The game is afoot in ITV’s Persuasion as Anne Elliot (Sally Hawkins) speed walks down a maze of hallways in Kellynch and jogs down the streets of Bath in what was, presumably, the film makers’ attempt to add action and energy to Jane Austen’s posthumously published 1817 classic. No doubt, the film’s creators felt challenged by a novel with more substance than could possibly be squeezed into a 90 minute time frame and by the precedent of the critically acclaimed 1995 Persuasionwhich set the standard for Jane Austen film adaptations very high indeed. Screenplay writer Simon Burke and director Adrian Shergold resorted to some rather desperate maneuvers to make this version unpredictable and a bit surprising, but their stratagems were not always successful. Some of the camera work is dizzying, and, at the conclusion of the film, when the compressed plot finally implodes, the viewer may well be left confused as to what just happened and why. If you are searching for an adaptation that is accurate to Jane Austen’s novel, this is not it, but, standing alone as a film, Persuasion has much to recommend it.
Sally Hawkins has a sweet, open face, and, like Amanda Root, those large, liquid eyes inspire the viewer to sympathize with her. Ms. Hawkins cries very convincingly. As she is in nearly every scene and has a great many close-up shots, the film proves something of a showcase for Hawkins, who held up remarkably well, not only as an actor but as an athlete. Eventually, the viewer forgives the ITV Captain Wentworth (Rupert Penry-Jones) for not being Ciaran Hinds, but it’s difficult to imagine a pretty boy like Penry-Jones commanding a battleship of hardened seamen in the Napoleonic Wars.
The sets and scenery are splendid, one can never grow tired of Bath, the costumes charming, and the supporting cast talented, but Jane Austen’s sense of humour appears to have been lost somewhere along the way, a damning criticism to be sure, and following hard on the heels of ITV’s clever and witty Northanger Abbey, one was encouraged to hope for better. And more’s the pity, as Austen supplied plenty of humour in the novel. In this film, Sir Walter (Anthony Head), Elizabeth Elliot (Julia Davis) and Mary Musgrove (Amanda Hale) are more appalling than funny, and some of their best lines were cut, such as Mary Musgrove’s immortal whine: “If there is anything disagreeable going on men are always sure to get out of it.” Who is responsible for such an omission?
Mr. and Mrs. Musgrove (Nicholas Farrell & Stella Gonet), Charles (Sam Hazeldine), Louisa (Jennifer Higham), Henrietta (Rosamund Stephen) and the Crofts (Peter Wight & Marion Bailey) are given minimal dialogue, and perhaps the time constraints demanded some neglect of their characters, but there are other inexplicable changes. While Captain Benwick (Finlay Robertson) is reduced to little more than a plot device, if you blink you may miss him entirely, Captain Harville (Joseph Mawle) becomes a matchmaker. Mr. Elliot (Tobias Menzies) is an obvious cad from the start, an arrogant, impudent puppy of the highest order, and yet the otherwise prudent and overly cautious Lady Russell (Alice Krige) recommends him to Anne. Why? Unfortunately, Lady Russell’s judgment is not the only lapse of common sense in this film.
What about the invalid Mrs. Smith’s (Maisie Dimbleby) unexplained and miraculous cure which not only allows her to rise from her bed and walk but to sprint down the street calling out the latest gossip like the town crier? And how did Kellynch Hall, an entailed estate under lease to a tenant, suddenly become available for purchase? But, apparently, these are minor details and should arouse neither curiosity nor interest. We are merely the viewers. Ours is not to question why, or to question at all. We are, presumably, to be bowled over by the love story, to care about nothing else and to sit back and enjoy a painfully prolonged build up to a kiss and an impromptu waltz on the lawn. The good news is that the ITV Persuasion seems to improve on subsequent viewings. The trick is in forgiving it for being neither Jane Austen’s novel nor the 1995 film. Aye, there’s the rub.
Sheryl Craig is an Instructor of English at Central Missouri State University. She is currently pursuing a PhD at the University of Kansas.
This little reticule was first featured as a project in Petersen’s Magazine in 1857. As you can see from the
Regency fashion plate, it is a style that was popular even then. By definition, a reticule (or ridicule as they
were sometimes called) was a small purse. They became popular in the late 18th century when narrow gown styles
prevented the installation of pockets.
This is a very pretty design for a reticule. Materials: green silk, purple morocco [fine soft kid as from
gloves] and pasteboard. Cut the bottom out of pasteboard the size you wish, and cover it with the morocco,
bringing the morocco a little up the sides as a finish, the pasteboard having first been turned up for that
purpose. Then sew on the four pieces of silk, and complete with a drawing string of sewing silk below to match the
silk of the bag.
