The final season of the wildly popular television series 'Downton Abbey' is drawing near. To prep yourself for the further drama of the Crawley familyThe final season of the wildly popular television series 'Downton Abbey' is drawing near. To prep yourself for the further drama of the Crawley family and their servants, fellow Downtonites can revisit the fabulous plots, locations and characters by reading the final companion volume to the series, 'Downton Abbey – A Celebration', by Jessica Fellowes. This is her fourth large and lavish book spotlighting the phenomenally popular, award winning television series. And, it truly lives up to its title—a jubilant fête worthy of her uncle Julian Fellowes’ vision of portraying the changes in the British aristocracy through the Crawley family and their servants from the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 to the Jazz Age of 1925.
The cover boasts “Companion to All Six Seasons” which could be a bane or boon to the reader depending on if they abhor spoilers or not. They are a middlin’ amount. Much less than you would find in a Google search on the subject or happen across on Twitter—and no information on the finale episode which will air in the UK on Christmas day and in the US in March, 2106. Notwithstanding the distractions, we are cleverly guided through Downton Abbey – A Celebration by visiting the rooms of the abbey arranged by sections and chapters. Beginning upstairs through the Great Hall, drawing room, dining room, library and family bedrooms to “Behind the Green Baize Curtain” downstairs to the Servants Hall, the kitchen and servants attic where they sleep. This physical approach of touring the rooms seems very fitting; each described and placed in historical and social context while we revisit key scenes played out there with the characters. Who could forget the Dowager Countess Grantham asking “What is a weekend?” in the dining room during season one, Matthew Crawley proposing to Lady Mary on the steps of the entrance in season two or when Anna is arrested in the Servants Hall and taken to jail in season five? Each, a riveting moment in the drama that bonds us to the characters and the home in which they live.
Moving outside of the great manor house the book also encompasses the entire Downton estate including the grounds, farm, cottages, Dower House and the village to “Beyond the Boundaries” to London, Yorkshire and Scotland—covering many (if not all) locations visited by the Crawley family and their friends during the series. Filled with hundreds of full-color photographs, several cast interviews, pertinent quotes from the screenplay and an introduction by the Great Man himself, Julian Fellowes, readers will find the helpful episode guide an invaluable aid to refresh their memories on the who, what, when and where, and help them win at Downton Abbey Trivial Pursuit when it is created. And, you know it will be.
Ms. Fellowes’ writing is fluid and engaging. With so many facts to convey, nonfiction writing can be a challenge. You can feel her passion for the subject with the detail and energy that she brings to the text.
“On rare occasions, others have been lent the rooms for their own privacy, too. Fortunately, only Mrs. Hughes knows there’s a grating in the wall that means any conversation in here can be eavesdropped on – something that she found came in handy when Vera Bates arrived to threaten her husband. Mrs. Hughes offered the room for them to talk in – and through the grating she heard Vera tell Bates she will go to the papers with the story about the Turk* dying in Lady Mary’s bed, and that Anna will feature in the story as the woman who helped to move the corpse.” (128) in the section on Mrs. Hughes’s Sitting Room
*The Turk mentioned in this quote is Kemal Pamuk, a handsome Turkish diplomat who expired in Lady Mary Crawley’s bed, requiring Countess Grantham, Lady Mary and Anna the maid (Bates’ girlfriend) to carry the body in secrecy back to his room. Any true Downtonite knows that Mrs. Hughes would never permit anyone on the staff, or upstairs, to be Pamuked by anyone, so Vera is toast!
Filled with sumptuous images and photographs, Downton Abbey – A Celebration is a comprehensive, beautifully designed edition perfect for holiday gift giving to history buffs, period drama and Downton Abbey fans. WARNING! Be sure to buy two copies, or you will never gift it away....more
Tea passed pleasantly, and nobody seemed in a hurry to move. – Jane Austen, Emma, Chapter 41
Taking tea is so quintessentially British. You cannot thinTea passed pleasantly, and nobody seemed in a hurry to move. – Jane Austen, Emma, Chapter 41
Taking tea is so quintessentially British. You cannot think of that noble nation without envisioning its residents with a tea cup in one hand and a cucumber sandwich in the other. English novelist Jane Austen mentions tea no less than 49 times in her major works. The popularity of tea has grown even more since her Regency times, evolving during the Victorian era into a light meal served at four in the afternoon: resplendent with white linen, silver trays, scones and clotted cream. Today, in our fast-paced-world of takeout food and frozen dinners, attending a tea party at a friend’s home or tea room is an event to be cherished and savored. The calming ritual and lively conversation is the ultimate indulgence that has not changed for polished society for four hundred years.
