Christmas Musing with Miss Austen Mouse

by Cassandra Bates, Region Treasurer

With the Holidays approaching and snow falling I decided to take a trip to see my good friend Miss Austen Mouse to discuss what is so magical about this time of year, especially to Jane Austen. We had wonderful gingerbread scones and a nice black tea with a drop of honey and some cream (you must try this combination if you have not had the pleasure).

We started our discussion about winter and what it must have been like during Jane Austen’s time. Cold and everything smelled of smoke, was my opinion; however, Miss Austen Mouse had a different perspective. She agreed that everything smelled of smoke as that was the primary way of heating, but she also focused on the comforting thoughts of foot warmers, wool blankets, hot tea, and family.

Which led us into, what we thought was Jane Austen’s favorite Holiday. We both agreed, Christmas had to be it, being so close to her birthday (December 16th, 1775), she had to enjoy the Holiday immensely. In addition, we both realized that Christmas (or similar Holidays) are mentioned in each of her novels. Who could forget the disaster of a proposal by Mr. Elton to Emma as they traveled home from the Weston’s Christmas Eve dinner? Or how festive (possibly seen as chaotic) the Musgrove’s house was around Christmas time, spawning Lady Russell to remark “I hope I shall remember in future not to call at Uppercross in the Christmas Holiday”. Or even how the Gardiners traveled to Longbourn to spend Christmas with the Bennets “as usual”. But on a more personal note, for Jane Austen, she first met Tom LeFroy around Christmastime and she was also proposed to by Harris Bigg-Wither over the Holiday as well, momentous events to be sure. Miss Austen Mouse did inform me that Regency Christmas was celebrated longer than we do today. Christmas was a season from December 6th (St. Nicolas Day) to Twelfth Night, January 6th, which is also the day that Jane Austen exchanged presents and had a glorious feast and special cake.

As you are celebrating the Holiday however you do, Miss Austen Mouse and I would like to wish you all good tidings and good health this coming New Year. And without further ado, a Miss Austen Mouse post with out a recipe, just would not be a proper post.

Gingerbread Scones

From St. James Tea Room


2 cups all-purpose flour OR 2 cups gluten free flour

1Tbsp. baking powder

½ tsp. Salt

½ cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed

1 ½ tsp. ground ginger

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp ground cloves

½ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

1/3 cup buttermilk

1/3 cup unsulfured molasses

1 large egg, lightly beaten

4 pieces candied ginger, cut into 1/8 inch squares

For the Frosting:

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

1 Tbsp. heavy cream + more if needed


Pre-heat oven to 400 °F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the four, baking powder, salt, brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. Using a pastry blender, cut butter into flour mixture until mixture resembles coarse meal.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and molasses. Add buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and stir until dough is just combined (the dough will be sticky).

Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and pat to ½ inch thickness. Using a small star cutter, cut out 30 scones, gathering up scrapes and rerolling as necessary.

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“Perfect Happiness” on Viewing Four Jane Austen First Editions

A few members of our region had the good fortune to visit the Washington State University (WSU) Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections (MASC) room in the library to view four first editions of Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion.  A WSU alum, Lorraine (Kure) Hanaway recently left the first editions to WSU in her will (https://news.wsu.edu/2021/06/07/first-edition-jane-austen-novels-added-wsu-libraries-collection/).  Lorraine was one of the founding members of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) and was a member of the Eastern Pennsylvania region (http://jasna.org/publications-2/persuasions-online/vol-41-no-1/memorium-hanaway/). Dr. Trevor Bond, Associate Dean for Digital Initiative and Special Collections, and Greg Matthews, Special Collections Librarian at MASC, were our guides for the viewing and arranged all the books that we saw.  I think two themes that shape my reflections on seeing the first editions are:  the importance of preserving and understanding Jane Austen’s early editions and the joy of finding your “small band of true friends” who love Austen. 

