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Archive for the ‘19th Century England’ Category

turkey for roasting

Image from The Frugal Housewife, 1796

Every November,  scores of American families sit down to Thanksgiving dinner, a tradition followed for almost 400 years in the New World. The main dish of this celebratory feast is a turkey, stuffed and roasted to perfection.

In the 18th century, The Frugal Housewife, or Complete Woman Cook, a cookery book written by Susannah Carter and published first in England and then in Philadelphia in 1796, must have influenced large numbers of colonial cooks, since Mrs. Carter’s books were hugely popular. Recipes back then were not given the precise directions modern cooks are accustomed to, but one can imagine that  Mrs. Carter’s contemporaries would have no trouble following her specifications.

roast turkey-frugal housewife

American colonialists most likely used the following Carter recipe, when chestnut trees were abundant in the east and before a fungal blight decimated them. Chestnuts were used in the stuffing, as well as the gravy.

turkey with chestnuts

Dishes accompanying the turkey included fruits and vegetables plentiful in the new world – sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, turnips, cabbage, tomatoes, corn, cranberry sauce, current jelly, pumpkin and peach pies, stewed apples, and more, such as fowl or fish, or anything seasonal that was at hand.

Photo of a slice of pumpkin pie and vanilla ice cream.

Pumpkin pie and vanilla ice cream. Image © Vic Sanborn.

My memory of a hot slice of pumpkin pie and a dollop of cold vanilla ice cream will always be tied to Thanksgiving.  Ices have had a long history in Europe and the New World Thomas Jefferson recorded his recipe for vanilla ice cream by hand. It is well known that he traveled to France, where ice cream recipes appeared in cookery books since the 17th century. While Jefferson did not introduce ice cream to the U.S. (it was consumed in England throughout the Georgian period), he helped to popularize the dessert by serving it during his presidency. (Ice Cream, an article courtesy of the Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia, downloaded 11/28/2019 at https://www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/ice-cream)

Thomas Jefferson’s Vanilla Ice Cream Recipe
(Recipe translation from the Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia)

2. bottles of good cream.
6. yolks of eggs.
1/2 lb. sugar

mix the yolks & sugar
put the cream on a fire in a casserole, first putting in a stick of Vanilla.
when near boiling take it off & pour it gently into the mixture of eggs & sugar.
stir it well.
put it on the fire again stirring it thoroughly with a spoon to prevent it’s sticking to the casserole.

sabottiere

Sabottiere

when near boiling take it off and strain it thro’ a towel.
put it in the Sabottiere14
then set it in ice an hour before it is to be served. put into the ice a handful of salt.
put salt on the coverlid of the Sabotiere & cover the whole with ice.
leave it still half a quarter of an hour.
then turn the Sabottiere in the ice 10 minutes
open it to loosen with a spatula the ice from the inner sides of the Sabotiere.
shut it & replace it in the ice
open it from time to time to detach the ice from the sides
when well taken (prise) stir it well with the Spatula.
put it in moulds, justling it well down on the knee.
then put the mould into the same bucket of ice.
leave it there to the moment of serving it.
to withdraw it, immerse the mould in warm water, turning it well till it will come out & turn it into a plate.15

While at Godmersham (Edward Austen Knight’s estate), Jane Austen wrote:

But in the meantime for Elegance & Ease & Luxury . . . I shall eat Ice & drink French wine, & be above Vulgar Economy. 

I can’t help but think that the elegance and ease she experienced must have been similar to the scene below, where a side table is set to serve ices and wine to an assembled group. Our family had a lovely time together. We wish the same good time for all.

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Georgian ices as served in early 19th c. America. Image © Vic Sanborn: Hampton Mansion, MD.

Top 14 images of Georgian ices in Google search.

google search ice cream

This blog’s posts tagged Georgian Ices and ice cream

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In the past, this blog published several articles on hairstyles for men and women in the Regency era. This post discusses hairstyles in Georgian times. During a recent visit to the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, I had the pleasure of examining a small, but excellent collection of Greco Roman statues and ancient artifacts. Strolling through several galleries, I took photographs of the hairstyles of the female figures.  The Walters Art Museum’s antiquities collection ranks among the top tier in North America (JSTOR). The images below are confined to the photographs I shot at the museum and the public domain portraits I found to compare them to.

A Change Towards the Neoclassical Ideal

From the late 16th century to the mid-19th century (until train travel changed the nature of long-distance travel), young male British aristocrats embarked on a Grand Tour to the Continent for several months or years to round out their education. Accompanied by a teacher or guardian, they completed their knowledge of the classics, studied art, and enjoyed a life of leisure, luxury, and exotic (at times erotic) adventures.

The itinerary included stays in France (Paris being a much sought after destination), The Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, and, of course, Italy.  Rome remained the premier stop, but trips to Venice, Florence, Pompeii, and Greece were also prized. Travelers returned home with souvenirs, works of art to decorate their houses and gardens, and a thorough appreciation of the Neoclassical ideals of ancient Rome, Greece, and the near East, as well as the Renaissance principles of art and architecture.

Influence of Neoclassicism on Women’s Hairstyles and Fashion

Transformation in women’s clothing and hair styles developed slowly during this period, but changed quickly between 1778 and 1793, influenced not only by the Grand Tours, but also in reaction to the French Revolution (1789-1799).  Even before the war, Marie Antoinette sought refuge from the extravagant dress at Versailles in her Hameau de la Reine, which was built for her on estate grounds.  Here she could enjoy a more natural environment than court life offered and dress “down” from elaborate corseted dresses and the over-the-top hair styles that were caricatured.

