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Pemberley in Peril – Lyme Park Flooded

Lyme Park Flooded

Lyme Park in Cheshire, the location which was used as Mr Darcy’s Pemberley in the iconic 1995 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice, has had to be closed after ‘significant’ flood damage.

Lyme Park Flooded

Lyme Park flooded last Wednesday (July 31st 2019) when streams and ponds at the estate in Cheshire burst their banks.

Paths, walls and fences were washed away, while a tractor had to tow cars out of the flooded visitor car park, and staff raced to protect the house itself; using sandbags to successfully stop the water from entering the building and damaging antiques.

There was constant heavy rain, falling on to waterlogged ground and adding to volumes of water in all the streams, ponds and lakes. Rain just kept building and building up, then at 4pm things suddenly went from manageable to panic. We were running around with sandbags as streams and ponds were bursting their banks and water was coming up through the drains.

The rain washed away a 30-metre stretch of dry stone wall that has stood for at least 300 years, and some big veteran trees have just given way because there is so much water around the roots. There is a beech tree which was probably 150 years old and an oak up to 250 years old.

Chris Dunkerley, Lyme Park Lead Ranger

The clean up operation is currently underway but it is no small job so may go on for some time. As such, at present it is unknown how long the estate will be closed for, but the National Trust have said that it will remain closed until at least the end of this Friday (Friday 9th August).

Jane Austen Day with Charlotte

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Apricot Marmalade and Apricot “Cakes”

apricot marmalade

Apricot Marmalade – A Regency Recipe

The following recipe is shared, courtesy of Pen Vogler, from her recent book, Dinner with Mr. Darcy, via our online gift shop. Check out this amazing cookbook (with it’s mouthwatering photographs!) for many more Regency era recipes.

Apricot "Cakes"
Apricot “Cakes” from Pen Vogler’s Dinner with Mr. Darcy




Dinner with Mr. Darcy, from which this recipe for apricot marmalade is taken, is available in our online gift shop

Dinner with Mr. Darcy: Recipes Inspired by the Novels and Letters of Jane Austen, by Pen Vogler
Cico Books (2013)
Hardcover (160) pages
ISBN: 978-1782490562

Continue reading Apricot Marmalade and Apricot “Cakes”

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Second Impressions: A Review


Mr. Darcy had at first scarcely allowed her to be pretty; he had looked at her without admiration at the ball; and when they next met, he looked at her only to criticise. But no sooner had he made it clear to himself and his friends that she had hardly a good feature in her face, than he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes. To this discovery succeeded some others equally mortifying. Though he had detected with a critical eye more than one failure of perfect symmetry in her form, he was forced to acknowledge her figure to be light and pleasing; and in spite of his asserting that her manners were not those of the fashionable world, he was caught by their easy playfulness.
-Pride and Prejudice

When I first opened my copy of Second Impressions, I knew little of the story other than the obvious fact that it was a sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (which, in its early stages, was titled First Impressions) I knew much more about the author, Ava Farmer, in reality, Sandy Lerner, the Fairy Godmother of women’s Literature.

As many readers may know, in 1987, American business woman and philanthropist Sandy Lerner (co-founder of Cisco Systems and Urban Decay Cosmetics) purchased a 125 year lease on Chawton Great House and the surrounding lands. Chawton Great House was the home of Jane Austen’s brother, Edward Knight, and it was his residence there, that made it possible for Jane, her mother and her sister Cassandra to settle at Chawton Cottage during the last years of Jane’s life. All of Jane Austen’s novels were either written or edited for publication from this home, just a short walk down the lane from the Great House.

In July 2003, after a ten year renovation and restoration project, the Great House was finally able to open it’s doors as the Chawton House Library. Today the library boasts an outstanding collection of over 9,000 books, highlighting English women writers from 1600 to 1830. Most of these were gathered and donated by Sandy Lerner prior to the library’s opening.

The library’s Novels On Line project makes the full text of many of their works freely available to the public. Also housed at the Chawton House Library is the Knight Collection, a private collection of the Knight family’s books. These works were once owned by Jane Austen’s brother, Edward, and it is known that she enjoyed reading through his library.


