Season 02, Episode 09 – Pride & Prejudice Chapter 9

Embarrassing boasts and the Game of Loo

Why is poetry the food of love? What’s so funny about four-and-twenty families? And how do you play Loo? Find out the answers to these questions and more, in this episode of My Cousin Jane.

Audio

A Small Kind of Accomplishment

“And to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”

By donating to support the show, you can improve your mind even further with exclusive behind-the-scenes information, bonus content, and more.

Show Notes

Note: Some of the links on this page may be affiliate links. This means that every time you click on one and then buy something, I get paid billions of pounds by a secret organization trying to bring back the Regency period…or I get a few fractions of a cent from a company like Amazon, one or the other.

Books referenced in this episode

Transcript

Note: Transcripts on this site are the scripts I used when preparing to record the show. They may or may not be a 100% faithful representation of the final recording. Audio clips of Pride & Prejudice come from Karen Savage’s narration of Pride & Prejudice, courtesy of LibriVox.org.

Welcome to My Cousin Jane, a podcast about Jane Austen and her works. With your host, Lee Falin. Season 2 – episode 9.

Welcome back to another episode of My Cousin Jane. Each week, we look at what you might think of as the behind the scenes featurettes or deleted scenes of a particular chapter in Austen’s books.

This week, we’re going to talk about Pride & Prejudice Chapter 9.

As always, if you enjoy the show and would like to see it continue, please consider supporting us by going to MyCousinJane.com, signing up for our newsletter, or clicking on the little donate button.

Chapter Summary

Chapter 9 is a relatively short, but very cringeworthy chapter. Not because the writing is bad, but because it is such an accurate portrayal of a very awkward situation.

Elizabeth’s mother and younger sisters come to visit Netherfield to check on Jane. The conversation is more than a bit awkward for Elizabeth, who afterwards quickly retreats to check on Jane.

Dining

Let’s start with an excerpt from the chapter that includes a discussion of social dining in the country, courtesy of Karen Savage and Librivox.org:

“Indeed, Mama, you are mistaken,” said Elizabeth, blushing for her mother. “You quite mistook Mr. Darcy. He only meant that there was not such a variety of people to be met with in the country as in town, which you must acknowledge to be true.”

“Certainly, my dear, nobody said there were; but as to not meeting with many people in this neighbourhood, I believe there are few neighbourhoods larger. I know we dine with four-and-twenty families.”

Nothing but concern for Elizabeth could enable Bingley to keep his countenance. His sister was less delicate, and directed her eye towards Mr. Darcy with a very expressive smile. Elizabeth, for the sake of saying something that might turn her mother’s thoughts, now asked her if Charlotte Lucas had been at Longbourn since her coming away.

Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 9

The joke here is that four-and-twenty families, though a significant number to Mrs. Bennet, is in fact a rather embarrassing boast compared to what families in the highest social circles such as Darcy and the Bingleys are used to.

The Food of Love

Speaking of embarrassing boasts, here’s one about Jane:

“She seems a very pleasant young woman,” said Bingley.

“Oh! dear, yes; but you must own she is very plain. Lady Lucas herself has often said so, and envied me Jane’s beauty. I do not like to boast of my own child, but to be sure, Jane—one does not often see anybody better looking. It is what everybody says. I do not trust my own partiality. When she was only fifteen, there was a gentleman at my brother Gardiner’s in town so much in love with her, that my sister-in-law was sure he would make her an offer before we came away. But, however, he did not. Perhaps he thought her too young. However, he wrote some verses on her, and very pretty they were.”

“And so ended his affection,” said Elizabeth impatiently. “There has been many a one, I fancy, overcome in the same way. I wonder who first discovered the efficacy of poetry in driving away love!”

“I have been used to consider poetry as the food of love,” said Darcy.

“Of a fine, stout, healthy love it may. Everything nourishes what is strong already. But if it be only a slight, thin sort of inclination, I am convinced that one good sonnet will starve it entirely away.”

Price & Prejudice, Chapter 9

Darcy’s comment that “poetry is the food of love” is a reference to a famous Shakespeare quote from Twelfth Night:

If music be the food of love, play on; Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting, The appetite may sicken, and so die.

Twelfth Night, Act 1 Scene 1

Loo

As promised in the previous episode, we’re going to backtrack briefly one chapter and talk about the game of Loo. Here’s a clip from chapter 8 where Elizabeth encounters the game at Netherfield:

On entering the drawing-room she found the whole party at loo, and was immediately invited to join them; but suspecting them to be playing high she declined it, and making her sister the excuse, said she would amuse herself for the short time she could stay below, with a book. Mr. Hurst looked at her with astonishment.

Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 8

I mentioned last time that according to David Parlett, author of A History of Card Games, Loo, also known as “Lanterloo”, is a trick-taking game similar to whist, which most scholars think originated in Holland.

While it was mostly played by the aristocracy in the late 1700s and early 1800s, by the late 1800s it was considered a hallmark of the rough tavern crowd and generally looked down upon.

Trick-Taking

Loo is a trick-tacking game. If you’ve never played a trick-taking game, most of them go something like this:

Whomever goes first plays a card, say the four of clubs. The next player has to “follow suit” by playing another club if they have one. If they don’t have one they can either play a trump card or a slough card.

A trump card is a card of a designated suit that beats all the other suits.

For example, if hearts are the trump suit, and the current high card in the trick is the ten of clubs, a player that doesn’t have clubs could play any heart card, which would be the new high card of the trick.

If a trump card is played, the only way for the next player to do better would be to play a higher card in the trump.

So imagine we have four players named Elizabeth, Jane, Bingley, and Darcy, and we say that hearts is the trump suit. Elizabeth goes first and plays a five of spades. Jane has a couple of hearts, but she also has a four of spades, so she must play that because you have to follow suit if you can. So Elizabeth is still winning.

Next Bingley, who doesn’t have any spades, plays a four of hearts. Since this is a card from the trump suit, he is now winning.
Finally, Darcy has neither a spade nor a heart, so he can play a slough card (sometimes called a discard) and plays a two of clubs.

Bingley wins the trick.

Notice there are lots of phrases that come from this style of card game that you have probably heard used in other contexts, such as “playing the trump card”, “following suit”, and “missing a trick”.

Loo Rules

Now that you know how trick-taking works, here’s how Loo works. There are three card and five card variations of Loo, but I’ll explain the five card version.

At the start of the game, five chips are added to the pool by the dealer.
Each player is dealt five cards, then a card is flipped over to reveal the trump suit for that hand.

Each player looks at their hand and decides if they want to play or fold. If they play, they may exchange any number of their cards for new cards.

Then players proceed to try to win tricks as described above.
In five card Loo, there are five possible tricks to be won. For every trick you win, you get one-fifth of the pot.

If you go through a round without winning any tricks, you have been “looed” and you add five more chips to the pool.

There are some additional rules in five-card Loo that can affect play:

First, the jack of clubs is referred to as “Pam”, and trumps everything else in the game.

Second, after the dealing and exchanging of cards, if you have a flush, you can win the entire pool immediately. These are (in order of precedence) a “Pam” flush, which is the Jack of clubs, plus four other cards of the same suit; followed by a trump-flush (five cards of the trump suit); and then a regular flush (five cards of any other suit).

If the pool is won in this way, play begins again.

There are some additional variations on five-card loo, but the most significant is “Unlimited Loo”.

In “Unlimited Loo”, instead of adding five more chips, you have to add an amount equal to the current value of the pool. This version of loo can lead to extremely large amounts being won and lost in a short amount of time.

Conclusion

That wraps up episode 9 of season 2 of My Cousin Jane.

As always, if you enjoy the show and would like to help us out, please consider supporting us by heading over to MyCousinJane.com and clicking on the little donate button.

Either way, thanks so much for listening.

Subscribe to the My Cousin Jane Newsletter

“I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.”

Season 02, Episode 08 – Pride & Prejudice Chapter 8

Ragout Dishes, Uncles in Cheapside, and Preferring Books Over Cards

What’s the difference between a plain dish and a ragout? What’s the deal with living near Cheapside? And why is it such a big deal that Elizabeth prefers a book over cards? Find out the answers to these questions and more, in this episode of My Cousin Jane.

Audio

A Small Kind of Accomplishment

“And to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”

By donating to support the show, you can improve your mind even further with exclusive behind-the-scenes information, bonus content, and more.

Show Notes

Note: Some of the links on this page may be affiliate links. This means that every time you click on one and then buy something, I get paid billions of pounds by a secret organization trying to bring back the Regency period…or I get a few fractions of a cent from a company like Amazon, one or the other.

Books referenced in this episode

Jane Austen’s Letters

by Deirdre Le Faye

Transcript

Note: Transcripts on this site are the scripts I used when preparing to record the show. They may or may not be a 100% faithful representation of the final recording. Audio clips of Pride & Prejudice come from Karen Savage’s narration of Pride & Prejudice, courtesy of LibriVox.org.

