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Austen Opera 001Pride and Prejudice, an opera written by Kirke Mechem, will make its debut November 20th-23rd at the Miriam A. Friedberg Concert Hall, located at historic Mt. Vernon Place in Baltimore. This event is part of the Peabody Opera Theatre, Johns Hopkins University.

I had the privilege of attending a preview at Goucher College last Wednesday. Managing artistic director, Samuel Mungo, explained the origin of the opera (“Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice practically begs to be set to music!”). In the early 20th century, atonal music was all the rage and did not lend itself well to a novel set in the Regency era. Mr. Mechem writes tonal music, which is perfectly suited to Jane Austen’s most famous work.

In his extensive and successful career, Mr. Mechem has written over 250 works, many of which are produced the world over. His three-act opera, Tanuffe, has been performed over 400 times. Songs of the Slave from the opera John Brown had its 100th performance in Boston in 2018. The premiere of Pride and Prejudice the Opera will be held in Baltimore this fall.

During the Goucher College preview, the audience heard 3 songs from the opera. In order, they were:

  1. Claire Cooper and Kyle Dunn as Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Wickham

    Claire Cooper & Kyle Dunn. Photo: V. Sanborn

    Wickham’s and Elizabeth Bennet’s first meeting, in which they discuss Mr. Darcy. Wickham’s opinions confirmed Lizzie’s first impression of Darcy. Singers: Claire Cooper and Kyle Dunn

Noted Austen scholar, Juliette Wells, who teaches at Goucher, observed that Mr. Dunn, who sang Mr. Wickham’s role, was wickedly handsome!

 

  1. Claire Cooper and Joshua Scheid as Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy

    Claire Cooper & Joshua Scheid. Photo: V. Sanborn

    Darcy expresses his feeling for Elizabeth (much against his good judgment). The scene is dramatic. Bingley has left Jane, due to Mr. Darcy’s influence, and Mr. Darcy explains his actions while declaring his love.

Joshua Scheid, who sang Mr. Darcy’s role, has a strong, assertive voice – one that suits Austen’s hero. Both he and Kyle Dunn (Wickham) sing baritone, so that the men are dramatically matched during their scenes.

  1. 20190918_170600

    Joann Kulesza. Photo: V. Sanborn

    Lizzie reads the letter from Darcy, which explains Wickham’s behavior towards Georgiana and Darcy’s role in saving his sister from Wickham’s machinations.

Joann Kulesza, Music Director of Peabody Opera (right), explained this scene beautifully. Darcy slowly and methodically enunciates his words in the letter as Elizabeth reads it. Her reactions to his explanations are quick, dramatic, and emotional. This scene is quite effective and a delight for Austen fans, who can probably recite the words of the letter to a tee.

After the songs, Dr. Mungo and the singers answered questions from the audience. The opera is a little over 2 hours long, which necessitated drastic cuts to the plot. The Bennets have only three daughters (Mary and Kitty are cut out, as is Jane Bennet’s illness), and the focus is on Darcy’s and Lizzie’s story. While Mr. Bennet is featured, Mrs. Bennet appears more often and has one of the major roles.

The three singers who performed are young, and it was amusing and informative to hear their interpretations of their characters. One had not read P&P before, and two had not read the novel since high school (which was not too long ago). Their characters’ voices are telling. Lizzie is a mezzo-soprano, for she is too sensible to be a soprano. Jane is a soprano and Mr. Bingley a tenor. Their tender hearts are reflected in their voices. Both Darcy and Wickham are baritones, which should create interesting vocal confrontations.

Interestingly, Mr. Collins has a bass-baritone, a voice with a low register. If you read Austen’s description of Mr. Collins, he is a “tall, heavy-looking young man of five-and-twenty.” I rather like the choice that Kirke Mechem made for Mr. Collins, as well as for the shrill Mrs. Bennet, who is a high soprano. Lady Catherine de Bourgh is a contralto, the lowest female singing voice. I can’t wait to hear the scenes between Lizzie’s mezzo and Lady Catherine’s imperious contralto demands.

