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Reasons Why Regency Fashion Rocks!

Jane Austen News

Reasons Why Regency Fashion Rocks!
Continue reading Reasons Why Regency Fashion Rocks!

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Pride and Prejudice, one week to go!

Pride and Prejudice Stage

That’s right, one week to go and Mrs Bennet isn’t the only one struggling with her ‘nerves’! The rest of the cast and I have been working VERY hard over the past few weeks to bring this Austen classic to life and now we are at the final stages. The set is up, the props are being gathered and scripts are being left behind. Continue reading Pride and Prejudice, one week to go!

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Mrs. Weston’s Wedding Cake

In Jane Austen’s day, weddings were often held first thing in the morning, after which the bridal couple and their guests returned home to celebrate with a wedding breakfast like that served to Anna Austen and Benjamin Lefroy in 1814: “The breakfast was such as best breakfasts then were. Some variety of bread, hot rolls, buttered toast, tongue, ham and eggs. The addition of chocolate at one end of the table and the wedding-cake in the middle marked the speciality of the day.”

Though rich fruit and nut cakes had been used for centuries, in 1786 Elizabeth Raffald was the first to publish a recipe for a cake specifically for weddings. The cake was served not only at the wedding breakfast, but also shared with the household servants and sent in pieces to friends and relatives who had not attended the ceremony. These wedding cakes were single tiered, double frosted confections, though by no means small. Queen Victoria’s 1840 wedding cake measured 9 feet around and weighed 300 pounds, although it was only 14 inches high.

A period depiction of Queen Victoria's wedding cake.
A period depiction of Queen Victoria’s wedding cake.

This recipe makes an enormous cake. I have quartered the ingredients and it fit nicely into my 12 ½cm/ 5in deep, 25cm /10in springform pan.

To Make a Bride Cake
Take four pounds of fine flour well dried, four pounds of fresh butter, two pounds of loaf sugar, pound and sift fine a quarter of an ounce of mace the same of nutmegs, to every pound of flour put eight eggs, wash four pounds of currants, pick them well, and dry them before the fire. Blanch a pound of sweet almonds, and cut them lengthways very thin, a pound of  citron, one pound of candied orange, the same of candied lemon, half a pint of brandy; first work the butter with your hand to cream, then beat in your sugar a quarter of an hour, beat the whites of your eggs to a very strong froth, mix them with your sugar and butter, beat your yolks half an hour at least, and mix them with your cake, then put in your flour, mace and nutmeg, keep beating it well till your oven is ready, put in your brandy, and beat your currants and almonds lightly in, tie three sheet s of paper round the bottom of your hoop to keep it from running out, rub it well with butter, put in your cake, and lay your sweetmeats in three lays, with cake betwixt every lay, after it is risen and coloured, cover it with paper before your oven is stopped up; it will take three hours baking. – Elizabeth Raffald, The Experienced English Housekeeper, 1794

454 g / 16 oz / 4 cups Flour

454 g / 16 oz  / 2 cups Butter

454 g / 16 oz / 2 cups Sugar

1/2 tsp Mace

1/2 tsp Nutmeg

8 Eggs, divided

454 g / 1 lb / 3 cups Currants

142 g / 5 oz / 1 cup Slivered Almonds

113 g / 4 oz / ½ cup Citron

113 g / 4 oz / ½ cup Candied Lemon peel

113 g / 4 oz / ½ cup Candied Orange peel

120 ml / ½ Cup Brandy or 1 oz Brandy extract plus Apple Juice to equal a ½ cup.

Whip the whites of 8 eggs to stiff peaks and set aside. With an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar and egg yolks.  Once they are combined, fold in the egg whites, brandy or juice and spices. Add the flour a little at a time until it is incorporated. Stir in the almonds and currants.

Preheat the oven to 149° C / 300° F. Generously grease a tall 25cm / 10in springform pan. Spoon ¼ of the batter into the pan and top with 1/3 of the citron, orange peel and lemon peel. Repeat twice more and top with remaining batter.

