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A Letter to Jane Austen – Part Two

Jane austen biography

This is part two of a most interesting letter written by Hans van Leeuwen, a lovely Jane Austen fan from the Netherlands. (Part one can be found here)

Hans is hoping to receive remarks and tips for improvements from native speakers of English, preferably Jane Austen devotees, and the purpose of sharing the letter with us is so that some valuable feedback might be gained. 

We hope you might enjoy reading it as much as we did, and that you might share your thoughts in our comments section below.   

Jane austen biography

The half hour that succeeded this scene brought calm and tranquillity to the room and saw my father and myself settling down to reading and my mother to knitting. The faint sounds naturally attending these activities, the song of the fire and the occasional whining of the dogs when they were dreaming, produced an atmosphere no evilness could find fertile ground in. Since opening your book and immersing myself in it, I had been holding it flat in my lap, for a reason not needing to be explained, but the unnaturalness of having it this way could not fail to create such discomfort as was no longer to be borne. Relief came in a change quickly made, and while the cover was at risk of being seen as a consequence, my eyesight was out of danger of being destroyed. After convincing myself of my parents’ being as perfectly engrossed in their respective employments as before, I felt safe enough to direct my eyes down again, and within the space of two paragraphs your book had me transported back to Northanger Abbey again and the exciting events within its walls.

The next half hour was spent in equal harmony. It was disturbed, however, by my father, who had stirred on perceiving that the fire was dying and needed attending to. This must have caused my mother to look up and about her, to try and discover what or who had had the nerve to rouse her from the delicious reverie the rhythm of her work had helped her slip into, and her eye must have met the cover of the book in the process, for what else could explain what happened next.

” My word! ”, cried she, ” Can it be true? It is almost past belief. Northanger Abbey it says again! Good heaven! What little common sense she had left completely gone! ”

Looking up in fright, I noticed that my father had likewise started at the outburst, but his whole attention being with the fire, only sounds and no purport seemed to have reached him, for he retorted that had the fire been left to her care, some limbs would have grown black from frostbite by now. My mother’s countenance stiffened with indignation, and provoked into retaliation, in an apparent attempt not to allow him to escape his fair share of ill-treatment, she cried:

” As deaf as a doorknob! The head of the house on a certain path to deafness, I was never so sure of anything! The disgrace that will befall us! Suspicions from all quarters will be growing into certainty within a fortnight, probably sooner, and where we once walked through the door amidst bows and civilities we will no longer be admitted entrance to. ” She continued in the same style for while until she seemed to have vented enough of her ire to be tolerably comfortable again in silence.

Continue reading A Letter to Jane Austen – Part Two

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A Letter to Jane Austen – Part One

Jane austen biography

This is part one of a most interesting letter written by Hans van Leeuwen, a lovely Jane Austen fan from the Netherlands.

Hans is hoping to receive remarks and tips for improvements from native speakers of English, preferably Jane Austen devotees, and the purpose of sharing the letter with us is so that some valuable feedback might be gained. 

We hope you might enjoy reading it as much as we did, and that you might share your thoughts in our comments section below.   

 

Jane austen biography

 

Nijmegen, Gelderlandshire

13th of November 1816 2016

Dear Jane

It is no uncommon occurrence for me to be seen opening a book not written by yourself for the sake of propriety, but hardly have I progressed to chapter two of such a book when I find myself growing increasingly uncomfortable from an anxiousness to replace it by one of your works. How exasperating that I should think it wrong sometimes to be always seen reading the same book or a book by the same authoress! I do, in the end, follow my own inclinations rather than bend to the wishes of others, but only after caring too much about other people’s opinions and patiently putting up with their suggestions to read what they themselves probably have not read. Yet even then I feel the shackles of conventionality, as testified by my continually looking about me when, at length, I have mustered courage enough to go to our library upstairs and choose one of your books again, on which, to your credit, dust never has time to settle.

