In a previous post I reviewed the books I’d referenced in building up a general picture of the Georgian lifestyle. In this one I’ll feature those books which cover more specific areas, namely dancing, dressing, dining, travelling and celebrating Christmas.
“A Dance With Jane Austen” by Susannah Tullerton
Anyone writing a Regency-era story is almost obliged to include a ballroom scene, and as these were enormously complex social occasions the chance of the writer making a historical faux pas is high. A close study of Ms Tullerton’s book will ensure that such gaffs are minimalized. The book leads the reader from the beginnings (‘Learning to Dance’ and ‘Getting to and from a Ball’), through the various types of ball (‘Assembly Balls’ and ‘Private Balls’) and describes what people did when they attended them (‘Etiquette of the Ballroom’, ‘Dancing and Music’ and ‘Conversation and Courtship’), all this done in a very readable manner with excellent illustrations. A must for anyone interested in Georgian society.
An aside … having read ‘A Dance With Jane Austen’ I have now come to the firm opinion that the depiction of the Netherfield Assembly Ball (which marked the first meeting of Darcy and Elizabeth) seen in Joe Wrights’s version of “Pride and Prejudice” (the one starring Keira Knightley) is the most accurate of all the film/TV adaptations: a rumbustious, confused affair … no wonder Darcy was so disobliging!
Nelli Rating (the book): 9/10
“Fashion in the Time of Jane Austen” by Sarah Jane Downing
The year 1802 was an interesting year for fashion: with the Peace of Amiens concluded the beau monde descended on Paris to replenish both their wardrobes and their wine cellars. The impact of this is wonderfully described and illustrated in Ms Downing’s book. She also makes a number of interesting social points: that women’s fashions became undeniable sexy – all delicate muslins and sleek Grecian lines – was probably driven by the deprivations of the Napoleonic war on British menfolk (during which proportionately more British servicemen died than in the First World War). The competition for husbands can never have been so fierce. In sum, the book is an excellent and lavishly illustrated guide to fashions in the later Georgian period.
Nelli Rating: 9/10
Not a bad book, but one which left me a little disappointed. I found it a little ponderous. I suppose I was hoping for something which majored on the dining experience while the book was happiest talking about the food itself. All kitchen and no dining room.
Nelli Rating: 5/10
A very slim volume which I bought when planning to write a scene taking place in a mail coach (a scene which never saw the light of day). Well written, well-illustrated but only confirmed Regency-ophiles need apply.
Nelli Rating: 7/10
As I needed to have a chapter in “The Formidable Mrs Elizabeth Darcy” set during Christmas 1802, I decided to invest in two books on the subject of the Georgian Christmas.
Ms Hubert has pulled together a pot pourri of letters and extracts from Jane Austen, Fanny Austen, the poet, Robert Southey, the diarist, William Holland and a variety of other. The result – for me – is unsatisfactory: I would rather the original material were précised and then used to highlight a text on the subject. A disappointment.
Nelli Rating: 5/10
Quite a slim volume but worthwhile for all that: I learned a great deal from its study. For instance, December 21st was St Thomas Day when well-to-do ladies went ‘thomasing’ distributing wheat – an expensive commodity ‒ to the needful of their estate. The section describing Morris Teams and Sword Dancers inspired me to develop Pemberley’s own Christmas tradition, which I christened ‘Plough Sunday’. A useful little book.
Nelli Rating: 8/10