Chawton House Library

Ms. Lerner is a lifelong fan of Jane Austen’s work and during her time working on the Chawton House Library project, she poured that love of Austen into a sequel, an homage really, to not only Pride and Prejudice, but many of Austen’s other works, as well. 23 years in the writing Second Impressions is indeed a commanding volume (two volumes, really, bound as one, in the old style) It arrived beautifully bedecked in a charming dust jacket, also “in the old style” looking much like a gilt embossed leather bound album. The heavy paper and excellent typesetting, fonts and other decoration all give the feel of substantial, vintage work. One that might have come, even from Mr. Darcy’s extensive library.

These were my “first impressions”.

Ms. Lerner, it  appears, is no mean Austen scholar, having lectured and spoken extensively on the author as well as her works (look up “Lerner’s Theory of Austen” for one example, housed in the Epilogue of the book.) With all the resources of Chawton House Library at her disposal, and a passionate love for Austen’s work, her novel comes across, not as a light follow on or quick summer read, but as a labor of love. As much as she desired to give all Austen fans, herself included, another taste of Pemberley, and even of the lives and loves of figures from Emma and Persuasion, among others, she sought, even more so, to create characters and settings that might actually have existed in Austen’s Regency.

To this end, language—from actual spellings to sentence structure—is modeled on the English used in generations past. Paragraphs brim over with descriptions of events, places and feelings. While engrossed in the story, the reader is treated to a veritable primer of Regency life, and though the typesetting, use of correspondence, and even omission of peerage designations make the pages appear, at first glance, as though they could have been taken from an Austen novel, it’s closer to reading an annotated version, where the notes have been incorporated into the text—a novel, if I may say so, approach, that leaves one to resurface, after reading, a bit dizzied, into the frantic pace of 21st Century life.

Make no mistake though, this is not Austen. No longer must the Darcys be confined to “three or four families in a country village”. This “little bit of ivory” has grown up and gone to London. Ms. Lerner writes with engrossing detail of not only Regency country house life, but also town life, and even gives the Darcy’s a long and descriptive “Grand Tour” of the Continent. (Jane Austen’s brother Edward Austen-Knight made a four year “Grand” tour of the Continent in the late 1780s, and his journals have recently been published as Jane Austen’s Brother Abroad.)

Ms. Lerner does take some liberty with Austen’s intended endings for various characters, however, I, for one, cannot complain, for surely some characters were most certainly destined for each other, and everyone deserves some happiness, after all. Other pairings are truly remarkable, and only possible in the fertile imagination of a devoted Austen enthusiast. They are, however, entertaining, and, in the words of the immortal Miss Prism, “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means.”

Ms. Lerner now resides in Virginia and spends much of her time experimenting with heirloom breeds, agriculture and farming techniques. The proceeds from the sale of Second Impressions are being donated to the ongoing work of the Chawton House Library.



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Death Comes to Pemberley, by P. D. James

A review by Laurel Ann Nattress

I consider it more than a bit perplexing when an author begins their book with an apology. In this case, it is to author Jane Austen for using her characters. Since Death Comes to Pemberley is a sequel to Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, it is like apologizing for snow being cold. If you are going to write a sequel to a classic of world literature, it is, what it is. Don’t apologize for it. It really puts me off my reading game from the get go.

Okay, I got that off my chest, so now on to more pleasant topics – the fact that the venerable mystery writer P. D. James has taken up her pen inspired by my, and her, favorite author and whipped up a murder mystery for me to devour is delightful. What Janeite in their right mind is not salivating at the thought of an Austen sequel written by such an acclaimed and exalted author? Just the thought of Austen and mystery in one sentence pushes me into the giddy zone. To say that my “wishes and hopes might be fixed” in anticipation is an understatement.

