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DevotionHello readers at Jane Austen’s World! My name is Meg Kerr, and I’m thrilled to be here with you. First, I’d like to thank Vic for allowing me to contribute this guest post on my new book, Devotion. Devotion explores events after Pride and Prejudice ends through fan-favourite characters including Georgiana Darcy and Mrs. Bennet. I think you’ll find it an interesting read, as I’ve added several unexpected twists.

Also, in celebration of Jane Austen’s 200th anniversary, I’m offering Devotion for FREE  beginning today until July 18th.

To get your free copy of Devotion, click here to visit the giveaway page!

Q: What prompted you to write Devotion?

A: I wanted to know what happened after Pride and Prejudice ended! Not what happened to Elizabeth and Darcy and Jane and Bingley – I was satisfied that they were happy in their marriages and that domestic bliss was their lot. No, I wanted to know about Mary and Kitty and Lydia Bennet, and Caroline Bingley, and Georgiana Darcy.

Austen gives us some hints: Lydia “retained all the claims to reputation which her marriage had given her”; Caroline Bingley “paid off every arrear of civility to Elizabeth”; “Pemberley was now Georgiana’s home”; Mary “was obliged to mix more with the world”; Kitty became “less irritable, less ignorant, and less insipid.” That’s not enough, not by a long shot! So, I wrote my first book entitled Experience.

Then it turned out that Georgiana needed a book all to herself for her adventures—so I wrote Devotion. Georgiana falls under the spell of one of those bad boys that Austen loved to feature in her novels (think Wickham, Willoughby, Henry Crawford), a very attractive young man named John Amaury. With Austen giving me advice on how to handle a love affair between a gently raised young lady and a bad boy, you can imagine that Georgiana finds herself in some peril!

Q: What aspects about Austen and her life did you find most interesting while writing Devotion?

A: Let me start by saying that as a reader I don’t want to know about a writer’s personal life. I want to know the writer through her or his writing. That’s how her or his mind touches mine. So, I won’t talk about Austen’s life; I try not to know much about it.

But her mind is another thing.

When I was researching Experience, I knew I wanted to put Colonel Fitzwilliam on stage so I idly checked out his family’s earldom. (Remember he is the second son of an earl.) To my amazement, the Fitzwilliam family did indeed have an earldom. They were the Earls of Tyrconnell, an Irish title. They had lost it for treason long before Pride and Prejudice takes place, but still, there it was.

I think that was the first time I realized that there is more to Austen than appears on the surface (wonderful though that surface is).

Recently I was chatting with Professor Lorrie Clark (an Austen expert and a very active JASNA member) about Mansfield Park. Pride and Prejudice lovers abhor Mansfield Park because Austen championed the wispy Fanny Price over the Elizabeth Bennet-like Mary Crawford. Lorrie pointed me to a paper she had written* that explores the influence on the novel of the writings of (very minor) 18th century British philosopher the Earl of Shaftesbury. To say that my jaw dropped when I read the paper would be an understatement!

There are depths to Austen. That’s part of what makes her novels so endlessly re-readable. No one can step twice into the same river. And no one can read the same Jane Austen novel twice. It’s always a different book.

* “Remembering Nature: Soliloquy as Aesthetic Form in Mansfield Park” (Eighteenth-Century Fiction 24, no. 2 (Winter 2011–12)

Q: Why will fans of Jane Austen want to read Devotion?

A: If they’re like me, they’ll want to read Devotion to find out what happened next. But that by itself is not a sufficient inducement. After all there’s lots of “fan fiction” to dip into. I’m too shy and embarrassed to say anything myself, so let me quote from Professor Lorraine Clark’s foreword to Devotion:

Meg Kerr’s two novels to date offer pleasures of recognition beyond familiarities of character, plot, and even scenes (for instance, the Bennets once more arguing about new tenants at Netherfield Park, or Lady Catherine arguing with yet another young lady attempting to steal her daughter’s rightful suitor) … We recognize the genre of 18th century novels themselves—French as well as English—structurally replete with letters and most of all conversations, Jane Austen’s specialty. We are pleasurably immersed in 18th century English diction from start to finish—in cadences and turns of phrase too often missing even from movie “reproductions” of Austen’s novels. Meg Kerr’s ear for dialogue characteristic of each particular speaker, and emphasis on “conversation” over description or plot, has been my own most unexpected pleasure in reading these books.

If you’re so inclined, Devotion will be available as a FREE digital download beginning today until July 18th as my way to commemorate the life and literary contributions of Jane Austen. You’ll find the link to get your copy near the top of this post. I’d love to hear your feedback on the book!

