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A Jane Austen Christmas by Maria Grace- A Review

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A Jane Austen Christmas – A Review by Laura Boyle

Award winning regency author Maria Grace has pulled out the stops this season, delivering A Jane Austen Christmas in time for holiday gift giving (and receiving!) Eager to beef up my own knowledge of Regency holiday traditions, I ordered this little volume the first week of December, based on the preview given on Amazon.com. Imagine my surprise, then, at finding our own site listed as a resource (accessed according to the time stamp, only weeks before) in the very extensive bibliography given. It is clear that this was a “full steam ahead” project from the Austen oriented “White Soup Press”. Continue reading A Jane Austen Christmas by Maria Grace- A Review

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Create a Jane Austen Honeycomb Ornament

I recently discovered Amanda Lee’s amazing blog, House Revivals, and was immediately drawn to how she uses recycled (upcycled) books and pages in her projects. The following ornament can be made from any paper or pages, but think how special it would be when made with pages from Austen’s own works!

honeycomb ornament instructionsTo create this bit of Christmas joy, you’ll need 24 pages or pieces of paper, scissors, craft glue, glitter and trims.

Begin by folding each sheet in half. Decide what shape you want your final ornament to be (round, oval, tear drop, etc.) and draw *half* of the design on the folded paper, with the fold becoming the center of the opened template. You can fold and cut several pieces at a time to save effort.

Continue reading Create a Jane Austen Honeycomb Ornament

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Visions of Sugar Plums

1907 Cover of A Visit from Saint Nicholas.With Clement C. Moore’s 1823 poem, A Visit from Saint Nicholas, we all now associate “Sugar Plums” with Christmas. In this early American depiction of Christmas Eve, we find the trappings of modern Christmas, from stockings to Jolly old Saint Nick, himself, round, red and fur trimmed, slipping up the chimney after leaving piles of presents for the children, “asleep in their beds, while visions of Sugar Plums dance in their heads.”

So what did a Regency Sugar Plum look like? The 1914  OED describes it thus,  “Sugar-plum – A small round or oval sweetmeat, made of boiled sugar and variously flavoured and coloured; a comfit”.

“Plum” in the name of this confection does not mean plum in the sense of the fruit of the same name. At one time, “plum” was used to denote any dried fruit.  Modern “Sugar plums” may be made from any combination of dried plums (aka prunes), dried figs, dried apricots, dried dates, and dried cherries, but traditional sugar plums contain none of these.

The word came in general usage in 1600s, when adding layers of sweet which give sugar plums and comfits their hard shell was done through a slow and labour intensive process called panning. Until the mechanization of the process, it often took several days, thus the sugar plum was largely a luxury product. In fact in the 18th century the word plum became a British slang for a big pile of money or a bribe.

 

A confectioner creating 'sugar plums' .
A confectioner creating ‘sugar plums’ .

Georgian Sugar Plums, then, looked much more like today’s Jordan Almonds, than anything else. Theodore Garrett, author of The Encyclopaedia of Practical Cookery (1890) notes that “These are described under CARAWAY COMFITS, a more elaborate variety of them being known as DRAGÉES OR FRENCH SUGAR PLUMS…small strips of cinnamon [can also be] made to start off French Sugar Plums.

“Hero’s recruiting at Kelsey’s; – or – Guard-Day at St. James’s” by James Gillray (1797). Notice his cone of sugarplums.
“Hero’s recruiting at Kelsey’s; – or – Guard-Day at St. James’s” by James Gillray (1797). Notice the cone of sugarplums.

William Alexis Jarrin, author of The Italian Confectioner; Or, Complete Economy of Desserts, According to the Most Modern and Approved Practice, 1829, details the process, thus:

Continue reading Visions of Sugar Plums

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Cloved Orange: A Regency Pomander

pomanderThe word “pomander” originates from the French “pomme d’ambre.” A common interpretation of this phrase is “apple of ambergris,” referring to the wax substance used as a base in pomander recipes. Others take the phrase to mean “apple of amber” or “golden apple,” as in the fragrant citrus fruits exchanged during holidays for good luck.