It is six years since the happy day on which Mrs. Bennet got rid of her two most deserving daughters in marriage: Jane to Charles Bingley and Elizabeth to Fitzwilliam Darcy. Both sisters and their husbands are at Pemberley, the palatial country estate of the Darcys in Derbyshire, whose grandeur is only equal to the ten thousand a year that it generates for its previously haughty master and decidedly opinionated mistress. Elizabeth has settled in as chatelaine to a large estate and mother to two young sons. Life is orderly and good at Pemberley, as long as one stays out of the haunted woodland.

Darcy’s younger, and still unmarried, sister Georgiana is also in residence being courted by two beaux: her cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam, and the young, ambitious, but dishy attorney, Henry Alveston. All have gathered for Lady Anne’s ball, an annual event in honor of Mr. Darcy’s deceased mother’s birthday. Many county families will be in attendance. On the eve of the grand event Mrs. Reynolds the housekeeper and the staff are busy preparing for the large formal gathering while the family dine and later meet in the music room. It is a windy, moonlit night, but Colonel Fitzwilliam takes his leave for his nightly exercise, a ride along the river. Later, many have said their goodnights and departed when Darcy is surprised by the sight of a carriage careening at full speed down the woodland road to Pemberley. The coach abruptly arrives depositing a frantic Lydia Wickham, Elizabeth’s unruly younger sister on the doorstep. She is hysterical, shrieking, “Wickham’s dead. Denny has shot him!”

The Wickhams had been traveling to Pemberley with friend Captain Denny by carriage. Even though Mr. Wickham would never be admitted to Pemberley because of his past indiscretion with Georgiana, Lydia, uninvited, had still planned to crash the party. Wickham and Denny had quarreled while traveling through the woodland, departed from the carriage, and gun shots heard soon after. Off into the haunted woods go the search party of Darcy, Alveston and Col. Fitzwilliam to discover a body in the woodland that Lydia is certain is her husband.

And now the glade was before them. Passing slowly, almost in awe, between two of the slender trunks, they stood as if physically rooted, speechless with horror. Before them, it stark colours a brutal contrast to the muted light, was a tableau of death. No one spoke. They moved slowly forward as one, all three holding their lanterns high; their strong beams, outshining the gentle radiance of the moon, intensified the bright red of the officer’s tunic and the ghastly blood-smeared face and mad glaring eyes turned toward them. p. 65

A murder in the haunted woodland. The investigation begins. The body is removed to Pemberley. Mr. Darcy notifies the local magistrate, Sir Selwyn Hardcastle, who arrives to conduct the inquiries. Darcy, Elizabeth, Jane and Bingley are all distraught by the shocking death. The staff is terrified that the curse of the Darcys continues in the haunted woodland. Lydia is hysterical. Lady Anne’s ball is canceled. The official inquest begins. Why did Colonel Fitzwilliam leave Pemberley to ride in terrible weather so late at night? What is the secret behind the Bidwell family who lives in the woodland cottage where Darcy’s great-grandfather committed suicide? Who, or what, is the shrouded figure who haunts the woodland? What is the motive for murder?

We are happily reunited with many of the characters from the beloved original novel and deposited at Pemberley, quite possibly the pinnacle of the Janeite world. Real comfort food for Austen fans. The first twenty page of the prologue recap the plot and details in Pride and Prejudice. Was this for the benefit of her mystery readers who have not read P&P? If so, the same effect could have been achieved by working it into the narrative in a more creative way. James continues building the mystery slowly by adding in elements of the haunted woodland, the curse, and the ghostly figures reminiscent of a Grimm’s fairytale. The plot ponders along with occasional bits of excitement from that evergreen drama queen, Lydia Wickham, nee Bennet, whose character she hits spot on. Another character who she develops interestingly is Colonel Fitzwilliam. He was the second son of an earl in Pride and Prejudice, and we all know that second sons must make their own way in the world. He chose the army. His life changes drastically, and his personality, when his brother dies and he becomes heir to a grand estate. He courts Georgiana, but don’t look for much romance in this novel. It is a mystery and her romantic triangle is second fiddle to the murder investigation. Darcy and Elizabeth are, well, an old married couple and not as interesting as the proud and prejudiced characters that Jane Austen presented. I missed their witty banter.

