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Spruce Beer

“But all this,” as my dear Mrs. Piozzi says, “is flight and fancy, and nonsense, for my master has his great casks to mind and I have my little children.” It is you, however, in this instance, that have the little children, and I that have the great cask, for we are brewing spruce beer again; but my meaning really is, that I am extremely foolish in writing all this unnecessary stuff when I have so many matters to write about that my paper will hardly hold it all. Little matters they are, to be sure, but highly important. Jane Austen, to Cassandra Southampton, Wednesday, January 7, 180 Portrait of Jeffrey Amherst (1717-1797), By Joshua Reynolds, 1765 In the June, 1759, orders for the Highland Regiment in North America stipulated that: “Spruce beer is to be brewed for the health and conveniency of the troops which will be served at prime cost. Five quarts of molasses will be put into every barrel of Spruce Beer. Each gallon will cost nearly three coppers.” Winter orders that year instructed that each post should keep enough molasses on hand “to make two quarts of beer for each man every day.” Whether it was brewed for health, holiday drinking, or simply as a tasty alternative to water (that’s debatable) Spruce beer was a common drink in Georgian England. Brewed along similar lines as Root Beer and Ginger Beer, it could be drunk fresh or allowed to ferment. The British Army’s recipe for Spruce Beer: (more…)
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Women’s Lives in Georgian England

The Gentleman’s Daughter: Women’s Lives in Georgian England Written by Amanda Vickery What was the life of an eighteenth-century British genteel woman like? This lively book, based on letters, diaries, and account books of over one hundred middle class women, transforms our understanding of the position of women in Georgian England. These women were not confined in their homes but enjoyed expanding horizons and an array of emerging public arenas, the author shows. Amanda Vickery’s The Gentleman’s Daughter: Women’s Lives in Georgian England (winner of the Longman History Today Prize in 1998) is an outstanding study of a crucial period in modern women’s history. Roy Porter described this book as “the most important thing in English feminist history in the last ten years.” While the writing style at times reminds one of a doctoral dissertation, the book does fill a niche often left underresearched. As one reader noted, “I appreciated this book because it broke me of my misconceptions about any kind of “romantic” life of the women of this “almost leisure” class, as another reviewer called it. They were at the mercy of their husbands, their social situation and fate. Very thought provoking for a Jane Austen fan like myself.” What would the lives of these women- women like Elizabeth Bennet, Emma Woodhouse, and even Austen, herself, to a lesser extent, have been like? Readers familiar with the feminist analysis of women’s lives in the late 18th to mid-19th century will find some of the commonplaces of that viewpoint (more…)
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Jane Austen’s Christmas:

The Festive Season in Georgian England
by Maria Hubert

With a bright holiday cover featuring Polly Maberly (Kitty Bennet) of Pride and Prejudice fame, Jane Austen’s Christmas promises to be a delightful read. However, like Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, this book is not so much Austen as a vignette of one aspect of the Regency. It contains suppositions and outright falacies (for example, one of the first illustrations – that of a young girl, pen in hand – is labeled “Jane Austen”. There are only two officially recognized portraits of the author- this is neither.)

That said,
this is a delightful account of the Christmas season in Georgian England. Be aware that this book primarily refers to the middle class and their celebrations that cannot neccesarily be attributed to upper or lower class life. If you are doing research or simply looking for an enjoyable holiday read, this is a great place to start. It does include many period resources and writings, just be sure to check your facts. Continue reading Jane Austen’s Christmas:

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Here We Come A Wassailing

Wassailing and tradition

Christmas is mentioned in all of Jane Austen’s novels and even in some of her short stories. The Christmas season in Georgian England was a time of balls, parties, wassailing, visiting and celebration. The Kinghtleys visit the Woodhouses, the Gardiners visit the Bennets, Lady Russell visits the Musgroves, John Moreland visits the Thorpes (with sad results), William Price visits his sister at Mansfield Park, the Westons hold a party, and John Willoughby distinguished himself when he, “danced from eight o’clock till four without once sitting down.” These incidents and more are covered in Jane Austen’s Christmas: The Festive Season in Georgian England by Maria Hubert.


All this company, visiting and merrymaking requires a lot of food. One popular holiday drink was Wassail. Wassail comes from the Anglo-Saxon toast “Waes Hael” or “Be Whole”. The first “Christmas Carols” were Yuletide drinking songs and singers caroled their Continue reading Here We Come A Wassailing