Austen on ebooks, Courtesy of Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble is offering a free download of their eReader, which will give you access to 700,000 ebook titles – most seem to be on sale for $9.99. 

If you download the eReader to either your Iphone or PC, B&N offers a bonus of six FREE ebooks:  you will be happy to know of the titles offered,  Austen authored two of them! ~ The Last of the Mohicans, Sense and Sensibility, Little Women, Pride and Prejudice, Dracula, and a handy Pocket Dictionary ~ this little push for the classics is much appreciated! [but alas! please do not undermine my need to actually TOUCH MY BOOKS!]

Click Here for the Barnes & Noble website to take advantage of this offer:  select the download of your choice [Iphone / Ipod Touch, Blackberry, PC/MAC] on the right side of the screen …  and happy reading!



Posted by Deb

” Frederica ” ~ ‘Cutting One’s Eye Teeth’* on Georgette Heyer’s Regency Cant

Layout 1Frederica
Georgette Heyer
Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2008
ISBN:  1402214766
[originally published 1965]

I loved this book ~ just so full of humor and the usual fabulous Heyer-created characters – the scattered, talkative heroine, though surely not pretty enough to BE the heroine; the elegant and aloof hero, always “quizzing”; the off-the-wall family of the heroine [who else but to engage the hero?]; the elitist family of the hero appalled at the arrival into their midst of this not quite up-to-snuff relative; and a series of hilarious mishaps and one serious accident to give everyone a chance to show who they really are – a pure Heyer-romp, and one you must add to your to-be-read-pile.

A quick overview:  Frederica, already “on-the-shelf” at about twenty-four and the sole guardian of her younger siblings, entreats a distant cousin, Lord Alverstoke, to take on her sister’s coming-out in London.  The Marquis is the epitome of the Regency Buck, older [in his late thirties], rude and condescending to his sisters and their families, yet bored with his fashionable lifestyle.  When Frederica appears on the scene, he is in no way inclined to help this unheard of “cousin” with her beautiful sister and two out-of-control brothers – but he is taken in regardless and agrees to help her, at first just as an exercise to undercut his sisters, and little knowing that his easy, boring existence will never be the same again.

No full review or spoilers here! – you can see with the opening lines where this story will lead – but Heyer in Frederica gives us one humorous page after another, and the creation of the two young brothers Felix and Jessamy, one of a scientific bent, the other bound for the clergy, gives the reader an interesting diversion on the hero-heroine tale – what IS it about these boys that makes Alverstoke, who barely acknowledges his own nephews and nieces, take such a liking to them and their endless mis-adventures?

What I found so engaging about this book is the abundant collection of Regency “cant” thrown into every sentence whenever possible – Heyer had a field day in this book with her uncivil tongue!  During the Regency it was the fashion for upper-class men to pepper their speech with the language of the lower classes, especially boxing and horse-racing speak as well as that of the Regency underworld.  In Frederica, we have a heroine with three brothers who use this talk constantly – she is adept at it herself, much to Alverstoke’s surprise and delight [“…such cant expressions on the lips of delicately nurtured females are extremely unbecoming,” he says to her with a “gleam in his eye” -p. 177].  Most of the terms you can figure out in context, others you can look up in the Regency Lexicon for starters [though alas! so many are not there!] or if you have Jennifer Kloester’s very helpful Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, or The Regency Companion and see below for other sources and links on cant – otherwise you might be at a loss in reading this book!

I here append a list – you will see that many terms make reference to one’s “stupidity” or “denseness”, but there are many others that apply to all manner of situations – if you can figure them out OUT of context, you are a better “canter” than I! [and with apologies for any duplication – I feel like I am transcribing a foreign language!]

