In Jane Austen’s day, weddings were often held first thing in the morning, after which the bridal couple and their guests returned home to celebrate with a wedding breakfast like that served to Anna Austen and Benjamin Lefroy in 1814: “The breakfast was such as best breakfasts then were. Some variety of bread, hot rolls, buttered toast, tongue, ham and eggs. The addition of chocolate at one end of the table and the wedding-cake in the middle marked the speciality of the day.” Though rich fruit and nut cakes had been used for centuries, in 1786 Elizabeth Raffald was the first to publish a recipe for a cake specifically for weddings. The cake was served not only at the wedding breakfast, but also shared with the household servants and sent in pieces to friends and relatives who had not attended the ceremony. These wedding cakes were single tiered, double frosted confections, though by no means small. Queen Victoria’s 1840 wedding cake measured 9 feet around and weighed 300 pounds, although it was only 14 inches high. A period depiction of Queen Victoria’s wedding cake. This recipe makes an enormous cake. I have quartered the ingredients and it fit nicely into my 12 ½cm/ 5in deep, 25cm /10in springform pan. To Make a Bride Cake Take four pounds of fine flour well dried, four pounds of fresh butter, two pounds of loaf sugar, pound and sift fine a quarter of an ounce of mace the same of nutmegs, to every pound (more…)
Jane Austen and the State of the nation by Sheryl Craig Jane Austen is universally acknowledged as an excellent writer with a fine grasp of the human condition. Her ever increasing number of fans, her inclusion in nearly every list of worthy writers and English Literature syllabi, her marketability and timeless appeal have created what might be called an international mania. Many would attribute her success to her wit and way with words, others to the age old stories of love and romance that she tells. It seems, however, as if there was more, much more, just beneath the surface: undertones and even overt messages that Jane Austen’s readers would have seen, but which are, for the most part, lost to today’s readers. After all, as Jane herself (in the guise of omniscient narrator) explains in Northanger Abbey: “Oh! It is only a novel!…It is only Cecilia, or Camilla, or Belinda”; or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best–chosen language.” I have, over the past few months, had the great privilege of first hearing and then reading the works of celebrated Austen scholar and international speaker, Dr. Sheryl Craig. The talk she addressed to our JASNA gathering in November, entitled “So Ended a Marriage”, looked at Mansfield Park in light of the (more…)
In her 1983 book, Period Design & Furnishing, Judith and Martin Miller present a wonderful overview of historical furniture design along with stunning photographs of both extant homes as well as contemporary recreations. This book is fascinating, not only to the Janeite hoping to better understand the nuances of fashion during the eras Jane lived through (Georgian, Regency, Empire and Biedermeier) but also to the author seeking to set her stage, the miniature artist attempting to capture a moment in time and the home decorator feathering her nest in a style reminiscent of days gone by.
Quoting from the chapter, Regency, Empire and Biedermeier, we find a lovely description of Regency taste and how it differentiated from the preceding Georgian Era:
“Life in the English Regency period, which in its broadest sense stretched from the late 1790s until the late 1830s, was more intimate and informal than previously. Rooms, often with a bay window, were smaller and had lower ceilings, and the arrangement of furniture was much more casual. Instead of being ranged around the room, pieces were grouped close to the fireplace. Family and friends would gather around a circular table to talk or play cards. Interiors were better lit than before: the new, efficient oil lamps enabled several people to share a table fore reading or writing.
Regency rooms were on the whole light and graceful with fairly plain walls in a clear pale color. There would be a narrow frieze, and the ceiling was usually plain or decorated with a small central garland with a chandelier hanging from it. Fabric was used in abundance– swathed and draped over valances and sometimes festooned between the legs of chairs. Continue reading Simplifying Regency Style
Festival Promenaders taking a break. The Jane Austen Festival starts on the 12th of September and looks like it will be the biggest and best ever. Jackie Herring, Jane Austen Festival Director is happy with the arrangements and ticket sales. ‘Lots of events have already sold out but there are still a few tickets left. If you want to see something spectacular turn up on to the Regency Promenade on Saturday. Watch 600 spectacular promenaders in their Regency finery as they take to the streets of Bath.’ The event has been covered by The Bath Chronicle. Take a look at their article here More Promenade information; Each year the Jane Austen Festival officially opens with our world famous Grand Regency Costumed Promenade. The Promenade is a parade through the streets of this beautiful city and over 500 people all in 18th Century costume take part, making it a record breaking event. In 2014 the Jane Austen Festival achieved the Guinness World Record TM for ‘The largest gathering of people dressed in Regency costumes at 550′ All sorts of people take part from the very young to the young at heart plus red coats, dancers and our official town crier. The Promenade stops the traffic in Gay Street, The Circus, George Street, Milsom Street and Orange Grove, making it difficult for drivers from 11am until 12.30pm on Saturday 12th September 2015. ALL participants wear costume to take part in the Promenade and also purchase a ticket, the cost is £10 per adult, (more…)