The pomander became popular during the Middle Ages when the black death and other ailments ran rampant. Sanitation during the era was lamentably lacking. The streets and even some homes were strewn with filth, bodily fluids and the discarded remnants of past meals. People thought that the cause of their problems lay in the resulting stench lingering about the city. The belief went that the pleasant scent of a pomander could repel the disease in the air.

Several recipes for pomanders survive from the era. To the base of ambergris, musk, civet, rose water, and other perfumes and spices were added. The mix would then be inserted into the pomander’s container. A pomander could be worn around the neck or waist. Many women attached them to their girdle.

Queen Elizabeth I holding gilded pomander attached to her waist. (luminarium.org)

Both men and women wore pomanders, most of whom hailed from the elite classes of society. Queen Elizabeth I is frequently depicted wearing one, as are other nobles and notables of the day. People took great pride in their pomanders. Simple pomanders were made of wood, while the most stunning examples were worked in silver or gold, studded with precious stones, and etched with intricate designs. Some pomanders were divided into sections, similar to an orange, into which its wearer would place several different scents.

As time wore on, the pomander began to take on the “golden apple” interpretation. By the 18th century, a pomander was more often than not an orange studded with cloves and other spices. These made for popular gifts during Christmas and New Years. Many people make this type of pomander today in order to scent their homes and clothing.*

According to Waverly Fitzgerald’s School of the Seasons, “By the 17th and 18th century the decorated orange stuck with cloves was often mentioned as a Christmas or New Year’s custom. In his Christmas masque, Ben Jonson wrote, “He has an Orange and rosemary, but not a clove to stick in it.” A later description of New Year’s in England mentions children carrying pippins and oranges stuck with cloves in order to crave a blessing for their godfathers and godmothers. ”

Make A Clove Studded Orange

The following illustration was provided by Stephanie Locsei of http://www.homemade-gifts-made-easy.com/. To complete this project, you’ll need an orange, enough narrow ribbon to wrap twice around your orange and tie in a loop, and a jar of whole cloves.

 

 

easy to make christmas decorations clove orange instructions

 


Pomander history from : Pomanders History | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/about_5378191_pomanders-history.html#ixzz2EiEHIjWh

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Christmas at Pemberley by Regina Jeffers

Christmas at PemberleyA Pemberley Christmas, sounds picturesque doesn’t it? I can just see the festive greenery gracing the halls, the gathering of friends and family, the delightful diversions such as charades and ice skating, the sumptuous feasts… This is the lovely and charming image of yuletide merriment Regina Jeffers presents us with in her Christmas Pride and Prejudice sequel with one slight change… Darcy and Elizabeth aren’t there! Don’t fret, Darcy and Elizabeth are still in the novel (they are the main characters after all), they are just not home at Pemberley (although they are expected).

Because Darcy and Elizabeth have yet to return from their business trip, poor Georgiana must act as a stand-in hostess, receiving both the expected and unexpected guests! After living with Elizabeth for two years, Georgiana has shed some her shyness so playing hostess isn’t as insurmountable a task as it once was. But with guest such as Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mrs. Bennet, and Caroline Bingley all under one roof, even the most seasoned hostess might find it challenging to maintain the peace. It looks like Georgiana’s troubles are greatly lessoned when yet another unexpected visitor turns up, and he just happens to be the man she secretly and ardently admires…

>This novel has it all! A meaningful message, Christmas cheer and celebration, scandals and intrigue, engagements and births, and a profusion of romance! As always, Regina Jeffers beautifully and realistically portrays a tender and devoted marriage between Darcy and Elizabeth, and they’re not the only ones in love in this sequel! Being the hopeless romantic that I am, I loved all these tender touches and fervent declarations. (*While there are kissing scenes and talk of passionate intimacies, this novel does not display any graphic or explicit scenes*)

Another aspect of Christmas at Pemberley that I loved was the quantity and variety of story-lines. The major storylines: Darcy and Elizabeth at the inn and Georgiana managing Pemberley’s guests receive the most page time and weave back and forth with each other; while other little story-lines are peppered throughout the novel. I felt each storyline was well-developed, diverting, and in keeping with Jane Austen’s original characters and time period. Don’t worry about there being too many characters and stories! These story-lines were well-organized and presented in a way that makes it easy to keep track of all the many characters and plots. I really enjoyed following each story, seeing the development of characters, witnessing all the twists and turns, and observing all the satisfying conclusions. And it looks like the one or two stories that aren’t resolved will be continued in Regina Jeffer’s next novel The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy. I can’t wait to read it!