Marie Antoinette in a chemise gown. 1783. Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun. Wikimedia Commons

Marie Antoinette, by Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, 1783. She is wearing a relatively loose and simple gaulle gown or chemise a la reine, made of muslin. Wikimedia image.

Marie Antoinette, along with the ladies of her court, walked and relaxed in light-loosed dressed in the gardens, grounds, and working farm that surrounded the hamlet. To complement a more “natural” look and in keeping with the casual atmosphere, she and her female entourage wore straw bonnets and loosely curled hairstyles, which, for its time, were “simple.”

The print below shows the old school reaction to the new styles. The Merveilleuses were instrumental in transforming fashion to the Neoclassical style during the the French Directorate (1795-1799) in the last four tumultuous years of the French Revolution.

From Vernet's

From Vernet’s “Incroyables et Merveilleuses” series, 1793. Public Domain image.

Comparisons of images of Greco Roman statues to contemporary Georgian paintings

As previously stated, this post contains the original images I took in the Walters Art Museum. The quoted text about the ancient statues is rewritten from the museum informational labels for each sculpture or relief.

Right: Relief of Apollo and Artemis, ca 50 B.C. Walters Art Museum. Image by V. Sanborn. Left: Portrait of Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Queen of Prussia, 1802. Josef Grassi. Wikimedia Commons. Comment: The Queen of Prussia wears a diadem much like Artemis in the 50 B.C. relief panel. Differences in hairstyles are due to adaptations made by the Europeans, who were influenced by the ancients, but who did not slavishly copy the hairstyles and hair jewelry. Their adaptations were unique to their era.

Left: Detail, Maidens Playing “Knucklebones”. Greek, late 4th or early 3rd century B.C., Terracotta. Walters Art Museum. Image by V. Sanborn. Right: Harriet Melon by John Russel, 1804. Image from The Peerage. Comment: One can see almost a direct correlation between these two hairstyles, centuries apart. The primary difference is in the soft curls framing the face and forehead in Harriet’s undo  In 1804, soft white muslin dresses, draped gently from a high waist, were all the style. Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet wore hairstyles in 1995’s Sense and Sensibility that were remarkably similar to the terracotta maiden’s, with touches of the ringlets popular in the early 19th century.

Left: BonnetAbout 1810, 19th centuryGift of Mrs. C. Walsh © McCord Museum View the leghorn bonnet at this link. Right: Portrait of a Woman. Roman, Trajanic period, ca A.D. 10. Walters Art Museum. Image by V. Sanborn. Comment: I found no online examples that emulated this elaborate Roman hairstyle, but I loved how the leghorn bonnet echoes it. By 10 A,D., Roman women wore complicated hairstyles requiring daily maintenance by attendants. Wigs, hairpieces made from the hair of slaves, and padding kept in place with hair nets, pins, or combs, were used to create a sculptural “do.” (Hairstyles through the ages.)

Left: “This portrait of Livia was created not long after her marriage to Emperor Augustus…She…set a new fashion with her innovative nodus hairstyle, in which a section of hair is arranged in a roll over the forehead, while the rest of the hair is swept back in loose waves and secured in a bun at the nape of the neck.” (Text from the Walters Art Museum). Livia, Late Republican period, mid-late 30s B.C. Image by V. Sanborn. Right:  Louise, Queen of Prussia by Elizabeth Vigee Lebrun, 1801, Schloss Charlottenburg. Public domain image Comment: Louise wears an adaptation of the nodus hairstyle. Hers is looser with curls framing her forehead and face. Her low bun is larger, looser, and curlier. 

Top left and right: Portrait of a Young Woman. Roman (Egypt?), late Republican period, ca. 50 B.C. Walters Art Museum. Image by V. Sanborn. “The realism of the young woman’s fleshy features and the detailed treatment of her elaborate hairstyle are typical of the late Republican period.” (Text from Walters Art Museum.) Bottom left: Detail of An Embarrassing Proposal, 1715-1716, Jean Antoine Watteu, Hermitage MuseumBottom right: English School, A Lady, profile facing to the left, wearing pale lilac dress with white sleeves and coral necklace (early 19th Century), watercolour on card, , set in a red leather travelling case. Oval, 78mm (3in) high.Bonham’s. Comment: The lovely bust of the young Roman woman demonstrates a hairstyle that spans a hundred years between the early 18th and early 19th centuries. The Roman hairstyle reminded me of several Watteau paintings from the early 18th century. The lady at bottom right also wears a version similar to the Roman example, but is more complicated. In the Watteau painting, the ladies demonstrate three versions of a similar underlying style. In this instance, Greco Roman influence definitely made its appearance at the start of the Georgian era in England (1714-1830). French influence on English fashion is well known.

Top right: Standing Maiden. Greek (Tarentum, Italy) 3rd century B.C.. Terracotta with traces of paint and gilding. “…the draping of the fabric on top of the maiden’s high, ‘melon” hairstyle are typically South Italian.” (Quoted text from the Walters Art Museum.) Image by V. Sanborn. Top left: Fashion plate, Costume Parisiens, 1815. Bottom: Detail of an 1812 print. Comment: From the original model of a high melon hairstyle, one can see the inspiration for the hairstyles featured in the two prints. These early 19th century hairstyle adaptations don’t strictly follow the original example, but pay homage to it. In the fashion plate, one can observe the French empire custom of inserting flowers, ribbons, and hair jewelry. The two ladies busying themselves with needle work affect simpler hairstyles that echo the high “melon” look but that leave the bun loose and curling down the back of the head. 

