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10 Years of Bringing Jane Austen’s World To You

Jane Austen's World

As well as the bicentenary of Jane’s death, 2017 marks another anniversary on the Austen calendar, albeit of a more modest nature. Because it was ten years ago that the Jane Austen Gift Shop first began sending products to Jane’s fans the world over.

In those days it was a much more humble affair. Because so many visitors to the Jane Austen Centre in Bath are international tourists it soon became apparent that it would be a good thing if the Centre were to offer a mail order service, so that visitors could enjoy those items on sale in the Centre’s gift shop that they may not have had the luggage room to take away with them there and then. Before long it was decided to establish a unique online presence for the shop, which like the proverbial small acorn grew to become the Jane Austen Gift Shop as we know it today. Now we have a stock of over 500 products, many of them exclusive to us, servicing an online clientele in Britain and all over the world. Our best-selling items range from our iconic I Love Darcy bags to beautiful and delicate reproductions of Jane’s own turquoise ring and topaz necklace.

Just about the only thing that hasn’t changed over those ten years is our commitment to finding (and creating) the very best, most unusual and inventive gifts for the Jane Austen fan. Our customers know that, whether browsing for themselves or for a present for a friend or family member, they are sure to find something they won’t find anywhere else, and which is certain to bring a smile to the face of any dedicated Janeite.

More than that, however, there is the definite sense that we are all part of a single community. Many of our customers’ names have become as familiar as our own, returning year on year, and emailing us to tell us which of our products they like, and what they’d like to see from us. Our newsletters reach many thousands every week, and our new Gold Membership allows customers to become part of the creative process, with updates on new lines and priority purchasing of selected ranges, as well as all-year round discounts. We hope to bring many more new ideas to you in the years to come: look out in the next few weeks for some great new ideas for your home, some beautiful jewellery, and much, much more. Our anniversary competition is now live, giving you the chance to win one of our beautiful replica rings absolutely free, with some terrific runners-up prizes too…

We’ve spent ten years bringing Jane’s world to your world, and we hope to continue doing just that for many more years to come. So whether you’re a long-established customer or a newcomer looking in for the first time, we’d like to thank you all for your interest and support. And don’t forget: if you’re a Jane Austen fan, we’d love to hear from you. Which of our products do you especially like? Are there any you are not so keen on? Is there sometimg we don’t offer that you think we should? Come and join us, and let us know.

So remember our three pledges:

  • To bring Jane Austen to you, and to welcome you to our Jane Austen community
  • To give you the very best in range and quality
  • To offer personal, friendly and excellent customer service

And here’s to the next ten years!

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Jane Austen’s News – Issue #3

Craft – Create a Household Book

2875651Jane Austen’s friend Martha Lloyd shared a house with Jane and her sister Cassandra, and later married their brother. A close and long-time friend of the family, she kept a Household Book containing all kinds of recipes that became Austen family staples.

In this inspirational craft blog, Laura Boyle discusses the tradition of household books, and offers advice on creating one of your own for your family.


 

Steventon Roasted Potatoes Recipe

potatoesAnd speaking of recipes…Laura also cooked up some delicious Steventon Roast Potatoes for her latest Regency Recipe blog.

The perfect accompaniment to Mr Darcy’s Favourite Steak Dinner. Delicious!


 

The Love of Strangers

Love of Strangers Book Nile Green1815 was of course the year that Jane Austen’s Emma was first published, but in 2015 another important, unpublished work from the period surfaced – the diary of a young Muslim student named Mirza Salih Shirazi. It tells the real-life story of six scholars enjoying the very best of Regency life in England.

The Love of Strangers – What Six Muslim Students Learned in Jane Austen’s England


 

Northangover Abbey Cocktail For Bath Literary Festival 2016

Rachael-Williams-Northanger-Abber-Cocktail-NorthangoverThe Abbey Hotel in Bath, England, have announced a special literary-themed cocktail list for the 2016 Bath Literary Festival. The Northangover Abbey is dedicated to our very own Jane Austen Centre and the ingredients are currently top secret! They’ll be on sale throughout the event at both The Art Bar and their Allium Restaurant.

You can find the full cocktail menu and more info about the festival in our press blog.


 

How Well Do You Know Emma?

p037ydqsBBC Radio 5 has put together a ‘How Well Do You Know Jane Austen’s Emma‘ quiz. They’ve also re-linked to a fascinating programme first broadcast in November 2015, in which Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the novel and its themes. Those in the UK will be able to download it or listen live from the website.