The stage sets are still in the design phase, although almost completed. The main part of the stage will be a gazebo with four wings that open or close to represent Netherfield or Longbourn. The set designers are still figuring out how Rosings will look. A garden is also included.

Sketches of the movable wings

Tickets, which are free, will be available October 1: https://peabody.jhu.edu/event/kirke-mechem-pride-and-prejudice/

Kirke Mechem http://www.musicsalesclassical.com/composer/work/43050

Short biography of Kirke Mechem: http://www.musicsalesclassical.com/composer/short-bio/Kirke-Mechem

Peabody Opera Theater Presents Pride and Prejudice: About Samuel Mungo, DMA: https://www.goucher.edu/learn/graduate-programs/sage/programs/pride-and-prejudice

Images published with permission from Samuel Mungo

 

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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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winter spruce branches-vjs

Image of evergreen branches © Vic Sanborn

Inquiring readers,
Spruce beer was a popular beverage during Jane Austen’s lifetime. On December 9, 1808, Austen wrote her sister Cassandra from Castle Square:

But all this,” as my dear Mrs. Piozzi says, “is flight and fancy, and nonsense, for my master has his great casks to mind and I have my little children.” It is you, however, in this instance, that have the little children, and I that have the great cask for we are brewing spruce beer again.”

(More about this quote later)

 

About spruce beer

According to Wikipedia, spruce beer describes an alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink that is made from the buds and needles of spruce trees. The flavor depends on which species of spruce grows near the brewer, the season in which the needles and buds are collected, and the recipe used in the preparation.
The taste of spruce beer varies. Some describe a pleasant spruce tip bitterness to the alcoholic version, while another source states that spruce beer soda, a non-alcoholic soda largely made in Canada, tastes like

a Christmas tree in a glass … The soda itself was very effervescent and light, with very sharp flavor. It tasted like the smell of Vicks VapoRub and pine needles.” – Eater

Images of spruce beer show a dark brown-greenish concoction, which isn’t attractive to my eye but pleases a variety of palates. According to Andrew Schloss in an article for The Splendid Table, the taste of the “piney turpene flavor, ” reminiscent of the “essence of the forest,” is an acquired one.

 

A short history of spruce beer

Martin Cornell in “A Short History of Spruce Beer Part Two: The North American Connection” quotes Swedish-Finish botanist Pehr Kalm about the discovery of spruce beer by French, Dutch, and British settlers as early as the 17th century. Kalm wrote in letters to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences:

Spruce beer is chiefly used by the French in Canada; a considerable quantity is indeed made by the Dutch who live round Hudson’s river, in the most Northern parts, but the English seldom have it except in New England and New Scotland; because in Canada the tree is very common…”

The botanist visited the colonies from 1748-1752 when he observed that French Canadians largely drank spruce beer. The origins of spruce beer are not quite clear. According to Jim Dykstra in “A History of Spruce Beer,” Beer Connoisseur, 11/07/2016,

spruce beer has been around for quite some time. Depending on who you ask, it was either first made by indigenous North Americans pre-European Scandinavians – “Vikings purportedly brewed it for fertility and strength in battle.” – Jim Dykstra, A History of Spruce Beer: Old World Cheer, or Any Time of Year 

jane-austen-brewercol-vjsmed

Drawing © Vic Sanborn

Spruce beer was consumed to ward off scurvy

In the 18th Century the British navy encouraged drinking spruce beer as a treatment for scurvy. (Spruce and other evergreens, such as hemlock pine and juniper were used as sources for Vitamin C. – Small Beer Press). Captain James Cook wrote in Voyage to the Pacific Ocean (1784),

Besides fish, we had other refreshments in abundance. Scurvy-grass, celery and portable soup were boiled every day with the wheat and pease; and we had spruce beer for our drink. Such a regimen soon removed all seeds of the scurvy from our people, if any of them had contracted it. “– April Fulton, Don’t Waste That Christmas Tree: Turn it Into Spruce Beer, NPR

Fulton states that the connection between spruce beer and scurvy prevention, while strongly supported in the 18th and 19th centuries, has largely been debunked by modern medicine, since fermentation destroys vitamin C.  In “A History of Spruce Beer,” Jim Dykstra writes that the beer wasn’t always alcoholic and that native Americans tended to use spruce infusions, whereas colonists brewed and boiled the beverage, which significantly reduced its ability to prevent scurvy.

Still, the connection between spruce beer and Jane Austen’s sailor brothers, and the Georgian belief that the beer was a sort of elixir for scurvy cannot be ignored. European sailors spread word about spruce beer around the world. (Dykstra) Sadly, the recipe that Austen used is lost to time, but Benjamin Franklin, who was introduced to the beer during his stay in France (1776-1777) shared a recipe in French:

Way of Making Beer with Essence of Spruce:
For a Cask containing 80 bottles, take one pot of Essence and 13 Pounds of Molases. – or the same amount of unrefined Loaf Sugar; mix them well together in 20 pints of hot Water: Stir together until they make a Foam, then pour it into the Cask you will then fill with Water: add a Pint of good Yeast, stir it well together and let it stand 2 or 3 Days to ferment, after which close the Cask, and after a few days it will be ready to be put into Bottles, that must be tightly corked. Leave them 10 or 12 Days in a cool Cellar, after which the Beer will be good to drink.” – Food History & Culture
“Don’t Waste That Christmas Tree: Turn It Into Spruce Beer,” April Fulton, NPR, January 4, 2013

This recipe must have produced enough beer for several weeks, if not months depending on the drinker’s daily intake. There are other, more modest recipes from this era easily found online, including recipes created for today’s palate.

 

Back to the Jane Austen spruce beer quote

In this section I venture a few “educated guesses” about segments of Jane Austen’s quote. “Mr. Piozzi in charge of the great casks” most likely explains that by the time Jane wrote her novels, brew masters, who had once predominantly been women, were replaced by men during the age of industrialization when public taverns began to make profits. In the 17th century, brewing, once thought of as a woman’s domain in the kitchen, was overtaken by men and widows, who inherited their husbands’ businesses. Mrs. Piozzi mentions her domestic duties “having her little children” with no connection to the great casks.

Then Jane Austen’s writes:

It is you, however, in this instance, that have the little children, and I that have the great cask for we are brewing spruce beer again.”

In this instance Cassandra was most likely minding her widowed brother James’s children, while Jane oversaw domestic duties.

While commercial brewing became the domain of men, home brewing remained in the hands of women in the countryside. Housewives, mothers, and daughters, as in Jane Austen’s case, brewed ales and beers, and made wines for household consumption. According to William Cobbett, this domestic habit continued until the last quarter of the 18th century (Van Dekken). Jane’s quote, written in 1808, proves that this domestic practice continued well beyond that date.

We don’t know if the recipe Austen used was alcoholic or nonalcoholic, and I wonder if it was influenced by her sailor brothers, whose concerns about scurvy while spending months at sea must have been on their minds. During the Napoleonic Wars, the British navy encouraged the use of spruce beer. Individuals sailing vast distances for months at sea or enduring long, harsh winters in the far north faced decreased access to vitamin C as fresh fruit was consumed or rotted. For sailors, stored casks of spruce beer became one way of staving off the debilitating results of scurvy. For colonists facing a long winter without fresh fruits and vegetables, making the brew from abundant fir trees became a life saver.

Thank you, Tony Grant, for forwarding the article “Jane Austen Brewed her own Specialty Beer” to me.

 

Sources:

 

 

Links in this blog:

 

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Inquiring readers,

Today is Valentine’s day, a perfect time to revisit some of Jane Austen’s most romantic and memorable quotes.

I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone forever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own…I have loved none but you.” – Captain Wentworth, Persuasion

The driving force behind this quote was a talented and witty, yet ordinary-looking spinster. The sentiments expressed in her novels were remarkable given that Austen lived in an era when money and status were considered primary reasons for courtship and marriage.

