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Posts Tagged ‘Pride and Prejudice’

During the late 18th century, early 19th century, trains on gowns were de rigueur. I chose to show the two gowns below, since the styles were popular when Jane Austen was a teenager (first image) and wrote the first editions of Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice (second and third images).

1785-90 Sheer embroidered cotton muslin lined with pink silk taffeta - Galliera

Sheer embroidered cotton muslin, lined with pink silk taffeta, 1785-1790. Galliera

Silk Dress 1795 The Kyoto Costume Institute

Silk Dress, Kyoto Costume Institute, 1795

Robe ayant appartenu, 1797

Robe ayant appartenu, 1797

As Regency styles evolved and the 19th century  progressed, trains were worn largely on evening dresses.

 

1805-1810 French evening dress, V&A museum

1805-1810 French evening dress, V&A museum

I have often wondered how delicate muslin gowns survived the harsh laundering that was required to remove stains made from dusty floors and muddy pathways. Even the grandest ladies wearing the most expensive dresses promenaded on gravel walkways or shopped along city or village streets. How did they manage to keep their hems clean in an era when paved roads and sidewalks were almost impossible to find?

Dirt road, a view near New Cross Deptford in Kent, 1770. artist unknown Yale University, Mellon Collection.

Dirt road, a view near New Cross Deptford in Kent, 1770. artist unknown Yale University, Mellon Collection.

Until macadam roads became widespread, roads across most of Great Britain remained unpaved. Village roads were especially notorious for becoming muddy quagmires during rainy days. The deep ruts in this village scene, illustrated just five years before Jane Austen’s birth, say it all.

Detail

Detail of  the road in New Cross Deptford

Dresses worn by working class women stopped at or above the ankles, and for good reason! These women wore sturdy leather shoes that could withstand the dirt.

recto

Paul Sandby drawing of two vendors, 18th c.

City streets were barely better than country roads. While sidewalks protected dress hems, roads were still made of dirt. People tossed out garbage from their windows, and horse droppings made crossings all but impassible for pedestrians.

Dirt road_St. George, Bloomsbury

Dirt road, detail of St. George, Bloomsbury

Crossing sweepers were stationed along major intersections, sweeping a clearing for anyone willing to give a tip. Not only did horses pull carriages and wagons, but drovers led animals to market through village and city streets. The stench from their droppings must have been unbelievable.

street sweeper and wheeled plank Vernet_street_print

This enterprising street sweeper places a wheeled plank at strategic points to help pedestrians cross dirty roads. Print by Carle Vernet.

 

With time, machines began to replace manual labor, as this unhappy street sweeper notes.

By 1829, machines began to replace manual labor, as this unhappy street sweeper notes in “The Scavenger’s Lamentation.” Observe the piles of horse and animal dung left behind.

Jane Austen mentioned wearing pattens when she lived in Steventon. These devices elevated shoes above the dirt, but by the turn of the 19th century, pattens were no longer considered fashionable and were largely worn by the working classes, such as the midwife below.

Rowlandson, Midwife going to a labour.

Rowlandson. AMidwife Going to a Labour.

 

early 19th century pattens. Museum of Fine Art, Boston

early 19th century pattens. Museum of Fine Art, Boston

I always view contemporary images for clues. Diana Sperling created some wonderful watercolours around the topic. In this painting, you can see how the trains of the dresses have somehow been hitched up in the back, especially with the first and third women.

dirt road_hazards of walking sperling

Hazards of walking, by Diana Sperling

After Elizabeth Bennet walks to Netherfield to visit her sick sister, Jane, Mrs. Hurst and Mrs. Bingley speak disparagingly about the state of her dress:

“She has nothing, in short, to recommend her, but being an excellent walker. I shall never forget her appearance this morning. She really looked almost wild.”

“She did indeed, Louisa. I could hardly keep my countenance. Very nonsensical to come at all! Why must she be scampering about the country, because her sister had a cold? Her hair, so untidy, so blowsy!”