I had gone thither for that very purpose a couple of days ago, and after hurriedly descending the stairs in excited spirits tinged with apprehension, while holding the cover of your book towards me so as to conceal it from view, joined my father and mother in the drawing room, whither they had repaired after dinner. A genial fire in the grate, lit earlier than usual by the housemaid on account of its being a remarkably cool evening for the season, made this the room all living creatures in the house were drawn towards, and when Maria came in with tea, Max and Joe, our two cocker spaniels, who had eagerly but obediently been waiting in the chilly hall for an opportunity to get in, sped past her to lay themselves to rest at our feet and, like ourselves, bask in the warm glow of the flames. After serving us, Maria was about to leave the room when my father addressed her thus:

“ The exemplary foresight shown in lighting the fire as early as has been done, is to be unequivocally commended, and I have been told that the idea proceeded from you, Maria. To have been thus saved from an evening spoilt by a fire lit too late, is a blessing indeed. ”

“ Thank you, Sir, ” was Maria’s humble reply.

Unsure whether she was meant to stay or leave the room, Maria felt all the discomfort of those finding themselves the recipients of commendation when it is neither expected nor felt to be deserved, and a hunching of the shoulders and restlessness of the hands were the surest symptoms of her agony. My father mercilessly continued his tribute, and although he now generously bestowed it on all those employed in his house, she still felt as awkward as if it had been exclusively intended for her.

Continue reading A Letter to Jane Austen – Part One

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Meeting Young Jane Austen

“It’s exciting to be contributing to the Jane Austen 200 celebrations, with performances of Young Jane and Meeting Miss Austen, my adaptations inspired by Austen’s Juvenilia.” – Cecily O’Neill

The exuberance and absurdity of the short novels, plays and letters known as the Juvenilia immediately captured my interest. Many of the characters, situations and issues in these teenage works clearly anticipate Austen’s mature novels, and the dialogue is as funny and revealing as anything she wrote later.

It was the power of the dialogue that made me think these delightful pieces might be adapted for the stage. This is Mary’s first speech from The Three Sisters,

I am the happiest creature in the world! I have received an offer of marriage from Mr Watts! It is the first proposal I have ever had, but I do not intend to accept it. At least I believe I won’t. Mr Watts is quite an old man, at least thirty-two. He’s very plain – so plain that I cannot bear to look at him. He’s also extremely disagreeable and I hate him more than any body else in the world! He has a large fortune but then he’s so very healthy

I could find no evidence that the Juvenilia had previously been dramatized, although the title of the recent film, Love and Friendship, which is based on Austen’s Lady Susan, borrowed the title from one of the minor masterpieces in the Juvenilia.

As well as The Three Sisters, I chose The Visit and Love and Friendship to include in Young Jane. Sell-out performances followed and this was the impetus for publishing the script of Young Jane.

I am currently at work on Meeting Miss Austen, another selection of works from the Juvenilia. One of the most compelling characters is Lady Greville, who prides herself on the fact that she ‘always speaks her mind’. This allows her to be as rude as she likes.

Continue reading Meeting Young Jane Austen

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Mr Bennet’s Bride, by Emma Wood

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It’s a pleasure to have a chance to connect with other Jane Austen enthusiasts. Like many people, my passion for Jane Austen grew hugely with the 1996 mini-series of Pride and Prejudice. The theatricality of the characters and the beauty of her dialogue delivered by that magnificent cast made that series one that was watched time and time again for me!

My first full length play (Water Child) was produced in Newcastle, Australia in 2012. Having won an award for that play and received very enthusiastic reviews and comments from audience members, I was keen to write another. But I had no particular idea about what until one day, like a gift, an idea presented itself: Mr and Mrs Bennet. What inspired this unlikely union? I read Pride and Prejudice again eagerly with those characters in focus, and noted that very little context is provided for their past.

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Chapter 42 opens with reflections on their courtship and marriage:
Continue reading Mr Bennet’s Bride, by Emma Wood

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Book Review: The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen

the particular charm of Miss Jane Austen

The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen
by Ada Bright  and Cass Grafton
A review by Laura Boyle

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When I was asked to review The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen, I had no idea what the story was about, the cover giving only the vaguest idea that it might have something to do with the lovely topaz necklaces that were a gift to Jane and her sister from their seafaring brother Charles. Was it Jane’s personal charm, or this actual, physical charm that the story was about? The answer was to be a little of both.

