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Archive for April, 2012

The second episode of Birdsong just aired on PBS Masterpiece Classic. If  you missed the series, you can watch both episodes online at this link through May 29th. I urge you to watch it. This is not a review of the show, simply my reaction to it, as I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot.

Eddie Redmayne and Clemency Poesy as the star crossed lovers

Eddie Redmayne is perfect as Stephen Wraysford. He effectively portrays Stephen as a boyish man when he meets Isabelle (Clemency Poesy), and grows up in front of our eyes as he experiences heartbreak and the horrors of war. The final scene had me reaching for yet another hanky.

Even on the battlefield, Stephen's thoughts are not far from Isabelle

Clemency Poesy is simply splendid in the part of the unhappy wife who turns to Stephen for love and comfort, and so was Joseph Mawle as Jack Firebrace.

Clemency Poesy as Isabelle

I have read a number of accounts of the Somme offensive, all of them horrifying. This film does justice to the young men who lost their lives in what can only be described as a scene from hell. At first I wasn’t sure that I would like the frequent cutting back and forth from the battle scenes to Stephen’s memories of his love affair with Isabelle at Amiens, when the countryside looked beautiful and pristine, but now I think the director and writer made the right choice.

Had we watched the story unfold chronologically, the unrelentingly harsh scenes in the trenches and on the battlefields would have worn me down. Just when the story became too emotionally raw for me to take in, the scene would shift to a softer, more romantic time, when Stephen’s life was starting out and he was filled with hope and ambition. There were perhaps a few missteps when the scene would cut away abruptly, but overall I began to see and look forward to the visual and emotional rhythms that this technique created. Life in the trenches was gray and dull and beige. Life with Isabelle was filled with sunshine, lush interiors, birdsong, and green leafy trees.

Eddie Redmayne portrayed Angel Clare in Tess of the d’Urbervilles. His face, with its unique bone structure, is as sensitive as James Dean’s. Coming off his acting stints in My Week With Marilyn, Pillars of the Earth, and his current role as Marius Pontmercy in Les Miserables, I have no doubt we will see him in many more films in the future.

The relationship between Jack Firebrace (Joseph Mawle) and Stephen Wraysford is as important as Stephen's with Isabelle.

As an aside, I urge those of you who enjoy these great PBS offerings to support your local PBS stations now that their funding has been greatly reduced. I was so sad to hear that the NEA sharply cut its funding for PBS. If you enjoy Masterpiece Classic and Masterpiece Mystery, and all the great arts specials, then we must individually step up to the plate and support PBS. Thank you for reading my rant. (And, no, I was not paid to make it! :))

An emotional scene after the Battle of the Somme was when the names of the men of one unit who had gone into battle were called. Only one replied.

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This 1808 image of an old vendor woman selling salop in London seems simple at first glance. Created by William H Pyne for The Costumes of Great Britain (one of 60 beautifully produced hand-colored drawings), the image shows the vendor surrounded by customers waiting for a warm drink, which she pours fresh and hot into white bowls from a samovar (still). One wonders if the sight was common enough for Jane Austen to have observed it during her visits to her brother Henry in London, or if she purchased the drink or had tasted it. This description shows how even a whiff of  salop caused the writer to wax eloquently about the drink, which he had liked long ago:

Suddenly we came upon a still, whence arose the steam of Early Purl, or Salop, flattering our senses. Ye Gods ! what a breakfast ! In vain a cautious scepticism suggests that the liquid was one which my palate would now shudderingly reject; perhaps so; I did not reject it then; and in memory the flavour is beatified. I feel its diffusive warmth stealing through me. I taste its unaccustomed and exquisite flavour. Tea is great, coffee greater ; chocolate, properly made, is for epicures; but these are thin and characterless compared with the salop swallowed in 1826. That was nectar, and the Hebe who poured it out was not a blear-eyed old woman, though to vulgar vision she may have presented some such aspect. – Unctuous Memories, The Cornhill Magazine, 1863 p. 613-617

The problem is not with the drawing; it is with the definition of salop, which is variously spelled salop, salep, saloop, and even sahlib. Experts have offered several explanations and recipes of the drink. I examined three sources, all of which offer different ingredients. Even dictionaries from the 19th century cannot agree with the precise meaning of the drink that was commonly served in coffee houses and stalls and on the streets of London. We can, however, agree on a few observations. A night watchman stands behind the vendor and her mobile table. Thus, salop was a typical nightly drink of Londoners.

Sold between midnight and 6-7 o’clock in the morning for some it was the probate cure of a hang-over while the early birds drank it for invigoration and warming up. (Luder H. Niemeyer)

Detail of the chimney sweep drinking salop

Salop was definitely popular during the first part of the 19th century.

Charles Lamb, in his essay upon Chimney Sweeps, mentions the public house of Mr. Reed, on Fleet street in London, as a place where Sassafras tea (and Salop) were still served daily to customers in his time, about 1823.

The hot mixture was affordable even for the lowly chimney sweep, who is seen drinking from a bowl. But how was the drink made? The Hobson-Jobson: The Anglo-Indian Dictionary, first published in 1886,  says that salop was derived from the tubers of various species of orchis found around Europe. It had the reputation of being a restorative and highly nutritious, and a decoction of the substance, spiced and sweetened, was thought to make an agreeable drink for invalids. – p. 784.