The tale of tea is a captivating story revealed in A Social History of Tea, a new expanded second edition by British tea authority Jane Pettigrew and American tea historian Bruce Richardson. Originally published in 2001 by The National Trust, this new edition has been revised and expanded and includes the research of two tea authorities from both sides of the pond. We are so internationally bipartisan these days—I am sure that mad King George III must be rolling in his grave!
Having long been a “tea advocate” I knew of Mr. Richardson from my cherished subscription to TeaTime magazine. I was thrilled to discover that he would be a speaker at the 2013 Jane Austen Society of North America’s Annual General Meeting in Minneapolis. I missed his talk, Society Steeped in Tea, but glowing reports piqued my interest in obtaining a copy of his new book with Pettigrew. I was not disappointed. Beautifully designed with 150 full color images, this tome on the evolution of tea through the last four centuries and its influence on society and world economics is fascinating. Broken down into an introduction, six major chapters, a select bibliography, a list of illustration credits and an index, readers can easily use A Social History of Tea as either an illustrated history, a reference book, or purely a pleasure read, depending on their mood. Being a Janeite, I jumped to the index and skimmed for Jane Austen’s name. Huzzah. There she is on page 127 in a featurette entitled Tea in Literature with Charles Dickens and Lewis Carroll, two other famous British authors from the 1800’s who show that taking tea was an excellent way to bring characters together in a prudential parlor or at a mad tea party. Several passages illustrating Austen’s use of “tea-things” by her characters are featured from her novels, and if we pay attention, the timing of when they are taking tea gives us a social insight into when it was drunk and what was served with it.
“The next opening of the door brought something more welcome: it was for the tea–things, which she had begun almost to despair of seeing that evening…Fanny was very thankful. She could not but own that she should be very glad of a little tea, and Susan immediately set about making it, as if pleased to have the employment all to herself…Fanny’s spirit was as much refreshed as her body; her head and heart were soon the better for such well–timed kindness.” – Mansfield Park, Chapter 38
Richly detailed and agreeably accessible, A Social History of Tea is both enlightening and entertaining. Every important historical, economic and social aspect is covered. I particularly appreciated the details surrounding the forming and growth of The East India Trading Company, the Boston Tea Party of 1773 which sparked the American Revolution, and the rise of tea rooms suitable for respectable ladies to dine out at the end of the nineteenth century. We can also thank the Victorian’s for raising tea-time to an art form chock-full of the incredibly delicious fare we enjoy today.
In Jane Austen’s world “tea meant rest and pleasure, and its absence would be a severe disappointment.” (127) Pettigrew and Richardson have combined detailed history, social asides and beautiful illustrations covering the four centuries that we have enjoyed tea—its rise and fall in popularity—and rebirth. A Social History of Tea is the resource for those who would like to discover even more about this delectable beverage. There is a guaranteed abundance of rest and pleasure on every page. I recommend it highly.
Imagine eating white soup with Mr. Darcy, roast pork with Miss Bates, or scones with Mr. Collins! Just thinking of those dishes transports me back intImagine eating white soup with Mr. Darcy, roast pork with Miss Bates, or scones with Mr. Collins! Just thinking of those dishes transports me back into the scenes in Jane Austen’s novels and makes me smile. In Dinner with Mr. Darcy, food historian Pen Vogler examines Austen’s use of food in her writing, researches ancient Georgian recipes, converting them for the modern cook.
Even though Austen is not known for her descriptive writing, food is an important theme in her stories, speaking for her if you know how to listen. Every time we dine with characters, or food is mentioned, it relays an important fact that Austen wants us to note: wealth and station, poverty and charity, and of course comedy. While poor Mr. Woodhouse frets over wedding cake in Emma, Mr. Bingley offers white soup to his guests at Netherfield Park in Pride and Prejudice, and Aunt Norris lifts the supernumerary jellies after the ball in Mansfield Park, we are offered insights into their characters and their social station.