Bake for 2 ½ hours, top with Almond and Sugar Icings (See Below)

Serves 25

Elizabeth Raffald's recipe and a modern interpretation can be found in Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends, by Laura Boyle.
Elizabeth Raffald’s recipe and a modern interpretation can be found in Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends, by Laura Boyle.

Icings for the Bride-Cake

To make Almond-Icing for the Bride Cake
Beat the whites of three eggs to a strong froth, beat a pound of Jordan almonds very fine with rose water, mix your almonds with the eggs lightly together, a pound of common loaf sugar beat fine, and put in by degrees; When your cake is enough, take it out, and lay your icing on, then put it in to brown. ER

3 Egg whites* or Meringue Powder equivalent

283 g / 10 oz / 2 cups blanched almonds, ground to powder.

1 tbsp Rose Water

454 g / 16 oz / 2 cups powdered sugar

In a food processor, combine the almonds, rose water and sugar and set this aside. Whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Slowly add the almond mixture to the egg whites until incorporated. Spread this on the top of your cake as soon as you take it from the oven, and then return the cake to the oven until the top is lightly browned. Cool the cake slightly on a rack. Once the cake is cool enough to touch, slide a knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the cake. Remove the edge of the pan and ice the cake with Sugar Icing.

To Make Sugar Icing for the Bride Cake
Beat two pounds of double refined sugar, with two ounces of fine starch, sift it through a gauze sieve, then beat the whites of five eggs with a knife upon  a pewter dish half an hour; beat in your sugar a little a t a time, or it will make the eggs fall, and will not be so good a colour, when you have put in all your sugar, beat it half an hour longer, then lay it on your almond iceing, and spread it even with a knife; if it be put on as soon as the cake comes out of the oven it will be hard by the time the cake is cold. ER

907 g /

32 oz/ 4 cups Powdered Sugar

4 tbsp Corn Starch

5 Egg whites* or Meringue Powder equivalent

Sift together the starch and powdered sugar and set aside. Whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Slowly add in the sugar mixture, while the mixer continues to whip the egg whites. If you add the sugar too fast the whites will fall and you will end up with a glaze instead of icing. Continue to whip the icing for a few more minutes until it is the consistency of marshmallow cream. Ice the cake using a large, flat spatula, creating whorls and swirls in the pattern. Allow to stand at room temperature for several hours so that the icing hardens. Decorate with fresh flowers, if desired.

*The consumption of raw egg whites can lead to food poisoning. Use meringue powder as a safe alternative.

Excerpted from Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends, by Laura Boyle. Laura is fascinated by all aspects of Jane Austen’s life. She is the proprietor of Austenation: Regency Accessories, creating custom hats, bonnets, reticules and more for customers around the globe. Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends is her first book. Her greatest joy is the time she is able to spend in her home with her family (1 amazing husband, 4 adorable children and a very strange dog.)

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Jane Austen and the State of the Nation by Sheryl Craig: a Review by Laura Boyle

Jane Austen and the state of the nation by Sheryl CraigJane Austen and the State of the nation by Sheryl Craig

Jane Austen is universally acknowledged as an excellent writer with a fine grasp of the human condition. Her ever increasing number of fans, her inclusion in nearly every list of worthy writers and English Literature syllabi, her marketability and timeless appeal have created what might be called an international mania. Many would attribute her success to her wit and way with words, others to the age old stories of love and romance that she tells. It seems, however, as if there was more, much more, just beneath the surface: undertones and even overt messages that Jane Austen’s readers would have seen, but which are, for the most part, lost to today’s readers. After all, as Jane herself (in the guise of omniscient narrator) explains in Northanger Abbey:

“Oh! It is only a novel!…It is only Cecilia, or Camilla, or Belinda”; or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best–chosen language.”

