Thursday, February 24, 2011

Special Post: Book Excerpt

Yes, it's a special post! As y'all know, I just finished reading What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew, a truly delightful book about Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and everything happening in their books. But if you want to know more about that book, click here.

Let me just say, whenever a passage in a book is particulary readable (in other words, it's a delightful description of food, clothes, landscape, etc) I read it out loud. I love reading aloud. :) So here I am, posting one section that I couldn't resist and that should give you an idea of the tremendous amount of food at a dinner party in the 1800's. :) Enjoy! Oh wait a sec. Okay. I found this description in the book before mentioned, but they got it straight from something called London at Dinner, which might be a magazine or a book, I have no idea. To find it in your book (WJAACDK), look up page 75. :) Here we go.

A delicate soup and turtle are handed around -- nothing on the tables except flowers and preserved fruits in old Dresden baskets, a bill of fare placed next to every person, a turbot with lobster and Dutch sauces, carved by an able domestic on the side-board, and a portion of red mullet with Cardinal sauce are offered to every guest; cucumber and the essential cruet stands bringing up the rear. The 'flying dishes,' as the modern cooks call the oyster of marrow pates, follow the fish. The entrees are carried round, a supreme de volaille aux truffes, a sweet-bread au jus, lamb cutlets, with asparagus, peas, a fricandeau a l'oseille . . . . Either venison, roast saddle of mutton, or stewed beef a la jardiniere, are then produced, the accessories being salad, beetroot, vegetables, French and English mustard. A Turkey poult, duckling, or green goose, commences the second course, peas and asparagus following in their course; plovers' eggs in aspic jelly, a mayonaise of fowl succeeding; a macedoine of fruit, meringues a la creme, a marasquino jelly, and a chocolate cream, form the sweets. Sardines, salad, beetroot, celery, anchovies, plain butter and cheese, for those who are gothic enough to eat it. Two ices, cherry-water and pineapple cream, with the fruit of the season, furnish the dessert. Two servants or more, according to the number of the party, must attend exclusively to the wine; sherry, Madeira, and champagne, must ever be flowing during dinner.

Phew! Those people ate a lot! Now for some etiquette for ladies.

  1. If unmarried and under thirty, she is never to be in the company of a man without a chaperone. Except for a walk to church or a park in the early morning, she may not walk alone but should always be accompanied by another lady, a man, or a servant. An even more restrictive view is that "if she cannot walk with her younger sisters and their governesses, or the maid cannot be spared to walk with her, she had better stay at home or confine herself to the garden."
  2. Under no circumstances may a lady call on a gentleman alone unless she is consulting that gentleman on a professional or business matter.
  3. A lady does not wear pearls or diamonds in the morning.
  4. A lady never dances more than three dances with the same partner.
  5. A lady should never "cut" someone, that is to say, fail to acknowledge their presence after encountering them socially, unless it is absolutely necessary. By the same token, only a lady is ever truly justified in cutting someone: "a cut is only excusable when men persist in bowing whose acquaintance a lady does not wish to keep up." Upon the approach of the offender, a simple stare of silent iciness should suffice; followed, if necessary, by a "cold bow, which discourages familiarity without offering insult," and departure forthwith. To remark, "Sir, I have not the honour of your acquaintance" is a very extreme measure and is a weapon that should be deployed only as a last resort.
Those were from pages 55-56. Very interesting, yes? We have changed so much! There is much more from this book that I would love to include, but that would result in an even longer post, so. Comment and tell me what you thought!


beast'sbelle said...

Thanks for sharing these excerpts. Wow, social rules for ladies have definitely changed over the years. Some changes I'm thankful for, but I think there are some things we could learn from etiquette of old.

Another thing I found interesting is that these rules really show how erroneous many period film adaptations are. If a lady couldn't even walk unaccompanied with a man, I doubt they'd be kissing in the street like so many films portray! :}

Miss Laurie said...

Thanks so much for this! Now I really really want to read this book! The second quote reminds me of 'Jane Austen's Guide to Good Manners', another great book about the manners of the day.

~Miss Laurie
Old-Fashioned Charm

Charity U said...

Beast'sbelle, that's a good point! I guess we can't absolutely trust films as a perfect source for historical facts. :P

Miss Laurie, it's definitely a good read. :) I got this copy on Paper Back Swap, but I had to wait quite some time for anyone to post it, so. I think someone mentioned a Jane Austen Handbook or something like that on the original WJAACDK post. I've heard of these great JA books, but haven't read any of them. Except this one, of course. :) If that makes any sense.

Jane said...

Hey Charity! I just wanted to say that your blog button is SO cute! I am adding it to my blog right now - I love it! :-)

katie said...

I actually think our societ is lesser for it for not having so many of these customs now. Love your blog, Charity. Please stop back by Brighton Park; I have a new P and P post up today. love Austen and i am your newest follower. Katie