Laura Boyle is fascinated by all aspects of Jane Austen’s life. She is the proprietor of Austenation: 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.)
When one feels that one’s support of Jane Austen paraliterature is a hopeless business as the genre has become a quagmire of revolting twaddle written by people who think Jane Austen was a sweet little spinster penning pretty romances, it is a real relief to be reminded why we still bother. There are some gems to be found in the sludge, Gentle Readers, and Amanda Grange’s previous two books, (Mr.) Darcy’s Diary and Mr. Knightley’s Diary, are among them. We are pleased to relate that her latest offering, Captain Wentworth’s Diary, does not disappoint.
The point of these ‘hero’s point of view’ tales is to present backstory, to show the parallel to the heroine’s journey. In this retelling of Persuasion we are given a real treat: the whole story of the summer of the Year Six, when Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth fell in love. Young Wentworth is as full of “intelligence, spirit, and brilliancy” as Jane Austen described him; fresh from his heroics at St. Domingo, he rolls into Somerset ready to dance and flirt with every pretty girl. The last thing he expects is to fall in love–especially not with the quiet Anne; and when he does, and offers for her, and is accepted, the very last thing he expects is for her to break their engagement. He leaves Somerset, injured and angry, to make his fortune. Eight years later, Napoleon has been confined on Elba, and the Royal Navy comes home; and of all the great houses in England to lease, his brother-in-law chooses Kellynch, the scene of that mortifying romance. Wentworth arrives, fresh from the painful scene of helping his friend Benwick cope with his fiancee’s death, still resentful at his own rejection, and convinced that Anne Elliot’s power with him was gone forever. The stage is set, and the game is on.
When we read Persuasion, customarily we become angry on Anne’s behalf when Wentworth first appears; angry at his rudeness, at saying to the pretty young Musgrove girls that Anne was so altered he would not have known her. He had to know it would be repeated to her; he had to know how those words could hurt; how could a man once so in love say such a thing? He ought not, he does not! But Ms. Grange is gentle with her hero; we are shown his shock at first seeing Anne, beaten down by eight years of disappointment and regret, and mistaking her for a nursery-maid; at being so distracted by this change, and the emotions it engenders in himself, that he thoughtlessly utters the hurtful words. Instead of harboring our own resentment (or yelling salty naval expletives aloud, as is our custom), we found ourself, much to our astonishment, in sympathy with him.
Another interesting device is a paralleling of Anne and Wentworth’s stories. For instance, we know of Anne’s pain when Mrs. Croft talks of her brother being married; Anne thinks she means Frederick, when she means the eldest brother, Edward. In this story, the Crofts tell Wentworth that Miss Elliot is still very handsome, and her sister is married to Charles Musgrove. Wentworth, knowing the propriety of such a match for Anne, assumes she is Mrs. Charles rather than Mary, and experiences the same pain and same relief as Anne when he discovers his mistake.
The Year Six episode takes the first third of the novel, so some elements of the main story were, in our opinion, a bit more rushed than we would like; but we are a devoted Persuasionite and can never get enough of these characters. There certainly is satisfaction to be had: in following Wentworth’s change of heart as he acknowledges his true feelings; his self-reproach as he realizes his thoughtless flirtation with Louisa Musgrove could have serious consequences; his jealousy of Mr. Elliot and fear that he is too late to win Anne at last; thoughts streaming in bursts and gasps of emotion as he listens to a conversation and writes a letter; and a lovely, long talk on a walk from the White Hart to Camden Place, “spirits dancing in private rapture.” Like the other books in Ms. Grange’s series, scrupulous attention is paid to the original, even while interpreting what is not explicitly shown, and some well-known scenes are fleshed out while others are condensed, nicely complementing the original.
Anne Elliot is Jane Austen’s most mature heroine, and unlike her sister heroines has experienced her journey of self-knowledge prior to the opening of the novel. It is Wentworth who has the real journey in Persuasion, and in Captain Wentworth’s Diary we take that journey with him, from brash young officer to a mature man, shaped by experience and loss but still able to seize an opportunity when he can listen no longer in silence, and although we know the ending, we cheer when hope returns.
Captain Wentworth’s Diary is available direct from the publisher or from Amazon.co.uk; it will be published in North America by Berkeley next year.