This caricature, created in 1805, poked fun at the era’s courtship conventions, much like Jane Austen did through characters like Mr. Elliot, Mr. Collins, and Henry Crawford, all of whom followed current courtship conventions but misread their heroines exceedingly.

receipt image

Image in the public domain, U.S. Library of Congress

Receipt for Courtship – Text

Two or three dears, and two or three sweets;
Two or three balls, and two or three treats;
Two or three serenades, given as a lure;
Two or three oaths how much they endure;
Two or three messages sent in a day;
Two or three times led out from the play;
Two or three soft speeches made by the way;
Two or three tickets for two or three times;
Two or three love letters writ all in rhymes;
Two or three months keeping strict to those rules,
Can never fail making a couple of fools.

A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.” – Mr. Darcy’s sarcastic comment to Miss Bingley, Pride and Prejudice

1024px-1805-Gillray-Harmony-before-Matrimony

Image in the public domain, Wikimedia Commons

This 1805 caricature entitled “Harmony before Matrimony” of a courting couple would have the young lady assume that a proposal would soon be in the offing. The artist made sure that the viewer understood this through iconography: the cupid in the oval painting, which also shows two courting doves, the two roses in a vase featuring a Chinese couple, the two fish, the two playful cats, a wall sconce made of cupid’s arrows, the two flaming torches, and the butterfly reflected in the mirror making two. The couple sit on a carpet of roses, the music book, “Duets de L’Amour,” is held by the courting swain, while on the table lies an open copy of Ovid’s “Art of Love.” In this scene, all is harmonious, all is good, but those familiar with the caricatures of the engraver James Gillray know that not “all” is what it seems.
The second companion cartoon “Matrimonial Harmonics” depicts life after marriage: Cupid is dead in the funereal image, two parrots sit in their cage with their backs to each other, a dog barks at a hissing cat, the husband covers his ear as his baby screeches in the maid’s arms, and his wife sings alone at the piano forte. It is a scene of inharmonious conflict, one often described by Jane Austen (Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, John and Frances Dashwood, Charlotte and Mr. Collins, Mr. Wickham and wife Lydia).

If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.” ― George Knightley, Emma

Jane’s Heroes were men of few words as this quote by Mr. Knightley attests. A number of Jane Austen’s heroes were men of few words, but Elinor Dashwood and Fanny Pricem two long-suffering heroines, also had difficulty expressing their emotions.

Thomas_Gisborne_Joseph_Wright_Derby

Image in the public domain, wikimedia commons.

This 1786 painting of The Rev. and Mrs. Thomas Gisborne, of Yoxhall Lodge, Leicestershire by Joseph Wright of Derby depicts a sober couple much in the vein of Elinor Dashwood and Edward Ferrars or Fanny Price and Edmund Bertrum. The year the portait was painted precedes Jane’s era, but the calmness of the scene and the sober mien of a couple who clearly come from the gentry class remind me very much of how I envisioned both couples. Neither seem to be the type to behave in in unseemly manner at an assembly ball.

In Jane’s novels, lovers who behaved badly often expressed good insights tinged with regret.

“Where the heart is really attached, I know very well how little one can be pleased with the attention of any body else. — Isabella, Northanger Abbey

and

Yes, I found myself, by insensible degrees, sincerely fond of her; and the happiest hours of my life were what I spent with her.— Mr. Willoughby, Sense and Sensibility

Johan Christian and his wife-Engelke Jens Juel 1797 Statens Museum for Kunst

Thumbnail of Johan and Engelke Christian, 1797, by Jens Juel



Older sensible couples who weathered married life and its vicissitudes and remained happy together play prominent roles in Austen’s plots. One senses that Admiral and Mrs Croft who befriend Anne Ellito in Persuasion must have observed the kind attention that Caption Wentworth paid her when he thought no one was looking.

The sensible older couple in Pride and Prejudice are Mr & Mrs Gardiner. He is silly Mrs. Bennet’s brother and a relation over whom Elizabeth did not need to blush. Their calmness and common sense helped to unite Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth after many missed opportunities.

An_old,_rich_couple_enjoy_the_latest_fad_in_baton-powered_en_Wellcome_V0011705

Wellcome Collection image in the public domain by G. di Cari?