Welcome to My Cousin Jane, a podcast about Jane Austen and her works. With your host, Lee Falin. Season 2 – episode 8.

Welcome back to another episode of My Cousin Jane. Each week, we look at what you might think of as the behind the scenes featurettes or deleted scenes of a particular chapter in Austen’s books.

This week, we’re going to talk about Pride & Prejudice Chapter 8.

As always, if you enjoy the show and would like to see it continue, please consider supporting us by going to MyCousinJane.com, signing up for our newsletter, or clicking on the little donate button.

Chapter Summary

Today’s episode will be a bit longer than normal, because there is a lot that happens in chapter 8. And this may be the closest to a controversial episode we get (unless we do an episode on the relative merits of Colin Firth vs Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy).

“My good opinion once lost, is lost forever.”

I believe that the Netherfield chapters, chapters 8 through 12, are some of the most important in the novel, second only to the chapters where Elizabeth visits Rosings later in the book.

In this chapter, we have Jane and Elizabeth at Netherfield along with Mr. Bingley and his sisters; her sister’s husband, Mr. Hurst; and Mr. Darcy.

Most of the chapter is spent in mild banter about various topics ranging from Elizabeth and her family, to what it means to be truly accomplished. Elizabeth’s primary concern is Jane’s health, which by the end of the chapter is not improving.

Plain dish vs Ragout

Let’s begin with a mild exchange about food between Elizabeth and Mr. Hurst. As always, our audio clips come courtesy of Karen Savage and Librivox.org:

Their brother, indeed, was the only one of the party whom she could regard with any complacency. His anxiety for Jane was evident, and his attentions to herself most pleasing, and they prevented her feeling herself so much an intruder as she believed she was considered by the others.

She had very little notice from any but him. Miss Bingley was engrossed by Mr. Darcy, her sister scarcely less so; and as for Mr. Hurst, by whom Elizabeth sat, he was an indolent man, who lived only to eat, drink, and play at cards; who, when he found her prefer a plain dish to a ragout, had nothing to say to her.

Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 8

There is a lot of history behind this seeming innocent comment about plain dishes vs ragout. First, a ragout (or sometimes ragoo) is different than a ragú, which is an Italian dish.

Traditionally, British dinners were not very spicy. This was especially true of a classic Sunday staple, roast beef (typically served with roasted vegetables, Yorkshire pudding, and gravy).

However, in the late 1700s, French cuisine became extremely fashionable. So much so that a sign of wealth in the aristocracy was to employ French cooks. Mrs. Bennet comments about this later in the book when she supposes that Mr. Darcy must have at least two or three of them in his employ.

One of the trends in French cuisine was the Ragout . A method slow-cooking stewed meat and vegetables with a variety of spices and other additions, such as mushrooms, truffles, and oysters.

One of the most popular English cookbooks of the time, The Complete Housewife, has a recipe for how to “ragoo a breast of veal”:

Receipt to Ragoo a Breast of Veal, from the Complete Housewife: Lard your breast of veal with bacon; then half boil it in some water and salt, whole pepper, and bunch of sweet herbs; then take it out and dust it with some grated bread, sweet-herbs, and fennel, and grated nutmeg and salt, all mixed together; then broil it on both sides, and make a sauce of anchovies and gravy thickened with butter. Garnish with pickles.
The Complete Housewife

In 1731, and English satirical writer and playwright name Henry Fielding wrote a song called “The Roast Beef of Old England”, that attributes English military prowess to the plain roast beef favored by Englishmen. It then laments that the ragouts of France are corrupting the country.

This song became so famous it was sung during the opening of new plays in England, and to this day the Royal Artillery and the Royal Navy play this song at dinners. Even the United States Marines Corps plays this tune during ceremonial Mess Dinners.

Here’s an excerpt of the song performed by Jerry Bryant and Starboard Mess:

The Roast Beef of Old England, performed by Jerry Bryant and Starboard Mess

So, Elizabeth, in preferring a plain dish to a ragout, is perhaps a nod to the fact that for many of the English, especially those with family in the Royal Navy like Austen, it was more than a matter of personal taste, it was a matter of patriotism.

Connections and Cheapside

Speaking of family connections, let’s listen to an excerpt of Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst talking about those of the Bennet family:

“I have an excessive regard for Miss Jane Bennet, she is really a very sweet girl, and I wish with all my heart she were well settled. But with such a father and mother, and such low connections, I am afraid there is no chance of it.”