With vivid detail, authors Ada Bright and Cass Grafton set their stage: the opening of the Jane Austen Festival in Bath. In a tale of art imitates life, one might suspect, two longtime internet friends are about to meet for the first time in person and partake of the delights Bath has to offer. The city, sights and excitement of the festival come to life in a way that must make all of us who have never been long for a taste of that happiness which comes when “good people get together”. Those who have had a chance to enjoy the festival must revisit these scenes of past pleasure once again with delight.

While seemingly straightforward enough, two young ladies ready for love, two single men in want of wives, the story takes a dramatic twist part way through the novel. It appears (as the reader has already suspected) that Rose Wallace’s reclusive upstairs neighbor is none other than a time traveling Jane Austen, intent on discovering the fascination surrounding her life and works. In a swift turn of events, Jane loses her time traveling ability through the loss of her topaz cross (her “particular charm”) and the game, as they say, is afoot.

Jane and Rose find themselves in a Frank Capraesque situation, left standing in a modern world from which the original Jane Austen disappeared in 1803 – seven years before her first novels were published. In this unique way, the reader is forced to reconcile to a world with no Austen novels, no Darcys or Elizabeths and, seemingly, no happy ending. How does Jane adapt to modern life (and what is our current predilection for putting people in boxes: phones, televisions, computers and otherwise)? How would daily life change for us, for me and for you, if there never had been Jane Austen, the author?

At first glance, perhaps, nothing extraordinary might be noted, but how about friendships and businesses built on Jane’s work? What about people and pets named for Jane’s characters; actors, actresses and locations famed for their appearance in Jane’s films, or even English majors left without this sparkling voice to study? Entire sections of bookstores and the internet would be left a blank.

Because it has always been so, I never stopped to consider life without Jane. This novel forced me to do so, but in a way in which I knew there just must be a way back; a chance to right this terrible wrong. As Jane and Rose sort their way through this new universe, the novel evolves again, this time uncovering a centuries old mystery, which, if solved, might reset the timeline once again. The race is on, and with the help of some “new” old friends, it might just be possible.

Ada and Cass, two longtime friends who met on a literary chat board long before crossing the Atlantic to meet in person, are no doubt the models for the friendship Rose and Morgan share. What they have created together, as joint authors, is something “in a style entirely new”—a book that seems to be one thing but jumps genres each time you think you have it figured out. This keeps the pace fresh and fast, even at 357 pages, and the hint of more to come can only delight the reader who has fallen in love with the characters, both old and new.

Although this is set in September (with a firsthand walk through of the Jane Austen Festival and many shout outs to local businesses and eateries) I could not shake the feeling of it being a Christmas story—perhaps because of the It’s a Wonderful Life tone; perhaps because of the Christmas Eve type anticipation which came each time I had to put the novel down. (What would happen next? With two authors it was anything but predictable!) This is definitely a story for long winter nights by a cosy fire. Anyone coming into this thinking that they know what to expect is in for a surprise. And any reader, like myself, with no idea what to expect had better hang on, because it’s going to be a ride!

  • Paperback: £12.99 / Kindle: £4.61
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Brown Dog Books (24 Jun. 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN:978-1785451041

Laura Boyle is fascinated by all aspects of Jane Austen’s life. She is the proprietor of Austentation: Regency Accessories, creating custom hats, bonnets, reticules and more for customers around the globe. Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends is her first book. Her greatest joy is the time she is able to spend in her home with her family (1 amazing husband, 4 adorable children and a very strange dog).