 

Top 10 Romantic Quotes – Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility Ranks Number 1

sense-and-sensibility-elinor-edward“My heart is, and always will be, yours”

This heart-melting affirmation of love from Edward Ferrars to Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility has been ranked as the most romantic quote from romantic literature, film and TV drama.

Jane Austen’s quote beat off rivals from a mostly modern list of nominations, and Jane was the only author to appear twice. In tenth place was Mr Darcy’s immortal lines from Pride and Prejudice: “In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”


 

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – Film Reviews

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Film“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.”
Whether or not you just winced will tell you how much you’re likely to enjoy Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
Games Radar.

And so opens the first in a wave of reviews for the latest Jane Austen adaptation. We don’t want to give away any spoilers, so for those wanting to know more – here is our recommended reading list for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies movie reviews:

  • Rotten Tomatoes – Star review and brief overview
  • The Guardian – Star review and brief overview
  • Wired – A lengthy review in which they look at the feminist messages in Pride and Prejudice and compare them with the amended dialogue and plot
  • Drunk Austen – A very tongue-in-cheek review which includes some helpful ‘highlights’ that traditional Austen fans might enjoy:
    • “Oh fuddle”
    • Bingley’s impeccable highlights
    • Someone partying like Drunk Austen at Netherfield
    • The lake scene (which is amusing to all who love the 1995 BBC version)
    • Darcy’s midnight angst duels

 

Jane Austen’s 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 – subscribe to the Jane Austen Newsletter and receive a digest of stories, articles and news every week. When you subscribe and sign up for an account, you’ll be redirected to a page featuring an exclusive 10% discount code, valid for your first order from the Jane Austen Online Gift Shop.

Porcelain Tea for one set – Blue Rose – Pemberley Collection

 

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Jane Austen’s News – Issue #2

Jane Austen Exhibition Opens in Basingstoke

jane austen.jpeg-pwrt3A new temporary exhibition celebrating Jane Austen has opened in Basingstoke, England. Among the artefacts on display at the Willis Museum are Jane’s writing slope and spectacles. There is also the manuscript of one of her early works, The History of England, written in 1791, when she was just 15-years-old and living in Steventon. The various items are on temporary loan from a number of collections, making this a rare opportunity to see them together in the county of Jane’s birth.

At the launch, Hampshire Cultural Trust also announced ‘Jane Austen 200’ – Hampshire’s big theme for 2017 which will mark the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death.


 

Jane Austen’s Matchmaker Zombies Kickstarter

zombie-cards-2-matchmaker

As we step into February (traditionally the month of love and romance), the makers of the Jane Austen Matchmaker Card Game (based on Jane Austen’s Emma) have launched a Kickstarter to create a Pride and Prejudice and Zombies version of their game.

The player with the Curse must draw from the JAMZ (Jane Austen’s Matchmaker with Zombies) pile on their turn, and whenever someone gets married.

Zombie cards transform the Cursed player’s Ladies and Gentlemen into zombies. Their combined Horror is deducted from the Cursed player’s score at the end of the game.

If the Cursed player has no living characters to transform when they draw a Zombie card, they must pass the Curse onto another player.

It sounds… gruesome!

You can find full details on their kickstarter page.


 

Jane Austen Sweet Treat Recipes from The Telegraph

apple-tart_2-large_trans++eo_i_u9APj8RuoebjoAHt0k9u7HhRJvuo-ZLenGRumAFrequent readers of the Jane Austen Online Magazine will know that we’re partial to a good food article. We were therefore rather taken with this Telegraph piece which provides a handy summary of Jane Austen recipes.

Offerings include rout drop cakes, buttered apple tart (pictured), Bath cakes (also known as Bath buns) and strawberry tartlet.


Pride and Prejudice Turns 200 – A Cartoon Celebration

Cartoonist Jen Sorensen has created a contemporary illustrated version of Pride and Prejudice for  NPR.

In celebration of the bicentennial anniversary of the novel, the artist illustrated and coloured an 18-frame comic that tells the story of the Bennet sisters on their search for love.

The humorous twist on the plot lines and inventive use of some best-loved quotes culminates with Darcy’s once epic proposal being summarised  in just a single sentence. Can you guess which one?


