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
Preheat oven to 375°
In a large mixing bowl, blend the flour, sugar and spices thoroughly with your hands.
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.
Work the butter into the flour mixture with your hands until it has a sort of grated bread look.
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.
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.
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!
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.
During Jane Austen’s time that was the question. The first Coffee House in Britain came about in 1675 and coffee was in favor until 1830 when coffee houses became almost extinct. This was due to the heavy political and sometimes unsavory conversations had at coffee houses as well as it was a drink mostly favored by men (probably due to the discourses had at these establishments). It was said that because of these conversations women were not in favor of said coffee houses and by Jane Austen’s time, tea was much more preferred as it was a much more non-bias family friendly drink to be had as it could be enjoyed by all not just men and elite at clubs and coffee houses. Coffee drinking is mentioned in five of Miss Austen’s seven novels (Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, and Pride and Prejudice). In Pride and Prejudice in particular, Miss Austen uses coffee and tea as means to exacerbate Darcy and Elizabeth’s tension. Dr. Jessica Volz has an excellent write up on this very subject through the Jane Austen Literacy Project, check out the narrative here: https://janeaustenlf.org/pride-and-possibilities-articles/2017/2/21/issue-8-coffee-tea-and-visuality.
What would be a Coffee post without a recipe?
Mrs Maria Eliza Rundell, in A New System of Domestic Cookery, 1808,
To make Coffee
Put two ounces of fresh ground coffee, of the best quality, into a coffee-pot, and pour eight coffee-cups of boiling water on it; let it boil six minutes, pour out a cupful two or three times, and return it again; then put two or three isinglass-chips into it, and pour one large spoonful of boiling water on it; boil it five minutes more, and set the pot by the fire to keep it hot for ten minutes, and you will have coffee of a beautiful clearness.
Fine cream should always be served with coffee, and either pounded sugar-candy, or fine Lisbon sugar.
If for foreigners, or those who like it extremely strong, make only eight dishes from three ounces. If not fresh roasted, lay it before a fire until perfectly hot and dry; or you may put the smallest bit of fresh butter into a preserving pan of a small size, and, when hot, throw the coffee in it, and toss it about until it be freshened, letting it be cold before ground.
*Isinglass is a clarifying collagen, produced from the swim bladders of fish, prior to 1795 from sturgeon but after that also from cod; nowadays we would use gelatin. Lisbon sugar, otherwise known as clayed sugar, was manufactured in the colonies of France, Spain and, as the name suggests, Portugal. Wet pipeclay was laid on top of the sugar and water poured over which removed the molasses. Sugar candy is formed of large crystals of sugar, today known as rock candy or sugar. *
As for ourselves, we’re very well; as unaffected prose will tell – Cassandra’s pen will paint our state, the many comforts that await, our Chawton Home – how much we find, already in it to our mind, and how convinced that when complete, it will all other houses beat, that ever have been made or mended – with rooms concise or rooms distended. You’ll find us very snug next year, perhaps with Charles and Fanny near – for now, it often does delight us, to fancy them just over-right us!
The happy little verse above is an excerpt from a poem called “My Dearest Frank, I Wish You, Joy.” Jane Austen wrote this poem in 1809, to congratulate her brother Frank on the birth of his second child, and to sing the praises of her new home – Chawton Cottage. Jane was often inspired to write poetry for her family and special friends, to both entertain them, and to let them know in her humorous way, how much they meant to her. She composed poems on every subject, from headaches and praises, to current events and snippets of gossip. Writing imaginative verse was second nature to Jane, as she grew up in a family of talented poets. Her Mother, Brothers James and Edward, and even her Sister Cassandra, all tried their hand at rhyming. Later, her nieces and nephews joined in the fun, and her nephew James Edward Austen (later Austen-Leigh,) upon finding out his dear Aunt was responsible for writing the novels he had come to love, wrote her a humorous poem of applause! James Edward would later write one of the first biographies on Jane Austen’s life.
