The Beefsteak Club: male dining clubs in the 18th & 19th centuries

[by Laura Boyle and reprinted here with the kind permission of The Jane Austen Centre, celebrating Bath’s most famous resident and reporting the latest Austen-related news. ]

The Beefsteak Club is the name or nickname of several 18th and 19th-century male dining clubs that celebrated the beefsteak as a symbol of patriotic and often Whig  (liberal) concepts of liberty and prosperity.

The location of the current Beefsteak Club.
The location of the current Beefsteak Club.

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Hannah Snell: The Famous “Woman In Men’s Cloaths”

[by Laura Boyle and reprinted here with the kind permission of The Jane Austen Centre, celebrating Bath’s most famous resident and reporting the latest Austen-related news. ]

In his diary entry of May 21, 1778, Parson Woodforde (Diary of a Country Parson) notes a trip that he took to Weston in order to see a “Famous Woman in Men’s Cloaths”:

woodforde

This curiousity was none other than Hannah Snell, subject of The Female Soldier; or The Surprising Life and Adventures of Hannah Snell, 1750. 

Born in Worcester, England on 23 April 1723, locals claim that she played a soldier even as a child. In 1740, Hannah moved to London and married James Summs on 6 January 1744.

In 1746, she gave birth to a daughter, Susannah, who died a year later. When her husband deserted her, she borrowed a male suit from her brother-in-law James Gray, assumed his name, and began to search for Summs. She later learned that her husband had been executed for murder. According to her account, she joined John Guise’s regiment, the 6th Regiment of Foot, in the army of the Duke of Cumberland against Bonnie Prince Charlie, and deserted when her sergeant gave her 500 lashes. However, the chronology of her life makes it very unlikely that she ever served in Guise’s regiment and this part of the story is likely to have been a fabrication.  (more…)

The Mirror of Graces: the Final Blush of Accomplishment

“A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word [accomplished]; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved.”
Pride and Prejudice

The following is an excerpt from  The Mirror of the Graces, by a Lady of Distinction, 1811, reprinted here with kind permission from The Jane Austen Centre.

Title page of The Mirror of the Graces; British Library

When so much has been said of the body and its accoutrements, I cannot but subjoin a few words on the intelligence which animates the frame, and of the organ which imparts its meaning. 

Connected speech is granted to mankind alone. Parrots may prate and monkeys chatter, but it is only to the reasonable being that power of combining ideas, expressing their import, and uttering, in audible sounds, all its various gradations, the language of sense and judgment, of love and resentment is awarded as a gift, that gives us a proud and undeniable superiority above all the rest of the creation.

To employ this faculty well and gracefully, is one grand object of education. The mere organ itself, as to sound, is like a musical instrument, to be modulated with elegance, or struck with the disorderly nerve of coarsene vulgarity.
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Are Jane Austen’s Heroines Ideal Women?

A wonderfully insightful piece on Austen’s heroines and whether they would measure up to what constituted an “ideal woman” in Regency England, 

by Jenni Waugh of The Jane Austen Centre:

I recently replied to an email enquiry from a student who was looking for an opinion on the question “To what extent does Jane Austen present her heroines as ideal women within their social contexts?” My reply ended up being fairly lengthy and is below. Let me know what you think!

Are Jane Austen's Heroine's Ideal Women?
Personally, I’d say that very few, if any, of her heroines are presented as ideal women within their social contexts. They all have their own unique flaws.

Elizabeth Bennet is outspoken and opinionated; just think of her responses to Lady Catherine’s enquires about her age, and her dismissal of Mr Collins, and then later of Mr Darcy. Were Lizzy an ideal woman in society she would have accepted Collins in order to secure her family’s home as per her mother’s wishes, or Darcy when he asked her in order to secure an even better future for herself and her family.
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Shapewear Nightmare

It may be the third millennium, but not much has changed*  since the days of getting laced into a corset so stiff that one could barely lean over, let alone breathe. It’s no wonder ladies had to carry around smelling salts, or “vinaigrettes,” as they were called in Jane Austen’s day. Those Mr. Darcy types may have been swoon-worthy, but it was likely more a lack of oxygen than romantic flutterings that caused ladies to faint.

It wasn’t only ladies who were wearing corsets or “stays.” The Prince Regent was a favorite target of cartoonists for trying to mask his size with a corset. 1812-regency-a-la-mode

Today, we call these instruments of torture “shapewear.” Sounds friendly and appealing, doesn’t it? After all, who doesn’t want to have a shape?

The promise and the reality of shapewear, however, can be two very different things. If you’ve ever had a shapewear nightmare of your own, you will love Melissa McCarthy’s story. Click here to read more…

Do you have what it takes to time travel?

 

Photo by Wonderlane

Photo by Wonderlane

We’ve all read the books (or at least seen some of the movies). We’ve all fantasized about being magically transported to the world of Jane Austen and indulging ourselves in a whirlwind of assembly room balls, elegant gowns, and our very own Mr. Darcy. But would we really have what it takes to make that journey?
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