About Devotion:

In this sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Georgiana Darcy, now twenty years old and completely lovely, is ripe for marriage. Her brother has carefully selected her future husband, but the arrival of a long-delayed letter, and a secret journey, bring Georgiana into the arms of an utterly wicked and charming young man whose attentions promise her ruin. At the same time, events in Meryton are creating much-needed occupation for Mrs. Bennet and a quandary for Lydia Bennet’s girlhood companion Pen Harrington; and the former Caroline Bingley is given — perhaps — an opportunity to re-make some of her disastrous choices. Meg Kerr, writing effortlessly and wittily in the style of Jane Austen, sweeps the reader back to the year 1816 for a reunion with many beloved characters from Pride and Prejudice and an introduction to some intriguing characters.

About Meg Kerr:

What do you do when you live in the twenty-first century but a piece of your heart lies in the nineteenth? If you are author Meg Kerr you let your head and hand follow your heart. With her love of country life—dogs and horses, long walks in the woods and fields, dining with family and neighbours and dancing with friends, reading and writing and the best conversation—and her familiarity with eighteenth and nineteenth century history and literature, Meg has a natural gift to inhabit, explore and reimagine the world that Jane Austen both dwelt in and created, and to draw readers there with her.

Hello readers at Jane Austen’s World! My name is Meg Kerr, and I’m thrilled to be here with you. First, I’d like to thank Vic for allowing me to contribute this guest post on my new book, Devotion. Devotion explores events after Pride and Prejudice ends through fan-favourite characters including Georgiana Darcy and Mrs. Bennet. I think you’ll find it an interesting read, as I’ve added several unexpected twists.

Also, in celebration of Jane Austen’s 200th anniversary, I’m offering Devotion for FREE on beginning today until July 18th.

To get your free copy of Devotion, click here to visit the giveaway page!

Vic: What prompted you to write Devotion?

Meg: I wanted to know what happened after Pride and Prejudice ended! Not what happened to Elizabeth and Darcy and Jane and Bingley – I was satisfied that they were happy in their marriages and that domestic bliss was their lot. No, I wanted to know about Mary and Kitty and Lydia Bennet, and Caroline Bingley, and Georgiana Darcy.

Austen gives us some hints: Lydia “retained all the claims to reputation which her marriage had given her”; Caroline Bingley “paid off every arrear of civility to Elizabeth”; “Pemberley was now Georgiana’s home”; Mary “was obliged to mix more with the world”; Kitty became “less irritable, less ignorant, and less insipid.” That’s not enough, not by a long shot! So, I wrote my first book entitled Experience.

When it turned out that Georgiana needed a book all to herself for her adventures—so I wrote Devotion. Georgiana falls under the spell of one of those bad boys that Austen loved to feature in her novels (think Wickham, Willoughby, Henry Crawford), a very attractive young man named John Amaury. With Austen giving me advice on how to handle a love affair between a gently raised young lady and a bad boy, you can imagine that Georgiana finds herself in some peril!
Vic: What aspects about Austen and her life did you find most interesting while writing Devotion?

Meg: Let me start by saying that as a reader I don’t want to know about a writer’s personal life. I want to know the writer through her or his writing. That’s how her or his mind touches mine. So, I won’t talk about Austen’s life; I try not to know much about it.

But her mind is another thing.

When I was researching Experience, I knew I wanted to put Colonel Fitzwilliam on stage so I idly checked out his family’s earldom. (Remember he is the second son of an earl.) To my amazement, the Fitzwilliam family did indeed have an earldom. They were the Earls of Tyrconnell, an Irish title. They had lost it for treason long before Pride and Prejudice takes place, but still, there it was.

I think that was the first time I realized that there is more to Austen than appears on the surface (wonderful though that surface is).

Recently I was chatting with Professor Lorrie Clark (an Austen expert and a very active JASNA member) about Mansfield Park. Pride and Prejudice lovers abhor Mansfield Park because Austen championed the wispy Fanny Price over the Elizabeth Bennet-like Mary Crawford. Lorrie pointed me to a paper she had written* that explores the influence on the novel of the writings of (very minor) 18th century British philosopher the Earl of Shaftesbury. To say that my jaw dropped when I read the paper would be an understatement!

There are depths to Austen. That’s part of what makes her novels so endlessly re-readable. No one can step twice into the same river. And no one can read the same Jane Austen novel twice. It’s always a different book.

* “Remembering Nature: Soliloquy as Aesthetic Form in Mansfield Park” (Eighteenth-Century Fiction 24, no. 2 (Winter 2011–12)

Vic: Why will fans of Jane Austen want to read Devotion?

