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Mr. Darcy’s Fruit

Michele Larrow, Regional Co-Coordinator

The next variation which their visit afforded was produced by the entrance of the servants with cold meat, cake, and a variety of all the finest fruits in season; but this did not take place till after many a significant look and smile from Mrs. Annesley to Miss Darcy had been given, to remind her of her post.  There was now employment for the whole party; for though they could not all talk, they could all eat; and the beautiful pyramids of grapes, nectarines, and peaches, soon collected them round the table. . . . Mrs. Gardiner and Elizabeth talked of all that had occurred, during their visit, as they returned, except what had particularly interested them both.  The looks and behaviour of every body they had seen were discussed, except the person who had mostly engaged their attention.  They talked of his sister, his friends, his house, his fruit, of everything but himself; yet Elizabeth was longing to know what Mrs. Gardiner thought of him, and Mrs. Gardiner would have been highly gratified by her niece’s beginning the subject.”

Pride and Prejudice, 309, 312

In Pride and Prejudice, late July and early August are the time of year when the Gardiners and Elizabeth Bennet traveled to Derbyshire and visit Pemberley.  Using textual cues and working backward from Mrs. Gardiner’s letter to Elizabeth dated September 6, Chapman (400-405) convincingly argues that the first trip to Pemberley takes place on August 4 and that Elizabeth and Mrs. Gardiner go back to visit Geogiana on August 6.  During that visit, they are served “beautiful pyramids of grapes, nectarines, and peaches,” (P&P Spacks Ed. 309) in “generous hospitality” (Spacks, note 6, 309).  The purpose of this article is to explore the cultivation of these fruits during the Regency and what the fruit tells us about Pemberley.  For illustrations of the fruit, we will turn to George Brookshaw’s amazing prints in Pomona Britannica (1812).[i]  As always in Austen, the minor details reveal much, especially when we understand the context that a contemporary reader would know.

When Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner and Elizabeth tour Pemberley outside, they are shown the park by the gardener.  They see the river, the woods, hills, and walks.  They are not shown any gardens.  Nor are gardens mentioned when Elizabeth looks out of the windows in various rooms in Pemberley.  The focus is all on the woods, hills, and “the disposition of the ground” (285).  As Spacks notes, all the views of Pemberley correspond to the picturesque (note 4, 283 and note 11, 285).  Austen would have counted on her contemporary readers to know what would have gone into the gardens of Pemberley and there is no need to tell them.  However, the fruit that is served at Elizabeth and Mrs. Gardiner’s visit gives us a clue of the wealth behind the gardens.

Grapes, Nectarines, and Peaches in the Regency Garden

The grapes, nectarines, and peaches at Pemberley are described as “the finest fruits in season”. Spacks in her annotations to Pride and Prejudice note that these fruits must be grown in hothouses (note 8, 309).  If we consult Thomas Mawe and John Abercrombie’s The Universal Gardener and Botanist, a 1778 gardening book that we know was in Jane Austen’s brother Edward Austen Knight’s Godmersham library in the 1818 catalogue (https://www.readingwithausten.com/catalogue.html),  peaches and nectarines are described as growing best on south-facing garden walls because they need extra heat, with some maturing in late July and August.  James McPhail in a Gardener’s Remembrancer (1807) argues that peaches can only be grown against walls in the southern counties of England and that northern counties need to use glassed houses with extra heat (123-5). McPhails gardens have forcing-houses devoted to peaches and nectarines, called Peach Houses.  Mawe and Abercrombie note that grapes can sometimes be grown against walls but often need heat and protection of glass and usually are in season in September through November.  McPhail wrote that in England grapes need glass to do well above 50degrees latitude.  Thus, since Pemberley is in Derbyshire, the peaches and nectarines would have to be grown in forcing-houses yet are in season in August, and grapes are early for the season in August and certainly grown either in a forcing-house or hot-house.