Preserving and Understanding Jane Austen’s Early Editions

It seems centrally important to understanding Austen’s works to maintain the volume structure of the novels.  The three volumes structure clearly organizes the novels that were published during Austen’s lifetime.  (Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were published posthumously each as two volumes of a four-volume set so we can’t be sure of author intent in terms of volumes.)  For example, in Mansfield Park at the end of Volume I, the volume ends quite dramatically when Sir Thomas comes home, and his return is announced to those rehearsing the play by an aghast Julia.  While most recent edited editions of the novels preserve the three (or two) volume structure, it is wonderful to actually see the three volumes and think about what it must have been like to read one volume and then be so excited to start the next volume to find out what came next.  In the first editions we also see the ways that the printers kept continuity in the text by printing the first word of the next page at the end of the previous page (aka the “catchword”, see Deb Barnum’s blog on collecting books: https://janeausteninvermont.blog/2021/03/06/collecting-jane-austen-book-collecting-101/).  We also can see that not many words are printed on each line, so that the words on one page of a current edition might be spread out over two pages in a first edition (compare the Emma proposal scene in the first edition to the proposal scene in the Penguin edition edited by Juliette Wells, marked in the picture below by blue brackets).  It feels amazing that these volumes from the early 1800s have survived into the 21st century.

Finding Your “Small Band of True Friends”

It was so special to see the first editions with two of our region’s “founding members”.  Vic was at our very first meeting in Pullman in June 2017 and Chuck was at our first tea in Spokane in July 2017.  They both joined JASNA that year and helped our region to be recognized as an official region.  One of the joys of being a regional coordinator is getting to meet new Jane Austen fans in our region in person (such as Deb, who came with Vic) and, through social media and on Zoom, getting to meet people from all over the world who are Janeites. When viewing the first editions I also felt a connection to Lorraine Hanaway, who donated them, although I never had the pleasure of meeting her.  I could imagine her walking around the WSU campus in the late 1940s, thinking about the next edition of the student paper, The Daily Evergreen, in her job as editor.

T to B, L to R: Michele, Chuck, Vic, and Debbie are all smiling widely behind their masks!

The other Janeite I connected with at the MASC was, unexpectedly, Virginia Woolf!  The MASC has a large collection of volumes from Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s personal library (http://ntserver1.wsulibs.wsu.edu/masc/onlinebooks/woolflibrary/woolflibraryonline.htm).  I knew that Woolf was a big Jane Austen fan.  Trevor Bond and Greg Matthews arranged for us to see the Jane Austen books from the Woolf personal library.  The novels were mainly the “Everyman Library” versions from the early 1900s, although there was a two volume edition of Pride and Prejudice printed in 1817 by Egerton that was given to Virginia Woolf from John Maynard Keynes (the economist, who was also a part of the Bloomsbury group) and signed by him.  I was excited to see first editions of several of the Oxford publications from the 1920s: Lady Susan (pictured), Volume the First, and the final chapters of Persuasion, including the canceled chapter 10.  Another volume was probably quite rare since it said in the volume that only 250 were published:  a special printing of the final chapters of Persuasion printed on handmade paper with a facsimile version of the canceled chapter 10 in Jane Austen’s handwriting (see picture).  Holding volumes that Virginia Woolf held was very special.

It was a dream come true for me to be able to hold some Jane Austen first editions. I need to go back and study the first edition volumes in more detail.  I also want to get a better look at the P&P from 1817 that belonged to Virginia Woolf.  If you live locally and would like to see the volumes, they are available to view when MASC is open.  See https://libraries.wsu.edu/masc/ for more information about hours and how to access material in the reading room at MASC.

Michele Larrow, Regional Co-Coordinator

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Taking Tea with Miss Austen Mouse: Gingerbread Cakes

by Cassandra Bates, Region Treasurer

With our Spring Tea quickly approaching, I felt that it was a good time to take tea with Miss Austen Mouse. You see, Miss Austen Mouse is somewhat of a connoisseur when it comes to Regency Gastronomy and absolutely loves sharing when she discovers a “new” Regency recipe.  Since we were taking tea together, she decided to share a recipe for Gingerbread Cakes from The Art of Cookery: Made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse, originally published in 1805:

Take three pounds of flour, one pound of sugar, one pound of butter rubbed in a very find, two ounces of ginger beat fine, a large nutmeg grated then take a pound a treacle, a quarter of a pint of cream, make them warm together, and make up the bread stiff, roll it out, and make it up into thin cakes, cut them out with a tea-cup, or small glass, or roll them round like nuts, and bake them on tin-plates in a slack oven. 

Now, I am not sure about you dear reader, but I did not find that recipe to be plain nor simple. Luckily, my dear friend Miss Austen Mouse was able to modernize the recipe for me:

1 ½ lbs. all-purpose unbleached flour

½ lb. sugar

½ lb. butter softened to room temperature

2 tbsp. ground ginger

1 tbsp. ground nutmeg

1 cup molasses

¼ cup cream

  1. Preheat oven to 375°
  2. In a large mixing bowl, blend the flour, sugar and spices thoroughly with your hands.
  3. Warm the molasses and cream together in a small saucepan, stirring to blend. This is not to be hot but warm so that they blend together, not cook.
  4. Work the butter into the flour mixture with your hands until it has a sort of grated bread look.
  5. Add the molasses and cream mixture and work it up into a stiff dough with your hands. If it seems dry, add a little more cream to it. The dough should be stiff but not dry.
  6. Roll out the dough on a floured surface about ¼ inch thick and cut cookies into whatever shapes please you. If you wish to form them into nut shapes as the recipe states they will look sort of button shaped when they bake.
  7. Bake these in a 375° oven for about 8 to 10 minutes. They should still be soft to the touch before they come from the oven, not hard.

Enjoy and stay tuned for more Regency Gourmandise and other adventures with Miss Austen Mouse!

If you have a request for Miss Austen Mouse, please email: jasnaewanid@gmail.com or post on our Facebook page or Twitter feed.  Want to snag your very own tea cozy like the one pictured here? Hop on over to BerindeensTeaTime on Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/shop/BernideensTeaTime?ref=profile_header


Cass Grafton Interview

Interview by Cassandra Bates using questions submitted by region members and through social media.

Cass Grafton https://cassandragrafton.com/ is the author of several books that are Pride and Prejudice variations, including A Fair Prospect (3 volumes) and A Quest for Mr. Darcy. She also has co-written two books with her friend Ada Bright about a time-traveling Jane Austen. Cass and Ada have a new book coming out March 9, 2021 which combines Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion: Mr. Darcy’s Persuasion. Cass joined our region for a long-distance interview about reading, collaborating with other authors, and her writing process.

Have you seen the Bookworm Pill Meme?  The choices are 1) Amnesia Pill (read a book as if never read it) 2) Sacrifice Pill (revive dead fictional character) 3) Love Pill (fictional character falls in love with you) 4) Life Pill (bring fictional character to life) 5) Travel Pill (visit any fictional world) 6) Body Pill (change bodies with any fictional character).  Which two would you choose and for which books or characters? 

No, I haven’t seen it, but what fun!

So, instinctively, I went with number 2, reviving Sirius Black from the Harry Potter novels! Broke my heart when he died (hope that’s not a spoiler for anyone)! And, I realised I would love to read Pride & Prejudice for the ‘first’ time again, so I’m opting for number 1 also.

Any other 18th or 19th century women writers whom you love to reread?

I enjoy Elizabeth Gaskell – love, love, love North & South, Wives & Daughters and Cranford. Her Life of Charlotte Brontë is also fascinating. Enjoy the Brontës too, though I’ve only re-read the most popular novels.

I have read some of George Eliot’s novels, but I generally find her stories too depressing to re-read (which is funny, because you’d think with her capacity for a rising death count, Elizabeth Gaskell would be depressing too, but I love her stories! Must be all in the telling).

Switching between writing on your own and writing with a collaborator…does that cause any issues?

Not at all. Ada Bright and I both have our solo projects ongoing, but now and again we love to write together. It depends when the timing is right. Last year, we both found it tough to write contemporary, because we didn’t want to write about the present situation, so we decided to go back in time and write Mr Darcy’s Persuasion instead.

 I loved the Cornwall book…there seemed to be some Austen elements in the book?

Thank you! I’m so pleased you loved it!

Funnily enough, I didn’t think there were Austen elements (beyond some of the chapter quotes), but a couple of readers emailed me afterwards to say they saw parallels, and someone also told me they could ‘hear’ Colin Firth’s voice when Oliver was speaking.

That’s quite lovely, but in actual fact, I was imagining Richard Armitage for Oliver all the time I was writing (it was no hardship, honestly!) and there’s even a scene in there that is an homage to the BBC adaptation of North & South!

What was/is your research process for writing Regency?

Reading, mainly!

I discovered Jane Austen at school, read all her novels, partially finished works and then book after book about her life, and continue to buy and absorb them now (many years later).

With the time travel novels, there was a lot more practical research, as we were writing about a real person and the second in the series is set in Chawton in 1813. I had a behind the scenes tour of Jane’s house when it was closed, where I was told about the layout of the property and gardens back in early 1800, spoke with several people locally, including Jeremy Knight, whose family were the last of Jane’s descendants to live in Chawton (great) House, and was given maps of the village at that time.

I also read as many accounts as possible about Jane’s life in Chawton. It was fascinating!

We also have an excellent editor in Christina Boyd, who pointed out the number of words we were using which were mainly Victorian in origin and not in use in Regency England!

What if any was your inspiration for the relationship of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy in A Quest for Mr. Darcy?

This is a tricky one, because I can remember where the inspiration for the story struck (whilst sunbathing on a beach in Portugal many years ago), but less so the trigger for the relationship between the leads.

Part of the stimulus was a line in the first Austen-inspired book I wrote, A Fair Prospect, where Elizabeth says something along the lines of, ‘when I return to Longbourn, I will probably find my father is planning to relocate us to Derbyshire’, and ever since I’d written those words, I wanted to set story there—setting is very important to me when I write.

I don’t know if anyone who has read Quest has noticed, but Elizabeth doesn’t appear in the story until Chapter Ten! I felt she would bear Darcy considerable resentment at first, but I did enjoy having her come to realise what a good man he is. Perhaps it’s only me, but I feel Elizabeth needs to suffer a bit, not just Darcy!

Can an extraordinary woman reform Mr. Wickham, perhaps an Elizabeth Bennet?

Short answer? No! lol
Personally, I like to believe everyone has some redeeming qualities. I think, had he married Elizabeth (can’t bear to think about it), she would have curbed some of his weaker tendencies, but within marriage in that era, the man was very much in control, certainly when it came to finances. I can’t help but think, with Wickham’s propensity for losing or wasting any money he gains, even if he managed to persuade someone of Elizabeth’s qualities to marry him, they would never have a harmonious union.

You write with Ada Bright; how do you manage that process? Do you pass the manuscript back and forth? Or do you bounce ideas off each other and take turns writing? 

We both work on every single scene. We tend to brainstorm on video chat (we live thousands of miles apart—Switzerland and California) with a 9-hour time difference, so we chat my early morning, which is Ada’s late night—our most productive times, respectively.

We will decide what the next scene is, and one of us will start it, then send it to the other, who works on it and sends it back and so on. Because of the time difference, we can be working on the story almost 24/7 if we need to.

By the time we’ve finished a book, we have each worked on every aspect, and often we can’t remember who wrote what!

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

Jane Austen—with whom I wish I was friends—has helped me become a better writer. She’s an educator. I feel as if I’ve served my writing apprenticeship under her guidance.

I am also lucky to have so many writer friends, across several genres and countries!

The greatest thing I’ve gained is the companionship of fellow writers, because it’s a very lonely profession! It’s so lovely to be able to meet (in person or virtually) and talk about the process, the challenges and to get support when you’re having a ‘moment’ and convinced you can’t write at all!

What is your favorite love theme for ODC – enemies to lovers, forced marriage scenarios or low angst love story? What makes Darcy and Lizzy, one of the most popular couple?

I think I favour enemies to lovers. I always thought I wrote low angst stories, but when I was posting the opening chapters of Mr Darcy’s Persuasion, a few people were getting a bit stressed!

Jane Austen is a master at her craft, and although there are varying opinions over which of her novels shows this best, I’ve always felt she was exceptional in creating Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy. These two characters have charmed and enchanted readers and viewers for centuries, and Pride & Prejudice still regularly appears at the top of the ‘best books of all time’ polls, here in the 21st century.

On the surface, Elizabeth and Darcy appear so different, but they have similarities they have to discover—about each other and about themselves. They have faults, which makes them human and therefore relatable to readers. You feel for them, even as they are making mistakes, and you long for them to have their happy ending.

I believe Pride & Prejudice may be the most romantic of Jane’s books (though I would do a shout out for Persuasion on that score too), even though it’s not strictly a romance novel. The way Mr Darcy changes for—and because of—the woman he loves, and works to save her family from ruin, even when there is no particular hope for him, is enough to make me swoon every time!

How did the story of ‘Mr. Darcy’s Persuasion come to your mind as a full story? Inspiration?

I’ve always wanted to write a crossover between these two novels, because they are my favourites, and once again, location became an influence. I lived in Somerset for 7 wonderful years in the 1990s. It’s a place very dear to my heart, much as it is to Anne Elliot.

With a co-write, it’s also important for Ada to have been to where a book is being set, so she can picture it, and she was familiar with the county. We used Montacute House as our Kellynch Hall (which we visited together in 2019)—you may know it as the Palmers’ house in the 1995 Sense & Sensibility film.

Getting Mr Darcy and Elizabeth to Somerset (separately and unknown to each other) was the easy bit! Both Ada and I love to write an element of mystery into our stories, and I had the idea for this one—which I can’t speak about because of spoilers—after which, we brainstormed the plot and off the story went.

The most rewarding factor for both Ada and I as the novel took shape was the friendship between Anne and Elizabeth—one we never knew we needed, but it felt entirely right. Anne, of course, is only 24 in Mr Darcy’s Persuasion, as it takes place immediately after the Netherfield ball in November 1811, three years before the events of Persuasion.

Do you like to listen to music while you write? Or create playlists for books or characters?

Yes! I always have music on.

If I’m writing historical, I use soundtracks from the Austen adaptations, but when I was writing the Cornwall novel, I created playlists for Anna from current music.

With the time travel novels, it was a mix. The first book was set in the present day, so Rose had a playlist of her own, much like Anna’s, but in the second book, it was back to listening to classical to set the mood for 1813!

When might we expect A Polkerran Village Tale Book 2? Book 1 was excellent. 

Thank you so much! I am really touched to know that.

If it hadn’t been for a certain pandemic, it would have been coming out now! I have another three planned, and I’m hoping to leap into working on the second as soon as Mr Darcy’s Persuasion is released—time to create a new playlist!

What do you find to be the most difficult emotion to write?

Anger! I don’t have much of a temper, so I find lighter characters easier to write. I love writing Colonel Fitzwilliam, about whom we know very little, but he’s easy to make into a fun person.

The only time I manage to write angry people comfortably is when Lady Catherine is being a pain in the neck!

Has writing for you become harder or easier during the pandemic?

At first, I couldn’t write at all. I struggled with all that was happening. That’s why I eventually asked Ada if she’d be happy to co-write a historical novel, where we could escape from the world for a while each day.

It helped enormously. Not only do we have tons of fun when we are co-writing, and laugh a lot during our chats, but it gave us both a focus.

Wow, thank you for some amazing questions! It’s so lovely to have such original ones to answer!


A Thankful Sense

Give us a thankful sense of the blessings in which we live, of the many comforts of our lot; that we may not deserve to lose them by discontent or indifference.”  Jane Austen, Prayer 1, Minor Works 454

Jane Austen’s prayers give wonderful insight into her values for living and aspirations for interactions with her “fellow-creatures”.  Whether one shares her Christian faith or not, I think her desire to be more thankful in Prayer 1 has resonance for this strange year.  This is a year in which many things that we took for granted suddenly became of central importance.  I am thankful for having food to eat, shelter, good health, and ways to connect with those I love, even if I cannot see them in person.  I am thankful for the work of all those who keep our everyday lives running—those who staff the stores, work in the hospitals and clinics, care for loved ones, produce our food, deliver mail, and move goods around.  I am consciously trying to be more grateful each day for the small things—a hot cup of tea, the sound of a loved one’s voice, a walk outside–and to acknowledge those big blessings in my life.

I am also grateful for Jane Austen.  Reading Jane Austen helps me to find some sense of calm when everything seems upended.  Each time I re-read one of her works I re-discover some new treat of phrasing or characterization.  It has been a joy to connect with people who love Jane as much as I do either on social media or through our region’s Zoom meetings.  Our region is very spread out geographically, so it is a celebration for all of us to gather together on Zoom and be joined by people from around the country and Canada.  I enjoyed being able to attend the JASNA virtual Annual General Meeting in October and watch the videos throughout the month.  We even had JASNA president Liz Philosophos Cooper come to our virtual tea in May.  If there is one upside to things going online, it is the ability to participate in Jane Austen events worldwide and meet fans from all over.

I am also thankful to the people who make our region special.  Amy Lyons formed the region with me in 2017 and was a Regional Co-Coordinator for three years.  Jane Provinsal is our current Regional Co-Coordinator and does an amazing job running our social media.  Cassandra Bates is our treasurer and party-planner extraordinaire.  Debra Peck is our secretary and is so generous of her craft and sewing talents for our events.  Our members engage in dynamic discussion of all things Jane Austen.  It has been a pleasure to be able to host more frequent events thanks to Zoom and get to know people better.  Most of our events are free and open to anyone, so we hope you will join us at our events.

Michele Larrow, Regional Co-Coordinator