The tea woman sitting behind her street booth – a mobile table with samovar – amidst varied customers, just filling another cup of her much demanded herb-tea. Aquatint printed in color and colored by hand for William Miller in London. 1805.

Hobson-Jobson went on to say that in 1889 a correspondent wrote that the term could also be applied to an infusion of the sassafras bark or wood. Sassafras was imported from the colonies; it did not grow in Europe.

There is also the question of what time of day people preferred to drink salop.  In 1850, a source stated that sassafras tea, flavoured with milk and sugar, was sold at daybreak in the streets of London as saloop. In 1882, The St. James’s Gazette said:

Here we knock against an ambulant salep-shop (a kind of tea that people drink on winter mornings); there against roaming oil, salt, or water-vendors, bakers carrying brown bread on wooden trays, pedlars with cakes, fellows offering dainty little bits of meat to the knowing purchaser.”

From the description, one gets the true flavor of an early morning street scene – its sights, smells, and sounds . One also gains the sense that salop was sold much like coffee today – that there was a preferred time to drink it, but that it could be obtained at all hours. But what about the recipe? Was it made with Sassafras bark or with orchis root?

Gourmet Britain says it was made with orchis root, and provides the reader with a history and recipe.  Soupabooks mentions that it was made of dried sassafras bark and offers this recipe:

To make Salop

Put a Tea spoonfull of  Salop to a Pint of Water, with 3 or 4 Blades of Mace, & some Lemmon Peel cut very thin. Boyl it, & Mill it as you do Chocolate, Sweeten it to your Taste; add some grated Nutmeg, & juice of Lemon to make it Palateable. — Mrs. B.P. Benet, Lathrop Lodge, Swindon, Wilts. From her Book of Recipes from about 1796.

Note that Mrs. B.P. Benet does not describe the Salop, but simply assumes that the reader will know what ingredient to purchase. The salop made with sassafras bark would have a slight taste of licorice.

Early American settlers learned from American Indians how to brew sassafras tea from the root bark and drank it has an herbal remedy. Later they made sassafras the original root in root beer and used it as an important ingredient in Sasparilla, a different but related beverage. Those first Sassafras supporters didn’t know how or why it tasted so good, but a few hundred years later, we do. Sassafras root contains an essential oil called safrole which imparts that characteristic licorice flavor.

Charles Lamb. Image @NNDB

Charles Lamb in his essay about Chimney Sweeps corroborates the sassafras root ingredient:

There is a composition, the groundwork of which I have understood to be the sweet wood yclept sassafras. This wood boiled down to a kind of tea, and tempered with an infusion of milk and sugar, hath to some tastes a delicacy beyond the China luxury. I know not how thy palate may relish it, I have never ventured to dip my own particular lip in a basin, a cautious premonition to the olfactories constantly whispering to me, that my stomach must infallibly, with all due courtesy, decline it. Yet I have seen palates otherwise not uninstructed in dietetical elegancies, sup it up with avidity. This is salop—the precocious herbwoman’s darling—the delight of the early gardener who transports his smoking cabbages from Hammersmith to Covent Garden’s famed piazzas—the delight, and oh ! I fear too often the envy of the unpennied sweep.” - Unctuous Memories, The Cornhill Magazine, 1863 p. 613-617

To complicate matters even more, I found this description of salop:  “The tea produced from the male root of the Ragged Robin, so-called salop, was the typical nightly drink of Londoners.” (Luder H. Niemeyer) Ragged Robin seems to be the common name for the cuckooflower lychnis, which is a perennial that has very hardy, fibrous roots. Since Ragged Robin was not mentioned in other encyclopedias, descriptions, or dictionaries that I consulted, I will discount this ingredient from the discussion.

Sassafras root bark. Image @ Vermont Fiddle Heads

The following is a sampling of definitions of Salop, Salep, or Saloop from various dictionaries:

  • an aromatic drink prepared from sassafras bark and other ingredients. – Online Encyclopedia
  •  salop (or saloop, a hot starchy drink made with an infusion of dried salep, or orchid tubers) - Science and Society Picture Library
  • An aromatic drink prepared from sassafras bark and other ingredients , at one time much used in London . – - J . Smith ( Dict . Econ . “Saloop” is a common misspelling or typo for: Salop. – Webster’s Online Dictionary
  • saloop/seuh loohp”/, n.: a hot drink prepared originally from salep but later from sassafras, together with milk and sugar. [1705-15; var. of SALEP] – Collaborative International Dictionary
  • Salep, sal′ep, n. the dried tubers of Orchis mascula: the food prepared from it.—Also Sal′op. [Ar.Salep from Arabic: سحلب saḥlab‎, is a flour made from grinding the dried tubers of the orchid genus Orchis (including species Orchis mascula and Orchis militaris). These tubers contain a nutritious starch-like polysaccharide called glucomannan. Salep flour is consumed today in beverages and desserts, in places that were formerly part of the Ottoman Turkish Empire. The term salep may also refer to any beverage made with the salep flour. – Wikipedia

So which ingredient did Pyne’s old female vendor use to make her salop? Orchis tubers, which were found in Europe, or dried Sassafras bark,which had to be imported? In any case, one shudders at the thought of the bowls that the vendor used to pour the drink in for her customers. I see no water jug near at hand to rinse the bowls after each use. Heaven knows how many germs were spread around via these used dishes, which could not be tossed aside or washed easily.

