Archive for November, 2007

Yes, $55,000 might be a slightly steep price for a book purchase, but we can all drool and and wish, can’t we? Perhaps one of us will win the lottery so that we can buy this exquisite and rare item:The Fashions of London & Paris During the Years 1798, 1799 & 1800[-1810]. London: 1798-1810. First edition.

This fashion plate book is for sale at David Brass Rare Books. Click on the link to read more details and to view more fashion plates. This fabulous book shop has other, more affordable items for sale as well.

Here is one example of a fashion plate from the book, Promenade in Kensington Gardens, 1804.

Description of the volumes: Two hand-colored engraved vignette titles and 461 engraved plates, of which 459 are hand-colored. Thirteen octavo volumes. Contemporary blue boards. Original printed front wrappers bound in. A fine and complete run of this scarce series of Regency fashion plates. In three quarter red morocco clamshell cases.

Detail of the image.

Respecting the designs, it may be proper to observe, that all the dresses are such as have been generally worn, at the time specified, in places of fashionable resort, or by Ladies of the most distinguished rank, The leading feature of the publication is to exhibit only the dresses which are actually worn in the most fashionable circles of London and Paris. (From an advertisement of the first volume.)

With permission, David Brass Rare Books

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The Bennet sisters of Pride and Prejudice were considered gentlewomen because their father, having inherited money, did not have to work for a living. In Jane Austen’s era, families with inherited money were considered to have a higher class and social standing than a family that lived on an income gained through hard work and labor. However,

The squire of a great country house, in the eighteenth or nineteenth century, standing on his terrace looking out across his broad acres, was rarely the owner of his land or even his house. He was the life tenant, in possession of the family capital but unable to deal with his estates as if he owned them outright. His interests were subordinate to those of the family, and the family was of more importance than he was. He was the king in check, his freedom of manoeuvre limited by a peculiarly English system of inheritance, the strict settlement (English & Saville, 1983, p. 11).

As the plot of Pride and Prejudice unfolds, one starts to sympathize with silly Mrs. Bennet’s determination to marry her daughters off to practically any eligible (and unknown) man who happened to stop by the neighborhood. Due to the stipulations of Mr. Bennet’s will that only a male heir can inherit his estate, none of the Bennet girls will receive any of their father’s money. Unless they married well, they will be left destitute. For Mrs. Bennet the situation was made even more galling knowing that Mr. Bennet’s cousin, a man the family had never met, would also inherit Longbourn House, their family home.

Mr. Bennet to Mrs. Bennet:

“About a month ago I received this letter, and about a fortnight ago I answered it, for I thought it a case of some delicacy, and requiring early attention. It is from my cousin, Mr. Collins, who, when I am dead, may turn you all out of this house as soon as he pleases.”

“Oh! my dear,” cried his wife, “I cannot bear to hear that mentioned. Pray do not talk of that odious man. I do think it is the hardest thing in the world that your estate should be entailed away from your own children; and I am sure if I had been you, I should have tried long ago to do something or other about it.”

Jane and Elizabeth attempted to explain to her the nature of an entail. They had often attempted it before, but it was a subject on which Mrs. Bennet was beyond the reach of reason; and she continued to rail bitterly against the cruelty of settling an estate away from a family of five daughters, in favour of a man whom nobody cared anything about.

“It certainly is a most iniquitous affair,” said Mr. Bennet, “and nothing can clear Mr. Collins from the guilt of inheriting Longbourn. But if you will listen to his letter, you may perhaps be a little softened by his manner of expressing himself.” – Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 13

As it turns out, Mr. Collins, a ridiculous and self-important man, had good intentions. He arrives at the Bennet’s doorstep determined to ask for one of the Bennet daughters’ hand in marriage. In his mind, his generous act would make up for the unfairness of the will’s stipulation. Mr. Collins tells Mrs. Bennet about his desire to court Jane, the eldest daughter. When Mrs. Bennet informs Mr. Collins that Jane is practically engaged to Mr. Bingley, he quickly turns his attentions to Elizabeth, providing one of the most memorable marriage proposals in literary history, and one that I relish reading over and over. Learn more about entails from Wikipedia below:

Pride and Prejudice contains a particularly thorny example of the kind of problems which could arise through the entailing of property. Mr. Bennet, the father of protagonist Elizabeth Bennet, had only a life interest in his property, known as Longbourn. He had no authority to dictate to whom it should pass upon his death, as it was strictly arranged to be inherited by the next male heir. Had Mr. Bennet fathered a son, it would have passed to him, but it could not pass to any of his five daughters. Instead, the next nearest male heir would inherit the property; in the course of the novel, this was revealed to be Mr. Bennet’s cousin, William Collins, a minister in his mid-twenties. The inheritance of the Longbourn property completely excluded the five legitimate Bennet daughters. Such entails typically arose from wills, rather than from marriage settlements, which usually made at least some provision for daughters.