“Yes, and her petticoat; I hope you saw her petticoat, six inches deep in mud, I am absolutely certain; and the gown which had been let down to hide it, not doing its office.” – Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 8

Bingley’s citified and nouveau riche sisters were horrified at Elizabeth’s lack of decorum. To them, appearances are more important than sisterly devotion. One imagines that they would not have ventured out until the sun had dried the mud and they could be assured of a carriage. From the image below, one can readily see why Elizabeth’s hems were in such sad shape after her long walk in fields made wet by heavy rain.

Dirt roads

One wonders how helpful pattens were when dirt roads became quagmires. Although she was young when she painted these watercolours, Diana Sperling demonstrates a decided sense of humor in her paintings.

In Northanger Abbey, Isabella and Catherine became quickly inseparable, even calling each other by their first names in an age when only intimate friends and family could be on such terms.

They called each other by their Christian name, were always arm in arm when they walked, pinned up each other’s train for the dance, and were not to be divided in the set; and if a rainy morning deprived them of other enjoyments, they were still resolute in meeting in defiance of wet and dirt, and shut themselves up, to read novels together. 

They pinned up the trains of each others’ evening gowns to prevent tripping, but also staining, I suspect.  (It must be noted that guests changed from their street shoes to dancing slippers before entering a ballroom, which probably reduced the amount of dirt trailed inside.) Nothing could stop the girls from seeing each other, not even “dirt” or muddy streets.

There were many ways to protect trains. In this film still, Gwynneth Paltrow’s Emma hitches her train on a loop over her wrist.

Note the train in this image of the 1996 version of Emma

Note the train in this image of the 1996 version of Emma

These French images from the late 18th century provide the best evidence in how ladies would protect their delicate dresses out of doors. While we assume that ladies did not expose their ankles to the public (they certainly did not in the Victorian era, but the Regency was a different time), the illustrations point out the practical habit of hitching a train over one’s arm.

corte de pelo a la victima

This French fashionista with her short, pert hair cut, reveals her roman style slippers as she promenades with her train carried over her arm.

Les Merveilleuses, by carle vernet

While this 1797 satiric image by Carle Vernet is making fun of fashionistas, one can surmise that the habit of carrying long skirts over the fore arm was widespread.

Wind and open windows swept dirt and dust continually into houses and visitors trod in dirt. No wonder maids needed to sweep floors daily!

Regardless of the efforts to keep streets, sidewalks, and floors clean, one wonders about the condition of the hems on women’s garments. Clothes were expensive before the advent of mass-produced cloth and were carefully recycled, even by the well-off.

Laundresses took an enormous amount of effort to keep clothes clean. One can only assume that the majority of women wore clothes with stained hems, and that only the rich could afford the expense of keeping their clothes looking spotless. Eleanor Tilney wore only white gowns, which told contemporary readers more about her economic status than pages of explanations ever could. In Mansfield Park, Mrs. Norris frowned on maidservants wearing white gowns. These white clothes were not only above their stations, but they would require an enormous amount of time spent on maintenance.

Also on this blog: Trains on Dresses

 

 

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Gentle Readers,

What better way to resume my blog than with Jessica Purser’s lovely Jane Austen post cards and bookmarks? I apologize for my unexcused silence. Life simply caught up with me, and due to a schedule that overwhelmed me because of work and family obligations, I had to cut back on my blog, and Facebook and Twitter comments. I did keep up with my Pinterest boards, for I found that cataloging images was as relaxing as playing solitaire. Whenever I found 10 spare minutes here and there (while waiting, watching the news or a television show, or during a solitary meal), I would pin. I want to thank those who persisted in contacting me (and who I needlessly worried) and who coached me to return to my blogging duties a little earlier than I had planned. Jessica Purser sent these lovely cards and notes for me to review in July. They certainly deserved my immediate attention and not such a long wait.

JPurser_PrideandPrejudice.jpg

I placed a number of the images on my table. Sorry about the quality of the images. I have interspersed them with images from Jessica Purser’s Etsy site.

I am sure that many of you have already viewed samples of Jess’s images on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Twitter, but I couldn’t help sharing these cute interpretations of Jane Austen’s characters anyway.

Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy

Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy

Ms. Purser sent me quite a few samples, which I photographed (rather clumsily, I must admit). I am also featuring a number of images from her Etsy site.

persuasion_pride_purser.jpg

Anne and Captain Wentworth in Persuasion, and Bingley proposing to Jane in Pride and Prejudice

I can’t think of a better way to restart my blog than to share Jess’s wonderful creations with you. They are painted on pages of Jane Austen’s novels, which provide context.

Emma and Mr. Knightley

Emma and Mr. Knightley

The postcards are printed on hardy card stock and the larger images are suitable for framing. I have been using the bookplates and bookmarks, and sharing them with friends.

Bookmarks and book plates. How lovely.

Bookmarks and book plates. How lovely.

Thank you, Jessica, for this lovely art work.

Jess's book marks

Jess’s book marks

Jessica PurserRead more about Jessica in this Interview with Jessica Purser on Rockalily Cuts

Order her art work at: Castle on the Hill, Jessica’s Etsy Shop

 

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Portrait of Maria Edgeworth by John Downman (1807). Is it just wishful thinking on my part or does Jane Austen somewhat resemble this pretty, genteel author?

I’m sure others have been struck by this paragraph from Pride and Prejudice (see quote below), and wondered if perhaps it gives us a clue about how Cassandra was able to locate the many letters from Jane that she would destroy, for the majority of those that survived are innocuous and mundane. They reveal very little about the author’s observations and feelings about her family and friends, politics, and religion.

Cassandra, who outlived Jane by 26 years, kept her sister’s letters to reread during her lifetime. This gave her enough time to decide what to do with them. She burned most of Jane’s letters shortly before her death, redistributing the remaining few among friends and family.

Of the approximately 160 letters that survive from Jane, 95 were written to Cassandra. None of the letters Jane wrote to her parents survive, and very few to her brothers (none to Henry, her favorite brother). To be fair to Cassandra, who has been vilified by many for burning so many of Jane’s letters, it was the custom in those days to destroy such casual correspondence (much like we delete emails today).

A portion of Jane’s letter has been cut out. Image@Morgan Library

When they read their missives out loud to the family, the Austen sisters had a habit of censoring each other’s letters and leaving out sections that were meant to remain private.  Jane might have given us a clue in Pride and Prejudice on how Cassandra was able to go through thousands of letters and locate information that she was unwilling to pass down for posterity. In some instances Cassandra cut out the offending sentence, but generally she destroyed the entire letter. How did she know where to cut out only one sentence or passage?

This scene, in which Lydia has joined Colonel and Mrs. Foster in Brighton, gives us a clue:

When Lydia went away she promised to write very often and very minutely to her mother and Kitty, but her letters were always long expected and always very short. Those to her mother contained little else than that they were just returned from the library, where such and such officers had attended them, and where she had seen such beautiful ornaments as made her quite wild; that she had a new gown or a new parasol, which she would have described more fully, but was obliged to leave off in a violent hurry, as Mrs Forster called her and they were going to the camp; and from her correspondence with her sister there was still less to be learned, for her letters to Kitty, though rather longer, were much too full of lines under the words to be made public.

Reading out loud

Note how Kitty could not reveal the words and sentences that Lydia had underscored with lines, even to the family. Did Jane use such a system with Cassandra to keep her private thoughts only for her sister?  I’m curious to know.

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Jane Austen scholar Patricia Meyer Spacks has written many books, but none so lush and lovely as Pride and Prejudice: An Annotated Edition. Not only will this beautiful annotated edition of Jane Austen’s beloved novel look fabulous on your coffee table, but after reading it you will feel that you’ve come to understand Pride and Prejudice as you never have before.

Dr. Spacks’s definitions, descriptions, and clarifications of arcane words, Regency customs, and obscure passages add dimension to a novel that I have read over 22 times and thought I knew inside and out. But I was wrong. Take her annotation of this rather unassuming sentence in Chapter 4, for example:

With no greater events than these in the Longbourn family, and otherwise diversified by little beyond the walks to Meryton, sometimes dirty and sometimes cold, did January and February pass away.”