Hardcover: 224 pages Publisher: Robert Hale Ltd (30 Jun 2007) ISBN-13: 978-0709082811 Price: £18.99
Last month, the lovely and talented Terri Heinz, of Artful Affirmations gave us a glimpse into creating her Jane Austen themed Christmas tree ornaments. This month, she returns with ideas and inspirations for even more Austen ornaments as well as her fantastic ideas for wrapping your Jane inspired gifts!
This month, we’ll look at an adorable teacup ornament made from a photograph of one on display at Chawton cottage. Here, Terri tells how she created it.
When I was visiting Jane Austen’s home in Chawton, England, I was lucky enough to get a picture of one of the tea cups from their family’s dining room.
I used the image to create this cup ornament.
My newest ornament is this lacy “Jane Austen”, made with bits and scraps of lace and ribbon, a tiny bottle brush tree and a printed copy of a Regency portrait. The artist is the English portrait painter William Beechey, and the woman he painted is Marcia Fox. I believe this image was one of the first portrait art used on a Austen book cover.
She looks very Jane like to me.
Next up was wrapping paper!
I decided to copy out some of Jane’s writings in the “Jane Austen” font (which I downloaded from a free font site online) and printed it out on paper to wrap gifts with.
I used the Jane Austen cameo stamp to make the tags. You can see beneath the gifts the ruffled tree skirt I made out of batten. I do love the soft look of it.
If you can not find this stamp anymore, you can use a cameo image of Jane from online images, search “Jane Austen cameo images”.
Remember, the most important part of Christmas is not crafting, decorating or shopping… (those these are joyful too…not the shopping though…lol) The priceless part of celebrating Christmas is the magic of HOPE and being with loved ones!
I began making things with paper since I could hold a pair of scissors in my little hands. Since then I have added all kinds of creative processes including writing, sewing, mixed media art, jewelry art, and have had more joyful moments than I could have ever imagined. Reading has been a favorite pastime since I was a young teen. Jane has drawn me into her wonderful worlds many afternoons and evenings. She inspired me to visit England and I am lucky to have returned many times. Tea is also a favorite of mine, and I have shared many online tea times with other tea loving bloggers around the world. Creative Workshops hosts two artful classes I teach, and there are many free video tutorials on my blog, Artful Affirmations. Creating art, sharing art, and meeting artful others all over the world has enriched my life.
Laurence Sterne, a contemporary of Jane Austen’s own clerical father, George Austen (1731-1805) was a well known voice to the Austen family. Letters both to and from Jane allude to his writings, and Maria Bertram actually quotes from his Sentimental Journey in chapter 10 of Mansfield Park. Sterne’s most familiar work The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1759) shares themes with another famously comic novel, Henry Fielding’s 1749 The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, which Jane Austen was also familiar with. How these two (sometimes shocking) novels influenced her own writing is difficult to say.
Laurence Sterne (24 November 1713 – 18 March 1768) was an Anglo-Irish novelist and an Anglican clergyman. He is best known for his novels The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman and A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy; but he also published many sermons, wrote memoirs, and was involved in local politics. Sterne died in London after years of fighting consumption.
Sterne was born in Clonmel, County Tipperary. His father, Roger Sterne, was an ensign in a British regiment recently returned from Dunkirk, which was disbanded on the day of Sterne’s birth. Within six months the family had returned to Yorkshire, and in July 1715 they moved back to Ireland, having “decamped with Bag & Baggage for Dublin”, in Sterne’s words.
The first decade of Sterne’s life was spent moving from place to place as his father was reassigned throughout Ireland. During this period Sterne never lived in one place for more than a year. In addition to Clonmel and Dublin, his family also lived in, among other places, Wicklow Town, Annamoe (County Wicklow), Drogheda (County Louth), Castlepollard (County Westmeath), and Carrickfergus (County Antrim). In 1724, his father took Sterne to Roger’s wealthy brother, Richard, so that Sterne could attend Hipperholme Grammar School near Halifax; Sterne never saw his father again as Roger was ordered to Jamaica where he died of a fever in 1731. Sterne was admitted to a sizarship at Jesus College, Cambridge, in July 1733 at the age of 20. His great-grandfather Richard Sterne had been the Master of the college as well as the Archbishop of York. Sterne graduated with a degree of Bachelor of Arts in January 1737; and returned in the summer of 1740 to be awarded his Master of Arts degree.