“I think I have heard you say that their uncle is an attorney in Meryton.”

“Yes; and they have another, who lives somewhere near Cheapside.”

“That is capital,” added her sister, and they both laughed heartily.

“If they had uncles enough to fill all Cheapside,” cried Bingley, “it would not make them one jot less agreeable.”

“But it must very materially lessen their chance of marrying men of any consideration in the world,” replied Darcy.

To this speech Bingley made no answer; but his sisters gave it their hearty assent, and indulged their mirth for some time at the expense of their dear friend’s vulgar relations.

Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 8

Despite what you might infer from the name “Cheapside” and Miss Bingley’s reaction to it, Cheapside had nothing to do with slums or being “cheap”. The name comes from an old Anglo-Saxon word that means “market street”.

Charles Dickens wrote in 1879 about Cheapside, calling it “the greatest thoroughfare in the City of London”. It was a center of shopping and trade in the city of London.

As we know from other places in the novel, the Uncle referred to here, Mr. Gardiner, was a tradesman living on Gracechurch Street, which is about a ten minute walk from Cheapside. As a tradesman, living near Cheapside would be advantageous.

But the Bingley sisters (and Mr. Darcy) consider family who work as tradesmen (or attorneys) as a strike against the Bennets socially. Though again, the irony is that the Bingley fortune was in fact earned through trade just one or two generations prior.

Loo, Reading, and Family Libraries

Speaking of the work of generations, let’s now transition to a brief discussion of books, reading, and family libraries:

On entering the drawing-room she found the whole party at loo, and was immediately invited to join them; but suspecting them to be playing high she declined it, and making her sister the excuse, said she would amuse herself for the short time she could stay below, with a book. Mr. Hurst looked at her with astonishment.

“Do you prefer reading to cards?” said he; “that is rather singular.”

“Miss Eliza Bennet,” said Miss Bingley, “despises cards. She is a great reader, and has no pleasure in anything else.”

“I deserve neither such praise nor such censure,” cried Elizabeth; “I am not a great reader, and I have pleasure in many things.”

“In nursing your sister I am sure you have pleasure,” said Bingley; “and I hope it will soon be increased by seeing her quite well.”

Elizabeth thanked him from her heart, and then walked towards a table where a few books were lying. He immediately offered to fetch her others; all that his library afforded.

“And I wish my collection were larger for your benefit and my own credit; but I am an idle fellow, and though I have not many, I have more than I ever looked into.”

Elizabeth assured him that she could suit herself perfectly with those in the room.

“I am astonished,” said Miss Bingley, “that my father should have left so small a collection of books. What a delightful library you have at Pemberley, Mr. Darcy!”

“It ought to be good,” he replied, “it has been the work of many generations.”

“And then you have added so much to it yourself, you are always buying books.”

“I cannot comprehend the neglect of a family library in such days as these.”

Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 8

First, just a brief mention about the game the group is playing when Elizabeth walks in. According to David Parlett, author of A History of Card Games, Loo, also known as “Lanterloo”, was a trick-taking game similar to whist, which for the sake of time, we’ll talk about in detail next week, and while there were several variations, there are two main ways to handle the betting:

In the first, sometimes called “Limited Loo”, the amount of money contributed to the pool during play was small and fixed. In the second, “Unlimited Loo”, the amounts increased as play went on, sometimes leading to astronomical wins and losses, and even ruined fortunes in some cases.

Elizabeth suspects they are “playing high”, and therefore likely playing “unlimited loo”, so she opts for a book instead.

Elizabeth choosing a book instead of cards is interesting as well because of the later comment that Miss Bingley makes and Elizabeth’s response to it.

“Do you prefer reading to cards?” said he; “that is rather singular.”

“Miss Eliza Bennet,” said Miss Bingley, “despises cards. She is a great reader, and has no pleasure in anything else.”

“I deserve neither such praise nor such censure,” cried Elizabeth; “I am not a great reader, and I have pleasure in many things.”

Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 8

In the 1750s, a group calling themselves the Blue Stockings Society was formed by a group of women for the purpose of increasing the literary education of women.

Contrary to popular belief (if there is any popular belief about regency-era literary groups), it wasn’t an exclusive women’s club.

One of its purposes was the mutual dialogue on intellectual matters between men and women. And several prominent men became members, including Sir Edmund Burke.