Right: Head of a Maiden With Lampadion Hairstyle. Greek, 3rd-2nd century B.C. “Dicaearchus (active about 320 -300 B.C.) a pupil of Aristotle’s, remarked that women described this hairstyle with topknot as the lampadion, or “little torch.” (Quoted text from the Walters Art Museum.) Image taken by V. Sanborn. Left: Portrait of a young girl, Louis-Léopold Boilly. Date unknown. Middle: Portrait of young woman, bust, wearing a gray-brown dress Laplatte Adèle (late 18th century-early 19th century) Paris, Louvre Museum, DAG. Comment: The Lampadian hairstyles as worn by the ladies in the two paintings, closely resemble the Greek example. Women still wear  this today, including me when I’m dressed casually.

Top right and middle: Terracotta Head of a Woman with Long Curls. Greek (South Italy), 3rd century B.C. Walters Art Museum. Image taken by V. Sanborn  Top left: Portrait of Mrs Moffet, 1826, Sir Martin Archer Shee, Walters Art Museum. Image by V. Sanborn. Lower left: Princess Louise of Prussia (Princess Antoni Henryk Radziwill), 1802. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Public domain image. Lower middle:  Miniature of Mrs Russell by John Smart. 1781. Christie’s. Lower right: Detail of Mrs John Gibson. Portrait by Jacob Eichholz, ca 1820. Sotheby’s. Comment: This hairstyle is personally one of my favorites. I used to wear a version of it when I had long straight hair. I’d pull a ponytail to the side and let my hair fall over my shoulder. Mrs. Moffet has the closest proximation to the terracotta head, but the other variations are equally lovely and span decades if not centuries.

Top left: Head of a Satyr, 2nd century A.D. Roman copy after a Hellenistic Greek original. Walters Art Museum. Image taken by V. Sanborn. Top right: Mrs. Fox,ca. 1805. Benjamin Trott, American. Metropolitan Museum of Art. Public Domain image. Below:  Portrait of Lady Caroline Lamb, ca. 1805, Sir Thomas Lawrence. Wikimedia Commons. Comment: Lady Caroline Lamb, Lord Byron’s mistress, was known for her eccentric often manic ways and short curly hair. Mrs. Fox sports a “do” similar to the Satyr’s. Children, both boys and girls, sported this attractive style during the latter part of the 18th C. and early years of the 19th century.

Silhouettes of Jane Austen (left) and her sister, Cassandra (right), as young women. Wikipedia. Below sits my Pinterest board entitled Regency hairstyles. You might have fun finding images that resemble the hairstyles by the Greco Roman statues or by the two Austen women!

Sources:

Sorabella, Jean. “The Grand Tour.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000-, http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/grtr/hd_grtr.htm (October 2003)

Cadeau, Carmen. “Women’s Fashion During and After the French Revolution (1790 to 1810),” All About Canadian History…Except not really. More like bits an pieces. Retrieved  8/14/2019: https://cdnhistorybits.wordpress.com/2016/01/19/womens-fashion-during-and-after-the-french-revolution-1790-to-1810/ (January 2016)

Victoria and Albert Museum. “Style Guide: Regency Classicism.” Retrieved 8/22/2019: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/s/style-guide-regency-classicism/

Batman, E. (2004). The New Galleries of Ancient Art at the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore. American Journal of Archaeology, 108(1), 79-86. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40024677

The Scandal of Marie Antoinette’s Gown,  Meghan Masterson, Meghan Masterson blog. Retrieved 8/22/2019 from https://meghanmastersonauthor.com/the-scandal-of-marie-antoinettes-gowns/

Hairstyles Through the Ages, Crystalinks, History. Retrieved 8/22/2019 from https://www.crystalinks.com/hair.history.html

Warnock, R. (1942). Boswell on the Grand Tour. Studies in Philology, 39(4), 650-661. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/4172592

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Since I moved near my family four months ago, my sister-in-law has read three Jane Austen novels – Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Persuasion. She took a longer time warming up to Persuasion, but came around in the end, enjoying the experience.

As a Jane Austen devotee, I associate the seaside resort of Lyme Regis with Persuasion.  Imagine my delight to find that the book Lyme Regis: A Retrospect had been digitized by the Internet Archive. I digitally “flipped” through the book and was delighted to view a number of illustrations of Lyme Regis in the era of Austen.

Title page of Lyme Regis: A Retrospect by C. Wanklyn, London, Hatchards, 187 Piccadilly, W.1. 1927

Click here to enter the Internet Archive’s digitized book of Lyme Regis: A Retrospect.

Fronticepiece image

The fronticepiece of the aquatint of Lyme Regis by William Daniell, R.A. This aquatint first appeared in Daniell’s well-known Voyage round Great Britain, published in 1814. The Charmouth end of the lane, which once ran along the edge of the cliffs for the whole distance between Lyme and Charmouth is here shown.

4-cobb-image

This picture of the Cobb…is taken from the 1724 edition of Stukeley’s Itinerarium Curiosum. The original plate is subscribed ‘Lyme, 21 Aug. 1723.’