Sterne was ordained as a deacon in March 1737 and as a priest in August 1738. Shortly thereafter Sterne was awarded the vicarship living of Sutton-on-the-Forest in Yorkshire. Sterne married Elizabeth Lumley in 1741. Both were ill with consumption. In 1743, he was presented to the neighbouring living of Stillington by Rev. Richard Levett, Prebendary of Stillington, who was patron of the living. Subsequently Sterne did duty both there and at Sutton. He was also a prebendary of York Minster. Sterne’s life at this time was closely tied with his uncle, Dr Jaques Sterne, the Archdeacon of Cleveland and Precentor of York Minster. Sterne’s uncle was an ardent Whig, and urged Sterne to begin a career of political journalism which resulted in some scandal for Sterne and, eventually, a terminal falling-out between the two men.
Jaques Sterne was a powerful clergyman but a mean-tempered man and a rabid politician. In 1741–42 Sterne wrote political articles supporting the administration of Sir Robert Walpole for a newspaper founded by his uncle but soon withdrew from politics in disgust. His uncle became his arch-enemy, thwarting his advancement whenever possible.
Sterne lived in Sutton for twenty years, during which time he kept up an intimacy which had begun at Cambridge with John Hall-Stevenson, a witty and accomplished bon vivant, owner of Skelton Hall in the Cleveland district of Yorkshire.
In 1759, to support his dean in a church squabble, Sterne wrote A Political Romance (later called The History of a Good Warm Watch-Coat), a Swiftian satire of dignitaries of the spiritual courts. At the demands of embarrassed churchmen, the book was burned. Thus, Sterne lost his chances for clerical advancement but discovered his real talents; until the completion of this first work, “he hardly knew that he could write at all, much less with humour so as to make his reader laugh”.
Having discovered his talent, at the age of 46, he turned over his parishes to a curate, and dedicated himself to writing for the rest of his life. It was while living in the countryside, having failed in his attempts to supplement his income as a farmer and struggling with tuberculosis, that Sterne began work on his best known novel, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, the first volumes of which were published in 1759. Sterne was at work on his celebrated comic novel during the year that his mother died, his wife was seriously ill, and his daughter was also taken ill with a fever. He wrote as fast as he possibly could, composing the first 18 chapters between January and March 1759.
An initial, sharply satiric version was rejected by Robert Dodsley, the London printer, just when Sterne’s personal life was upset. His mother and uncle both died. His wife had a nervous breakdown and threatened suicide. Sterne continued his comic novel, but every sentence, he said, was “written under the greatest heaviness of heart.” In this mood, he softened the satire and recounted details of Tristram’s opinions, eccentric family and ill-fated childhood with a sympathetic humour, sometimes hilarious, sometimes sweetly melancholic—a comedy skirting tragedy.
The publication of Tristram Shandy made Sterne famous in London and on the continent. He was delighted by the attention, and spent part of each year in London, being fêted as new volumes appeared. Indeed, Baron Fauconberg rewarded Sterne by appointing him as the perpetual curate of Coxwold, North Yorkshire.
Sterne continued to struggle with his illness, and departed England for France in 1762 in an effort to find a climate that would alleviate his suffering. Sterne was lucky to attach himself to a diplomatic party bound for Turin, as England and France were still adversaries in the Seven Years’ War. Sterne was gratified by his reception in France where reports of the genius of Tristram Shandy had made him a celebrity. Aspects of this trip to France were incorporated into Sterne’s second novel, A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy.
In 1766, at the height of the debate about slavery, the composer and former slave Ignatius Sancho wrote to Sterne encouraging him to use his pen to lobby for the abolition of the slave trade.
“That subject, handled in your striking manner, would ease the yoke (perhaps) of many—but if only one—Gracious God!—what a feast to a benevolent heart!”
In July 1766 Sterne received Sancho’s letter shortly after he had finished writing a conversation between his fictional characters Corporal Trim and his brother Tom in Tristram Shandy, wherein Tom described the oppression of a black servant in a sausage shop in Lisbon which he had visited. Sterne’s widely publicised response to Sancho’s letter became an integral part of 18th-century abolitionist literature:
There is a strange coincidence, Sancho, in the little events (as well as in the great ones) of this world: for I had been writing a tender tale of the sorrows of a friendless poor negro-girl, and my eyes had scarce done smarting with it, when your letter of recommendation in behalf of so many of her brethren and sisters, came to me—but why her brethren?—or your’s, Sancho! any more than mine? It is by the finest tints, and most insensible gradations, that nature descends from the fairest face about St. James’s, to the sootiest complexion in Africa: at which tint of these, is it, that the ties of blood are to cease? and how many shades must we descend lower still in the scale, ’ere mercy is to vanish with them?—but ’tis no uncommon thing, my good Sancho, for one half of the world to use the other half of it like brutes, & then endeavor to make ’em so.|Laurence Sterne, 27 July 1766
Sentimental Journey was published at the beginning of 1768. The novel was written during a period in which Sterne was increasingly ill and weak. Less than a month after Sentimental Journey was published, early in 1768, Sterne’s strength failed him, and he died in his lodgings at 41 Old Bond Street on 18 March, at the age of 54. He was buried in the churchyard of St George’s, Hanover Square.
