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The Georgian Breakfast

The elegance of the breakfast set forced itself on Catherine’s notice when they were seated at table
Northanger Abbey

Breakfast, as we know it, was developed during the Regency. Prior to this a late morning meal of tea and coffee, rolls, breads, meats, eggs, etc. was provided around 10 a.m. Upon a visit to Stoneleigh Abbey, Mrs Austen, Jane’s mother, was known to have remarked on the quantity of food at breakfast, listing, “Chocolate Coffee and Tea, Plumb Cake, Pound Cake, Hot Rolls, Cold Rolls, Bread and Butter, and dry toast for me”.

The lateness of the breakfast hour allowed people to run many errands which we would normally consider suitable for later in the day such as a visit to the park or library. While “morning calls” were actually made to friends in the afternoon, other events did take place. Until the late 1880’s, weddings were required by law, to be morning affairs. This paved the way for Wedding Breakfasts- the ancestor to today’s wedding receptions. Breakfast and Wedding cake were served and the party broke up in the early afternoon allowing the couple time to travel to their new home or honeymoon destination.

As the working/Middle class became a greater part of society, mealtimes changed and an early meal around 8 or 9 in the morning was needed to start tradesmen and professionals on their way. This meal would have been eaten in the drawing room or dining room and would have revolved around cakes and breads such as Brioche, French bread, toast, plum cake and honey cake. Tea and chocolate were popular drinks to accompany this meal. In the Austen household, it was Jane’s job to prepare breakfast for the family around 9 every morning. The Austen’s breakfast consisted of pound cake, toast, tea and occassionally cocoa.

Jane often used the hour before breakfast for her own personal time. Her neice, Anna Lefroy describes the routine: “Aunt Jane began her day with music – for which I conclude she had a natural taste; as she thus kept it up – ‘tho she had no one to teach; was never induced (as I have heard) to play in company; and none of her family cared much for it. I suppose that she might not trouble them, she chose her practising time before breakfast – when she could have the room to herself – She practised regularly every morning – She played very pretty tunes, I thought – and I liked to stand by her and listen to them; but the music (for I knew the books well in after years) would now be thought disgracefully easy – Much that she played from was manuscript, copied out by herself – and so neatly and correctly, that it was as easy to read as print.”

Laura Boyle runs Austentation: Regency Accessories. Creators of custom made Regency Hats, Bonnets and Accessories.

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