While there is some debate over the date of the original hatpin (vs straight pin),we do know that women have been using pins to secure veils, wimples, hats and bonnets for hundreds of years. Until 1820 hatpin making in England was a cottage industry in which demand far exceeded supply. One solution was to import crafted pins from France. In order to support Britain’s crafters, in 1820 a law was passed allowing pins to be imported ONLY on January 1 and 2! Some suggest the phrase “pin money” was so called because it was spent by the lady of the house on her hatpins, dress pins and brooch pins! 2008’s The Duchess featured exquisite costumes (and hatpins) by Michael O’Connor. Photo by Nick Wall All pins were still handmade at this point, and remained so until 1832 when a machine was invented in the United States, which could mass-produce the pins. After this prices dropped considerably as machines made pins were crafted England and France, soon after. When styles began favoring the hat over the bonnet in the 1880’s, hatpins became both more fashionable and more elaborate. They remained as essential accessory until the age of flapper style bobs and cloche hats made them unnecessary. Still the Edwardian hatpin was regarded as a thing of fear among lawmakers of the day, who passed legislation in 1908 (in the United States) mandating that pins not exceed 10 inches in length (lest Suffragettes use them as weapons) and later ordering that the (more…)
Many food items are named according to their birthplace, such as Bath Buns or Yorkshire Pudding. Banbury was a market town which also gave it’s name to the phrase, “A Banbury story of a cock and a bull”. Made famous in Regency circles by Georgette Heyer, it dates to at least the 1600’s and is mentioned in the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue by Francis Gros. Its most common meaning is “A far-fetched and fanciful story or tale of highly dubious validity“. It is also sometimes shortened to “a Banbury tale” or simply “a Banbury” and most often “a cock and bull story”. A Banbury cake is a spiced, currant-filled, flat pastry cake similar to an Eccles cake, although it is more oval in shape. Once made and sold exclusively in Banbury, England, Banbury cakes have been made in the region to secret recipes since 1586 or earlier and are still made there today, although not in such quantity. The cakes were once sent as far afield as Australia, India and America. Banbury cakes were first made by Edward Welchman, whose shop was on Parsons Street. Documented recipes were published by Gervase Markham and others during the 17th century. These recipes generally differ largely to the modern idea of a Banbury cake, in terms of their size, the nature of the pastry, and how the cake is made. In the late 19th century, the notorious refreshment rooms at Swindon railway station sold “Banbury cakes and pork pies (obviously stale)”. (more…)
The Hope Diamond, also known as “Le Bijou du Roi” (“the King’s Jewel”), “Le bleu de France” (“the Blue of France”), and the Tavernier Blue, is a large, 45.52-carat (9.104 g), deep-blue diamond, and now housed in the National Gem and Mineral collection at the Smithsonian Institution’s Natural History Museum in Washington, D.C. It is blue to the naked eye because of trace amounts of boron within its crystal structure, and exhibits red phosphorescence after exposure to ultraviolet light. It is classified as a Type IIb diamond, and is notorious for supposedly being cursed. It has a long recorded history, with few gaps, in which it changed hands numerous times on its way from India to France to Britain and eventually to the United States, where it has been regularly on public display since. It has been described as the “most famous diamond in the world”. The Hope Diamond in 1974 Several accounts, based on remarks written by the gem’s first known owner, French gem merchant Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, suggest that the gemstone originated in India, in the Kollur mine in the Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh (which at the time was part of the Golconda kingdom), in the seventeenth century. It is unclear who had initially owned the gemstone, where it had been found, by whom, and in what condition. But the first historical records suggest that a French merchant-traveler named Jean-Baptiste Tavernier obtained the stone in the mid-1600s, possibly by purchase or by theft. Tavernier brought to Paris a large (more…)
‘…but we shall not have Miss Bigg, she being frisked off like half England, into Switzerland.’ (Jane Austen to Anne Sharpe , 22 May 1817) The Swiss Cottage, sitting atop one of Lord Ongley’s mounds (Photo: Darren Harbar) Lord Robert Henley Ongley (1803-1877)inherited Old Warden Park in 1814 when he was just eleven years old. During his early twenties, newly in receipt of his fortune, he transformed a 9-acre section of boggy brickfield in north-east Bedfordshire intoan alpine scene such as one would expect to find in the foothills of the Swiss Alps. A great earth-moving feat moulded this level patch of land into an undulating landscape complete with mounds, ponds, serpentine paths and shrubberies, to which Lord Ongley added a Swiss Cottage, an aviary, huge trellis frames arching over sweeping lawns, and a thatched tree seat, complete with sentimental poem etched into a marble slab and the nearby melancholy walk and tiny chapel with its stained glass window. Small but beautifully ornate cast-iron bridges, an Indian Kiosk and a fine Grotto, later incorporated into a Fernery, were added to create a collection of features without which no Regency garden would be complete. At the same time, he remodelled the village of Old Warden, also in the ‘Swiss Picturesque’ style. Local legend has it that Lord Ongley supplied his tenants with red neck-ties, which they were expected to wear as he rode through the village. This was a set piece like no other; a little slice of Switzerland, just under (more…)