Jane Austen’s Wardrobe – Hilary Davidson

Jane Austen’s Wardrobe – Hilary Davidson

This book is a beautiful object. The pages are thick, there are illustrations and photographs.

A few of the images

Dr Davidson went through Austen’s letters and then found examples of similar clothing and accessories (or in the case of the Brown Silk Pelisse – the real thing).

The book explores Austen’s garments and adornments by grouping together items in the way Regency clothing would have been stored, as a virtual wardrobe.

Introduction, page 9

Not only is there information on Austen’s clothes, but there is information on customs of the time, fabrics, laundry etc. It is truly fascinating.

A review

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Black Sheep – Georgette Heyer

Black Sheep – Georgette Heyer

I think I have read this before, but it would have been sometime ago. I listened to the audio version, which was very lovely.

Here’s the blurb …

The novel is set in Bath, Somerset and centres on two main characters: Miss Abigail Wendover and Mr Miles Calverleigh.

At the beginning of the novel, Abigail’s niece Fanny claims to have formed a mutual “lasting attachment” with Stacey Calverleigh, to Abigail’s dismay. Stacey is reputed to be a “gamester”, a “loose fish”, and a “gazetted fortune-hunter”—that is, he has a gambling habit, is a libertine, and is on the look-out for a wealthy marriage. Abigail enlists the assistance of Stacey’s cousin, Miles Calverleigh, to prevent a clandestine marriage between Stacey and Fanny. Miles is the black sheep of the Calverleigh family, but Abigail finds herself attracted to his wit and unconventionality.

This was published in 1966, which must have been at the end of Heyer’s writing career. It has (what became a bit of a thing for her) a flighty young heroine and a mature one (mature being in her late twenties!). The relationship between Abigail and Miles is beautifully portrayed. We know early on he is keen on her, and they have a lovely friendship. It reminds me a bit of the relationship in the The Unknown Ajax.

This novel has all of things I love about Heyer; fashion, wit, weird regency slang and independent heroines. There are a few things that date it a bit; the name Fanny for one. There is a conversation between Abigail and Miles where they discuss ‘her poor dear fanny’. Making your fortune in India is probably frowned upon nowadays, and she does describe a singer wobbling like a blancmange.

I love how Stacey Calverleigh is routed horse, foot and artillery so to speak.

A review.

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Sanditon – Jane Austen

Sanditon – Jane Austen [E book published by Girlebooks]

12 chapters of Sanditon (know by Cassandra as The Brothers and the rest of the family as The Last Work) were written from January to March 1817 (Austen died 18th July 1817).

It was published by Chapman in 1925 – titled Fragment of a Novel. At this time the family titled it Sanditon.

James-Edward Austen-Leigh referred to it as ‘The Last Work’ in the second edition of his 1871 memoir. He described the plot and characters and had some excerpts.

This is what he had to say about it

Such were some of the dramatis personæ, ready dressed and prepared for their parts.  They are at least original and unlike any that the author had produced before.  The success of the piece must have depended on the skill with which these parts might be played; but few will be inclined to distrust the skill of one who had so often succeeded.  If the author had lived to complete her work, it is probable that these personages might have grown into as mature an individuality of character, and have taken as permanent a place amongst our familiar acquaintance, as Mr. Bennet, or John Thorp, Mary Musgrove, or Aunt Norris herself.

Jane Austen House Museum has the manuscript; it consists of around 24 000 words and is in three small handmade booklets. Notes on the manuscript record that Austen started writing on the 27th of January 1817 and stopped on the 18th of March. The manuscript passed to her niece Anna Lefroy and on through her family line to Mary Isabella Lefroy (Austen’s great-great niece) who presented it to King’s College Cambridge in 1930.

In her biography, Claire Tomalin (page 262) writes

What other fatally ill writer has embarked on savage attack on hypochondria? There is no sign of failing energy; on the contrary, it sets off in an entirely new direction. The theme is unlike anything she has ever tackled before: a place, the seaside village that is being transformed into a resort, where the newly built Trafalgar House will be followed by the still new Waterloo Crescent, because ‘Waterloo is more the thing now’; and where a young man on the make is speculatively ‘running up a little cottage Ornèe, on a strip of waste ground.