So if you find yourself with a moment to spare in between decking the halls, hanging stockings with care, and making merry, I highly recommend Christmas at Pemberley! A magnificent blend of Jane Austen, Christmas, and romance!

  • RRP: £8.99
  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Ulysses Press (8 Nov 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 156975991X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1569759912
Meredith Esparza is the host of Austenesque Reviews (and is currently hosting A Jane Austen Christmas Celebration) She began this blog in September 2009.
“I love to read, and writing reviews has become a hobby of mine these past few years. My favorite type of books are about Jane Austen and/or her novels and Historical Christian Romances. My favorite authors are Jane Austen, The Brontes, Louisa May Alcott, and Georgette Heyer. “
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Isaac Watts: Author of Joy to the World

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

The words are by English hymn writer Isaac Watts, based on Psalm 98 in the Bible. The song was first published in 1719 in Watts’ collection; The Psalms of David: Imitated in the language of the New Testament, and applied to the Christian state and worship. Watts wrote the words of “Joy to the World” as a hymn glorifying Christ’s triumphant return at the end of the age, rather than a song celebrating His first coming. Only the second half of Watts’ lyrics are still used today.

The music was adapted and arranged to Watts’ lyrics by Lowell Mason in 1839 from an older melody which was then believed to have originated from Handel, not least because the theme of the refrain (And heaven and nature sing…) appears in the orchestra opening and accompaniment of the recitative Comfort ye from Handel’s Messiah, and the first four notes match the beginning of the choruses Lift up your heads and Glory to God from the same oratorio. However, Handel did not compose the entire tune.The name “Antioch” is generally used for the tune.

Isaac WattsIsaac Watts (17 July 1674 – 25 November 1748) was an English hymnwriter, theologian and logician. A prolific and popular hymnwriter, he was recognised as the “Father of English Hymnody”, credited with some 750 hymns. Many of his hymns remain in use today, and have been translated into many languages.

Born in Southampton, England, in 1674, Watts was brought up in the home of a committed religious Nonconformist — his father, also Isaac Watts, had been incarcerated twice for his controversial views. At King Edward VI School (where one of the houses is now named “Watts” in his honour), Watts learned Latin, Greek and Hebrew.

From an early age, Watts displayed a propensity for rhyme. Once, he had to explain how he came to have his eyes open during prayers:

A little mouse for want of stairs
ran up a rope to say its prayers.

Receiving corporal punishment for this, he cried:

O father, father, pity take
And I will no more verses make.

Watts, unable to go to either Oxford or Cambridge on account of his non-conformity, went to the Dissenting Academy at Stoke Newington in 1690, and much of his life centred around that village, which is now part of Inner London.

His education led him to the pastorate of a large independent chapel in London, where he found himself in the position of helping trainee preachers, despite his poor health. Taking work as a private tutor, Watts lived with the Nonconformist Hartopp family at Fleetwood House, on Church Street in Stoke Newington, and later in the household of their immediate neighbours Sir Thomas Abney and Lady Mary. Isaac Watts held religious opinions that were more non-denominational or ecumenical than was at that time common for a Nonconformist; he had a greater interest in promoting education and scholarship than preaching for any particular ministry.

On the death of Sir Thomas Abney, Watts moved permanently with his widow and her remaining unmarried daughter, Elizabeth, to Abney House in Stoke Newington, a property that Mary had inherited from her brother. He lived there from 1748 to his death. The grounds at Abney Park led down to an island heronry in the Hackney Brook, where he sought inspiration for the many books and hymns he wrote.

Watts died in Stoke Newington in 1748, and was buried in Bunhill Fields, having left an extensive legacy of hymns, treatises, educational works and essays. His work was influential amongst Nonconformist independents and early religious revivalists, such as Philip Doddridge, who dedicated his best known work to Watts. On his death, Isaac Watts’ papers were given to Yale University in then-colonial Connecticut.