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Our Books of the Year 2016

Books of the Year 2016

It’s been an extremely varied 12 months here at the Jane Austen Gift Shop as far as reading matter goes…

colouring1-600x600Our biggest sellers have been the Jane Austen Classic Colouring Book and the Pride and Prejudice Colouring Classic. Whether young or old, it’s hard to resist getting out the pencils, paints or crayons to add a splash of colour to these enchanting illustrations. Some said the colouring craze was just a passing fancy, but if the popularity of these titles is anything to go by, there’s plenty of life in it yet, especially among Jane Austen fans!

the-annotated-emmaOf the official releases, you certainly enjoyed The Annotated Emma. This ingenious and illuminating book book pairs the full original text with explanations of historical context, maps and illustrations, definitions of historical terms and concepts, comments and analysis and cross-referencing to Jane’s other novels, letters and writings. The result is almost like reading the novel for the first time, and it’s full of information on everything from English attitudes towards gypsies to the social status of spinsters and illegitimate children, to the shopping habits of fashionable ladies. A gourmet feast for Janeites, it’s one of those books that is sure to drive your friends mad, as you constantly stop and them and say: “Did you know this?”

81_89a282jl15The big movie news of the year was the release of Love and Friendship, based on Jane’s early work Lady Susan. If that’s inspired you to catch up (or re-acquaint yourself) with the juvenilia, we have a lovely collector’s hardback of the complete early writings: Love and Freindship, with Lady Susan included of course. More controversial was the release, after years of announcements, of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It sharply divided opinion among Janeites here, and doubtless everyone will have a strong opinion about it one way or another. But there’s no question that the original book deftly converts the source material into the idiom of zombie horror – if you are brave and curious, you can give it a try here!

world of poldarkOn a completely different note, it was hard to ignore the fact that Mr. Darcy has found himself up against a serious rival for the hearts of the nation in the form of Winston Graham’s Captain Poldark, in the BBC’s smash hit adapatation of the best-selling Georgian and Regency romantic novels. Our primary loyalty will always be to Jane’s characters of course, but we couldn’t ignore this phenomenon entirely! As such, we beg Darcy’s indulgence and discreetly bring to your notice the superb World of Poldark, a lavish, beautifully illustrated companion to the novels, the series and the times, with features on everything that makes the series so memorable: the characters, the plots, the locations, the costumes and the landscape. If all of that whets your appetite for the originals, don’t miss our lovely collector’s edition of the first novel Ross Poldark, or, if you just want to gaze at the images and wish you were there, there’s always the Official 2017 Poldark Calendar!

ssgraphicnovel-600x600If graphic novels are to your fancy, there’s still time to snap up the highly acclaimed Marvel adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, now out of print and highly collectable. The superb artwork and clever adaptation of the material works surprisingly well – it’s a great way of introducing the book to teenagers who think they don’t like ‘that sort of thing’, as well as a treat for confirmed fans with modern tastes. pig124-600x600

For the very young there’s a beautiful board book edition of Emma, the latest in the wonderful Little Miss Austen series. And the jury is still out as to whether you have to be very young to want a copy of A Guinea Pig Pride and Prejudice on your shelves… Don’t worry: we won’t tell anyone if you don’t…

 

 

 

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The Journal of Eveline Helm, Part Five – At the Assembly Rooms, at last!

Dear Reader,

I hope that this journal of my time in Bath should prove to be helpful to you. In reading it may you be spared the numerous faux pas and embarrassments that I was not. I truly feel that if this work should prevent even one other young lady from public ridicule in the Assembly Rooms of Bath then it will have been wholly worthwhile. 

Humbly yours, 

Eveline Helm.

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June 1797 

I am incredibly pleased to report that the sedan chair bearers did not drop me on the way to the Assembly Rooms as I had feared they might. As it turned out, I rather enjoyed my short ride; it was a smoother journey than I had thought, and certainly a very grand journey. My Uncle went ahead of us on foot, as gentlemen in Bath are wont to do, and was there to greet us as the doors of my Aunt’s and my own respective boxes were held open for us. I succeeded in stepping out from the small compartment with what I hope was some degree of grace, and found myself in front of the entrance, which consists of a grand pediment held up by four pale stone columns. There was little time to take in the grandeur of the outside, however, as my Aunt linked her arm through mine and guided me inside. Once admitted, we proceeded to tour the Rooms.

