original Manuscript from Jane Austen’s Kitchen. 

About the author

Julienne Gehrer is an author, journalist and food historian who lectures on Jane Austen and the long eighteenth century. Her articles have appeared in Texas Studies for Literature and Language, Jane Austen’s Regency World, and JASNA News. She is the author of several books including this one and Dining with Jane Austen (2017).

More about Martha Lloyd

Purchase the book

Gehrer, J. (2021) Martha Lloyd’s Household Book: The Original Manuscript from Jane Austen’s Kitchen (1st ed., U.K.) Bodleian Library.

UK: Bodleian Shop – Click here to order the book

US: publication August, 2021 – Click here to order the book on Amazon 

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A Receipt for a Pudding

Contributed by Mrs. Cassandra Austen (Jane’s mother) to Martha Lloyd’s collection of recipes, 1808. As this recipe attests, Jane Austen came by her talent honestly. For amusement, her family wrote riddles, charades, poems, and plays for each other. Mrs. Austen excelled at poetry to the extent that one can easily follow her recipe in rhyme.

Puddings, Mrs. Beeton

If the vicar you treat,
You must give him to eat,
A pudding to hit his affection;
And to make his repast,
By the canon of taste,
Be the present receipt your direction.

First take two pounds of Bread,
Be the crumb only weigh’d,
For the crust the good house-wife refuses;
The proportion you’ll guess,
May be made more or less,
To the size that each family chuses.

Then its sweetness to make
Some currants you take
And Sugar of each half a pound
Be not butter forgot
And the quantity sought
Must the same with your currants be found

Cloves & mace you will want,
With rose water I grant,
And more savory things if well chosen;
Then to bind each ingredient,
You’ll find it expedient,
Of Eggs to put in half a dozen.

Some milk dont refuse it,
But boiled ere you use it,
A proper hint this for its maker;
And the whole when compleat,
In a pan clean and neat,
With care recommend to the baker.

In praise of this pudding,
I vouch it a good one,
Or should you suspect a fond word;
To every Guest,
Perhaps it is best,
Two puddings should smoke on the board.

Two puddings! – yet – no,
For if one will do,
The other comes in out of season;
And these lines but obey,
Nor can anyone say,
That this pudding’s with-out rhyme or reason

Jean at Delightful Repast has created a modern interpretation of this bread pudding. It looks so delicious, I think I shall try it at my next Janeites meeting! Click on the link for the recipe. Thank you for sharing, Jean!

Jean's bread pudding

Bread and Butter Pudding, also called simply “bread pudding,” is a dessert that has been a first for many of my dinner guests. Since I grew up with it, I’m always amazed when people tell me they’ve never had it before. They always like it and think it was something very difficult and time-consuming to make, when actually it is quite the opposite (Isn’t that what every hostess aims for!).

If you are a Jane Austen aficionado, you may have read her mother’s recipe, written in rhyme. My recipe makes about a fourth the quantity of Mrs. Austen’s and uses proportionately less sugar and butter and more eggs. Also, I skip the cloves and rosewater–the cloves because so many people don’t like them and the rosewater because I seldom have it on hand.

Sometimes I serve it with custard sauce, sometimes with my Banana-Pecan Rum Sauce (see below), but this time I served it with softly whipped cream sweetened with a drop of real maple syrup.

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Fashionable mourning dresses, Ladies Museum, 1805

According to Jane Austen chronicler and scholar, David Nokes, when Martha Lloyd’s mother died on April 16, 1805, Jane Austen showed few signs of grief or emotion over that woman’s earthly departure. Instead, Jane wrote a jaunty verse to an uncivil (and imaginary) dressmaker. I surmise that these verses were meant more to cheer Martha up than to bring Martha’s mood down by reminding her of her loss. Mrs Austen, who was known for her droll verses, wrote a mythical reply by the dressmaker. At this time the Austen women were still reeling from Rev. Austen’s death in January and their own change in financial circumstances, having moved to more modest lodgings and becoming accustomed to a drastically reduced style of life. They would soon invite Martha to live with them in Bath. (Martha would remain with the Austen women through their move to Southampton in 1809.) After Jane’s death in 1817, Martha joined Cassandra in Chawton to help look after Mrs. Austen.

The poem that Jane wrote gives us a glimpse into how mourning clothes were made to order quickly. In this for-instance, the dressmaker, Miss Green, was slow to respond.