Sacred music scholar Stephen Marini (2003) describes the ways in which Watts contributed to English hymnody. Notably, Watts led the way in the inclusion in worship of “original songs of Christian experience”; that is, new poetry. The older tradition limited itself to the poetry of the Bible, notably the Psalms. This stemmed from the teachings of the 16th century Reformation leader John Calvin, who initiated the practice of creating verse translations of the Psalms in the vernacular for congregational singing. Watts’ introduction of extra-Biblical poetry opened up a new era of Protestant hymnody as other poets followed in his path.

Watts also introduced a new way of rendering the Psalms in verse for church services. The Psalms were originally written in Biblical Hebrew within the religion of Judaism. Later, they were adopted into Christianity as part of the Old Testament. Watts proposed that the metrical translations of the Psalms as sung by Protestant Christians should give them a specifically Christian perspective:

“While he granted that David [to whom authorship of many of the Psalms is traditionally ascribed] was unquestionably a chosen instrument of God, Watts claimed that his religious understanding could not have fully apprehended the truths later revealed through Jesus Christ. The Psalms should therefore be “renovated” as if David had been a Christian, or as Watts put it in the title of his 1719 metrical psalter, they should be “imitated in the language of the New Testament.”

Marini discerns two particular trends in Watts’ verses, which he calls “emotional subjectivity” and “doctrinal objectivity”. By the former he means that “Watts’ voice broke down the distance between poet and singer and invested the text with personal spirituality.” As an example of this he cites “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”. By “doctrinal objectivity” Marini means that Watts verse achieved an “axiomatic quality” that “presented Christian doctrinal content with the explicit confidence that befits affirmations of faith.” As examples Marini cites the hymns “Joy to the World” as well as “From All That Dwell Below the Skies”:

From all that dwell below the skies
Let the Creator’s praise arise;
Let the Redeemer’s name be sung
Through every land, by every tongue.

Significant cultural or contemporary impacts

  • One of his best known poems was an exhortation “Against Idleness and Mischief” in Divine Songs for Children, a poem which was famously parodied by Lewis Carroll in his book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, in the poem “How Doth the Little Crocodile”, which is now better known than the original. In the 1850 novel David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, school master Dr. Strong quotes from Watts’ “Against Idleness and Mischief”: “Satan finds some mischief still, for idle hands to do.”
  • In the 1884 comic opera called Princess Ida, there is a punning reference to Watts in Act I. At Princess Ida’s women’s university no males of any kind are allowed, and the Princess’s father, King Gama, relates that “She’ll scarcely suffer Dr. Watts’ ‘hymns'”.
  • Isaac Watts is commemorated in the Church of England, the Calendar of Saints of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on 25 November and in the Episcopal Church (USA) on 26 November.

Other works

Besides being a famous hymn-writer, Isaac Watts was also a renowned theologian and logician, writing many books and essays on these subjects.

Watts was the author of a text book on logic which was particularly popular; its full title was, Logic, or The Right Use of Reason in the Enquiry After Truth With a Variety of Rules to Guard Against Error in the Affairs of Religion and Human Life, as well as in the Sciences. This was first published in 1724, and its popularity ensured that it went through twenty editions.

Watts’ logic text book was written for beginners of logic, and the book is arranged methodically. He divided the content of his elementary treatment of logic into four parts: perception, judgement, reasoning, and method, which he treated in this order. Each of these parts is divided into chapters, and some of these chapters are divided into sections. The content of the chapters and sections is then subdivided by using some combination of the following devices: divisions, distributions, notes, observations, directions, rules, illustrations, and remarks. Thus, every contentum of the book comes under one or more of these headings, and this methodical arrangement serves to make the exposition clear.