Meg: If they’re like me, they’ll want to read Devotion to find out what happened next. But that by itself is not a sufficient inducement. After all there’s lots of “fan fiction” to dip into. I’m too shy and embarrassed to say anything myself, so let me quote from Professor Lorraine Clark’s foreword to Devotion:

Meg Kerr’s two novels to date offer pleasures of recognition beyond familiarities of character, plot, and even scenes (for instance, the Bennets once more arguing about new tenants at Netherfield Park, or Lady Catherine arguing with yet another young lady attempting to steal her daughter’s rightful suitor) … We recognize the genre of 18th century novels themselves—French as well as English—structurally replete with letters and most of all conversations, Jane Austen’s specialty. We are pleasurably immersed in 18th century English diction from start to finish—in cadences and turns of phrase too often missing even from movie “reproductions” of Austen’s novels. Meg Kerr’s ear for dialogue characteristic of each particular speaker, and emphasis on “conversation” over description or plot, has been my own most unexpected pleasure in reading these books.

About Devotion:

In this sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Georgiana Darcy, now twenty years old and completely lovely, is ripe for marriage. Her brother has carefully selected her future husband, but the arrival of a long-delayed letter, and a secret journey, bring Georgiana into the arms of an utterly wicked and charming young man whose attentions promise her ruin. At the same time, events in Meryton are creating much-needed occupation for Mrs. Bennet and a quandary for Lydia Bennet’s girlhood companion Pen Harrington; and the former Caroline Bingley is given — perhaps — an opportunity to re-make some of her disastrous choices. Meg Kerr, writing effortlessly and wittily in the style of Jane Austen, sweeps the reader back to the year 1816 for a reunion with many beloved characters from Pride and Prejudice and an introduction to some intriguing characters.

Meg KerrAbout Meg Kerr:

What do you do when you live in the twenty-first century but a piece of your heart lies in the nineteenth? If you are author Meg Kerr you let your head and hand follow your heart. With her love of country life—dogs and horses, long walks in the woods and fields, dining with family and neighbours and dancing with friends, reading and writing and the best conversation—and her familiarity with eighteenth and nineteenth century history and literature, Meg has a natural gift to inhabit, explore and reimagine the world that Jane Austen both dwelt in and created, and to draw readers there with her.

“Ah! there is nothing like staying at home, for real comfort.” This line from Mrs. Elton in Emma is quite humorous, but the quote itself holds an eternal truth for most of us. There really is no place like one’s own home.

For Jane Austen, “home” was in Hampshire, a lush, green county in the south of England. She seems to have been happiest there, and it’s no wonder. When I visited there in June, it was as lovely as ever. The narrow country roads wind slowly through gentle hills and are lined with tall trees and thick bushes. Large, green fields stretch out for miles beyond. Here and there, there are houses set far back from the road. The storybook villages that pop up every few miles are complete with thatched roofs, wood and brick buildings, and picket fences around the gardens.

The air is still and quiet there. But for the cars that pass by every so often, it’s like stepping back in time.

STEVENTON

Austen’s home for the first 25 years of her life was at the Rectory in Steventon, and it surely brought comfort to her in many ways. She grew up there, was educated there, and spent many happy years with her family there.

Image 1 Rectory Site (1)

Rectory site today. Image Rachel Dodge

The lanes become more and more narrow as you near Steventon. Queen Anne’s Lace grows in profusion and the undergrowth presses close to the road. Trees grow up over the roads to form deep green tunnels of dappled light. Though the Rectory was torn down long ago, one can see the place where it once stood. Today, it is a large green field dotted with white sheep.

Image 2 Steventon Walk to Church

Road to St. Nicholas Church, Steventon. Photo Rachel Dodge.

Driving further up the lane to St. Nicholas Church, where her father Reverend George Austen was the rector, one enters a tunnel of trees that stretches around a bend and out of sight. It’s not hard to imagine Jane and Cassandra walking that beautiful lane on a fair Sunday morning to attend services at the church.

Image 3 Exterior Steventon Church

Exterior of St. Nicholas Church, Steventon. Image Rachel Dodge

The church itself is still in use today and looks the same as it would have in Jane’s time, making it quite unique. It is a small, simple church, built around 1200 by the Normans. In the heat of summer, its thick stone walls provide a cool, quiet place to sit and look, ponder, or pray. People from the neighborhood are known to stop by to visit and pray.

Image 4 Interior Steventon Church (1)

Interior, St. Nicholas Church, Steventon. Photo Rachel Dodge

Highlight: When we were there, one of the locals showed us how to open the door, which is kept unlocked for any who wish to visit and rest. The church is a place of stillness and beauty with its soft, rose colored-light from the mosaics and stained-glass windows.