Romantic gestures change for many older couples. Over the years they are comfortable with each other. With age, often physical comfort and health have priority over more youthful pursuits. In her novels Jane Austen ignored the prurient, yet she lived in the Georgian age where social and political cartoons or satire were often graphic. Families took care of each other in sickness and health. They bathed their sick and tended to their every need. One wonders what was in Jane’s private letters to Cassandra regarding the more ordinary tasks of life.

The above image shows the sweetness of an older couple enjoying in tandem the latest fad in Baton-powered enemas. They seem happy and content and at ease with each other!

Jane, however, never found such a mate for life.

To you I shall say, as I have often said before, Do not be in a hurry, the right man will come at last.” – Jane Austen’s Letter to Fanny Knight

Following Jane’s advice, Fanny married for keeps. She bore 9 children to Sire Edward Knatchbull a baronet, to whom she was married for 26 years until his death.

Jane’s heroines were astute about pledging their love. Elizabeth Bennet failed to see through Wickham’s falsehoods at first, but common sense prevailed. Anne Elliot was never quite enamored of slimy William Elliot, for her heart belonged to the infinitely superior Caption Wentworth. One of Anne’s more memorable quotes is:

“My idea of good company, Mr. Elliot, is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company.” – Persuasion

One can only surmise that rather than settle for marriage to just any man, Jane Austen chose good company over a less than perfect union.

Jane’s heroes were equally steadfast and saw through foibles, insecurities, and prejudices of the women they loved, especially when their first impression was. They, like Mr. Darcy, waited patiently for the right moment to reveal their true feelings:

“My real purpose was to see you, and to judge, if I could, whether I might ever hope to make you love me.”— Darcy, Pride and Prejudice

In my opinion, none of Jane’s true heroes and heroines were ridiculous or maudlin. They chose well and understood the meaning of true love.

More on the topic: 

 

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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.

3-

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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Inquiring readers,

Praying with Jane: 31 Days through the Prayers of Jane Austen, Rachel Dodge, and a bookmark with the quote

Praying With Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen, Rachel Dodge, Bethany House, 2018

A “Praying With Jane” blog tour will begin October 31st on this blog. I am privileged to showcase Rachel Dodge’s deeply felt first book, which centers around three prayers Jane Austen wrote that have miraculously survived, given the destruction of so much of her original papers.

A whole family assembling regularly for the purpose of prayer is fine!” – Jane Austen, Mansfield Park

Many readers of this blog have come to know Rachel in the past year and a half through her blog post contributions, her exquisite writing style, and her extensive knowledge of Jane Austen’s life. This book is a labor of love for Rachel. Divided into 31 days, readers are guided for one month to a daily examination of sections of the three prayers until, at the end of the book, they have thoroughly studied Jane’s prayers.

My sister-in-law, Carol, who read Pride and Prejudice years ago and knows little of Jane Austen’s novels and characters, other than the movies she’s seen, has read the book for me.

I was skeptical about the book at first, because I know so little about Jane Austen, but I found Rachel’s choice of scriptures to be inspiring,”

Rachel includes two scriptures per day. An example of one is included in the samples of the first day of prayer below:

I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn youth unfailing kindness.” – Jeremiah 31:3 NIV

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As mentioned, the blog tour begins here October 31st! Other blogs on the tour (in random order) are:

Diary of an Eccentric | So Little Time…| Laura’s Reviews | Calico Critic | Jane Austen in Vermont| My Love for Jane Austen | A Bookish Way of Life | Burton Reviews | My Jane Austen Book Club | Delighted Reader Book Reviews | Laughing With Lizzie | Becoming |(and, of course,) Jane Austen’s World

Please join us as we examine this lovely addition to the canon of works by Jane Austen’s ardent admirers!

Information about Praying With Jane is available at

Rachel  Dodge’s posts on this blog

Follow Rachel Dodge at www.racheldodge.com

 

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Inquiring readers,

Many of you have noticed my absence for a long time. If it weren’t for the efforts of Rachel Dodge and Tony Grant, this blog would have remained silent for most of the previous twelve months. Thank you, both, dear friends, for your contributions.