In Watts’ Logic there are some notable departures from what one would expect to find in a text book of logic from Watts’ time, and there are also some notable innovations. Detectable throughout the work is the influence of British empiricism, and in particular, the influence of philosopher and empiricist John Locke. For, Locke was a contemporary of Watts, and in the Logic there are several references to Locke and his Essay Concerning Human Understanding,  in which Locke espoused his empiricist views. Another departure from most other authors of logic is that Watts was careful to distinguish between judgements and propositions. According to Watts, judgement is “to compare… ideas together, and to join them by affirmation, or disjoin then by negation, according as we find them to agree or disagree”. However, he continues by saying, “when mere ideas are joined in the mind without words, it is rather called a judgement; but when clothed with words it is called a proposition”. Watts’ Logic follows the scholastic tradition and divides propositions into universal affirmative, universal negative, particular affirmative, and particular negative. In the third part, Watts discusses reasoning and argumentation, with particular emphasis on the theory of syllogism, which was a centrally important part of the classical logic which Watts’ was treating in his work. According to Watts, and in keeping with the common practice of logicians of his day, Watts defined logic as an art (see liberal arts), as opposed to a science. Throughout the Logic Watts revealed his high conception of logic by stressing the practical side of logic, rather than just the speculative side. According to Watts, as a practical art, logic can be really useful in any of our inquiries, whether they are inquiries in the arts, or inquiries in the sciences, or inquiries of an ethical kind. It is Watts’ emphasis on logic as a practical art which distinguishes his book from others. For, by stressing that there is a practical and non-formal part of logic, Watts was able to give rules and directions for any kind of inquiry, including the inquiries of science and the inquiries of philosophy. These rules of inquiry were given in addition to the formal content of classical logic that one would expect to find in a text book on logic from that time. Thus, Watts’ conception of logic as being divided into its practical part and its speculative part, and therefore containing more than just formal logic, marks a departure from the conception of logic of most other authors. Instead, Watts’ conception of logic is much more akin to that of the later, nineteenth century logician, C.S. Peirce.

Isaac Watts’ Logic became the standard text on logic at Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and Yale; being used at Oxford University for well over 100 years. C.S. Peirce, the great nineteenth century logician, wrote favourably of Watts’ Logic. When preparing his own text book on Logic entitled A Critick of Arguments: How to Reason (also known as the Grand Logic), Peirce wrote, ‘I shall suppose the reader to be acquainted with what is contained in Dr Watts’ Logick, a book… far superior to the treatises now used in colleges, being the production of a man distinguished for good sense.’ The Logic was followed in 1741 by a supplement, The Improvement of the Mind, which itself went through numerous editions and later inspired Michael Faraday.

Memorials

The earliest surviving built memorial to Isaac Watts is at Westminster Abbey; this was completed shortly after his death. His much-visited chest tomb, in its photogenic setting at Bunhill Fields, dates from 1808, replacing the original that had been paid for and erected by Lady Mary Abney and the Hartopp family. In addition a stone bust of Watts can be seen in the non-conformist library Dr Williams’s Library in central London. The earliest public statue stands at Abney Park, where he lived and died before it became a cemetery and arboretum; a later, rather similar statue, was funded by public subscription for a new Victorian public park in the city of his birth, Southampton. In the mid nineteenth century a Congregational Hall, the Dr Watts Memorial Hall, was also built in Southampton, though after World War II it was lost to redevelopment. Now standing on this site is the Isaac Watts Memorial United Reformed Church.

One of the earliest built memorials may also now be lost: a bust to Watts that was commissioned on his death for the London chapel with which he was associated. The chapel was demolished in the late eighteenth century; remaining parts of the memorial were rescued at the last minute by a wealthy landowner for installation in his chapel near Liverpool. It is unclear whether it still survives.

The stone statue in front of the Abney Park Chapel at Dr Watts’ Walk, Abney Park Cemetery, was erected in 1845 by public subscription. It was designed by the leading British sculptor, Edward Hodges Baily RA FRS. A scheme for a commemorative statue on this spot had first been promoted in the late 1830s by George Collison, who in 1840 published an engraving as the frontispiece of his book about cemetery design in Europe and America; and at Abney Park Cemetery in particular. This first cenotaph proposal was never commissioned, and Baily’s later design was adopted in 1845.


Excerpted from wikipedia.com.

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The Nutcracker and the Mouse King: A Classic Christmas Tale

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (German: Nussknacker und Mausekönig) is a story written in 1816 by E. T. A. Hoffmann, a German Romantic author of fantasy and horror, composer, music critic,  and caricaturist.