I have, over the past few months, had the great privilege of first hearing and then reading the works of celebrated Austen scholar and international speaker, Dr. Sheryl Craig. The talk she addressed to our JASNA gathering in November, entitled “So Ended a Marriage”, looked at Mansfield Park in light of the divorce and custody laws current during Jane Austen’s day. Drawing from actual divorce transcripts, she carefully laid out a plausible defense for Austen’s use of the novel as political statement about the rights of women and their treatment as property. An abridged version of this talk can be found on Sarah Emsley’s Mansfield Park site, and the entirety has been printed in JASNA’s Persuasions #36.

Immediately following the talk, I eagerly began reading Dr. Craig’s newly published book, Jane Austen and the State of the Nation. I don’t know what I was anticipating, but what I found was truly fascinating. Dr. Craig has an easy, informed style, which makes even a subject like Georgian and Regency economics at once fascinating and accessible to the lay reader. Again, she brings her impressive knowledge of Austen’s life and times to bear with great effect. The book delves into Georgian social welfare and political response, and is rife with colorful anecdotes and period illustrations. It seems that even the counties chosen for Austen’s heroines to reside in held meaning for her period readers.

Now, of course, might be a good time to point out just how qualified Dr. Craig is. Her biography reads like a Janeite’s bucket list:

Sheryl Craig is an Austen scholar with a Ph.D. in nineteenth-century British literature from the University of Kansas. She’s a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America and editor of ‘JASNA News’. Sheryl has published articles in ‘Persuasions’, ‘Persuasions On-Line’, ‘The Explicator’ and ‘Jane Austen’s Regency World’, and on the websites of the Jane Austen Centre and Chawton House Library. In 2008, Sheryl was selected to be JASNA’s International Visitor, and in 2011-2012, she was JASNA’s Traveling Lecturer for the Central Region. She has presented at regional and national JASNA conferences and to Canadian and Scottish branches of the Jane Austen Society.

In Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen wrote ironically,A woman, especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can.” These words, from Henry Tilney, were meant to be taken in jest, but there may have been an element of truth to them as well. Jane, as we know, was quite clever—too clever, perhaps for her small social circle. As an avid reader of books and newspapers, a patron of the circulating library and an eager student of history and past masters, she peppered her personal correspondence with quotes both old and new, and innumerable references to current events.

Dr. Craig posits that one can not only trace the Georgian political and social climate through the chronological reading of Jane’s novels, but even more so Jane’s answer to the ever growing crisis around her. It’s easy to think that because war and poverty are hardly glimpsed in Jane Austen’s novels, that she is ignoring those unpleasant realities of life, focusing instead on the “three or four families in a country village” we are used to reading about. In reading Jane Austen and the State of the Nation, one begins to think that Austen’s novels are not at all what they seem upon first reading. Masking themselves as chick-lit romances, they find their way into the hands of men and women everywhere (including the Prince Regent and Sir Walter Scott) only to promote a rational, even-handed political agenda in the face of government corruption, national recession and widespread unemployment (not unlike that which is facing too many nations today.)

I feel quite foolish—as if I could not see what was right before my eyes, as though I had been duped by the pretty people, beautiful language and enduring story lines. There is so much more to Austen upon rereading through the lens provided by Dr. Craig. It’s as if, after intimately knowing the novels for more than twenty years, I’ve been given the opportunity to read them again for the first time. What I find are cleverly crafted lessons in statesmanship and stewardship which might as easily be applied to today’s foundering economy, working at such a basic level that anyone (landed gentry or not, Georgian or Generation Y) might be able to apply them to their own life.

England’s economy was falling apart at the seams, but rather than show the depravity and baseness of the human condition, rather than beat the reader over the head with everyday senseless tragedy, as Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens were wont to do, Austen’s fine hand gently paved the way for her understanding readers, and in such a way, through endless analogy, that her modern fan base can hardly see the “forest for the trees”, as it were.