No words can express, my dear Aunt, my surprise – or make you conceive how I opened my eyes, like a pig Butcher Pile has just struck with his knife, when I heard for the very first time in my life, that I had the honour to have a relation, whose works were dispersed through the whole of the nation. I assure you, however, I’m terribly glad; Oh dear, just to think (and the thought drives me mad) that dear Mrs. Jennings’ good-natured strain, was really the produce of your witty brain – that you made the Middletons, Dashwoods, and all, and that you (not young Ferrars) found out that a ball, may be given in cottages never so small – And though Mr. Collins so grateful for all, will Lady De Bourgh his dear patroness call, ‘Tis to your ingenuity really he owed, his living, his wife, and his humble abode! Now if you will take your poor nephew’s advice, your works to Sir William pray send in a trice – If he’ll undertake to some grandees to show it, by whose means at last the Prince Regent might know it – for I’m sure if he did, in reward for your tale, he’d make you a Countess at least without fail – and indeed, if the Princess should lose her dear life, you might have a chance of becoming his wife!
Her Father’s extensive library at Steventon Rectory, along with the circulating library of the day, afforded Jane access to works of the great poets of her time. Jane’s brother, Henry, was recorded as stating that her favorite poet was William Cowper. Jane herself refers to his works “Tirocinium, and The Task” many times in her novels and letters. Other poets Jane admired were Dr. Samuel Johnson, the Reverend George Crabbe, Lord Byron, Charlotte Smith, and Anna Laeticia Barbauld. Jane was known to have joked with her family about being the second Mrs. Crabbe. Upon hearing of the death of the first Mrs. Crabbe, she remarked in an 1813 letter to Cassandra – “I will comfort him as well as I can, but I do not undertake to be good to her children…she had better not leave any!” George Crabbe wrote realistic poetry depicting how harsh and depressing life in the countryside could be – poems that were neither idyllic nor pastoral. Perhaps Jane admired Crabbe’s poetry for his attempts to bring the harsh reality of poverty into the social consciousness. An excerpt from William Cowper’s “Tirocinium (A Review of Schools”) from 1784 shows a romantic point of view and a lyrical rhythm which is more inviting –
Spring hangs her infant blossoms on the trees, rocked in the cradle of the western breeze. Summer in haste the thriving charge receives, beneath the shade of her expanded leaves, till Autumn’s fiercer heats and plenteous dews, dye them at last in all their glowing hues.
An excerpt from Charlotte Smith’s “Invitation to the Bee,” would have appealed to Jane’s love of nature and the joys of living in the country –
Child of patient industry, little active, busy bee, though art out at early morn, just as the opening flowers are born – among the green and grassy meads, where cowslips hang their heads, or by hedge-rows, while the dew, glitters on the hare-bell blue – then on eager wing are flown, to thymy hillocks on the down, or to revel on the broom, or suck the clover’s crimson bloom – murmuring still thou busy bee, thy little ode to industry!
There is some dispute about a little needle and thread case that Jane Austen made, in which she enclosed the following poem – written by herself. Three different biographers list the possible recipients as being Jane’s dear friend Martha Lloyd, her sister-in-law Mary Lloyd, or her niece Caroline Austen! I would like to think she wrote it for Martha Lloyd, a faithful bosom companion and friend of her lifetime.
This little bag I hope will prove to be not vainly made – for if you should a needle want, it will afford you aid – and as we are about to part T’will serve another end, for when you look upon the bag, you’ll recollect your friend!
Loyal friends were vitally important to Jane Austen, and close companions Martha Lloyd and Anne Sharp were models for perfect friendship. – From the poet Anna Laeticia Barbauld’s “Pious Friendship” –
How blest the sacred tie that binds, in union sweet according minds! How swift the heavenly course they run, whose hearts, whose faith, whose hopes are one!
Another dear friend of Jane’s youth, Madam Lefroy – inspired her to write a poem of tribute after Mrs. Lefroy’s untimely death from a horse accident on Jane’s birthday in 1804. An excerpt from one of Jane’s most heartfelt and emotional poems shows her deep feelings for her kindly mentor:
Angelic woman! Past my power to praise, in language meet thy talents, temper, mind – thy solid worth, thy captivating grace, thou friend and ornament of humankind.
