One of the most popular and enduring British authors is Jane Austen. She lived during the Georgian Era (1760-1820 according to one source and 1714-1811 according to another, and her lifetime spanned 16 December 1775 through 18 July 1817). She wrote at a time when women authors were not taken seriously. Women of Austen’s social status (a member of a close-knit family located on the lower fringes of the English landed gentry, according to this) usually tried to “marry well” (someone with good finances and social position), bear a bunch of children, and fulfill certain social roles (giving parties, helping local charities, etc.). Pursuing anything akin to a career, such as being a novelist, was just not done, generally speaking. Yet she did. Thank goodness, or the world would be deprived of seeing Colin Firth in the ultimate portrayal of Mr. Darcy and every actress worth her salt getting a stab at being one of Austen’s heroines, including, of course, the most well-known one: Elizabeth Bennett. So, it’s only natural for such a huge cultural influence to wash over your tea time. Here are some signs:

1 Vocabulary Morphage

You find yourself using proper grammar, including adjectives and adverbs, and saying things like “One must always behave with proper decorum at tea time” to your guests. A sure sign that you have begun “going Jane Austen” at tea time!

2 Tea Preference Changes

Basic green (usually Chinese) and black (usually Indian) teas were the norm. You could go with Chun Mee, Hyson, or Gunpowder for the green teas and a hearty English Breakfast Blend or CTC Assam for the black teas for that “going Jane Austen” tea time.

3 Preparation and Presentation Alteration

You arrange for a bevy of servants to carry tables, chairs, an array of foods, and the tea, of course, out to a remote part of your vast estate for a picnic tea time à la the scene from “Emma.” Definitely a sign you’re “going Jane Austen” at tea time!

Picnic scene from the movie “Emma” (1996) (click on image to go to source site)

Picnic scene from the movie “Emma” (1996) (click on image to go to source site)

4 Austen Era Recipes Dominate

Recipes in the Georgian era called for lots of butter spread on just about everything, cream by the pintful, and up to a dozen eggs in a typical cake or pudding. Portions were smaller, though, about the size of custard cups. Even so, Georgians in the upper classes tended to overindulge, so things like gout and obesity were problematic. A typical tea time menu would include: sliced chicken and cucumber sandwiches, dilled salmon and cream cheese sandwiches, drop biscuits, freshly sliced French bread, various jellies, camembert cheese, pound cake, and almond pudding.

Miniatures showing a typical Georgian “spread” (click on image to go to source site)

Miniatures showing a typical Georgian “spread” (click on image to go to source site)

5 Tea Time Attire Adjustments

Fashion during Jane Austen’s lifetime was transitional, ranging from “Georgian” to “Regency” eras. The Georgian fashion was exaggerated with full skirts, frills, and bows (as shown in this movie), and women’s hair was piled up very high on their heads. The modern movies (like this one) show the Regency fashion that began around 1798 according to this source and that was comprised of simpler shapes and lighter fabrics with the waist line of the dress under the bust line (inspired by Grecian statues). Many portraits now around of her show her in the Regency style of dress, but many were made a half century or more after her death (see this one). You could go either way, since no official likenesses exist according to this article. One thing is certain: even contemplating which style to wear at tea time means you’re “going Jane Austen.”

Fashion range for women during Austen’s lifetime. (click on image to go to source site)

Fashion range for women during Austen’s lifetime. (click on image to go to source site)

Fashion range for women during Austen’s lifetime. (click on image to go to source site) http://veryjaneausten.com/2011/05/fashion-of-the-georgian-period-evening-dresses/

Are you there yet? Have you “gone Jane Austen”? If so, have a great time. And if not, get a move on and make that transformation complete!

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

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