Archive for July, 2007

Becoming Jane Has Arrived

But not in Richmond. We’ll just have to make do with multiple photos of Anne Hathaway arriving for the New York City premiere. Click here to see them.

And here for an interview with Anne in the San Francisco Chronicle.

You can catch Anne on Live With Regis and Kelly on Wednesday, August 1.

Here’s a trailer of the movie on Yahoo.

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Click here to enter the PBS site and see a preview of the shows coming in 2008.

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A WalkWith Jane Austen is a lovely book, full of unexpected insights and revelations. Lori Smith’s revealing and personal account is a pure joy to read. As a single, independent and talented woman she is in want of a man, but will not compromise her principles or her quest to experience romantic love in order to simply be with one. Sound familiar? This is one of the many parallels of Lori’s life to Jane’s. However, the one distinct difference between the two women is that Jane lived a geographically circumscribed and rather “eventless” life, whereas Lori is a seasoned world traveler who has embarked on a risky but life-altering journey.

In Part One of this very personal three part account, Lori travels to Oxford. Sitting in a church, she muses about Jane Austen’s faith. As I read Lori’s words, it occurs to me how universally loved Jane has become. Studying the world map sitting on my blog, Jane’s fans live in China, Korea, Italy, South Africa, Chili, Mexico, Canada, Iceland, New Zealand, Bahrain, and of course, all the former British Colonies. How is it that Jane is able to attract a close following from so many countries and faiths? As Lori points out, while Jane is religious and operates from a moral foundation, she was spiritually reserved. “‘She was ‘more inclined to think and act than to talk‘ about her faith.” Lori is so right, and I wonder if Jane’s reserved approach to faith in her novels is one of the reasons she is so universally approachable and loved. In addition to our admiration of Jane’s enormous writing talent, her novels about families, friends, and love gone awry and set right again resonate with people from a variety of backgrounds and religions.

At Oxford Lori meets several guys from D.C., one of whom is named Jack. At first impression she likes his easy going humor and affability. And although Jack confesses that he had just begun to see another woman and wasn’t expecting to meet someone else, Lori cautiously and inexorably begins to fall for him. Her analysis of life as a single woman and quest for a man to share her life echo those of many single women. This includes Jane, who also preferred to spend her life single rather than settle on a mate just for the sake of getting married. Part One of the book ends with Lori spending a wonderful evening with Jack and friends, one that is filled with conversation and laughter.

Part Two of the journey begins with Lori thinking the whole world beautiful. But I’ll reserve a more detailed analysis of this section for another time. Ever the optimist, I had hoped to review this book chapter by chapter, however my current schedule simply will not allow it. Look for my next synopsis of this wonderful book over the weekend.

Visit Lori’s website here: Jane Austen Quote of the Day
Visit Lori’s other website here: Following Austen
Pre order the book here: A Walk With Jane Austen, Lori Smith

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In the image of the seaside above by James Gillray (A Calm, 1810) one can see the high hem of a typical seaside dress of the day, and the bathing machines lined along the water. Bathing in the sea, especially during the cold season, became fashionable in seeking a cure for many illnesses. The following is a short passage from The Bathing was so delightful this morning: The bathing experiences of Jane Austen and others from The Jane Austen Society of Australia:

Within the Austen family there was a preference for using spas for ill health and visiting the seaside for pleasure. Edward Austen visited and James Leigh-Perrott lived in Bath for treatment of their gout. Jane and Cassandra Austen visited Cheltenham in 1816 to try to cure Jane’s declining health. Their visits to the seaside were planned as recreational visits only, with no specific medical purpose attached to them. It was only the prospect of annual visits to the seaside that made the move to Bath tolerable to Jane.

In fact, during the Regency Era few men and women wore bathing costumes. They often swam nude, and entered the sea in separate beaches sheltered by rented bathing machines drawn by horses (much like those in the photograph above, taken in 1885-1890). Bathers changed in and out of their clothes in these portable dressing rooms. An 18th century description of a bathing machine from The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker gives one a good idea of what being in one was like:

Imagine to yourself a small, snug, wooden chamber, fixed upon a wheel-carriage, having a door at each end, and on each side a little window above, a bench below – The bather, ascending into this apartment by wooden steps, shuts himself in, and begins to undress, while the attendant yokes a horse to the end next the sea, and draws the carriage forwards, till the surface of the water is on a level with the floor of the dressing-room, then he moves and fixes the horse to the other end – The person within being stripped, opens the door to the sea-ward, where he finds the guide ready, and plunges headlong into the water – After having bathed, he re-ascends into the apartment, by the steps which had been shifted for that purpose, and puts on his clothes at his leisure, while the carriage is drawn back again upon the dry land; so that he has nothing further to do, but to open the door, and come down as he went up – Should he be so weak or ill as to require a servant to put off and on his clothes, there is room enough in the apartment for half a dozen people.

In 1901 it became legal for women and men to bathe on the same seashore (one presumes they are clothed) and bathing machines became less popular.


Learn more about bathing and seaside resorts during this era on the following site:


Here are two more posts about bathing in the Regency Era:

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I found many fascinating facts in the Jane Austen Handbook: A Sensible Yet Elegant Guide to Her World. One that most particularly piqued my interest was that ladies generally did not wear drawers in Jane Austen’s day. I wondered about that statement. Then I viewed the following hand colored etching attributed to Thomas Rowlandson.

This caricature depicts the staircase leading to the Great Room at Somerset House in Pall Mall, which was where the members of the Royal Academy exhibited their paintings. The stairway to the Great Room was steep and long, and undoubtedly tough to negotiate during crowded days.

Rowlandson’s caricature speaks to the popular perception that there were two kinds of viewers who came to Somerset House: Those who wanted to see the paintings and sculptures, and those who came to ogle the ladies whose legs and ankles were exposed walking up those prominent stairs.

In Rowlandson’s cartoon, the ladies tumble down in a domino effect, revealing much, much more than a neat turn of ankle. I adore the details in this scene: The rakes ready to take their visual fill of the unfortunate situation, while elegant ladies tumble haplessly, limbs akimbo and tender parts exposed. Interestingly, the ladies are wearing stockings but not much more beneath those gauzy muslins. Rowlandson proves Margaret C. Sullivan right and I am happy for it.

(Thomas Rowlandson, The Exhibition Stare Case (c. 1811, hand-colored etching; etching may be by Rowlandson, although the coloring is not).

The Romantic Cosmopolitanism: The 12th Annual NASSR Conference: “Eyes on the Metropole: Seeing London and Beyond”, By Sharon M. Twigg and Theresa M. Kelley

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Wilton House, located in Wiltshire, is the ancestral home of the Earls of Pembroke. In 1811, Louis Simond wrote about his visit to the great house in An American in Regency England. Here is his description of the park and grounds.

I measured an evergreen oak (not a large tree naturally); it covered a space of seventeen paces in diameter, and the trunk was twelve feet in circumference. An elm was sixteen feet in circumference, and many appeared about equal. Beyond the water, which before it spreads out into a stagnant lake, is a lively stream, you see an insulated hill covered with wood. We went to it by a very beautiful bridge. The view from that eminence is fine, and its slope would have afforded a healthier and pleasanter situation for the house. The deer came to the call, and ate leaves held to them – too tame for beauty, as they lose by it their graceful inquietude and activity and become mere fat cattle for the shambles. Deer are a good deal out of fashion, and have given way to sheep in many parks.

Deer in Richmond Park

Learn More About This Topic By Clicking on the Following Links:

Veteran Oak, Windsor Park

Arial view of the Wilton House grounds

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In reading Undressing Mr. Darcy, this phrase leaped off my computer screen:

Another of Beau Brummel’s innovations was the semi-starched cravat: a neck cloth folded and arranged exquisitely carefully beneath chin and shirt front. It is reported washerwoman fainted when he introduced this. And no wonder, on top of everything they had to wash, iron, and mend they now had this semi-starched neck cloth: not full starch so it could be done with all the others, no, it had to be semi starched.

Until recently I would not have singled out this phrase, but as I have been reading about scullery maids (click on link), the enormity of their tasks (and those of washer women and the lowly house maids) have begun to hit me in a real sense. Imagine cleaning dishes or doing laundry in an era when there was no running water piped into the house. The very rich might have a private cistern or well nearby, but for the majority of households during the 19th century and before, water had to be carried into the house from a distance. The town pump or well, while centrally situated in a village or city square, might not be conveniently located near one’s house. In addition to the village well, households in the country could also rely on local streams, rivers, or lakes for their source of water, but again, these bodies of water were probably located some distance away.

Whatever the chore, water had to be carried back to the house by the servants of an upper class house or by the mistress or a maid of all work of a modest household. According to Digital History, Washing, boiling and rinsing a single load of laundry used about 50 gallons of water. Over the course of a year she walked 148 miles toting water and carried over 36 tons of water. Homes without running water also lacked the simplest way to dispose garbage: sinks with drains. This meant that women had to remove dirty dishwater, kitchen slops, and, worst of all, the contents of chamberpots from their house by hand.

One can just imagine how many buckets of water were required for one hot steaming bath. It is no wonder, then, that people of that era took infrequent baths.

It is also documented that the women of those bygone days universally dreaded laundry days. In fact, because of the sheer enormity of the task, people had a habit of changing their shirts and underwear only once a week. A chemise, which was worn next to the body, was washed more frequently than a gown. These shapeless undergarments were made of white linen, muslin, or cotton so that they could take the frequent harsh treatment of boiling and pounding in lye without losing shape or color. According to Reflections on Early Modern Laundry, “undergarments were not permanently gathered at the neckline and sleeves, but made with casings and drawstrings so the garment could be laid out flat for drying and ironing.”

In the absence of electric dryers, laundry had to dry naturally. This could be a problem during cold dank winters when clothes took forever to dry. One can now understand why Beau Brummel’s penchant for wearing white, lightly starched cravats (and he often went through a bundle before being satisfied of the results) would make a laundress faint.

Here are two more descriptions of washing and doing laundry before modern conveniences took over. The first one is from Digital History:

On Sunday evenings, a housewife soaked clothing in tubs of warm water. When she woke up the next morning, she had to scrub the laundry on a rough washboard and rub it with soap made from lye, which severely irritated her hands. Next, she placed the laundry in big vats of boiling water and stirred the clothes about with a long pole to prevent the clothes from developing yellow spots. Then she lifted the clothes out of the vats with a washstick, rinsed the clothes twice, once in plain water and once with bluing, wrung the clothes out and hung them out to dry. At this point, clothes would be pressed with heavy flatirons and collars would be stiffened with starch.
The most interesting bit of information about laundering in the 19th century and before was the following excerpt from Reflections on Early Modern Laundry:

First, remember that many of the fabrics that they used, especially the wools, are things that we now usually dry-clean because they are difficult to wash. Woolen garments had to be washed separately in cold water to avoid shrinkage and pilling. I will not even address the issue of trying to clean silks, brocades, and other luxury fabrics …

Dyes were not color-fast, and fabrics shrank at different rates. If you read the descriptions of how to wash a “good” dress, the laundress started by removing the trimming and the buttons. Then she separated the lining from the garment itself (picking the seams). If the skirt was full enough that the weight of the wet fabric would cause it to stretch unevenly, she took the skirt off the bodice and took the gores apart at the seams. Then she washed it, dried it, checked to see if the lining and the garment still matched up in size, made any necessary adjustments, and sewed it back together.

Laundry: Reflections on Early Modern Laundry: This online article explains how laundry techniques hardly changed at all between the 16th and 19th centuries.

Digital History: Housework in late 19th Century America:Find a detailed description of the 19th century American housewife’s duties on this site. They are not so vastly different than those of the ordinary housewife in England.

Victorian Baths: Addresses how cleanliness and hygiene were tackled during the late 19th century.

Click on the English Heritage Site for a view of a laundry room.

Paintings of laundry maids by Henry Robert Morland, circa 1785

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Undressing Mr. Darcy

Be still my beating heart! I found another article about Mr. Darcy. Read this wonderful 2005 online article from Parameter Magazine about the clothes Mr. Darcy would wear and how they are made. Here is a quote from the website:

Do not remove your waistcoat, Mr Darcy! To be seen in shirtsleeves was considered positively indecent; a shirt, after all, was the man’s last undergarment. And yet we are very familiar with those shirts: white linen, large floppy collar, and voluminous sleeves. The sleeves gather at the wrist, leaving a fluting around the hand, whilst the shoulder panel extends down to mid bicep. The huge sleeve, therefore only balloons out for three quarters the arm length. There is a deal of pragmatism gone into the dress: all had to able to fold small and neatly beneath the over layer without ridge or (too much) discomfort.

Oh, how lovely to contemplate Mr. Darcy’s wardrobe – and the man wearing it – if even for a moment.

Top photo: David Rintoul. Middle photo: Colin Firth. Last Photo: Matthew MacFadyen & Simon Woods

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Seen over the Ether

Eric and Charlus, two of my blog friends, forwarded items of interest about David Lassman, director of the Jane Austen Festival in Bath, who had submitted several chapters from three of Jane Austen’s novels to a score of publishing houses. They were summarily rejected. In fact, only one editor among the lot spotted the hoax and recognized that the submission had been lifted from Pride and Prejudice. This is more an indictment of how layered the submission process has become, since most query letters and submissions from authors don’t make it past support staff unless the writer has signed up with a well regarded agent or has been invited to submit a proposal.

Interestingly, although the news is only a few days old, this story has already made it into the Museum of Hoaxes website. As always, I found the post on Austen Blog to be the most comprehensive and illuminating. The Daily Mail article is interesting as well, mostly because it includes a photo of Mr. Lassman. My take on this brouhaha is simple: Would Jane Austen’s 19th century prose attract today’s editors? I think not. Let’s face it, literary tastes have changed and Jane’s language is too old-fashioned for today’s market. The test was unfair and not well thought out, but it does point out how difficult it is to attract an editor’s notice. However, the query letter would not have attracted my interest had I been its recipient. There was something too immature and girlish about its tone.

A Jane Austen Play
Changing the subject, Karen Eterovich, who has written a play about Jane on the eve of the publication of Emma titled Cheer from Chawton: a Jane Austen Family Theatrical, is gearing up to show her production around the U.S. as well as in England. Her first stop will be on September 29-30 in Columbia, S.C. Click here to find the rest of the schedule of productions on her website.

Two Pride and Prejudice Musicals
Several weeks ago I place a link on my sidebar to a P&P musical written by Dorothy Lees-Blakey, a professional actress and composer. Click here to listen to 30 seconds samples of her songs. The recording quality is tinny at best, but the songs are fun. Or go to Austen Blog, which links to a site that features songs from another Pride and Prejudice musical written by Rita Abrams and Josie Brown. You can listen to a full song for one week on this site before a new song is posted. The production and quality of these songs is better, but as far as I’m concerned I am glad both musicals exist as I can never get enough P&P!

Vote for Jane Austen
The Book Mine Set is still running a Wednesday Compare, this time pitting Jane Austen against Dr. Seuss. If Jane wins five times in a row, she will be ‘retired’ as undefeated.This is a close race, so place your vote before Tuesday if you are a Jane fan. When you click on the website you will need to scroll down to the Wednesday July 18th post. Update: Our Jane ceded to Dr. Seuss by the slimmest of margins 21-20.