It was widely rumoured that Sterne’s body was stolen shortly after it was interred and sold to anatomists at Cambridge University. Circumstantially, it was said that his body was recognised by Charles Collignon who knew him and discreetly reinterred back in St George’s, in an unknown plot. A year later a group of Freemasons erected a memorial stone with a rhyming epitaph near to his original burial place. A second stone was erected in 1893, correcting some factual errors on the memorial stone. When the churchyard of St. George’s was redeveloped in 1969, amongst 11,500 skulls disinterred, several were identified with drastic cuts from anatomising or a post-mortem examination. One was identified to be of a size that matched a bust of Sterne made by Nollekens.
The skull was held up to be his, albeit with “a certain area of doubt”. Along with nearby skeletal bones, these remains were transferred to Coxwold churchyard in 1969 by the Laurence Sterne Trust.
The story of the reinterment of Sterne’s skull in Coxwold is alluded to in Malcolm Bradbury’s novel To The Hermitage.
Legacy Sterne’s early works were letters; he had two ordinary sermons published (in 1747 and 1750), and tried his hand at satire. He was involved in, and wrote about, local politics in 1742. His major publication prior to Tristram Shandy was the satire A Political Romance (1759), aimed at conflicts of interest within York Minster. A posthumously published piece on the art of preaching, A Fragment in the Manner of Rabelais, appears to have been written in 1759. Rabelais was by far Sterne’s favourite author, and in his correspondence he made clear that he considered himself as Rabelais’ successor in humour writing, distancing himself from Jonathan Swift:
I … deny I have gone as far as Swift: he keeps a due distance from Rabelais; I keep a due distance from him.
Sterne is best known for his novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, for which he became famous not only in England, but throughout Europe. Translations of the work began to appear in all the major European languages almost upon its publication, and Sterne influenced European writers as diverse as Diderot and the German Romanticists. His work had also noticeable influence over Brazilian author Machado de Assis, who made exceptional (and outstandingly original) usage of the digressive technique in the masterful novel The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas. Indeed, the novel, in which Sterne manipulates narrative time and voice, parodies accepted narrative form, and includes a healthy dose of “bawdy” humour, was largely dismissed in England as being too corrupt. Samuel Johnson’s verdict in 1776 was that “Nothing odd will do long. Tristram Shandy did not last.”
This is strikingly different from the views of European critics of the day, who praised Sterne and Tristram Shandy as innovative and superior. Voltaire called it “clearly superior to Rabelais”, and later Goethe praised Sterne as “the most beautiful spirit that ever lived.” Both during his life and for a long time after, efforts were made by many to reclaim Sterne as an arch-sentimentalist; parts of Tristram Shandy, such as the tale of Le Fever, were excerpted and published separately to wide acclaim from the moralists of the day. The success of the novel and its serialised nature also allowed many imitators to publish pamphlets concerning the Shandean characters and other Shandean-related material even while the novel was yet unfinished.
The novel itself is difficult to describe. The story starts with the narration, by Tristram, of his own conception. It proceeds by fits and starts, but mostly by what Sterne calls “progressive digressions” so that we do not reach Tristram’s birth before the third volume. The novel is rich in characters and humour, and the influences of Rabelais and Cervantes are present throughout. The novel ends after 9 volumes, published over a decade, but without anything that might be considered a traditional conclusion. Sterne inserts sermons, essays and legal documents into the pages of his novel; and he explores the limits of typography and print design by including marbled pages and, most famously, an entirely black page, within the narrative. Many of the innovations that Sterne introduced, adaptations in form that should be understood as an exploration of what constitutes the novel, were highly influential to Modernist writers like James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, and more contemporary writers such as Thomas Pynchon and David Foster Wallace. Italo Calvino referred to Tristram Shandy as the “undoubted progenitor of all avant-garde novels of our century”. The Russian Formalist writer Viktor Shklovsky regarded Tristram Shandy as the archetypal, quintessential novel, of which all other novels are mere subsets: “Tristram Shandy is the most typical novel of world literature.”
However, the leading critical opinions of Tristram Shandy tend to be markedly polarised in their evaluations of its significance. Since the 1950s, following the lead of DW Jefferson, there are those who argue that, whatever its legacy of influence may be, Tristram Shandy in its original context actually represents a resurgence of a much older, Renaissance tradition of “Learned Wit” – owing a debt to such influences as the Scriblerian approach.
A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy is a less influential book, although it was better received by English critics of the day. The book has many stylistic parallels with Tristram Shandy, and indeed, the narrator is one of the minor characters from the earlier novel. Although the story is more straightforward, A Sentimental Journey can be understood to be part of the same artistic project to which Tristram Shandy belongs.
Two volumes of Sterne’s Sermons were published during his lifetime; more copies of his Sermons were sold in his lifetime than copies of Tristram Shandy, and for a while he was better known in some circles as a preacher than as a novelist. The sermons, though, are conventional in both style and substance. Several volumes of letters were published after his death, as was Journal to Eliza, a more sentimental than humorous love letter to a woman Sterne was courting during the final years of his life. Compared to many eighteenth-century authors, Sterne’s body of work is quite small.
The modern idea of Santa Claus in his red suit, delivering gifts via reindeer pulled sleigh was crafted by Clement C. Moore in his 1823 poem, A Visit from Saint Nicholas. This Santa was based on the Dutch Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) and does not, until the mid 1800’s cross paths (and merge) with the “olde” English, Father Christmas.
Father Christmas, in fact is the embodiment of the festive holiday season, with no specific religious attachment, though perhaps some slight druid leanings. He does, in fact quite resemble Charles Dickens’ Spirit of Christmas Present, also the embodiment of all the good of the season, albeit with a Victorian slant. This spirit, one of four to visit Ebenezer Scrooge in the 1843 novella, A Christmas Carol, is presented to the reader in Stave 3. The Ghost here begins the night quite young and robust and ages throughout the day– after all, over eighteen hundred of his brothers have walked before him, and this spirit’s life lasts but one day:
“The walls and ceiling were so hung with living green, that it looked a perfect grove; from every part of which, bright gleaming berries glistened. The crisp leaves of holly, mistletoe, and ivy reflected back the light, as if so many little mirrors had been scattered there; and such a mighty blaze went roaring up the chimney, as that dull petrifaction of a hearth had never known in Scrooge’s time, or Marley’s, or for many and many a winter season gone. Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam. In easy state upon this couch, there sat a jolly Giant, glorious to see:, who bore a glowing torch, in shape not unlike Plenty’s horn, and held it up, high up, to shed its light on Scrooge, as he came peeping round the door.
“Come in!” exclaimed the Ghost. “Come in, and know me better, man.”
Scrooge entered timidly, and hung his head before this Spirit. He was not the dogged Scrooge he had been; and though the Spirit’s eyes were clear and kind, he did not like to meet them.
“I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,” said the Spirit. “Look upon me.”
Scrooge reverently did so. It was clothed in one simple green robe, or mantle, bordered with white fur. This garment hung so loosely on the figure, that its capacious breast was bare, as if disdaining to be warded or concealed by any artifice. Its feet, observable beneath the ample folds of the garment, were also bare; and on its head it wore no other covering than a holly wreath, set here and there with shining icicles. Its dark brown curls were long and free; free as its genial face, its sparkling eye, its open hand, its cheery voice, its unconstrained demeanour, and its joyful air. Girded round its middle was an antique scabbard; but no sword was in it, and the ancient sheath was eaten up with rust.”
In fact, many ancient symbols of the Christmas season can be found in this passage, including the monstrous fire (Germanic Yule Log), holly and ivy decorations (actually Roman traditions) and mistletoe (Druid influence) along with a veritable mountain of food, all of which would have been known and enjoyed during Jane Austen’s life time. After all, we think of Dickens as being a Victorian and how the Victorian influence added to our celebration of the season, but the young queen had only reigned for four years when this story was written.
But where, you might ask, did this idea of the Spirit of Christmas in the form of man come from, if not from Saint Nicholas?
According to researchers, “In England the earliest known personification of Christmas does not describe him as old, nor refer to him as ‘father’. A carol attributed to Richard Smart, Rector of Plymtree from 1435 to 1477, takes the form of a sung dialogue between a choir and a figure representing Christmas, variously addressed as “Nowell”, “Sir Christemas” and “my lord Christemas”. He does not distribute presents to children but is associated with adult celebrations. Giving news of Christ’s birth, Christmas encourages everyone to drink: “Buvez bien par toute la campagnie,/Make good cheer and be right merry.” However, the specific depiction of Christmas as a merry old man emerged in the early 17th century. The rise of puritanism had led to increasing condemnation of the traditions handed down from pre-Reformation times, especially communal feasting and drinking. As debate intensified, those writing in support of the traditional celebrations often personified Christmas as a venerable, kindly old gentleman, given to good cheer but not excess. They referred to this personification as “Christmas”, “Old Christmas” or “Father Christmas”. At this point the character still belongs to literature and not folk-lore.
