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Jane Austen News – Issue 95

the Jane Austen News feels Christmas is coming

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?  

 


Austen HEAVILY Abridged

One of our favourite finds at the Jane Austen News this week has to be the work of the late Australian comedian, John Clarke.

In his posthumously published book, Tinkering: The Complete Book of John Clarke, which was published in Australia on Monday, he has taken a wealth of literary classics and condensed them down to their most-brief forms. This is abridgment for the reader who really does have no time at all. Or, the reader who has read, or is at least familiar with, the novels he has abridged, and can appreciate the farcical nature of his “short” versions.

These are some of his abridged Austens:

Pride and Prejudice

Elizabeth Bennet (mother obsessed with marrying daughters off, father amusing but not very helpful) dislikes Mr Darcy because he is too proud. She becomes prejudiced against him and even likes one man (Wickham) because he speaks ill of Darcy.

Her life is occupied with sisters Jane, who is calm and loves Bingham, and Lydia, who loves soldiers (Wickham) and who brings family into disrepute (Wickham). Elizabeth inadvertently discovers that Darcy is unbelievably rich. They marry immediately. Mother knew best.

Persuasion

Featuring Anne Elliot (plain, educated, sensitive, wise, family down on luck). Father and spoilt sister go to Bath for society, Anne to another sister (selfish, stupid, married to cheerful farmer). Children get sick, Anne tower of strength. Visited by Captain Wentworth. (Naval man at time of Trafalgar = national hero.) Wentworth and Anne have met before, have loved, and Anne has rejected Wentworth’s proposal of marriage but heart not still. Farmer’s sister falls off seawall and Wentworth realises he’s an idiot about Anne. Hooray!

Emma

Beautiful daughter of silly old fool has nothing better to do than manipulate and matchmake in snobbish rural society. Behaves very stupidly and messes up life of Harriet Smith, a harmless woman who should obviously marry local farmer. Eventually marries best friend Mr Knightley, the resonance of whose name she had previously failed to notice. (See Clueless.)

They’re obviously not a substitute for reading the novels themselves, but they’re a bit of fun, and perhaps a good way to remind yourself of the books you’ve read. (“I’m sure I’ve read it…I just can’t remember what it was all about…”)

A few more examples of John Clarke’s work, including 1984 and Moby Dick, can be found here.

Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 95

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Jane Austen News – Issue 49

Jane Austen News is Bath!

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?   

 

 Jane Austen’s England – Limited Edition   

Jane Austen Festival 2016American travel company Peregrine Adventures have an excellent Jane Austen literary tour planned for 2017. The limited edition tour is timed to commemorate the 200th year anniversary of Jane Austen’s death and will visit destinations in Southern England significant to Jane Austen’s life (including Bath and the Jane Austen Centre). It will also include towns and cities that inspired her work (such as Lyme Regis), and visit film locations where some of the films based on her novels have been shot. Highlights include a regency dance class with an expert in historical dance, and a talk about regency fashion with a period costume expert. The tour will be led by a Peregrine leader, but there will be various local expert guides at different locations within the tour, some of whom are members of the Jane Austen Society.

Having looked at the full programme we’re rather impressed. So if you’re looking for a thorough tour of Jane Austen’s England, but don’t fancy trying to plan your own, this might be of interest as your summer holiday next year? The eight day tour begins on June the 12th, and we’re looking forward to welcoming the Peregrine tour group to the centre on the 16th.


Trend Setter – Mr Darcy and his Christmas Jumper   

Colin Firth was certainly responsible for the wet-shirt obsession which gripped much of the nation following his performance in 636167664517412268-d-bridget-jones-dvd-29-13635165the 1995 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice, in which (as we needed to remind you), Firth, while playing Mr Darcy, jumps into a lake on Pemberley estate and emerges as a water-drenched heart throb. However, it seems that Mr Firth, while playing another incarnation of Mr Darcy (stuffy lawyer Mark Darcy in 2001’s Bridget Jones’s Diary) may also be the source of the novelty Christmas jumper trend.

The original sweater went through many designs because it had to be just right. The character of Mr. Darcy is a constipated English prig when we first meet him so we needed something totally ridiculous to pierce that pomposity. And for some reason neither Santas nor X-mas trees nor snowmen worked as well as that red-nosed moose or reindeer we chose. It also had to look home-knit, something his mother knitted for him.

Sharon Maguire, director of all three films in the Bridget Jones franchise.

Mr Darcy – novelty Christmas jumper trend-setter. It’s certainly not a connection we at the Jane Austen News would have automatically made! It’s an interesting thought though.