Excerpt from the book (it is copy right free!):

The Cobb shared in the changes that were taking place at Lyme after 1750. In 1756 the causeway from the western arm of the Cobb, which joins it to the land, was made. As a result of this construction, and the action of sea and tide, a huge bank of sand and shingle began to form in the angle between the new causeway and the mainland. For te first time in its history, Lyme was recovering some land from the sea…At what date exactly the houses were build is not certain, but they are on the drawing of the sea-front which is dated 1796, and they consequently were there when Jane Austen came to Lyme in 1804. In fact the one in which she placed the Harville family was build on this reclaimed land. Close to the warehouses on the Cobb had once been the ‘King’s Pipe,’ the place, that is to say, where spoilt contraband tobacco seized from smugglers by revenue officials was burnt. The palmy days of smuggling were during the period of high duties forced on us by the French Revolutionary Wars. Cargoes of contraband to the Dorset coast were generally run from the Channel Islands or the Northern Coast of France. If the George Inn still maintained its stables, its pack-horses may frequently have been employed at this time to carry smuggled goods inland. The smugglers were good employers and paid well.” – pp. 123-124

8-The Original

This Cruikshank-Marryat series shows the end of the Walk at Lyme Regis, so far as it went in 1819, i.e., to what is now No. 8 Marine Parade. – p.121.

The original marine parade1Detail left side

The original marine parade2

Detail right side

9-The Rooms and...

The front of the Cliff House property…has suffered from continual falls…and the cottage where  Jane Austen lodged (no longer standing alone) shows a greater variation from the perpendicular every year. – p. 122

 

cobb-at-lyme-regis-tony-grant

Image of the Cobb in rough weather, copyright Tony Grant.  Shipwrecks were not uncommon on Dorset’s shores. One can see the slanted top of the stone Cobb.

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This view of the Bay of Lyme Regis is taken from the 1823 edition of Roberts’ History of Lyme Regis, Dorset.-p. 4.

p135

This view of Lyme Regis is dated 1796. It was drawn by ‘J.Nixon, Esq.’ and engraved by John Walker…It was also utilized by W.G. Maton in his Guide to All the Watering and Sea-Side Bathing Places, a work which had a great vogue and was first published in 1803. Nixon was a clever amateur artist who exhibited at the Royal Academy. – p. 135.

Jane Austen makes Mary Musgrove, in Persuasion, bathe at Lyme in November. This is not a mistake; it is rather evidence that Miss Austen was a realist. The year was 1814, and in the autumn of 1814, Princess Charlotte of Wales was staying at Weymouth. Now The Western Flying Post for October, November, and December records that the Princess was bathing on some days of all three months until severe storms from and after December 12th brought the season to an end. Now what Princess Charlotte could do at Weymouth, the aristocratic Mary Musgrove both could and would do at Lme off the beach near Bay Cottage. (p. 140)

And so, in the course of the eighteenth century, Lyme Regis completely changed its character. From being a busy industrial and trading town it became a place of resort for visitors in search of health, amusement, and change. All early writers of Lyme as a seaside place insist on its superior ‘gentility’–a word once redounding in qualities to which all should aspire, but now greatly debased in meaning. ‘The residents are mostly persons of genteel, not large, fortune,’ says one. ‘At lyme,’ says another, ‘there arises no necessity for making any inconvenient sacrifices to the support of style or to the extravagance of outward show.’ -p.141.”

 

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Christmas with Jane Austen

Many Austen fans enjoy thinking about how Jane and her family celebrated Christmas. They wonder, did she give gifts, “deck” the halls, or have a Christmas tree? As most Austen fans know, many of the Christmas traditions we might picture actually became popular during the Victorian Era. However, there are plenty of Regency Christmas traditions that are still familiar today and others that can add to our enjoyment of the holiday season.

Christmas Celebrations in Jane Austen’s Novels

In each of Austen’s novels, Christmas is mentioned. It was, as it is today, a time for festive dances, parties, and dinners. As Mr. Elton says in Emma, “This is quite the season indeed for friendly meetings. At Christmas every body invites their friends about them…” (E 115). In Pride and Prejudice, Caroline Bingley writes to Jane, saying, “I sincerely hope your Christmas in Hertfordshire may abound in the gaieties which that season generally brings” (PP 117).

Just as we do today, the people of Austen’s time enjoyed seasonal foods, drinks, and decorations. In Persuasion, Austen paints a festive Christmas scene:

“On one side was a table occupied by some chattering girls, cutting up silk and gold paper; and on the other were tressels and trays, bending under the weight of brawn and cold pies, where riotous boys were holding high revel; the whole completed by a roaring Christmas fire, which seemed determined to be heard, in spite of all the noise of the others. […] Charles and Mary also came in, of course, during their visit, and Mr Musgrove made a point of paying his respects to Lady Russell, and sat down close to her for ten minutes, talking with a very raised voice, but from the clamour of the children on his knees, generally in vain. It was a fine family-piece.” (P 134)

Most of us have witnessed a similar scene at a large Christmas party or family gathering, where children are playing and laughing, great quantities of food are set out, and people are talking so loudly it’s hard to keep up a conversation.
Christmas was also a time for families to gather together. Children away at school came home for the holidays. Extended family traveled to visit one another. Emma personally looks forward to Christmas because it means her sister Isabella’s family will visit for a week: “many a long October and November evening must be struggled through at Hartfield, before Christmas brought the next visit from Isabella and her husband, and their little children, to fill the house, and give her pleasant society again” (E 7).

In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner come to Longbourn with their children to visit: “On the following Monday, Mrs. Bennet had the pleasure of receiving her brother and his wife, who came as usual to spend the Christmas at Longbourn” (PP 139). At the end of Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth writes to her aunt Gardiner and says, “You are all to come to Pemberley at Christmas” (383). Thus, a new family tradition begins.