What Can Pride and Prejudice Teach Us About Dating?

WuE_Columbnists_10 copyPlaying hard to get and the ‘Jane Bennet Effect’ are two phrases that stand out in Hanna Barbosa Cesnik’s article for Columbia Spectator – and not just because they’re in the title. In her latest article, she deconstructs the romantic relationships in Pride and Prejudice and explains why the Bennet sisters were mistresses of seduction… whether they knew it, or not!

It makes for highly insightful and fun reading for the single lady despairing at Tinder.


 

Love and Friendship – Excitement Continues to Build

Love and Friendship, Whit Stillman’s screen adaptation of Jane Austen’s Lady Susan is receiving more praise following its debut at the Sundance Film Festival. Starring Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny, the film is so keenly anticipated here at the Jane Austen Centre that every new review is a frustrating reminder that we mere mortals can’t see it yet!

The Huffington Post features a great interview with Whit Stillman that discusses what drew him to Jane Austen’s world, and his interest in Lady Susan in particular.

 


Jane Austen Day with Charlotte

Jane Austen’s 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 – subscribe to the Jane Austen Newsletter and receive a digest of stories, articles and news every week. When you subscribe and sign up for an account, you’ll be redirected to a page featuring an exclusive 10% discount code, valid for your first order from the Jane Austen Online Gift Shop.


 

Jane Austen’s Replica Turquoise Ring – Gold

 

 

 

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Jane Austen’s News – Issue #1

Jane Austen’s World 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.

Jane Austen Changed My Life

pridea-and-prejudice-1980-x-400Thirteen women reveal the books that changed their lives in this Bustle article. 22-year-old Chelsea gives a moving quote about her relationship with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Pride and Prejudice has meant a lot to me, because I first read it when I was in second grade and didn’t really understand the emotional content of it, but when I reread it as I grew older I started to suddenly ~feel~ the emotions of the characters, so it’s like the book was my partner through emotional maturity.


Jane Austen – Queen of Sass?

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Bustle name Jane Austen ‘Queen of Sass’ in their article which features Jane Austen quotes from her personal letters. Some of the quotes include:

“Next week [I] shall begin my operations on my hat, on which you know my principal hopes of happiness depend.”

— Letter from October 27, 1798, on the importance of hats

“By the bye, as I must leave off being young, I find many Douceurs in being a sort of chaperon [at dances], for I am put on the Sofa near the Fire & can drink as much wine as I like.”

— Letter from November 6, 1813, on getting older

“I will not say that your mulberry-trees are dead, but I am afraid they are not alive.”

— Letter from May 3, 1811, on her gardening skills

The original source for their chosen quotations is Pemberley.com.


Watch Famous Actors Audition for 90s ‘Emma’ Adaptation ‘Clueless’

jake-gyllenhaal-inline-48471091-fe19-4d7d-a109-500bf3e4da0fThe cult film, Clueless (1995), is one of the most successful modern adaptations of a Jane Austen novel. It sparked much debate on release, with enthusiasts questioning whether such a modernised interpretation could ever work.  Over 20 years later, it has earned a place in the heart of many Jane Austen fans. It’s also proven to be a gateway to Jane Austen for younger audiences.

The latest behind-the-scenes offering is a previously-unseen audition video, which features some now world-famous movie stars reading lines from the script. Bradley Cooper, Jake Gyllenhaal and Seth Rogen are among those seen reading for parts in the film.


Whill Stillman’s ‘Lady Susan’ at Sundance Film Festival

Location images of Love & Friendship, a Jane Austen film adaptation starring Kate Bekinsdale and Chloe Sevigny, directed by Whit Stillman. CHURCHILL PRODUCTIONS LIMITED. Producers Katie Holly, Whit Stillman, Lauranne Bourrachot. Co-Producer Raymond Van Der Kaaij. Also Starring: Xavier Samuel, Emma Greenwell & Morfydd Clark
Still from Love and Friendship – CHURCHILL PRODUCTIONS LIMITED

Whit Stillman’s Love and Friendship (the much-anticipated adaptation of Jane Austen’s Lady Susan) has received its first review following its debut at the Sundance Film Festival. It stars Kate Beckinsale, Chloë Sevigny and Stephen Fry in a plot filled with love rivalry, salacious gossip and ill-advised dalliances. My word!