In Austen’s letter she writes to her sister Cassandra about many domestic matters: clothes, social gatherings and food. When she mentions orange wine, apple pie and sponge cake we know it is of importance to her.
“I hope you had not a disagreeable evening with Miss Austen and her niece. You know how interesting the purchase of a sponge-cake is to me.” – Jane Austen in a letter to her sister Cassandra, 15 June 1808
Vogler has combed Austen’s novels, letters and juvenilia pulling out dishes and researching them in contemporary cookbooks from the Georgian era. The sections are cleverly arranged: Breakfast with General Tilney; Mrs. Bennet’s Dinner to Impress; Pork and Apples: An Autumn Dinner with the Bateses; Jane’s Family Favorites; The Picnic Parade; Tea and Cake; The Ball at Netherfield; An Old-fashioned Supper for Mr. Woodhouse; Christmas with the Musgroves and Other Celebrations; Gifts, Drinks, and Preserves for Friends and the Sick at Heart. The recipes have been converted for the modern cook and look sumptuous from the numerous full-color pictures. I am dying to try Sally Lunn Cakes, a recipe from the famous bakery and tea shop in Bath, everlasting syllabub, ragout veal, Mrs. Austen’s pudding, rout cakes, white soup, flummery and many others. Several of the recipes have been adapted from Martha Lloyds household cookbook, Jane’s dear friend and confidante, who lived with the widowed Mrs. Austen and her daughters from 1807 until her marriage to Jane’s widowed elder brother Sir Francis Austen in 1823 at the age of 62! The bibliography in the back is also a great resource for those interested in Georgian cooking and its history.
While there are other scholarly books devoted to Georgian cooking focusing on Jane Austen such as The Jane Austen Cookbook, by Maggie Black and Deidre Le Faye (1995) and Jane Austen and Food, by Maggie Lane (1995), which we will be reviewing next month, Dinner with Mr. Darcy will appeal to the average cook who wants to experience what Austen and her characters ate and enjoyed, and discover why Austen’s choice of food and dining was so important to the plot development. The recipes are both simple and elaborate and the ingredients are available to most, even in the colonies! So if you are ready for your own picnic at Box Hill or supper at Pemberley, bon appetite!
Season two of Downton Abbey has concluded and we are left in limbo until it returns next Fall in the UK and January 2013 in the US.
For thoSeason two of Downton Abbey has concluded and we are left in limbo until it returns next Fall in the UK and January 2013 in the US.
For those like myself who, have watched and re-watched every blessed minute, yet, just can’t get enough of the award winning ITV/PBS television mini-series Downton Abbey and are in total Downton withdrawal, may I suggests this stunning full-color coffee table-sized book about the series, THE WORLD OF DOWNTON ABBEY?
The publisher touts it as a “lavish look at the real world--both the secret history and the behind-the-scenes drama--of the spellbinding Emmy Award-winning Masterpiece TV series Downton Abbey.” This is no idle boast. From cover to cover this 303 page oversized-volume is packed with sumptuous full-color pictures of the production, the cast, historical connections and its shining star, Highclere Castle, the grand manor house in Hampshire where the series is filmed.
The author Jessica Fellowes is the niece of the series creator and writer Julian Fellowes. Not only does she have the inside scoop into the production of the series, she is also well qualified to write the text as a journalist and the former Deputy Editor of Country Life magazine. Equally important is the photographer Nick Briggs, who captures intimate and awe inspiring images of the production that send us back into memorable scenes or highlight costuming and scenery.
Organized into nine chapters: Family Life; Society; Change; Life in Service; Style; House & Estate; Romance; War; and Behind the Scenes, each chapter is written in context to the series characters and their roles and included pertinent quotes from the screenplay illustrating key scenes and events in the series”
‘I mean, one way or another, everyone goes down the aisle with half the story hidden.’ Violet, The Dowager Countess
There are also quotes from the actors and actresses about their characters:
‘There’s an independence about Mary – she’s not influenced by anyone and she’s very much her own person, she makes her own decisions. I understand her because I’m one of three girls too and I’ve always been defiant that I didn’t want to do what they did.’ Michelle Dockery
…and from the creator:
‘There’s an element of performance. They were all performing a role that had been decreed for them. For and aristocrat to be convincing, he must look like an aristocrat.’ Julian Fellowes
I particularly enjoyed the insights from the costume designer Susannah Buxton on her research influences for the clothing and the historical vignettes that linked the series to actual period personalities such as Daisy, Countess of Warwick, and Mary Leiter, an American buccaneer that inspired Julian Fellowes to create the character of Cora Levinson who married Robert, the future Earl of Grantham in 1889.