The assembly rooms near home, to which I have been to dance before, are nothing compared to the Bath Assembly Rooms.  After we had deposited our cloaks in the cloakroom to the right on leaving the entrance vestibule, we turned and entered the ball room through the opposite doors on the left. The room was vast; it was at least one hundred feet in length and forty wide, and its ceiling was of triple height. Halfway up the duck-egg wall was a series of tall windows, flanked on either side by a painted Roman column set into the wall which were letting in the last light of the day. Around the room, below and above these windows, were intricate moulded plasterwork borders. And, in the centre of the room, there hung five great chandeliers which, as my Aunt whispered in my ear (though loudly enough to be heard above the noise) each held forty candles! Just think! What with this and the windows, the room was all light and beauty. Thankfully the four grand fireplaces, two set into each of the longer walls, which would also have raised the light levels in the room, were empty, but even so, given the sheer number of people in residence and coupled with the balmy June night, the heat in the room was a very great one indeed.

The number of people I have just mentioned fell into two categories; those seated on and standing by the three tiers of seats placed around the edge of the ballroom, and those who were up and dancing a country dance which I did not immediately recognize, but which might have been Lady Moncrieff’s Reel. The minuets had taken place already, beginning at six, and had then given way to the country dances at eight. Later the music would stop so that the tea, coffee and light refreshments might be served at nine in the large tea room on the other side of the Assembly Rooms. After that, the country dances would resume. By nine o’clock I was certain that the dancers who had arrived at six would be most glad of some refreshment, however light, not to mention the musicians who had been playing all evening.

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But then I must mention the musicians! In the balls which I have attended before (the larger ones are those I am referring to rather than the dances among friends which are struck up in the joy of the moment after a dinner) only four musicians have been engaged, as is the custom, and they have played the usual piano, cornet, violin, and violoncello. However, the number of dancers in attendance here is of such a great number; my aunt tells me that there are upwards of five hundred people here on a regular basis, and that there are a dozen musicians playing from the minstrel’s gallery.

“I do not envy them their role,” said my Aunt, turning to me as we watched the couples dance. “Not only do they play here but they are also employed each morning in playing at the Pump Rooms, and then in the evenings they take their turn playing here or at private concerts. Even their afternoons are not their own, for they might then be occupied in playing for a private party at a gentleman’s lodgings, or at one of the large inns. Imagine! I am sure I do not know how they do it!”

“Surely, there are other bands in Bath who might take some of their custom from them and therefore allow them a respite from constant playing?” I said.

“None such as they. They were fully employed to act exclusively as the Bath Orchestra. For that reason, despite their heavy workload, they are not so badly done by; at least they can live safe in the knowledge that they shall be paid and able to pay their rent.”

“I suppose you are right,” I said, and let my attention stray once more to the dancers.

It was as in London, and as my Aunt had said, that the most fashionable dress material was white muslin, and derivations thereof. Lady upon lady clad in white, cream, and ivory whirled about the room, escorted by gentleman in fine silk waistcoats and jet-black tailcoats. White was not the only colour worn by the ladies (there was one peacock blue dress in particular that I had trouble drawing my eyes away from), but it was by far the most popular.

As for the gentlemen, some of the gentlemen I saw had adopted another of the London fashions and sported finely starched cravats that were tied in such complicated styles which travelled so far up their necks that I was surprised that they were able to move their heads. Beau Brummel may be considered the arbiter of men’s fashion, but in my most-humble opinion I do think that he might also be the arbiter of much of their discomfort.

My Aunt and I left the ballroom, vowing to return by and by once we had seen the remainder of the Rooms. Not that they were a revelation to my Aunt, but she is such a kind and considerate woman that she said she could not dream of settling herself until I had been acquainted with the Rooms in their entirety.

The next chamber we entered upon leaving the ballroom was the octagonal card room. Decorated in a deep rich yellow, its centre was taken up with table upon table of gentlemen and ladies, but mainly gentlemen, all playing various card games. I spotted Speculation, Brag and Whist among the games in progress, and also after a short time I spotted my Uncle, happily ensconced at a table in the far right, next to another unlit fireplace (the card room, like the ball room, also had four). He was laughing and talking with many other fine gentlemen, for, prejudiced as I am, there really is no other way to describe my Uncle, whom I did not first recognise.