Two years ago I realized my heart and soul were no longer in my work and that it was time to retire.  Since then, I have been in the process of getting my house ready for sale, selling it, and packing my belongings to move to north Baltimore to be near family. Luckily or unluckily, I sold my house the moment my realtor planted the “coming soon” sign on my lawn. This meant that I had to move two months earlier than anticipated, since the new owners were anxious to move into my beloved abode.

My new place, however, was not ready. Currently, all my possessions, save for summer clothes and necessities, are in storage, and so I am living in limbo as a guest with friends until the end of August.

Starting September 1, I will be traveling between Richmond and Baltimore for four months, waiting for my new place to be approved by a house inspector and working remotely at a distance (with frequent travels via I-95 to attend bi-monthly meetings down south). January 1st is the date of my retirement. Ah, the modern life!

As I anticipate my schedule this fall and early winter, my thoughts often turn to Jane Austen. She had immense pleasure of living the first 25 years of her life in Steventon, a small village in Hampshire.

Outside there were fields where Mr Austen farmed and his wife grew potatoes (at that time quite an innovation), formal gardens with a turf walk, sundial, strawberry beds, and a grassy bank down which the young Jane, possibly enjoyed rolling as a child, like Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey. – http://www3.hants.gov.uk/austen/deane-parsonage/steventon-village.htm, Hantsweb, Hampshire County Council

The old rectory site where the parsonage once stood. A well (inside the enclosure in back of the tree) is the only visible remnant of that house. Image @Tony Grant

The old rectory site where the parsonage once stood. A well (inside the enclosure in back of the tree) is the only visible remnant of that house. Image @Tony Grant

The Austens also ran a boarding school for young men out of the parsonage house to augment the reverend’s yearly income of £230. His extensive library of 300 – 500 volumes was amazingly large for that era, since books were frightfully expensive. Rev. Austen encouraged Jane and her sister, Cassandra, to read from his library, an unusual encouragement for females in that time.

Image of a page of the History of England by Jane Austen and illustrated by Cassandra Austen of Henry the 4th, the British Library

Image of a page of the History of England by Jane Austen and illustrated by Cassandra Austen of Henry the 4th, The British Library

Jane enjoyed an extremely close relationship with her older sister, Cassandra, and they supported each other in their respective strengths and talents. Jane’s talent, as well as Cassandra’s, were nurtured by their doting family, as evidenced by the History of England, written by Jane and illustrated by Cassandra, and the plays and stories of juvenilia a young and playful Jane wrote for family gatherings.

At the age of 25, after enjoying a bucolic childhood that any woman of her era would have envied, Jane’s parents announced the Reverend’s decision to retire and leave Steventon. It was said that, upon hearing the news, Jane fainted. I can only imagine what went through her mind as she imagined the life she adored evaporating as she saw her family’s possessions reduced to the amount that one or several moving carts could hold.

(See slideshow of 18thcentury carts and wagons in Williamsburg of sample carts. I tend to think the blue covered wagon would be similar to one or two vehicles the Austen family would have contracted to move their belongings: http://www.history.org/foundation/journal/spring09/carts_slideshow/)

These days I empathize with the painful decisions the Austen family must have made regarding their possessions. After paring my own book collection down from around 4,000 volumes to 600 and getting rid of or giving away 90% of my furniture, and after living almost 30 years near a beautiful river and leaving my favorite house, ever, I can imagine Jane’s despair as beloved friends and family and favorite walking paths and shops were left behind for a city she didn’t particularly love (or so Claire Tomalin surmised). As the moving wagon and carriage that carried the Austen family and their possessions turned the corner away from the parsonage, Jane must have been overcome with nostalgia, sadness, and a bit of fear all at once.

And so for the next five years Jane began a restless, peripatetic lifestyle, one that influenced her inability to write any meaningful work for a long time. (Houses in Bath Where Jane Austen Lived, KleurijkJaneAusten, May 28, 2011)

The Austen family’s first house in Bath was located at number 4 Sydney Place.

“No. 4 Sydney Place was a good, well-proportioned, newly build terraced house. It was well placed outside the crowded centre of Bath, but within easy walking distance over Pulteney Bridge.” – Claire Tomalin, Jane Austen: A Life

Canal and walks, Sydney Gardens 19th C.This address, opposite Sydney Gardens, allowed Jane easy access to the walking paths along its beautiful grounds, a sop to her country heart. (See image on the right.)