  • Tremendous swell
  • Rake-down
  • Moonling
  • Slow-top
  • Nip-farthing ball
  • Bumble bath
  • A complete hand
  • Ramshackle
  • Rubbishing style
  • Tongue runs like a fiddlestick
  • Cry craven
  • Stow it!
  • Rag–mannered
  • Little bagpipe
  • Shabster
  • Oh botheration!
  • Shag-rag
  • A regular trump
  • Frippery fellow
  • Gammon
  • Bird-witted
  • Pudding-hearts
  • Toadeaters
  • Shatter-brained
  • Pea-goose
  • A set-off
  • Wet-goose
  • Dovecots
  • Paper-skulled
  • You are a baggage
  • Rackety gadabout
  • Give you a pepper
  • Clodpole
  • Stupid little looby
  • Rats in your garrett
  • Complete to a shade
  • Young stiff-ramp
  • Nipperkin
  • Of all the plumpers
  • City-mushroom
  • Dagger-cheap
  • Ape-leader
  • A flat
  • On-dits
  • “coming”
  • Flummery
  • Needle-witted
  • Prattle-box
  • Gabblemongering
  • Purse-pinched
  • Basket-scrambler
  • Young cawker
  • Mill
  • Gudgeon
  • Ninnyhammer
  • Rusticated
  • O’clock
  • Blunt
  • Bag-wig feeling out of curl…cut up stiff
  • Mawworm
  • Moulder
  • Sapskull
  • Chawbacon
  • Cawkers
  • Jobbernoll
  • In the seeds
  • Hip
  • Cockloft
  • Barques of frailty
  • Top-lofty
  • Chancery suit upon the nob
  • Lobcoble
  • Gibble-gabbing
  • Peel eggs
  • Havey-cavey
  • Thratchgallows
  • Bacon-picker
  • Dicked in the nob
  • Bumble broth
  • Nipperkin
  • Mull
  • Poke nose
  • Top sawyer driving
  • Nip-shot
  • Go into whoops
  • Roll of flimsies
  • Jackstraw
  • Game as a pebble
  • Nodcock
  • Ugly as bull-beef
  • Take a damper
  • A knock in the cradle
  • Curst addle-plot
  • Watering pot!

[ *Cutting one’s eye teeth = to become knowing, to understand the world ]

5 full inkwells [out of 5]  ~ Highly recommended ~

Further Reading on Regency Cant:

Further Reading on Frederica:

Posted by Deb

July 18, 1817 ~ In Memoriam

[I append here the post I wrote last year on this day – with a few updates as needed]

July 18, 1817.  Just a short commemoration on this sad day…

No one said it better than her sister Cassandra who wrote

have lost a treasure, such a Sister, such a friend as never can have been surpassed,- She was the sun of my life, the gilder of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow, I had not a thought concealed from her, & it is as if I had lost a part of myself…”

(Letters, ed. by Deidre Le Faye [3rd ed, 1997], From Cassandra to Fanny Knight, 20 July 1817, p. 343; full text of this letter is at the Republic of Pemberley)

There has been much written on Austen’s lingering illness and death; see the article by Sir Zachary Cope published in the British Medical Journal of July 18, 1964, in which he first proposes that Austen suffered from Addison’s disease.  And see also Claire Tomalin’s biography Jane Austen: A life, “Appendix I, “A Note on Jane Austen’s Last Illness” where she suggests that Austen’s symptoms align more with a lymphoma such as Hodgkin’s disease.

The Gravesite: 

Austen is buried in Winchester Cathedral, where no mention is made of her writing life on her grave:

 It was not until after 1870 that a brass memorial tablet was placed by her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh on the north wall of the nave, near her grave: it tells the visitor that

Jane Austen

[in part] Known to many by her writings, endeared to her
family by the varied charms of her characters
and ennobled by her Christian faith and piety
was born at Steventon in the County of Hants.
December 16 1775
and buried in the Cathedral
July 18 1817.
“She openeth her mouth with wisdom
and in her tongue is the law of kindness.”

The Obituaries:

David Gilson writes in his article “Obituaries” that there are eleven known published newspaper and periodical obituary notices of Jane Austen: here are a few of them:

  1. Hampshire Chronicle and Courier (vol. 44, no. 2254, July 21, 1817, p.4):  “Winchester, Saturday, July 19th: Died yesterday, in College-street, Miss Jane Austen, youngest daughter of the late Rev. George Austen formerly Rector of Steventon, in this county.”
  2. Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle (vol. 18, no. 928, p. 4)…”On Friday last died, Miss Austen, late of Chawton, in this County.”
  3. Courier (July 22, 1817, no. 7744, p. 4), makes the first published admission of Jane Austen’s authorship of the four novels then published: “On the 18th inst. at Winchester, Miss Jane Austen, youngest daughter of the late Rev. George Austen, Rector of Steventon, in Hampshire, and the Authoress of Emma, Mansfield Park, Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility.  Her manners were most gentle; her affections ardent; her candor was not to be surpassed, and she lived and died as became a humble Christian.” [A manuscript copy of this notice in Cassandra Austen’s hand exists, as described by B.C. Southam]
  4. The Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle published a second notice in its next issue (July 28, 1817, p. 4) to include Austen’s writings.

There are seven other notices extant, stating the same as the above in varying degrees.  The last notice to appear, in the New Monthly Magazine (vol. 8, no. 44, September 1, 1817, p. 173) wrongly gives her father’s name as “Jas” (for James), but describes her as “the ingenious authoress” of the four novels…

[from Gilson’s article “Obituaries”, THE JANE AUSTEN COMPANION [Macmillan 1986], p. 320-1]  

Links to other articles and sources:

Posted by Deb

Austen on St. Swithin’s Day

On July 15, 1817, three days before she died, Jane Austen wrote several lines of comic verse, dictating them to her sister Cassandra.  Henry Austen refers to these verses in his biographical sketch: “The day preceding her death [though she died on July 18], she composed some stanzas replete with fancy and vigour.” [Biographical Notice]


[Written at Winchester on Tuesday the 15th of July 1817]

When Winchester races first took their beginning
It is said the good people forgot their old Saint
Not applying at all for the leave of St. Swithin
And that William of Wykham’s approval was faint.

The races however were fix’d and determin’d
The company met & the weather was charming
The Lords & the Ladies were sattin’d and ermin’d
And nobody saw any future alarming.– 

But when the old Saint was inform’d of these doings
He made but one spring from his shrine to the roof
Of the Palace which now lies so sadly in ruins
And then he address’d them all standing aloof. 

Oh subjects rebellious,  Oh Venta depraved
When once we are buried you think we are dead
But behold me Immortal. –  By vice you’re enslaved
You have sinn’d & must suffer. – Then further he said 

These races & revels & dissolute measures
With which you’re debasing a neighboring Plain
Let them stand–you shall meet with your curse in your pleasures
Set off for your course, I’ll pursue with my rain.

Ye cannot but know my command in July
Henceforward I’ll triumph in shewing my powers
Shift your race as you will it shall never be dry
The curse upon Venta is July in showers.

[text from Minor Works, ed. Chapman, Oxford, 1988 [revised edition]


saint swithin 

St. Swithin [sometimes written as Swithun] was the Bishop of Winchester in the 9th century.  Legend has it that Swithin requested upon his death to be buried in the churchyard, but his remains were later brought into the church on July 15, 971.  The Saint’s obvious displeasure with this move resulted in a hard rain for forty days and he was thus removed again to the outside [the location of this grave was at the Old Minster, now covered by Winchester Cathedral – there is some authority for the belief that Swithin’s body parts may be buried in various places…] – but these mysterious rain happenings gave England the still-held weather prediction that:

St Swithun’s day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St Swithun’s day if thou be fair
 For forty days ’twill rain na mair 

The Winchester horse races were run on July 15th at “the neighboring plain” of Worthy Down.  Austen in a light-hearted moment composed these lines to  “Venta” [ Venta was the name given to Winchester during Roman Britain, “Venta Belgarum”, which means market or meeting place – it is also the name of the University of Winchester’s Alumni Magazine] – she was pointing out the incongruity of the races taking place on a Saint’s Day and his punishment for the “revels & dissolute measures.”

The appearance of these verses is an interesting side story in the history of publishing Austen’s works.  After Henry’s reference to them in his Biographical Notice, his comment was deleted from the 1833 edition.  James Edward Austen-Leigh in his 1870 Memoir makes no mention of them, nor in his second edition.  The fifth Earl Stanhope, an early collector of Austen’s works, had tried unsuccessfully to find out what these “stanzas replete with fancy and vigour” were actually about.  His efforts prompted Austen’s niece Caroline to write:

Nobody felt any curiosity about them then – but see what it is to have a growing posthumous reputation! we cannot keep anything to ourselves now it seems…. Tho’ there are no reasons ethical or orthodox against the publication of these stanzas, there are reasons of taste – I never thought there was much of a point to them – they were good enough for a passing thought, but if she had lived she would probably soon have torn them up – however, there is a much stronger objection to their being inserted in any memoir, than want of literary merit – If put in at all they must have been introduced as the latest working of her mind – Till a few hours before she died, she had been feeling much better, & there was hope of amendment at least, if not a recovery – but the joke about the dead Saint, & the Winchester races, all jumbled up together, would read badly as amongst the few details given, of the closing scene.  [Le Faye, p. 89-90]

So Austen’s last words fell to the axe of Henry’s protective spirit and the later Victorian sensibilities.  The poem was first published in 1906 in the Hubback’s Jane Austen’s Sailor Brothers.   Chapman in his notes to the Minor Works, questions at first if they are hers – that is until he realizes he was overlooking the clear evidence in Henry Austen’s deleted comment and concludes “that no doubt settles the question.” [Chapman, MW, p. 451] 

 There are actually two manuscripts, the copy in Cassandra’s hand as dictated by Austen [owned by the Carpenter family], where the lines “When once we are buried – but behold me Immortal” are underlined, likely by Cassandra at a later date, and a second copy written out by James Edward Austen-Leigh, now in the Berg Collection at the NY Public Library, and the manuscript used in Chapman’s edition.  There were a few changes to the text, especially with the use of the word “dead”, where the manuscript reads “gone” – this does not rhyme with the “said”, and again conjecture is the Cassandra could not write what Jane actually spoke.

For me, I am heartened that in her last few days, Austen was able to rally her spirit to write yet another of her light verses, reminiscent of her juvenilia, even in the face of what she knew had to be the fast-approaching end of her life.

Winchester House college st

Further Reading:

  1. Chapman, R.W.  Minor Works.  Oxford University Press, 1988 [c1954], pp. 450-452.
  2. Doody, Margaret Ann, ed.  Catharine and Other Writings.  Oxford University Press, 1998, pp. xxi-xxiii. 
  3. Le Faye, Deirdre.  “Jane Austen’s Verses and Lord Stanhope’s Disappointment,” Book Collector, Vol. 37, No.1  (Spring 1988), pp. 86-91.
  4. Modert, Jo., ed.  Jane Austen’s Manuscript Letters in Facsimile.  Southern Illinois University Press, 1990. pp. xxiii- xxiv.]
  5. see also Joanna Waugh’s post on on St. Swithin, Jane Austen: Sleeping with the Saints

[image of St. Swithin from Wikipedia]

*[today in Vermont it is FINALLY a bright and sunny day, after what has felt like forty days of rain – so hopefully this bodes well for an end to our soggy-summer!]

Posted by Deb

BBC’s ‘Emma’ ~ trailer now online

This just in from Janeite Mae – the BBC has a trailer for the new Emma now available online for viewing:  go to the BBC here, and scroll through the carousel of new productions and click on “Emma” for a few quite lovely scenes [check out all the others as well – quite the feast! – this carousel idea is amazing!] 


Thanks Mae for the heads-up! 

Posted by Deb

Ann Radcliffe ~ July 9, 1764

You are cordially invited to visit my Bygone Books blog for a short bio – bibliography on Ann Radcliffe, born today, July 9, 1764.

cover mysteries udolpho

Posted by Deb

Holy Austen, Batman! ~ Pride & Prejudice # 4

News Alert!  Issue 4 to be released today July 8, 2009!

marvel P&P 4 large

  • COVER BY: Sonny Liew
  • WRITER: Nancy Butler
  • PENCILS: Hugo Petrus
  • INKS: Hugo Petrus
  • COLORED BY: Aubrey Sitterson|Aubrey Sitterson
  • LETTERED BY: Dave Sharpe


NOTE:  a hardcover edition of the 5 issues will be released later this year on November 11, 2009!!

marvel P&P hardcover

And here is a sneak preview of the cover for Issue # 5, to be released in August:

marvel P&P 5

Posted by Deb

Book Review ~ Jane Austen’s Sewing Box

book cover jane austens sewing boxJane Austen’s Sewing Box: Craft Projects & Stories from Jane Austen’s Novels. 

by Jennifer Forest.  Murdoch Books Australia, 2009 

ISBN:  9781741963748, paperback, 224 pages.





 This is a lovely, sumptuous book.  When it first arrived, I did a quick skim – it is filled with photographs, decorated papers, fashion plates, quotes from Austen, and a good number of handiwork projects – hmmm, I thought, maybe one of those books that just looks nice but is of little substance – a coffee table [albeit a small one] book you look at once and then relegate it to collect dust in the “parlor” –  But on further study I found within these 224 pages a wealth of information – a brief but amazingly thorough introductory commentary on Regency historic and social life, the world of “women’s work” in Austen’s time, and the references to Austen’s many mentions of these real-life activities in her novels and letters.

 Ms. Forest has a background in history and cultural heritage, and combining this knowledge, her love of Austen and a “passion for fabric arts and crafts,” she has given us a treasure of a book.  With a starting point of finding Austen’s references to handi- and fancy work, Forest puts these quotes in their historical context, explains the meaning and use of the piece, and then provides instructions for each project – each of varying skill level, each a different task – there is knitting, sewing, embroidery, netting, paperwork, glasswork, and canvas-work, a total of eighteen different projects – from a letter case, linen cravat, fur tippet, to a pin cushion, reticule, bonnet and muslin cap – all mentioned by Jane Austen, and here lovingly replicated, with photographs of Regency era decorative arts and Ackermann’s fashion plates interspersed throughout. 

Best to show an example, so I will choose the huswife [page 100ff]  [ “the huswife was a small fabric case with pockets to hold all those tools for sewing and needlework – scissors, tape measure, thread, pins, and pin cushion”( page 104)]: 

This is a sewing task for beginners, with two pages of photographs of the finished piece, a short history of the huswife and its uses, a quote [all the quotes are written in script] from Emma where Austen uses the term [there is also a second quote from Sense & Sensibility spoken by Anne Steele] – here Miss Bates has misplaced a letter from Jane Fairfax that she later reads to Emma:

 “Thank you. You are so kind!” replied the happily deceived aunt, while eagerly hunting for the letter. “Oh here it is.  I was sure it could not be far off, but I had put my huswife on it, you see, and without being aware, and so it was hid.”  [page 104, quoting Emma]

 This is followed by a full page of blue decorated paper with a part of the quote, a full page fashion plate from Ackermann’s, and a full page of an art reproduction depicting a woman at her fancy work, then a full page photograph of a detail from a piece of Regency furniture [all photographs are from the Johnston Collection *], and then three pages of project instructions with black and white drawings, and a final photograph of a furniture detail.  This format and sequence is followed for each of the eighteen projects, ending with a list of suppliers, references and an index.