As a historically interested Jane Austen fan, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will be rereading chapters and taking my time perusing the generous bibliography before lending it out with my highest recommendations. That being said, I am feeling somewhat ignorant at the end of the day. After hearing Dr. Craig speak, I felt I had not really ever understood (my least favorite of the novels) Mansfield Park, as it was clearly a treatise on the rights of women. Now, however, I find that Mansfield Park is actually a political expose on the state of the British colonies and Parliament’s answer to it. This too, with the given facts, seems perfectly logical and reasonable. Clever, clever Jane. What else have I been missing? No doubt there are dozens of other subtexts to be found if only one will look just below the surface.

Jane Austen once compared her style of writing to that of her nephew, Edward Austen’s: “What should I do with your strong, manly, spirited sketches, full of variety and glow? How could I possibly join them on to the little bit (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work with so fine a brush, as produces little effect after much labour?” (December 16, 1816) Those who have read Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre are given a vivid picture of the difference of a charcoal sketch vs. an ivory portrait such as Austen describes, “An hour or two sufficed to sketch my own portrait in crayons; and in less than a fortnight I had completed an ivory miniature of an imaginary Blanche Ingram. It looked a lovely face enough, and when compared with the real head in chalk, the contrast was as great as self-control could desire.” One is harsh and realistic, the other stylized, beautified and dainty. One of the reasons we love Jane Austen’s novels so much is for the escapist feel they bring, as we enter a world of order, beauty and light. This is the very impression Jane is seeking to create with her “little bit of ivory” analogy, and yet, beneath, there lies layer after layer of depth, complexity and realism that I am only beginning to comprehend. I am so grateful to Dr. Craig for opening my eyes, and anxiously anticipate her next book (fingers crossed that it will be published soon!)

 

  • List Price: £55.00
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; 1st ed. 2015 edition (August 19, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 978-1137544544

Laura Boyle is fascinated by all aspects of Jane Austen’s life. She is the proprietor of Austenation: Regency Accessories, creating custom hats, bonnets, reticules and more for customers around the globe. Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends is her first book. Her greatest joy is the time she is able to spend in her home with her family (1 amazing husband, 4 adorable children and a very strange dog.)

 

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Simplifying Regency Style

In her 1983 book, Period Design & Furnishing, Judith and Martin Miller present a wonderful overview of historical furniture design along with stunning photographs of both extant homes as well as contemporary recreations. This book is fascinating, not only to the Janeite hoping to better understand the nuances of fashion during the eras Jane lived through (Georgian, Regency, Empire and Biedermeier) but also to the author seeking to set her stage, the miniature artist attempting to capture a moment in time and the home decorator feathering her nest in a style reminiscent of days gone by.

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The Miller’s book, Period Design & Furnishing.

Quoting from the chapter, Regency, Empire and Biedermeier, we find a lovely description of Regency taste and how it differentiated from the preceding Georgian Era:

“Life in the English Regency period, which in its broadest sense stretched from the late 1790s  until the late 1830s, was more intimate and informal than previously. Rooms, often with a bay window, were smaller and had lower ceilings, and the arrangement of furniture was much more casual. Instead of being ranged around the room, pieces were grouped close to the fireplace. Family and friends would gather around a circular table to talk or play cards. Interiors were better lit than before: the new, efficient oil lamps enabled several people to share a table fore reading or writing.

A sample Regency dining room from Ackermann's Repository, 1816.
A sample Regency dining room from Ackermann’s Repository, 1816.

Regency rooms were on the whole light and graceful with fairly plain walls in a clear pale color. There would be a narrow frieze, and the ceiling was usually plain or decorated with a small central garland with a chandelier hanging from it. Fabric was used in abundance– swathed and draped over valances and sometimes festooned between the legs of chairs. Continue reading Simplifying Regency Style

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2015 Jane Austen Festival in Bath

Jane Austen Festival Promenade
Festival Promenaders taking a break.

The Jane Austen Festival starts on the 12th of September and looks like it will be the biggest and best ever.

Jackie Herring, Jane Austen Festival Director is happy with the arrangements and ticket sales. ‘Lots of events have already sold out but there are still a few tickets left. If you want to see something spectacular turn up on to the Regency Promenade on Saturday. Watch 600 spectacular promenaders in their Regency finery as they take to the streets of Bath.’