Lines sent to an uncivil Dress maker

Miss Lloyd has now sent to Miss Green,
As, on opening the box, may be seen,
Some yards of a Black Ploughman’s Gauze,
To be made up directly, because
Miss Lloyd must in mourning appear –
For the death of a Relative dear –
Miss Lloyd must expect to receive
This license to mourn & to grieve,
Complete, er’e the end of the week –
It is better to write than to speak – Jane Austen

Mrs. Austen’s reply as Miss Green

I’ve often made clothes
For those who write prose,
But ’tis the first time
I’ve had orders in rhyme – .
Depend on’t, fair Maid,
You shall be obeyed;
Your garment of black
Shall sit close to your back,
And in every part
I’ll exert all my art;
It shall be the neatest,
And eke the completest
That ever was seen –
Or my name is not Green! – Mrs. Cassandra Austen

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Copryright (c) Jane Austen’s World. This post is in honor of Thanksgiving and all the cooks, feminine or masculine, who toil hard in the kitchen to feed their families on this special holiday.

I am sure that the ladies there had nothing to do with the mysteries of the stew-pot or the preserving-pan” – James Edward Austen-Leigh, writing about his aunts, Jane and Cassandra Austen, and grandmother, Mrs Austen, when they lived at Steventon Rectory.

18th century kitchen servants prepare a meal. Image @Jane Austen Cookbook

In 1747, Mrs.Hannah Glasse wrote her historic The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, an easy-to-understand cookbook for the lower class chefs who cooked for the rich. Her recipes were simple and came with detailed instructions, a revolutionary thought at the time.

The Art of Cookery’s first distinction was simplicity – simple instructions, accessible ingredients, an accent on thrift, easy recipes and practical help with weights and timing. Out went the bewildering text of former cookery books (“pass it off brown” became “fry it brown in some good butter”; “draw him with parsley” became “throw some parsley over him”). Out went French nonsense: no complicated patisserie that an ordinary cook could not hope to cook successfully. Glasse took into account the limitations of the average middle-class kitchen: the small number of staff, the basic cooking equipment, limited funds. – Hannah Glasse, The Original Domestic Goddess forum

Hannah Glasse's The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy

Until Mrs. Glasse wrote her popular cookery book (17 editions appeared in the 18th century), these instructional books had been largely written by male chefs who offered complicated French recipes without detailed or practical directions. (To see what I mean, check Antonin Careme’s recipe for Les Petits Vol-Au-Vents a la Nesle at this link.) Like Jane Austen, Hannah signed her books “By a Lady”.

Antonin Careme's cookbook

Mrs. Glasse had always intended to sell her cookery book to mistresses of gentry families or the rising middle class, who would then instruct their cooks to prepare foods from her simplified recipes, which she collected. “My Intention is to instruct the lower Sort [so that] every servant who can read will be capable of making a tolerable good Cook,” she wrote in her preface.

Frontispiece from William Augustus Henderson, The Housekeeper’s Instructor, 6th edition, c.1800. This same picture appeared in the very first edition of c.1791and it shows the mistress presenting the cookery book to her servant, while a young man is instructed in the art of carving with the aid of another book.*

Hanna’s revolutionary approach, which included the first known printed recipe for curry and instructions for making a hamburger, made sense. In the morning, it was the custom of the mistress of the household to speak to the cook or housekeeper about the day’s meals and give directions for the day. The servants in turn would interpret her instructions. (Often their mistress had to read the recipes to them, for many lower class people still could not read.)

In theory, the recipes from Hannah’s cookbook would help the lady of the house stay out of the kitchen and enjoy a few moments of free time. But the servant turnover rate was high and often the mistress had to roll up her sleeves and actively participate in the kitchen. Many households with just two or three servants could not afford a mistress of leisure, and they, like Mrs. Austen in the kitchens of Steventon Rectory and Chawton Cottage, would toil alongside their cook staff.

The simple kitchen at Chawton cottage. Image @Tony Grant

At the start of the 18th century the French courtly way of cooking still prevailed in genteel households. As the century progressed, more and more women like Hannah Glasse began to write cookery books that offered not only simpler versions of French recipes, but instructions for making traditional English pies, tarts, and cakes as well. Compared to the expensive cookbooks written by male chefs, cookery books written by women were quite affordable, for they were priced between 2 s. and 6 d.

