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Netting Instructions from Beeton’s Book of Needlework

“It is amazing to me,” said Bingley, “how young ladies can have patience to be so very accomplished as they all are….They all paint tables, cover skreens, and net purses. I scarcely know any one who cannot do all this, and I am sure I never heard a young lady spoken of for the first time, without being informed that she was very accomplished.”
-Pride and Prejudice

In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Bingley notes “netting”as one of the common accomplishments of young ladies. It is, as Isabella Beeton, Victorian Household Maven, explains, “one of the prettiest and one of the easiest accomplishments of a lady. The materials are simple, while the effects produced by good netting are most elegant and of great durability. One great advantage of netting is that each stitch is finished and independent of the next, so that if an accident happens to one stitch it does not, as in crochet or knitting, spoil the whole work.” The following instructions are from Beeton’s Book of Needlwork, published in 1870.

Isabella Beeton's books and articles are invaluable in researching life and practices of the mid 19th century.
Isabella Beeton’s books and articles are invaluable in researching life and practices of the mid 19th century.

Continue reading Netting Instructions from Beeton’s Book of Needlework

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Rolled Paper Crafting and Quilling

rolled paper crafting

Try your hand at Regency rolled paper crafting…

“It is amazing to me,” said Bingley, “how young ladies can have patience to be so very accomplished as they all are.”
“All young ladies accomplished! My dear Charles, what do you mean?”
“Yes all of them, I think. They all paint tables, cover skreens, and net purses. I scarcely know any one who cannot do all this, and I am sure I never heard a young lady spoken of for the first time, without being informed that she was very accomplished.”
Pride and Prejudice

If you are familiar with the BBC/A&E production of Pride and Prejudice, you may have wondered what the Bennet sisters were doing with a number of pieces of rolled paper spread over the table in one scene.

One genteel pastime for young ladies in the late 18th and the first part of the 19th century was decorating objects with rolled paper crafting.

Undecorated wooden frames were often sold for this purpose. Ladies then decorated the object with pieces of paper rolled and cut into different patterns. After being rolled up, the papers were cut in short lengths and glued to the wooden frame in a filigree pattern. The project might be finished by painting and gilding. Sometimes a focal point was created using a watercolour or print. Objects decorated in this way might include mirror frames, jewel boxes, tea caddies, and even a screen.

Similar results to rolled paper crafting can be created by experimenting in Quilling, an ancient art form that has been practiced since ancient Egyptian and/or 4th Century Grecian times. Although they obviously would not have used paper in the 4th century, it is believed the Greeks used thin metal wires to decorate containers, especially boxes, and Egyptian tombs have been found containing similar wire shapes akin to modern quilling.

During the Renaissance, nuns and monks picked up the art to decorate book covers and religious items. They used gilded paper strips in order to imitate the original metal wires. The name quilling is said to be derived from the fact that the nuns and monks originally used feather quills as their tool to roll the paper. Later, the rolled paper crafting spread throughout Europe and to the Americas.

Quilling is seing a resurgence in popularity today. You will very often see it used to decorate wedding invitations, birth announcements, greeting cards and such.

According to the DIY network:
The art of paper quilling dates back three or four centuries to a time when nuns used the gold edges trimmed from Bible pages to create simple but beautiful works of artistry. The scraps of paper were wrapped around goose quills to create coiled shapes — hence the name “quilling.”

These instructions for a Quilled Flower are reproduced from Nancy’s Wonderful World of Quilling

Step 1:

You Need: Four 6″ strips of 1/8″ paper(your choice of color)

Roll into loose circles with end glued. Pinch to form teardrop, make sure the glued end falls in the center of rounded part of teardrop.

Step 2:

You Need: One 5″ length of 1/8″ green paper.

Roll into tight circle for flower center. Glue four teardrops to tight circle.

Step 3:

You Need: One 4″ length of 1/8″ green paper.

Fold paper in half and roll each end into a loose scroll in the same direction, rolling about half-way to fold.

