In Jane Austen’s novels, we discover the plight of younger sons who because of the English primogeniture laws, could not inherit their father’s estate and must find their own way in the world. Colonel Fitzwilliam in Pride and Prejudice and Henry Tilney in Northanger Abbey come immediately to mind. This father to first son inheritance tradition is the axis of the social structure of British society and is tightly bound to its restrictions. Historian Rory Muir explores this dilemma and the courses available to younger sons in his new history book, Gentlemen of Uncertain Fortune: How Younger Sons Made Their Way in Jane Austen’s England. Using Austen’s characters, her own family, and historical figures as examples, we are taken on a journey through the era to discover what options were available to younger sons of “good families” to find an acceptable profession and earn an independent living.
A portrait of Jane Austen’s England told through the career paths of younger sons—men of good family but small fortune.
In Regency England, the eldest son usually inherited almost everything while his younger brothers, left with little inheritance, had to make a crucial decision: what should they do to make an independent living? Rory Muir weaves together the stories of many obscure and well-known young men, shedding light on an overlooked aspect of Regency society. This is the first scholarly yet accessible exploration of the lifestyle and prospects of these younger sons. Continue reading
From the desk of Tracy Hickman:
The subtitle for Robert Morrison’s history of Regency Great Britain, “during which Jane Austen writes, Napoleon fights, Byron makes love, and Britain becomes modern,” hints at the variety and diversity within its pages. In contrast to Jane Austen’s tightly focused fiction, famously self-described as “three or four families in a country village,” Morrison widens his lens to present extensive information and detail about Regency life that illuminates not only Austen’s world but our current time.
Morrison begins with a brief sketch of George Augustus Frederick, eldest son of George III and Queen Charlotte, in the book’s prologue. “The deep contradictions in the Regent’s character both energized and undermined him and were evident from an early age.” (3) With a string of mistresses, a secret and unlawful marriage to a Roman Catholic widow, an officially sanctioned marriage that was an abysmal failure, and the financial means to indulge every whim and fleeting inclination, the Regent was a constant feature of gossip and scandal during his lifetime. In 1812 he assumed the full authority of the crown, making him “not only the most powerful man in Britain but also the man at the head of the wealthiest, strongest, most ambitious, vibrant and productive country in the world.” (6)
This print by George Cruikshank, was published on December 4, 1819, and is entitled “Loyal Address’s & Radical Petetions, or the R____ts most gracious answer to both sides of the question at once.” (48)
From the desk of Katie Patchell
How prevalent was the smuggling trade in England during the Regency? When exactly was the Season? What did men and women spend their day doing in the country and in Town? How did one go about posting a letter? Were spectacles a fashion statement or something to hide? What were bathrooms like in the Regency? And what exactly was the purpose of Colonel Brandon’s flannel under-waistcoat? These questions are asked and answered (alongside stories of daring escapades and humorous eccentricities) in Sue Wilkes’ latest Regency book, A Visitor’s Guide to Jane Austen’s England.