The event has been covered by The Bath Chronicle. Take a look at their article here

More Promenade information;

Each year the Jane Austen Festival officially opens with our world famous Grand Regency Costumed Promenade. The Promenade is a parade through the streets of this beautiful city and over 500 people all in 18th Century costume take part, making it a record breaking event. In 2014 the Jane Austen Festival achieved the Guinness World Record TM for ‘The largest gathering of people dressed in Regency costumes at 550′ All sorts of people take part from the very young to the young at heart plus red coats, dancers and our official town crier.

The Promenade stops the traffic in Gay Street, The Circus, George Street, Milsom Street and Orange Grove, making it difficult for drivers from 11am until 12.30pm on Saturday 12th September 2015.

ALL participants wear costume to take part in the Promenade and also purchase a ticket, the cost is £10 per adult, children 16 and under are free. £1 from every ticket sold is donated to the Festival’s charity, (2015 it is Whizz-Kidz) Tickets are in the form of a collectable wristband and on sale from the Online giftshop or by post from The Jane Austen Festival office c/o 40 Gay Street, Bath BA1 2NT from 2nd March 2015.

Don’t forget your festival souvenirs… Our Jane Austen Festival 2015 range is limited edition so once they’re gone, they’re gone!

Jane Austen Festival Mug Souvenir

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Create a Custom Hatpin

While there is some debate over the date of the original hatpin (vs straight pin),we do know that women have been using pins to secure veils, wimples, hats and bonnets for hundreds of years.  Until 1820 hatpin making in England was a cottage industry in which demand far exceeded supply. One solution was to import crafted pins from France. In order to support Britain’s crafters, in 1820 a law was passed allowing pins to be imported ONLY on January 1 and 2! Some suggest the phrase “pin money” was so called because it was spent by the lady of the house on her hatpins, dress pins and brooch pins!

2008’s The Duchess featured exquisite costumes (and hatpins) by Michael O’Connor. Photo by Nick Wall

All pins were still handmade at this point, and remained so until 1832 when a machine was invented in the United States, which could mass-produce the pins. After this prices dropped considerably as machines made pins were crafted England and France, soon after.

When styles began favoring the hat over the bonnet in the 1880’s, hatpins became both more fashionable and more elaborate. They remained as essential accessory until the age of flapper style bobs and cloche hats made them unnecessary. Still the Edwardian hatpin was regarded as a thing of fear among lawmakers of the day, who passed legislation in 1908 (in the United States) mandating that pins  not exceed 10 inches in length (lest Suffragettes use them as weapons) and later ordering that the ends be capped lest someone be injured by a sharp tip.

Pictures of Regency style pins are in short supply, but I do love this image from Atelier de Modistes Le Bon Genre 28, c.1807, showing a group of young ladies trying on hats and bonnets (Lydia Bennet, anyone?) A look at the woman on the far right shows what appears to be a beaded hatpin stuck safely in place waiting for the next hat or bonnet.

An image from Atelier de Modistes Le Bon Genre 28, c.1807
An image from Atelier de Modistes Le Bon Genre 28, c.1807

From the above illustrations, it appears that Georgian/Regency era pins were less elaborate than their Victorian cousins, featuring one or two beads, instead of the elaborate trimmings and jewels that were to come.

To create your own hatpins, you’ll need:

  • A long, straight pin or hatpin (20 cm is average.) These can be purchased from  Austentation on Etsy. Custom Pins are also available.
  • Metal glue (I like E6000)
  • An assortment of beads and bead caps.
"Blank" hatpins can be purchased from Austentation on Etsy.
“Blank” hatpins can be purchased from Austentation on Etsy.

