With four proposals, three Regency dances, two confrontations with Lady Catherine and one kiss with Mr Darcy, rehearsals are well under way.
It has been 6 weeks since our Pride and Prejudice journey began and oh so much has happened!
Including all of this…
Meet the Bennet sisters!
And when we’re not in regency dress we like to relax with our other favourite cast member, the Athenaeum’s giant bear, aka Mr Darcy’s understudy…
With less than 7 weeks to go before our first performance, rehearsals have been in full swing. .We started by blocking the play whilst we had use of the stage, focusing on projection, space and entrances and exits. From here we rehearsed in the Function room three times a week, looking at the closer details of each scene. So far I have been particularly focusing on my more ‘main’ scenes including the famous first proposal from Mr Darcy… ‘You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you’. Johnathon (Mr Darcy) and I have been working closely on this scene to achieve the maximum emotion that is portrayed. It has been challenging and at times tiring (as I’m in every scene!), yet we are all thoroughly enjoying this exciting journey!
We have all been very busy trying to learn lines…
We even had a competition to see who could take a picture with their tote bag in the most interesting place. I believe Sir William Lucas won when he captured this in Venice!
And how are the Directors feeling so far…
“We are very happy with the progress made so far. The cast are working very hard to get “off book” and their hard work is beginning to show. Behind the scenes things are coming together nicely. Our producer is getting props organised. We have a soundtrack. We have a little over 6 weeks to go and I am feeling confident about the standard of this production. Tickets sales are coming in as people take advantage of the early bird offer.”
Jane Austen entered the world fashionably late by one month on December 16, 1775, as one of the seven Austen children. The Austens resided in a parsonage in Steventon, England, and started a small school for boys in their home to provide extra income along with working their usual occupations. Although Jane’s family was constantly working to make a living, her early life was far from dull. As Meredith Hindley writes in her article ‘The Mysterious Miss Austen’: “From an early age, Austen’s world was full of boyish antics, bawdy humor, and outdoor exploration.” Jane had a natural tomboyish instinct, which she picked up from her five brothers.
At age seven, Jane and her sister Cassandra were sent to a girl’s school in Oxford, but it was short lived as they returned home a year later when sick with typhoid. Another year passed and the Austen girls enrolled at Mrs. La Tournelle’s Ladies’ Boarding School in reading, but stayed only for a year. As Hindley writes: “Austen’s experience, however brief, left her with little regard for girls’ schools. In Emma, she writes scathingly of schools that ‘professed, in long sentences of refined nonsense, to combine liberal acquirements with elegant morality upon new principles and new systems-and where young ladies for enormous pay might be screwed out of health and into vanity.’”
Most of Jane’s education came from her father’s library and her lively and affectionate family circle. Jane used the library frequently, reading book after book and writing extensively. Mr. Austen encouraged Jane’s interest in writing and bought her expensive paper and pencils, even though he needed to save every penny. The entire family also put on home productions, adding to Jane’s dramatic experience, which would prove a help in later years when becoming an author. As Renee Warren has written: “One can only assume that it was in these excersises that the true talent of Jane Austen was being nurtured-through observation, improvisation, acting and participation.” Most of all, it was the world that Jane drew from to write. Her early experiences in life paved the way for the her well-known works.
By the age of nineteen, Jane Austen had begun working on “Elinor and Marianne,” which would later become Sense and Sensibility. Jane had been fearlessly experimenting with writing up to the point when she began her first novel. Jane acquired firsthand experience with the cruelty of a world dictated by money over love (much in evidence in her Continue reading Jane Austen’s Life and Impact on Society
We had a little water party yesterday; I and my two nephews [George and Edward Knight] went from the Itchen Ferry up to Northam, where we landed, looked into the 74, and walked home, and it was so much enjoyed that I had intended to take them to Netley to-day; the tide is just right for our going immediately after noonshine, but I am afraid there will be rain; if we cannot get so far, however, we may perhaps go round from the ferry to the quay.”
Jane Austen to her sister Cassandra
Monday, 24 October 1808 “
Netley Abbey was founded by monks in 1239. If you find Southampton on the map, you can see why Jane Austen crossed over to it by ferry. Now the distance can be covered by bus. The Abbey is close to the water in a wooded area. There must have been some facility at the ferry landing when Austen visited but not much more. The little town that is near it was not developed until Victorian times. The ruins are quite substantial. One of the windows has the same characteristics of the window in Westminster Abbey and it is believed that the same mason worked on both windows.
