C. Allyn Pierson
It will only be a few months until the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) has its Annual General Meeting (AGM) and those of us in the “Austen business” are twittering around like sparrows (no, not those blue birds on Twitter…well, maybe a few of those blue birds…). This year’s AGM is in Minneapolis, so this will be my first AGM that is within driving distance. In addition, this AGM celebrates the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice, a big event for those of us who love P&P!
Driving distance versus flying distance is an important consideration because when I drive I don’t have to pack my ball gown in a suitcase! If you think that even a polyester shantung or polyester satin gown can be stuffed into a suitcase, jumped on several times by a gorilla in the baggage handling areas of the airport, left on the tarmac in the rain while similar gorillas unload the plane (jumping on the luggage a few more times), then be pulled out ready to wear for the Saturday evening Regency Ball you would be quite, quite wrong. This, of course is after weeks of sewing, tearing out, resewing and the refurbishing and trimming each year to keep the look “fresh.” Continue reading →
I remember when I was growing up, there was a TV ad (I don’t recall what it was it was advertising) that said “You can’t fool Mother Nature.” That may or may not be true, but I have to posit that Mother Nature is fooling with us.
For heaven’s sake, it’s May 3rd! There should be daffodils blooming and buds opening on the trees. Well, actually, I guess those things are going on, but they are happening beneath 5 inches of snow.
On Tuesday, it was 80 degrees and the shrubs and trees in the ravine behind my house were just starting to unfurl. My daffodils were up and there were a few flowers already open. I had taken a picture the night before of one of the Barred Owls who live in the woods as he sat looking at me in the mellow light of sunset. We hear him and his friends every night talking to each other, but rarely see then, let alone up close and in the daylight. Continue reading →
One of the major rites of passage for young men and women of the haute ton was their presentation at court. It was not required that they be presented before their coming out season started and young people of the gentry often had neither the desire nor the money to prepare for a presentation. Presentation at court was required, however to attend any social events put on by the royal court.
Who could be presented at court? To be presented at court you must be the son or daughter of a gentleman and you need to have someone who had been presented to sponsor you, vouching for your background and social class. A sponsor could only sponsor two people at one time, so if you had three daughters you wanted to have presented at once you would need two sponsors. A woman could also be presented if she married a man who was of a high enough class to qualify for presentation. Presentations were done only on certain specified days during the Season, and were called Levees for young men and Drawing Rooms for y0ung women. There were often impecunious women of the peerage who would present young women for pay, allowing them an entré into the parties and balls of the Season, as well as preparing them for presentation.
The presentation of young men was simpler than that of young women as their court clothes were quite similar to their ordinary evening dress wear, with the addition of a dress sword. In the Regency they would be presented to the Prince Regent Continue reading →
Welcome to the fourth installment of The Bennet Brother, the new interactive group writing project from Austen Authors! At the end of this segment, you’ll have a chance to vote on what happens next. There are also extra details on Twitter where this story has taken on a life of its own. Mr. Edward Bennet (@edwbennet) already has a notable presence and regularly interacts with readers, including this interview with Miss Leatherberry on Leatherbound Reviews:
BIG NEWS– Due to the enormous amount of fun we are having, and the incredible enthusiasm from our wonderful readers, the Austen Authors have decided to change the timeline of P&P Readers Choice to every week rather than every two weeks! That means, voting for the story plot option will conclude Thursday morning by 6am EST so that the next author can start writing! Segments will post each Wednesday. More info is on the P&P Readers Choice page.
The previous three scenes written by Abigail Reynolds, Jack Caldwell, and Diana Birchall can be read, in order, in The Writers Block.
And now, Scene 4: Lizzy, Jane, and Edward go to Pemberley:
Edward strode briskly down the hallway, eager to change out of his dirty riding clothes. His face was flushed and his hair tousled from the sun and fresh air outside. ‘What a lovely day in Hertfordshire!’ he thought, ‘I cannot see what my friends find so desirable in smoky London when they could breathe the clear air of the country.’