About The Costumes of Great Britain: Between 1800 and 1818, London publishers William Miller, T. M’Lean, and William Bulmer published a series of color plate books, including one that featured 60 color plates of Britain’s working classes just as the Industrial Revolution began to take off.  William H Pyne (1769-1843) was commissioned to write and illustrate the book by the publisher, William Miller. The first edition was printed in 1804, but the edition from which this coloured plate was taken was published in 1808. – Science and Society

More on the topic:

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Recently I commented on a morning gown whose influences were largely from British history. In this April 1812 Ackermann fashion plate, the pink ball gown is indicative of the impact of trade and foreign travel in eastern lands and the advances of the Industrial Revolution on fashion. A young lady attending the ball would have (in her mind) come as a strong exotic eastern woman, resplendent in her turban, peasant bodice, and other rich oriental details.

Click on this fashion plate to enlarge it.

Ball Dress: a round Circassian robe of pink carpe , or gossamer net, over a white satin slip, fringed full at the feet; a peasant’s bodice of pink satin or velvet, laced in front with silver, and decorated with the same ornament. Spanish slash sleeve, embellished with white crape foldings, and finished at its terminations with bands of silver. A Spartan or Calypso helmet cap of pink frosted crape, with silver bandeaus, and embellished with tassels, and rosets to correspond. A rich neck-chain and ear-rings of Oriental gold. Fan of carved ivory. Slippers of pink kid, with correspondent clasps; and gloves of white kid: an occasional square veil of Mechlin lace.”

Detail of the Spartan or Calypso helmet cap, mechlin lace, fan, peasant bodice, and Limerick gloves.

Eastern Turkish influence includes those of Circassian women, whose reputation dates back to the Ottoman Empire and the Sultan’s harem. Circassians became a common symbol of orientalism during the Romantic era. In Europe and America

 Circassians were regularly characterised as the ideal of feminine beauty in poetry, novels, and art. Cosmetic products were advertised, from the 18th century on, using the word “Circassian” in the title, or claiming that the product was based on substances used by the women of Circassia.- Wikipedia

The gossamer net represented the advances made in machine made lace during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. (Click here to read my article about net lace.)

Early 19th century dress made with embroidered black net.

 The white crape foldings in the Spanish slash sleeves remind me of the puffs in the hem of this early 19th century gown.

Limerick gloves were “a celebrated style of glove that became popular throughout England and Ireland during the late 18th, early 19th century. Commonly referred to as ‘chicken-skins’, the gloves were renowned for their exquisite texture. They were made from a thin strong leather derived from the skin of unborn calves and sold encased in a walnut shell.”

Limerick glove. Image @The Museum of Leathercraft.

Circassian women were regarded as strong, beautiful, and exotic, which is how the woman wearing the ball dress depicted in the Ackermann fashion plate must have felt.

Circassian woman. Image @Clipart, etc.

The circassian robe, or an outer garment used in ceremonial occasions, is not as evident in the fashion plate as in the dress below, where it flows over the gown’s train.

Eliza Farren in 'A Scene in the Fair Circassian' with Robert Bensley by James Sayers. Etching ca. 1781 from the National Portrait Gallery NPG D9544

Rich lace, tassels, and an ivory fan completed our fashionable lady’s the ensemble.

Decorative imported ivory fan. Image @Independence Seaport Museum.

Detail of the hem.

More about the ball gown’s fashion influences:

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Back in Jane Austen’s day travel was so difficult and laborious over poorly constructed roads that the majority of the people who lived in that century traveled no farther than 14 miles from where they lived. Most walked, and even so they had to contend with muddy roads that were almost impassible after heavy rains or breathe in choking dust during times of drought. (In cities, dusty streets would be watered down by merchants early in the morning.)

Diana Sperling, a party walking to dinner along muddy roads.

Travel at night was dangerous. Without a widespread means of lighting roads or an organized police force, night travelers were at the mercy of highwaymen. In cities, link boys were paid a half pence to carry a light in front of pedestrians, or for those on horseback and in carriages.

Georgian cast iron light fixtures, Landsdowne Crescent in Bath. Note the cones, which extinguished the light.

Lanterns hung in front of city doors or were carried. In the country, torches hung from trees lining a lane that led up to a house. Balls and parties were planned during the full moon, although a rainy or cloudy night would spoil these well-laid plans.

A link boy lights the way in the city, 1827.

The situation would not change until the Industrial Revolution brought about such life altering inventions as gas lights, macadam roads (whose hard surface facilitated smoother travel), the steamboat, and rail travel.

The perils of overcrowding, 1812

The following descriptions of poor road conditions from Old Country Life, a book published in 1892, describes a time just after Jane Austen’s death, but one that her longer lived siblings would have known. While people’s memories of distant events are often faulty, the emotions they felt tend to stay with them. Here then are some eye witness accounts retold many decades later:

What a time people took formerly in travelling over old roads! There is a house just two miles distant from mine, by the new unmapped road. Before 1837, when that road was made, it was reached in so circuitous a manner, and by such bad lanes, and across an unbridged river, that my grandfather and his family when they dined with our neighbours, two miles off, always spent the night at their house.

Negotiating a muddy road. Image @Roads in the 18th Century

In 1762, a rich gentleman, who had lived in a house of business in Lisbon, and had made his fortune, returned to England, and resolved to revisit his paternal home in Norfolk. His wish was further stimulated by the circumstance that his sister and sole surviving relative dwelt beside one of the great broads, where he thought he might combine some shooting with the pleasure of renewing his friendships of childhood. From London to Norwich his way was tolerably smooth and prosperous, and by the aid of a mail coach he performed the journey in three days. But now commenced his difficulties. Between the capital and his sister’s dwelling lay twenty miles of country roads. He ordered a coach and six, and set forth on his fraternal quest. The six hired horses, although of strong Flanders breed, were soon engulfed in a black miry pool, his coach followed, and the merchant was dragged out of the window by two cowherds, and mounted on one of the wheelers; he was brought back to Norwich, and nothing could ever induce him to resume the search for his sister, and to revisit his ancestral home.

Pack horses. Image @The Rolle Canal Company

Roads were in such a poor condition that transportation over rivers and canals was preferred. If waterways were not nearby, pack horses and carrier wagons carried heavy and fragile items into areas were roads were near to impassible. Carrier wagons were sturdy wagons pulled by oxen and covered with canvas cloth.

Items had to be safely packed before they could be transported. Paper was expensive and cardboard boxes had yet to be invented. Goods were carried in cloth sacks, metal canisters, leather baskets, wood barrels, sturdy trunks, or wooden crates. Additional containers were made of cloth, woven straw, crockery, glass, and tin.

18th century coopers making barrels. Image@Instructional Resources Corporation.

The safe preservation of foods in metal containers was finally realized in France in the early 1800s. In 1809, General Napoleon Bonaparte offered 12,000 francs to anyone who could preserve food for his army. Nicholas Appert, a Parisian chef and confectioner, found that food sealed in tin containers and sterilized by boiling could be preserved for long periods. A year later (1810), Peter Durand of Britain  received a patent for tinplate after devising the sealed cylindrical can. - A brief history of packaging

Fragile items like glass and china received extra protection and were wrapped in cloth or straw. Considering the poor road conditions,  it is a wonder that any of these items survived their long journeys intact. View an image and explanation of a stage wagon in this link.

Reliable forms of old-fashioned transportation still exist in this world. Image@Washington Post

Below is a description of a carrier and his wagon.  (click here to see examples):

It is a marvel to us how the old china and glass travelled in those days; but the packer was a man of infinite care and skill in the management of fragile wares.

Does the reader remember the time when all such goods were brought by carriers? How often they got broken if intrusted to the stage-coaches, how rarely if they came by the carrier.  The carrier’s waggon was securely packed, and time was of no object to the driver, he went very slowly and very carefully over bad ground. - Old Country Life, Sabine Baring-Gould, 1892

Breakdown of the Christmas stage, a Victorian illustration. Note that oxen are strapped to an empty cart, ready to take on passengers, who are still 10 miles from their destination.

As noted before, people often spent the night when they arrived as guests for dinner. Once a person made the journey to visit relatives, they tended to stay for weeks, even months. Elizabeth Bennet’s visit with Charlotte was of several weeks duration; Cassandra Austen frequently visited her brother Edward for weeks at a time, which is when Jane would write to her.

City streets were crowded and narrow. Thomas Rowlandson. The Miseries of London. 1807. Image @Lewis Walpole Library

“It is of some importance,” said Sydney Smith, “at what period a man is born. A young man alive at this period hardly knows to what improvements of human life he has been introduced; and I would bring before his notice the changes that have taken place in England since I began to breathe the breath of life—a period of seventy years. I have been nine hours sailing from Dover to Calais before the invention of steam. It took me nine hours to go from Taunton to Bath before the invention of railroads. In going from Taunton to Bath I suffered between ten thousand and twelve thousand severe contusions before stone-breaking MacAdam was born. I paid fifteen pounds in a single year for repair of carriage springs on the pavement of London, and I now glide without noise or fracture on wooden pavement. I can walk without molestation from one end of London to another; or, if tired, get into a cheap and active cab, instead of those cottages on wheels which the hackney coaches were at the beginning of my life. I forgot to add, that as the basket of the stagecoaches in which luggage was then carried had no springs, your clothes were rubbed all to pieces; and that even in the best society, one-third of the gentlemen were always drunk. I am now ashamed that I was not formerly more discontented, and am utterly surprised that all these changes and inventions did not occur two centuries ago.” – Old Country Life, Sabine Baring-Gould, 1892, p. 216

Paving a macadam road in the U.S., 1823

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Update: Contest Closed. The winners are Laurel and Angela. Gentle readers: Two lucky readers have the opportunity to win Abby Grahame’s debut novel, Wentworth Hall and a vintage diary, courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

Wentworth Hall is a novel aimed at Downton Abbey fans:

 The Darlington family of Wentworth Hall, an elite British family, fills their time by caring for their extensive estate, and looking over their shoulders as they struggle to keep up an elaborate charade to hide their scandalous secrets of illicit romances, and bitter betrayals.

Wentworth Hall is the historical novel by debut author Abby Grahame, which is spot-on perfect for fans of Downton Abbey! Read and excerpt of the book at this link!

Two (2) winners will each receive:
A vintage diary and copy of Wentworth Hall!

Prizing courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

To join the contest, all you need to do is let us know what you think of Shirley McClaine joining the cast as Cora’s mother for Season Three of Downton Abbey. Make sure to leave your comments on Jane Austen Today, my other blog.

The contest, which closes Friday May 27, is open to US residents only. Please make sure I have a way to reach the winners, who will be chosen by random number generator!

Comment section for Jane Austen’s World is closed.

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In The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After, Elizabeth Kantor asks in a section about “Taking Relationships Seriously”: Can we have Jane Austen-style elegance, dignity, and happy love only with no cost to modern freedom and equality? The answer is an unqualified yes if, like Austen’s heroines, we approach romance with a rational balance to sex and love and work hard on all our relationships, not just the romantic ones. The Guide is filled with clear-eyed information and advice gleaned from Jane Austen’s novels. Sprinkled throughout the book are selected tips for Janeites. They include:
  • Don’t wait to pursue happiness in love until “some time or other” in the future.
  • If you think about “settling” — think again.
  • The very highest standards for yourself are perfectly compatible with the highest degree of respect and compassion for other people — in fact, they tend to go together.
  • In Jane Austen (and in life), when it comes to human beings, past performance is an excellent predictor of future results.
  • You are the only person you have a right to control.
There are many more kernels of truth in The Guide. Case studies of major male characters, like John Willoughby,  examine their commitment phobias, and close scrutiny of Jane’s clear-eyed heroines reveals how they get love exactly right. The pursuit of rational and permanent happiness is what sets Jane Austen heroines apart. Regard the conversation in Pride and Prejudice between Elizabeth Bennet and her sister Jane about Mr. Bingley’s sisters:

Jane: “You persist, then, in supposing his sisters influence him?”

Elizabeth: “Yes, in conjunction with his friend.”

“I cannot believe it. Why should they try to influence him? They can only wish his happiness; and if he is attached to me, no other woman can secure it.”

“Your first position is false. They may wish many things besides his happiness; they may wish his increase of wealth and consequence; they may wish him to marry a girl who has all the importance of money, great connections and pride.”

With this example, the author points out that Jane Austen’s heroines don’t get an automatic win in love. They have to negotiate their way through competing desires to earn their happiness. Austen creates heroines who are able to do this, but she also shows us women who fail. These women don’t find happiness, for they were looking for love in all the wrong places and for other qualities besides those that would make them happy in love. Thinking about young and impulsive Lydia Bennet, the reader instantly recognizes that she stands no chance of finding happiness with Mr. Wickham after the excitement of their marriage dies down and their money runs out.
Jane Austen’s heroines don’t settle, like Charlotte Lucas  did with Mr. Collins. Fanny Price, who many readers find boring, remains steadfast in her convictions about Mr. Crawford, despite a great deal of pressure from family and friends. Cynical Mary Crawford was in the market for a man with status and money, which is why she first set her sights on Tom Bertram. When Tom leaves with his father for the West Indies, Mary falls for his younger brother Edmund’s charm and sincerity, but the worldly Mary remains blind to the values that Edmund truly cares about, and she is even flippant in her observations about his desires to become a clergyman. While Edmund was willing to overlook many of her faults, in the end their values were too different for their relationship to work. As Elizabeth Kantor observes:
Jane Austen didn’t think we could make it all better by becoming cynics about love – by trying to isolate sex with all its complications from our serious hopes for our lives because we’ve given up on the bliss love promises. She wouldn’t see the point of trying to limit romance to a recreation, instead of a chance for ‘permanent happiness.’
This book is packed with similar discussions that had me thinking about Jane Austen’s novels in a new light. The chapter titles are very descriptive: “He Had No Intentions at All: How to Recognize Men Who Are ‘Just Not That into You’”  or “Don’t Fall for a False Idea of Love.” At the end of each chapter you will find a series of callouts: “Adopt an Austen Attitude;” What Would Jane Do?” and “If we REALLY Want to Bring Back Jane Austen …

If you are tempted to pick up a copy of The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After one thing is for certain – you will gain a new perspective on how to approach modern romance from the advice from one of the world’s most famous regency spinsters.  I give the book 4 1/2 out of five regency teacups. For a sneak peek, go to Amazon and   read the introduction.

About the author: Elizabeth Kantor is the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature and an editor for Regnery Publishing. She earned her Ph.D. in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an M.A. in philosophy from the Catholic University of America. She is an avid Jane Austen fan.

Order the book at Amazon.
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Regnery Publishing (April 2, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1596987847
ISBN-13: 978-1596987845

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It is a rare occasion when we can compare a gown in a portrait with the actual dress. The painting, after George Daw, of the Prince Regent’s daughter, Princess Charlotte, shows her wearing a charming blue gown in a domestic, albeit royal, setting.

Princess Charlotte in her Russian Dress. Painting after George Daw, 1817. Image @Wikipedia

A second portrait depicts the same dress more royally. Princess Charlotte (or the artist) has accessorized the dress with ermine, lace, and pearls.

The mannequin from the Museum of London exhibit a few years back is dressed more informally, as if she was in the morning room reading. I found the image on Pinterest, but unfortunately the pin did not state the image’s origin. (A reader wrote that the dress belongs to the Royal Collection.)

As you can see, the dress no longer possesses the rich blue hue as shown in the paintings. So many of the costumes of that era are not only in a fragile state and can rarely be shown, but we cannot trust that the colors have remained the same.

