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Negus at a Ball

Cassandra Bates, our treasurer, has shared another wonderful recipe from the past for Negus.  Whether you can attend the dance this Saturday March 9 or not, this seems like a most intriguing recipe to try at a ball or at home.  Let us know if you try to make it and how it turns out.

“There were more Dancers than the Room could conveniently hold, which is enough to constitute a good Ball at any time.”

Letter to Cassandra, January 9, 1799

Even though in the Inland Northwest, Spring seems far away, but it will be here soon and that will bring flowers, new plant growth, green grass, and warmth. In Jane Austen’s time springtime was also the most active time for the London Season, which meant Balls! Food at Regency Balls ranged from simple fare to elegant dinner settings. Since it is still cold here in the Inland Northwest, here is a recipe for Negus. Negus is a mulled wine of sorts invented by Col. Francis Negus in the early 18th century. During Jane Austen’s time it was a popular beverage at Balls, however it slowly lost favor and became a popular children’s drink (not recommended).

To Make Negus:

“To every pint of port wine, allow 1 quart of boiling water, 1/4lb. of sugar, 1 lemon, grated nutmeg to taste.

Put the wine into a jug and rub some lumps of sugar (equal to 1/4lb.) on the lemon rind until all the yellow part of the skin is absorbed, then squeeze the juice, and strain it. Add the sugar and lemon-juice to the port wine, with the grated nutmeg; pour it over the boiling water, cover the jug and, when the beverage has cooled a little, it will be fit for use.”

From Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, 1861

Negus is mentioned in Mansfield Park, in Jane Austen’s inimitable description of Fanny leaving the ball where she danced with Henry Crawford (pictured below at the beginning of the dance in a Brock illustration):

Shortly afterwards, Sir Thomas was again interfering a little with her inclination by advising her to go immediately to bed.  “Advise” was his word, but it was the advice of absolute power, and she had only to rise and, with Mr. Crawford’s very cordial adieus, pass quietly away; stopping at the entrance door, like the Lady of Branxholm Hall, “one moment and no more,” to view the happy scene, and take a last look at the five or six determined couple, who were still hard at work–and then, creeping slowly up the principle staircase, pursued by the ceaseless country-dance, feverish with hopes and fears, soup and negus, sore-footed and fatigued, restless and agitated, yet feeling, in spite of every thing, that a ball was indeed delightful” (280-81, Oxford Edition).

mpbrockwc17 full view

 

 

 

 

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Jane Austen in Winter

When I think of Jane Austen and winter, I always think of Emma.  The snow that occurs during the Christmas Eve party at the Westons is pivotal to the plot as a way to get Mr. Elton alone with Emma.  It is also another example of how characters’ various responses to the same event reveal their personalities and whether they treat others with compassion or not.  I like that once the snow has set in for several days, Mr. Knightley still trudges through the snow to Hartfield to spend time with family.  There is so much humor in Mr. Woodhouse’s response to the snow:

“It was weather that might fairly confine everybody at home; . . . [I]t was very pleasant to have her father so well satisfied with his being all alone in his own house, too wise to stir out; and to hear him say to Mr. Knightley, whom no weather could keep entirely from them,–

’Ah! Mr. Knightley, why do you not stay at home like poor Mr. Elton?’”  (138-9, Oxford Edition)

Of course, winter in the Pacific Northwest means snow, especially in February this year.  We debated whether to reschedule our Spokane book discussion from 2/10 and ultimately decided to do so.  We were glad we did, based on the road conditions that day.  Both the Moscow Book Discussion on 2/17 at One World Cafe and the Spokane Book Discussion on 2/17 at Mary Ellen’s house were fun explorations of Northanger Abbey.  The weather and roads were clear enough that members were able to travel from significant distances (in some cases) to attend. The group in Spokane enjoyed the treats everyone brought and the discussion so much that the meeting went over 3 hours, instead of the usual 2. Unfortunately for the Moscow meeting, many members were ill and not able to attend the meeting.  We will try to reschedule something in warmer weather for those who missed.  With a smaller group in Moscow, we discovered all sorts of connections, like that two of the three attendees had both gone to Michigan State (and had very strong reactions against Ohio State).  It was nice to have time to get to know our fellow members more deeply.