Netley Abbey, about 3 m. S. of Southampton, must not be left unvisited. It may be reached by water from the Town Quay, or by rly. (post), or by proceeding to the Itchen floating bridge, and then either walking or taking a fly at the Cliff Hotel (fare to the hospital, abbey, and back, 5s.). The abbey is open every day but Sunday and Thursday. On the latter day it may be seen on written application to W. A. Lomer, Esq., 18, Portland-street, Southampton, the agent of the owner.
The name Netley, which has been called a corruption of Letley (or, de las to loco), is more probably connected with the “Natanleaga” or “leas of Nat-e,” a wooded district, which extended from the Avon to the Test and Itchen (the S. part of the New Forest).—Br. Guest. (There are other Netleys within these bounds, as near Eling, Rte. 26). A Cistercian abbey was founded here temp. Hen. III., either by the king himself, or by Peter de Rupibus, Bp. of Winchester; most probably, however, by the former, since it was dedicated not only to the Virgin, the usual patroness of Cistercian houses, but also to Edward the Confessor, the especial patron of the king.—Moody. The monks were brought here from Beaulieu. Subsequent benefactors much enriched it, though it was by no means wealthy at the Dissolution, when its annual revenue was 160£. The site and manor were granted to the compliant Sir Wm. Paulet, the 1st Marquis of Winchester, from whom they passed to the Earl of Hertford, son of the Protector Duke of Somerset, who entertained Queen Elizabeth here in 1560. By its new owner the abbey was fitted up as a private residence, in which Charles, second Baron Seymour of Trowbridge was born; he was baptized in the church. The abbey afterwards passed to the Earl of Huntingdon, by whom a portion of the church was used as a tennis-court, a small part still retaining its sacred character as a domestic chapel, while the nave became a kitchen and other offices. In 1700 the Abbey became the property of Sir Berkeley Lucy, who sold the materials of the great church (till that time entire) to a builder of Southampton named Taylor. Of this person a remarkable story is told, which Spelman would have inserted with no small pleasure in his ‘ History of Sacrilege.’ After Taylor had concluded his contract with Sir Berkeley Lucy some of his friends warned him against touching the remains of the abbey, saying “that they would themselves never be concerned in the demolition of holy and consecrated places.” Their remarks made a great impression on Taylor, who dreamt that, in taking down the roof of the church, the keystone of the arch, above the window, fell from its place and killed him. He told his dream to Mr. Watts, a schoolmaster in Southampton, and the father of Dr. Isaac Watts, who gave him the somewhat jesuitical advice ” to have no personal concern in pulling down the building.” This advice was not followed; and Taylor’s skull, it is said, was actually fractured by a stone which fell from the window.—Moody. The accident had the good effect of staying the destruction of the abbey, which has since been uninjured except by time and tourists. The ruins are now the property of T. Chamberlayne, Esq., of Cranbury Park, near Winchester, who has done much for their preservation. During the works several interesting discoveries were made, which are described by the Bev. E. Kell, Collect. Archxol, vol. ii., pt. 1, 1863.
Much of the wood which formerly closed in the ruins has been felled; but the scene is still one of extreme beauty, and justifies Walpole’s raptures. “How,” he writes to Bentley, September, 1755, “shall I describe Netley to you? I can only by telling you it is the spot in the world which I and Mr. Chute wish. The ruins are vast, and retain fragments of beautiful fretted roof pendent in the air, with all variety of Gothic patterns of windows wrapped round and round with ivy. Many trees are sprouted up among the walls, and only want to be increased with cypresses. A hill rises above the abbey, encircled with wood. The fort, in which we would build a tower for habitation, remains, with 2 small platforms. This little castle is buried from the abbey in a wood, in the very centre, on the edge of the hill. On each side breaks in the view of the Southampton sea, deep blue, glistening with silver and vessels; on one side terminated by Southampton, on the other by Calsliot Castle; and the Isle of Wight rising above the opposite hills. In short, they are not the ruins of Netley, but of Paradise. Oh! the purple abbots! what a spot had they chosen to slumber in! The scene is so beautifully tranquil, yet so lively, that they seem only to have retired into the world.”