For Austen fans this will be an enjoyable, is somewhat ponderous, read if you overlook some of the annoying errors in continuity, and for mystery enthusiasts, James does spin a clever tale with a surprise ending that comes out of nowhere. Combined, the Austen and mystery elements do not play out to their potential. None-the-less, it is still an interesting read that has wrangled its way up the bestseller lists. That is an incredible achievement and great proof that the Austen brand continues to grow.
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (2011)
Hardcover (304) pages
ISBN: 978-0307959850

Death comes to Pemberley is available at our online giftshop, click here to buy!

A life-long acolyte of Jane Austen, Laurel Ann Nattress is the author/editor of a blog devoted to the oeuvre of her favorite author and the many books and movies that she has inspired. She is a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, a regular contributor to the PBS blog Remotely Connected and the Jane Austen Centre online magazine. Classically trained as a landscape designer at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, she has also worked in marketing for a Grand Opera company and at present she delights in introducing neophytes to the charms of Miss Austen’s prose as a bookseller at Barnes & Noble. An expatriate of southern California, Laurel Ann lives in a country cottage near Snohomish, Washington where it rains a lot. Visit Laurel Ann at her blog Austenprose – A Jane Austen Blog, on Twitter as @Austenprose, and on Facebook as Laurel Ann Nattress.

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What Makes a Historically Accurate Regency Shoe?

What Makes a Historically Accurate Regency Shoe?
The Met: 1790-181

What Makes a Historically Accurate Regency Shoe?

Before I got into making historical shoes for costumers and re-enactors, I spent a lot of time looking for modern shoes that would “make do.”  I did things like tie bows around my maryjanes, to try to make them look like 18th century shoes with latchets; I wore sequinned slippers made in India with my Elizabethan gowns; I sported round-toed, metallic pleather, rubber-soled flats from Target with a Regency gown. None of these things really worked.  I’m not super sticky about authenticity, but even these shortcuts were too shortcutty for me.

Now a days, when I’m looking at historical styles to recreate for the American Duchess line, I look for the things that make a historical shoe historical.  These are the hallmarks of a certain time period, the things that I will not compromise when it comes to prototyping and producing our shoes.

For instance, let’s look at early Regency shoes, about 1790 into 1810.  This is a perfect example because many people think of these shoes as modern-looking, as something that can be found at Payless, or Walmart, or Target…but they can’t, and here’s why…

Modern shoes exhibit some but not all of the hallmarks of a 1790s shoe, which are:

1) Pointed Toe
2) Small, Curved Heel
3) Side Seam
4) Natural Materials (Leather or Silk Upper, Leather Sole)



It’s easy to find shoes that have one or even two of these things, but not all of them together.  You may get the pointed toe, but have a spikey, too-high heel; or you may get the kitten heel, but have a rounded toe; and you will never find a side seam, and don’t even bother looking for a leather upper AND a leather sole together.

This modern shoe is pretty darn close, yet still so far…

These hallmarks are exactly the things included in the upcoming Pemberlies from American Duchess. They’ve got the pointed toe, the side seam, and I’ve gone with a slightly thicker heel, but still curved, for easier walking on dirt paths and across grass.  You’re going to love them!

Permberley- a limited edition shoe from the American Duchess line

The American Duchess brand started as and continues to be a popular blog on historical costuming from the 16th to the 20th century. Our first style, the exclusive “Georgiana” 18th century shoes, developed from frustration in not being able to find 18th century footwear fit for an upper class persona.

With the invaluable assistance of our American Duchess blog readership, the Georgianas, followed by their leather sister, the Devonshires, were developed to fill the void, and present a ladies’ 18th century shoe that could be worn by Colonial reenactors and French courtiers alike.

The success of the Georgiana and Devonshire shoes has lead us to develop an early Regency style called “Pemberley,” and also in development are lattice-strap pumps of the Edwardian era, 1920s spectator t-straps, and early 18th century Louis heels.  Each style is carefully researched and painstakingly designed to bring you historically accurate footwear that is also comfortable and durable.