The first reports look very encouraging, leaving us even more excited for its general release in April 2016:

While ‘Love & Friendship’ hums along so mellifluously that you could easily enjoy it with your eyes closed (especially with the tuneful accompaniment of Benjamin Esdraffo and Mark Suozzo’s piano-and-strings score), it’s really best not to, given the high level of visual craft on display.

Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh’s lovely costumes and the exquisite furnishings of Anna Rackard’s production design are seen to gorgeous effect in Richard van Oosterhout’s luminous images. Whether he’s following the actors in smooth walking-and-talking tracking shots outdoors or observing the faint play of firelight on their faces indoors, he brings a rich cinematic luster to a project that, whatever the final state of Lady Susan’s fortunes, succeeds in giving Austen and Stillman the union they deserve.


New World Record for ‘Most Zombies Reading Jane Austen’

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies FilmCall us skeptical, but this world record doesn’t sound real. It’s being reported that the cast of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies have claimed the title along with a number of lucky fans, all of whom were dressed in character as a Regency zombie.


Don’t miss our latest news – subscribe to The Jane Austen Newsletter and receive a digest of stories, articles and news every week. When you subscribe and sign up for an account, you’ll be redirected to a page featuring an exclusive 10% discount code, valid for your first order from The Jane Austen Online Gift Shop.

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18th Century Umbrellas

When first we came, all the umbrellas were up, but now the pavements are getting very white again.
Jane Austen to Cassandra
Bath, May 17, 1799

Umbrellas often appear in Austen's novels as a chivalrous response to a lady's need. From left to right, Persuasion, Emma, Mansfield Park.
Umbrellas often appear in Austen’s novels as a chivalrous response to a lady’s need. L-R Persuasion, Emma, Mansfield Park.

During the 17th century, ladies used parasols for protection from the sun. A century later they were using oiled umbrellas as protection from the rain as well. By the early 19th century, the design of the umbrella had improved and its use had become widespread. After Maria’s marriage, Fanny Price was overtaken by a heavy shower close to the Parsonage and sought shelter under an oak. When the Grants spotted her, they sent out a servant, but Fanny was reluctant to come in:

A civil servant she had withstood but when Dr Grant himself went out with an umbrella there was nothing to be done but to be very much ashamed and to get into the house as fast as possible; and to poor Miss Crawford, who had just been contemplating the dismal rain in a very desponding state of mind, sighing over the ruin of all her plans of exercise for that morning, and of every chance of seeing a single creature beyond themselves for the next twenty four hours, the sound of a little bustle at the front door and the sight of Miss Price dripping with wet in the vestibule was delightful. – Jane Austen, Mansfield Park

 

Continue reading 18th Century Umbrellas

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John Heathcoat and the Muslin and Net Period

  The wedding was very much like other weddings, where the parties have no taste for finery or parade; and Mrs. Elton, from the particulars detailed by her husband, thought it all extremely shabby, and very inferior to her own. “Very little white satin, very few lace veils; a most pitiful business! Selina would stare when she heard of it.” But, in spite of these deficiencies, the wishes, the hopes, the confidence, the predictions of the small band of true friends who witnessed the ceremony, were fully answered in the perfect happiness of the union.
-Emma

Jane Austen fans are familiar with the high-waisted muslin dresses popular during her adulthood. How many are aware that machine-made net or gauze became a “hot” item from 1810 and on?

1823 Evening dress with gauze overlay
1823 Evening dress with gauze overlay

“Net dresses were very fashionable and their popularity was spurred by new inventions. The development of machine-made net in the late 18th and early 19th centuries meant that gauzy lace effects were increasingly affordable either as trimmings or garments. The bobbin-net machine was patented by the Englishman John Heathcoat in 1808 and produced a superior net identical to the twist-net grounds of hand-made bobbin lace. It was so successful that women in the highest ranks of society, including the Emperor Napoleon’s first wife, Josephine, wore machine-net dresses. Initially, however, all machine nets were plain and had to be embroidered by hand.” – Victoria and Albert

Detail of an evening dress with net lace. Image @Victoria & Albert Collection

Machine-made bobbin net was first made in England in 1806 (and in France in 1818). Until this date, lace as it was made was known as old lace. After that date, lace is categorized as being modern.