Image 5 Wheatsheaf

Wheatsheaf Hotel, Basingstoke. Image Rachel Dodge

Up the road three miles is the Wheatsheaf Hotel in Basingstoke (known as the Wheatsheaf Inn during Austen’s life), where Austen walked to post letters and collect the family mail. Though it has since been expanded and updated, and now houses a lovely hotel and pub, the original building is still visible.

CHAWTON

The Austen family left Hampshire in 1801 when her father retired from his position as rector, and by all accounts, Jane Austen did not find that same home-comfort she had known at Steventon until she came back to Hampshire again years later. In 1809, several years after her father’s death, she moved with her mother and Cassandra into “the cottage” at her brother Edward’s estate in Chawton, Hampshire. Though Austen traveled frequently to visit family and friends during her adult years, Chawton Cottage and its surrounding areas once again became her true home.

Image 6 Jane's House Sign

Chawton Cottage, Jane Austen’s house sign. Image Rachel Dodge

Jane Austen’s House Museum, or Chawton Cottage, is where Jane lived until she moved to Winchester to seek medical attention toward the end of her life. The lanes, the village, the church, and the areas surrounding Chawton became the happy backdrop for the most prolific period of writing in Austen’s life.

Image 7 Jane's House Front

Front of Chawton Cottage. Image Rachel Dodge

Jane Austen’s House is open for tours daily and is surrounded by beautiful flower gardens. Baskets of books by Austen sit on benches in the shade for any guest who wants to sit and read. In the kitchen, there is a station set up for making lavender sachets and another where visitors can practice writing with a quill. There are also straw bonnets and dresses for guests to borrow if they wish to enjoy a more authentic experience!

Image 8 Roses Entrance

Entrance to Chawton Cottage with rose bower. Image Rachel Dodge

Inside the home, there are many items that are original heirlooms belonging to the family or are similar to what Jane would have known. I sat and played the piano (left image), which they allow visitors to do if they are pianists. In the dining room, one can see the Knight family’s Wedgwood dinner service, the tea things Jane would have used to make tea, and Jane’s writing desk (right image). Upstairs, guests can view the bedrooms and read more about the history of the family.

Image 9 Piano

Piano, Chawton Cottage. Image Rachel Dodge

Image 10 desk

Jane Austen’s writing desk. Image Rachel Dodge.

Highlight: At Jane Austen’s House, I met and spoke with a descendant of Austen’s, Jeremy Knight. He grew up at Chawton House (or the “Great House”), as did his daughter Caroline. When I visited, he was standing in the bedroom of Chawton Cottage, where Jane and Cassandra once shared a room, happily sharing Jane Austen’s history with visitors. What a treat! For further information about Chawton Cottage, you can read more here: https://www.jane-austens-house-museum.org.uk/

Image 11 Bed

Bed inside the room that Jane Austen and her sister, Cassandra, shared. Image Rachel Dodge.

St. Nicholas Church, Chawton is larger and more grand than the church at Steventon. Though it does not look as it did in Austen’s day, one can see the evidence of years of history inside and out. Like the church at Steventon, the church at Chawton is still a working parish church today.

Image 12 Chawton Church Exterior

Exterior, St. Nicholas, Chawton. Image Rachel Dodge

Image 13 Chawton Church Int

Interior, St. Nicholas Church, Chawton. Image Rachel Dodge

Highlight: If you walk around the back of the church, you can see the graves of Jane Austen’s mother and sister there. (Austen’s grave and memorial are found at Winchester Cathedral in Winchester.) Both women lived long, full lives, unlike our dear Jane.

Image 14 Graves at Chawton

Gravestones of Jane Austen’s mother and sister. Image Rachel Dodge

Chawton House and its gardens are open for public tours today. The Elizabethan era house, originally owned by Jane’s brother Edward Austen Knight, is now a library and study center devoted to women writers. There is also a tea shop inside the house.

Image 15 Chawton Great House Ext

Chawton House interior. Image Rachel Dodge

Image 16 Chawton House Int

Chawton House interior. Image Rachel Dodge

Highlight: Caroline Jane Knight, daughter of Jeremy Knight and 5th great-niece to Jane, released a book in June called Jane & Me: My Austen Heritage. It tells her personal story of growing up at Chawton House, the family’s Christmas traditions, baking with her Granny, and helping in the tea room. She is the last Austen descendent to have grown up in the house (before it was sold and later became the Chawton House Library).

Caroline has also formed the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation, a non-profit organization devoted to helping support literacy in communities in need worldwide. https://janeaustenlf.org/

For more on the history of Chawton House, you can read more here: https://chawtonhouse.org/about-us/our-story/

CELEBRATING 200 YEARS

In honor of the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death later this month, there are many special events all around Hampshire this summer and throughout the year. The people there are proud of their Austen heritage.