The situation, among woods, is the favourite one for Cistercian abbeys, and 30 years ago was quite solitary. A road now passes close to the ruins, and the vicinity of the military hospital brings great traffic under the old walls. Villas have been built, rows of ill-favoured small houses have sprung up all round, and the charm of the place is lost. There are many so-called “hotels,” and an abundance of “neat flys” offer themselves for hire. Until 1860 the ruins were utterly neglected, and the vicinity of Southampton brought crowds of visitors, by whom the place was horribly desecrated. Feasts of tea and shrimps were in constant operation: and the archaeologist,—
“Exceedingly angry, and very much scandalized,
Finding these beautiful ruins so vandalized,”
might well have followed the example of Thomas Ingoldsby,—
“And say to the person who drove his shay (A very intelligent man by the way), ‘This don’t suit my humour—so take me away.'”
Since the ruins came into the possession of Mr. Chamberlayne they have been most carefully kept. An admission fee of 2d. has been established, which, however unromantic, has operated beneficially in promoting quiet and order. By Mr. Chamberlayne’s directions also, extensive excavations have been made in the ruins; tons of rubbish have been carted away, and the floors laid bare; and trees, which threatened the stability of the walls, have been felled, for a while depriving the ruins of some of their picturesque beauty, but time is repairing this, as young trees also have been planted. Many windows which had been blocked up have been opened, and much of the brick-work, introduced by its lay occupants, removed. The immediate result was a trimness, which contrasted unfavourably with its former romantic wildness, but the general improvement is undeniable, and will be thankfully appreciated by the archaeological visitor.
The ruins consist of the outer walls of the church with the exception of the N. transept, which has entirely disappeared, but its outline is marked; the cloister court, with the chapter-house, day-room, and other monastic offices to the E. and S., and the shell of the abbot’s house. The whole are in the same style, E. E., verging upon Dec, but not of one date. The visitor enters at the S., and crossing the greensward, which conceals the foundations of the refectory (here, as at the mother house of Beaulieu, projecting southwards from the centre of the S. walk of the cloister), and passing through some modernised buildings, with the site of the monastic kitchen to the rt. and the porter’s lodge (modern) to the 1., deposits his 2d. and is admitted into the Cloister, or, as it is often called, from a conduit formerly existing in the centre, the Fountain Court, 114 ft. square, shaded by noble trees. The entrance is by the old refectory door; one of the E. E. shafts may be seen peeping out of the later work. The view here is most striking. To the N. is the wall of the S. aisle of the ch., with E. E. triplets. To the E., the S. transept, with its ivy-clad gable, and the 3 exquisite arches between the cloister and chapterhouse, and the adjacent buildings form a most picturesque group. The narrow slits between the larger windows of the later occupants, mark the monks’ dormitory, which ran over the buildings on this side. On the S. wall the remains of the lavatory may be traced. The weatherings of the cloister roofs, and the corbels that supported them, will be noticed. Two doors in the N. walk admit to the church, 211 ft. long by 58 wide. This is throughout E. E., but of more than one date. The choir and transept are the earliest. Then come the S. aisle, the N. aisle, and W. front. The E. window, not unlike those of the chapter-house of Salis. bury, was of 4 lights, with an 8-foiled circle in the head, the arch 5 times recessed. The caps and bases of 4 shafts remain in each of the jambs. The shafts themselves, and the secondary mullions, are gone. The side windows of the choir and transepts are of 2 lancet lights, with a common arch within, having E. E. shafts in the jambs. Those of the S. aisle are triplets, the centre light foliated. In the N. aisle the detached lights have developed into a 3-light window with real tracery. The W. window, fatal to Mr. Taylor, is the latest in the church. It has lost its mullions and tracery, but the arch remains. Of the arcade nothing remains but the stumps of the piers of the crossing, and one or two in the nave. The clerestory came down to the spring above the arches, and there was no distinct triforium. The church was vaulted throughout. In the S. transept the springing of a rich roof of late character, which was perfect up to a recent period, is still conspicuous. The nave was of 8 bays, the choir of 4, the transept of 3. The bases of the 3 chief altars remain, with piscina and aumbry. The E. aisle of the S. transept retains its plain quadripartite vaulting. The S. bay is said to have been the Lady Chapel. The clerestory here is perfect, and access is obtained to it by a spiral staircase at the S.E. angle of the choir. This is worth ascending for the sake of the view of the ruins it affords. The central tower is said to have served as a sea-mark.