Silver embroidery on net on Empress Josephine’s court gown. Image @Madame Guillotine

Machine made lace made an appearance around 1760. The nets and tulles became immediately popular. Their arrival spurred the production of other silk lace cloths, which led to a general rise in popularity of the silk lace trade – until a machine was invented that could produce silk net lace as well.

Evening dress with net overlay, 1817-1818, V&A Museum

In the 18th century the hand-made net was very expensive and was made of the finest thread from Antwerp: in 1790 this cost £70 per pound, sometimes more. At that time the mode of payment was decidedly primitive: the lace ground was spread out on the counter and the cottage worker covered it with shillings from the till of the shopman. As many coins as she could place on her work she took away with her as wages for her labour. It is no wonder that a Honiton lace veil before the invention of machine-made net often cost a hundred guineas. Heathcoat’s invention of a machine for making net dealt a crushing blow to the pillow-made net workers. The result is easily guessed. After suffering great depression for twenty years the art of hand-made net became nearly extinct, and when an order for a marriage veil of hand-made net was given, it was with the greatest difficulty that workers could be found to make it. The net alone for such a veil would cost £30. – A history of hand-made lace: Dealing with the origin of lace, the growth of the great lace centres, the mode of manufactures, the methods of distinguishing and the care of various kinds of lace, Emily Jackson, p. 170

Hem of 1817-1818 Evening Dress with net overlay, V&A Museum

The most popular European centers for lace making were located in France, the region known as Belgium today, Ireland, England,and Italy.

During the French Revolution the French textile industry had suffered and unlike in England, use of textile machinery had been non-existent.  Emperor Napoleon stopped the import of English textiles and he revived the Valenciennes lace industry so that fine fabrics like tulle and batiste could be made there. – Regency Fashion History

Black net over gold gown, 1818. Image @Defunct Fashion

Between 1806-1810, net gowns embroidered with chenille embroidery became popular. Profits rose for the manufacturers as the price for the cloth plummeted.

In 1809 Heathcoat took a patent for his bobbin net machine. But the profits realised by the manufacturers of lace were very great, and the use of the machines rapidly extended; while the price of the article was reduced from five pounds the square yard to about five pence in the course of twenty-five years. – John Heathcoat and the Bobbin Net Machine, Samuel Smiles (1859)

By 1813, the bobbinet machine had been perfected. After 1815, gauze was used over satin evening dresses, with the fabric gathered at the back. By 1816, crepe, net and tulle were worn over evening wear made of satin, silks, velvets, kerseymere, satin, lame, and both plain and shot sarcenet.

La Belle Assemblee Court and Fashionable Magazine contains this description of a lady’s dress in Her Majesty’s Drawing Room in January 1818:

Hon. Lady Codrington.—Net draperies, magnificently embroidered in gold  lama, in bouquets and sprigs, over a petticoat of white satin, with blond lace at the bottom, headed with a rouleau of gold lama; train of crimson velvet, trimmed with gold lama and blond lace. Head-dress gold lama toque, with ostrich plume, and diamonds.

1818 Evening Dress, June. La Belle Assemblée. ENGLISH. No. 1.—Evening Dress. Round dress of embossed gauze over white satin, with coriage of peach-coloured satin, elegantly ornamented with rouleau medallions and palm leaves of white satin. Mary Queen of Scots hat, ornamented with pearls, and surmounted by a full plume of white feathers. Negligé necklace of fine pearls, and gold chain beneath, with an eyeglass suspended. White satin shoes, aud white kid gloves.

Not every lady of that era was obsessed over bobbin net lace or tulle. Many began to publicly and proudly favor the old hand made lace.

…both in England and on the Continent and at Almack’s, the Assembly Rooms at Bath and Tunbridge Well, the chaperons would gossip of their lappets of Alencon or Brussels. Numerous were the anecdotes as to how this treasure or that had turned up having escaped the doom the rag-bag, which alas! was the fate of so much old lace during the muslin and net period. – Emily Jackson, A History of Hand-made Lace, 1900, p 48.

Machine made lace dealt a great blow to the industry of hand-made fabrics. In Tiverton in 1822, where once 2,400 lace makers worked, only 300 lace makers were still employed.

Evening dress with net overlay, 1818. Image @Old Rags

The Duchess of Gloucester was one of the few whose affections never swerved from her love of the old rich points towards blondes and muslins, and her collection was one of the finest in Europe. Lady Blessington, too, loved costly lace, and, at her death, left several huge chests full of it. Gradually lace began to be worn again, but it was as it were ignorantly put on, worn simply because it was again the fashion to wear lace, and lace must therefore be worn; the knowledge of its history, worth, and beauty was lacking…  – Emily Jackson, A History of Hand-made Lace, 1900, p 48.

Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester (Daughter of King George III) Image @Justin F. Skrebowski

Sprigs beautified the machine-made net. It is said that Queen Charlotte introduced applique on net to support the machine net industry. Honiton appliques consisted of white linen thread sprigs mounted on the net, but black  silk sprigs were applied as well. The black silk cost twice as much as the linen threads and soon went out of fashion.

The trade of lace making remained for several generations in some families, thus in 1871 an old lace maker was discovered at Honiton, whose turn or wheel for winding cotton had the date 1678 rudely carved on its foot –Old lace, a handbook for collectors: an account of the difference styles of lace, their history, characteristics & manufacture, Margaret Jourdain, 1908, p94-95

Detail of early 19th c. tamboured net shawl. Image @Vintage Textiles

Sources:


Vic Sanborn oversees two blogs: Jane Austen’s World and Jane Austen Today. Before 2006 she merely adored Jane Austen and read Pride and Prejudice faithfully every year. These days, she is immersed in reading and writing about the author’s life and the Regency era. Co-founder of her local (and very small) book group, Janeites on the James, she began her blogs as a way to share her research on the Regency era for her novel, which sits unpublished on a dusty shelf. In her working life, Vic provides resources and professional development for teachers and administrators of Virginia’s adult education and literacy programs. This article was written for Jane Austen’s World and is used here with permission.

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How I Fell in Love With Georgette Heyer

georgette heyerI stumbled upon Georgette Heyer during a golden time of my life after college graduation when I had three precious free months before I began school again. Bursting with youthful energy, I didn’t know what to do with my time. And so I hit the books, but this time for pleasure. In those days, I could gobble up a book a day if I was so inclined, and I sped through Jane Eyre. Wuthering Heights. Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Rebecca. Father and Sons, by Ivan Turgenev, one of my favorite authors, and Pride and Prejudice (for the second time in my life). That last novel with its sparkling wit and clear view of village life seemed like a breath of fresh air after the heightened emotions of the Victorian authors.

To me, Mr. Bennet was the image of my father, whose wry statements always made me pause before I could figure out if he was making sport of me, himself, or some other unwitting target. Mrs. Bennet reminded me of my crazy Dutch grandmothers – both of whom were slightly hysterical and VERY demanding. I read Pride and Prejudice twice that summer (and began a tradition of reading it every summer for the next twenty years). Greedily I reached for more Jane Austen novels until there were none left. I railed against the illness that carried Jane off before she could produce enough novels to assuage my addiction. Where to turn?

The library, of course.

I looked up Regency novels and found … Clare Darcy. Ok, I thought. I’ll give her a try and picked up a copy of Victoire, a most logical choice given my given name, and read the book in one long sitting. How to state it nicely: Clare Darcy is to Jane Austen what a sputtering candle is to the sun at high noon.

My quest was not over.

My apartment roommie, also a Janeite, discovered the Flashman novels by George MacDonald Fraser. She LOVED them. But budding little feminist me wanted books written by humorous females, not a man with no interest in the goings on of small town families and their courtship rituals, and silly clergy, and strong heroines who were able to learn a thing or two. And so I continued my search.

One day I found a Barbara Cartland novel. Hahahahahahahaha! Tossing aside her cheesy book about a 16-year-old-heroine with a heart-shaped face, I wondered if I could charge her for wasting my precious life.

I continued my search.

And there it was. On the bottom shelf at the library. Arabella. It was a pathetic excuse of a book – dog-eared, blemished, and torn partially in the spine. I read the front cover – Arabella by Georgette Heyer – then sat on the floor and began to read. Witty words leapt from the pages. I laughed with delight. Before long I checked out the book and proceeded to read it in one long sitting. My roommie, who had started her new job two weeks after college, came home from work to find me engrossed. “I found a new author,” I said, telling her she could read the book when I was done. I gave it to her that night.

We were both instantly hooked on Georgette Heyer.

I returned to the library and checked out all the Georgette Heyers I could find. My roommie and I fell in love with Arabella, but we became die-hard fans when we encountered Venetia, The Grand Sophie, Sylvester, and Frederica. By summer’s end we had read ALL the GHs we could lay our hands on, even the mysteries and histories. (Thankfully, Georgette was prolific.)