In January we did a virtual movie night on our Facebook page for the movie “Love and Friendship”, Whit Stillman’s brilliant tribute to “Lady Susan”.  We had participants from Idaho, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Washington.  It was so much fun to interact with people from across the country and the comments were often hilarious.  Since it was online, we did not have to worry about the weather.

One of the best parts about winter for me is making a cup of tea and snuggling under a blanket to read Jane Austen.  I think reading when it is cold outside is especially enjoyable.  In addition to re-reading Northanger Abbey for our book discussion, I have been re-reading Emma because it brings me such joy and is a way to de-stress for me.  I also read all three of Pamela Aidan’s books in the Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman series in preparation for our tea at the end of April (see our Events page for more information).  I thoroughly enjoyed these books and am looking forward to hearing Pamela speak.  She will have books for sale at the tea and will be autographing books, so I plan to stock up!

I hope that you all are surviving the snow, winter illnesses, and the cold.  Most of all, enjoy some Jane Austen to brighten the days and warm your heart.  Michele

 

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The Joy of Reading Lady Susan

There is something truly breath-taking about reading Jane Austen’s novel-in-letters “Lady Susan”.  Most scholars believe that she wrote it before she turned twenty.  In the Oxford Edition of the Minor Works, Brian Southam hypothesizes that it was written between 1793-94 (MW, 243).  Because it is a novel in letters, we get to see how characters portray themselves to different letter recipients and then how they are perceived by others who write letters.  So the main dynamic of point-of-view is between Lady Susan and her sister-in-law Mrs. Vernon.  According to Juliet McMaster in Jane Austen, Young Author, “‘Lady Susan’ features a totally self-seeking female protagonist whose considerable power lies in her freedom from moral scruple” (12).  The language of the letters and the variations on perspective are a pleasure to read.

You can see the dueling perspectives of Lady Susan and Mrs. Vernon in the following quotations.  First, Lady Susan being candid with her confidante:

“There is exquisite pleasure in subduing an insolent spirit, in making a person pre-determined to dislike, acknowledge one’s superiority.” “Lady Susan”, Jane Austen Letter 7, Lady Susan to Mrs. Johnson (about Mr. De Courcy) Minor Works, 254

Next, Mrs. Catherine Vernon portraying her view of Lady Susan in a letter to her brother:

“[Lady Susan] is clever & agreable, has all that knowledge of the world which makes conversation easy, & talks very well, with a happy command of Language, which is too often used I beleive to make Black appear White.”
“Lady Susan”, Jane Austen  Letter 6, Mrs. Vernon to Mr. De Courcy, Minor Works, 251 (spelling and capitalization from MW)

The male characters are rarely given a voice in their own letters, with the exception of Reginald De Courcy, who has a few to Lady Susan and one to his father.  Juliet McMaster calls him “a bag of goods contested over by the women” (Jane Austen, Young Author, 12).  In a reversal of the reality of the time, the men are portrayed as dominated by the women (McMaster, 12).

“Lady Susan” is such a fun read.  If you have never read it, I encourage you do so.  You can download a free copy through Project Gutenberg:  http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/946

I think the quotation in the header of this article, “Facts are such horrid things,” is remarkably post-modern.  And I must close with another favorite quotation from the work, that shows that underneath it all, Lady Susan wants something else besides money:

ldysusanrichesonly

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Holiday Cooking

Our new treasurer, Cassandra Bates, enjoys Regency cooking.  Here is her blog post about black butter:

Shortly after Christmas, Jane Austen wrote her sister, Cassandra, about an evening party at her brother’s house in Southampton:

“The last hour, spent in yawning and shivering in a wide circle round the fire, was dull enough, but the tray had admirable success. The widgeon and the preserved ginger were as delicious as one could wish. But as to our black butter, do not decoy anybody to Southampton by such a lure, for it is all gone. The first pot was opened when Frank and Mary were here and proved not at all what it ought to be; it was neither solid nor entirely sweet, and on seeing it Eliza remembered that Miss Austen had said she did not think it had been boiled enough. It was made, you know, when we were absent. Such being the event of the first pot, I would not save the second, and we therefore ate it in unpretending privacy; and though not what it ought to be, part of it was very good.“ Jane Austen to Cassandra, December 27, 1808

The Black butter that Jane Austen referenced in her letter to Cassandra is not what one might think (a sauce of blackened butter), but rather a thick, dark conserve of fruit, often apples (much like American Apple Butter). The other is a French style “beurre noir” and is a sauce of brown butter (if it goes black it is ruined, why the name, who knows, French Culinary).

Below is a rather traditional Black Butter similar to the one in Jane Austen’s letter:

Take 4 pounds of full ripe apples, and peel and core them. Meanwhile put into a pan 2 pints of sweet cider, and boil until it reduces by half. Put the apples, chopped small, to the cider. Cook slowly stirring frequently, until the fruit is tender, as you can crush beneath the back of a spoon. Then work the apple through a sieve and return to the pan adding 1lb beaten (granulated) sugar and spices as following, 1 teaspoon clove well ground, 2 teaspoons cinnamon well ground, 1 saltspoon (about ¼ tsp) allspice well ground. Cook over low fire for about ¾ hour, stirring until mixture thickens and turns a rich brown. Pour the butter into small clean jars, and cover with clarified butter when cold. Seal and keep for three months before using. By this time the butter will have turned almost black and have a most delicious flavour. –  Maria Hubert von Staufer March 1995

 

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A Thousand Thanks

As I reflect on our Jane Austen Birthday Tea, there are so many people to thank. Thanks to the staff at the Roosevelt Inn for the great food and kind service.  Amy Lyons, co-Regional Coordinator, suggested the Roosevelt Inn and coordinated arrangements with them.  Jane Provinsal, our Social Media coordinator, made the lovely cinnamon Jane Austen ornaments/decorations (see the header image).  They smell heavenly.  So many people donated to the door prizes to raise money for our group.  There were basketball tickets; Regency dresses, reticules, and scarves; many books and games; embroidery; and grab bags.  We also had five theme baskets: Tea Time, Lavender Potpourri, Dress Up, Fun and Games, and Book Lover.  Thanks to Pamela Mogen, Cassandra Bates, Nancy Jo Tschida, Brenda Bye, Chuck Pierce, Sara Thompson, Debra Peck, Anne Hollum, Cindy Bell, Michele Larrow, and Yvette Tremblay-Kelly for donations.  We were able to raise over $150 for our group due to the generosity of the gift donors and those who purchased tickets to win the prizes.  (There are many pictures of the tea on the Photos of Past Events page).

A highlight of the tea was our reading of a short play Jane’s Dancers that we got through the script bank that JASNA has for the regions to use.  It was developed by the JASNA, Northern California Region.  Our readers/performers were highly entertaining and the words of Jane Austen about dancing were a fitting way to celebrate her coming birthday.  Thanks to Vickey Bolen, Van Brink, Brenda Bye, Debra Peck, Sara Thompson, and Nancy Jo Tschida for your wonderful rendition of the play.  See below for a few short snippets of the video.  Apologies for the poor stops and starts of the videos.

Thanks to everyone for a great tea.  I am thankful for all our members and everyone who has come to all our events this year!  We appreciate Sheryl DeShields who served as our treasurer for a year but had to resign.  Thanks to Cassandra Bates for agreeing to serve as our new Treasurer.  She was elected unanimously at the meeting portion of the tea.  Michele Larrow, Co-Regional Coordinator

  1. Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney

2. More Catherine and Henry

3. The Narrator from Northanger Abbey

4. Part of a scene from The Watsons