Leaving the transept, we enter the Sacristy (with the Munimentroom above), plainly vaulted, where remark the altar-steps, the piscina, and aumbry, laid bare by Mr. Chamberlayne. Further S. is the Chapterhouse, 33 feet square, with its 3 beautiful open arches and clustered shafts, and 3 fine E. E. windows of 2 lancet lights, with foliated circles in the heads, “The arches are richly moulded with the round and fillet, deep hollows, and the scroll moulding.”—J. H. P. The bases of the 4 pillars which supported its vaulted roof are to be seen. Beyond this is the passage to the abbot’s house, which is succeeded by what is usually shown as the refectory, but was really the Monies’ Day Room, or locutorium, 70 ft. by 25. This was a vaulted room of 5 bays, divided down the centre by a row of pillars (a usual Cistercian arrangement, as at Furness and Beaulieu). One lancet remains to the E.; the other windows have been altered, and are 2-light square-headed Dee. with transoms. Proceeding still to the S., we are shown the buttery and kitchen, which, though they may have filled that character in the post-reformation days (when the buttery-hatches were opened), had a far different designation originally. The so-called kitchen, it is evident from the fireplace of domestic, not culinary character, the long drain which traverses it, and the small colls crossing the channel, was the monks’ calefactory and garderobe, a portion of the monastery always arranged with scrupulous care. It is a noble room, 48 ft. by 18, with windows that deserve notice, and vaulted roof peeled to the grouting. The fireplace is a good example of 13th-century work. “It is partly destroyed; but the trusses, part of the shafts, and a bracket remain, the chimney of which is carried up in the thickness of the wall to the corbel table, and terminates between 2 of the corbels,” a mode of contriving the chimney, of which many examples occur in Norman castles. The brickwork observed in the walls of the domestic buildings, which some authorities are disposed to regard as original, certainly belongs to the period after the Dissolution.
The abbey garden is on the E. of the cloister court, and commands the best general view of the ruins. The Abbot’s House adjoins. The vaulted substructures are lighted by E. E. lancets.
The Abbey was entirely surrounded by a moat, part of which may still be traced; and beyond it, E. are the hollows of two large fish-ponds.
The Cattle to which Walpole alludes, originally the gate-house of the Abbey, is now occupied as a private residence. It is close to the water’s edge, and was, at the Dissolution, strengthened from the materials of the Abbey and converted into one of the many small forts built by Henry VIII. for the protection of the southern coast. The tower was added in 1826, when it was altered into a dwelling-house.
Current construction may hinder some visitors from getting a close look at the ruins.
During the Regency, weddings were often held first thing in the morning with the bridal couple and their guests returning home to celebrate with a wedding breakfast, a precursor to the modern wedding reception, before departing to their new home, or perhaps on their honeymoon.
Jane Austen’s niece Caroline (daughter of James) gave a wonderful description of her sister Anna’s wedding to family friend Benjamin Lefroy on November 8, 1814:
“My sister’s wedding was certainly in the extreme of quietness… The season of the year, the unfrequented road to the church, the grey light within… no stove to give warmth, no flowers to give colour and brightness, no friends, high or low, to offer their good wishes, and so to claim some interest in the great event of the day – all these circumstances and deficiencies must, I think, have given a gloomy air to the wedding…Weddings were then usually very quiet. The old fashion of festivity and publicity had quite gone by, and was universally condemned as showing the bad taste of all former generations…. This was the order of the day. The bridegroom came from Ashe, where he had hitherto lived with his brother (the Rector), and with him came Mr. and Mrs. Lefroy, and his other brother, Mr. Edward Lefroy…. My brother came from Winchester that morning, but was to stay only a few hours. We in the house had a slight early breakfast upstairs, and between nine and ten the bride, my mother, Mrs. Lefroy, Anne, and myself were taken to church in our carriage. All the gentlemen walked.”
She continues: “Mr. Lefroy read the service, and my father gave his daughter away. No one was in the church but ourselves, and no one was asked to the breakfast, to which we sat down as soon as we got back…The breakfast was such as best breakfasts then were. Some variety of bread, hot rolls, buttered toast, tongue, ham and eggs. The addition of chocolate at one end of the table and the wedding-cake in the middle marked the speciality of the day...soon after the breakfast the bride and bridegroom departed. They had a long day’s journey before them to Hendon…. In the evening the servants had cake and wine.”