Step 4:

You Need: One 6″ length of 1/8″ green paper

Roll into loose circle with end glued. Pinch at seam and exactly opposite of seam to form leaf shape. Glue greenery to flower and attatch flower to gift tag, card, scrapbook, or wherever desired.


Sharon Wagoner is Curator of The Georgian Index. Visit this site for a historical tour through Regency London!


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A Plan of a Novel

Once it became known to Jane Austen’s friends and relations that she was the author of the famous novels signed only, “By a Lady” is is obvious that helpful suggestions and Constructive Criticism abounded. Evidently, Jane was able to take it all with a grain of salt, while still providing a sample of the “perfect” novel. Fortunately for her readers, her now famous sense of humor is not lacking.

Scene to be in the Country, Heroine the Daughter of a [1] Clergyman, one who after having lived much in the World had retired from it, and settled on a Curacy, with a very small fortune of his own.–He, the most excellent Man that can be imagined, perfect in Character, Temper and Manners–without the smallest drawback or peculiarity to prevent his being the most delightful companion to his Daughter from one year’s end to the other.–Heroine a [2] faultless Character herself–, perfectly good, with much tenderness and sentiment, and not the least [3] Wit–very highly [4] accomplished, understanding modern Languages and (generally speaking) everything that the most accomplished young Women learn, but particularly excelling in Music–her favourite pursuit–and playing equally well on the Piano Forte and Harp–and singing in the first stile. Her Person, quite beautiful–[5] dark eyes and plump cheeks.–Book to open with the description of Father and Daughter–who are to converse in long speeches, elegant Language–and a tone of high, serious sentiment.–The Father to be induced, at his Daughter’s earnest request, to relate to her the past events of his Life. This Narrative will reach through the greatest part of the 1st vol.–as besides all the circumstances of his attachment to her Mother and their Marriage, it will comprehend his going to Sea as [6] Chaplain to a distinguished Naval Character about the Court, his going afterwards to Court himself, which introduced him to a great variety of Characters and involved him in many interesting situations, concluding with his opinion of the Benefits to result from Tythes being done away, and his having buried his own Mother (Heroine’s lamented Grandmother) in consequence of the High Priest of the Parish in which she died, refusing to pay her Remains the respect due to them. The Father to be of a very literary turn, an Enthusiast in Literature, nobody’s Enemy but his own–at the same time most zealous in the discharge of his Pastoral Duties, the model of an [7] exemplary Parish Priest.–The heroine’s friendship to be sought after by a young Woman in the same Neighbourhood, of [8] Talents and Shrewdness, with light eyes and a fair skin but having a considerable degree of Wit, Heroine shall shrink from the acquaintance.–From this outset, the Story will proceed, and contain a striking variety of adventures. Heroine and her Father never above a [9] fortnight together in one place, he being driven from his Curacy by the vile arts of some totally unprincipled and heart-less young Man, desperately in love with the Heroine, and pursuing her with unrelenting passion–no sooner settled in one Country of Europe than they are necessitated to quit it and retire to another–always making new acquaintance, and always obliged to leave them.–This will of course exhibit a wide variety of Characters–But there will be no mixture; the scene will be for ever shifting from one Set of People to another–but All the [10] Good will be unexceptionable in every respect–and there will be no foibles or weaknesses but with the Wicked, who will be completely depraved and infamous, hardly a resemblance of Humanity left in them.–Early in her career, in the progress of her first removals, Heroine must meet with the Hero–all [11] perfection of course–and only prevented from paying his addresses to her, by some excess of refinement.–Wherever she goes, somebody falls in love with her, and she receives repeated offers of Marriage–which she always refers wholly to her Father, exceedingly angry that [12] he should not be first applied to.–Often carried away by the anti-hero, but rescued either by her Father or the Hero–often reduced to support herself and her Father by her Talents, and work for her Bread;–continually cheated and defrauded of her hire, worn down to a Skeleton, and now and then starved to death–. At last, hunted out of civilized Society, denied the poor Shelter of the humblest Cottage, they are compelled to retreat into Kamschatka where the poor Father, quite worn down, finding his end approaching, throws himselfon the Ground, and after 4 or 5 hours of tender advice and parental Admonition to his miserable Child, expires in a fine burst of Literary Enthusiasm, intermingled with Invectives against Holder’s of Tythes.–Heroine inconsolable for some time–but afterwards crawls back towards her former Country–having at least 20 narrow escapes of falling into the hands of Anti-hero–and at last in the very nick of time, turning a corner to avoid him, runs into the arms of the Hero himself, who having just shaken off the scruples which fetter’d him before, was at the very moment setting off in pursuit of her.–The Tenderest and completest Eclaircissement takes place, and they are happily united. Throughout the whole work, Heroine to be in the most [13] elegant Society and living in high style. The name of the work not to be [14] Emma but of the same sort as [15] S & S. and P & P.

Various Quarters

1. Mr. Gifford
2. Fanny Knight
3. Mary Cooke
4. Fanny K.
5. Mary Cooke
6. Mr. Clarke
7. Mr. Sherer
8. Mary Cooke
9. Many Critics
10. Mary Cooke
11. Fanny Knight
12. Mrs. Pearse of Chilton-Lodge
13. Fanny Knight
14. Mrs. Craven
15. Mr. H. Sanford

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All Young Ladies Accomplished!

“They all paint tables, cover skreens, and net purses.
I scarcely know any one who cannot do all this, and I am sure I never heard a young lady
spoken of for the first time, without being informed that she was very accomplished.”
Pride and Prejudice

Early in Pride and Prejudice, when Elizabeth Bennet is staying at Netherfield in order
to attend her sick sister Jane, she takes part in a discussion of “accomplished women.” Mr.
Darcy says he doesn’t know more than six who are “really accomplished,” and Miss Bingley
agrees that she doesn’t either:

“Then,” observed Elizabeth, “you must comprehend a great deal in your idea of an accomplished

“Yes; I do comprehend a great deal in it.”

“Oh! certainly,” cried his faithful assistant, “no one can be really esteemed accomplished,
who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with.
A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern
languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in
her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the
word will be but half deserved.”

“All this she must possess,” added Darcy, “and to all this she must yet add something more
substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”

Mr. Darcy and Miss Bingley seem to be getting their ideas of accomplished women not from real
life but from literature. The paragons they describe can be found in abundance in the
eighteenth-century novels Jane Austen read—and then satirized in so much of her early
fiction. In this scene Elizabeth Bennet voices her creator’s skepticism about the existence of such
women in life as well as in fiction: “I am no longer surprised at your knowing only
six accomplished women. I rather wonder now at your knowing any. . . . I never saw
such a woman, I never saw such capacity, and taste, and application, and elegance, as
you describe, united.” Once Austen goes from mocking the ideal of a heroine to creating realistic
ones, she no longer endows her heroines with superhuman talents.

As we’ve seen, Elizabeth Bennet and Emma Woodhouse are only middling musical performers.
While the extraordinary talents of wonderfully gifted heroines like Laura from Love and
need no rational explanation—natural genius alone could account for the way
such heroines quickly and inevitably surpass their instructors in every subject—Austen’s
realistic portrayals contain such explanations. In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth,
sitting at the piano, says, “”My fingers . . . do not move over this instrument in the masterly
manner which I see so many women’s do. They have not the same force or rapidity, and do not
produce the same expression. But then I have always supposed it to be my own fault—because
I would not take the trouble of practising.” How prosaically unheroic, to require practice in
order to excel!

Emma Woodhouse also knows that while some amount of the difference between her playing and
singing and Jane Fairfax’s might be the result of Jane’s natural talent, most of her musical
inferiority can readily be explained by “the idleness of her childhood”—she did not practice.
And Emma fails to excel in another of Miss Bingley’s requirements, drawing, because, again,
“steadiness had always been wanting.” As Mr. Knightley said, “She will never submit to
any thing requiring industry and patience . . .,” and every item on the list of accomplishments
requires those.

Catherine Morland, the heroine of Northanger Abbey, whom Austen describes in
relentlessly “anti-heroic” terms, overshoots this middle ground of accomplishment and goes
all the way to the unaccomplished extreme. She could not bear taking piano lessons and gave
them up after one year, and “she had no notion of drawing.” She also shirked her French
lessons. It’s unfortunate that with such propensities, like almost all real women, and like
almost no literary heroines before her, she “never could learn or understand any thing before
she was taught; and sometimes not even then. . . .”

Jane Austen herself was what we would certainly consider accomplished, although she was too
modest about her singing and playing to consider herself so. Her brother Henry said she also
drew well. She knew French and at least some Italian. She certainly fulfilled Mr. Darcy’s
requirement that a woman improve her mind “by extensive reading.” And there seems to be one
accomplishment that Jane Austen’s heroines found the time to excel in, and in that they
mirror their creator—and that, of course, is dancing.

From 101 Things You Didn’t Know about Jane Austen by
Patrice Hannon, Ph.D., Copyright © 2007, F+W Media, Inc. Used by
permission of Adams Media, an F+W Media, Inc. Co. All rights reserved.


Dr. Hannon is also the author of Dear Jane Austen: A Heroine’s Guide to Life and Love. She has recently completed a Jane Austen-inspired novel, thereby
completing her personal Triple Crown.  She hopes to have news about its
publication soon.

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Jane Austen Music and the “Truly Accomplished” Woman

Jane Austen music

A Short Essay Exploring Jane Austen Music and her Musical Characters

It is vain to expend large sums of money and large portions of time in the acquirement of accomplishments, unless some attention be also paid to the attainment of a certain grace in their exercise, which, though of a circumstance distinct from themselves, is the secret of their charms and pleasure-exciting quality.”
A Lady of Distinction

The Mirror of Graces
, 1811

“The business of her life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting and news.” As any daughter knows, Mrs. Bennet is typical not only of her time, but of any other. The marriage game has always held a fascination for mothers, and as Fanny Price comments in Mirimax’s Mansfield Park, “Marriage is indeed a maneuvering business.” With the war in France creating a shortage of eligible men on the homefront, it would seem that the more abilities a young woman had at her disposal, the greater chance she would stand of making a good match. Towards that end, parents during the Regency set about schooling their daughters in accomplishments that would make them stand out in the eyes of “men of good fortune.” Jane Austen’s Caroline Bingley gives us a contemporary definition of “accomplishment”: “No one can be really esteemed accomplished, who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with. A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved.”

Period fashion plate

Jane Austen Music

Jane Austen herself was known to be a diligent student of music, spending hours every day practicing. She played for the sheer love of music and she instilled that love into her “own dear child[ren],” her heroines. She valued this time with her music, transcribing her favorite pieces into a collection of books that exist to this day. This was not, however, her chief charm. That lay in her personality, her lively manner and her ready wit. Jane Austen wrote about what she knew. In her books, she employs music to tell about the personalities of her characters. If Caroline Bingley’s was the accepted standard of accomplishment, however, it would seem that Jane Austen’s heroines fall short. Could it be that there is something more dearly prized among “sensible young men” than all the knowledge and “accomplishment” that a woman can possess? Lady Susan, one of Jane Austen’s early characters (a woman who, one would suppose, knows what gentlemen prefer) offers that: “It is throwing time away; to be Mistress of French, Italian, and German, Music, Singing, Drawing, &c. will gain a Woman some applause, but will not add one Lover to her list. Grace and Manner, after all, are of the greatest importance.” It would seem, as her heroines suggest, that this is the view Jane Austen took. She is known to have been a sharp observer of the people and lives surrounding her. Is it possible that she could see evidence of this principle lived out in daily life? None of the six heroines of her major novels are “true proficients.” Most do not play “so well as they could” and three do not play at all!

Elinor Dashwood,”neither musical, nor affecting to be so,” does not play, but rather draws. “The day which dismissed the music-master was one of the happiest of Catherine’s [Moreland] life.” As for Fanny Price, her cousins are scandalized to learn that “she does not want to learn either music or drawing.” The others play “tolerably well”– even “delightfully”; however, they also know that they could do much better if they practiced more, and most, at some point, are shown up by superior performers. “My fingers,” said Elizabeth Bennet, “do not move over this instrument in the masterly manner which I see so many women’s do. They have not the same force or rapidity, and do not produce the same expression. But then I have always supposed it to be my own fault — because I would not take the trouble of practicing.” Emma Woodhouse seems to excel in everything, but on closer examination we see that this is a carefully constructed facade. “She had always wanted to do everything, and had made more progress both in drawing and music than many might have done with so little labor as she would ever submit to.” However, “She knew the limitations of her own powers too well to attempt more than she could perform with credit.” Anne Elliot, who can play “for half an hour together, equally without error, and without consciousness” is an exception to this general rule. However “her performance was little thought of, only out of civility, or to refresh the others, as she was well aware. She knew that when she played she was giving pleasure only to herself…” Viewers of Persuasion (Sony, 1995) may observe how she is neglected at the piano, left to provide entertainment while others dance.

In transferring Jane Austen’s work to film, most screenwriters have been careful to preserve these scenes of musical diversion and revelation. Because of this, we are treated not only to the sounds of period pieces and instruments (Miramax’s 1996 Emma used music directly from Jane Austen’s own song books) recreating the atmosphere with which Jane was familiar, we are also given the added bonus of seeing the effect of the music and/or performance reflected in the faces of those listening.

None of the rest of Jane Austen’s characters who do play an instrument can be held up as examples of happiness or felicity. All are deficient to our heroines in the area of “Grace and Manner.” Most of her young ladies who are musical play the pianoforte: Mary Bennet, Marianne Dashwood, Mary Crawford, and Jane Fairfax were always “happy to oblige.” Anne De Bourgh would have been a true proficient “had she ever learnt.” Elizabeth and Emma took a little more coaxing, but their efforts were rewarded by warm praise and thanks. This popular instrument was easy to learn, and could be demonstrated by students at all levels of accomplishment. There was, however, another instrument that was quite the rage during the Regency- the harp. None of Austen’s six heroines play this instrument, rather, it symbolizes wealth, sophistication, and perhaps a slight snobbery. It is, after all, an instrument of choice for Mary Crawford, Louisa Musgrove, and Georgiana Darcy.

What about the men? Some of them were quite musically inclined and, here again, Jane Austen uses the music to display character. Col. Fitzwilliam is a cultured man who can speak intelligently and entertainingly on the subject. John Willoughby, Frank Churchill,Hugh Thompson Illustration from S&S and Henry Tilney (Northanger Abbey, 1986) sing. Mr. Collins finds it a not unacceptable pastime (“If I,” said Mr. Collins, “were so fortunate as to be able to sing, I should have great pleasure, I am sure, in obliging the company with an air; for I consider music as a very innocent diversion, and perfectly compatible with the profession of a clergyman.”) Even Capt. Wentworth is seen to play a little. It is interesting then to note that most of these men did not marry the girls they performed with or for! Willoughby and Churchill are well known cads and used music for their own purposes. While both were, at the time, sincere in their attentions to the ladies they accompanied, they are two of the most notorious flirts Austen created. Mr. Collins is only interested in displaying himself. Tilney’s singing, in light of Catherine’s non-musical nature, sets him apart from her — for the moment, he belongs to another sphere. Col. Fitzwilliam seems to be the only character to escape villification.

Capt. Wentworth uses his ability on behalf of the two Miss Musgroves (“[Anne] had left the instrument … and he had sat down to try to make out an air which he wished to give the Miss Musgroves an idea of.”), but it is his musical appreciation (“Capt. Wentworth was very fond of music…”) that brings him to the concert in Bath (one of the few appearances of professional musicians in the novels). It is there that Anne begins to feel that there might be a chance for them after all; “He began by speaking of the concert gravely…. owned himself disappointed, had expected singing; and in short, must confess that he should not be sorry when it was over. Anne replied, and spoke in defense of the performance so well, and yet in allowance for his feelings so pleasantly, that his countenance improved, and he replied again with almost a smile…” Only when discussing music do they finally attain a “real” conversation which opens the way for their reconciliation later on in the book.

Hugh Thompson illustration for MPThis is not to indicate that our other heroes are not appreciative of good music. Indeed, though their motives for doing so were often misunderstood, all listened to their beloved ones (who could) play at some point before finally proposing. Mr. Darcy, Edmund Bertram, and Col. Brandon come readily to mind, and are well known for the rapt attention they give the fair performers. Elizabeth Bennet takes delight in teasing Mr. Darcy about his intentions: “[Mr. Darcy] moving with his usual deliberation towards the piano forte, stationed himself so as to command a full view of the fair performer’s countenance. Elizabeth saw what he was doing, and at the first convenient pause, turned to him with an arch smile, and said, ‘You mean to frighten me, Mr Darcy, by coming in all this state to hear me? But I will not be alarmed though your sister does play so well. There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises with every attempt to intimidate me.’” Andrew Davies’ film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice makes Darcy’s admiration for her less than superior performance quite apparent with his famous use of close-ups and replay.

Mr. Knightley too enjoys hearing Emma play: “I do not know a more luxurious state, sir, than sitting at one’s ease to be entertained a whole evening by two such young women; sometimes with music and sometimes with conversation.” What he does not enjoy is Frank’s unpardonable audacity in presuming an intimacy with Emma in which he, himself, did not share. It is only Edward Ferrars who is inclined to be dismissive of music altogether– a fact which is incomprehensible to Marianne: “Music seems scarcely to attract him; and, though he admires Elinor’s drawings very much, it is not the admiration of a person who can understand their worth.” One must attribute his preferences solely to affection.

Music may be the food of love, but it is not apparently the cause of it. As an offering of love, however, it is a most acceptable gift. Robert Martin hires his shepherd’s boy to sing for Harriet Smith and leaves his marriage proposal for her in a packet of music. Frank Churchill, Mr. Darcy, and even Col. Brandon (Thompson’s screenplay, 1995) make gifts of pianofortes to young ladies they adore. Extravagant? Yes. But also thoughtful, sensitive tokens they know will be appreciated.

Hugh Thompson Illustration for P&PWhat is it that Jane Austen is trying to tell us? Why would she create such “untalented” heroines? Wouldn’t she want to encourage her young readers to excel in their studies? There are two categories of performers she describes: those who play out of a love of music (Elizabeth, Anne, Marianne Dashwood, Jane Fairfax, etc.) and those who play for love of attention (Mary Bennet, Louisa Hurst, Caroline Bingley, Augusta Elton). Though the latter are often praised for their execution, it is only the ones who love what they are doing who are described as giving pleasure to their listeners. Is this not another instance of “Grace and Manner?” Is this not another instance of Jane Austen’s perfection of craft? Could unconventional heroines- ones who are admired not for what they can do, but for who they are, be a part of the genre she created? Heroines who seem real — who are as fresh today as when they were penned nearly 200 years ago — heroines who remain as enduring role models for today’s young women. This is, after all, the woman who wrote, “Pictures of perfection make me sick and wicked.”


Laura Sauer is the only non-musical member of her family. As such this essay is a sort of vindication of her skills and proof that one needn’t play and sing to be “accomplished.” Besides- if everyone were a performer, who would be left to listen?

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