It is acerbic and witty. As Charlotte Palmer is a mature and sensible heroine, I wonder what adventure Austen was planning for her. What would be her “Until this moment, I never knew myself” moment?

The following are quotes I found interesting:

Loc 170

[…] as there was not more good will on one side than gratitude on the other, nor any deficiency of generally pleasant manners in either, they grew to like each other in the course of that fortnight exceedingly well.

Loc 193

Upon the whole, Mr Parker was evidently an amiable family man, […] liberal, gentleman like, easy to please; of a sanguine turn of mind, with more imagination than judgement.  And Mrs Parker was as evidently a gentle, amiable, sweet-tempered woman […] and so entirely waiting to be guided on every occasion that whether he was risking his fortune or spraining his ankle, she remained equally useless.

Loc 229

Every neighbourhood should have a grand lady.

Loc 252

Those who tell their own story, you know, must be listened to with caution.

Loc 420

Susan’s nerves would be equal to the effort. She had been suffering much from the headache, and six leeches a day for ten days together relieved her so little we thought it right to change our measures, and being convinced on examination that much of the evil lay in her gum, I persuaded her to attack the disorder there. She has accordingly had three teeth drawn, and is decidedly better, but her nerves are a good deal deranged.

Loc 469

The library, of course, afforded everything: all the useless things in the world that could not be done without; and among so many pretty temptations, and with so much good will for Mr Parker to encourage expenditure, Charlotte began to feel that she must check herself – or rather she reflected that at two and twenty there could be no excuse for her doing otherwise – and it would not do for her to be spending all her money the very first evening

Loc 517

And I do believe those are best off that have fewest servants.

[Lady Denham] – shades of Fanny Dashwood?

Loc 551

Perhaps there was a good deal in his air and address; and his title did him no harm.

Loc 821

It was impossible for Charlotte not to suspect a good deal of fancy in such an extraordinary state of health.

Loc 827

[..] but the spirit of restless activity and the glory of doing more than anybody else had their share in every exertion of benevolence; and there was vanity in all the did, as well as in all they endured.

Loc 968

[…] they were very accomplished and very ignorant.

Loc 985

Miss Lambe was “under the constant care of an experienced physician,” and his prescriptions must be their rule. And except in favour of some tonic pills, which a cousin of her own had property in, Mrs Griffiths never deviated from the strict medicinal page.

Loc 1022

I must hurry home, for Susan is to have leeches at one o’clock – which will be a three hours’ business.

Loc 1169

Sidney Parker was about seven or eight and twenty, very good-looking, with a decided air of ease and fashion and a lively countenance.

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Silk is for Seduction – Loretta Chase

Silk is for Seduction – Loretta Chase

I have read The Duke in Shining Armour and Ten Things I Hate about the Duke and enjoyed them both. So when I was looking for something positive and fun to read, I got this one from the library (in large print no less!). This one was also a lot of fun, I particularly enjoyed all of the fashion references and I am sure I will read the next in The Dressmakers Series.

Here is the blurb …

From the Design Book of Marcelline Noirot:
The allure of the perfect gown should be twofold:
ladies would die to wear it . . .
and gentlemen would kill to remove it!

Brilliant and ambitious dressmaker Marcelline Noirot is London’s rising star. And who better to benefit from her talent than the worst-dressed lady in the ton, the Duke of Clevedon’s intended bride? Winning the future duchess’s patronage means prestige and fortune for Marcelline and her sisters. To get to the lady, though, Marcelline must win over Clevedon, whose standards are as high as his morals are . . . not.

The prize seems well worth the risk—but this time Marcelline’s met her match. Clevedon can design a seduction as irresistible as her dresses;and what begins as a flicker of desire between two of the most passionately stubborn charmers in London soon ignites into a delicious inferno . . . and a blazing scandal.

And now both their futures hang by an exquisite thread of silk . . .

This is a racy and pacy regency romance (by which I mean there are sex scenes). It is clearly well-researched with lots of interesting regency detail; the locations, the fashions and the social events. However, it also has a modern feel to it (particularly in the way the characters treat each other).

A review

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Reading Jane Austen – Jenny Davidson

Reading Jane Austen – Jenny Davidson

I am not sure how I first became aware of this book, but when I was looking for a non-fiction book to read, I had this as a sample on my Kindle. It’s fabulous.

Here’s the blurb …

Whether you’re new to Austen’s work or know it backwards and forwards already, this book provides a clear, full and highly engaging account of how Austen’s fiction works and why it matters. Exploring new pathways into the study of Jane Austen’s writing, novelist and academic Jenny Davidson looks at Austen’s work through a writer’s lens, addressing formal questions about narration, novel writing, and fictional composition as well as themes including social and women’s history, morals and manners. Introducing new readers to the breadth and depth of Jane Austen’s writing, and offering new insights to those more familiar with Austen’s work, Jenny Davidson celebrates the art and skill of one of the most popular and influential writers in the history of English literature.

There are seven chapters and a very comprehensive Notes and Further Reading section. The Chapter titles are:

  • Letters
  • Conversation
  • Revision
  • Manners
  • Morals
  • Voice
  • Female Economies

In each chapter, Davidson refers to specific parts of all of the texts (and the letters). She has clearly read all of the novels extremely closely and her insights are interesting and thought-provoking. I need to go back and read the novels again.

For example, in the chapter on Morals, this passage is taken from Pride and Prejudice

Mrs. Bennet found, with amazement and horror, that her husband would not advance a guinea to buy clothes for his daughter. He protested that she should receive from him no mark of affection whatever, on the occasion. Mrs. Bennet could hardly comprehend it. That his anger could be carried to such a point of inconceivable resentment, as to refuse his daughter a privilege, without which her marriage would scarcely seem valid, exceeded all that she could believe possible. She was more alive to the disgrace, which the want of new clothes must reflect on her daughter’s nuptials, than to any sense of shame at her eloping and living with Wickham, a fortnight before they took place.

And then, Davidson writes this

Mrs. Bennet’s shallowness is mocked in this passage, but the novel reserves a more profound indictment for strict exertions of conventional moral judgment that aren’t tempered by the humility and humanity – the empathy, we might call it – that should properly accompany verdicts on other people’s wrongdoing. Austen herself, in her letters as in her fiction, would probably have phrased this point in more explicitly Christian terms, invoking forgiveness rather than sympathy or empathy and resolutely condemning the hypocrisy and mean-spiritedness of Christians unwilling to comprehend and forgive transgression.

If you’re interested in Austen, or reading critically or literature in the Georgian era, then this book is for you.

A review

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The Ladies Guide to Scandal – Sophie Irwin

A Lady’s Guide to Scandal – Sophie Irwin

I read and loved The Ladies Guide to Fortune Hunting, so I was super keen to read this one. I even pre-ordered it.

Here’s the blurb …

When shy Miss Eliza Balfour married the austere Earl of Somerset, twenty years her senior, it was the match of the season–no matter that he was not the husband Eliza would have chosen.

But ten years later, Eliza is widowed. And at eight and twenty years, she is suddenly left titled, rich, and, for the first time in her life, utterly in control of her own future. Instead of living out her mourning quietly, Eliza heads to Bath with her cousin Margaret. After years of living according to everyone else’s rules, Eliza has resolved, at last, to do as she wants.

But when the ripples of the dowager Lady Somerset’s behavior reach the new Lord Somerset–whom Eliza knew, once, as a younger woman–Eliza is forced to confront the fact that freedom does not come without consequences, though it also brings unexpected opportunities . . .

This was well-written and I enjoyed the Bath setting and all of the fashion information, not to mention all of the great regency detail. And Melville is a suitably dashing rake (or is he?) and Lord Somerset seems perfect (but is he?). However, I think I still prefer the first novel to this one. Don’t get me wrong this one is still fun and worth reading, but I thought the first one was fabulous (one of my favourite reads from last year)

A review

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The Regency Revolution – Robert Morrison

The Regency Revolution – Robert Morrison

I have two paper copies and one Kindle copy, so clearly I was keen to read it. It did still take me a while to get to it. This is the story/history of regency England.