There’s quite a bit of dispute about the origins of the name amongst historians, ranging from the colors of the socks worn by one or more of the club’s members, to a specific invitation given to an eccentric botanist to never mind if he couldn’t afford nice clothes when attending the meeting, but to just come in his blue worsted stockings instead.

Regardless of where the name came from, the group’s popularity slowly waned through the late 1700s, partially because by the early 1800’s, women had much better educational opportunities than they’d had previously.

One of the founders of the group, Elizabeth Montagu, felt specifically that it was better for women to meet and discuss literary matters rather than play at cards.

So it’s interesting that Elizabeth Bennet, sharing the same name as Elizabeth Montagu, also chooses a book over cards, and that Miss Bingley remarks on this.

Because even though a number of prominent women were supportive of the group, the term “blue-stocking” came to be a somewhat derogatory term that was applied to women that cared more about education and literature than about fashion.

You might remember Mrs. Gibson referring to Molly as a blue-stocking in Wives and Daughters, and Molly being quite embarrassed by this.

This puts Elizabeth’s response of deserving “neither such praise nor such censure” in an interesting light.

Accomplishments

Now let’s listen to one more clip about accomplishments:

“It is amazing to me,” said Bingley, “how young ladies can have patience to be so very accomplished as they all are.”

“All young ladies accomplished! My dear Charles, what do you mean?”

“Yes, all of them, I think. They all paint tables, cover screens, and net purses. I scarcely know any one who cannot do all this, and I am sure I never heard a young lady spoken of for the first time, without being informed that she was very accomplished.”

“Your list of the common extent of accomplishments,” said Darcy, “has too much truth. The word is applied to many a woman who deserves it no otherwise than by netting a purse or covering a screen. But I am very far from agreeing with you in your estimation of ladies in general. I cannot boast of knowing more than half a dozen, in the whole range of my acquaintance, that are really accomplished.”

“Nor I, I am sure,” said Miss Bingley.

“Then,” observed Elizabeth, “you must comprehend a great deal in your idea of an accomplished woman.”

“Yes; I do comprehend a great deal in it.”

“Oh! certainly,” cried his faithful assistant, “no one can be really esteemed accomplished who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with. A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved.”

“All this she must possess,” added Darcy, “and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”

“I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women. I rather wonder now at your knowing any.”

“Are you so severe upon your own sex as to doubt the possibility of all this?”

“I never saw such a woman. I never saw such capacity, and taste, and application, and elegance, as you describe, united.”

Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley both cried out against the injustice of her implied doubt, and were both protesting that they knew many women who answered this description, when Mr. Hurst called them to order, with bitter complaints of their inattention to what was going forward. As all conversation was thereby at an end, Elizabeth soon afterwards left the room.

Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 8

During the early 1800s, a woman named Hannah More was a prominent writer on education, morality and religion who had a lot to say on the education of women in particular. Many critics think that the contrast in the effects of the differences in education and upbringing between Fanny Price and the Bertram sisters was a not-so-subtle nod to More’s writings.

But even here in Pride and Prejudice we see it in how Miss Bingley and Elizabeth discuss female accomplishments. Miss Bingley’s list of traits possessed by a “truly accomplished” woman, is exactly what most upper class and upwardly mobile young women were being taught in the late 1700s.

More wrote about this type of education in her 1799 book Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education:

Not a few of the evils of the present day arise from a new and perverted application of terms; among these, perhaps, there is not one more abused, misunderstood, or misapplied, than the term accomplishments.

Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education, Hannah More

More goes on to write that the emphasis on the superfluous and ornamental skills taught to so many young women make them ill-suited to contribute meaningfully to society.

Though More was by no means what we would think of as a modern feminist, (a quick read of her writing will show you that), she did advocate that in marriage, women should be equal partners with their husbands rather than ornamentation:

…when a man of sense comes to marry, it is a companion whom he wants, and not an artist. It is not merely a creature who can paint, and play, and dress and dance; it is a being who can comfort and counsel him; one who can reason, and reflect, and feel, and judge, and act, and discourse, and discriminate; one who can assist him in his affairs, lighten his cares, sooth his sorrows, purify his joys, strengthen his principles, and educate his children.

Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education, Hannah More

Whether or not you agree with this prescription for domestic happiness, there’s no denying that it had a strong influence on society in the late 1700s and early 1800s, including on Jane Austen, and especially in her treatment of Mansfield Park.

While many modern interpretations of Austen’s works characterize her as a feminist, if she was, it’s important to weigh that in the light of what she herself would have considered feminism, particularly in relation to the views of her contemporaries like Elizabeth Montagu of the Blue Stockings society, and Hannah More.