Ben Jonson in Christmas his Masque, dating from December 1616, notes the rising tendency to disparage the traditional forms of celebration. His character ‘Christmas’ therefore appears in outdated fashions, “attir’d in round Hose, long Stockings, a close Doublet, a high crownd Hat with a Broach, a long thin beard, a Truncheon, little Ruffes, white shoes, his Scarffes, and Garters tyed crosse”, and announces “Why Gentlemen, doe you know what you doe? ha! would you ha’kept me out? Christmas, old Christmas?” Later, in a masque by Thomas Nabbes, The Springs Glorie produced in 1638, “Christmas” appears as “an old reverend gentleman in furred gown and cap”.
During the mid-17th century, the debate about the celebration of Christmas became politically charged, with Royalists adopting a pro-Christmas stance and radical puritans striving to ban the festival entirely. Early in 1646 an anonymous satirical author wrote The Arraignment, Conviction and Imprisoning of Christmas, in which a Royalist lady is frantically searching for Father Christmas: this was followed months later by the Royalist poet John Taylor’s The Complaint of Christmas, in which Father Christmas mournfully visits puritan towns but sees “…no sign or token of any Holy Day”. A book dating from the time of the Commonwealth, The Vindication of CHRISTMAS or, His Twelve Yeares’ Observations upon the Times (London, 1652), involved “Old Christmas” advocating a merry, alcoholic Christmas and casting aspersions on the charitable motives of the ruling Puritans. In a similar vein, a humorous pamphlet of 1686 by Josiah King presents Father Christmas as the personification of festive traditions pre-dating the puritan commonwealth. He is described as an elderly gentleman of cheerful appearance, “who when he came look’t so smug and pleasant, his cherry cheeks appeared through his thin milk white locks, like (b)lushing Roses vail’d with snow white Tiffany”. His character is associated with feasting, hospitality and generosity to the poor rather than the giving of gifts.
This tradition continued into the following centuries, with “Old Father Christmas” being evoked in 1734 in the pamphlet Round About Our Coal Fire, as “Shewing what Hospitality was in former Times, and how little of it there remains at present”, a rebuke to “stingy” gentry. A writer in “Time’s Telescope” (1822) states that in Yorkshire at eight o’clock on Christmas Eve the bells greet “Old Father Christmas” with a merry peal, the children parade the streets with drums, trumpets, bells, (or in their absence, with the poker and shovel, taken from their humble cottage fire), the yule candle is lighted, and; “High on the cheerful fire. Is blazing seen th’ enormous Christmas brand.” A letter to The Times in 1825, warning against poultry-dealers dishonestly selling off sub-standard geese at Christmas time, is jokingly signed “Father Christmas”.
In these early references, Father Christmas, although invariably an old and cheerful man, is mainly associated with adult feasting and drinking rather than the giving of presents to children. By the 1840s however this had begun to change, and Father Christmas gradually began to merge with the pre-modern gift-giver St Nicholas (Dutch Sinterklaas, hence Santa Claus) and associated folklore. ‘Old Father Christmas’ appears as a character in two mumming plays recorded in Worcestershire and Hampshire in 1856 and 1860 respectively: he has no specific or consistent dress, but carries holly (Worcestershire) or, in the Hampshire example, a “begging-box” while going on crutches, indicating he is still a reminder of the traditional duty to support the poor at Christmas rather than being himself a bringer of gifts.”
Would Jane have been familiar with the idea of Father Christmas? Absolutely. The Austens were a well read, historically acute family. Would they have celebrated any portion of Christmas with a nod towards this character? Personally, I think it unlikely– Father Christmas did not have an integral part of the holiday as Santa Claus does today– for the Austens, Christmas (and the following 12 days) would have been first and foremost a religious holiday– a wonderful time to gather with friends and family, to exchange small tokens of affection, to indulge in dancing, perhaps (never forget that Jane Austen met Tom Lefroy during the Christmas holidays of 1795.) For Regency families, however, Twelfth Night remained, as it had for hundreds of years, the celebration of hilarity and fun, of feasting and dancing, play acting and romancing. It would be another generation or two before it became recognizable as the holiday we would recognize today, complete with tree, stockings, Santa and mountains of gifts.