Dr. Spacks explains that in this instance, dirty meant muddy. Thinking of how uneventful life in a semi-rural setting must be, she adds, “Aside from the arrival of the militia and of Wickham, virtually everything of significance that has happened in the novel so far has been psychological…” She then goes on to describe the states of mind in Jane, Elizabeth, Darcy and Mr. Collins as they interact with each other.

In Chapter 2, Volume III, she introduces Michael Kramp’s idea that Mr. Darcy’s kindness to Mrs. Gardiner during Elizabeth’s and the Gardiners visit to Pemberly is evidence of the changing nature of England’s social arrangements and that “the gap between new and old money is shrinking.” (p. 307)

Dr. Spacks’s new annotated edition provides an erudite commentary on Pride and Prejudice, refers to many scholarly sources, and includes a large assortment of images. As she explained in a recent interview with me: “we looked for images that were beautiful in themselves and that illuminated some aspect of Austen’s period.”

Her 24-page introduction explores the continuing appeal of Pride and Prejudice: that it is considered safe for teaching in school and appeals to both feminists and sentimental individuals who are attracted to a romantic English past.

It has also emerged clearly as a repository for and stimulus of fantasy, and thus possibly less safe than it seems. In the film versions…Darcy, romanticized, tends to turn into a Heathcliff figure, passionate, beautiful, and overwhelmingly physical.”

A visitor to this blog recently asked how this annotation of Pride and Prejudice differed from David M. Shapard’s 2004 annotation. The Spacks volume comes in a lavishly color-illustrated, hardback edition, while Shapard’s book was published as a trade paperback. Scattered thinly throughout its pages are a few black and white illustrations. Aside from the difference in physical appearance, Spacks’s annotations are more scholarly.

Flipping through the first page of the novel, you can immediately spot the difference between the two approaches. Dr. Spacks, the Edgar F. Shannon Professor of English, Emerita at the University of Virginia, discusses the famous first sentence as material for a critical debate on the ambiguity of “want”, whereas Dr. Shapard, an 18th century expert, emphasizes the introduction of two central themes of the novel – marriage and financial considerations. These two annotations are so different, that I believe there is room on the shelves for both of them.

Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice: An Annotated Edition, edited by Patricia Meyer Spacks is a perfect gift for oneself and for a beloved friend or family member. If the $35 purchase price is a bit steep in this economic downturn, place it on your Holiday gift wish list. You will not be disappointed when you unwrap your package.

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Gentle Reader, next week Austenprose will begin a Pride and Prejudice extravaganza entitled, Pride and Prejudice Without Zombies. The group will be reading Jane Austen’s own words. Not some mash up. Not a sequel. And, as far as I am concerned, my favorite book of all time. When Laurel Ann asked me to contribute my thoughts during the event, I was already researching information about Mr. Jones, the apothecary who treated Jane Bennet. So, as a pre-announcement, I am publishing this post. Do obtain a copy of Pride and Prejudice and join Laurel Ann and her readers as she begins her in-depth analysis of the book on Tuesday, June 16th.

Jane is sick, Netherfield Hall, Pride and Prejudice 2005

In 1813, the year that Pride and Prejudice was finally published, apothecaries filled an important role in rural areas where physicians were scarce. When Jane Bennet fell ill at Netherfield Park, Mr. Jones, the apothecary was sent for:

Breakfast was scarcely over when a servant from Netherfield brought the following note for Elizabeth:

“My dearest Lizzy,

I find myself very unwell this morning, which, I suppose, is to be imputed to my getting wet through yesterday. My kind friends will not hear of my returning home till I am better. They insist also on my seeing Mr. Jones therefore do not be alarmed if you should hear of his having been to me and excepting a sore throat and head-ache, there is not much the matter with me.

Yours, &c.”

Unlike a physician, whose social standing ranked high, apothecaries were considered one step up from a tradesmen, and several rungs below the physician/doctor.


This cartoon by James Gillray suggests that the Cockney in question is an apothecary. Note the mortar and pestle symbol on the side of the carriage.

Apothecaries learned how to make drugs and poultices during their tenure as apprentices. They used their hands and labored in shops, and were often the only alternative for people who sought medical care and who could not afford a doctor’s fees. Interestingly, apothecaries were not paid for giving advice or providing medical treatment. They were paid only for the drugs they sold.