My roommie and I were two young and hopeless romantics. We loved the glittering, detailed descriptions of the characters, the clothes they wore from expensive shops, and the houses, towns, and cities they inhabited. We learned about Regency London and the manners and mores of the Ton. Georgette Heyer characters spoke in cant, and thus we affected British accents and used cant-speech at every opportunity. Our boyfriends, while a bit mystified, played along, even debating which weapon was more effective in a fight – the epee or the sword.

But then life intruded and my intense love affair with Georgette Heyer had to take a back seat. I returned to school and began to read academic books again. I left my obsession behind, except for my yearly date with Pride and Prejudice.

Flash forward a number of decades when Sourcebooks began to republish Georgette Heyer novels. Once more I began to read them regularly, only this time I reviewed them as well.  I discovered that my tastes had changed and that I was more attracted to other novels like The Reluctant Widow and The Convenient Marriage. I never reread Arabella, for I did not want to revisit my first love only to discover that she had flaws.

I savor my memory of first discovering Georgette Heyer and thank Sourcebooks for the opportunity to relive that Golden Summer. I keep about 10 GH books on my Nook and Kindle (yes, I have both) so I am not ever very far from one of my favorite authors. If you are intrigued, all of GH s novels are available at Sourcebook’s Discover a New Love Website at www.discoveranewlove.com.

georgette heyer


Vic Sanborn oversees two blogs: Jane Austen’s World and Jane Austen Today. Before 2006 she merely adored Jane Austen and read Pride and Prejudice faithfully every year. These days, she is immersed in reading and writing about the author’s life and the Regency era. Co-founder of her local (and very small) book group, Janeites on the James, she began her blogs as a way to share her research on the Regency era for her novel, which sits unpublished on a dusty shelf. In her working life, Vic provides resources and professional development for teachers and administrators of Virginia’s adult education and literacy programs. This article was written for Jane Austen’s World and is used here with permission.

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From Classic to Romantic: Changes in the Regency Silhouette

An example of one regency silhouette style

The Regency silhouette went through a fair few changes…

Wednesday. — Mrs. Mussell has got my gown, and I will endeavour to explain what her intentions are. It is to be a round gown, with a jacket and a frock front, like Cath. Bigg’s, to open at the side. The jacket is all in one with the body, and comes as far as the pocket-holes — about half a quarter of a yard deep, I suppose, all the way round, cut off straight at the corners with a broad hem. No fulness appears either in the body or the flap; the back is quite plain in this form [hourglass shape], and the sides equally so. The front is sloped round to the bosom and drawn in, and there is to be a frill of the same to put on occasionally when all one’s handkerchiefs are dirty — which frill must fall back. She is to put two breadths and a-half in the tail, and no gores — gores not being so much worn as they were. There is nothing new in the sleeves: they are to be plain, with a fulness of the same falling down and gathered up underneath, just like some of Martha’s, or perhaps a little longer. Low in the back behind, and a belt of the same. I can think of nothing more, though I am afraid of not being particular enough.
Jane Austen to Cassandra
May 5, 1801

 

Round gown, 1798, Metropolitan Museum

The popularity of the high-waisted regency gown is due to both to French influence in fashion and the Neoclassical rage that swept Europe during the 18th Century. Marie Antoinette is said to have inspired the round gown of the 1790′s, which is essentially a dress and robe joined together and tied in the front. Later, Josephine Bonaparte who reigned supreme in her position as a fashion icon, influenced the slim, high-waisted, gossamer thin chemise dress of the early 19th Century.

The round gown, a precursor of the Empire gown, had a soft, round silhouette, with full gatherings and a train, and straight, elbow-length sleeves. These gowns were in stark contrast to the stiff, brocaded or rigid silk dresses of the rococo period. The round gown’s train, which was common for a short time for day wear and lasted until 1805-06 for the evening, would be pinned up for the dance, as Katherine and Isabella did for each other in Northanger Abbey. One must question how practical these long white muslin dresses with their trailing trains were in England, a country renowned for wet weather and muddy roads.