Hannah Glasse's practical directions for boiling and broiling

Publishers took advantage of the brisk trade, for with the changes in agricultural practices,  food was becoming more abundant for the rising middle classes. Large editions of cheap English cookery books by a variety of female cooks were distributed to a wide new audience of less wealthy and largely female readers who had money to spend on food. Before Hannah Glasse and her cohort, cooks and housewives  had been accustomed to sharing recipes in private journals (such as Marthat Lloyd’s) or handing them down by word-of-mouth.

Martha Lloyd's recipe for caraway cake written in her journal.

Female authors tended to share their native English recipes in their cookery books. As the century progressed, the content of these cookery books began to change. Aside from printing recipes, these books began to include medical instructions for poultices and the like; bills of fare for certain seasons or special gatherings; household and marketing tips; etc.

Bill of fare for November, The Universal Cook, 1792

By the end of the 18th century, cookery books also included heavy doses of servant etiquette and moral advice. At this time plain English fare had replaced French cuisine, although wealthy households continued to employ French chefs as expensive status symbols.  In the mid-19th century cookery books that targeted the working classes, such as Mrs. Beeton’s famous book on Household Management, began to be serialized in magazines, as well as published in book form.

Family at meal time

Before ending this post, I would like to refer you back to James Edward Austen-Leigh’s quote at top. In contrast to what he wrote (for he did not know his aunts or grandmother well), Jane Austen scholar Maggie Lane reminds us that housewives who consulted with their cook and housekeeper  about the day’s meals still felt comfortable working in the kitchen. She writes in Jane Austen and Food:

“though they may not have stirred the pot or the pan themselves, Mrs. Austen and her daughters perfectly understood what was going on within them…The fact that their friend and one-time house-mate Martha Lloyd made a collection of recipes to which Mrs. Austen contributed is proof that the processes of cookery were understood by women of their class.”

More on the topic:

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( A discussion about what friendship might be. A few thoughts and considerations while writing about Jane and Martha. You might agree. You might not. I am open for criticism. Guest writer Tony Grant of London Calling)

The Letter, Edmund Blair Leighton

Jane Austen didn’t marry. There are suggestions she did have love affairs but they did not come to fruition. Did this make her human experience less than those who have the love of another human? She had the love of her family and especially her sister Cassandra. She had the love of Martha Lloyd her best friend. She experienced love from other human beings and she gave love to others.

Lets have a look at what we can find out about Jane’s relationship with Martha Lloyd, her best friend.

Who was Martha Lloyd?

Martha Lloyd was born in 1765. Her mother, Martha Craven, had been the daughter of the Royal governor of South Carolina. Martha Craven , although coming from a wealthy background, married an obscure country vicar called the Reverend Nowis Lloyd who was the rector of Little Hinton, Wiltshire and who also, in 1771, became the vicar of Enborne near Newbury in Berkshire. After the Reverend Nowis died Martha and her two sisters, Mary and Eliza were left with their cruel and some say insane mother. They escaped by going to live with an aunt who lived in Newbury. They also have a brother but he died in a smallpox epidemic. Martha and Mary were both left scarred for life by the same epidemic. The younger sister, Eliza, is supposed to have escaped the epidemic unscathed. She married

It is not known how exactly the Lloyd family and the Austen family met but they had many acquaintances in common. The two families became very close after the Reverend Nowis died in 1789. The Reverend Austen gave the widow and her three daughters his unused parsonage at Deane a mile from Steventon. So Jane and Cassandra lived very close to the Lloyd sisters and they saw a lot of each other. There were not many chances to form close acquaintances in the countryside and the daughters of both families all became close friends, especially Martha Lloyd and Jane Austen. Jane was ten years younger than Martha but they obviously got on very well. Martha became like a second sister to Jane.

When James Austen married in 1792 he took over the parish at Deane and so required the parsonage there. The Lloyd family had to move out and went to Ibthorpe, a small hamlet near Hurstbourne Tarrant in Hampshire, fifteen miles further away. This must have been hard for Jane and Martha. They had no independent transport to visit each other.

Mary Lloyd, the younger of the two sisters, married James Austen as his second wife, after his first wife died.