As part of the 200th year celebration, Jane Austen’s House Museum has a special exhibit called “41 Objects.” The number 41 marks the number of years that Jane graced this earth, and the objects can be found in and around the museum. Read here for more: https://www.jane-austens-house-museum.org.uk/41-objects

Image 17 41 Objects Plaque

Chawton Cottage plaque. Image Rachel Dodge

 

Image 18 41 Objects Wedgwood

Wedgwood china, Chawton. Image Rachel Dodge

One highlight for those visiting Hampshire during the “Jane Austen 200: A Life in Hampshire” celebration is the “Sitting with Jane” park benches. These “Book Benches” are scattered throughout the Hampshire area and are part of a public book trail. Each of the 24 benches focuses on a Jane Austen theme as interpreted by a professional artist. Fans can take photos sitting on the benches and post them to Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #SittingWithJane. Visit http://www.sittingwithjane.com/ or search @SittingWithJane on Twitter to see the benches or learn more.

 

Image 19 Steventon Bench

Sitting with Jane bench. Image Rachel Dodge

Image 20 Chawton Bench

Sitting with Jane bench. Image Rachel Dodge

For a full list of the events and exhibits scheduled for this year, you can read more here: http://janeausten200.co.uk/

If you have the chance to travel to England, visiting Jane’s beautiful Hampshire countryside is a must. Hampshire has all of the charm and beauty of modern British culture alongside a long, rich, and vibrant history of the past.

Other posts about Steventon, Chawton Cottage, and Chawton on this blog – Click here to see posts.

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.
027

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.

hampton-002

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.

Ice_House_-_geograph.org.uk_-_878045

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.

 

uc004810.jpg_TJ Recipe hands

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: 

 

Jane Austen and Duck Eggs

Last week a colleague at work, who lives in one of the prettier areas of rural Virginia, brought a dozen duck eggs to work. She had purchased them from a local farmer. Several of us pounced on these exotic avian gifts, since most of us obtain eggs from the lowly chicken from local grocers. Curiosity prompted me to compare the duck eggs to the two varieties of chicken eggs in my refrigerator. I only purchase large brown organic, cage-free chicken eggs. In the U.S. egg categories do not necessarily hold true, however. Both the eggs in the center and to the left of center are sold as large eggs. The definition of large seems not to be standard. However, capitalism is alive and well in the Commonwealth.  A dozen eggs on the left sell for $3.99 USD for a dozen, whereas the middle eggs sells for $6.99 USD per carton.
egg sizes

The differences in their sizes are astounding. The duck egg on the right is huge by comparison.

3 eggs

The duck egg made me think of Jane Austen, her mother and her sister. We know that the three women struggled for a number of years after Reverend Austen’s death, moving from house to house, city to city, before settling in Chawton Cottage. As the rector’s wife in Steventon Cottage, during Jane’s childhood, she oversaw a poultry yard with ducks, turkeys, chicken, guinea fowls. The move from city life to Chawton Cottage provided the Austen women with access to a substantial garden once more.

chawton-cottage-garden

Image of the garden at Chawton Cottage by Tony Grant.

 

Studying my duck egg, I wondered how similar it was to the kind Mrs. Austen (or her maid of all work) would have gathered. Apparently, Aylesbury ducks were popular in the UK during the late 18th through 19th centuries. These free ranging ducks ate grubs and any protein of interest, giving their meat and eggs a unique, strong flavor.

_wikimedia

Aylesbury ducks figured prominently in Beatrix Potter drawings. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

My duck egg tasted delicious – not much different from my free-ranging chicken egg, except that one egg took the place of two! I looked at some of my favorite 18th century cookbooks to see how duck eggs were used in recipes. The recipe below is typical of the era, in that few or no measurements were provided. One could assume is that “egg” is the food that the cook happened to have on hand, be it pigeon, quail, grouse, chicken, or duck!! I have one duck egg left and intend to fry it as round as balls!

 

To fry Eggs as round as Balls.

Having a deep frying-pan, and three pints of clarified butter, heat it as hot as for frit­ters, and stir it with a stick, till it runs round like a whirlpool; then break an egg into the middle, and turn it round with your stick, till it be as hard a poached egg; the whirl­ing round of the butter will make it as round as a ball, then take it up with a slice, and put it in a dish before the fire; they will keep hot half an hour, and yet be soft; so you may do as many as you please. You may poach them in boiling water in the same manner.