And for a young girl like Catherine Morland, Christmas increased the likelihood of getting cornered by an older relative. In Northanger Abbey, Catherine worries about what “gown and what head-dress she should wear” because “her great aunt had read her a lecture on the subject only the Christmas before” (NA 73). The main message of that lecture: “Dress is at all times a frivolous distinction, and excessive solicitude about it often destroys its own aim” (73).

Regency Christmas Traditions

“Photo by Rachel Dodge.” (link “Rachel Dodge” to http://www.racheldodge.com)

Rachel Dodge Book Photo

Photo of the book cover of A Jane Austen Christmas by Maria Grace @Rachel Dodge  (linked)

In her book A Jane Austen Christmas: Regency Christmas Traditions, Maria Grace shares details about the Christmas traditions that Jane would have experienced. She explains that the Christmas season itself started “a week before Advent […] and extended all the way through Twelfth Night in January” (Grace 1). She covers the types of foods and sweets they ate—including a delightful history and explanation of plum pudding—and provides descriptions of holiday drinks, quaint parlor games, and seasonal dinner parties, card parties, and balls. She also talks about the charitable traditions of the time, like St. Thomas Day and Boxing Day, as well as the Christmas carols Jane might have known, such as The First Noel and God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen (31).

Gift giving, according to Grace, became more popular toward the end of the Regency period, when ads began to run “in periodicals suggesting novel ideas for gifts” (43). However, people did give gifts during Austen’s lifetime on St. Nicholas Day, Christmas Day, and Twelfth Night, typically from “those lower in status to those above them” (42) and between social equals “like friends and family” (43).

Church attendance was a focal point for most Regency families on Christmas Day. In Kirsten Olsen’s All Things Austen, she says, “At church, a special sermon was delivered, and communion was offered” (203). In Austen’s family, that meant that her father Reverend Austen would preach and her family would all go to church on Christmas Day.

Though Regency families didn’t decorate their homes to the extent that we do today, Olsen notes that “[h]ouses were decorated with holly and other green foliage” (Olsen 203). As for Christmas trees, they didn’t become prevalent in England until later: “Christmas trees only became popular after The Illustrated London News published a picture of Victoria and Albert with a family Christmas tree in 1848” (Grace 33).

First_Christmas_Tree_in_Britain_1846_Illustrated_London_News

Illustration Caption: “Lithograph in The Illustrated London News in the winter of 1848,” Wikimedia Commons.

If you’d like to add a new Regency tradition to your holiday season or throw an Austen-inspired Christmas party, books such as A Jane Austen Christmas: Regency Christmas Traditions by Maria Grace are full of wonderful details. I picked up my copy at this year’s JASNA AGM, but it’s available on Amazon as well.

Christmas in Hampshire

In Chawton, Jane Austen’s House Museum (link to https://www.jane-austens-house-museum.org.uk/whats-on) has its own special tradition this time of year. The museum celebrates the Christmas season and Jane’s birthday at their “Annual Open day” on December 16. The museum offers free admission and mince pies for all visitors. This year, visitors can also create free Christmas crafts inspired by the Austen family coverlet currently on display at the museum.

Works Cited

  • Austen, Jane. The Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen. Edited by R. W. Chapman. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988.
  • Grace, Maria. A Jane Austen Christmas; Regency Christmas Traditions. White Soup Press, 2014.
  • Olsen, Kirstin. All Things Austen: A Concise Encyclopedia of Austen’s World. Oxford, Greenwood World, 2008.

Other blog posts on this site citing Regency Christmas traditions: Click on this link for a variety of traditions and foods during this era

 

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Fashion Plate (Afternoon Dress for Decr. 1800) LACMA M.86.266.37Just as fire was the centerpiece of most evening gatherings in Jane Austen’s time, candles also played a vital role in Regency life and culture. Today, family members work or read in separate rooms in the evening and go to bed at different times (due to the advent of electricity), but people in Austen’s day lived differently: They sat together to read books, write letters, and socialize in the evening—all by candlelight.

As readers, we should consider Austen’s evening scenes with a careful eye to the lighting. Dinners, dances, card games, and music were all undertaken by candlelight. Many of our favorite scenes—in which Austen brings her heroines and heroes, villains and vicars to life—take place in the evening. Candlelit rooms provide the perfect spot for Emma and Frank Churchill to gossip, for Fanny to sink into the shadows unnoticed, for Lydia and Kitty to romp with the officers, and for Anne Elliot to hide her tears at the piano while the others dance. Indeed, when Darcy watches Elizabeth and Caroline Bingley walking around the drawing-room and quips that their “figures appear to the greatest advantage in walking,” (PP 56) he watches them walk by candlelight after dinner and tea (served later in the evening). Austen uses candle-power (or the lack thereof) to communicate the rank and financial status of her characters as well as set the stage for some of her best scenes.

Candles in Regency Life

In Austen’s lifetime, virtually every task after dusk required candles. Fall and winter months in England are cold and dark with only 8-9 hours of sunlight during some months. It was a mark of wealth to have enough candles to burn in the evening for work and pleasure. In working class homes, people might burn a rushlight (which burned for 20-30 minutes) or simply retire early. In genteel homes, where candles were plentiful, people stayed up later. In her JAW article “Lighting the Dark,” Vic Sanbourn tells us, “Only the more affluent members of society could afford to burn a large number of candles at a time, and their homes were characterized by spacious windows and well placed reflectors and mirrors.” This was common in most of the grand homes in Austen’s novels, which we see when Elinor and Marianne accompany Lady Middleton to a party in London and “enter a room splendidly lit up, quite full of company, and insufferably hot” (SS 175).