The Reverend George Austen died on January 21st 1805 in Bath. Martha’s mother died soon after. Mrs Austen, Cassandra, Jane, and Martha decided to pool their resources and live together. They first moved to Southampton together to live with Jane’s brother Frank’s wife Mary, in Castle Square. Frank and Mary had only just got married and Frank had to go away to sea. The arrangement was beneficial to all concerned. Apparently they all got on well together.

On July 7th 1809 Jane, her mother, her sister Cassandra and Martha moved to the cottage at Chawton on their brother Edward Knight’s estate.

Martha knew all about Jane’s writing exploits, something Jane kept secret from most people. She even dedicated some early works to Martha, her friend. A sure sign of Jane’s close trusting affinity with Martha.

Jane’s letters show evidence of her easy and close relationship to Martha. Her comments are often teasing and full of fun about Martha but always show love for her friend. Sometimes there are mere asides mentioning Martha within a discussion about other people or other things. Martha’s opinion or what Martha is doing at the moment of writing. It’s as though she is always in Jane’s mind and presence.

Tuesday 11th June 1799, writing from Queen Square, Bath, to Cassandra.

“ I am very glad You liked my Lace, & so is Martha-& we are all glad together.-I have got your cloak home, which is quite delightful!….”

Again on Friday 9th December 1808 from castle Square to Cassandra.

“ Our Ball was rather more amusing than I expected, Martha liked it very much, & I did not gape until the last quarter of an hour.-It was past nine before we were sent for & not twelve when we returned…”

Jane Austen Invites, Sue Humphreys.* A Theatre Someone production ‘Jane Austen invites…’ written by Susan Leather, Lesley Sherwood & Sue Humphreys.

Jane’s letters have many short references to Martha. She is always present.

Other letters tell more detailed stories about Martha. While living in Castle Square, Southampton, the Austen’s attended services at All Saints church in the High Street where Dr Mant was the vicar. Dr Mant was well known in Southampton. He had been the headmaster of King Edward VII’s Grammar School in the town . He had also been a professor of Divinity at Oxford and written religious discussion pamphlets. He was a super star in the firmament of vicars. He was a very charismatic preacher too. Dr Mant had his following of inspired young ladies. Martha was apparently a besotted member of this clan.

Tuesday 17th January 1809 from castle Square to Cassandra.

“ Martha and Dr Mant are as bad as ever, he runs after her for having spoken to a Gentleman while she was near him the day before.- Poor Mrs Mant can stand it no longer; she is retired to one of her married daughters.”

This story sounds quite scandalous. One wonders what is Martha’s attractiveness. She obviously has a passionate heart and is prone to,”love.” A certain, young girlish tendency towards infatuation. And, poor Mrs Mant, what of her, indeed. Scandal is in the air or is Jane being creative with the truth? She feels free to be personal. She definitely has a relaxed attitude towards her dear friend. She is being very personal in this letter. Being able to get that close to somebody and maybe even play with their emotions is a sign of something close in a relationship.

Another letter highlights this playfulness again.

Tuesday 11th June 1799 form Queen Square to Cassandra.

“ I would not let Martha read First Impressions again upon any account,& am very glad that I did not leave it in your power.- She is very cunning , but I see through her design;-she means to publish it from memory & one more perusal will enable her to do it.”

And then there is the close affection and freedom each feels in the others presence expressed in this story of a night spent together. You can imagine the enjoyment of each others presence in this letter. Jane is full of fun and teasing.

Wednesday 9th January 1799 from Steventon to Cassandra.

“ You express so little anxiety about my being murdered under Ash Park Copse by Mr Hulbert’s servant that I have a great mind not to tell whether I was or not,&shall only say that I did not return home that night or the next, as Martha kindly made room for me in her bed, which was the shut up one in the new nursery.-Nurse and the child slept on the floor;&there we all were in some confusion& great comfort;- the bed did exceedingly well for us, both to lie awake in and talk till two o’clock,& to sleep in the rest of the night.-I love Martha better than ever …….”

These are two girls having the time of their lives. Totally at one, relaxed and full of fun with each other.

There are only four letters in existence that Jane wrote to Martha. The first, written in 1800 has two parts. Jane’s letters are always full of news about people and places she and the recipient of the letter have in common and in some ways we the present day reader of those letters are left out of this private world unless we find out for ourselves about her references. This first letter we have to Martha is partly taken up with this sort of news about people and places. However what makes this letter different is the opening, where Jane expresses her wish to be with Martha. There is an intensity shown in these words maybe even a passion to see her friend, revealed here.