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Coming Soon

In addition to my review of A Walk With Jane Austen by Lori Smith (see the book cover on my side bar), Penguin Books has asked me to review Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Lauren Viera Rigler. I am spending this weekend curled up with both books – Isn’t that lovely? – and will publish my thoughts as soon as I am done. I must say that both books are clothed in lovely covers.

Pre order copies of both books at Amazon.com. Confessions is coming out August 1, and A Walk will be coming out this fall.

Please be aware that I am reviewing these books only as a Jane Austen fan. I am not paid by the authors or publishers, do not earn money through my blog, or advertise any products for financial gain.

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Gentle, Readers, these questions are designed to tickle the fancy of a Jane Austen fan who has read her books recently or often. The answers sit backwards at the bottom of this post.

1) Name the sixth mother mentioned in Sense and Sensibility: Mrs John Dashwood, Mrs Henry Dashwood, Mrs Jennings, Lady Middleton, Mrs. Palmer, and __________.

2) At the ball in her honor, Fanny Price wears a necklace, along with a chain that holds an amber cross. Who gave the necklace? Who gave the cross? And who gave the chain? For a bonus point: Who actually gave the necklace?

3) In Pride & Prejudice, what relationship is Mr. Phillips to Elizabeth Bennett?

4) How many siblings does Catherine Morland, the heroine of Northanger Abbey, have?

5) In Emma, what is Robert Martin’s occupation? Who does he wish to court?

6) In Persuasion how did Mrs. Smith and Anne Elliot first meet each other? Who wronged Mrs. Smith? And who helps her regain her husband’s investment in the West Indies?

7) Who is the actress who portrays Lizzie Bennett in the photo above?

8) The photo on the right portrays which family in what ITV film of a Jane Austen novel?

1) srarreF srM
2) a) drofwarC yraM, b) dnumdE, c) mailliW, d)yrneH
3) egairram yb elcnu lanretaM
4) eniN
5) a) remraF b) teirraH
6) a) loohcs tA b) toillE mailliW c) htrowtneW niatpaC
7) eivraG htebazilE
8) noisausreP, stoillE ehT

Questions inspired by So You Think You Know Jane Austen? A Literary Quiz Book, John Sutherland & Deirdre Le Faye.

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Jewellery was not as popular during the Regency Era as one might surmise and its blatant use was considered vulgar. Nevertheless, beautiful examples survive from that era in the form of delicate earrings, necklaces, and bracelets, as in the heart pendant from 1800 above, the garnet and crystal ring and the long diamond and emerald earrings below. Diamonds were the preferred gemstone during this period, but pearls were also popular.

As always, the Prince Regent lived according to his own extravagant standards. In An Elegant Madness: High Society in Regency England, Venetia Murray writes: The Prince was clearly unable to pass a jewellery shop without buying what he referred to as a ‘trinket’, meaning anything from a diamond tiara to a butterfly brooch with emerald eyes. Among the fashionable jewellers he patronized were Hamlet’s – whose customers included the Duke of York, the Duchess of Cloucester and various foreign rolyals – Thomas Gray in Sackville Street and Phillips in Bond Street. But his favoroute by far was Rundell and Bridge on Ludgate Hill, the principal goldsmiths and jewellers at the time.

Constance Hill writes in Jane Austen: Her Homes and Friends:

“Sense and Sensibility” was, as yet, unwritten in 1796, and we can imagine the future author taking note of the various localities in the neighbourhood which she afterwards introduced into her story. Sackville Street is close by, in which she placed the shop of Mr. Gray, the jeweller at whose counter Elinor and Marianne were kept waiting whilst the coxcomb Robert Ferrars was giving elaborate directions for the design of a toothpick case. At last the affair was decided. The ivory, the gold, and the pearls, all received their appointment, and the gentleman having named the last day on which his existence could be continued without the possession of the toothpick case, drew on his gloves with leisurely care, and bestowing a glance on the Miss Dashwoods which seemed rather to demand, than express, admiration, walked off with a happy air of real conceit and affected indifference.

The Castlereach Inkstand, Rundell and Bridge, 1817-1819. Click here for details.

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