During quiet evenings at home, families and small groups shared the firelight or a few candles together. As Austen states in one of her letters to Cassandra: “We have got the second volume of “Espriella’s Letters,” and I read it aloud by candle-light. (Letters 147). As one might imagine, working by candlelight was not easy on the eyes. Austen alludes to this when Lady Middleton remarks that it might “hurt [Lucy’s] eyes to work filigree by candlelight” and suggests that she “ring the bell for some working candles” (144). And in Northanger Abbey, when General Tilney stays up to read at night, he says his “eyes will be blinding” from reading so late by candlelight (NA 187).

Candles Speak Volumes

Everything in Austen’s novels means something—including the kind and number of candles used in different households. Beeswax candles burned brighter and more efficiently but were more expensive. Tallow candles were cheaper but gave off less light, smoked, and smelled of mutton. In her article “Let there be light! Candles in the time of Jane Austen,” Sue Dell of the Jane Austen’s House Museum says that “[t]allow candles would have been the most common candles in such a home as the Austens’.” She explains: “Even the very wealthy used wax candles sparingly; Jane’s brother, Edward, would have used them for entertaining, but tallow candles would have been used for everyday life” (Dell). In Emma, Mrs. Elton boasts that a certain Mrs. Bragge even has wax candles in her school room (300); however, Dell says this “would have been instantly recognised by contemporary readers as untrue” because “no-one would do such a thing” (Dell). Mrs. Elton also decides she will educate Highbury society and give “one very superior party—in which her card-tables should be set out with their separate candles and unbroken packs in the true style” (290). In affluent and pretentious homes like General Tilney’s in Northanger Abbey, candles are plentiful. When it is time to retire, Miss Tilney rings the bell for candles, which the butler comes to light (187). They each take their candles to bed, but the General stays up to work. In Emma, when they have supper at the ball, Mrs. Bates says, “I never saw any thing equal to the comfort and style—Candles everywhere” (329).

Conversely, at the Price home in Mansfield Park, even one candle is hard to come by. When Mr. Price arrives, Austen paints the scene vividly: “with something of the oath kind he kicked away his son’s port-manteau and his daughter’s bandbox in the passage, and called out for a candle; no candle was brought, however, and he walked into the room” (MP 379). Fanny rises to greet him but sits down again “on finding herself undistinguished in the dusk, and unthought of” (379). When a candle is finally brought, Fanny is still forgotten as her father reads the newspaper, “without seeming to recollect her existence. The solitary candle was held between himself and the paper, without any reference to her possible convenience” (382).

Candles Set the Stage

As anyone who has ever camped, had their electricity shut off, or eaten dinner at a romantic restaurant knows, everything looks different by candlelight. Shadows grow and dark corners emerge. The mood changes. Austen uses candles to set the tone in many scenes in her novels, and she capitalizes on the mere lack of a candle to throw rooms into confusion, provide cover for secret goodbyes, send people to bed early, and propel one imaginative young girl into hysterics.

In Austen’s novels, candlelight provides cover for all sorts of things. In a practical sense, candles hide visible flaws as when Mrs. Weston comments on the wallpaper at the Crown Inn in Emma: “[T]his paper is worse than I expected. Look! in places you see it is dreadfully dirty; and the wainscot is more yellow and forlorn than any thing I could have imagined” (253). Her husband responds that she will “see nothing of it by candlelight. It will be as clean as Randalls by candlelight.”

In a more romantic sense, Austen uses semi-darkness to cover a goodbye between Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax. We read the following scene in Emma:

[Jane Fairfax] was afterwards looking for her shawl—Frank Churchill was looking also—it was growing dusk, and the room was in confusion; and how they parted, Mr. Knightley could not tell.  He remained at Hartfield after all the rest, his thoughts full of what he had seen; so full, that when the candles came to assist his observations, he must—yes, he certainly must, as a friend—an anxious friend—give Emma some hint, ask her some question. He could not see her in a situation of such danger, without trying to preserve her. (349)

We have no proof that anything more than “certain expressive looks” pass between Frank and Jane as they part under the covering of the dusky room; however, Austen uses this moment to give Mr. Knightley a hint as to the true nature of their relationship while everyone else is busy, before the candles are lit.

In Northanger Abbey, Austen uses a “single lamp” and the light it emits to set the stage for a nervous Catherine Morland in the gothic-style scene she paints on Catherine’s first night at the Abbey. The light from her candle and the fire are, quite humorously, the only thing standing between Catherine and emotional stability. Catherine enters “her room with a tolerably stout heart” at the end of the evening (167). However, once the fire dies down, she is left with only her candle to light the room. When Catherine “snuffs” the candle, meaning to “cut or pinch off the burned part of a candle wick” (Dictionary.com), she accidentally extinguishes it as well. Her response is hilarious:

Alas! It was snuffed and extinguished in one. A lamp could not have expired with more awful effect. Catherine, for a few moments, was motionless with horror. It was done completely; not a remnant of light in the wick could give hope to the rekindling breath. Darkness impenetrable and immovable filled the room. A violent gust of wind, rising with sudden fury, added fresh horror to the moment. (170)

Catherine’s bravery dissolves once the candle is out. Austen says, “A cold sweat stood on her forehead, the manuscript fell from her hand, and groping her way to the bed, she jumped hastily in, and sought some suspension of agony by creeping far underneath the clothes” (170). She is unable to sleep until 3 a.m. The reader chuckles, but Austen is well aware that we understand Catherine’s plight. Though some of us may not like to admit it, we all—at some point in our lives—have jumped under the covers when the wind blew, the curtains moved, and the lights suddenly went out.