Princess Charlotte's "Russian" outfit as shown at The Museum of London. The gown belongs to The Royal Collection.

Below is the original portrait by George Daw, which shows Princess Charlotte wearing the same dress. Click here for yet another view of Charlotte in a similar gown, but without the trim and wearing a lace cap. My sense is that after her death Princess Charlotte’s image became sought after and that many portrait copies were made (both in oil and in print) to satisfy the mourning public.

Princess Charlotte, George Daw, 1817. Image @National Portrait Gallery

Find more views of the gown at Jenny La Fleur’s site. Images of the gown can be seen in the exhibit catalogue called In Royal Fashion: Clothes of Princess Charlotte of Wales and Queen Victoria, 1796-1901, which can only be obtained second hand.

The exhibit: Princess Charlotte, The Lost Princess, will be on display at the Prince Regent Gallery in the Brighton Pavillion through 10 March, 2013.

My other posts about Princess Charlotte:

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In Sense and Sensibility 1996, Kate Winslet as Marianne wears a charming straw sun bonnet as she recuperates from her illness. When I ran across the fashion plate of a morning dress from The Gallery of Fashion, 1794-1798, I was immediately struck by the similarity, although the brim in the fashion plate is more elaborate.

Detail of a morning gown and balloon bonnet, Heideloff, The Gallery of Fashion

The magazine described the head wear as a “balloon bonnet of wicker, trimmed with broad lace. The front hair is in curls, the hind hair is turned up.”  I suspect that Lydia Bennet would have wrapped ribbons around her capote much as in the above image.

Kate Winslet’s capote is simpler, but equally charming. Capotes, or scoop-shaped bonnets, were popular in the early Regency and first made their appearance in the 1790s. The hats accommodated the modish hair styles of that era, which were short or piled on top of the head.

Bonnet, 1805-1810. Image@The Victoria & Albert Museum

Generally made to be worn outdoors, capotes were also worn as evening headwear early in the 19th century. This evening capote is elaborately trimmed.

Infant bonnet, 1820. Image @Metropolitan Museum of Art

The charming bonnet was made for an infant.  Click here to read the description. The image below shows a modern interpretation of a Regency era capote bonnet. (Living With Jane)

Image @Living With Jane

The shape of the Capote bonnet changed as hairdos changed, and the hat crown shifted to accommodate the increased height of swept up hair. The poke, or brim, also became larger over time. This definition describes the Victorian capote: Close fitting bonnet with rigid brim, either of straw or boned into shape. Soft, shirred crown , ribbon bows tied under the chin, Victorian 19 c. with deep ruffle in back. Also poke bonnet, fanchon, scuttle bonnet, sun bonnet. - Glossary of hats, Village Hat Shop.

View images of the Victorian capote here http://www.metmuseum.org/collections/search-the-collections/80044650 and here http://www.metmuseum.org/collections/search-the-collections/80044657. You can see the vast difference between the two styles, yet they are still capotes.

This link leads to instructions for making a Capote Beguin, or Edwardian Era bonnet.

Make Your Own Regency Bonnet

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Fashion is always more than it seems on the surface. Take this charming Regency morning dress from Ackermann’s Repository (April, 1812), for example. Its detailed description in the magazine demonstrates how many historic influences shaped this romantic costume. The lady who wore these garments as a total ensemble would have known about its medieval, Elizabethan and Jacobean associations.

Morning or Domestic Costume: A superfine Scotch or French cambric over a cambric slip, with full long sleeve, and ruff a la Mary Queen of Scots. A neck-chain and sight set in gold; bracelets and necklace of white or red cornelian. A Flora cap, composed of white satin and lace. A capuchin or French cloack of blossom satin, or Pomona green, trimmed with thread lace. Slippers of pale pink or green; and gloves of tan or Limerick kid.

Cambric material, also called batiste and made of bleached linen or cotton, was widely used in the 19th century for handkerchiefs, shirts, bed and table linens, and as fabric for lace. Scotch cambric was actually a fabric made in India. French cambrics were hard to come by after the British banned imports from France during the war.

Detail of cap, ruff, and necklace with quizzing glass, or 'sight'.

The Mary Queen of Scots ruff indicates the influence of the Elizabethan era in fashion and architecture. At this time, British fashion began to diverge from French fashion because of the Napoleonic wars, which effectively blocked normal communication and travel between the two countries. By 1811, fashion designers, who were influenced by the Romantic sensibilities of British poets and philosophers, looked to the Tudors and the Gothic eras for new fashion statements. Ruffles and slashed sleeves began to appear, and gowns began to veer from the elegant simplicity of Grecian designs to more embellished dresses.

Flora McDonald

I found almost no references to the flora cap, which hugs the skull. In this instance, a lace brim frames the face and hair. Historically, Flora McDonald was immortalized through her association with Bonnie Prince Charlie, and in the early 19th century,  Sir Walter Scott symbolized her as the embodiment of romanticized Scottish Jacobitism. One portrait of Flora shows her wearing a lace cap. Interestingly, today’s baseball and American hunting caps pop up when one Googles either Flora cap or Jacobean hats.

Cornelian, primarily found in India, was a popular semi-precious stone used in jewelry. The rust red is more prevalent over the white. Think of the colors of a cameo and you will have an idea of what bracelets and necklaces made of cornelian might look like. In this instance, the fashion plate depicts a white carnelian necklace.