James McPhail, the head gardener to the Earl of Liverpool at Addiscombe Place in Surrey, details the types of structures that would have been used for growing a variety of fruits and vegetables on a large estate like Pemberley.  Hot-houses were large buildings (80’ long X 16’ wide X 12’ high in back) built to use the heat from the sun, heat from stoves, and heat from pits with fermenting dung and/or tan bark to keep plants at the best temperatures for ripening tropical fruit.  Hot-houses would be kept at high temperatures (often 90s during the day) and were used for plants such as pineapples, some grapes, and French beans, as well as other exotics.  Forcing-houses would produce fruit about two months earlier than fruit grown outdoors, for tree fruits that have a natural year growth cycle.  They were kept at cooler temperatures than hot-houses, but still needed fires to get temperatures into the 70s, for example in March to get peaches ripe for May.  Forcing-houses were used for fruit such as peaches, nectarines, some kinds of grapes, cherries, strawberries, figs, apricots, and flowers such as roses.  According to McPhail, the forcing-houses produce the best fruit when they are dedicated to a specific plant, such as a peach house, a grape house, and a cherry house. He describes his peach house as measuring 64’ long X 10’ wide X 8’ high in the back for 8 trees. Forcing-frames were smaller structures for low-growing plants such as melons, asparagus, herbs, potatoes, and cucumbers and often had heat by fermentation of dung and leaves to produce the fruits and vegetables (187-189).  Green-houses usually did not have fires unless the weather was very cold (180) and would be used to grow plants such as lemon, oranges, myrtles, succulents, and many flowers.  Green-houses could be used to grow seeds and cuttings also.  Because hot-houses, forcing-houses, and green-houses use a lot of glass, they are expensive to build.  The cost of fuel to maintain them is another expense, so having hot-houses and forcing-houses is one sign of Mr. Darcy’s wealth.

In addition to the structures described above, the gardens would include outdoor spaces for plants, sometimes protected by walls.  The fruit-garden consisted of those fruits that could be grown outside against walls (for warmth) or in orchards, such as apples, pears, plums, cherries, gooseberries, currants, strawberries, and raspberries (193-197).  The kitchen garden would be planted with vegetables and herbs that could grow within the season, often staggering the planting times to produce the food over the longest space of time.  The pleasure or flower garden contains walks with lawn, flowering shrubs, evergreen shrubs, and many kinds of flowers in borders.  We can imagine Elizabeth enjoying these spaces once she becomes mistress of Pemeberley.

McPhail’s book goes through each month of the year and details all the work that must be done in each of the garden sections and growing houses.  Pemberley must have employed many people in the garden to accomplish the production of food year-round.  By choosing fruits such as peaches, nectarines, and grapes, which require so much effort and cost to raise, Austen highlights the great garden at work, hidden behind Pemberley.


[i] See the previous blog https://jasnaewanid.org/2022/06/04/pomona-britannica-and-emma/ for a discussion of the original 1812 George Brookshaw book, the reissue of the plates by Taschen in 2002, and the fruits in Emma.  The New York Public Library has digital copies of every plate available for free download.  Several of the plates were downloaded for use here (see illustration list).  The color of the digital copies of the plates was edited and enhanced to come closer to the color of the plates in the 2002 Taschen version.

Illustrations

1. Rare Book Division, The New York Public Library. “Red nutmeg, Hemskirk, Early Ann and French Vanguard Peaches.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1812. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dc-88c6-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

2. Rare Book Division, The New York Public Library. “White sweet water grape.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1812. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dc-894e-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

3. Rare Book Division, The New York Public Library. “Vermash, Violette Hative, Red Roman, North scarlet, Ell rouge and the Peterborough nectarines.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1812. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dc-88e9-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

4. Rare Book Division, The New York Public Library. “Black muscadine (grapes).” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1812. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dc-8931-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

5. Rare Book Division, The New York Public Library. “Marlborough, Rumbullion, and the Double mountain peaches.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1812. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dc-88e0-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Works Cited

Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Ed. Patricia Meyer Spacks. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press/Harvard U P.

Chapman, R.W. “The chronology of Pride and Prejudice.” In Austen, J. Pride and Prejudice. Ed. R. W. Chapman, Third Edition. Oxford: Oxford U Press.

Mawe, Thomas, and Abercrombie, John. The Universal Gardener and Botanist: Or, A General Dictionary of Gardening and Botany. Exhibiting in Botanical Arrangement, According to the Linnæan System, Every Tree, Shrub, and Herbaceous Plant, that Merit Culture, Either for Use, Ornament, Or Curiosity in Every Department of Gardening … Describing the Proper Situations, Exposures, Soils, Manures, and Every Material and Utensil Requisite in the Different Garden Departments; Together with Practical Directions for Performing the Various Mechanical Operations of Gardening in General. United Kingdom, G. Robinson, 1778.  https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Universal_Gardener_and_Botanist/eMtCAQAAMAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=0 (version from The Ohio State University)

McPhail, James. The Gardener’s Remembrancer Throughout the Year: Exhibiting the Newest and Most Improved Methods … Best Adapted for the Culture of Plants, and Production of Fruits, Flowers, and Esculent Vegetables … to which is Prefixed a View of Mr. Forsyth’s Treatise on Trees. United Kingdom, T. Cadell and W. Davies, 1807. (version from Oxford University)  https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Gardener_s_Remembrancer_Throughout_t/ggoAAAAAQAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=0

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Pomona Britannica and Emma

Michele Larrow, Regional Co-Coordinator

In planting a new garden, the first grand object is, to consider what are the proper varieties with which the table may be supplied, and the dessert set out with the highest flavoured fruit, and from the earliest to the latest period possible.” 