johnston collection desk

from The Johnston Collection


All these Austen quotes, taken out of context, are quite a wonderful discovery! – they can so easily be passed over in the reading – what indeed IS a huswife? or a tippet? [“Jane, dear Jane, where are you? here is your tippet.  Mrs. Weston begs you to put on your tippet.”]  Or a transparency? [“and its greatest elegancies and ornaments were a faded footstool of Julia’s work, too ill done for the drawing room, three transparencies, made in a rage for transparencies…”] or a reticule? [“…a letter which she [Mrs. Elton] had apparently been reading aloud to Miss Fairfax, and return it into the purple and gold reticule by her side.”]  or “netting” for that matter [“They all paint tables, cover screens and net purses” says Charles Bingley]; and then of course Lady Bertram’s carpet-work and “yards of fringe!” 

This book opened up a whole new awareness of Austen’s writing in the NOW – her knowing what her readers would glean from these almost off-hand references [as in Mrs. Elton’s purple and gold reticule, “expensive colours that Austen possibly chose to sketch her character’s pretensions to grandeur, associated as they were with royalty and luxury.” [page 182] – and as always one is awed by Austen’s use of such fine details to delineate character.

fashion plate yellow dress


 The book is by no means comprehensive on the subject – but there are so many tidbits of Regency social life and customs, coupled with Austen’s words – I found in the reading an “oasis of calm”, a slowing down, a return to a time of sewing for the poor, or making your brother’s shirts (done in private), and your embroidery and fancy work and painting put on public display to show yourself as “an accomplished woman” [a la Mr. Darcy] – and the exquisite paper and decoration, the furniture details, and the fashion illustrations all combine to create this time-warp, invoking the Regency era and “its enthusiastic appreciation of design in all forms – dress, architecture, interiors, furniture, wallpaper and fabric” [page 17] – the whole sphere is beautifully presented in these pages and makes this a wonderful addition to your Jane Austen collection and a great starting point for your creative endeavors! 

5 full inkwells [out of 5]

* The Johnston Collection is “a Fine and Decorative Arts Museum, Gallery and Reference Library in East Melbourne, Australia.  It is no ordinary museum with roped off exhibits, but presents an astonishing and diverse collection arranged in the English Country House Style.”  Visit their website for the history, gallery exhibits, and a sampling of the treasures in the collection.

Posted by Deb

New Book ~ Dancing with Mr. Darcy [short stories]

book cover dancing mr darcyThe anthology of the winning entries in the Jane Austen Short Story contest hosted by the Chawton House Library will be published in October 2009 by Honno Press. 

The intention is to publish the very best short fiction inspired by Jane Austen or Chawton House and the Chair of Judges is Sarah Waters, bestselling author of Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith, who will select a winner and two runners-up. The winners will be announced at the Jane Austen Society Conference at Chawton on July 18.

The anthology will contain introductions from both Sarah Waters, and Rebecca Smith, the great great great great great niece of Jane Austen. [from the website]

For more information go to Honno Press: Discovering Women Writers of Wales [Honno is an independent co-operative press run by women and committed to bringing you the best in Welsh women’s writing.]

Posted by Deb

Postscript [July 6, 2009]:  the winner of the short story contest has been announced, along with two runners-up and seventeen entrants whose stories will be published in the above anthology.  Prizes will be presented on July 18th:

  • Winner: Victoria Owens
  • Runner up: Kirsty Mitchell
  • Runner up: Elsa Solender

Works selected for publication:

  • Andrea Watsmore
  • Clair Humphries
  • Elaine Grotefeld
  • Elizabeth Hopkinson
  • Esther Belamy
  • Felicity Cowie
  • Hilary Spiers
  • Jacqui Hazell
  • Lane Ashfeldt
  • Mary Howell
  • Nancy Saunders
  • Penelope Randall
  • Rebecca Cordingly
  • Stephanie Shields
  • Stephanie Tillotson
  • Suzy Hughes

Congratulations one and all!