The following verse is one of my very favorite Jane Austen poems, written for her niece Fanny Knight, on the occasion of Francis Austen’s wedding to Mary Gibson, July 24, 1806. The imagery this verse calls forth pulls one right into the heart of the story where you can feel every bump in the road and hear the rumbling of the carriage and the sound of the horse’s hooves pounding the lane!
See they come, post haste from Thanet, lovely couple, side by side – They’ve left behind them Richard Kennet, with the parents of the Bride! Canterbury, they have passed through, next succeeded Stamford Bridge – Chilham Village they came fast through, now they’ve mounted yonder ridge – Down the hill, they’re swift proceeding, now they skirt the Park around – Lo! The cattle sweetly feeding, scamper – startled at the sound! Run, my Brothers, to the Pier gate! Throw it open, very wide! Let it not be said that we’re late in welcoming my Uncle’s Bride! To the house the chaise advances, now it stops – They’re here, they’re here! How d’ye do, my Uncle Francis? How does do your Lady dear?
Many “Janeites” of yesteryear, inspired by the writings of Jane Austen, felt compelled to honor her – both in verse and prose. Lord Morpeth: 7th Earl of Carlisle and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Anne Isabella: Lady Ritchie, Andrew Lang, Virginia Woolf, and Rudyard Kipling, were just a few. Of these, Rudyard Kipling offers the most touching tribute, when he imagines “Jane’s Marriage:” Try not to cry when you read this – I always do!
Jane went to Paradise: that was only fair, Good Sir Walter followed her, and armed her up the stair. Henry and Tobias, and Miguel of Spain, stood with Shakespeare at the top, to welcome Jane – Then the Three Archangels, offered out of hand, anything in Heaven’s gift that she might command. Azrael’s eyes upon her, Raphael’s wings above, Michael’s sword against her heart, Jane said – “Love.” Instantly the understanding Seraphim, laid their fingers on their lips and went to look for him. Stole across the Zodiac, harnessed Charles’s Wain, and whispered round the Nebulae, “Who loved Jane?” In a private limbo, where none thought to look, sat a Hampshire gentleman, reading of a book. It was called “Persuasion,” and it told the plain, story of the love between Him and Jane. He heard the question, circle Heaven through – closed the book, and answered – “I did – and do!” Quietly but speedily (as Captain Wentworth moved) entered into Paradise, the man Jane loved! – Jane lies in Winchester, blessed be her shade! Praise the Lord for making her, and her for all she made. And, while the stones of Winchester – or Milsom Street – remain, Glory, Love, and Honour unto England’s Jane!
It is serendipitous to me that Kipling chose Jane Austen’s most mature novel for the subject of his poem because I believe Persuasion to be her most poetic novel. Jane lived a very creative life. Though her verses are few, her stories teem with all the drama poets love. They are filled with tragic and disappointing love, separation of lovers, unsettled home life, the longing for a real home, failed communication between lovers, the desire to have it all, (love and independence) and the tragedy and comedy of the human condition. How can one not see the poetry in her novels? Is not the line “Youmust allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you,”or “If I loved you less, Imight be able to talk about it more,” pure poetry? And from “Persuasion,” “Prettier musings of high-wrought love and eternal constancy, could never have passed along the streets of Bath, than Anne was sporting with from Camden-place to Westgate-buildings. It was almost enough to spread purification and perfume all the way.”Consider Captain Harville’s speech to Anne at the White Hart, and Oh! Captain Wentworth’s letter! It is poetic from beginning to end!
But, alas, it is a line from Jane Austen’s last poem that says what we all feel. On July 15, 1817, St. Swithin’s Day – Jane wrote a poem about the Winchester Races. The story in this verse tells the humorous tale of St. Swithin cursing the horse races held on a day that was supposed to honor him. She says: “When once we are buried, you think we are gone, but Behold me Immortal” – and we do.