Each of the seven chapters covers a different aspect of Regency life, and is filled with anecdotes and snippets from journals and travel guides of the period. This book includes the following topics:
- Chapter 1—“Traveling”: hotels, inns, turnpikes, sea travel, private carriages, public coaches, and highwaymen
- Chapter 2—“Gracious Living”: the Season, townhouses, bathrooms, indoor plumbing, candles, heating, beds, bedbugs, landscape, country homes, food, meal plans, a day in the life of a Regency woman, and the Prince Regent
- Chapter 3—“The Latest Modes”: style changes of hair and dress (and the meanings behind them), dandies, wigs, underwear, gowns, breeches, hats, and boots
- Chapter 4—“Money Matters”: entails, the expectations of daughters and eldest sons, the options for younger sons, the levels of schooling for young men and women, marriage laws, and servants
- Chapter 5—“Shopping, ‘Lounging’, and Leisure”: shopping in London, buying dress material, a day in the life of a London lounger, pickpockets, books, clubs, gambling, Almack’s, music, culture, church services, menageries, duels, sports, and the mail service
- Chapter 6—“The Perfect Partner”: the marriage market, dancing, flirting, the waltz, wedding preparations, and elopements
- Chapter 7—“In Sickness and in Health”: cleanliness, dangerous cosmetics, teeth, physicians/operations (successful and unsuccessful), childbirth, mourning, Bath, sea-bathing, and Brighton
From the desk of Shelley DeWees:
“In her novels Jane Austen brilliantly portrayed the lives of the middle and upper classes, but barely mentioned the cast of characters who constituted the bulk of the population. It would be left to the genius of the next generation, Charles Dickens, to write novels about the poor, the workers and the lower middle classes. His novel A Tale of Two Cities starts with celebrated words: ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.’ This is a succinct summary of Jane Austen’s England, on which we are about to eavesdrop.” p. xxvi
You’ve been warned. Should you wish to maintain the sanctity of your internal imagery of Jane Austen, turn back now, before you step into the not-so-forgiving light of real history. Do thoughts of frocks and frolicking and tea cakes and rainbows seen through the thin gauze of parasols really blow your skirt up? Wishing you could be amongst the ladies and gents of an Austen ball? Hoping against hope that somehow, magically, you could be transported into Jane’s idyllic agrarian life? Jane Austen’s England, in all its cool clarity and detail, is probably not where you should look for inspiration, and may, in fact, leave you reeling; your perfect imaginary life forever ruined! The humanity of it! Continue reading
Let’s face it. Life in a Jane Austen novel is a fantasy to us two-hundred years after they were originally set. Who wouldn’t want to wear a pretty silk frock, dance with Mr. Darcy at the Netherfield ball or ride in Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s barouche? But life in Jane Austen’s England was not all elegant country houses and fine carriages. It took an army of servants and working class people to make life comfortable for the landed gentry and aristocrats.
Authors and historians Lesley and Roy Adkins have taken us behind the green baize curtain in their new book Jane Austen’s England. Here we discover what life was really like for a gentleman’s daughter like Elizabeth Bennet or the Bertram’s of Mansfield Park and all of their servants.
In celebration of the launch of Jane Austen’s England, Lesley and Roy Adkins are visiting us today to share their inspiration to write their new snapshot of the Georgian-era. Leave a comment to qualify for a chance to win one of three copies available of their intriguing new book. Contest details are listed at the end of this blog. Good luck to all.
Welcome Lesley and Roy:
Thank you, Laurel Ann, for inviting us to an online Austenprose launch party of Jane Austen’s England. We raise our glasses to you all (filled with smuggled wine and port, of course, because Jane Austen’s England is at war with the French and such liquor from Europe is hard to obtain). Continue reading
Ever wonder what books Jane Austen read, who her relations were, where she lived and traveled, or what were her pet peeves? Well, what true Janeite doesn’t? Do you want to learn more about your favorite author than you ever expected to discover all packed up and neatly arranged in one tidy volume? Then read on…
The List Lover’s Guide to Jane Austen is a delightful little factbook on the famous author and her world that was a welcome diversion from the drama and angst of the current Austenesque fiction book that I am entrenched in. Packed full of information compiled in list format, even this die-hard Janeite learned more than a few new tidbits about Austen’s novels, characters, family, Regency culture and her life.
This beautifully designed reference book would be the perfect primer and or fact-checker for a Jane Austen quiz. Broken down into categories like:
- Forward: (including ten reasons for reading this book!)
- Her Life: (including what she looked like, books she read, who she met on her travels and much more)
- Her Correspondence: (great selected quotes)
- Timeline for Jane Austen: (featuring events from every year of her life)
- Her Writing: (from her juvenilia to her novels to her last poem)
- Bonus List: Jane’s Royal Ancestors: (who knew?)
- Bibliography: (exclusive and the best)
Exciting news for Janeites! Deirdre Le Faye’s incredible scholarship on Jane Austen and her family continues in this new edition of Jane Austen’s Letters.