He was so wrapped up in his enjoyment of the day that he started when the door to his father’s library opened suddenly and his father stuck his head out.
“Edward! I thought that was you I heard! Come into the library.”
“I was just going to change after my ride…”
“Never mind that. Come in before the girls know you are back.”
Edward gave his father a slight bow and followed him into the library. Continue reading →
In the past two weeks I have had several people ask me about what Regency ladies wear under their gowns (no, do not ask me about what Scotsmen wear under their kilts, my Scottish ancestors would come back to haunt me if I told…). In spite of the very thin materials, such as muslin and silk, used to make Regency gowns, the modest Regency lady wore quite a lot of layers under her gown. The Regency silhouette allowed the shape of the body to show when the wearer moved instead of hiding it under stiff outer garments as was the fashion both before and after the Regency.
The first layer is the shift (also called a chemise, French for shirt, or smock), a garment made of thin, woven linen (or, later, cotton) with a large neckline drawn in with a drawstring and was worn to help keep the outer layers of clothes away from body oils and sweat. The shift is a large rectangle with short sleeves set straight out from the body and gussets under the arms to allow movement. The reason for this unshaped garment is to allow the wearer to adjust the neckline with the drawstring so that the neckline is just low enough to not show above the bodice of the dress. When the neckline changes in this way, set in sleeves, as are used in the outer garment, would not fit properly with all the layers on. In some cases the shift could be gathered up to show above the neckline of the gown, providing more coverage.
Over the shift goes the stays or corset. Most young ladies in the Regency, unlike their mothers in earlier eras, wore short stays. The corset was still worn by those who needed its assistance to keep their figures looking trim, as well as by many older women who had worn a corset since late childhood and now needed the support for their weak backs caused by never using the muscles of their trunk to hold themselves up and their stomachs in. Continue reading →
Ahhh, another year! Another opportunity to begin again; to rise phoenix-like, from the ashes! Those of you who know me well know that the past year has been a rather challenging one with my work in the “real world.” Because of drastic changes resulting from the departure of a colleague, who thought that he could force me to retire and leave him all the patients, I have been busier than the proverbial bee. The year 2012 I spent hiring and training new staff and attempting to provide excellent care for the numerous patients that I had to care for on my own.
But now, it is 2013. A new year brings new challenges and resolutions and my foremost resolution and challenge is to bring one of the several works that I have in progress into print. I am particularly eager to finish another Pride and Prejudice sequel in the year that brings the 200th Anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice, an event near and dear to my heart.
The story I am editing for 2013 was originally written as a short story and never published, but I always felt that the short story format was too limiting to fill out the characters in this tale. The story tells of the first year of marriage of Miss Bingley, who, in my book Mr. Darcy’s Little Sister, married a French count whose family lost everything except one small English manor in the French Revolution. The Comte de Tournay is a cynical man who has been married twice before to very well-bred young women with but modest fortunes, his family pride inducing him to look for breeding and faultless bloodlines over strength and pecuniary advantages. He offers for Miss Bingley a few months after meeting her in a turn-around in his attitude. He has come to the realization that a robust dowry in addition to a woman of robust health will optimize his chances of improving his fortune and, hopefully, provide him with an heir. Continue reading →
Caroline Bingley awoke in time to hear the dawn chorus, should she have gone out into the early morning mists. But she did not hear it, nor did she hear anything else as she stared up at the canopy over her head. Mr. Darcy was gone… he was now married to that simpering little milk maid, Elizabeth Bennet. God, what a fool he was! They would be miserable within a month.
She pulled her coverlet up over her shoulders, trying to stop the shivering that had shaken her all night. She could not believe that he had actually gone through with it. Elizabeth Bennet had nothing… NOTHING to offer him in the way of breeding, education, or beauty that she did not have. Not to mention her dowry, an area where the Bennet’s were clearly inferior.