Lucy Worsley on Jane Austen at Cambridge Arts Theatre

lucyworsleyFor those of you who, like us at the Jane Austen News, have been watching and enjoying the wonderful BBC Television series on Henry VIII’s six wives presented by historian Lucy Worsley, this upcoming event may be of interest. Lucy will be at Cambridge Arts Theatre presenting At Home with Jane Austen on Sunday May 7th 2017, dispelling the myth that she was a cynical, lonely spinster.

During the evening, Lucy will consider what home meant to Jane and tells her story through the rooms, spaces, possessions and places that mattered to her; offering audience members a snapshot of “a witty and passionate woman of her time, who refused to settle for anything less than Mr Darcy.” This event is also a prelude to Lucy’s forthcoming new book, At Home with Jane Austen.

It’s an event that’s a little way in advance it’s true, but it is one that we’re sure will sell out – which is why we’re mentioning it now. (Tickets for anyone wishing to go are available from the Cambridge Arts Theatre website.)


Love & Friendship Tops the Polls Again   

Love & Friendship has triumphed in another top-films-of-the-year chart.love-and-friendship-image-16

In the Sunday World newspaper’s rundown of the best films of 2016 Love & Friendship has come in at number 10, and beat the likes of X-Men: Apocalypse, Star Trek Beyond, Ghostbusters, and other highly anticipated films. The paper published a few of the reasons why Love & Friendship had had to have a place in the top films:

Austen screen adaptations are generally mined for their sweeping romance, but Stillman parks the heaving bosoms for pure comedy, and the resulting film is a joy.

We are reminded what a witty, socially observational writer Austen was, and how she and Stillman make great collaborators two centuries apart.

Droll, funny and refreshingly unsentimental, Love & Friendship is one of the sharpest and wittiest takes on Austen yet.


Northanger Abbey in Eastbourne  

image-7As part of the celebrations in 2017 to mark the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, an ambitious stage adaptation of Northanger Abbey will be presented from Monday February 20th to Wednesday February 22nd at Devonshire Park Theatre.

The adaptation, by acclaimed Austen specialist Tim Luscombe, has been described as “a delight – witty, fast moving and stylish – and a perfect way to celebrate a great writer.” Previously Tim Luscombe’s version of Mansfield Park was produced and toured in 2012 and 2013. This adaptation of Northanger Abbey will be directed by Artistic Director Karen Simpson with an eight-strong cast and was first produced by York Theatre Royal in 2004, Salisbury Playhouse in 2007 (followed by a tour), and in 2010 at the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick, and in 2013 in Chicago at the Remy Bumppo Theatre.


Jane Austen Day with Charlotte

Jane Austen News is our weekly compilation of stories about or related to Jane Austen. Here we will feature a variety of items, including craft tutorials, reviews, news stories, articles and photos from around the world. If you’d like to include your story, please contact us with a press release or summary, along with a link. You can also submit unique articles for publication in our Jane Austen Online Magazine.

Don’t miss our latest news – become a Jane Austen Member and receive a digest of stories, articles and news every week. You will also be able to access our online Magazine with over 1000 articles, test your knowledge with our weekly quiz and get offers on our Online Giftshop. Plus new members get an exclusive 10% off voucher to use in the Online Giftshop.

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Jane Austen News – Issue 43

What’s the Jane Austen News this week? 

2017 Is The Year Of Literature 

waxwork head and shoulders (low res)Next year is a milestone for quite a few heroes of British literature, and to celebrate VisitEngland has declared it the ‘Year of Literary Heroes’. Among the anniversaries being celebrated are the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, and publication anniversaries for Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes and Enid Blyton. 2017 will be mark the 75th anniversary of Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five, and it will be twenty years since the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone!

As well events surrounding these, there will also be special programmes of events to celebrate the wartime poet Edward Thomas in Petersfield, Hampshire, an exhibition on writer Arnold Bennett, and a festival dedicated to children’s author Arthur Ransome – the writer of Swallows and Amazons.

So it seems 2017 is the year to visit England if you’re a fan of literature. Of course there will be plenty of special events on across the country to mark the 200th anniversary of Jane’s death, and we’ll keep you up to date with what’s set to be going on.


A Christmas Dinner at Chawton Library        

ah-christmas-supperBest-selling author Edward Rutherfurd (his debut novel Sarum, a 10,000-year story set in Salisbury, was on the New York Times Bestseller List for 23 weeks) will add star appeal to the Christmas supper at Chawton House Library next month.

Offering an opportunity to partake of a festive meal in the atmospheric oak-panelled rooms where Jane dined with her family, the black tie event on December 3 will include the viewing of a unique manuscript and rare books. Edward Rutherfurd will talk about the inspiration that characterful 400-year-old houses like Chawton House can provide to the creative imagination, and guests at the Christmas supper will have the opportunity to view the unique ‘Sir Charles Grandison’ manuscript, written in Jane Austen’s own hand, as well as seeing a selection of her first editions.