The Frugal Housewife, Or, Experienced Cook: Wherein the Art of Dressing All Sorts of Viands with Cleanliness, Decency, and Elegance is Explained in Five Hundred Approved Receipts … p. 42, Susannah Carter January 1, 1822, University of Oxford, downloaded at: http://tei.it.ox.ac.uk/tcp/Texts-HTML/free/N09/N09703.html

 

More about ducks:

Ducks a Potted History: https://britishfoodhistory.wordpress.com/2011/10/12/ducks-a-potted-history/

Soup Through the Ages: A Culinary History with Period Recipes, Victoria Rumble, foreword by Sandra Oliver, McFarland & Company, Inc. Publishers, 2009, p. 61, https://goo.gl/QhfJ35

duck eggs from great british chefs

Duck egg recipes from Great British Chefs. Perhaps I should try boiled egg and soldiers!

dukes hotel vic

Duke’s Hotel, Bath, Great Pulteney Street, where Vic stayed

Dear reader,

Jane Austen and the Georgian city of Bath are closely entwined throughout her novels and later life. Tony Grant’s contributions regarding Bath have been vitally important to me and this blog. His thoughts, images, and insights have enhanced my posts about this topic.

Tony has generously allowed me to link to his popular February post about his latest visit to Bath with his wife Marilyn on his blog, London Calling. One third of the way through his post, I linked to his site, so expect to be taken to another blog.

At the end of this post, I added links to other Jane Austen’s World posts regarding Jane in Bath with Tony’s photographic contributions. Enjoy!!

Thank you, Tony, for your continued support.

A VISIT TO BATH

Sometimes, among all the unwanted adverts, links and promotions that crop up on my i-phone, there  is something  of use. Recently Marilyn saw a one night deal advertised at The Royal Hotel Bath. That is not the Royal Crescent Hotel at the top of the city by the way. The Royal Crescent Hotel provides, I am sure, extreme luxury. Well, it should do. The cost of a suite for one night is £1000. The Royal Hotel is the sturdy building, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and built in 1864, next to the main railway station located next to the River Avon. The deal was excellent. The hotel is three star but it offered a very comfortable experience. For £125 we had a well appointed double room with en-suite facilities. When we arrived we had a cream tea in the foyer. The evening three course meal began with a complimentary glass of champagne. The deal also included a full English breakfast.

The Royal Hotel ,Bath. (Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1846.)

The weather was cold but clear skied while we were in Bath. We  had to wrap up warmly.
We have been to Bath on a few occasions and we have seen the main sites before. This time we once again visited Bath Abbey and for the first  time visited the Roman Baths complex. There was quite a queue to get into the Pump Room for afternoon tea so we decided to miss that. We have been to the Pump Room twice before. We found another coffee shop nearby in the Abbey precinct.

Bath Abbey with The Pump Room on the right.

Of course we walked past and along many of the sites in Bath that are connected with Jane Austen.When we arrived in Bath, we first of all parked in our usual car park, near the river, very close to Green Park buildings, and the house where The Reverend George Austen died on Tuesday 21st January  1805, Jane wrote to her brother Frank Austen, stationed on HMS Leopard in Portsmouth..

“An illness of only eight and forty hours carried him off yesterday morning between ten and eleven,”

After booking into The Royal Hotel we moved our car to the car park in Manvers Street next to the hotel.   I discovered that Fanny Burney , the playwright and novelist, a contemporary of Jane Austen’s, lived in South Parade, next to the car park.

We later walked up Milson Street,

“They were in Milsom Street. It began to rain, not much, but enough to make shelter desirable for women, and quite enough to make it very desirable for Miss Elliot to have the advantage of being conveyed home in Lady Dalrymple’s carriage, which was seen waiting at a little distance;…”  (Persuasion)

to Edgar Buildings, which features in, Northanger Abbey,

” Early the next day, a note from Isabella speaking peace and tenderness in every line and entreating the immediate presence of her friend on a matter of utmost importance, hastened Catherine, in the happiest state of confidence and curiosity, to Edgar’s Buildings.”  

Edgar Buildings are located in George Street.

We turned left along George Street to Gay Street and walked up the hill to The Circus, past number 25 Gay Street, a house the Austens stayed in after the Reverend Austen’s death. From, The Circus ,we walked along Bennett Street to The Upper Assembly Rooms .

We had never been inside the Assembly Rooms before. They were spectacular. Jane Austen describes a number of Balls in her novels, Emma, Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey. She also writes, in her letters to Cassandra, about the balls she and other members of her family, and friends attended…

 

Read the rest of the post at this link: http://general-southerner.blogspot.com/2017/02/a-visit-to-bath.html

Bath Posts on Jane Austen’s World, most with Tony Grant Images:

Understanding the subtle nuances behind formal introductions and customary greetings during Jane Austen’s lifetime is a lot of fun, and it can provide a unique level of insight into her books. The reason: Austen uses breaches of etiquette and manners as commentaries on her characters. In her book Those Elegant Decorums, Jane Nardin says, “In Jane Austen’s novels, a person’s social behavior is the external manifestation of his moral character” (12).