In the tale, young Marie Stahlbaum’s favorite Christmas toy, the Nutcracker, comes alive and, after defeating the evil Mouse King in battle, whisks her away to a magical kingdom populated by dolls. In 1892, the Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and choreographers Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov turned Alexandre Dumas père‘s adaptation of the story into the ballet The Nutcracker, which became one of Tchaikovsky’s most famous compositions, and perhaps the most popular ballet in the world.

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King
Classical Ballet Peter Tchaikovsky “The Nutcracker” (ballet in two acts)by the world famous Mariinsky (Kirov) Ballet and Opera theatre

Hoffmann’s story begins on Christmas Eve at the Stahlbaum house. Marie, seven years old, and her brother Fritz, eight, sit outside the parlor speculating about what kind of present their godfather Drosselmeier, who is a clockmaker and inventor, has made for them. They are at last allowed into the parlor, where they receive many splendid gifts, including Drosselmeier’s, which turns out to be a clockwork castle with mechanical people moving about inside it. However, as the mechanical people can only do the same thing over and over without variation, the children quickly tire of it. At this point, Marie notices a Nutcracker doll, and asks whom he belongs to. Her father tells her that he belongs to all of them, but that since she is so fond of him she will be his special caretaker. Marie, her sister Louise, and her brother Fritz pass the Nutcracker among them, cracking nuts, until Fritz tries to crack a nut that is too big and hard, and the Nutcracker’s jaw breaks. Marie, upset, takes the Nutcracker away and bandages him with a ribbon from her dress.

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King
The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, illustrated by Gail De Marcken

When it is time for bed, the children put their Christmas gifts away in the special cupboard where they keep their toys. Fritz and Louise go up to bed, but Marie begs to be allowed to stay with Nutcracker a while longer, and she is allowed to do so. She puts Nutcracker to bed and tells him that Drosselmeier will fix his jaw as good as new. At this, the Nutcracker’s face seems momentarily to come alive, and Marie is frightened, but she then decides it was only her imagination.

The grandfather clock begins to chime, and Marie believes she sees Drosselmeier sitting on top of it, preventing it from striking. Mice begin to come out from beneath the floor boards, including the seven-headed Mouse King. Marie, startled, slips and puts her elbow through the glass door of the toy cupboard. The dolls in the cupboard come alive and begin to move, Nutcracker taking command and leading them into battle after putting Marie’s ribbon on as a token. The battle at first goes to the dolls, but they are eventually overwhelmed by the mice. Marie, seeing Nutcracker about to be taken prisoner, takes off her shoe and throws it at the Mouse King, then faints.

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King

Marie wakes the next morning with her arm bandaged and tries to tell her parents about the battle between the mice and the dolls, but they do not believe her, thinking that she has had a fever dream caused by the wound she sustained from the broken glass. Drosselmeier soon arrives with the Nutcracker, whose jaw has been fixed, and tells Marie the story of Princess Pirlipat and Madam Mouserinks, who is also known as the Queen of the Mice, which explains how Nutcrackers came to be and why they look the way they do.

The Queen of the Mice tricked Pirlipat’s mother into allowing her and her children to gobble up the lard that was supposed to go into the sausage that the King was to eat at dinner that evening. The King, enraged at the Mouse Queen for spoiling his supper and upsetting his wife, had his court inventor, whose name happens to be Drosselmeier, create traps for the Mouse Queen and her children.

The Mouse Queen, angered at the death of her children, swore that she would take revenge on the King’s daughter, Pirlipat. Pirlipat’s mother surrounded her with cats which were supposed to be kept awake by being constantly stroked, however inevitably the nurses who stroked the cats fell asleep and the Mouse Queen magically turned the infant Pirlipat ugly, giving her a huge head, a wide grinning mouth and a cottony beard, like a nutcracker. The King blamed Drosselmeier and gave him four weeks to find a cure. At the end of four weeks, Drosselmeier had no cure but went to his friend, the court astrologer.