Here’s the blurb …

The Regency began on 5 February 1811 when the Prince of Wales replaced his violently insane father George III as the sovereign de facto. It ended on 29 January 1820, when George III died and the Prince Regent became King as George IV. At the centre of the era is of course the Regent himself, who was vilified by the masses for his selfishness and corpulence. Around him surged a society defined by brilliant characters, momentous events, and stark contrasts; a society forced to confront a whole range of pressing new issues that signalled a decisive break from the past and that for the first time brought our modern world clearly into view.

This book is divided into five chapters with a prologue and epilogue;

  • Prologue – The Regent and the Regency
  • Chapter 1 – Crime, Punishment and the Pursuit of Freedom
  • Chapter 2 – Theatres of Entertainment
  • Chapter 3 – Sexual Pastimes, Pleasures, and Perversities
  • Chapter 4 – Expanding Empire and Waging War
  • Chapter 5 – Changing Landscapes and Ominous Signs
  • Epilogue – The Modern World

It is a fascinating book, without any obfuscating academic jargon. And it has some lovely illustrations (both colour and black and white).

Some of the quotes about Austen

Austen knew that our biggest hopes sometimes rest on the smallest events, and that tragedy can be played out not just on the national stage or a foreign battlefield but also is a drawing room conversation or on a country walk.

His [Byron] reputation as a handsome ,brooding, anti-social elite stands clearly behind Austen’s portrait of Darcy in Pride and Prejudice

Austen was the great master of the technique that used social constraint to heighten rather than reduce sexual tension.

This book is great if you are interested in history, or Jane Austen, or Byron (not to mention Shelley and Mary Shelley).

Another review

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T2 Pride and Prejudice Box

T2 and Penguin have joined forces to release book boxes that contain a classic novel, a cup (designed with the book in mind) and tea. Obviously I had to get the Pride and Prejudice one.

The box
Inside the box (the cup has a quote inside as well)
The Book in the Box

The three types of tea in this box are; French Earl Grey, New York Breakfast and Green Rose (all favourites of mine)

The other options are:

  • Romantic (Wuthering Heights)
  • Science Fiction (Dracula)
  • Mystery (Sherlock Holmes)

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The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies – Alison Goodman

The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies – Alison Goodman

Check out my review here.

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Jane Austen Embroidery – Jennie Batchelor and Alison Larkin

Jane Austen Embroidery – Jennie Batchelor and Alison Larkin

This is a lovely book with beautiful illustrations and photography.

It is split into three sections; Clothes, Accessories, and Items for the Home, as well as an introduction.

The introduction is an essay on embroidery in Jane Austen’s time and some family recollections.

Jane could not resist telling her sister Cassandra, ‘she was the neatest worker of the party’

The rest of the introduction contains information about the Lady’s Magazine (from which all of the original patterns in this book are taken.

Each section has its own introduction with more information about Jane Austen and the Lady’s Magazine. These are really fascinating and are worth reading even if you’re not a stitcher.

The instructions and diagrams look good, I haven’t attempted anything yet, but I did read them and think they were comprehensive and easy to follow.

Most of the projects aren’t really things that I would make, but I would like to attempt the ‘Harvest Housewife’ and the ‘Glittering Gold and Green Workbag’ (although I think I would embroider something different – perhaps the ‘Fireflower Apron’pattern).

The Housewife is on this version of the cover
Work Bag
Fireflower Apron

The projects are made with silk thread, but there is a DMC conversion at the end if you prefer to stitch with cotton. There is also a list of resources and further reading suggestions. I am quite keen to read

  • 18th Century Embroidery Techniques – Gail Marsh (I have ordered a copy)
  • Jane Austen and Leisure – David Selwyn

Some of the others in the list I already own and need to reread (Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England – Amanda Vickery, and The Subversive Stitch – Roszika Parker)

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