It should be noted, however, that Caroline was writing in later years. There is some disagreement in how early the term actually came to be applied to what was, in earlier times, thought of as a “wedding feast”. Although it is not specifically mentioned in Jane Austen’s novels, based on Caroline’s descriptions, I personally think it was an accepted term in her day. The first recorded mention of a wedding breakfast in print is in the London Times on January 15, 1838, when a book reviewer quotes from The Veteran, by John Harley, ‘C— and his bride returned to the coffee house, where they were received with great kindness the master and mistress who, notwithstanding the short notice, had a comfortable wedding-breakfast prepared for them’. The implication here is, of course, that by 1838, it was a recognized habit of weddings. In Party-giving on Every Scale (London, 1880) the term is given the respect of tradition,
The orthodox “Wedding Breakfast” might more properly be termed a “Wedding Luncheon,” as it assumes the character of that meal to a great extent; in any case it bears little relation to the breakfast of that day, although the title of breakfast is still applied to it, out of compliment to tradition. As recently as fifty years ago luncheon was not a recognized meal, even in the wealthiest families, and the marriage feast was modernized into the wedding breakfast, which appellation this entertainment still bears.
The important pieces, a gathering of family to celebrate the bridal couple, and cake, remain to this day. In addition to sharing this cake with members of the wedding party, families often sent pieces to friends as a gesture of good will and celebration. Jane mentions this sending about of cake in her letters to Cassandra. In the following note, Jane is referring to Catherine Bigg, sister to Harris Bigg-Wither, who was once an accepted suitor of Jane’s. Catherine, at 33, had just married Rev. Herbert Hill, aged nearly 60, a match Jane seems not to have favored (calling her “poor Catherine” in her letters). The mentioned Martha is, no doubt, Jane’s dear friend Martha Lloyd.
“Do you recollect whether the Manydown family sent about their wedding cake? Mrs. Dundas has set her heart upon having a piece from her friend Catherine, and Martha, who knows what importance she attaches to this sort of thing, is anxious for the sake of both that there should not be a disappointment.” Jane Austen to Cassandra
October 13, 1808
Early wedding cakes were similar to Christmas fruit cakes– heavy, dense with dried fruit, and able to be stored for months and even years to come.
The modern practice of saving the top tier of the wedding cake to be eaten on the couple’s first anniversary is taken from the historic practice of saving some cake to be served at the christening of the couple’s first child (an event which often followed in the first year of marriage). Elizabeth Raffald’s 1794 Experienced English Housekeeper was the first cookery book to publish a recipe for cakes specifically for weddings.
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.)
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.
Throughout Jane Austen’s life, she was to hold an affection for the British Royal Navy. This was due to the enlistment of two of her brothers, Francis and Charles. Readers of her novels will find a number of positive naval characters, none more so that Captain Wentworth of Persuasion. Officers like these would have been well aware of the dangers of scurvy and alert to its presence aboard ship.
Scurvy is a disease resulting from a deficiency of vitamin C. Scurvy often presents initially with fatigue, followed by formation of spots on the skin, spongy gums, and bleeding from the mucous membranes. Spots are most abundant on the thighs and legs, and a person may look pale, feel depressed, and be partially immobilized. As scurvy advances, there can be open, suppurating wounds, loss of teeth, yellow skin, fever, neuropathy and finally death from bleeding.
Scurvy was at one time common among sailors, pirates and others aboard ships at sea longer than perishable fruits and vegetables could be stored (subsisting instead only on cured and salted meats and dried grains) and by soldiers similarly deprived of these foods for extended periods. It was described by Hippocrates (c. 460 BC–c. 380 BC), and herbal cures for scurvy have been known in many native cultures since prehistory. Scurvy was one of the limiting factors of marine travel, often killing large numbers of the passengers and crew on long-distance voyages. This became a significant issue in Europe from the beginning of the modern era in the Age of Discovery in the 15th century, continuing to play a significant role through World War I in the early 20th century.
Between 1500 and 1800, it has been estimated that scurvy killed at least two million sailors:
Jonathan Lamb wrote: “In 1499, Vasco da Gama lost 116 of his crew of 170; In 1520, Magellan lost 208 out of 230;…all mainly to scurvy.”
In 1593, Admiral Sir Richard Hawkins advocated drinking orange and lemon juice as a means of preventing scurvy.