Apothecary Shop, Glasgow Looking Glass

Mr. Jones, would have traveled to Netherfield Hall and dispensed his advice without recompense. But he recommended his draughts, which enabled him to earn some money, and instructed Elizabeth on how to use them:

The apothecary came and having examined his patient said as might be supposed that she had caught a violent cold and that they must endeavor to get the better of it advised her to return to bed and promised her some draughts. The advice was followed readily for the feverish symptoms increased and her head ached acutely.

Visiting an ill Jane at Netherfield, Pride and Prejudice 2005

Mrs. Bennet’s ploy to keep Jane at Netherfield, using Mr. Jones as an excuse when Mr. Bingley inquires about Jane’s condition, worked:

“Indeed I have, Sir,” was her answer. “She is a great deal too ill to be moved. Mr. Jones says we must not think of moving her. We must trespass a little longer on your kindness.”

Mr. Bennet used Mrs. Bennet’s machinations to his advantage, demonstrating his wit even as he admonished his wife for placing Jane in danger:

“Well, my dear,” said Mr. Bennet, when Elizabeth had read the note aloud, “if your daughter should have a dangerous fit of illness, if she should die, it would be a comfort to know that it was all in pursuit of Mr. Bingley, and under your orders.”

“Oh! I am not at all afraid of her dying. People do not die of little trifling colds. She will be taken good care of. As long is she stays there, it is all very well. I would go and see her, if I could have the carriage.”

As an interesting aside, one of the 3rd Earl of Stanhope’s third daughter’s eloped with the family apothecary, prompting James Gillray to draw the cartoon, Democratic Levelling: Alliance a la Francaise, The Union of the Coronet and Clyster Pipe. (A coronet is a small crown symbolizing a peer’s status and a clyster pipe was a tube used for injections). The earl was a great proponent of liberty and revolution, but this marriage sorely tested his tolerance for equality! One wonders what Mr. Bennet might have said had Jane or Lizzie run off with Mr. Jones!

At the turn of the 19th century, the practice of medicine would benefit from rapid scientific advances brought about by methodical and well-reasoned experimentation and observations. But at the height of Thomas Rowland’s and James Gillray’s satiric powers, doctors, surgeons, and apothecaries were still targets of fun. The medical field also did not fare well with popular opinion.

The Comforts of Bath, Rowlandson. At the end of the 18th Century, Bath had more doctors and apothecaries per number of citizens than any city in England.

The following humorous scene between a doctor and an author sums up the popular perception of a doctor’s swelled head. His miniscule knowledge about medicine does not detract from his exalted opinion of his social standing in relation to an apothecary’s. This passage emphasizes the point that the medical field took a back seat to poetry and criticism:

Doctor: I suppose, Sir, you are his apothecary.

Gent: Sir, I am his friend.

Doctor: I doubt it not. What regimen have you observed since he has been under your care? You remember, I suppose, the passage in Celsus, which says, “if the patient on the third day have an interval, suspend the medicaments at night. Let fumigations be used to corroborate the brain.” I hope you have upon no account promoted slernutation by hellebore.

Gent:  Sir, you mistake the matter quite.

Doctor: What! an apothecary tell a physician he mistakes! You pretend to dispute my prescription! Pharmacopola componant. Medicus folus prefabricat. Fumigate him, I say, this very evening, while he is relieved by an interval’

Dennis: Death, Sir, do you take my friend for an apothecary! A man of genius and learning for an apothecary! Know, Sir, that this gentleman professes, like myself, the two noblest sciences in the universe, criticism and poetry. By the immortals, he himself is author of three whole paragraphs in my Remarks, had a hand in my Public Spirit, and assisted me in my description of the furies and infernal regions in my Appius.

(The discussion continues.) Then the doctor says:

Doctor: He must use the cold bath, and be cupped on the head. The symptoms seem desperate. Avicen says: “If learning be mixed with a brain that is not of a contexture fit to receive it, the brain ferments till it be totally exhausted. We must endeavour to eradicate these indigested ideas out of the perieranium, and to restore the patient to a competent knowledge of himself. - Elegant Extracts, or Useful Entertaining Passages

Consultation of Physicians, Hogarth

Physicians occupied the top rung of the medical social ladder because they did not “soil” their hands by treating the patient directly, as a surgeon would. They did not accept money in public (the payment would have been made discreetly). These “learned” men attended university but did not perform autopsies or dissect cadavres. Men of breeding, they merely sat back and watched the procedure from afar.