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Peach Preserves

There was now employment for the whole party; for though they could not all talk, they could all eat; and the beautiful pyramids of grapes, nectarines, and peaches soon collected them round the table.
Pride and Prejudice

Pemberly was most certainly self-sufficient when it came to providing summer fruits for their guests’ enjoyment, and it comes as no suprise that the bounty provided included peaches…a most difficult fruit to cultivate in England at that time. Perhaps Pemberley’s kitchen garden resembled that belonging to Chawton Great House, a place Jane Austen would no doubt have enjoyed and been familiar with. Edward Knight’s “new” and now existing garden was, according to the Great House trustees, “built in 1818-1822 as a kitchen garden with fruit trees on all the inner walls and on the outer sides of the south and east walls and with hard and soft fruits within. The garden was fully enclosed by malmstone and brick walls with small doorways in each wall”. The trees planted along the inner walls are trained in an espalier fashion which is both decorative and useful when harvest arrives.

Although peaches originated in China, they were brought to the Middle East by means of the Silk Road and from there made their way to Europe and England.

Oceanic climate areas like the Pacific Northwest and the British Isles are generally not satisfactory for peach growing due to inadequate summer heat, though they are sometimes grown trained against south-facing walls to catch extra heat from the sun. Trees grown in a sheltered and south-facing position in the British Isles are capable of producing both flowers and a large crop of fruit. Peach trees are the second most commonly cultivated fruit trees in the world after apple trees.*

To Preserve Peaches
Take a pound of ye fayrest & best cullered peaches you can get, wipe of theyr white hor with a clean linnen cloth, then parboyle them in halfe a pinte of whate wine, & a pint & half of running water. then pill their white scin, & weigh them, & to a pound of peach, take 3 quarters of A pound of refined sugar. dissolve it to ye height of a sirrup. then put your peaches, and let them ly in the sirrup for more then a quarter of an houre If they require it. then pot them up & keepe them all ye year; they must have A little quick boyle in ye sirrup till they jelly.

*the white wine must be of qood quality or it would be better to use water.
Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery and Booke of Sweetmeats


Chunky Peach Preserves

  • 3 pounds freestone peaches
  • ice water
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup strained fresh lemon juice, or more to taste

Cut an X in the rounded end of each peach. Bring a saucepan full of water to a boil over high heat. Have ready a bowl of ice water. Add peaches a few at a time to the boiling water and blanch 30 seconds, then transfer to the ice water to stop the cooking. When cool, lift out and peel. The skin should peel back easily from the X.

Cut peaches into wedges about 1/2 inch thick, then cut each wedge in half crosswise. Transfer to a large bowl, add sugar and lemon juice and stir well. Let stand several hours or overnight, stirring two or three times, until sugar dissolves and mixture no longer tastes grainy.

Transfer to a large pot, bring to a simmer over moderately high heat and simmer, skimming any white foam that collects on the surface, until peaches are tender and syrup thickens slightly, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl, cover and let rest overnight to “plump” the fruit again.

Drain the fruit in a sieve set over a bowl. Taste the syrup and add more lemon juice if it seems too sweet. Return the syrup to a pot and cook over moderately high heat until it reaches 220°F 105°C). Or test for jamlike consistency by spooning a little onto a chilled saucer, then returning the saucer to the freezer for a couple of minutes to cool the syrup quickly. It should firm to a soft jelly consistency.

Return the peaches and any collected juices to the pot and cook a couple of minutes more, until mixture returns to 220°F (105°C). It will seem thin. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes, then spoon into clean, hot jars to within 1/2 inch from the top. Wipe rim clean with a towel dipped in hot water. Place lids and rings on jars and seal tightly. Cool and refrigerate for up to 3 months. Or, for longer storage, place just-filled jars in boiling water to cover by 1 inch and boil 15 minutes for half-pint jars, 20 minutes for pint jars. Transfer with tongs to a rack to cool; lids should form a seal. Sealed jars may be stored in a pantry for up to a year.

Yield: makes 3 pints

From Fresh From the Farmers’ Market, by Janet Fletcher and Victoria Pearson.

*From Wikipedia the online Encyclopedia.

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