Round gowns, Heideloff Gallery of Fashion, 1794

In England especially, daytime dresses were more modest than their evening counterparts. A few French images depict young ladies wearing day gowns with plunging decolletes, but this was not generally the case, and it is a point that cinema costume makers frequently miss. Until 1810, a fichu or chemisette would fill in the neckline. At first, embroideries on hems and borders were influenced by classical Greek patterns. After Napoleon’s return from Egypt in 1804, decorative patterns began to reflect an eastern influence as well.

Around 1808, the soft gathered gowns gave way to a slimmer and sleeker Regency silhouette. Darted bodices began to appear and hemlines started to rise. Long sleeves and high necklines were worn during the day, while short sleeves and bare necklines were reserved for evening gowns. The sleeves were puffy and gathered, but the overall silhouette remained sleek, with the shoulders narrow. The shape of the corset changed to reflect the looser, draped, shorter waisted style.

Ackermann plate: Regency Morning Dress, 1813

Due to the war between England and France, and the restrictions of travel to the Continent, the designs of English gowns began to take on a character of their own, as French influence waned. Between 1808 and 1814, English waistlines lengthened and decorations were influenced by the Romantic movement and British culture. Dresses began to exhibit decorations that echoed the Gothic, Renaissance, Tudor, and Elizabethan periods. Ruffled edges, Van Dyke lace points, rows of tucks on hems and bodices, and slash puffed sleeves made their appearance. The length of the gown was raised off the ground, so that dainty kid slippers became quite visible.

After the 1814 peace treaty, English visitors to France began to realize just exactly how much British fashion had split from its French counterpart. Parisian waists had remained higher, and skirt hems were wider and trimmed with padded decorations, resulting in a cone-shaped look. English fashion quickly realigned itself with the French, and the silhouette changed yet again.

Dresses now boasted long sleeves, high necks, and a very high waist, The simple classical silhouette was replaced by a fussier look. Ruffles appeared everywhere, on hems, sleeves, bodices, and even bonnets. In 1816-1817, the waistline fell just under a woman’s breasts, and could go no higher. There was only one way that waistlines could go, and by 1818, they began to drop by about an inch a year.

Ackermann plate of a walking dress, 1818

By 1820 the simple classic lines of the chemise dress had disappeared and completely given way to a stiffer, wider silhouette with a quite short hem. New corsets were designed to accommodate the longer waistline. Remarkably, Anglomania hit France, and the French began to copy the English fashion.

The rows of ruffles, pleats, appliques, and horsehair-padded decorations stiffened the skirt into a conical shape, creating a puffy silhouette. Big hats were worn to counterbalance the broad shoulders, much as big hair balanced wide shoulder pads during the 1980′s. By 1825 the waist had reached a woman’s natural waistline in fashion plates, but according to evidence in museums, it would take another five years before this fashion caught up with the general public.

Ackermann plate of an evening dress, 1820

Leg of lamb sleeves (gigot sleeves) appeared, and dress decorations became intricate and theatrical.

By 1820 the basic lines were almost submerged in ornamentation. The romantic past held a treasure trove of ideas for adorning a lady’s costume. From the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries came puffs bursting through slashed and the revival of the Spanish ruff. collars and cuffs developed points a la Van Dyke and sleeves could be a la Babrielle (after Garielle d’Estrees, mistress of Henry IV of France). Skirts were festooned with roses or made more flaring with crokscrew rolls … Fantasy seemed to now no bounds. (Ackermann’s Costume Plates, Stella Blum, page vi)

Read more about regency fashion trends in the links below:

Ackerman plate of a ball dress and young lady’s dress, 1826

Kathy Decker’s Regency Style, year by year

Jessamyn’s Regency Costume Companion

The Regency Fashion Page

1800s-1820s: Thumbnails

Ackermann’s Costume Plates

Regency Open Robe: 1795

Fashion Prints: Walking Dresses, 1806-1810

Museum Links to Clothing Images

Two Dresses, 1810, French

 


Vic Sanborn oversees two blogs: Jane Austen’s World and Jane Austen Today. Before 2006 she merely adored Jane Austen and read Pride and Prejudice faithfully every year. These days, she is immersed in reading and writing about the author’s life and the Regency era. Co-founder of her local (and very small) book group, Janeites on the James, she began her blogs as a way to share her research on the Regency era for her novel, which sits unpublished on a dusty shelf. In her working life, Vic provides resources and professional development for teachers and administrators of Virginia’s adult education and literacy programs.

This article was written for Jane Austen’s World and is used here with permission.