Overall, the most spectacular impression from this volume is its sheer bulk and beauty. Any Downtonite, Edwardian historian, or period drama lover could get lost in this volume for days. Creator Julian Fellowes rightfully opens the book with a brief forward, offering us insights and asides, yet, I felt quite cheated that Violet, The Dowager Countess of Grantham was not given the last word.
Last year, the good folks at the Harvard University Press presented the first installment in their commitment to annotate all six of Jane Austen’s majLast year, the good folks at the Harvard University Press presented the first installment in their commitment to annotate all six of Jane Austen’s major novels. Pride and Prejudice: An Annotated Edition, by Jane Austen and edited by Patricia Meyer Spacks set the standard for the series: an unabridged first edition text, annotations by an Austen scholar, full color illustrations, over-sized coffee table format (9.5” X 10”), extensive scholarly introduction, and supplemental material – all pulled together in a beautifully designed interior and stunning cover. It was a grand slam home run. Now, just in time for holiday gift giving, Persuasion: An Annotated Edition was released this month supplying the same powerful presentation; this time to Jane Austen’s final, most profound and poignant novel, Persuasion.
Packed in the side margins of almost every page are running commentaries by editor Robert Morrison. Adding explanations, asides and illuminations, readers will be aided in understanding the narrative that may appear to the first time reader as a simple story of love lost and regained, but in actuality, is quite layered in complexity: laced with historical context, social commentary and influenced by Austen’s personal life. The illustrations run the gambit from paintings and line drawings of country manor houses and city dwellings similar to the residences of the principal characters, portraits of the monarchy, political figures, contemporary authors, Austen and her family, title pages of books of the era including Austen’s, maps, fashion plates, and images from famous illustrated editions of Persuasion by A. Wallis Mills, Charles Edmund Brock and Hugh Thomson. Of note are the helpful and interesting appendixes which include the two canceled chapters of Persuasion that were deleted by Austen herself, “Biographical Notice of the Author" written by her brother Henry Austen, a list of further reading, and credits for the illustrations.
Students will be happy to know that quotes from major Austen scholars abound: for example, the famous “You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.” love letter in volume II, chapter 11 (p 290) from Captain Wentworth to Anne Elliot rightly receives two plus pages of small type commentary from leading Austen experts such as Stuart Tave, Roger Gard, Deidre Lynch, Mary Favret, John Wiltshire, and Tony Tanner alone. There are numerous others as well, placing this edition in the scholarly category because of the numerous citations.
Besides the unabridged text, scholarly notations and quotes from deep thinkers, this edition is sumptuous eye candy for the Janeite. It is a real pleasure to have so much information collected and assembled for our edification and enjoyment. Morrison offers a lengthy and lucid introduction, but I wished that he had continued his personal observations and opinions more extensively in his annotation and not relied so heavily on quoting others. If this edition has any shortcomings, like its predecessor, the quality of the illustration does not match the content therein.
Next year we will be treated to their next annotated edition, Emma. After HUP has completed Austen’s six major novels, one secretly hopes that they might consider her novella, Lady Susan. Often overlooked, it is one of my personal favorites and could attract more readers if properly explained.