George Brookshaw, quoted in Pellgrü-Gagel (2002, p. 20)

While looking for a botany book in the Washington State University library, I found George Brookshaw Pomona Britannica: The Complete Plates, a 2002 book published by Taschen that reproduces the color plates in Brookshaw’s book, originally published in 1812.  Many of the fruit mentioned by Jane Austen in her novels and letters are featured in this book in beautiful detail.  The original Pomona Britannica (1812) took almost 10 years to create through a process of copperplate engraving, aquatint, and hand-painting the 90 plates.  It was dedicated to the Prince Regent[i] and is based on fruit grown in the Royal Garden at Hampton Court and other gardens around London.  Brookshaw’s purpose was to help those who have estate gardens distinguish between the many varieties of fruits and increase the cultivation of the best fruits.  The high cost of the book (almost 60 pounds) and the complexity of the printing process, which would have limited the number of copies, meant that probably only the very wealthy would have been able to purchase copies.  The copy used to make the 2002 book belonged to Prince George’s sister, Princess Elizabeth, and followed her to Germany when she married; its current location is in the Staatliche Bücher und Kupferstichsammlung Greiz, Thüringen (State Collection of Books and Engravings, Greiz, Thuringia) in Germany.  Only 6 other complete copies are known (including three in the U.S. at the New York Public Library[ii], the Library of Congress, and Oak Spring Garden Library, Virginia.)[iii]  It is highly unlikely that Jane Austen knew of this publication, yet the color plates give a vibrant representation of the fruits that would have been in estate gardens during the Regency era.

Pomona Britannica and Strawberry Picking at Donwell Abbey

Mrs. Elton, in all her apparatus of happiness, her large bonnet and her basket, was very ready to lead the way in gathering, accepting, or talking—strawberries, and only strawberries, could now be thought or spoken of.—”The best fruit in England—every body’s favourite—always wholesome.—These the finest beds and finest sorts.—Delightful to gather for one’s self—the only way of really enjoying them.—Morning decidedly the best time—never tired—every sort good—hautboy infinitely superior—no comparison—the others hardly eatable—hautboys very scarce—Chili preferred—white wood finest flavour of all—price of strawberries in London—abundance about Bristol—Maple Grove—cultivation—beds when to be renewed—gardeners thinking exactly different—no general rule—gardeners never to be put out of their way—delicious fruit—only too rich to be eaten much of—inferior to cherries—currants more refreshing—only objection to gathering strawberries the stooping—glaring sun—tired to death—could bear it no longer—must go and sit in the shade.” 

Jane Austen, Emma, Vol III, Chap. 6, pp. 389-390

Mrs. Elton’s monologue when she is picking strawberries at Donwell Abbey is unique in the novels in that it names specific varieties of a fruit: Chili, hautboy, and white wood strawberries.  The Chili and hautboy strawberries are pictured in Pomona Britannica (see the fourth picture below, hautboy is top left and Chili is top right)The white wood strawberry is not pictured precisely.  There is a wood strawberry (lower left in the fifth picture below) and a white alpine strawberry (lower right in the fifth picture); the white wood strawberry would looks like a combination of the two pictures.  Unfortunately the text of the original Pomona Britannica is not available online, so I consulted Thomas Mawe and John Abercrombie’s The Universal Gardener and Botanist, a 1778 gardening book that we know was in Jane Austen’s brother Edward Austen Knight’s Godmersham library in the 1818 catalogue (https://www.readingwithausten.com/catalogue.html) for information about the plants mentioned in Emma.  According to Mawe and Abercrombie, all of the strawberries mentioned by Mrs. Elton are varieties of the species FRAGARIA Vesca, cultivated strawberry, known for “beautiful fruit with admirable fragrance”. Hautboy (from hautbois or Musky strawberry) and Chili strawberries (named after the country Chile, where they originated) have larger fruit (Chili is the largest,) and wood strawberry has smaller fruit.  It is only the alpine berry that bears throughout summer.  All the other varieties produce fruit once in “June, July, or August”, perfect timing for Mr. Knightley’s strawberry picking party almost at midsummer!