“I knew we should find him here,” my Aunt said to me with a fond smile in her voice. “It never takes him long to find himself a table. I fear we may have now lost him for the evening. Now my dear, where should you like to see next? I am afraid that we cannot enter the tea room at present, but we might peruse the octagon ante-chamber if you should wish?”

“Is there much to see in the ante-chamber?”

“As much as you might see in any other ante-chamber.”

“In which case,” I said. “If you don’t mind, I should very much like to go and watch some more of the dancing.”

“But of course.”

We wove our way back through the know of people surrounding the card room doors and into the ball room. The reel was still in progress so my Aunt and I scanned the tiers of seats and spotted two seats together in the second row; the front row being already full near to where we were, and navigating to another part of the room while the dance was in motion was not a wise idea. However, before we had moved more than two steps towards our intended destination, we found our way barred by Mr Dawson, the Master of Ceremonies.

“Mrs Denison, Miss Helm, allow me to introduce Mr Thomas Palmer…”

webJenni Waugh Headshot The journal of Eveline Helm’s time in Bath has made its way online thanks to Jenni Waugh, one of our tour guides at the Jane Austen Centre.

She writes: “I couldn’t resist sharing Eveline’s exploits. I hope everyone else finds them as interesting and entertaining as I did!”

 

 

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The Journal of Eveline Helm, Part Four – To the Regency Ball…

Dear Reader, 

I hope that this journal of my time in Bath should prove to be helpful to you. In reading it may you be spared the numerous faux pas and embarrassments that I was not. I truly feel that if this work should prevent even one other young lady from public ridicule in the Assembly Rooms of Bath then it will have been wholly worthwhile. 

Humbly yours, 

Eveline Helm.

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June 1797

The time is nearly upon us when my Aunt, my Uncle and myself will be making our first appearance at a ball at the Upper Rooms! I am at present experiencing such a mixture of emotions at this thought. Part of me is wild excitement at the prospect of at last being able to attend the grand frivolities I have so long dreamt of, ever since Miss Lucy Stevens mentioned them so many years ago when she had just lately returned from her first visit to the city. Another part of me is intense nerves – what if I should embarrass myself, as I did so thoroughly at the Pump Rooms this morning? What if everyone sees the new velvet ribbons which I have spent all afternoon sewing onto my best gown and, rather than focusing on what a fine rich emerald colour they are, look beyond them and instantly recognize that my best white muslin dress is not of this season? That it is in fact of the beginning of last season; with it’s more modest bust line and it’s lack of fullness at the sleeve shoulder! Who would ask a girl to dance who is so utterly behind the times in such a fashion conscious city?

My Aunt and I did visit the haberdashers this morning following our visit to the Pump Rooms, and we did order new dresses, but sadly, even with a premium paid so that they may be completed as a rush job, they would not be ready for two more days (an extravagance which I begged my Aunt not to undertake on my behalf, but she would not hear of my saying that she need not go to such an expense on my account).

“There is no need to worry my dear,” my Aunt said to me once this news was given us. “We can adapt what you have with new ribbons, and we may purchase some new gloves. Yes, I really am sure that we can make everything look most satisfactory! After all, tonight is only the dress ball and there shall be no one there in anything so very fine. That will be saved for the fancy ball on Thursday.”

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Bath, I have learnt, has rather more balls than in the country – as is only to be expected. At home we have a public ball at the local assembly rooms every Tuesday evening. In Bath however there is a dress ball every Monday night and a fancy ball every Thursday, for which everyone reserves their best gowns and most complex hair stylings, and for which I am hoping that we shall this week have our new gowns ready. Normally it would cost five shillings to go to a ball, but happily our subscription to them, which was purchased earlier at the Pump Rooms, allows us to attend for free. Although having said that, the subscription to each did cost fourteen shillings, which if you were not going to be staying in Bath for very long wouldn’t be worthwhile purchasing, but as it is we are planning to stay for a few weeks so as long as we go to every ball on offer we shall make our subscribing well worthwhile. This should not be a problem as my Aunt is just as keen to go to each and every ball there is as I myself am. Though I am relieved that we shall be starting with a dress ball as it is rather less stately affair than the fancy ball.