Austen utilizes greetings such as formal introductions, handshakes, curtsies, bows, and even the infamous “cut,” in order to help drive her plots, provide insightful information about her characters, and give subtle hints to her readers.

Making Introductions

 Throughout her novels, Jane Austen makes clever use of the rule that two strangers cannot interact socially until they have been properly introduced by a third party or mutual acquaintance. Today, it might seem rude to mingle with someone in a social setting and not introduce ourselves, but Kirsten Olsen says in All Things Austen that “genteel people who had not been introduced simply did not speak to one another” (132). Austen is able to use this code of conduct to the advantage and disadvantage of her characters.

Catherine Moorland feels the disadvantage of this rule acutely when she first goes to Bath: “she longed to dance, but she had not an acquaintance in the room” and Mrs. Allen only says, “every now and then, ‘I wish you could dance, my dear—I wish you could get a partner.’” (Northanger Abbey 21). Because they have no acquaintance, Catherine cannot dance. When they find a place for tea next to a large party of people, they even spend the meal “without having anything to do there, or anybody to speak to, except each other” (22). But if a girl cannot get a dance partner or find friends at the tea table without an acquaintance, how can she meet a marriage partner? Luckily, there was an exception to this rule: The master of ceremonies at the Lower Rooms could make a proper introduction, which is how Catherine meets Henry Tilney. (See Vic’s article on The Lower Assembly Rooms and Bath Society for more.)

Austen also uses this rule of introductions as the essential “hook” that grabs the reader’s attention at the beginning of Pride and Prejudice when Mrs. Bennet harasses Mr. Bennet to pay a visit to Mr. Bingley. Among the gentry in the country, when someone moved into the neighborhood, it was polite for his neighbors to call on him. Obviously, Mr. Bennet must introduce himself so that his daughters can meet Mr. Bingley. However, there is another reason for Mrs. Bennet’s insistence: Once the call is made, it must be returned. As Olsen says, “virtually all visits required a reciprocal visit so that once one started visiting at a particular house, it was hard to stop” (Olsen 385). This bit of information makes Mrs. Bennet’s shrewd scheming even more humorous for she knows it will inevitably lead to her daughters being introduced to Mr. Bingley.

Later in Pride and Prejudice, when Mr. Collins introduces himself to Mr. Darcy without having been formally introduced, it is an embarrassing breach of conduct, especially as he is of inferior social rank: “Elizabeth tried hard to dissuade him from such a scheme, assuring him that Mr. Darcy would consider his addressing him without introduction as an impertinent freedom, rather than a compliment to his aunt; that it was not in the least necessary there should be any notice on either side; and that if it were, it must belong to Mr. Darcy, the superior in consequence, to begin the acquaintance” (PP 79). This is not merely a terrible social faux pas—Austen is bringing attention to Mr. Collins’s ignorance and over-inflated sense of pride in regard to his connection to Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

Polite Gestures and Greetings

Austen also uses bows, curtsies, nods, and other physical gestures purposefully; body language carries a lot of meaning in her books. Bowing and curtsying, for instance, was to be done elegantly and gracefully. However, the depth and duration of a bow depended on the circumstances. For example, “A short, curt bow, more like a nod, could indicate displeasure or mere formal acknowledgement, while a long bow could be ridiculous in some situations and lend emphasis to one’s words or departure in others” (Olsen 131). We see an example of this subtlety when Mr. Darcy only bows slightly and moves away after Mr. Collins comes forward to introduce himself. Mr. Collins tells Elizabeth that the introduction went well, but from mere observation Elizabeth can see that the opposite is true.

Gentlemen were also expected to bow upon taking leave of a lady. Bows or tips of the hat were given in greeting to women, social superiors, and to acquaintances seen at a distance. Nodding was also important. Nodding was also common courtesy among women. And, much like a visit, a tip of the hat or nod of the head must be returned, as we see in Northanger Abbey when Catherine is looking for Mr. Tilney but is also occupied with “returning the nods and smiles of Miss Thorpe,” which “claimed much of her leisure” (Austen NA 35).