Read more about the topic here: The British Aristocracy, Capital and Income, and Nineteenth Century Company Accounting, Christopher J. Napier

Illustration by C.E. Brock. In the novel, I recall the proposal scene occurring after breakfast. I do not recall Jane describing Lizzie at her sewing table as Mr. Collins proposes.

Update: Read more about the entail as explained by a British lawyer named Henry in a post I titled: Everything You Wanted to Know About the Entail in Downton Abbey and More.

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  • If you haven’t visited Austen Prose yet, do stop by some time. Laurel Anne, the blog’s author, examines a word or phrase a day in this new blog. Not only are the posts entertaining and illuminating, but her illustrations are breathtaking.
  • Designed along the same vein is Lori Smith’s blog, Jane Austen Quote of the Day, which provides an (almost) daily quote from Jane’s novels or letters. Click here to read her article, A Year With Jane Austen
  • Last, you can sign up to receive a Jane Austen thought for the day from Jolly Roger by email.  Today’s thought is:
  • Emma

    She was his own Emma, by hand and word, when they returned into the house; and if he could have thought of Frank Churchill then, he might have deemed him a very good sort of fellow. (49)


    • Last but not least, A Chapter A Day provides one chapter of a Jane Austen novel daily. The current novel is Sense and Sensibility. The illustrations that accompany each chapter are simply lovely.

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    Harvest Festival

    In an era before refrigeration and long term food storage, people ate produce that was fresh and in season. When fresh fruits and vegetables were in poor supply, dishes were heavy in meat and protein. This situation was less likely to be true for the wealthy, who were able to replenish their tables with fresh fruits and vegetables grown in their own greenhouses.

    Mrs. Hannah Glasse lists fresh foods by month in her classic cookery book, The Art of Cookery. Here is her list of available foods for November.

    FISH.—Brill, carp, cod, crabs, eels, gudgeons, haddocks, oysters, pike, soles, tench, turbot, whiting.

    MEAT.—Beef, mutton, veal, doe venison.

    POULTRY.—Chickens, fowls, geese, larks, pigeons, pullets, rabbits, teal, turkeys, widgeons, wild duck.

    GAME.—Hares, partridges, pheasants, snipes, woodcocks.

    VEGETABLES.—Beetroot, cabbages, carrots, celery, lettuces, late cucumbers, onions, potatoes, salading, spinach, sprouts,—various herbs.

    FRUIT.—Apples, bullaces, chestnuts, filberts, grapes, pears, walnuts.

      BBC Food also lists fresh foods in season: parsnips, beetroot, pumpkins, swede*, cabbage, leeks, potatoes, teal, goose, venison, grouse, oyster, chestnuts, cranberries, pears, and quinces. Click on the link to find recipes using these ingredients. *Swedes are a traditional British food. You can read more about them in The British Kitchen, and find a few recipes for preparing them as well. Click here for a Heritage recipe for fish pie. Whether in the U.S. or across The Pond, I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving Day.These links discuss the Harvest Festival in more detail.

    • Harvest Festival

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    Mary Austen nee Lloyd, the wife of James Austen, was present at Jane’s death. She wrote the following passage in her diary (See image below)

    17 July 1817 “Jane Austen was taken for death about ½ past 5 in the Evening”
    18 July 1817 Jane breathed her last ½ after four in the morn; only Cass[andra] and I were with her. Henry came, Austen & Ed came, the latter returned home”

    Read a sad but fascinating account of Jane’s final hours, Jane Austen’s Final Resting Place, at Hantsweb.
    Jane spent her last days in a small house in Winchester, near a doctor of some repute. She wrote in May:

    I live chiefly on the sofa, but am allowed to walk from one room to the other. I have been out once in a sedan-chair, and am to repeat it and be promoted to a wheeled chair as the weather serves.” And speaking of her illness she remarks, “On this subject I will only say further that my dearest sister, my tender watchful, indefatigable nurse has not been made ill by her exertions. As to what I owe to her, and to the anxious affection of all my beloved family on this occasion, I can only cry over it, and pray to God to bless them more and more. – Chapter XXIII, Jane Austen: Her Homes & Her Friends (John Lane The Bodley Head, 1923) by Constance Hill.

