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Charades and Bullet Pudding

“Different amusements every evening!
We had Bullet Pudding, then Snap-Dragon, &
. . . we danced or played at cards.”
Fanny Austen Knight~1806

English playing cards from about 1750
Everyone knows that the Austens were a great family for games- whether charades, family theatricals or a quiet game of cards. These activities often occur in Jane Austen’s novels not only as natural ways to spend time, but frequently furthering the plot or adding an unexpected twist. Emma (charades and alphabet blocks)and Mansfield Park (a very telling game of Speculation) have major revelations through simple games, while all of the books feature some kind of card play, either to while away an evening in dull company or as a time waster until a ball is over. One tends to believe Jane Austen found playing cards tiresome as it is always portrayed as a game for either very silly or boring people. Could she be speaking for herself when Anne Elliot says, “I am no card-player”?

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