In 1614 John Woodall, Surgeon General of the East India Company, published “The Surgion’s Mate” as a handbook for apprentice surgeons aboard the company’s ships. In it he described scurvy as resulting from a dietary deficiency. His recommendation for its cure was fresh food or, if not available, oranges, lemons, limes and tamarinds.
A 1707 handwritten book is by Mrs. Ebot Mitchell discovered in a house in Hasfield, Gloucestershire, contains a “Recp.t for the Scurvy” that consisted of extracts from various plants mixed with a plentiful supply of orange juice, white wine or beer.
In 1734, the Leiden-based physician Johann Bachstrom published a book on scurvy in
which he stated that “scurvy is solely owing to a total abstinence from fresh vegetable food, and greens; which is alone the primary cause of the disease” and urged the use of fresh fruit and vegetables as a cure. In 1740, citrus juice (usually lemon or lime juice) was added to the recipe of the traditional daily ration of watered-down rum known as grog to cut down on the water’s foulness. Although they did not know the reason at the time, Admiral Edward Vernon’s sailors were healthier than the rest of the navy because of the daily doses of vitamin C his sailors received. However, it was not until 1747 that James Lind formally demonstrated that scurvy could be treated by supplementing the diet with citrus fruit, in the first ever clinical trial. In 1753, Lind published A Treatise of the Scurvy, in which he explained the details of his clinical trial, but it occupied only a few paragraphs in a work that was long and complex and had little impact. In fact, Lind himself never actively promoted lemon juice as a single ‘cure’. He shared medical opinion at the time that scurvy had multiple causes – notable hard work, bad water and the consumption of salt meat in a damp atmosphere which inhibited healthful perspiration and normal excretion – and therefore required multiple solutions. He was also side-tracked by the possibilities of producing a concentrated ‘rob’ of lemon juice by boiling it. Unfortunately this process destroyed the vitamin C and was unsuccessful.
During the 18th century, scurvy killed more British sailors than enemy action. It was mainly by scurvy that George Anson, in his celebrated voyage of 1740–1744, lost nearly two-thirds of his crew (1300 out of 2000) within the first ten months of the voyage. The Royal Navy enlisted 184,899 sailors during the Seven Years’ War; 133,708 of these were “missing” or died by disease, and scurvy was the leading cause.
Although throughout this period sailors and naval surgeons were increasingly convinced that citrus fruits could cure scurvy, the classically trained physicians who ran the medical establishment dismissed this evidence as mere anecdote which did not conform to current theories of disease. They considered that scurvy was a disease of internal putrefaction brought on by faulty digestion caused by the naval diet. Although this basic idea was given different emphases by successive theorists, the remedies they advocated (and which the navy accepted) amounted to little more than the consumption of ‘fizzy drinks’ to activate the digestive system, the most extreme of which was the regular consumption of ‘elixir of vitriol’ – sulphuric acid taken with spirits and barley water and laced with spices. In 1764, a new variant appeared. Advocated by Dr David McBride and Sir John Pringle, Surgeon General of the Army and later President of the Royal Society, this idea was that scurvy was the result of a lack of ‘fixed air’ in the tissues which could be prevented by drinking infusions of malt and wort whose fermentation within the body would stimulate digestion and restore the missing gases. These ideas receiving wide and influential backing, when James Cook set off to circumnavigate the world (1768–1771) in HM Bark Endeavour, malt and wort were top of the list of the remedies he was ordered to investigate. The others were beer, sour crout and Lind’s ‘rob’. The list did not include lemons. Cook did not lose a single man to scurvy, and his report came down in favour of malt and wort, although it is now clear that the reason for the health of his crews on this and other voyages was Cook’s regime of shipboard cleanliness, enforced by strict discipline, as well as frequent replenishment of fresh food and green stuffs. Another rule implemented by Cook was his prohibition of the consumption of fat scrubbed from the ship’s copper pans, then a common practice in the Navy. In contact with air the copper formed compounds that catalytically oxidised the vitamin C, destroying its efficacy.
The first major long distance expedition that experienced virtually no scurvy was that of the Spanish naval officer Alessandro Malaspina, 1789–1794. Malaspina’s medical officer, Pedro González, was convinced that fresh oranges and lemons were essential for preventing scurvy. Only one outbreak occurred, during a 56-day trip across the open sea. Five sailors came down with symptoms, one seriously. After three days at Guam all five were healthy again. Spain’s large empire and many ports of call made it easier to acquire fresh fruit.
