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Archive for December, 2007

The Jane Austen Centre already offers a comprehensive article on Christmas music in the Origins of Regency Era Christmas Carols in their Online Magazine, which I cannot add to in a meaningful way, and which includes a lovelingly told history of ‘Silent Night.’

After reading the article, view a YouTube video of Gloucestershire Morris men dancing a traditional stick dance to the tune of While Shepherds Watched, one of the carols described in the article.

While Bledington, where this dance originated, is situated in the Cotswolds, one is quickly transported to the 18th and 19th centuries when viewing this dance and listening to the music. I believe the musical instrument accompanying this dance is the harmonium (thank you for the tip, Pixzlee). Historically, the pipe and tabor accompanied this dance, while later in the 19th century, the fiddler replaced the pipe and tabor musician.

Pipe and Tabor


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Click on this link to Vintage Textiles to read a fascinating account about the history of the spencer jacket and to view breathtaking photos of this beautiful example of regency fashion. Be sure to scroll down to see the close up views of the design and stitching. If you have a spare couple of thousand lying in your vault, this fashion item would make a fabulous holiday gift for that special Janeite in your life. Click here for my other post on Spencer jackets.

  • If the price is too steep, you can purchase a pattern from Sense and Sensibility for only $12.00. Click here to view it.

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The Dictionary of Sensibility

This dictionary, created by graduate students at the University of Virginia, lists 24 terms pertaining to the eighteenth-century idea of “sensibility”, such as benevolent, sublime, and imagination. Each term links to an introduction and source bibliography that provides the primary texts; the critical bibliography; and secondary sources.

Clicking on a term in the term list will take you to an introduction to the word and a list of excerpts. Each excerpt provides links to other terms used in or implied by the passage. On the excerpt pages, primary material is in bold; the commentary is in roman typeface. Click here to enter the site.

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December 16th marks the day of Jane Austen’s birth. In celebration, OTV Canada will be showing Northanger Abbey with Felicity Jones and J.J. Feilt tonight at nine p.m. For more information, read my posts about this series on Jane Austen Today. Click here and here. Read my post about Northanger Abbey below.

J.J.Feilt as Henry Tilney and Felicity Jones as Catherine Moreland

Click here to find other images of Northanger Abbey 2007

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Northanger Abbey traveled a long and torturous journey to publication. According to her sister, Cassandra, Jane Austen wrote the book in “about ‘98 and ‘99” when she was still in her twenties. After Jane completed First Impressions, her early version of Pride and Prejudice, her father attempted to get the book published. He met with no success. Jane’s hopes of becoming a successful author were raised expectantly when her brother Henry sold Susan to a respected publishing house. Claire Tomalin writes in Jane Austen: A Life (p182):

She copied out and revised Northanger Abbey (still called Susan). Henry offered to take over from Mr. Austen as her agent, and deputed one of his business partners; a lawyer named William Seymour, to offer the manuscript to Richard Crosby, a London Publisher. This was at the start of 1803. Crosby paid 10 [pounds] for the manuscript, promising early publication. He then advertised the book in a brochure called Flowers of Literature as being “in the press”; but after this nothing more happened.

The book’s not being published was a curious development, for Crosby and Co. was the fourth most prolific publisher of novels during the 1800s in London. The income of ten pounds could not be dismissed as a paltry amount, for the sale represented half of Jane’s allowance of 20 pounds per year. The novel continued to languish on Mr. Crosby’s shelves for six years, however, before a frustrated Jane decided to take matters into her own hands. In 1809 she wrote the publisher under the assumed name of Mrs. Ashton Dennis:

Why had the book never been published, she asked, since “early publication was stipulated for at the time of sale”. If the publishers had lost their copy, she would undertake to provide another one. Should they not answer her letter, she would feel free to attempt publication elsewhere. It was a firm letter, and got a firm answer. Richard Crosby wrote by return to say that they had indeed bought Susan outright for ten pounds cash, “but there was not any time stipulated for its publication, neither are we bound to publish it”. He went on to threaten proceedings if she published elsewhere, and offer her the manuscript back for the ten pounds it had fetched. – Only a Novel: The Double Life of Jane Austen, Jane Aiken Hodge, p 112. (To read the letters, go to Northanger Abbey: Behind the Scenes, Jane Austen Centre)

Of course, Jane did not have the money to repurchase the novel, and it remained unpublished for another seven years. In 1816, under Jane’s instructions, her brother Henry bought back the book for ten pounds. He “then had the pleasure of telling the dilatory publisher that the book he had neglected was by the author of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility” (Aiken Hodge, 174-175). During this frustrating time, another novel named Susan was published. As Jane revised her book for the third time, she changed the heroine’s name to Catherine Moreland. She then wrote a short advertisement to prepare the book for publication and to explain why certain parts of the book had been rendered obsolete by the passage of time:

ADVERTISEMENT BY THE AUTHORESS, TO NORTHANGER ABBEYTHIS little work was finished in the year 1803, and intended for immediate publication. It was disposed of to a bookseller, it was even advertised, and why the business proceeded no farther, the author has never been able to learn. That any bookseller should think it worthwhile to purchase what he did not think it worthwhile to publish seems extraordinary. But with this, neither the author nor the public have any other concern than, as some observation is necessary upon those parts of the work which thirteen years have made comparatively obsolete. The public are entreated to bear in mind that thirteen years have passed since it was finished, many more since it was begun, and that during that period, places, manners, books, and opinions have undergone considerable changes.