Posted by Deb

Interview with Jennifer Forest, author of “Jane Austen’s Sewing Box”

book cover jane austens sewing box


Today we have Jennifer Forest joining us to share her thoughts on her new book Jane Austen’s Sewing Box: Craft Projects & Stories from Jane Austen’s Novels [NSW, Australia: Murdoch Books, 2009]:

What inspired Jane Austen’s Sewing Box? 

I love Jane Austen, history and craft so it seemed quite natural for me to join these  interests.  A few years ago, re-reading Jane Austen’s novels I noticed that she makes quite a few references to craft including sewing, knotting, painting and netting. It spurred me on to start digging around to find out what the crafts were that Jane Austen’s women were doing.  The Regency left a strong design legacy and there are many examples of the beautiful craft worked by women during this great period for arts and craft. 

What types of projects are in the book?  

Just as Jane Austen includes a range of craft references in her novels, there are also a range of projects in the book.  All projects are based on her novels and letters, so there’s everything from making paper flowers, to embroidery, sewing, painting, knitting and those lost arts of netting and knotting.  

What skills do you need to do the projects? 

I really believe that craft should be something you can do, not something you struggle with to the end! So there is something for all skill levels from beginner and intermediate projects to more advanced projects for experienced crafty people.  I also used materials and tools true to the period that can be sourced from shops today. 

How did you use original objects from the Regency for Jane Austen’s Sewing Box? 

I have been fortunate to work in museums where I was surrounded by beautiful objects from the past, so I knew there was a collection of Regency items available for research. Each project is based on original examples from the Regency period, from the overall design right down to details like the actual size of a finished piece, colours and materials. 

Were Regency women the original “domestic goddess”?

Well, the home was their empire in the Regency and craft skills were so important to the management of a household that it was called “women’s work”.  The ability of women to hand sew was crucial to clothing the family and helping support the poor in their village.  This was a time before sewing machines and shopping malls, when it wasn’t so easy to buy what ever you needed.  Even when tailors and dressmakers were used, women’s work in many families provided the men’s shirts, children’s clothes, nightwear, towels, sheets and bedding.  

How long would she spend on “women’s work”?

A Regency woman either alone or in a work party could easily spend 4 to 5 hours a day working.  Jane and Cassandra Austen often made their brother’s shirts, even when they had left home, married and in Charles’ case, joined the navy.  Jane Austen was proud of her neat running stitch in making up her brother’s shirts!

 Was it all sewing shirts and making towels?

No, craft skills gave women a way to show their creative talents.  Much of the professional world, including art, was only really open to men.  But Regency women also loved arts and design. Craft skills allowed a woman to express her creativity and design abilities, whether that was in a handmade huswife or purse to be given as a gift or in painted pieces like the firescreens made by Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility.  

Why do you love Jane Austen? 

I think every time I read her novels my reasons for liking them change!  Her character portrayals are far better than most writers.  I think most of us today still recognise her characters in people we know – we’ve all known an ‘Emma Woodhouse’, a ‘Miss Bates’ or a ‘Fitzwilliam Darcy’.  She is actually quite funny and witty in a beautiful and clever way.  But at the same time I think she was an acute observer and sharp commentator on her times. 

What handiwork / craft do you do? 

I love trying out new crafts skills so I’ve experimented with a range of different things. What I keep coming back to though is screen printing (love combining paint and fabric), felting, sewing and embroidery.


Thank you Jennifer for joining us today!  If anyone has any questions, please send a comment and I will get those answered for you.  I received the book in the mail yesterday and will be posting a review of it tomorrow – it is a wonderful compilation of history, Austen quotes, visual treats and, of course, the crafts!  The book is now available for ordering on ; there are several available copies from independent sellers on the US Amazon site, but is not actually available yet in the US.

Further reading:

Posted by Deb