Proceeds from the tickets (£85 per ticket or £750 for a table of ten) will go towards the library, its maintenance, and the academic work it undertakes.


Introducing Jane Austen to New Audiences (via Zombies) 
Pride and Prejudice and ZombiesIt’s certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but it has to be said that Seth Graham Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a hit with some readers, and it may have one big distinct benefit; it introduces people to Jane Austen’s work who probably wouldn’t have found her otherwise.

During the course of our Internet perusals this week, we came across a blog by Rebecca Thorne who explained perfectly what drew her to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and from there, onto original Jane Austen novels.

What interested me in the idea of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, is that I’m quite in to fantasy so zombie killing sounded like fun. Additionally, I do love a strong female lead, so the Elizabeth of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a professional zombie slayer with a fearsome reputation was right up my ally. As I also quite like historical fiction, the historical setting iced the cake.

 

Personally, I think it’s a great idea to experiment with stories and secondly adapting older works may inspire audiences who wouldn’t normally be interesting in them to try them.

It may not be everyone’s thing, but if it leads people to Jane’s work, then surely that’s a positive?


Constable in Brighton   

JConstable Brighton Beach w fishing boat and crew c 1824-28 c. Victoria and Albert Museum, London.jpg
JConstable Brighton Beach w fishing boat and crew c 1824-28 c. Victoria and Albert Museum, London

A new exhibition which might be of interest to fellow fans of the Regency period will be running at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery between 8th April and 8th October 2017. It will explore John Constable’s time in the emerging seaside resort of Brighton, where he stayed with his family between 1824 and 1828.

A bit of background: John Constable (1776 – 1837) was an English Romantic painter known principally for his landscape paintings. Qualities associated with his work include a freshness of light and a delicacy of touch; he also saw landscape painting as a scientific as well as a poetic form, and believed the imagination cannot alone produce art comparable with nature. His paintings are so treasured that they hang in galleries such as the British Museum, the Courtauld Gallery, the National Gallery, the Royal Academy, Tate, V&A, the National Portrait Gallery, and the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

Constable in Brighton will form part of the Royal Pavilion & Museums’ Regency Summer season in 2017, which will also include Jane Austen by the Sea at the Royal Pavilion and Visions of the Royal Pavilion Estate at Brighton Museum.


Jane Austen The Secret Radical – A Review     

9781785781162-293x450“Almost everything we think we know about Jane Austen is wrong.” This is the declaration from Helena Kelly, author of Jane Austen, The Secret Radical, an eminently accessible study of Jane Austen’s six major novels.

At the Jane Austen News we’re very excited because Helena will be visiting Bath this week and signing copies of her book for us. They’re available for pre-order here, and will be shipped out next week!

In Jane Austen, The Secret Radical, which is her début book, Helena argues that we’ve started to read the Jane Austen we’ve constructed through adaptations and shared wisdom, rather than Jane as she was. After 200 years she says we have strayed too far from the novels themselves, and Helena herself has been a victim of this: “When I was teaching Austen [she has taught students at Oxford University for the past ten years] I often had to go back to the text to check that what I was remembering was actually there. And I would get students writing essays on scenes that didn’t actually happen in the novels but which they remembered from somewhere else.”

Helena also puts forward the idea that Jane Austen would have expected her readers to pick up on contemporary references to politics, societal values, world events and religion. Going back and looking again at Austen’s novels with all of these things in mind will, explains Helena, reveal a writer who was spirited, opinionated and deeply concerned with the political and social issues of the times in which she lived.


Mrs Dashwood Visits the North Pole!     

The Jane Austen News spots Mrs Claus

The new Christmas adverts have started to appear on TV, and when we at the Jane Austen News watched the new M&S Christmas advert we couldn’t help but think we’d seen Mrs Claus somewhere before. It turns out we had. The actress who plays her is Janet McTeer who played Mrs Dashwood in the BBC’s 2008 production of Sense and Sensibility. So we though we’d share that fact with you in case, like us, you were wracking your brains trying to work out why you recognised her.


Jane Austen Day with Charlotte

Jane Austen News is our weekly compilation of stories about or related to Jane Austen. Here we will feature a variety of items, including craft tutorials, reviews, news stories, articles and photos from around the world. If you’d like to include your story, please contact us with a press release or summary, along with a link. You can also submit unique articles for publication in our Jane Austen Online Magazine.

Don’t miss our latest news – become a Jane Austen Member and receive a digest of stories, articles and news every week. You will also be able to access our online Magazine with over 1000 articles, test your knowledge with our weekly quiz and get offers on our Online Giftshop. Plus new members get an exclusive 10% off voucher to use in the Online Giftshop.

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Creating a Jane Austen Themed Christmas with Terri Heinz, Part 2

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!