Laura Boyle runs Austentation: Regency Accessories. Visit her website or her Etsy shop for over a dozen styles of hats and bonnets, as well as numerous other Regency accessories. Follow Austentation on Facebook and be notified of new products as they are added to the inventory.
Historical information on the origins of Father Christmas and images from Wikipedia.com.
For some people, Christmas is all about the foods, for others, a single piece of candy cane or the scent of pine can bring them back to their childhood holidays. It is no stretch to suggest that the Candy Cane is one of the most Christmasized of all candies– probably because it was created for the season and is fraught with meaning for those who choose to look for it.
According to legend, they have a German history, but given the German origins of the British monarchy during Jane Austen’s life, it’s not a stretch to think that the treat might have been brought over to England, along with the Christmas tree and other, older traditions, like the Yule Log. Did Jane enjoy stick candy or candy canes? We may never know.
“According to folklore, in 1670, in Cologne, Germany, the choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral, wishing to remedy the noise caused by children in his church during the Living Crèche tradition of Christmas Eve, asked a local candy maker for some sweet sticks for them. In order to justify the practice of giving candy to children during worship services, he asked the candy maker to add a crook to the top of each stick, which would help children remember the shepherds who paid visit to infant Jesus. In addition, he used the white colour of the converted sticks to teach children about the Christian belief in the sinless life of Jesus. From Germany, the candy canes spread to other parts of Europe, where they were handed out during plays reenacting the Nativity. As such, according to this legend, the candy cane became associated with Christmastide.
A recipe for straight peppermint candy sticks, white with coloured stripes, was published in 1844 in The Complete Confectioner, Pastry-cook, and Baker: Plain and Practical, by Eleanor Parkinson. The “candy cane” has been mentioned by name in literature since 1866.
Chicago confectioners the Bunte Brothers filed one of the earliest patents for candy cane making machines in the early 1920s. Meanwhile, in 1919 in Albany, Georgia, Bob McCormack began making candy canes for local children. By the middle of the century his company (originally the Famous Candy Company, then the Mills-McCormack Candy Company, and later Bobs Candies) had become one of the world’s leading candy cane producers. But candy cane manufacturing initially required a fair bit of labor that limited production quantities. The canes had to be bent manually as they came off the assembly line in order to create their ‘J’ shape, and breakage often ran over 20 percent. It was McCormack’s brother-in-law, a seminary student in Rome named Gregory Harding Keller, who used to spend his summers back home working in the candy factory. In 1957, as an ordained Roman Catholic Christian priest of the Diocese of Little Rock, Keller patented his invention, the Keller Machine which automated the process of twisting soft candy into spiral striping and then cutting them into precise lengths as candy canes.
In celebration of Saint Nicholas Day, December 6, candy canes are given to children as they are also said to represent the crosier of the Christian bishop, Saint Nicholas; crosiers themselves allude to the Good Shepherd, a title associated with Jesus.”
Pulled Peppermint Candy Sticks (1844)
Clove, Ginger, or Peppermint Candy.—These are all made in the same way as raspberry, using the essential oil of each for flavour. For clove, the mixture, whilst boiling, is coloured with cochineal; ginger with saffron; but the peppermint must be kept perfectly white, except the stripes, which is done by cutting off as many pieces from the bulk as you have colours, which should be in powder; put a sufficiency in each piece to give the desired tint, and keep them warm. When the remaining portion of the sugar is pulled, lay them over the surface in narrow stripes, double the roll together, and the face each way will be alike. Pull them out into long sticks, and twist them; make them round by rolling them under the hand, or they may be cut into small pieces with a pair of shears or scissors.
Raspberry Candy.—This may either be made from raw or refined sugar. Boil it to the crack, and colour it with cochineal; pour it on a stone rubbed over with a little oil or butter, cut off a small piece, and keep it warm to stripe or case the other part, when finished; to the remainder add a little tartaric acid (not so much as for drops), and some raspberry-paste, sufficient to flavour it. The residue of raspberries used for making vinegar, and preserved with an equal quantity of sugar, or even less, as for raspberry cakes, does very well for this purpose. Fold the edges over into the centre, and attach it to a hook fixed against the wall: pull it towards you, throwing it on the hook each time after having pulled it out; continue doing this until it gets rather white and shining, then make it into a compact long roll, and either stripe it with the piece you cut off, or roll it out in a sheet with a rolling-pin, and wrap it round it so as to form a sort of case; then pull it into long narrow sticks, and cut them the required length.
Historical information from Wikipedia.com, recipe from The Complete Confectioner, Pastry-cook, and Baker: Plain and Practical, by Eleanor Parkinson.
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