At the dress ball there are only country dances, and the complex cotillions are reserved for the fancy ball. I do hope when the time comes that my dance skills do not let me down and I am starting to regret not practicing more as my dancing master urged me to do. How was I to know then that I would be so tested! Though there is of course no guarantee that I shall be asked to dance a cotillion on Thursday if I do decide I am ready – I know no one in Bath besides my Aunt and Uncle, and who would chance making a fool of themselves by asking an unknown partner who may not know the steps to dance. I might well keep my bright white gloves in my reticule as a sign that I am not prepared to dance the cotillion this week; Aunt Charlotte has told me that that is the unspoken code in Bath – ladies who wish to dance a cotillion take the whitest of white gloves to wear to show that they are available, and then change them to a cream or ivory afterwards as not every lady feels comfortable dancing such a complex dance. My Uncle only increased my doubts about these dances earlier as we were making our way back from Milsom Street having made our purchases.

“I do remember there was an occasion last year when your Aunt and I were in town, and she had persuaded me to attend a ball.”

“No that he needed much persuading despite what he may say,” Aunt Charlotte interjected. My Uncle carried on:

“When a gentleman turned the wrong way in his set and stepped so hard on his partner’s foot that she was unable to continue the dance and a sedan chair had to be engaged to take her home early. The gentleman was unable to show his face in the Assembly Rooms for almost two weeks and felt obliged to call on her on a regular basis to enquire after her health. Thanks to this he very nearly found himself obligated to propose to her. Beware Eveline,” he had said stopping so that my Aunt and I who were one on each of his arms also had to stop. “If you dance a cotillion who knows what might befall you! You might muddle our footwork, trip, stumble into the arms of a gentleman as you fall and find you have to marry him for the sake of decency! You have been warned!”

“Well really, Mr Denison,” my Aunt admonished. “Don’t be so ridiculous.” I felt relieved that my Aunt thought that this was too extreme an outcome of a dancing mistake, until she continued: “As if Eveline would muddle her footwork!” My Uncle laughed lightheartedly.

“Of course! My mistake. You are right, my dear. Our Eveline is safe.”

I am certain that they were largely only teasing me, but nevertheless it hasn’t helped to settle my nerves for tonight.

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I have just checked the clock on the fireplace mantle. It is half past seven o’clock and as the balls start as soon after seven o’clock as is possible I believe we shall be leaving soon to arrive at a fashionable hour, and as such I ought to cease writing my journal and make my way downstairs. Especially as I do not know how long I can successfully avoid covering my fingers in ink while writing, since my current quill is not the newest or most clean writing implement.

However, I am unsure if James has managed to secure sedan chairs for us yet, but if he has not I am positive that he will be back shortly with some, as despite the fact that being situated so pleasantly as we are on The Paragon, barely five minutes’ walk from the Upper Rooms, it is nevertheless for the sake of appearances that we are to arrive in sedan chairs as most people who can afford to do so choose to. Riding in a sedan chair, by the by, is another thing which I have never done before, so this evening continues my day that is very much full with first experiences; which does rather explain why I am so nervous, and I feel a little more justified in being so given this fact. Nevertheless, I shall take my courage in both gloved hands, focus on my rising excitement, put my fears to the back of my mind, and make my way downstairs at this moment. (One final thought however; I do hope that the carriers of the chair don’t slip and drop me as I fear they might…)

webJenni Waugh HeadshotThe journal of Eveline Helm’s time in Bath has made its way online thanks to Jenni Waugh, one of our tour guides at the Jane Austen Centre.

She writes: “I couldn’t resist sharing Eveline’s exploits. I hope everyone else finds them as interesting and entertaining as I did!”