Although towards the end of the century McBride’s theories were being challenged, the medical establishment in Britain remained wedded to the notion that scurvy was a disease of internal ‘putrefaction’ and the Sick and Hurt Board, run by administrators, felt obliged to follow its advice Within the Royal Navy however opinion – strengthened by first-hand experience of the use of lemon juice at the siege of Gibraltar and during Admiral Rodney’s expedition to the Caribbean – had become increasingly convinced of its efficacy. This was reinforced by the writings of experts like Gilbert Blane and Thomas Trotter and by the reports of up and coming naval commanders.
With the coming of war in 1793, the need to eliminate scurvy acquired a new urgency. But the first initiative came not from the medical establishment but from the admirals. Ordered to lead an expedition against Mauritius, Rear Admiral Gardner was uninterested in the wort, malt and elixir of vitriol which were still being issued to ships of the Royal Navy, and demanded that he be supplied with lemons to counteract scurvy on the voyage. Members of the Sick and Hurt Board, recently augmented by two practical naval surgeons, supported the request and the Admiralty ordered that it be done. There was however a last minute change of plan. The expedition against Mauritius was cancelled. On 2 May 1794, only HMS Suffolk and two sloops under Commodore Peter Rainier sailed for the east with an outward bound convoy, but the warships were fully supplied with lemon juice and the sugar with which it had to be mixed. Then in March 1795, came astonishing news. Suffolk had arrived in India after a four-month voyage without a trace of scurvy and with a crew that was healthier than when it set out. The effect was immediate. Fleet commanders clamoured also to be supplied with lemon juice and by June the Admiralty acknowledged the groundswell of demand in the navy had agreed to a proposal from the Sick and Hurt Board that lemon juice and sugar should in future be issued as a daily ration to the crews of all warships.
It took a few years before the method of distribution to be all ships in the fleet had been perfected and the supply of the huge quantities of lemon juice required to be secured, but by 1800, the system was in place and functioning. This led to a remarkable health improvement among the sailors and consequently played a critical role in gaining the advantage in naval battles against enemies who had yet to introduce the measures
The surgeon-in-chief of Napoleon’s army at the Siege of Alexandria (1801), Baron Dominique-Jean Larrey, wrote in his memoirs that the consumption of horse meat helped the French to curb an epidemic of scurvy. The meat was cooked but was freshly obtained from young horses bought from Arabs and was nevertheless effective. This helped to start the 19th-century tradition of horse meat consumption in France.
Lauchlin Rose patented a method used to preserve citrus juice without alcohol in 1867, creating a concentrated drink known as Rose’s lime juice. The Merchant Shipping Act established in the year 1867 required all ships of the Royal Navy and Merchant Navy to provide a daily lime ration to sailors to prevent scurvy. The product became nearly ubiquitous, hence the term “limey”, first for British sailors, then for English immigrants within the former British colonies (particularly America, New Zealand and South Africa), and finally, in old American slang, all British people.
The plant Cochlearia officinalis, also known as “Common Scurvygrass”, acquired its common name from the observation that it cured scurvy, and it was taken on board ships in dried bundles or distilled extracts. Its very bitter taste was usually disguised with herbs and spices; however, this did not prevent scurvygrass drinks and sandwiches becoming a popular fad in the UK until the middle of the nineteenth century, when citrus fruits became more readily available.
West Indian limes replaced lemons because they were more easily obtained from Britain’s Caribbean colonies and were believed to be more effective because they were more acidic, and it was the acid, not the (then-unknown) Vitamin C that was believed to cure scurvy. In fact, the West Indian limes were significantly lower in Vitamin C than the previous lemons and further were not served fresh but rather as lime juice, which had been exposed to light and air and piped through copper tubing, all of which significantly reduced the Vitamin C. Indeed, a 1918 animal experiment using representative samples of the Navy and Merchant Marine’s lime juice showed that it had virtually no antiscorbutic power at all.
The belief that scurvy was fundamentally a nutritional deficiency, best treated by consumption of fresh food, particularly fresh citrus or fresh meat, was not universal in Britain in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and thus British sailors and explorers continued to suffer from scurvy into the 20th century.
In the Royal Navy’s Arctic expeditions in the 19th century it was widely believed that scurvy was prevented by good hygiene on board ship, regular exercise, and maintaining the morale of the crew, rather than by a diet of fresh food. Navy expeditions continued to be plagued by scurvy even while fresh (not jerked or tinned) meat was well known as a practical antiscorbutic among civilian whalers and explorers in the Arctic. Even cooking fresh meat did not entirely destroy its antiscorbutic properties, especially as many cooking methods failed to bring all the meat to high temperature.
At the time that Robert Falcon Scott made his first expedition (1901-1904) to the Antarctic in the early 20th century, the prevailing theory was that scurvy was caused by “ptomaine poisoning”, particularly in tinned meat. Fortunately, Scott immediately discovered that a diet of fresh meat from Antarctic seals cured scurvy before any fatalities occurred.
Vilhjalmur Stefansson, an arctic explorer who lived among the Inuit, proved that the all meat diet they consumed did not lead to vitamin deficiencies. He participated in a study in New York’s Bellevue Hospital in 1935, where he and a companion ate only meat for a year while under close medical observation, yet remained in good health. Some Antarctic expeditions, such as Scott’s two expeditions and Shackleton’s Ross Sea party, suffered from scurvy, mainly during inland sledge journeys when the men had access to a very limited range of food, virtually none of it fresh. Scurvy was rare or absent when they had access to a wider range of stored food or relied on seal meat.
In 1907, the needed biological-assay model to isolate and identify the antiscorbutic factor was discovered. Axel Holst and Theodor Frølich, two Norwegian physicians studying shipboard beriberi contracted aboard ship’s crews in the Norwegian Fishing Fleet, wanted a small test mammal to substitute for the pigeons then used in beriberi research. They fed guinea pigs their test diet of grains and flour, which had earlier produced beriberi in their pigeons, and were surprised when classic scurvy resulted instead. This was a serendipitous choice of model. Until that time, scurvy had not been observed in any organism apart from humans and had been considered an exclusively human disease. (Some birds are susceptible to scurvy, but pigeons, as seed-eating birds, were later found to be unaffected by scurvy, as they produce vitamin C.) Holst and Frølich found they could cure scurvy in guinea pigs with the addition of various fresh foods and extracts. This discovery of a “clean” (reliable) animal experimental model for scurvy, which was made even before the essential idea of “vitamins” in foods had been put forward, has been called the single most important piece of vitamin C research.
From the Desk of Jane Odiwe
I was very excited to read about some of the discoveries made during the dig at Jane Austen’s childhood home in the village of Steventon, Hampshire, which took place in November 2011. The rectory was pulled down in the 1820s and what is known of its appearance is only recorded on old maps and drawings or writings made from the memories of Austen descendants. It seems that the actual foundations of the rectory have now been located as a result of the dig – formerly, the only clue to its situation was the presence of an iron pump.
Jane was born in Steventon Rectory and lived happily for the first twenty five years of her life until her father decided to retire and move the family to Bath. It was here that she drafted her first three novels, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey, all between the ages of 19 and 23.
Anna Lefroy, niece of Jane, wrote about her memories of the house:
“The dining room or common sitting-room looked to the front and was lighted by two casement windows. On the same side the front door opened into a smaller parlour, and visitors, who were few and rare, were not a bit less welcome to my grandmother because they found her sitting there busily engaged with her needle, making and mending.
This Easter I added a set of Nail Art Pens to my seven-year-old’s Easter basket. We had seen them demonstrated at our local warehouse club and she was eager to try the fun for herself. The idea is that each “pen” comes with a brush and pen attachment for creating detailed works of art on your finger nails.
After church that morning, we headed off to spend the day with family. Bella with polish eagerly clutched in hand, was sure that her artist Auntie Diana could work some magic for all the little girls in attendance. Being the good sport that she is, Diana had a steady stream of customers for watermelons, ladybugs and even snowmen, but when I saw the white and black pens, I was sure that an Austen silhouette could be had.
To create your own works of Austen art, you will need a bottle of white nail polish (available for French Manicures) and one black nail pen (or fine tipped permanent marker. Used on the polish, it should wipe off with nail polish remover and not leave a mark on the actual nail)
File your nails and paint a coat of white polish, as you would begin any manicure.
Using this silhouette as a guide, gently draw an outline of Jane Austen’s silhouette– your basic design will include the head with bun and aquiline nose, narrow neck and rounded neckline.
Coat the finished nail with a clear coat for added durability. If you make a mistake, no worries– it comes off with nail polish remover!
I think the experiment was quite satisfactory, not to mention a lot of fun!