They read Pirlipat’s horoscope and told the King that the only way to cure her was to have her eat the nut Crackatook (Krakatuk), which must be cracked and handed to her by a man who had never been shaved nor worn boots since birth, and who must, without opening his eyes hand her the kernel and take seven steps backwards without stumbling. The King sent Drosselmeier and the astrologer out to look for the nut and the young man, charging them on pain of death not to return until they had found them.

The two men journeyed for many years without finding either the nut or the man, until finally they returned home and found the nut in a small shop. The man who had never been shaved and never worn boots turned out to be Drosselmeier’s own nephew. The King, once the nut had been found, promised his daughter’s hand to whoever could crack the nut. Many men broke their teeth on the nut before Drosselmeier’s nephew finally appeared. He cracked the nut easily and handed it to the princess, who swallowed it and immediately became beautiful again, but Drosselmeier’s nephew, on his seventh backward step, trod on the Queen of the Mice and stumbled, and the curse fell on him, giving him a large head, wide grinning mouth and cottony beard; in short, making him a Nutcracker. The ungrateful Princess, seeing how ugly Drosselmeier’s nephew had become, refused to marry him and banished him from the castle.

Marie, while she recuperates from her wound, hears the King of the Mice whispering to her in the middle of the night, threatening to bite Nutcracker to pieces unless she gives him her sweets and her dolls. For Nutcracker’s sake, Marie sacrifices her things, but the Mouse King wants more and more and finally Nutcracker tells Marie that if she will just get him a sword, he (the Nutcracker) will finish him off. Marie asks Fritz for a sword for Nutcracker, and he gives her the sword of one of his toy hussars. The next night, Nutcracker comes into Marie’s room bearing the Mouse King’s seven crowns, and takes her away with him to the doll kingdom, where Marie sees many wonderful things. She eventually falls asleep in the Nutcracker’s palace and is brought back home. She tries to tell her mother what happened, but again she is not believed, even when she shows her parents the seven crowns, and she is forbidden to speak of her “dreams” anymore.

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King

As Marie sits in front of the toy cabinet one day, looking at Nutcracker and thinking about all the wondrous things that happened, she can’t keep silent anymore and swears to the Nutcracker that if he were ever really real she would never behave as Princess Pirlipat behaved, and she would love him whatever he looked like. At this, there is a bang and she falls off the chair. Her mother comes in to tell her that godfather Drosselmeier has arrived with his young nephew. Drosselmeier’s nephew takes Marie aside and tells her that by swearing that she would love him in spite of his looks, she broke the curse on him and made him handsome again. He asks her to marry him. She accepts, and in a year and a day he comes for her and takes her away to the Doll Kingdom, where she is crowned queen and eventually marries the Prince.

 


Excerpted from wikipedia.com.
Illustrations from: The Nutcracker And The Mouse King

  • Author E.T.A. Hoffmann
  • Illustrator Gail de Marcken
  • Reading level: Ages 4 and up
  • Hardcover: 56 pages
  • Publisher: Orchard Books (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0545037735
  • ISBN-13: 978-0545037730
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Christmas with Mr. Darcy, by Victoria Connelly – A Review

Christmas with Mr. Darcy A review by Jeffery Ward
I’m going to tell on myself.  I’m a sniveling, sentimental sucker for a good Christmas story.  It is only October and I’ve only devoured two of them so I’m way behind my normal seasonal curve.  Thank heavens for author Victoria Connelly, who sensing a good thing, has smartly thrown together ALL of the heroes and heroines from her Austen Addicts trilogy:  A Weekend with Mr. Darcy, Dreaming of Mr. Darcy, and Mr. Darcy Forever.

Thus, her follow-up novella, Christmas with Mr. Darcy, is like a recipe for a classic Christmas pudding:  combine growing romances, friends, family, a spectacularly decorated manor house, a sudden snow storm, mysterious criminal activity, full-throttle Jane Austen trivia, and then sit back and savor a large helping.  Catch up with Katherine and Warwick, Kay and Adam, Dan and Robyn, Mia and Gabe, Sarah and Lloyd, et al, as they are invited to hostess and distinguished actress Dame Pamela Harcourt’s inaugural Jane Austen Christmas conference.