Then, inexplicably, Jane herself delayed publication, writing to her niece Fanny in March, 1817: “Miss Catherine is put upon the shelves for the present, and I do not know that she will ever come out.” Sadly, Jane never saw this novel or Persuasion in print. Henry, her favorite brother, arranged to have the novel he renamed Northanger Abbey published posthumously along with Persuasion in late December, 1817. In his foreword he wrote:

The following pages are the production of a pen which has already contributed in no small degree to the entertainment of the public. And when the public, which has not been insensible to the merits of “Sense and Sensibility,” “Pride and Prejudice,” “Mansfield Park,” and “Emma,” shall be informed that the hand which guided that pen is now mouldering in the grave, perhaps a brief account of Jane Austen will be read with a kindlier sentiment than simple curiosity. Short and easy will be the task of the mere biographer. A life of usefulness, literature, and religion, was not by any means a life of event. To those who lament their irreparable loss, it is consolatory to think that, as she never deserved disapprobation, so, in the circle of her family and friends, she never met reproof; that her wishes were not only reasonable, but gratified; and that to the little disappointments incidental to human life was never added, even for amoment, an abatement of goodwill from any who knew her.

Click here to read the rest of Henry’s touching foreword and on the links below to learn more about this fascinating tale.

  • Find an interesting book review by Joan Aiken on Claire Tomalin’s and David Nokes’ biographies of Jane Austen, in which she puts forth her own conjecture on why it took Jane so long to publish her three early novels, and about the 10 year drought in her literary output.
  • Fronticepiece of the book: Wikipedia
  • C.E. Brock Illustration from Molland’s
  • Jane Austen, The World of Her Novels, Deirdre Le Faye,
  • Only A Novel: The Double Life of Jane Austen, Jane Aiken Hodge, Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, Inc, NY, 1972, SBN 698-10425-0
  • Jane Austen: A Life, Claire Tomalin, Albert A. Knopf, NY, 1998, ISBN 0-679-44628-1

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This audio broadcast is two years old, but still relevant. Listen to Jane Austen’s International Appeal with Emily Auerbach and Susannah Fullerton, two well-known Jane Austen authorities. The 52-minute broadcast can be found on Here on Earth: Radio Without Borders.Jane Austen’s Contemporary Appeal, a discussion that features Jane Austen authorities Stephanie Hull, Deborah Kaplan, and James Thompson, and found on the Modern Language Association website, examines the qualities that make Austen’s novels attractive to contemporary readers and moviegoers.Photo from Salon.com

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The old adage that if one must ask for the price of an item, one most likely cannot afford it probably holds true for the lovely furniture for sale in Chappell & McCullar, a fine antique shop. I found several pieces of interest on their website, including a pair of Regency ebonized and parcel-gilt open arm chairs, a lush Regency giltwood and ebonized mirror c. 1820, and this charming rosewood tea caddy. But, ahem, there was no price affixed, and one must take the additional step of contacting the owner to inquire about its cost.Tea was such a precious commodity after its introduction in England during the mid 17th century, that servants were never entrusted with handling the loose leaves. Green and black tea leaves were imported in large chests, from which the loose leaves were measured. The tea was then stored in the customer’s caddy, or cannister, which came with a lock and key to prevent pilfering. According to Miller’s Antique Encyclopedia, caddy is a word derived from ‘kati’, a Malay standard weight of tea.By 1800, the custom of drinking tea in England was almost 150 years old. The first written record on English shores was in Samuel Pepys’ dairy, in an entry written on September 25, 1660, in which he wrote:

To the office, where Sir W Batten, Collonel Slingsby, and I sat a while; … And afterwards did send for a Cupp of Tee (a China drink) of which I never had drank before) and went away.

The brew’s popularity soared quickly. Overseas trade in the East Indies flourished, and missionaries in China wrote home about tea’s healing powers. It was widely thought that tea could treat gout, as well as restore one’s mental powers. The brew was relatively safe in an era of contaminated water, since the hot beverage required that water be boiled first.In 1717 Thomas Twining turned his coffee house into a tea shop, and in 1784, Richard Twining, chairman of the tea dealers’ guild, persuaded the government to reduce the import tax on tea, making it much more affordable. By the 1800’s tea was widely drunk by the middle classes. One can imagine that in an era when gin was cheap and led to the ruination of the lower classes, drinking tea was regarded a more wholesome activity.However, tea remained expensive. The British East India Company, which held the monopoly on importing tea until 1834, held prices artificially high for centuries. In addition, the government kept raising taxes on tea in order to finance England’s expensive wars. Smuggling tea became a lucrative business, and shopkeepers and individuals were not averse to purchasing tea leaves on the black market. Be that as it may, by Jane Austen’s day, the drinking of tea had become a regular occurrence, both at home and in public. In a letter to Cassandra, Jane Austen writes of drinking tea at the Public Assembly Rooms in Bath:

Before tea it was rather a dull affair; but then the before tea did not last long, for there was only one dance, danced by four couple. Think of four couple, surrounded by about an hundred people, dancing in the Upper Rooms at Bath.Jane Austen, May 12, 1801

Although tea was served at home by the hostess, who held the key to the caddy, the elaborate ceremony of afternoon tea, or the custom of serving tea with cakes, scones, and crumpets to stave off hunger pangs before dinner, was not invented until 1840 by the 7th Duchess of Bedford.Interesting tea facts:

  • “Taking tea” is a vulgar expression. Drinking tea is considered the proper phrase.
  • High tea consisted of a full, dinner meal for the common people. Tea was still served, but there would also be meats, fish or eggs, cheese, bread and butter, and cake. It was more of a man’s meal, than a ladies social diversion.

Read more about the fascinating history of tea and tea caddies at these sites:

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