Jane Austen and Chawton House Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Rita Greer, Licence Art Libre, Copyleft
British Library Public Domain Photos
A Memoir of Jane Austen: James Edward Austen-Leigh, Richard Bentley and Son, London 1886
A Portrait of Jane Austen: David Cecil, Penguin Books LTD, London 1980
Charlotte Smith Complete Poetical Works: Delphi Classics, East Sussex, United Kingdom 2014
Debits and Credits: Rudyard Kipling, Doubleday/Page, New York 1926
Jane Austen’s Letters: Edited by Deirdre LeFaye, Oxford University Press, New York 1995
Persuasion: Jane Austen, 1818, Penguin Classics, London 1998
The Poems of Anna Laeticia Barbauld: Edited by William McCarthy and Elizabeth Kraft, University of Georgia Press 1994
The Poetry of Jane Austen and The Austen Family: Edited by David Selwyn, University of Iowa Press/Jane Austen Society 1997
The Works of William Cowper: Hardpress, Miami, Florida 2018
We have been working on a special project which combines friendship with something Jane Austen loved doing, writing letters, and are so pleased to share it with you today!
Introducing “Flat Jane Austen”!!!
In the last three years, we have loved developing friendships with you, whether on our various social media platforms or at our events, through your comments and emails. It has saddened us not to be able to meet in person for our usual lovely gatherings. In an effort to strengthen our friendships, provide a connection between members and the friends we have made in the Jane Austen world, and have a little fun while possibly staying closer to home than usual, we have set up this special project with Flat Austen, as we affectionately call her, an endeavor similar to the “Flat Stanley” activity popular with many school children.
Here’s how it works:
1. After you have read this post, if you wish to participate complete this form that adds you to our database for the project: https://forms.gle/GR6RnfiVvmodSDFm8 . If you have any questions, email us for the project at: FlatJaneAusten@gmail.com. 2. Let’s say Anne Elliot signs up first and gives us her address. Flat Austen travels to Anne’s home via the mail (hopefully not too bumpy or hot like a ride in a mail coach). 3. Anne and Flat Austen visit Anne’s house, yard, favorite places, famous places in Anne’s city, and Anne takes photos of Flat Austen there (and herself, if she wishes!). Maybe they have tea or make cookies or read a book or go on a boat! The sky is the limit (although please nothing which would scandalize someone like Mrs. Weston or Jane Bennet Bingley)! 4. Anne emails the photos to us at the email above so we can share them on social media & in a Google Photos album for everyone to see, and shares them on social media herself, if she wishes, using the hashtag #FlatJaneAusten. We give her the address of the next participant. 5. Anne writes a little note about where Flat Austen has visited on the sheet provided, puts it and Flat Austen in an envelope, (and maybe a little letter to the next recipient) and mails them to the next person on the list. 6. The next person receives Flat Austen in the mail and repeats the process! Each “visit” to someone’s house should last about 3 days at most (unless there are special circumstances—email us!). 7. We all wait to find out what lovely things Flat Austen has done with our wonderful friends and how far she has traveled! This can go on as long as people are interested.
If this sounds like fun to you, then fantastic! Please do sign up by completing this form: https://forms.gle/GR6RnfiVvmodSDFm8. This project does require you share a mailing address with us, give us permission to share it with someone else who will then send Flat Austen to you, and be willing to provide your own regular envelope and stamp to send her on to another person. We promise to keep your information confidential and only give it to the next person on the list. It will not be used for any nefarious purposes (We are NOT Willoughby, after all.)
If you are outside of the United States and wish to participate, please contact us and let us know. Hopefully the mail between countries will begin moving quickly again and we can open this up for international “travel.” 😉
If you wish to write a reply to the person who sent Flat Austen to you, then that’s absolutely lovely and completely in the spirit of this project and Jane Austen’s life! We hope this project can be a way to connect our region members until we can meet again in person.
Questions? If you want to create a Flat Austen project for your group, email us at FlatJaneAusten@gmail.com!
Keep an eye on #FlatJaneAusten & #FlatAusten on social media!