Martha Lloyd lived long enough to be photographed

To Martha Lloyd, Thursday 13th November 1800 from Steventon:

“-You are very good at wishing to see me at Ibthorpe so soon, & I am equally good in wishing to come to you; I believe our merit in that respect is much upon a par, our Self denial mutually strong.-Having paid this tribute of praise to the Virtue of both, I shall have done with Panegyric & proceed to plain matter of fact.-In about a fortnights time I hope to be with you; I have two reasons for being not being able to come before; I wish so to arrange my visit to spend some days with you after your mother’s return, in the 1st place that I may have the pleasure of seeing her, & in the 2nd, that I may have a better chance of bringing you back with me.- Your promise in my favour was not quite absolute, but if your will is not perverse, You & I will do all in our power to overcome your scruples of conscience.- I hope we will meet next week to talk all this over, till we have tired ourselves with the very idea of my visit before my visit begins.”

Compare this to an exchange between Romeo and Juliet.

Act III Scene V Capulet’s Orchard:

Juliet:
Art thou gone so? Love, lord, ay husband, friend! I must hear from thee every day in the hour
For in a minute there are many days!
O, by this count I shall be much in years
Ere again I behold my Romeo!

Romeo:
Farewell! I will omit no opportunity
That may convey my greetings, love, to thee.

Juliet:
O thinks thou we shall ever meet again?

Romeo:
I doubt it not; and all these woes shall serve
For sweet discourses in our time to come.

The two situations are not exactly the same. There is no added angst of the forbidden meeting driving on the will to meet between Martha and Jane but there is the want brought about by separation.

Friendship indeed.

Is this what it’s all about?

Are we hard wired to get the friends we have? Hard wired meaning, made to relate with and find love with a certain person or type of person.

How do we get a friend? We choose friends, or do we? They have to come into our proximity, live near us, or be near us for part of our lives so we can actually meet. We could meet them at school, or university. They could be neighbours, attend a club we go to, work in a place we work in or be introduced to us. We have to make regular contact for some time in our life, with them, for the friendship to take wing and fly. So finding friends is accidental to a certain degree. But, we meet many people accidentally. They don’t all become our friends. So what is it, this friendship thing?

My opening question asked, “Are we hard wired to get the friends we have?” Our personality, our way of thinking, what we say, how we say it, our sense of humour, our moods, all these intangible things that make us the individual we are must in some way meld with these intangible things found in another person and somehow they are illuminated, expanded, ignited with this coming together.
Is friendship love? We love our husband , wife or partner. We love our children. We do love our friends. What are these different aspects of love? Or, are they different? Aren’t they the same?

Our children come from our bodies. Marriage is formalised in a church ceremony or a civil ceremony. Partners are people we at some stage decide to stay with. But do these guarantee love, friendship, a close relationship? A loving relationship of whatever label is beyond the label. The labels are just signs. But signs can be false. Do we all really love our husband, wife or partner all the time, part of the time or never? Do we really love our children because they come from us? Don’t we fall out drift apart, sometimes? Relationships can be split and the name friend, partner, wife, husband loses it’s meaning. So a real deep love and friendship is beyond the outward signs and words.

Why do we need a loving relationship?
They take us beyond ourselves. They take us beyond and out of ourselves. Phrases come to mind, “I love them more than life itself. I love them more than myself.” And there are other phrases, which describe it.

What is it all about? It’s a sort of searching and if we are lucky, a finding of something that necessary, life ennobling, deep within ourselves and even outside of ourselves. But is a husband, wife, partner, son, daughter, friend, enough and finally necessary? Do those relationships go deep enough? Does our real need go deeper?

What about those who stay single or people whose relationships are broken? Or consider the contemplative monk or nun who hardly ever speak, the celibate in or out of the religious life, the rejected and dejected, the drug addict, alcoholic, the tramp, the drop outs from society, those who have nobody, is their human experience less and are they denied love somehow because they don’t appear to have a close loving human relationship with someone? How deep can we go with this love thing? Is there something more infinitely deeper than the merely human side of it? Are human relationships, human love, really just a taste of something deeper and even more profound? Human relationships can be fickle, wither and dry up. People also die. Is the need and search for love within us naturally there? Are we born with the desire and need for it? What could it all be out? I don’t know.

But Jane had her friend.

Other posts by Tony Grant

*Image from Theatre Someone

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