Capuchin cloaks were loose hooded cloaks  whose design origins dated back to the medieval period. Capuchin monks, a 16th century off shoot of the Franciscan monks, wore distinctive pointed hooded cloaks, whose popularity remained strong through the 18th and 19th centuries.

I found this Victorian reference to Limerick kid gloves highly fascinating:

the best foreign glove is not better in any respect than the best Irish glove,—because the best London-made kid glove is rarely imported, or, if imported, cannot be sold as cheap as the best Dublin, Cork, or Limerick kid,—because the majority of imported gloves are made by frame, instead of by hand, and that the stitching by hand is much surer and firmer than sewing by machine; as, if one stitch give in a hand-made glove, that stitch alone goes, while if a stitch give in a machine-made glove, the whole finger is apt to go—and, lastly, because the article that is generally sold, is made of what, in the trade, is called “seconds,” the raw material being what is technically termed ” slink lamb,” and not kid; the difference of which may be better understood when I state that “seconds,” or “slink lamb,” can be bought by the manufacturer at from 1s. 3d. to 2s. per dozen, while kids range from 8s. 6d. to 14s. per dozen. What is usually called French kid, is, in reality, Italian lamb. So that my advice is—stick to the Irish kid, which will give good wear, and look charmingly on the hand.” – The industrial movement in Ireland, as illustrated by the National exhibition of 1852 (Google eBook), John Francis McGuire, 1853, p. 87

Detail of the Limerick kid gloves.

Although this lady is wearing a household garment meant to be seen only by family and close friends, and which she will keep on until she goes out to shop or visit friends, she is also wearing a cloak and gloves. One of the coldest vacations I ever spent was a week in April in London (the second coldest was a windy weekend in August in San Francisco). I visited a friend who lived in an ill-heated apartment, and I shivered for 7 days during one of the rainiest weeks this Dutch girl ever experienced. I imagine that the domestic outfit  portrayed in this fashion plate was well suited to staving off cold drafts and the shivers.

Several years ago I engaged in an online discussion about whether a lady wore gloves indoors. My “opponent” was adamant in her assertions that ladies did NOT wear gloves inside, saying that Regency portraits indicated that they never would. Never say never. I replied that this made no sense. Ladies tried to look their “Sunday” best for expensive portraits destined to be hung in long galleries, which meant showing off their most beautiful clothes and their milk white, unsullied hands. Besides, I found one or two paintings that portrayed a woman wearing gloves inside the house. I imagine that in some instances, a visitor might keep her gloves on if her visit was short and she was offered nothing to eat or drink.  (Think of Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s imperious visit to the Bennets to confront Elizabeth about her intentions with Mr. Darcy.) The gloves in this print might mean that the woman was sitting in a glassed-in conservatory or in the confines of her private garden.

A lady who lived in a freezing mausoleum of a house would be a fool not to keep her gloves on. This fashion plate shows such a sensible young woman.

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Coquilla nut ink stand, late 18th- early 19th c. Image @Antiques Atlas

Yesterday I came across an interesting description in Ackermann’s Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions, and Politics, April, 1812, about coquilla nuts, which a certain Mr. R. Ackermann displayed at his Repository, No 101, Strand (having purchased a considerable quantity of this fruit).

From whence the Portuguese obtained it, is so little known, that even the botanical library of Sir Joseph Banks cannot ascertain the circumstance. The probable conjecture, however, is, that it is the produce of the Portuguese possessions in Africa. It is, in a great measure, unknown in this country, nor can it be otherwise, as it is near sixty years since the custom-house entries mention an importation of it…”

19th c. coquilla nut pounce pot or spice shaker. Image @Ruby Lane

The coquilla nut is in fact the fruit of the Brazilian Palm, which is closely related to the coconut palm. The nut is 3-4 inches long, and has a very hard, richly streaked brown shell that is capable of taking a fine polish. It is a source of palm oil. The tree also offers up a stiff, wiry leaf fiber that is used for making brooms and rope. Coquilla nuts were routinely converted into a variety of highly ornamental articles:

The uncommonly pleasing colour of the  shell, the hardness and the native mottle which appears when it is highly polished, renders it capable of being employed, with the most agreeable effect, as it is susceptible of the most tasteful forms — on the writing-table, in wafer-boxes and seals, pounce, sand-boxes, &c. — on the ladies’ work-table, in needle-cases and thimble-cases, cotton-boxes, pincushions, &c. — or on the toilette and dressing-table, in boxes for lip-salve, rouge, scented sponges, and every kind of pomade. In the form of egg-cups, the nuts will be found to decorate the eating ‘table. As bell-pulls, they are very elegant.

19th c. coquilla nut pomander and nutmeg grater. Image @Christie's.

Coquilla nuts were also made into umbrella handles, candlesticks, and dice cups. The carved product was combined with ivory, or in the case of jewelry, with jade. I could find no examples of jewelry, and wonder it the nut was widely used for such a use.

As they appear to great advantage when worked up into beads, rosaries, and crosses, they will, doubtless, give a pleasing variety to personal decoration, when shaped into necklaces, bracelets, ear-rings, and other trinkets. Little useful pocket articles, as nutmeg-graters, cases for smelling-bottles, and other similar portable conveniences ; in short, whatever has been formed from ivory, may be produced from the shell of the Coquilla, whose beauty will not fail to attract, while the price of the article will satisfy the purchaser.”

