Quote Jane

“There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.” ― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

zaterdag 11 december 2010

The Georgian Christmas

The Georgian Christmas season stretched from December 6th (St. Nicholas Day) to January 6th (Twelfth Night, Epiphany). The holiday was spent by the gentry in their country houses and estates, as they did not return to London until February*. It was a time of high celebration with visiting, gift and charity giving, balls, parties, masquerades, play acting, games and lots of food. Since families and friends were already gathered together, it was also a time for courtships and weddings.

The Austens were no exception to this and we know that they participated in these celebrations with alacrity. A Christmas Eve letter to Cassandra mentions Jane’s enjoyment in a ball held that week and a list of her charitable giving. Many of Jane’s plays written for the family survive, and in 1787, they staged a full length production which included cousins and friends. Her niece, Fanny’s, letters are full of descriptions of every kind of amusement held during the season.
The novels are not devoid of Christmas mention, either. Sir Thomas gives a ball for Fanny and William, the Woodhouses, Musgroves and Bennets host relatives. Lady Susan descends upon her brother-in-law’s house, Charlotte Lucas is married, John Morland visits the Thorpes, Willoughby ‘danced from eight o'clock till four without once sitting down’, the Westons give a party and Emma is not able to attend Church. All of these events give insights into the doings of the season.

While the visiting was enjoyable, it’s easy to see how these preparations could take their toll on the hostess. No wonder Jane wrote to Cassandra “[January 7, 1807] When you receive this our guests will all be gone or going; and I shall be left to the comfortable disposal of my time, to ease of mind from the torments of rice puddings and apple dumplings, and probably to regret that I did not take more pains to please them all.” You can see through the humor to the very real stress involved in playing hostess for so long.

Originally the feast of the Epiphany, celebrating the Wise Men’s arrival in Bethlehem and their presentation of gifts to the Christ child, Twelfth Night (of the Twelve Days of Christmas fame) signaled the end of the Christmas season and was celebrated in grand style with masquerade parties and gifts. These gifts were often accompanied by poems and riddles. Guests would dress in costume or draw names of characters to play throughout the party. Sir William Heathcote remembered attending a Twelfth Night Party once, as a boy, where Jane Austen drew the name of “Mrs Candour”. Can you just imagine the fun she would have had pulling guests aside all evening telling them what “she” thought of them or gossiping about them in loud whispers?! It was all in fun, of course, and each person played his part through the games and rounds of cards. Once the party was over, it was time to go home and start getting back to the business of day to day life. No wonder they tried to stretch the season out as much as possible!
Austen werd geboren in Hampshire. Haar vader was een geestelijke. Het grootste deel van haar leven bleef zij in haar geboortestreek. Austen had zes broers en een oudere zuster, Cassandra, met wie zij zeer hecht was. Het enige onbetwiste portret van Jane Austen is een gekleurde schets die door Cassandra werd gemaakt en nu in de National Portrait Gallery in Londen hangt. In 1801 verhuisde de familie naar Bath. In 1802 werd Austen ten huwelijk gevraagd door de rijke Harris Bigg-Wither en zij stemde toe; de volgende dag deelde ze echter mee dat zij haar woord niet kon houden en trok haar instemming in. De reden hiervoor is niet bekend, maar Austen is nooit getrouwd. Na de dood van haar vader in 1805 woonden Jane, haar zuster en haar moeder daar nog verscheidene jaren tot zij in 1809 naar Chawton verhuisden. Hier had haar rijke broer Edward een landgoed met een plattelandshuisje, dat hij aan zijn moeder en zusters schonk (dit huis is tegenwoordig open voor het publiek). Zelfs nadat zij naam gemaakt had als romanschrijfster bleef zij in relatieve stilte leven, maar haar gezondheid ging sterk achteruit. Er wordt nu aangenomen dat zij de ziekte van Addison had, waarvan toen de oorzaak nog onbekend was. Ze reisde naar Winchester om behandeling te zoeken, maar stierf daar en werd begraven in de kathedraal.
Tot Austens beroemdste werk behoort de roman Emma. Het boek wordt vaak aangehaald vanwege de perfectie van vorm. Moderne critici blijven ook nieuwe perspectieven ontdekken op het scherpe commentaar van Austen betreffende de klasse van jonge, ongehuwde, aristocratische Engelse vrouwen in de vroege 19e eeuw.


Related Posts with Thumbnails

Fashion - Regency 1