As we know, Mrs. Elton becomes bored with strawberries and turns her attention to cherries and currants.  Cherries are another fruit with many varieties in the late 1700s and early 1800s (there are 21 varieties shown in Pomona Britannica).  Currants are related to gooseberries (both Ribes genus) but only have three main varieties: black, white, and red.  The plates for currants and one of the pages for cherries are shown below, along with Mawe and Abercrombie’s discussion of the fruits. Cultivated cherries (Prunus Cerasus) are in the same genus as plums, apricots, and laurels. Note how many varieties of cherries are listed in Mawe and Abercrombie, including the May Duke, White Heart, and Black Heart, all pictured below in Pomona Britannica.

Pomona Britannica and the Wide Variety of Apples

And when I brought out the baked apples from the closet, and hoped our friends would be so very obliging as to take some. . . . The apples themselves are the very finest sort for baking, beyond a doubt; all from Donwell—some of Mr. Knightley’s most liberal supply. He sends us a sack every year; and certainly there never was such a keeping apple anywhere as one of his trees—I believe there is two of them. My mother says the orchard was always famous in her younger days. But I was really quite shocked the other day—for Mr. Knightley called one morning, and Jane was eating these apples, and we talked about them and said how much she enjoyed them, and he asked whether we were not got to the end of our stock. ‘I am sure you must be,’ said he, ‘and I will send you another supply; for I have a great many more than I can ever use. William Larkins let me keep a larger quantity than usual this year. I will send you some more, before they get good for nothing.’ . . . ‘However, the very same evening William Larkins came over with a large basket of apples, the same sort of apples, a bushel at least, and I was very much obliged. . . . I found afterwards from Patty, that William said it was all the apples of that sort his master had; he had brought them all—and now his master had not one left to bake or boil. William did not seem to mind it himself, he was so pleased to think his master had sold so many; for William, you know, thinks more of his master’s profit than any thing; but Mrs. Hodges, he said, was quite displeased at their being all sent away. She could not bear that her master should not be able to have another apple-tart this spring.” 

Jane Austen, Emma, Vol II, Chap. 9, pp. 256-258

Apples figure prominently in Emma, and, as we can see from Miss Bates narrative above, are mainly connected to Mr. Knightley and his generous gifts of “keeping” apples during winter to the Bates family.  At the end of the 18th century there is a great range of apple varieties (there are 39 apples pictured in Pomona Britannica).  In 1826, there were over 1200 varieties in England (Pellgrü-Gagel), many having more than one name. In the 1700s, botany was still an evolving science and apples were listed by Mawe and Abercrombie (following the Linnæan system of the time) in as a species of the pear genus (Pyrus malus). Now apples are given their own genus, Malus. Mawe and Abercrombie describe apples as “the most valuable fruit in the world for its various economical uses”. They organize their listing of 36 preferred apple varieties (see pictures below) according to when the fruit ripens and then name another 27 varieties of lesser quality that appear in catalogues or for sale through nursery men.  It is likely that Brookshaw organized his plates similarly in order of ripening in Pomona Britannica as the late-ripening Pippins (including aromatic, embroidered, and lemon mentioned by Mawe and Abercrombie) and the Colvilles (both white and red are pictured below) come toward the end of the apple plates.  Many of these specific varieties are listed in Abercrombie and Mawe as ripening in October and keeping over the winter.  Since there are so many varieties of apples that ripen in fall and keep over the winter, it makes sense that Jane Austen would be vague about what specific apple is gifted to the Bates family by Mr. Knightley.


Jane Austen enjoyed eating fruits and mentions gardens, plants, and fruits frequently in her letters. She says she had strawberries three times while at her brother Edward’s estate, Godmersham, and hopes that Cassandra is gathering them at home in Southampton (20 June – 22 June, 1808). When she still lived in Steventon, she wrote about the possibility of their planting apple, pear, and cherry trees (20-21 November 1800). It is amazing to see these detailed pictures of fruits that would have been known to Jane Austen.  We will continue to present more Austen-connected plates from Pomona Britannica in future blogs.  I appreciate that we can read digital copies of historical botany and gardening books and I highly recommend finding a copy of the Taschen edition of Pomona Britannica if you enjoy Regency-era gardening books.

Notes

[i] See the pictures for the Brookshaw dedication compared to Jane Austen’s dedication of Emma to the Prince Regent.  Note that she is not a “devoted” servant.