At eight o’clock her maid brought in her chocolate and bread and butter, but her mouth felt like a cold, week-old fireplace, the taste of ashes choking her.
Bad enough that her brother had married the prissy Jane Bennet! But her brother was sometimes a fool… if he did not have a pleasing personality no one in London would have anything to do with him… and then where would Louisa and she have been?
Might as well get up… Louisa and Mr. Hurst would be coming down for breakfast soon.
When she came down in her morning dress, hair as impeccable as always, the Hursts had already sat down with their plates. Continue reading →
Darcy was relieved when Georgiana finally went up to bed. His little sister was excited about the wedding and eager to show her enthusiasm by discussing it endlessly, but Darcy felt too jittery to be patient with her. He could not settle down, so he paced, his hands clasped behind his back, to the window and back, wishing that he was in his book room at Pemberley instead of the tiny library at Netherfield, where he could barely take three steps before he must turn back. He had paced the same path four times before Bingley came in looking for him.
“There you are Darcy! Did Miss Darcy go upstairs?”
Darcy nodded briefly. “Yes… she must be up early tomorrow, so she wanted to get a good night’s sleep. We should probably do the same.”
Bingley smiled. “I suppose so… but somehow I don’t feel that I shall sleep much.”
Darcy ran his hand over the bristles on his chin, embarrassed to be so… what? Nervous? Frightened? Terrified?
His face must have conveyed something of these emotions to Bingley, for his friend quietly went to the decanter and pulled the stopper out of the brandy. “Brandy, Darcy? We must drink to the future.” Continue reading →
Finally, after a busy and nerve-wracking day of wedding preparations, Jane and Elizabeth found themselves, limp and exhausted, in their shared bedroom preparing for bed. Elizabeth was just finishing tying her nightcap on, fluffing up a perky bow below her left ear and wondering what her wedding night would be like two nights hence. Her mother’s “advice” to both girls, given earlier in the week in a private conference, had not relieved her nervousness over that important beginning to her marriage… no, not at all.
Jane was obviously thinking about the same subject, as she hesitantly said, “Um, Lizzie?”
“Yes, my dear?”
“Are you nervous about tomorrow?”
Lizzie pretended to misunderstand her, not quite sure how to answer. “Oh no, the wedding is all planned… nothing can go too terribly wrong… unless Lady Catherine decides to attend.” Her attempt to soothe and reassure Jane elicited a weak smile from her beautiful sister.
“No, I am not nervous about the wedding itself… it is… it is the wedding night. All the advice we have received has my mind whirling… in fact, I feel… ill… quite ill.” He voice dropped on the last two words so that Lizzie barely heard them. Before Lizzie could respond to her sister’s fearful words and her ghastly white face, they heard a gentle tap on the door. Lizzie opened the door to her Aunt Gardiner. Continue reading →
It was much more comfortable in the carriage with just the two of them, reflected Mrs. Gardiner, but it was still a rather long journey from London to Longbourn, and she already missed their four children, bless their little hearts! Still, neither she nor Mr. Gardiner would consider missing the wedding of his two favourite nieces…and to two very worthy and rich young men! It pleased her that their trip into Derbyshire the previous summer had been the turning point of Elizabeth’s relationship with Mr. Darcy. What an excellent young man he was! They would be as happy as dear Jane and Bingley.
The carriage turned off the turnpike and onto the road to Longbourn; she recognized the house that stood at the crossroads, unchanged in the fifteen years she had been married to Mr. Gardiner. She glanced over at him and met his eye.
“Yes, my dear, they will be very happy together.” He twinkled at her, able to read her thoughts after all these years. She took his hand and held it until they pulled onto the gravel sweep and stopped in front of the entrance of Longbourn manor.
Mrs. Bennet swept out of the house, her ribbons flying and a lace handkerchief in her hand, ready to dab at her tears over the loss of her current favorite daughters. Mrs. Gardiner sighed. Her sister-in-law had not changed with the engagements of her two eldest daughters. Continue reading →