Along the way, we meet Higgins, Dame Pamela’s endearing and watchful butler, Benedict, Dan’s ‘neer-do-well’ older brother, (who invites himself) Mrs. Soames, (“Oh dear, who invited her?”) sweet Doris Norris,  sisters Roberta and Rose, adorable Cassandra, (Dan and Robyn’s infant daughter) and a mustachioed gentleman who none of the invitees can seem to quite recognize.  The author even manages to insert references to her own brood of beloved hens!

Victoria Connelly paints the holiday-decorated splendor of Dame Pamela’s grand Purley Hall while she builds anticipation by bouncing from one guest to another as they excitedly prepare for the journey to the conference.

In spite of a blinding snow storm, all of the guests arrive safely at Purley Hall and Dame Pamela welcomes the crowd with her trademark warmth, charm, glittering jewels, and stunning gowns.  As the guests settle in, certain valuables begin to disappear without any trace.  At first, most who have suffered loss merely attribute it to forgetfulness or failing to pack correctly for the trip.

True to her dramatic personality, Dame Pamela announces the highlight of the entire conference:  her anonymous purchase at Sotheby’s of a rare 3-volume first edition of Pride and Prejudice for just under one hundred and eighty thousand pounds.   The assembled guest gasped as she holds the delicately unwrapped treasure aloft.   However, on Christmas morning, the unthinkable occurs.  “Think! Had she really put the first edition back in the safe as Higgins had expressly told her to do straight after or had she placed it on her desk or left it somewhere else?”

With that significant loss the fun really begins……Guest sisters Roberta and Rose think Roberta may inadvertently have the first edition but aren’t sure.  Roberta borrowed a three volume edition from Dame Pamela’s library and the books look ancient.  Needless to say the fumbled efforts of the two quaint sisters to secretly return the suspected books back to the library are beyond hilarious. The proceedings are reminiscent of the board game “Clue” where everyone becomes a ‘suspect.’ That’s as far as this reviewer intends to go into this mystery or we’ll be treading into spoiler territory.

While many Austen fan-fiction authors merely dip the reader’s toes into Jane’s special world, Victoria Connelly baptizes with full immersion.  I love her steadfastness because she may be limiting her readership in order to lavish on her Janeite fans their full measure.  Indeed, some of the trivia references even threw this Jane Austen addict for a loop!  Can the naïve’ reader, who may not fathom many of the references to Miss Austen’s works, still enjoy this story?  What’s there not to be delighted about in a romantic, festive, Christmas mystery?

Finally, the author teases us with hints of another sequel: there is a marriage proposal and wedding planned.  Somebody reveals she is pregnant. Is another seasonal conference in the works? Hush, mum’s the word on all of that.  Sophisticated readers may find the plot of Christmas with Mr. Darcy somewhat transparent and simplistic, but that’s not what this sentimental reader/reviewer seeks in a good Christmas story.  I’m looking for the warm-hearted joy, romance, friendship, and love that the season brings and the author delivers that in abundance.  If you’ve enjoyed any/all of Victoria Connelly’s Austen Addicts trilogy, it is never too early in the holiday season to catch up with your cherished friends.

Digital List Price: £1.79
Cuthland Press (2012)
e-book (110) pages
Kindle: ASIN: B009JTNIKC

Jeffrey Ward, AKA: The “Chik-Lit-Man-Fan” and incurable romantic. A late comer to literature but rapidly making up for lost time. Since he has no original ideas of his own, he especially loves writing about what other people are writing about.

  • Native San Franciscan; Vietnam Veteran;
  • Communications degree-University of Washington;
  • 44 years in the airline industry; Currently a Facilitator/Designer for the world’s largest regional airline;
  • Married 40 years, 2 adult children, 6 grandchildren.
  • Obsessions: reading, writing, cooking, cartooning, travel.

“It is appropriate that Jane Austen was the gateway through which this stone-cold empirical naysayer would finally enter into the promised land of fiction.  Here at Austenprose, I’m now expanding my horizons by enjoying the works of many talented contemporary authors who ply the rich legacy left to us by Miss Austen.  As I post, review, and opine throughout the blogosphere, I hope my love, enthusiasm, and gratitude for all things Austen shines forth.”
-From My Improbable Journey to Jane Austen