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Egg Money

“Her home and her housekeeping, her parish and her poultry, and all their dependent concerns, had not yet lost their charms.” Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 38 by Jane Austen In her book Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen repeatedly mentions how happy Charlotte Collins is with her chickens. We can guess that the birds were a wedding gift from her parents, by the way in which her mother enquires about them after Charlotte’s younger sister Maria returns home from a visit to the Collins parsonage. “Lady Lucas was enquiring of Maria, across the table, after the welfare and poultry of her eldest daughter;” Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 39 by Jane Austen Not only will the chickens supplement meals, in Charlotte’s newly formed household, with eggs and meat, they will also provide Charlotte a small regular income from the sale of extra eggs at 1 shilling for 2 dozen eggs. She might also hatch some of the eggs to continuously replenish her flock of laying hens with younger birds and sell the capons for table use at 3 shillings each. Charlotte’s flock of chickens is most likely of the dual purpose, eating and laying, Sussex breed. Sussex chickens are an ancient breed, which originated during the Roman occupation of Britain. Weights range from 9 ½ pounds for the cocks to 7 ½ pounds for hens. The original varieties were Brown, Red and Speckled. The light Sussex variety has a white body with a black tail and black wing tips and black feathers (more…)
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Advice to the Cook

The Cook must be quick and strong of sight: her hearing most acute, that she may be sensible to when the contents of her vessels bubble, although they be closely covered, and that she may be alarmed before the pot boils over; her auditory nerve ought to discriminate (when several saucepans are in operation at the same time) the simmering of one, the ebullition of another, and the full-toned warbling of a third. It is imperiously requisite that her organ of smell be highly susceptible of the various effluvia, that her nose may distinguish the perfection of aromatic ingredients, and that, in animal substances it shall evince a suspicious accuracy between tenderness and putrefication: above all, her olfactories should be tremblingly alive to mustiness and empyreuma. It is from the exquisite sensibility of her palate, that we admire and judge the cook; from the alliance between the olfactory and sapid organs it will be seen, that their perfections is indispensible. Good manners have often made the fortune of many, who have had nothing else to recommend them: ill manners have as often marred the hopes of those who have had everything else to advance them. Dinner tables are seldom sufficiently lighted, or attended; and active waiter will have enough to do, to attend upon half a dozen good eaters: there should be half as many candles as there are guests, and their flame be about eighteen inches above the table, our foolish modern candelabras seem intended to illuminate the ceiling, (more…)
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A Visit to Stoneleigh Abbey

The Abbey stands in one of the most beautiful and luxuriant parts of the county, between Kenilworth and Leamington; the Avon winding through its pleasure grounds and deer park. In the medieval part of the building there is an ancient gate- house, upon which is still to be seen a stone escutcheon bearing the arms of Henry II., the founder of the Abbey. In the days of the Stuarts the Leighs were ardent Royalists. It was in Stoneleigh Abbey that King Charles I. found a resting-place in 1642. “The King was on his way to set up his standard at Nottingham and had marched to Coventry; but finding the gates shut against him, and that no summons could prevail with the mayor and magistrates to open them, he went the same night to Sir Thomas Leigh’s house at Stoneleigh, and there his majesty met with a warm and loyal welcome and right plenteous and hospitable entertainment from his devoted subject Sir Thomas.” Was Sir Walter Scott, we wonder, thinking of this same Sir Thomas Leigh when he described the character of his fine old cavalier, Sir Harry Lee, of Woodstock? In her book, Jane Austen and the Clergy, Irene Collins relates the following fascinating history of Jane Austen’s own   connection with this great house. During the interlude in which the Austen ladies quit Bath (with such happy feelings of escape) and the time that they joined their Son and Brother, Francis Austen, in Southampton, “Mrs Austen decided to visit (more…)