To make your pin, first add a bead cap, then line up your beads in your chosen order and end with a small bead or cap. Once you have decided on your perfect combination, slide the beads down the pin and add some glue to the pin, where the beads will sit. Slide all but the last the bead back in place, being sure that each one is adhered. Add a small drop of glue to the bottom hole of the second to last bead, slide your final piece into place and allow the pin to dry.

A variety of hatpins can be purchased in our online shop
A variety of hatpins can be purchased in our online shop, while custom pieces can be ordered from Austentation.

Congratulations! A custom piece to complement your period ensemble!

This custom combination was created by Laura Boyle for Austentation: Regency Accessories.
This custom combination was created by Laura Boyle for Austentation: Regency Accessories.

Laura Boyle creates the hatpins available in the Jane Austen Centre shop as well as providing her customers with custom hatpins and supplies along with various other hats, bonnets, reticules and accessories from her shop Austentation: Regency Accessories.

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Banbury cakes

Many food items are named according to their birthplace, such as Bath Buns or Yorkshire Pudding. Banbury was a market town which also gave it’s name to the phrase, “A Banbury story of a cock and a bull”. Made famous in Regency circles by Georgette Heyer, it dates to at least the 1600’s and is mentioned in the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue by Francis Gros. Its most common meaning is “A far-fetched and fanciful story or tale of highly dubious validity“. It is also sometimes shortened to “a Banbury tale” or simply “a Banbury” and most often “a cock and bull story”.

A Banbury cake is a spiced, currant-filled, flat pastry cake similar to an Eccles cake, although it is more oval in shape. Once made and sold exclusively in Banbury, England, Banbury cakes have been made in the region to secret recipes since 1586 or earlier and are still made there today, although not in such quantity. The cakes were once sent as far afield as Australia, India and America.

banbury

Banbury cakes were first made by Edward Welchman, whose shop was on Parsons Street. Documented recipes were published by Gervase Markham and others during the 17th century. These recipes generally differ largely to the modern idea of a Banbury cake, in terms of their size, the nature of the pastry, and how the cake is made. In the late 19th century, the notorious refreshment rooms at Swindon railway station sold “Banbury cakes and pork pies (obviously stale)”.

A drawing of the original bake shop from "A History of Banbury".
A drawing of the original bake shop from “A History of Banbury” by Alfred Beesley, 1841.

Besides currants, the filling typically includes mixed peel, brown sugar, rose water, rum, and nutmeg. Banbury cakes were traditionally enjoyed with afternoon tea.

According to The History of Banbury by Alfred Beesley (1841),

“If the fame of Banbury Cheese has so nearly departed, that of Banbury Cakes, recorded from the days of Philemon Holland and Ben Jonson (in 1608 and 1614), has continued till the present time. Mr. Samuel Beesley, the proprietor of the cake shop which in the last century was conducted by the White family,8‘ sold, in 1840, no fewer than 139,500…

It is probable that the Banbury Cakes of the present day are made pretty nearly the same as those of the time of Holland and Ben J on son. The present Mr. Dumbleton (who was bom in 1765) remembers this sort of Cakes as being considered an antiquated production in the days of his youth; and he states that his father, who was born in the year 1700, spoke of them in the same way. The importation to this country of those small grapes which are the “currants” of commerce, and which are used in the manufacture of Banbury Cakes, was much earlier than this period. Ben Jonson (in his ” Bartholomew Fair **) writes of the Banbury Puritan, a baker and cake-maker, as having “undone a grocer here, in Newgate market, that broke with him, trusted him with currants, as arrant a zeal as he.”

The Cakes are of an oval, but rather diamond-shaped, figure: the outside is formed of rich paste, and the interior consists of fruit, &c, resembling the contents of a mince pie.

This 1615 recipe from Gervase Markham’s The English Huswife, Containing the Inward and Outward Virtues Which Ought to Be in a Complete Woman is probably quite close to the original recipe. For a modern version, though, try Dan Lepard’s “Jacobean Banbury Cakes“. Elena Greene offers a more modern (1825) version on her blog, Risky Regencies.

 recipe

 Historical information from Wikipedia.com