Shaking hands was generally used between men of the same social class. However, Olsen says that “women could choose to shake hands, even with a man, though conduct books indicated that this was a favour (sic) to be distributed with care” (131). We see in Sense and Sensibility that Marianne has become accustomed to granting this favor to Willoughby (and is hurt by his apparent indifference) when she holds out her hand to him and cries: “Will you not shake hands with me?” when they see one another at a party in London (176). When she first sees him, he merely bows “without attempting to speak to her, or to approach.” After spending so much time together, he is incredibly uncomfortable and acts as though they do not know each other as well as they do. Austen uses this scene to reveal to the reader that Willoughby’s feelings and intentions toward Marianne have changed abruptly.

The Cut

Finally, we see that once two people have been introduced, each one must give and return the appropriate calls, bows, curtsies, and nods. When someone deliberately chose not to engage in these polite customs and acknowledge an acquaintance, it was known as a “cut.” Olsen explains that “[a]n introduction was a matter of some importance, as once two people were introduced, they had to ‘know’ each other for good, acknowledging each other’s presence every time they met and accepting visits back and forth. The only way out of perpetual acquaintance was for one…to do something so horrific and unforgivable that the other might ‘cut’ him” (Olsen 132).

For instance, when meeting on the street, if one man saw a gentleman acquaintance, he would tip his hat. The other could then nod back. However, to ignore the other person and refuse to acknowledge him was a “cut.” The “cut” is used pointedly in Pride and Prejudice when Darcy sees Wickham in Meryton: “Mr. Wickham, after a few moments, touched his hat—a salutation which Mr. Darcy just deigned to return. What could be the meaning of it? It was impossible to imagine; it was impossible not to long to know” (73).

The cut is highlighted several times in Austen’s novels because “in her social world it was almost as dramatic an incident as could possibly happen” (Olsen 133). We see the cut used several times as a way to show that a relationship between two people has been broken for one reason or another. In Sense and Sensibility, after Willoughby breaks Marianne’s heart and she become ill, he tells Elinor that Sir John spoke to him for the first time in two months when they met in public. He says “[t]hat he had cut me ever since my marriage, I had seen without surprise or resentment” (330). Depending on the situation, sometimes it is the one being cut or the one giving the cut who is at fault.

In Pride and Prejudice, when Jane visits Miss Bingley in London, Miss Bingley waits several weeks before returning the call (though a call should be returned within a day or two. Jane writes to Elizabeth: “It was very evident that she had no pleasure in [the visit]; she made a slight, formal, apology, for not calling before, said not a word of wishing to see me again, and was in every respect so altered a creature, that when she went away, I was perfectly resolved to continue the acquaintance no longer” (148). This is a subtle cut and was considered highly impolite.

In each of her novels, Austen utilizes social gestures such as they to give her readers special insight into her characters and plots. When someone is in error, we should always look closely to find out why Austen has written it that way. Often, when the code of conduct is not followed, something (or someone) is amiss. Exploring these nuances is one way to understand the underlying meaning in Austen’s books. For more on these topics, see… (links/references)

Rachel Dodge, May 24, 2017

Inquiring readers: About Ms. Dodge, the author of this article (and more to come):

Rachel Dodge’s knowledge of Jane Austen and the Regency World is impeccable. She has an M.A. in English literature in creative writing and public relations, and is a free freelance web and marketing content writer/editor for churches, missionary organizations, and small businesses. Rachel is a frequent speaker at libraries, literary groups, and reading groups about Jane Austen, 18th-century literature, and the Regency Era. Her written works include: “Exploring Womanhood: Moral Instruction, the Ideal Female, and 18th-Century Conduct in Pride & Prejudice.” (Master’s Thesis on the topic of female etiquette in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice). She belongs to JASNA National, JASNA Greater Sacramento, and Inspire Writers.

You can see why I am so pleased to add Rachel to the Jane Austen’s World group of contributing writers! Please welcome her aboard.

Works Cited

Austen, Jane, and R. W. Chapman. Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1988.

–. Pride and Prejudice. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1988.

–. Sense and Sensilibity. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1988.

Nardin, Jane, and Jane Austen. Those Elegant Decorums the Concept of Propriety in Jane Austen’s Novels. Albany, State Univ. of New York Press, 2012.

Olsen, Kirstin. All Things Austen: A Concise Encyclopedia of Austen’s World. Oxford, Greenwood World, 2008.

Gentle Readers

tiny jane austen tableau

Vic’s tribute to Jane Austen in the corner of her living room: a facsimile of Jane’s chair and writing table.

This blog has lain idle for a little over a year, but I plan to resurrect it. For the time being, I’ll add one or two posts per month until I am able to devote more time to my favorite author again. I am pleased to announce that this year’s first post (by Rachel Dodge on Regency manners and greetings) will be published tomorrow.

I am also in the process of updating the links in the pages that sit on top of the blog. These updates should be completed by mid-summer.

With much affection and gratitude for your patience, Vic

 

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