Terri demonstrates how to create your own Austen inspired Christmas.
Terri demonstrates how to create your own Austen inspired Christmas.

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.

janesteacup2inchish
I created this page to cut out, the dark edges helps to see where to cut. Click on the picture to be taken to a large format version which you can save and print as a photograph.

 

 I used some Stickles to glitter it up. It is lovely and glittery!
I used some Stickles to glitter it up. It is lovely and glittery!
teacupback
I backed the paper cup with some writing from a letter of Jane’s and then just added a little ribbon.
ausletpm
You can click on this image to be taken to a full size image that I used to print off some paper for the backing.

 

I did think of adorning it with some holly, or a Christmas rose and some lace, but I really did not want to obscure what the Austen’s china looked like.
I did think of adorning it with some holly,
or a Christmas rose and some lace,
but I really did not want to obscure what the Austen’s china looked like.
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.
My dear friend Suzy creates beautiful angel ornaments in this style, and I crafted this with Suzy's angels in mind. Thank you for inspiring me Suzy!
My dear friend Suzy creates beautiful angel ornaments in this style, and I crafted this with Suzy’s angels in mind.
Thank you for inspiring me Suzy!
"Be Merry in the Moment" is written on one of her ribbons. It seemed like something Jane might say. 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 : ) Do you think she looks like Jane?
“Be Merry in the Moment” is written on one of her ribbons. It seemed like something Jane might say.

Next up was wrapping paper!

janesgifts2

 

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”.

There is also a Jane Austen stamp set that includes a cameo stamp at Oxford Impressions.

 

janesgift3
I tucked a small white quill under the ribbon on this gift. Since Jane wrote with a quill, I thought it might be a nice touch.

 

Here I am in Jane's dining room, and there in front of me is the table she wrote at and a quill. I get goosebumps just seeing this image again!
Here I am in Jane’s dining room, and there in front of me is the table she wrote at and a quill. I get goosebumps just seeing this image again!

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!

 


treewithterri2-150x150I 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.

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Christmas with Father Christmas

Vintage-Santa-with-Sleigh-Image-GraphicsFairy - CopyThe 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.”

Scrooge's third visitor, from Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. With Illustrations by John Leech. London: Chapman & Hall, 1843. First edition.
Scrooge’s third visitor, from Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. With Illustrations by John Leech. London: Chapman & Hall, 1843. First edition.

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.

Excerpt from Josiah King's The Examination and Tryal of Father Christmas (1686), published shortly after Christmas was reinstated as a holy day in England.
Excerpt from Josiah King’s The Examination and Tryal of Father Christmas (1686), published shortly after Christmas was reinstated as a holy day in England.

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”.

1855 drawing of Father Christmas from The Family Circle.
1855 drawing of Father Christmas from The Family Circle.

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.

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The 17th Century Origins of the Candy Cane

Candy-Cane-ClassicFor 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.

Candy_cane_William_B_Steenberge_Bangor_NY_1844-1922

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.

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Make Jane Austen Christmas Decorations with Terri Heinz

I recently discovered Terri Heinz’s lovely blog, Artful Affirmations. Here she presents and discusses her lovely collection of china and teacups, all gorgeously photographed. Terri is a talented artisan as well as photographer, and the chronicle of her journey towards creating a stunning Jane Austen themed Christmas tree was as visually delightful as it was creatively inspiring. She has graciously agreed to share her story here, along with her photographs and crafting hints for creating your own Austen inspired trimmings. I will allow her to continue in her own words.

treewithterri (1)For many years I have enjoyed the writings of the incredible Jane Austen. Several years ago I was lucky enough to travel around England and visit some of the places of her life. I was delighted and inspired by the displays at the Jane Austen Center and the Chawton Cottage house, and profoundly moved standing next to her writing desk and her resting place in Winchester Cathedral. Her writings speak to me of humanity. Her novels so aptly named! Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion! Her books are always nearby. Continue reading Make Jane Austen Christmas Decorations with Terri Heinz

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Parlour Games

parlour games

Parlour Games – The Fun and the Flirtatious

Parlour games were a common way of passing an evening with friends and relatives. They might be mentally stimulating, physically assertive or even somewhat messy (like snapdragon or bullet pudding!) The Austen family is known to have enjoyed many types of mental games, which required memorization, or rhymes on the fly.

Book such as Winter evening pastimes; or, The merry-maker’s companion, by Rachel Revel (1825) offered stimulating and sometimes even daring diversions from the staid entertainments of reading, writing, music and card playing,  featured at the Netherfield Park house party.

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An engraving by Bosio, attributed to Le Bon Genre, 1816

This illustration would seem to depict “The Bridge of Sighs” or possibly “The Beast of Burden”, as described in Winter evening pastimes; or, The merry-maker’s companion. Continue reading Parlour Games

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