[ii] The New York Public Library has digital copies of every plate available for free download.  Several of the plates were downloaded for use here (see works cited at the end).  The color of the digital copies of the plates was edited and enhanced to come closer to the color of the plates in the 2002 Taschen version. Because the Taschen book is printed on high quality paper, there is considerable reflection and it is hard to get a good photograph of the pages. The header image is a detail from the Taschen book.

[iii] Information in this paragraph is drawn from Uta Pellgrü-Gagel, “Pomona Britannica: A Masterpiece of Pomology”, translated by Ann Hentschel (2002). In George Brookshaw Pomona Britannica: The Complete Plates, Koln, Germany:Taschen.

Works Cited

1. Austen, Jane Emma Eds. Richard Cronin and Dorothy McMillan. Cambridge: CUP, 2005.

2. Mawe, Thomas, and Abercrombie, John. The Universal Gardener and Botanist: Or, A General Dictionary of Gardening and Botany. Exhibiting in Botanical Arrangement, According to the Linnæan System, Every Tree, Shrub, and Herbaceous Plant, that Merit Culture, Either for Use, Ornament, Or Curiosity in Every Department of Gardening … Together with Practical Directions for Performing the Various Mechanical Operations of Gardening in General. United Kingdom, G. Robinson, 1778.  https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Universal_Gardener_and_Botanist/eMtCAQAAMAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=0 (version from The Ohio State University)

3. Pellgrü-Gagel, Uta. “Pomona Britannica: A Masterpiece of Pomology”, translated by Ann Hentschel (2002). In George Brookshaw Pomona Britannica: The Complete Plates, Koln, Germany: Taschen.

4. Rare Book Division, The New York Public Library. “Strawberry varieties: Hoboy – Chili strawberry – Scarlet-Alpine – Scarlet-flesh pine.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1812. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dc-8854-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

5. Rare Book Division, The New York Public Library. “Wood strawberry – The new early prolific strawberry – White Alpine.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1812. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dc-8858-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

6. Rare Book Division, The New York Public Library. “Black currant – Dutch red and white currants.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1812. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dc-886a-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

7. Rare Book Division, The New York Public Library. “May-Duke, the White and Black-heart Cherries.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1812. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dc-887f-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

8. Rare Book Division, The New York Public Library. “Apples (Robertson’s, Blanchard’s, Rasberry, Lemon, Aromatic. Fern’s, Embroidered and the Spitsburgh Pippins).” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1812. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dc-8b77-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

9. Rare Book Division, The New York Public Library. “Apples (White Colville, Red Colville, Norfolk Beefin, Norfolk paradise, Norfolk storing varieties).” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1812. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dc-8b7a-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

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Increasing Your Daily Joy with Jane Austen

“As Many Holds Upon Happiness as Possible”:

Increasing Your Daily Joy with Jane Austen

Michele Larrow, Regional Co-Coordinator

In January of this year (2022), our region created and hosted an “Eat. Read. Love.” scavenger hunt on Zoom as part of our celebration of Jane Austen’s December birthday.  We had people attend from all over the country and a few other countries.  The three categories were food and drink in the novels; books related to Jane Austen, examples of the novels, and reading mentioned in the novels; and items displaying our love for Jane Austen, the Regency era, and the video/film adaptations.  I was struck by how much joy attendees had in sharing their Jane Austen-related items with others and the variety of ways we proclaim our love of Jane Austen.

I will discuss how to be a bit more intentional and mindful throughout our day in using our Jane Austen love to increase joy.  Some of these suggestions might be things that you already do, and my hope is that doing them more intentionally will help you feel more joyful.

Take a breath and smile when you see anything related to Jane Austen.   Most of us have Jane Austen mugs, or pictures, or figures.  When you use or see something that is Jane Austen-related, take a breath in, smile, and think about a specific scene or quotation that makes you feel good.  For example, I have three bone china mugs that I use with my morning tea with botanical pictures of apples, peaches, and cherries.  Apples remind me of Mr. Knightley and Donwell Abbey (big smile), peaches remind me of Mr. Darcy and Pemberly (when Lizzy and Mrs. Gardiner visit with Georgiana), and cherries are mentioned by Mrs. Elton during the strawberry picking monologue in Emma (I always smile because of the genius of how Austen portrays Mrs. Elton’s speech). Using bone china also connects me to Jane Austen’s time (although it is not Wedgwood or Staffordshire).  Have Jane Austen items in places where you can see them throughout your day to frequently have that pause and smile. 

Connect Jane Austen to something else you love.  I work as a psychologist at a university counseling center.  We are privileged to work with students from all cultural backgrounds and all gender identity and sexual orientations.  I have a large “More Pride, Less Prejudice” graphic in my office (see below) that was designed by Georgie Castilla of Duniath Comics https://www.duniathcomics.com/.  I also ordered some of Georgie’s P&P stickers and brought them into work to share with my co-workers and the graduate student trainees.  Thirty stickers were gone in no time and even the “big boss” wanted one.  It is so neat to see the stickers around the center, and I feel happy to have spread some Jane Austen and Pride joy!

Do some GIF therapy.  My favorite GIF is the “Knightly Approves” GIF.  I laugh every time I see it and it has become a running joke with a small group of other Mr. Knightley fans on our region’s Facebook page.  Our region officers also love a good Clueless GIF (“As if!”).  When I see a GIF, I have associations to the work it is from, which brings more happiness.  Take some time each day for a little GIF therapy.  [Also, my computer friends want me to note that it is pronounced “jif”, like the peanut butter, according to the late Steve Wilhite, the GIF creator.]  Another alternative is to find video clips of the TV show/movie adaptations you like on a video platform when you don’t have time to watch a whole movie or TV episode. Knightley Approves: https://tenor.com/UyTp.gif and Cher, “As If”: https://tenor.com/xUTi.gif.

Wear your Jane Austen colors.  We can’t always wear our Jane Austen t-shirts or Regency togs, to work for example (darn professional standards!).  We can pick colors to wear that we associate with specific characters or film adaptations.  I have several Cher-yellow (Clueless) items that make me extra happy when I wear them.  See if you can make Jane Austen associations to the colors of clothes you own—Captain Wentworth navy blue, Lizzy (2005) loden green, Emma (2009) pink, Catherine or Fanny white (preferably in muslin with glossy spots), Elinor (2008) muted lavender, Marianne (1995) ice blue, Darcy black, etc.  I also have a pashmina scarf that I bought at an AGM that I have taken to wearing in the winter instead of packing it away in the cedar chest.  I call it my “Pride and Prejudice Peacock Edition” shawl and very much feel like a Regency woman when I wear it.

If it fits with your space and your budget, get the DELUXE edition!  I have several versions of most of the novels and enjoy reading the notes in annotated editions.  I bought Bharat Tandon’s edited Emma: An Annotated Edition (2012, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press) a couple of years ago and recently bought the Robert Morrison’s edited Persuasion: An Annotated Edition (2011, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press) and the Patricia Meyer Spacks’s edited Pride and Prejudice: An Annotated Edition (2010, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press).  They are each such beautiful editions with excellent annotations and pictures.  It is a pleasure to hold them and feel their heft.  I plan to get the Belknap editions of Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, and Northanger Abbey soon.

I hope that these suggestions seem doable.  The main point about each is being intentional as you interact with objects you already have in order to take a minute to let the positive emotions associated with Jane Austen create joy in your day.  Leave a comment if you have another way you bring Jane Austen joy into your day.

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The Other Bennet Sister Review

Review: The Other Bennet Sister

By Janice Hadlow, Henry Holt and Company (2020) 463 Pages

Reviewed by Charles Pierce, Eastern WA/Northern ID Region member

The Other Bennet Sister is more of a companion read to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice (P&P) rather than a retelling. Hadlow’s four-part novel chronicles the story of little-known Mary Bennet, one of five Bennet sisters in Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Part one of The Other Bennet Sister does retell, in part, Austen’s P&P but from the perspective of enigmatical Mary Bennet, beginning as a young girl to her eighteenth year when the arrival of Charles Bingley and his sisters to Netherfield disrupt small-town life in Hertfordshire County. Mary learns at a young age of her insignificance as plain looking, unlike her four sisters who are considered beauties. She is neither her father or mother’s favorite as she lacks beauty, charm, and wit. Mrs. Bennet does not fail to constantly remind Mary of her disagreeable appearance growing up in a household of four beauties. Early on Mary begins to realize that she must compensate for her deficiency in appearance, charm, and wit by distinguishing herself through some other means. Study and music, she determines is her avenue to gain attention and her mother’s affection. Parts two, three, and four depicts Mary Bennet’s own story after the death of her father.

Mr. Bennet dies not long after Elizabeth Bennet marries Mr. Darcy and Jane Bennet marries Charles Bingley; thus, forcing the remaining women of Longbourn out of their life-long home as Mr. and Mrs. Collin’s take advantage of the entail and move in. Mary begins her struggle to find comfort in a new home. Her first option is to move in with the Bingleys along with her mother. Here she encounters continued disparagement from her mother, and subsequently is in frequent company of Miss Caroline Bingley whose verbal abuse of Mary inflicts grief. Mary’s threshold of disparagement and verbal abuse is exhausted. She now accepts her sister Mrs. Darcy’s, invitation to make Pemberly her home. Arriving at Pemberly Mary finds Mr. Darcy and his sister are not at home, allowing for Mary and Lizzy time spent together reinvigorating their sisterly bond. This connection and bond quickly changes upon the return of the Darcys as Lizzy gives her full attention to Mr. Darcy and his sister, leaving Mary to believe herself an outsider.

Mary accepts an invitation from Charlotte Collins to visit Longbourn. All is initially well at the Collins’s until Mrs. Collins begins to notice that Mary and Mr. Collins have developed a close friendship. Jealousy ensues. Charlotte begins to appear affable toward Mary. Mary understands this is likely from Charlotte’s misinterpretation of her and Mr. Collins’ time spent together. Mary abruptly severs her frequent interaction with Mr. Collins in an effort to placate Charlotte. Charlotte’s demeanor towards Mary softens, but she implies that Mary’s time to depart is nearing.

Mary contemplates her limited options. How about her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner in London, she asks? Lizzy and Jane were frequently invited to visit the Gardiners at their home in London, so why not her? The Gardiners response to Mary’s request for a visit was enthusiastic. Mary, once again, is on her way to another prospective home. Mary blooms under the loving care of her Aunt Gardiner who manifests the affection towards Mary that she never received from her own mother. Mrs. Gardiner delicately schools Mary on dress, appearance, and proper conversation. This affectionate guidance galvanizes a transformation of Mary into an attractive young woman, bringing potential suitors Mary’s way.

Vacation to the lakes with the Gardiners provides Mary with the pleasure to see new country. A potential suiter for Mary, a distant relation of Mrs. Gardiner’s, is to follow them to the Lakes. Mary is most ecstatic to continue this association. A few days after their arrival to the lakes and enjoyment in each other’s company, another young potential suiter, who is connected with Miss Bingley, and Miss Bingley also, arrives to enjoy the lakes and Mary’s company. Once again, the verbal abuse begins. How does Mary cope? Read the book.

As one who is considerably biased in favor of P&P and Lizzy Bennet (now Mrs. Darcy), I found the portrayal of Pemberley in The Other Bennet Sister a bit unsettling, if not disagreeable. Lizzy and Mr. Darcy’s transformation in P&P significantly enhanced their ability to comprehend the sensitivity of others. Of all Jane Austen’s characters, Mr. Darcy underwent the most significant and radical transformation. The narrative that the Darcys would dismiss Mary’s presence and not ensure she was welcomed in their activities fail to recognize this transformation experienced by Lizzy and Mr. Darcy. The Darcys would have easily recognized Mary’s unhappy state, and engender comfort and welcome to Mary, involving her in the family’s pursuits. And, Caroline Bingley’s ending was impractical. Miss Bingley would never give Lizzy Darcy the satisfaction that she has sunk in her esteem, and thus would not abscond no matter how desperate she is for marriage.

The development of Mary’s character, her struggles in finding a home, and interacting with old and new acquaintances is well formulated. Hadlow illustrates Mary’s early persona as that of one whose air is pedantic and somewhat vain in her attempt to overcome plainness of appearance to convey that of one who is accomplished, then superbly develops Mary’s evolving transformation into an attractive young woman whose confidence and comfort in who she has become brings happiness and romance.

At 463 pages The Other Bennet Sister does drag a bit at times; however, the narrative still flows skillfully and provides for an interesting and worthwhile read. While no book, in this reviewer’s mind, is a peer to Jane Austen’s written works—dialogue, wit, narrative, etc.—this book is in keeping of Jane Austen’s style of writing. I consider a novel’s worth based on whether it compels one to re-read. The Other Bennet Sister is well worthy of re-reading. Lastly, a question the reader must ask at conclusion of this read is: Has Mary’s story actually concluded, or is a continuation forthcoming?

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Tea with Miss Austen Mouse: “Pride and Prejudice” Discussion

by Cassandra Bates, Region Treasurer

I was fortunate enough to be able to take tea with my dear friend Miss Austen Mouse this past week. With the upcoming regional discussion of Pride and Prejudice we both thought having a lively discussion of one of the most loved novels of Jane Austen fitting.