One other note about Austen and More, is that the latter, in an attempt to further spread her teachings, wrote a novel called Coelebs in Search of a Wife, which tells the story of a man trying to find a wife that meets the high moral standards of his mother. It was a huge success at the time, primarily because it was seen as more of a religious work than a novel, which helped more conservative-minded people feel good about reading it and sharing it with their friends.

Unfortunately it wasn’t actually that great of a story, due mainly to the fact that Moore was trying very hard to drive home some specific points rather than write an entertaining story.

More herself wrote in the preface to the book:

I fear, the novel reader will reject it as dull

Coelebs in Search of a Wife

This turned out to be prophetic, because while we know that Jane Austen did like and agree with much of what More wrote, she did not care at all for Coelebs in Search of a Wife, mostly because of how dull and heavy-handed of a novel it was.

Her sister Cassandra wrote to her, telling her about the book and how much she liked it, but Jane simply replied:

My disinclination for it before was affected, but now it is real.

Jane Austen’s Letters

Conclusion

That wraps up episode 8 of season 2 of My Cousin Jane.

As always, if you enjoy the show and would like to help us out, please consider supporting us by heading over to MyCousinJane.com and clicking on the little donate button.

Either way, thanks so much for listening.

Subscribe to the My Cousin Jane Newsletter

“I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.”

Season 02, Episode 07 – Pride & Prejudice Chapter 7

The Bennet’s Estate, Quartering Troops in Meryton, and Walking over Stiles

How much money did the Bennet’s have? What did it mean for the citizens of Meryton that the militia was being quartered there? And what would it have been like to walk from Longbourn to Netherfield? Find out the answers to these questions and more, in this episode of My Cousin Jane.

Audio

A Small Kind of Accomplishment

“And to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”

By donating to support the show, you can improve your mind even further with exclusive behind-the-scenes information, bonus content, and more.

Show Notes

Note: Some of the links on this page may be affiliate links. This means that every time you click on one and then buy something, I get paid billions of pounds by a secret organization trying to bring back the Regency period…or I get a few fractions of a cent from a company like Amazon, one or the other.

Transcript

Note: Transcripts on this site are the scripts I used when preparing to record the show. They may or may not be a 100% faithful representation of the final recording. Audio clips of Pride & Prejudice come from Karen Savage’s narration of Pride & Prejudice, courtesy of LibriVox.org.

Welcome to My Cousin Jane, a podcast about Jane Austen and her works. With your host, Lee Falin. Season 2 – episode 7.

Welcome back to another episode of My Cousin Jane. Each week, we look at what you might think of as the behind the scenes featurettes or deleted scenes of a particular chapter in Austen’s books.

This week, we’re going to talk about Pride & Prejudice Chapter 7.

As always, if you enjoy the show and would like to see it continue, please consider supporting us by going to MyCousinJane.com, signing up for our newsletter, or clicking on the little donate button.

Chapter Summary

In Chapter 7 we learn a bit more about Mrs. Bennet’s family, which will be important throughout the rest of the novel.

Mrs. Bennet has one sister and one brother that we know of. Her father was an attorney in the small town of Meryton, which was just a mile from Longbourn.

Her sister married her father’s clerk, a man named Mr. Phillips, who took over as attorney when her father died. They are mentioned frequently in the novel as Mr. and Mrs. Phillips, or Aunt and Uncle Phillips.

Mrs. Bennet’s brother, Mr. Gardiner, is a tradesman living in London. We meet him and his wife later in the novel.

Aside from genealogical facts, there are a couple of other important things that take place in this chapter. First, we find out that a militia regiment is being quartered in Meryton.

Second, Jane is invited to spend the day at Netherfield with Bingley’s two sisters. Her mother sends her on horseback so she’ll be trapped there due to a forecasted rainstorm. Unfortunately, Jane is caught in the rain, catches cold, and is quite ill. Upon learning of this, Elizabeth heads off to Netherfield to help care for her sister.

Mr. Bennet’s Estate

At the start of the chapter, we’re given a brief look at the Bennet’s financial situation. Here’s a brief clip of that, courtesy of Karen Savage and Librivox.org:

Mr. Bennet’s property consisted almost entirely in an estate of two thousand a year, which, unfortunately for his daughters, was entailed, in default of heirs male, on a distant relation; and their mother’s fortune, though ample for her situation in life, could but ill supply the deficiency of his. Her father had been an attorney in Meryton, and had left her four thousand pounds.

Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 7

We’ve talked many times about the uncertainty that comes with trying to compare Regency wealth and modern wealth.

Katherine Toran’s article “The Economics of Jane Austen’s World”, which we’ve referred to before, estimates that the Bennet’s annual income was somewhere between £197,000 and £3,000,000 a year; which is quite a range.

The one thing we can tell for sure is that Bingley’s income was over twice that of Mr. Bennet’s and Mr. Darcy’s was five times that much.
However much their income was, it needed to pay for the upkeep of his family of seven, the taxes and maintenance on the estate of Longbourn, and the salaries of all the servants.

It still seems like a relatively sizable income, but Austen’s remark that Mrs Bennet’s inheritance, “could but ill supply the deficiency of his.” leads me to believe that £2,000 a year was not in fact all that much for a family of that size.

It’s interesting to compare this with Austen’s own income growing up. I’ve seen varied estimates of the income of Jane’s father, the Reverend George Austen.

From what I’ve been able to find in published research, George Austen’s income came primarily from three sources: tithes earned as a member of the clergy, money earned selling produce on his farm, and money earned from running a private boarding house for boys while his daughters were away at school.

In an a brief biographical article on him, the Jane Austen Society states that he earned around £230 per year from tithes and offerings. At the end of the year £1800, Jane wrote to her sister Cassandra that her father had earned about £300 from the farm, and that she expected his combined income for the year to be around £600.

So, even though Mr. Bennet’s income is considered “deficient”, it’s more than twice the income of Austen’s father, and he had six sons and two daughters to raise.

Militia Quartering

Let’s turn our attention to the militia with our next clip about what’s happening in Meryton:

The village of Longbourn was only one mile from Meryton; a most convenient distance for the young ladies, who were usually tempted thither three or four times a week, to pay their duty to their aunt and to a milliner’s shop just over the way.

The two youngest of the family, Catherine and Lydia, were particularly frequent in these attentions; their minds were more vacant than their sisters’, and when nothing better offered, a walk to Meryton was necessary to amuse their morning hours and furnish conversation for the evening; and however bare of news the country in general might be, they always contrived to learn some from their aunt.

At present, indeed, they were well supplied both with news and happiness by the recent arrival of a militia regiment in the neighbourhood; it was to remain the whole winter, and Meryton was the headquarters.

Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 7

Often when people think about a British regiment being quartered in a town, they assume that soldiers are staying in the homes of the townspeople.

Quartering soldiers in private homes (sometimes known as billeting), was in fact extremely common in England until 1689. However, it was so universally hated, that following the Wars of the Three Kingdoms and the 1688 Glorious Revolution, a document was drawn up by parliament called the Petition of Right, which contained a list of grievances currently being suffered by the British people.

The list included the forcible quartering of soldiers in private homes without the owner’s consent. This document and the civil rights it outlined became the 1689 Bill of Rights and became part of English constitutional law.

Shortly after, a mutiny by some British infantrymen led to the passage of the first Mutiny Act. This act, which had to be renewed each year, established laws for governing military personnel, and included a provision stating that when needed, the standing army was to be quartered only in public houses, taverns, and inns. But not in private homes without the owner’s consent.

If you are familiar with American history, you might be confused by this, since the quartering of British troops was one of the complaints of American colonists.

In fact, the Declaration of Independence, written in 1776, explicitly calls out “quartering large bodies of armed troops among us” as one of the many grievances the colonists had with the king.

Contrary to popular belief, British law did not force North American colonists to quarter troops in their homes.

But, despite what the law stated, during the French and Indian War, British troops were still forcing private homeowners to quarter troops in their homes, even though this was explicitly forbidden by English law.
If you read the Declaration of Independence carefully, you’ll see that the reason colonists give for their complaint against the king is:

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation.

US Declaration of Independence

In other words, during the French and Indian War (from 1754 to 1763), British troops were being quartered in colonist’s home without their consent, which was against British constitutional law.

When the Quartering Act of 1765 was passed, this practice was ended, and soldiers were to be housed in inns, and public houses. But the act additionally stated that if sufficient room couldn’t be found in inns and public houses, quartering could be extended to include any establishment that sold food or alcohol, private barns, sheds, and other unused buildings. But still, not in private homes.

So for the sake of how we imagine things happening in Meryton, the troops would not be staying in private homes unless the owners invited them. Instead, their lodging, or billets, would be in local taverns, inns, and other public houses.