Apothecary shop, 1719

An apothecary shop during Jane Austen’s day was much like today’s drug store, where a customer could purchase drugs, herbs, poultices, panaceas, and other medicinals. In the image from 1st Art Gallery, one can see the preparations and infusions being made in an 18th century apothecary shop. Herbs grew in an adjacent garden and substances were stored in apothecary jars and drawers. Such shops also sold surgical equipment. In this link one can view an apothecary shop in Colonial Williamsburg, much as a similar shop might have looked in Meryton.

18th century apothecary bottles made with mercury glass

Apothecaries were often the only doctors available in a rural community, and they would take their supplies with them in portable apothecary box. Mr. Jones, Jane Bennet’s apothecary, must have dispensed his solutions from a similar box.

Apothecary box

By the mid-19th century, the medical field changed drastically, including the pharmaceutical field, and medications and medical practices  began to actually heal patients with predictable success. In 1895, the Pharmaceutical Journal wrote what might well be an eulogy for apothecaries:

You are all familiar in one way or another with the apothecary of the last century. A gloomy little man in a gloomy little shop with a gloomy little helper. What mystery there was surrounding every step!  His weird work with flame and flask mortar pestle and still! … These were pioneers in our profession and all honour is due them.

My further discussions about medicine in the 19th century can be found in three posts I have written on the topic:

More on the topic of medicine in Jane Austen’s day in these links:

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Colin Firth wearing a reindeer jumper in Bridget Jones' Diary

The blog, Built on Facts, discusses Pride and Prejudice and Bridget Jones’s Diary in a post entitled: Metafiction and Self-Reference in Bridget Jones’ Diary

..not only is [Bridget Jones' Diary] a retelling, it’s a retelling that’s very explicit about that fact. But that’s just the start; in fact Bridget meets him at a party wherein Mr. Darcy is standing around being standoffish, precisely as in Pride and Prejudice. And Bridget comments on this, pointing out to herself that if one is going to be named Darcy one shouldn’t be standing around standoffishly at parties.

More Intelligent Life dot Com features a long interview with Colin Firth about his movie, “A Single Man,” and his life and career. Quite insightful.

LOOK UP Firth’s name in a casting director’s address-book, and you’d find it under “a” for Archetypal Englishman. He has played the comedy version (the cuckolded, tongue-tied writer in “Love Actually”), the villainous version (a Blackadderish lord in “Shakespeare in Love”) and the subtle, smarter-than-he-first-appears version—decent Clifton, the young buffer who’s actually a spy, in “The English Patient”. Yet in reality Firth doesn’t have much time for England.

Both his major relationships have been with women from other countries—first the Canadian actress Meg Tilly, with whom he has a son, and now his wife Livia Guggioli, an Italian documentary producer and mother of his two younger children.

Trousseau features fashion from the 19th century through the early 20th century. This page shows gowns from 1801-1839. Clicking on a dress will lead you to a page; clicking on each image will lead you to an enlarged detail.

Detail of embroidered muslin dress, 1810-1814

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During the 2007-2008 holidays, artist and cartoonist Paula J. Becker watched Pride and Prejudice movies nonstop, from the 1940′s version, to the 1980′s and the mammoth 1995 Colin Firth adaptation.  When she finished viewing P&P 2005, she was inspired to draw Mr. Darcy and Lizzy at a ball. What fun she must have had! You will recognize Ms Becker’s style, for you have most likely seen her cartoons in greeting cards and her artwork in children’s books.

pride_72Mr. Darcy makes a most handsome bow to his Lizzy. The revel rousers in the background seem to be having a great deal of fun.

g-kitties_72These Georgian Kitties could easily be Caroline Bingley and her sister, Mrs. Hurst.

Cartoons reproduced with Ms. Becker’s permission.

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