    Jane died on July 18, 1817. Cassandra, Jane’s dear sister, wrote these affecting words:

    Since Tuesday evening, when her complaint returned, there was a visible change, she slept more and much more comfortably; indeed, during the last eight-and-forty hours she was more asleep than awake. Her looks altered and she fell away, but I perceived no material diminution of strength, and, though I was then hopeless of a recovery, I had no suspicion how rapidly my loss was approaching.

    I have lost a treasure, such a sister, such a friend as never can have been surpassed. She was the sun of my life, the gilder of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow; I had not a thought concealed from her, and it is as if I had lost a part of myself. I loved her only too well — not better than she deserved, but I am conscious that my affection for her made me sometimes unjust to and negligent of others; and I can acknowledge, more than as a general principle, the justice of the Hand which has struck this blow.

    You know me too well to be at all afraid that I should suffer materially from my feelings; I am perfectly conscious of the extent of my irreparable loss, but I am not at all overpowered and very little indisposed, nothing but what a short time, with rest and change of air, will remove. I thank God that I was enabled to attend her to the last, and amongst my many causes of self-reproach I have not to add any wilful neglect of her comfort.

    She felt herself to be dying about half-an-hour before she became tranquil and apparently unconscious. During that half-hour was her struggle, poor soul! She said she could not tell us what she suffered, though she complained of little fixed pain. When I asked her if there was anything she wanted, her answer was she wanted nothing but death, and some of her words were: “God grant me patience, pray for me, oh, pray for me!” Her voice was affected, but as long as she spoke she was intelligible.

    Read the rest of the letter on the Republic of Pemberley website.
    Click here for my previous post on this sad subject.

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    Seen on Jane Austen Today

    Beau Brummell’s Dandyism and His Far Reaching Influence. Click here. Read archived posts about him here.

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    The life of a stage coach horse during the Regency era was not easy. Roads, though much improved over previous centuries, could be filled with mud and ruts that impeded progress. Generally one horse could pull a wheeled vehicle six times its own weight. Therefore, a carriage horse weighing from 1200 lbs to 2300 lbs is able to pull from 7200 lbs to 13,800 lbs. Multiply this number by four or six, and you have team that can pull a substantially sized vehicle. However, tired horses had to be replaced about every ten miles or so, and “the average life of a horse pulling a coach at about eight mile per hour was six years; at ten miles per hour or over, possible on good roads, a horse lasted three years.” (The Prince of Pleasure, J.B. Priestley, p 151-152)

    Charles Dickens provides a vivid account of horses dragging a carriage out of mire and muck:

    there is another hole and beyond that another bank close before us. So he [the coachman] stops short, cries to the horses again, “Easy, Easy, den”, “Ease Steady, Hi”, “Jiddy”, “Pill”, “Ally”, “Loo”, but never Lee until we are reduced to the very last extremity and are in the midst of difficulties, extrication from which appears above all but impossible. And so we do the ten miles or thereabouts in two hours and a half, breaking no bones, though bruising a great many, and in short getting through the distance like a fiddle. (Charles Dickens’s works. Charles Dickens ed. [18 vols. of a 21 vol. set … By Charles Dickens, pages 78 & 79.)

    One would hope that each time the horses struggled the passengers got out of the coach and removed the heavier belongings, so that the horses’ efforts were eased. This illustration of horses pulling a carriage through snow shows that the passengers have disembarked, but that the coach is still laden with cargo.

    Inns, ostlers, fresh teams of horses, stables, postillions, and blacksmiths supported travel throughout England, and rivalry for passenger business became intense. At one time, “the Whetstone toll gate, at its height, recorded no less than 130 stagecoaches a day passing through.
    The Mitre Inn, depicted above, dates from around 1630. It remained a coaching inn until 1926.

    In a related post, read about the crossing sweepers, who in the early part of the century before macadamized roads became widespread, kept passages free and clear of ruts, as well as horse dung.

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