Works Cited

Austen, Jane. The Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen. Edited by R. W. Chapman, Oxford UP, 1988.

—. Jane Austen’s Letters. Edited by Deirdre Le Faye, 4th ed., Oxford UP, 2011.

Dell, Sue. “Let there be light! Candles in the time of Jane Austen.” Jane Austen’s House Museum, 12 Jan 2016. https://www.jane-austens-house-museum.org.uk/single-post/2016/1/12/Let-there-be-light-Candles-in-the-time-of-Jane-Austen. Date accessed: 1 October 2017.

Sanborn, Vic. “Lighting the darkness.” Jane Austen’s World, 29 April 2007. https://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2007/04/29/lighting-the-darkness-in-the-regency-era/. Date accessed: 1 October 2017.

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Gentle Reader,

This week marks the July 4th holiday in the U.S., which means family gatherings, outdoor picnics, firework celebrations, and, most of all, ice cream! This delicious treat became more and more common at the turn of the 19th century when the method of transporting and storing great big blocks of ice over long distances became economically feasible. 

On July 1, 1808, Jane Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra from Godmersham:

But in the meantime for Elegance & Ease & Luxury . . . I shall eat Ice & drink French wine, & be above Vulgar Economy.

This statement reveals a number of  interesting details about her stay at her rich brother’s (Edward’s) mansion:

  • Ice cream was expensive (vulgar economy). We know our Miss Jane counted her pennies and did not live a life of extravagance, thus her tart observation.
  • Edward spared no expenses in giving his family this luxurious dessert.
  • Treating guests to ices in July during an era without electricity meant that Edward’s estate must have had an ice house to keep the ice frozen.
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Georgian ices had to be served immediately before they melted. Image by Vic Sanborn: Hampton Mansion

The ice used for Edward’s ices most likely came via a variety of routes – local frozen ponds, rivers, or lakes in winter, or enormous blocks harvested in Norway or Canada, which were then shipped to the UK and transported by barge up canals to their final destinations – The Sweet Things in Life, Number One London Net.

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Mound of the ice house on the grounds of Hampton Mansion. Image@Vic Sanborn

There were many forms of ice houses and ways to keep ice frozen, such as in the one I described in a previous post, 1790 Ice House, Hampton Mansion, and the one at Tapeley Park (see image below). Ice houses provided a dark, cool spot that preserved enough of the precious commodity to last until the next frost or ice block delivery.

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The 18th century ice house at Tapeley Park, U.K. is above ground. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Unlike modern-day methods of home ice-cream making … the Georgian method of creating a frozen sweet treat was so effective that it could turn liquid solid within 45 minutes. The secret to this 21st-century trouncing wizardry? Two buckets, some ice and a bit of salt. – Would You Eat Ice Cream From 300 Years Ago?, The Telegraph, Alexi Duggin, 2015

After chopping and shaving huge blocks of ice, making ice cream was rather simple:  Use a recipe you love. Fill a bucket with ice. Add ice cream ingredient to a second, smaller bucket and place it inside the larger bucket. Add salt to the ice, and stir regularly. Voila! Liquid is turned solid. Serve immediately before your creation melts.

When I was in my 20’s, my then husband and I used an old-fashioned ice-maker to make the most delicious peach ice cream with the fruit in season. Our ice cream took longer to make, simply because we used more sugar than the Georgian recipes. We cranked and cranked that ice seemingly forever, but it was worth the trouble. When we had company, there was never enough to go around.

Recalling how hot summers were without air conditioning, one can only imagine how refreshing it must have felt to eat something ice cold on a summer’s day in an era with no electricity and when people wore layers and layers of clothing.

 

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Thomas Jefferson’s handwritten recipe for making vanilla ice cream @ Open Culture.

According to Monticello.org, ice cream began appearing in French cookbooks starting in the late 17th century. 

There “are accounts of ice cream being served in the American colonies as early as 1744.” Jefferson likely tasted his fair share of the dessert while living in France (1784-1789), and it would continue to be served at Monticello upon his return. Open Culture: Thomas Jefferson’s handwritten vanilla ice cream recipe 

Mr. Jefferson’s recipe is a tad hard to read, so I searched for one in an early cookery book and found one from the 1733 edition of Mrs. Mary Eale’s Receipts. It offers this fine recipe, which requires from 16 -18 lbs of ice to be chopped:

To ice CREAM.
Take Tin Ice-Pots, fill them with any Sort of Cream you like, either plain or sweeten’d, or Fruit in it; shut your Pots very close; to six Pots you must allow eighteen or twenty Pound of Ice, breaking the Ice very small; there will be some great Pieces, which lay at the Bottom and Top: You must have a Pail, and lay some Straw at the Bottom; then lay in your Ice, and put in amongst it a Pound of Bay-Salt; set in your Pots of Cream, and lay Ice and Salt between every Pot, that they may not touch; but the Ice must lie round them on every Side; lay a good deal of Ice on the Top, cover the Pail with Straw, set it in a Cellar where no Sun or Light comes, it will be froze in four Hours, but it may stand longer; than take it out just as you use it; hold it in your Hand and it will slip out. When you wou’d freeze any Sort of Fruit, either Cherries, Rasberries, Currants, or Strawberries, fill your Tin-Pots with the Fruit, but as hollow as you can; put to them Lemmonade, made with Spring-Water and Lemmon-Juice sweeten’d; put enough in the Pots to make the Fruit hang together, and put them in Ice as you do Cream

 

Tomorrow, on July 4th, you can be sure I’ll celebrate with a delicious bowl of ice cream. My favorite is still peach ice cream, followed by vanilla, and peppermint in the winter.