Many will be thrilled to learn that this 4th edition not only includes a new cover, but updates! Here is the description from Oxford University Press:
Jane Austen’s letters afford a unique insight into the daily life of the novelist: intimate and gossipy, observant and informative–they read much like the novels themselves. They bring alive her family and friends, her surroundings and contemporary events, all with a freshness unparalleled in modern biographies. Most important, we recognize the unmistakable voice of the author of such novels as Pride and Prejudice and Emma. We see the shift in her writing from witty and amusing descriptions of the social life of town and country, to a thoughtful and constructive tone while writing about the business of literary composition.
R.W. Chapman’s ground-breaking edition of the collected letters first appeared in 1932, and a second edition followed twenty years later. A third edition, edited Deirdre Le Faye in 1997 added new material, re-ordered the letters into their correct chronological sequence, and provided discreet and full annotation to each letter, including its provenance, and information on the watermarks, postmarks, and other physical details of the manuscripts. This new fourth edition incorporates the findings of recent scholarship to further enrich our understanding of Austen and give us the fullest and most revealing view yet of her life and family. In addition, Le Faye has written a new preface, has amended and updated the biographical and topographical indexes, has introduced a new subject index, and had added the contents of the notes to the general index.
Teachers, students, and fans of Jane Austen, at all levels, will find in these letters remarkable insight into one of the most popular novelists ever.
“These are the letters of our greatest novelist. They give glances and hints at her life from the age of 20 to her death at 41, the years in which she wrote her six imperishable books.”
–Claire Tomalin, Independent on Sunday
- An unparalleled and irresistible insight into the life of Jane Austen
- A complete and accurate transcript of all Austen’s letters as known to date
- Integrates the discoveries of recent Austen scholarship to reveal more about her life and family
- 2011 marks the bicentenary of the publication of Sense and Sensibility, the first of Austen’s novels to appear in print
About the Author
Deirdre Le Faye , now retired, worked for many years in the Department of Medieval & Later Antiquities at the British Museum. She started researching the life and times of Jane Austen and her family in the 1970s, and since then has written several books about them, the latest being A Chronology of Jane Austen and her Family 1600-2000 , as well as numerous articles in literary journals.
The bit that really got my attention was the incorporation of new scholarship and a new preface. Huzzah!
Jane Austen’s Letters, edited by Deirdre Le Faye
Oxford University Press (2011)
Hardcover (688) pages
Due to be released on 1 November 2011
Here’s a great Follow Firday recommendation for you. Regency history expert Sue Forgue writes to tell us of a wonderful announcement. Her website The Regency Encyclopedia is celebrating its 5th anniversary and has revealed several new enhancements to the Fashion Module. These include:
Fashion Glossary: This is the same database of definitions that powers the highlighted words in the fashion prints’ texts. You can now search on these definitions without hunting through the fashion prints.
Research Fashion Palettes: Ever wonder what a color like morone looks like or what garments would be in that color? This database allows you to research the fashion palette colors by year (1800-1829) or by the color itself. A couple of caveats to keep in mind: First, since the color swatches are html codes, your monitor will determine how they display, so at best, these can only be considered approximations. Second, each year’s fashion palette has been compiled from the original fashion print texts and other contemporary fashion articles. If a color shows up in one year and not another, it doesn’t mean the color wasn’t used, it only means that I don’t have any original source documentation for it.
Visit the Modiste Shop to Dress the Doll: Have some fun creating your own regency era outfit. This is the first of an eventual six dolls in the series. Pick the year and the applicable colors for each garment type will load. You can pick any combination of available colors and change them as much as you please before the doll is displayed. When you do, you’ll see the doll in a lovely setting with text incorporating your color choices written in the style of the fashion column in “La Belle Assemblée”.
In addition to these functions, the fashion prints database has been increased to almost 1,700 images thanks to the generous contributions of Vicky Hinshaw of Milwaukee and Jeanne Steen of Chicago.
Many thanks to Sue and her crew for the incredible information available to Austen fans and Regency history buffs. The site is password protected so please use this info for access. Enjoy!
User ID: JaneAusten
(both are case sensitive)
© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose