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The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After: A Review

In her book, The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After, Elizabeth Kantor asks the question, “Just what is it about Jane Austen that has us coming back year after year, decade after decade, making her by far the most famous female writer of her time. Why DO we read Jane Austen?” It’s more than just wanting a good read or to be part of a perfect world, set apart in time. She theorizes that “We wish we could be Jane Austen heroines in our own lives, dealing with everything—especially men—with the sophistication and competence we admire in characters like Elizabeth Bennet. Women see something in Jane Austen  that’s missing from modern relationships, and we can’t help wondering if there might be some way to have what we see there—without going back to empire waistlines, horse-drawn carriages, and the bad old days before the Married Women’s Property Act.”

“I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness”
-Elizabeth Bennet

My mother’s favorite axiom is, “Your attitude is your choice”. After researching all of Jane’s work, using not only her six published novels, but also the fragments, Juvenilia and surviving letters, Kantor has come to a similar conclusion. Your happiness—or lack thereof, is the result of your own choices in life. Sure, we can be dealt situations less than idyllic—not everyone can be born a gentleman’s daughter in Hertfordshire, but the first question she would have us ask of ourselves is whether or not we are acting in the pursuit of long term happiness. Not the “of course I want to be happy” kind of happiness, but the “Will this choice (boyfriend, relationship, marriage) contribute to long term, lasting happiness?” Here, she contrasts the life styles of Lydia Bennet, who lives for the thrill of the moment, and Elizabeth, who weighs her choices in light of the effect they will have on her future. By consciously choosing happiness (over immediate gratification, or even instant security—think Charlotte  Lucas) Kantor proposes that we have made the first step in shedding modern cynicism about happiness in general and in taking control of our future.

This may free you to release a long over relationship, or begin a new one. It will certainly cause you to begin being responsible for your own choices, looking ahead at the consequences of each one and choosing whether or not they are in line with future you want for yourself.

“How despicably have I acted!” she cried. — “I, who have prided myself on my discernment! — I, who have valued myself on my abilities! who have often disdained the generous candour of my sister, and gratified my vanity, in useless or blameable distrust. — How humiliating is this discovery! — Yet, how just a humiliation! –I have courted prepossession and ignorance, and driven reason away, where either were concerned. Till this moment, I never knew myself.”
-Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice

Each one of Austen’s heroines reached a crisis point in which she was unsure of her own actions or behavior, and each one had to evaluate whether or not she would continue the path she was on or choose to turn back and change her way of dealing with life. For some, this meant metamorphical thinking, for others, like Anne Elliot and Elinor Dashwood, it reaffirmed the correctness of their original behavior. By choosing to change or stay the course, each one of us becomes responsible for our own, ultimate happiness in life.

Kantor’s book is divided into sixteen easy to read chapters (I devoured it in one sitting!) with titles including  In Love, Look for Happiness, Work on All your Relationships, Jane Austen’s Skeleton Keys to a Man’s Potential, The Real, Original “Rules”, and Arrange Your Own Marriage—In the Most Pleasant Manner Possible. Each chapter pulls scenarios from not only the Austen canon, but also from pop culture, news headlines and even Kantor’s own relationship history, and ends with three bulleted sections: “Adopt and Austen Attitude” (take a minute for Jane Austen-style “serious reflection”) “What would Jane Do?” and “If We Really Want to Bring Back Jane Austen…” Also sprinkled among the pages are “Tips just for Janeites”; catchy summaries of each section, like “Drama is not the same thing as Love”. Additional essays, such as “Choose Your Entertainment Carefully—And Notice What It’s Doing to You” and “A Jane Austen Heroine in the Twenty-First Century” can be found augmenting select chapters. An impressive Appendix, exhaustive Chapter Notes and Index finish my edition of this book.

Elizabeth, feeling all the more than common awkwardness and anxiety of his situation, now forced herself to speak; and immediately, though not very fluently, gave him to understand that her sentiments had undergone so material a change, since the period to which he alluded, as to make her receive with gratitude and pleasure his present assurances. The happiness which this reply produced, was such as he had probably never felt before; and he expressed himself on the occasion as sensibly and as warmly as a man violently in love can be supposed to do. Had Elizabeth been able to encounter his eye, she might have seen how well the expression of heartfelt delight, diffused over his face, became him; but, though she could not look, she could listen, and he told her of feelings, which, in proving of what importance she was to him, made his affection every moment more valuable.
–Pride and Prejudice

All in all, I didn’t know what to expect when I opened this book, so I was delighted to find it a well-researched, entertaining read that still packed a punch. Kantor’s top advice to women might be summarized by saying, “Grow up! Take responsibility for your own happiness. Work on all your relationships. Don’t sit around waiting for “Mr. Darcy” to sweep you off your feet—be worth sweeping for! Don’t sell yourself cheaply.” This book is aimed at single women desiring long term/marriage relationships. It realizes however, that that may not be the outcome for each reader. Does that mean that you have no chance at “Happily Ever After”? Absolutely not.

Jane Austen, as far as we can tell, lived life by the same code of conduct she instilled in each of her heroines. She may not have been as instantly eloquent as Elizabeth Bennet or as supremely self-controlled as Elinor Dashwood, but neither was she willing to settle for less that complete happiness in marriage. Did she then live an unfulfilled and dull life? Of course not. After all, happiness is a choice.

I think my mother would approve.

Elizabeth Kantor is author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature and an editor for Regnery Publishing. An avid Jane Austen fan, she is happily married and lives with her husband and son in Maryland, USA.

  • RRP: £16.99
  • Hardcover: 304 pages (also available for the Kindle)
  • Publisher: Regnery Publishing (19 April 2012)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 1596987847
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596987845

 


 

Laura Boyle runs Austentation: Regency Accessories. Her book, Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends, is available from the Jane Austen Centre Giftshop. Visit Austentation for a large range of custom made hats, bonnets, reticules and Jane Austen related items.

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Sew a Simple Waist Apron

sew a waist apron

Sew a Simple Waist Apron

Aprons were a necessity for the Regency Country wife. No other item could be as practical both for keeping precious gowns clean, but also for drying the hands (or tears) of the young ones, and even for gathering produce! Mrs. Austen is said to have dug her own potatoes in the Chawton Gardens wearing a “laborer’s smock” over her gown to protect it from the dirt.

This simple waist apron is adapted from VintageApronPatterns.com and will provide you with a charming apron like that worn by Jane Austen (Anne Hathaway) in Becoming Jane.

1 1/3 Yards of 45 inch wide cotton fabric

Optional for tie: 2 yards of 2.5 inch grosgrain ribbon

Apron Body:
Cut one piece of fabric 36 inches wide x 45 inches long.

Ties:
|Cut 4 pieces of your fabric- 3 inches wide x 45 inches long. disregard in you purchased ribbon for your tie.

Waist Apron Body:
Turn top down 1/4 of a inch to the inside,press, turn again and sew down close to the pressed edge.

Do the same for the hem, then to both sides of the apron body.You now have your apron body completed.

Tie:
Do this if you are using the fabric for your tie.

Take 2 of the cut out tie pieces and with right sides together sew the 3 inch width, use a 3/8 inch seam. Do this to both. You will now have 2- 90 inch long ties.(approx)

Ties continued:
On each tie press the long edges under 1/4 of an inch to the inside. Press the short ends under the same 1/4 inch and also to the inside.

Now place the tie lengths wrong sides together, pin and sew close to the edge the entire length as well as the ends. Make adjustments here so the ties are laying neatly on each other before you start to sew.

Waist Apron Body Top Edge:
Run a gather stitch by hand. Draw the gathering stitch until you apron is 17-20 inches wide.

Fold your Apron Body in half to locate the center, mark.

Fold your tie or ribbon in half to locate center.

Place the center of the tie at the center apron body marking-remember this is your tie so keep this at the very top edge of the body piece.

Looking at the inside of your apron, smooth the gathers down so that it will be as smooth as possible after you are done attaching the tie or ribbon.

Get it all smoothed out at the inside, check your measurement many times to make sure you are maintaining the 17-20 inches, also make sure that you will have the same length of ties on both ends by checking the center of your tie.

Pin tie in place and slowly sew on both the top edge and the lower edge.

 

 

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Make Your Own Shoe Roses

shoe roses

Make Your Own Shoe Roses

If there had not been a Netherfield ball to prepare for and talk of, the younger Miss Bennets would have been in a pitiable state at this time, for from the day of the invitation to the day of the ball, there was such a succession of rain as prevented their walking to Meryton once.

No aunt, no officers, no news could be sought after; — the very shoe-roses for Netherfield were got by proxy.

Even Elizabeth might have found some trial of her patience in weather which totally suspended the improvement of her acquaintance with Mr Wickham; and nothing less than a dance on Tuesday, could have made such a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday endurable to Kitty and Lydia.

-Pride and Prejudice

During the Regency women’s shoes took a dramatic turn from the high-heeled bejeweled creations of the previous generation. Instead, simple kidd leather or satin slippers were worn, and dainty ankle boots protected feminine feet when venturing abroad. Adding to the over all effect these shoes were often adorned with ribbon, flowers, bows or rosettes.

When searching to complete your Regency ensemble, it can be difficult to find shoes that look period appropriate which are also comfortable to wear. The addition of shoe roses to an already owned pair of flats can transform the look from 21st century to early 19th century in a few moments. As shown in the photos of antique shoes, the trims added were the same color as the shoe they adorned, so keep this in mind while choosing your ribbon.

 

How to Make Ribbon Shoe Roses To Adorn Your Footwear

Wire-edge ribbon which can also be found as wired ribbon, is a very versatile ribbon to use in crafts. You can find the ribbon in craft and fabric stores or your local florist may have an ample supply. Wire-edge ribbon is most commonly seen in bows on floral arrangements or on fancy gift wrapped packages. The ribbon is called wire-edge because a thin wire is encased along the edges of the ribbon giving it body and the ability to be shaped.

My favorite thing to do with wire-edge ribbon is to make flowers, especially roses. You can find great ribbons sold by the spool or you can get some fancier ones by the yard. I like using variegated and ombre ribbons for the flowers. Variegated ribbons are shades of one color while ombre ribbons use a blend of different colors. The following photos show the different ways flowers can look by how they are manipulated.

This is a rolled ribbon rose that is made by gathering one long edge of the ribbon. Do this by pulling out part of the wire along one edge and then gather. You then roll the ribbon along the gathered edge.

show rose

This is a gathered rosette and a folded rose. The rosette is made by sewing the short ends of a length of ribbon together forming a continuous loop, then use a basting stitch about one third of the way from one edge and gather. The folded rose is shown at the end of the article.

These two roses are made from the same ribbon. The bottom one is the rolled ribbon rose while the top one is the folded ribbon rose.

Here are leaves made from various widths of ribbon. Notice how the leaves changed when using different sides of the variegated ribbon. I used the directions for boat leaves found in The Artful Ribbon by Candace Kling. The rosette instructions can also be found in this book but the roses are made a little differently plus there are several more types of roses as well as many other flowers.

Here are a couple of different looks to the folded ribbon rose by using checked and plaid ribbon.

Here are the steps to make a folded ribbon rose:

First cut a length of ribbon 18″ – 24″ (ribbon length will be shorter for narrower ribbon – 1″ and longer for wider – 1-1/2″). Begin by folding down one corner as shown in photo.

Second, roll the pointed end to the inside as seen in the next photo.

Next, fold the long length of ribbon down as shown. Then begin turning the small end toward you.

Continue to fold the ribbon down as you continue to turn the flower. When you reach the end pinch the bottom to temporarily secure the rose. Most instructions I’ve found say to use floral wire to secure but I find it stays better if you take a few stitches with needle and matching thread through the bottom.

Once your rose is complete, you can affix it to your boot or slipper with a few stitches or even glue. Voila! Instant Regency Fashion. You can also experiment with bows, jewelled buckles and other instant decorations. Have fun decorating!

Ribbon Rose instructions and photos by Donna Lannerd, for CraftCritique.com, July 9, 2007. Used with kind permission.

 

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Make an Heirloom Style Regency Baby Bonnet

Make your own Regency baby bonnet

Heirloom BonnetMake your own Regency Baby Bonnet

These easy instructions will help you create an heirloom style Regency baby bonnet in no time. Read The Regency Layette: The Well-Dressed Infant on the Eve of the 19th Century for a complete look at a Georgian child’s first wardrobe.

This pattern requires a sewing machine and white thread, a 10×10″square of cloth, a yard and a quarter of lace, and about two yards of medium (1/2″) width ribbon.

  1. Cut a 10×10″ square of fabric.
  2. Sew lace all around the edges on the right side of the material. Turn over.
  3. Fold the square in half so that the right side is facing up, Iron or finger press the fold flat.
  4. Sew a line of stitching 1/2″ from the fold all the way across, leaving a casing.
  5. You should have an opening at the bottom of the fold, thread a 12″ piece of ribbon through it.
  6. Cut the remaining ribbon in half. Place one piece between the layers of fabric and lace on the one of the short sides of the fabric. Sew a seam over the entire end to keep the layers together and secure the ribbon in place. Repeat on the other end.
  7. Gather the ribbon on the opposite side, knotting it and then tying it into a bow to make the back of the bonnet.

This pattern for a Regency Baby Bonnet by was adapted from one created by Jo, from Maryland.

You can purchase more children’s patterns at our online giftshop. Click here.