As we sat in Miss Austen Mouse’s parlor sipping a lovely new English Breakfast blend and snacking on wonderful scones, we began our discussion of all things Pride and Prejudice. I opened with two words: Mr. Darcy. My friend’s response to my utter shock, was “Yes, and what of the man, I see nothing outstanding about him”.  To this, once dear reader, I composed myself, I responded with: This is a character so deeply affected by a woman as well as his societal obligations and yet so socially awkward and shy that you cannot help but feel for him in all situations. (Dear reader, did I not preface this by telling you we had a lively discussion?). I understand where my friend was coming from for on the surface, here is a man who was taciturn, conceited, and disdainful and then once he realized his own feelings towards Elizabeth Bennet, and the subsequent loss of a relationship with her, saw the error of his ways, so to speak. However, if one were to dig deeper, it would soon become apparent that although outwardly this is a man in control, inwardly a battle is raging. He does not like to be in large groups, especially of unknown people, he knows his place in society and yet, is drawn to someone societally beneath him as she is his opposite and yet, so much like him. He is rich and handsome, so is at the top of every marrying Mama’s list. He has made himself a walled fortress and, except for those he holds in close regard, does not let anyone in. Along comes Miss Eliza Bennet and throws his world into a tailspin. She is not like any woman of his acquaintance, not swayed by his money, gives her opinion rather decidedly, and calls out his poor behavior. I like to imagine her like a bright light and Darcy stumbles backwards all whilst shielding his eyes yet keeps trying to look. My dear friend, I believe was coming around to my side (and dearest reader, pray forgive my friend); until she mentioned the possibility of what if Miss Elizabeth was not as head strong (or at least outwardly) and was not as put off by his curt behavior, but rather quickly understood, here was a man struggling. Would he have been so taken in my her? Would there even have been an Elizabeth and Darcy story? Or were these two people destined to be together?

Reaching for the tea pot, I had to ask, what makes this story so special that there have been numerous movies, various written variations, published in countless languages and recognized everywhere? Setting aside her tea (I anticipated a very elegant discourse to follow); Miss Austen Mouse informed me that it is because it is the genesis of every romance, every social situation, and every interpersonal exchange. I was taken aback, every, truly not! But my friend explained. If you (forgive the vulgarity, dear reader) strip down the novel unto its very basic parts: boy meets girl, there is a huge miscommunication, boy and girl come to an understanding, boy and girl ride off into the sunset together (I may have indulged on the last part). Throw in some social commentary, awkward family, conflict and a happy ending and you have the making of a pretty good story. Dear reader, might we say every story?

As our time and lively discussion was coming to an end, we both agreed that Pride and Prejudice and Mr. Darcy are both swoon worthy and timeless in every sense and will continue to endure through the ages. If you thought Miss Austen Mouse and I had a lively discourse, please join the region for our very own discussion of Pride and Prejudice on Sunday, March 20th at 2:30 PM Pacific Time. Please register here: https://forms.gle/gRenAqcVjpdy6gz3A

Now, this is not tea with Miss Austen Mouse without a recipe. As she handed me the recipe, Miss Austen Mouse shared, “Tyler Florence is the Charles Bingley of chefs.”

Blueberry Scones with Lemon Glaze by Tyler Florence

Makes 8 scones

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

2 Tbsp. sugar

5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cold, cut in chunks

1 cup fresh blueberries

1 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing the scones

Lemon Glaze:

½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 lemon, zest finely grated

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Sift together the dry ingredients; the four, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Using 2 forks or a pastry blender, cut in the butter to coat the pieces with the flour. The mixture should look like course crumbs. Fold the blueberries into the batter. Take care not to mash or bruise the blueberries because their strong color will bleed into the dough. Make a well in the center and pour in the heavy cream. Fold everything together just to incorporate; do not overwork the dough.

Press the dough out on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle about 12 by 3 by 1 ¼ inches. Cut the rectangle in half then cut the pieces in half again, giving you 4 (3 inch) squares. Cut the squares in half on the diagonal to give you the classic triangle shape. Place the scones on an ungreased cookie sheet and brush the tops with a little heavy cream. Bake for 15-20 minutes until beautiful and brown. Let the scones cool a bit before you apply the glaze.

You can make the lemon glaze in a double boiler, or for a simpler alternative, you can zap it in the microwave. Mix the lemon juice with the confectioners’ sugar until dissolved in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water for the double-boiler method, or in a microwave-safe bowl. Whisk the butter and the lemon zest. Either nuke the glaze for 30 seconds or continue whisking in the double boiler. Whisk the glaze to smooth out any lumps, then drizzle the glaze over the top of the scones. Let it set a minute before serving.