Coquilla nutmeg grater. Image @Historic Cookery

Antique coquilla nut items are still quite reasonably priced, as this nutmeg grater from Historic Cookery attests. The Ackermann’s description indicated that the item was carried in the owner’s pocket, in order to season food ordered at a chopping house or club, no doubt.

19th century coquilla nut flea trap. Image @Physick.com

The most interesting coquilla nut item is this one: a flea trap.

It is easy to forget the squalor, poor hygiene, stench and infestations which our forefathers endured. In the 18th and 19th century flea traps were filled with a few drops of blood and honey or resin, depending on your financial means. Supposedly, fleas attracted by the blood would enter the trap and get stuck to the honey or resin. They were hung around the neck, worn in ladies clothes or kept in bed. - Physick.com

Coquilla nut flask. Image @Millers Antiques Guide

This coquilla nut flask seems a relatively simple item (One wonders how much liquid such a small flask would contain, unless it was whiskey or laudanum, or some other potent substance). Examining it closely, one can read inscribed on its top:

 ‘In the West Indies, I did grow upon a tree so high a negro come and cut me down a soldger…did me buy.., H. Neal, 35, Royal Sussex’. – Millers Antiques Guide 

Some coquilla nut items were larger and more elaborate. One surmises that a series of nut carvings were joined and glued together to create these beautiful candlesticks carved by Indian artisans in Bengal, who worked from designs supplied by locally based European tradesmen.

Late 18th C. Anglo Indian coquilla nut and ivory table candlesticks. Image@Online Galleries: The Antique Portal

…these candlesticks typical of the Murshidabad workshops delicately carved decoration, may have stood on an ivory ‘teapoy’, whose form was directly taken from a European candlestand.” – The Antique Portal

Carved 19th c. coquilla nut case thread, thimble holder. Image @WorthPoint

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Tonight PBS Masterpiece Classic presents the last installment of its homage to Charles Dickens in honor of his 200th year anniversary. The Mystery of Edwin Drood is a 120 minute special about an opium-addled choirmaster, John Jasper, who believes his nephew, Edwin, stands between him and the woman he fancies, 17-year-old Rosa Bud.

Mathew Rhys as John Jasper, Tamzin Merchant as Rosa Bud, and Freddie Fox as Edwin Drood

Gwyneth Hughes wrote the ending to this adaptation. Charles Dickens died half way through writing the novel, leaving The Mystery of Edwin Drood and the question of his disappearance hanging in the air. This Dickens tales is one of the few that I don’t like, no matter how hard I try, for I simply could not care for the characters or relate to John Jasper in any way. Of course, my opinion of the book colors my lukewarm reaction to the film.

Tamzin as Georgiana

Jane Austen film fans will recognize Tamzin Merchant as young Georgiana Darcy in Pride and Prejudice 2005. In a curious coincidence, Freddie Fox (Edwin) is the real life younger brother of Amelia Fox, who played Georgiana in Pride and Prejudice 1995.

Sacha Shawan plays Neville Landless

Your thoughts?

The Mystery of Edwin Drood will air at 9 p.m. Eastern and Pacific, 8 p.m. Central and Mountain. Check your local listings to be sure. Watch the special online starting April 16th.

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Dear Readers, Christine Steward from Embarking on a Course of Study has frequently contributed articles from her blog. She developed this post from her notes during a lecture by Jane Austen scholar, Gillian Dow. 

GOUCHER JANE AUSTEN SCHOLAR LECTURE: “Translating Austen; Or, when Jane Goes Abroad”

Following are my notes from a fascinating lecture that takes place every other year at Goucher College, home of the Alberta H. and Henry G. Burke Papers and Jane Austen Research Collection. This year the scholar was Dr. Gillian Dow, Professor at Southampton University and of Chawton House Library.

Gillian has written a piece for Masterpiece on PBS that addresses my reading project:

What was “extensive reading” to consist of for Austen’s female contemporaries and her fictional heroines? Certainly, a diet of pure fiction would not suffice. Indeed, many late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century novels employ the device of a warning from the narrator, directed at their female reader: beware of the dangers of fiction, the young woman is told, it enflames the mind and leads to romantic flights of fancy.

More of that article here if you’d like to read it. Let’s continue on with my notes. It was a fascinating lecture!

(Note: if any of what appears below is incorrect, it is entirely my fault as I may have misheard as I tried to keep up.)

The talk took place in February, in the Alumni House at Goucher on an, if not warm, definitely almost-spring-like, evening. The room was packed. More than 100 people, with at least 20 students (a coup!). Her talk focused on the various translations of Jane in other countries. She began with a quote by T.E. Kebbel in The Fortnightly Review (1885): “Miss A could hardly be appreciated by anyone not thorough English.”

That said, Gillian told us that there’s a room in the Jane Austen House Museum where translations of Austen’s novels are kept on the shelves (wish I’d known this when I visited there last year – if you go, check these out). About 70 of them, from Japan, Serbia, Iran, and other European countries – Sweden, Denmark, Germany, France for example.

Christine meets with Gillian

The first translation was in a Swiss periodical in 1813 – Pride and Prejudice.

To read further click on this link: http://www.embarkingonacourseofstudy.com

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