In Regency era England, the popularity and social importance of tea-drinking is exemplified by Jane Austen’s characters no less than fifty-eight timesIn Regency era England, the popularity and social importance of tea-drinking is exemplified by Jane Austen’s characters no less than fifty-eight times in her six major novels. The observant reader will recognize pivotal events transpire around sitting down and taking tea: In Emma, Miss Bates declines coffee “No coffee, I thank you, for me-never take coffee. A little tea if you please,” in Northanger Abbey impressionable Catherine Moreland drinks tea with the Tilney’s and is awed by the “elegance of the breakfast set,” and in Pride and Prejudice, the toady Mr. Collins boasts of the supreme honor that his esteemed patroness Lady Catherine de Bourgh has bestowed on Elizabeth Bennet in being asked to tea at her grand residence of Rosings Park. We also know from Jane Austen’s letters that she was a tea-lover too. “We began our China Tea three days ago, & I find it very good.” Jane Austen, in a letter to her sister, Cassandra, 31 May 1811
Popularized in the early 1700’s by Charles II’s wife Queen Catherine, a century later tea drinking had become a passionate ritual for the gentry and aristocracy in England. Tea at any meal was de rigueur, in fact, a whole meal was named after it. Tea-time is traditionally a light late afternoon meal about 4:00 pm created to tide one over until supper, which in Town, could be very late into the evening. Tea with Jane Austen primarily delves into the social history of tea and its role in Jane Austen’s life and her writing. It also offers a delectable array of recipes listed with traditional Regency era ingredients and preparation along with a conversion for the modern cook. Readers may find, like me, that with so much talk of food that one wants to dash out to the kitchen and commence to make the perfect cup of tea as described on page 114, and throw oneself into baking the plum cake from page 31. Ha!
What I found most enjoyable about this slim volume was the frequent mention of events in Austen’s life or incidents by her characters in the novels that illustrate the importance of tea as a very British ritual. Quotes are used liberally throughout adding to the connection.
“Perhaps you should like some tea, as soon as it can be got.” They both declared that they should prefer it to anything. Mrs. Price to Fanny and William in Mansfield Park.
Broken down into interesting chapters: Tea in the Morning; Tea Shopping; Tea Away from Home; Tea and Health and Tea in the Evening, this book is packed with historical information conveniently indexed in the back and features a select bibliography for further reading. The friendly conversational style of the author is as welcome and soothing as her topic.
“We are happy to see Edward, it was an unexpected pleasure, & he makes himself as agreeable as ever, sitting in such a quiet comfortable way makin“We are happy to see Edward, it was an unexpected pleasure, & he makes himself as agreeable as ever, sitting in such a quiet comfortable way making his delightful little sketches.” Jane Austen to Caroline Austen, 23 January 1817
What ‘CAN’ a loyal Janeite begin to say about a book whose creation involved so much Austen Royalty that I was obliged to curtsey when I opened the parcel from the post. Every hand engaged in Life in the Country is an Austen blueblood from editors Freydis Welland (great, great, great grandniece of Jane Austen) and Eileen Sutherland (Austen scholar and former President of the Jane Austen Society of North America), to contributors Maggie Lane, (author, Austen scholar and former Secretary of the Jane Austen Society), to Joan Klingle Ray, (author and first academic President of the Jane Austen Society of North America), to Joan Austen-Leigh (Austen descendent and co-founder of the Jane Austen Society of North America) all heightening my anticipation with a sense of awe and wonder. And to that a stunningly beautiful presentation of Victorian era silhouette art created by Jane Austen’s nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh enhanced by eloquent Jane Austen quotations and you have a masterpiece of Austenalia.
Not wishing to diminish their wonderful achievement in any way, I must point out that editors Freydis Welland and Eileen Sutherland had great material to start with. The beautiful silhouettes created by James Edward Austen-Leigh for the enjoyment of his family in the 1830’s are quite lovely. Exhibiting great style and skill in execution, the scenes that he chose reflect the English countryside through hunting, fishing, harvesting, animals and people engaged in activities that would have encompassed their country lives. It seems a perfect pairing to add Jane Austen’s quotes from her letters and novels which she admittedly preferred involving “three or four families in a country village.” Here is one of my favorites images from the book coupled with a quote by Elizabeth Bennet when she comes upon Mr. Darcy and his two sisters walking through the shrubberies in Netherfield Park.
“No, no; stay where you are. You are charmingly group’d, and appear to uncommon advantage. The picturesque would be spoilt by admitting a fourth.” Pride and Prejudice, Volume I, Chapter 10
The text includes a preface by the editors, a biography of the Austen family by Maggie Lane, an essay on silhouette art by Joan Klingle Ray and an afterward on James Edward Austen-Leigh by Joan Austen-Leigh adding just the right amount of information to support the images and the interesting history behind them. Any Jane Austen enthusiast or collector of silhouette art will be thrilled and honored to include this lovely volume in their library. Happily, it continues the tradition in the Austen-Leigh family to publish a book based on their unique family heritage.