Posted on

The Regency Wedding Breakfast

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. A noisy family breakfast… 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 (more…)
Posted on

Sealing Your Letters Like a Georgian

Everyone knows the feeling of importance that comes from receiving a hand written letter– especially when decoratively sealed with a specially chosen seal and wax. In Jane Austen’s time, the wax was even sometimes used to hide a coin to pay the postman (thereby costing the recipient nothing; postage was originally paid by the receiver). Traditionally, sealing wax was used to not only seal the letter against tampering, but also to identify the sender, as people maintained personal and family seals for the purpose. The idea of using a personal seal for identification dates from the earliest civilizations and survives today in the form of rubber stamps and embossers. Still, there is nothing quite like a wax seal for adding a bit of Regency elegance to your notes and letters. A pile of sealed letters. Painting Cornelis Norbertus Gysbrechts (1665). The Jane Austen Centre giftshop sells personalized sets of seals and sealing wax in the traditional style, a stick of red wax with a wick. When lit, the flame melts the wax, which is then dripped onto the portion of the letter to receive the seal, before stamping in the pattern with a small metal seal. The whole process is, to a novice, a bit tricky and the results are not always quite as perfect as one would hope. The Jane Austen Centre’s seal and wax set is available in the giftshop. I recently received a wedding invitation with just such a seal attached. Considering the tediousness of this exercise (more…)
Posted on

The List Lover’s Guide to Jane Austen: A Review

I am a list maker. Shopping lists, packing lists, gift lists, to-do lists– you name it. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes from crossing things off. As I get older and my memory gets worse, I also enjoy knowing that I’m not forgetting things that need to be done. Of course, this creates a new category of things-I-forgot-to-put-on-my-first-list lists, but that’s another story. The story I’m writing about today is the story of Jane and her novels. One might think that a book of lists would be boring. Perhaps even as dry as reading the outline of a lecture– especially for those who already have a good grasp on Jane’s life. The List Lover’s Guide to Jane Austen, however, is anything but dry or boring. Clearly a work of love and dedication, author Joan Strasbaugh has gathered not only what we do know (lists of all locations in each novel, lists of Jane’s residences) but also pulled together an impressive array of, if not unknown, unconsidered variables. There are lists of all of Jane’s relatives that she had contact with during her life. There are lists of neighbors, lists of suitors (both those whose hearts Jane broke and those who broke Jane’s heart), her music, her favourite foods and even her hairstyles! I was hooked. Punctuated with period illustrations as well as whimsical original art, the lists are ordered quite methodically (see the “list” of contents at the front of the book) and highlighted with extracts from Jane’s (more…)
Posted on

Mrs. Weston’s Wedding Cake

In Jane Austen’s day, weddings were often held first thing in the morning, after which the bridal couple and their guests returned home to celebrate with a wedding breakfast like that served to Anna Austen and Benjamin Lefroy in 1814: “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.” Though rich fruit and nut cakes had been used for centuries, in 1786 Elizabeth Raffald was the first to publish a recipe for a cake specifically for weddings. The cake was served not only at the wedding breakfast, but also shared with the household servants and sent in pieces to friends and relatives who had not attended the ceremony. These wedding cakes were single tiered, double frosted confections, though by no means small. Queen Victoria’s 1840 wedding cake measured 9 feet around and weighed 300 pounds, although it was only 14 inches high. A period depiction of Queen Victoria’s wedding cake. This recipe makes an enormous cake. I have quartered the ingredients and it fit nicely into my 12 ½cm/ 5in deep, 25cm /10in springform pan. To Make a Bride Cake Take four pounds of fine flour well dried, four pounds of fresh butter, two pounds of loaf sugar, pound and sift fine a quarter of an ounce of mace the same of nutmegs, to every pound (more…)