Map of Sydney Gardens and Sydney Place, Bath

Sydney Gardens and Sydney Place

Map of Bath

Main city of Bath, across the Pulteney Bridge from Sydney Place

“Whether you go to see, or to be seen, At Sydney Gardens you’ll be pleased, I ween, Whatever your taste, for prospects or good cheer, Cascades or rural walks, you’ll find them here…”
– Anon, 27 August 1795, poem in local newspaper
–“The History of Sydney Gardens” by Catherine Pitt, The Bath Magazine

Life in the city of Bath was vastly different from life in the country. In Steventon, Mrs Austen oversaw an extensive garden, and used fresh milk from a milk cow and fresh eggs from her chickens to create simple but good food from scratch. She worked alongside her servants in the kitchen and kitchen garden to provide wholesome meals for her family and young boarders, as well as clean clothes and a tidy house. She was a creative poet and a few of her recipes in verse still survive.

If the vicar you treat,
You must give him to eat,
A pudding to hit his affection;
And to make his repast,
By the canon of taste,
Be the present receipt your direction.

First take two pounds of Bread,
Be the crumb only weigh’d,
For the crust the good house-wife refuses;
The proportion you’ll guess,
May be made more or less,
To the size that each family chuses…

(Find the rest of this delightful recipe on this blog at https://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2011/04/23/a-receipt-for-a-pudding-by-mrs-austen/)

Imagine the shock this country family felt at having to walk to the green grocer daily, acquire milk from cows kept in city stalls and that was often cut with water, all in an age before refrigeration.

 

“When proud pied April, dress’d in all his trim,
Has put a spirit of youth in everything.”

yet for the rest of the year the coarse grass is carted to their stalls, or they devour what the breweries and distilleries cannot extract from the grain harvest. Long before “the unfolding star wakes up the shepherd” are the London cows milked; and the great wholesale vendors of the commodity, who have it consigned to them daily from more distant parts to the various railway stations in the metropolis, bear it in carts to every part of the town, and distribute it to the hundreds of shopkeepers and itinerants, who are anxiously waiting to receive it for re-distribution amongst their own customers. It is evident that a perishable commodity which everyone requires at a given hour, must be so distributed.

” –  — from A History of the Cries of London, Ancient and Modern, by Charles Hindley, Project Gutenberg, p 141

This situation for “not so” fresh milk, meat, and vegetables was as similar for the citizens of London as for a small city, like Bath. The Austen’s maid of all work and Austen women purchased “fresh” food on a daily basis, food that was both expensive and often past its “due date.” (Drinking Milk in Regency London, Jane Austen’s World, 2008)

Obtaining decent food supplies in Bath must have been costly for a family living on a parson’s pension. The incessant street cries of the baker, the milkmaid, and other food sellers, even across the Pulteney Bridge in a quieter section of town, must have cut into Jane’s peaceful hours. No wonder her creative juices stalled after her father’s death, as the family moved from place to place (after his pension to his family had been cut off), and before she and her mother and sister found refuge in Chawton Cottage. (Where Jane Lived, Gotta Keep Movin’ blog.)

I confess I possess not a smidgeon of Jane Austen’s writing genius, but the disruption in my life, starting with the years of my father’s slow dying and his death in 2014, and my sweet dog’s sudden fatal illness in 2016, blocked my creative input, both at work and at home.

To be near family, I am moving from a small city with many friends to the suburb of a much larger city., where I know few people. In the process, I am leaving my favorite, unique foodie haunts, small local theater productions, historic city neighborhoods, a short and easy ride to work, and white water rafting downtown on the James River to live in a land of manicured lawns, malls, congested traffic, and national restaurant chains.

Riverside Drive, Richmond, VA

My river walk along the James

Until I regain my footing in early 2019, I don’t anticipate devoting myself to this blog full-time just yet. Thank you, readers, for your understanding. Thank you, Rachel and Tony, for your support.

Vic

Sources:

 

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