Happy holiday, all! Let me know which flavors you prefer and if you’ve ever hand-cranked your own ices.  Vic

More resources: 

 

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pride-prej-zombiesInquiring readers, ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,’ the movie, has finally arrived. Almost seven years ago I had a blast reviewing Seth Grahame-Smith’s audacious novel, ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’, and suggested a few satirical book plots of my own. Click here to read JAW’s review of Seth’s tome, which retained 15% of Jane Austen’s words and embellished Jane’s plot a wee bit by adding hordes of ravenous zombies that had overrun Regency England. For those who are eager to see the cinematic version of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ melded with Shaun of the Dead, may we suggest that you read the parody book before viewing the movie?

Quirk Books has asked me to recall some of my favorite scenes from the book.  I invited my good friend, Hillary Major, to trip down memory lane with me. She had read Seth’s book front to back in 2007 and recently reacquainted herself with the plot by way of a fabulous graphic novel based on the book.

When I first read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I was struck by the wit – the humorous juxtaposition of Austen’s words with Graham-Smith’s pulpy additions, as when Miss Bingley asserts that an accomplished woman “must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, dancing and the modern languages” as well as being “well trained in the fighting styles of the Kyoto masters and the tactics and weaponry of modern Europe.” As I re-familiarized myself by reading the graphic novel version of the book, I found much of the wit retained through the dialogue and (infrequent) captions. The graphic novel, of course, fleshes out the combat scenes and does a particularly good job of capturing the sorry stricken – from the former residents of Mrs. Beecham’s Home for Orphans to lamp oil salesgirl Penny McGregor to an undead Madonna and a certain longsuffering bride. The graphic novel pulls out the fun and the horror in the action sequences but also raises my curiosity about how the movie will put these scenes into motion.

But really, how interesting are zombies as villains? What’s their motivation? Yes, yes, I know, it’s a truth universally acknowledged: brains and more brains. Still, there’s a certain sameness and routine to a zombie enemy. Zombies are really only dangerous in numbers – unless you happen to be an unfortunate messenger or a cook, which Lizzie Bennet most emphatically is not. My favorite parts of the book (and graphic novel) jump out not because of how they deal with the scourge of unmentionables but because of the way they showcase Lizzie as a total badass, armed not just with rapier wit but with actual dagger and katana.

Lizzie’s competence, strategy, and skill in the deadly arts are singular from the beginning; we first see her “carving the Bennet crest in the handle of a new sword.” When Lizzie and her sisters first jump into action at the Lucas’ ball – responding to Mr. Bennett’s shouted command, “Pentagram of Death!” – it’s a stirring moment. (Darcy takes notice.)

But Elizabeth Bennet is a warrior worthy of an enemy greater than brainless zombies – thus, we meet Lady Catherine, commander of ninjas. Lady Catherine de Bourgh has always put the cat in catfight, and this comes to literal life in her final confrontation with Lizzie. Who hasn’t applauded Lizzie’s refusal to promise never to become betrothed to Darcy and wished the statement were punctuated by a punch in the Lady’s face? Here, the verbal showdown is prequel to a martial arts battle, one that takes place in the Bennets’ own dojo. Lady Catherine gets in a few good blows early on, but Lizzie comes back with a dagger thrust, and soon Lady Catherine is flying through the air, breaking rafters. In the midst of all the “flying about” in a leaping, kicking, katana-wielding martial arts fantasy of a fight, Lizzie descends (from an unbroken rafter) at a key moment and batters away her adversary’s sword, leaving Lady Catherine at her mercy. Lizzie lets her live, knowing she has been “bested by a girl for whom [she has] no regard,” showing more mercy than Catherine would have offered her (or than Lizzie shows the ninja retainers). It’s this throwdown and victory over Lady Catherine that truly sets up the ending of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, of Lizzie and Darcy fighting side by side.

Final-UK-quad

For my part, gentle readers, I shall never forget how Charlotte Collins, nee Lucas, slowly turned into a zombie after being bitten by a ghoul. Lizzie promised to remain true to her friend, but as the poor woman’s physical condition deteriorated, it was hard for visitors not to notice her unfortunate appearance or the fact that she was wont to nibble on her hand. One really has to laugh at some of the more ridiculous scenes and one can’t help but wonder how the exuberant young Jane Austen, who wrote the ‘Juvenilia,’ would have reacted to this mashup of her most famous novel.

lena heady lady catherineThe powers that be in Hollywood took seven years to find a Lizzie (Lily James) and Darcy (Sam Riley) worthy of becoming skilled zombie fighters trained by the finest masters in the martial arts. To my way of thinking, Lena Heady’s turn in playing Lady Catherine de Bourgh with an eye patch is worth the price of admission alone.

While I understand that many Jane Austen fans will refuse to see the film, some of us in our Janeite group can’t wait to see it. Love or hate the idea, feel free to let us know your thoughts. 

 

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