Walking around Longbourn

Finally, one last excerpt from this chapter about some relative distances:

Elizabeth, feeling really anxious, was determined to go to her, though the carriage was not to be had; and as she was no horsewoman, walking was her only alternative. She declared her resolution.

“How can you be so silly,” cried her mother, “as to think of such a thing, in all this dirt! You will not be fit to be seen when you get there.”“I shall be very fit to see Jane—which is all I want.”

“Is this a hint to me, Lizzy,” said her father, “to send for the horses?”

“No, indeed. I do not wish to avoid the walk. The distance is nothing, when one has a motive; only three miles. I shall be back by dinner.”

“I admire the activity of your benevolence,” observed Mary, “but every impulse of feeling should be guided by reason; and, in my opinion, exertion should always be in proportion to what is required.”

“We will go as far as Meryton with you,” said Catherine and Lydia. Elizabeth accepted their company, and the three young ladies set off together.

“If we make haste,” said Lydia, as they walked along, “perhaps we may see something of Captain Carter before he goes.”

In Meryton they parted; the two youngest repaired to the lodgings of one of the officers’ wives, and Elizabeth continued her walk alone, crossing field after field at a quick pace, jumping over stiles and springing over puddles with impatient activity, and finding herself at last within view of the house, with weary ankles, dirty stockings, and a face glowing with the warmth of exercise.

Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 7

We talked back in Season 1 about English footpaths and stiles, but to recap for our newer listeners (or those of you who may have forgotten), the UK has a very long history of what is known as “right to roam” laws, that make sure people are able to walk from one end of the countryside to the other, in a relatively unimpeded way.

Because of these laws, most farmer’s fields, country estates, and other bits of private property will often have public footpaths and sometimes even bridleways and byways.

The laws related to these paths have changed in various ways over the centuries, but the spirit of “the right to roam” has largely persisted.

Today it’s helped on quite a bit by the Rambler’s Association. If you go to their website and enter your post code, you’ll find a list of cross-country walks, information about those walks, and local meeting times if you don’t want to walk alone.

You can also purchase what are called Ordinance Survey maps which have footpaths clearly marked out.

The paths themselves are a mix of relatively new paths, older paths, and even ancient paths that are rich in history. You might find a footpath that used to be part of an Anglo Saxon trade route, or an ancient Roman road. There are even some prehistoric paths leading between townsites and sources of water, It’s all very fascinating.

Some footpaths will go through the middle of a field, but often they will go along the edge where a hedgerow has been established to serve as a fence.

If a landowner puts up a fence, hedgerow or wall around their property that intersects a footpath, the footpaths must still be publicly accessible. So a gate will often be put up to accommodate people. The gates come in various forms, depending on the age and area, (and disposition of the person who has to maintain the path), but they are usually designed to make it fairly easy for a person to get through, but difficult or impossible for livestock to cross.

Since the people traversing the footpaths can’t always be trusted to close gates behind them, things like self-closing kissing gates are often used. In other places, you may find a set of steps called a “stile”, either wood or stone, that go halfway up the fence or hedge, then another set on the opposite side leading down.

Someone using the footpath will climb up the closest set of steps, swing their leg over the fence onto the other set of steps, then climb down the other side.

So Elizabeth and her sisters probably walked on the road to the town of Meryton for the first mile, then Elizabeth spent some portion of the final two miles cutting across private fields via footpaths and stiles, thus arriving at Netherfield quite dirty.

Conclusion

That wraps up episode 7 of season 2 of My Cousin Jane.

As always, if you enjoy the show and would like to help us out, please consider supporting us by heading over to MyCousinJane.com and clicking on the little donate button.

Either way, thanks so much for listening.

Subscribe to the My Cousin Jane Newsletter

“I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.”

Season 02, Episode 06 – Pride & Prejudice Chapter 6

Vingt-et-un vs Commerce, Cooling Your Porridge, and Irish Airs

What exactly is Vingt-et-un and Commerce? Is the phrase “Keep your breath to cool your porridge” really an old saying? If so, where did it come from? And what are Scotch and Irish airs? Find out the answers to these questions and more, in this episode of My Cousin Jane.

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A Small Kind of Accomplishment

“And to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”

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Show Notes

Note: Some of the links on this page may be affiliate links. This means that every time you click on one and then buy something, I get paid billions of pounds by a secret organization trying to bring back the Regency period…or I get a few fractions of a cent from a company like Amazon, one or the other.

Books referenced in this episode

Transcript

Note: Transcripts on this site are the scripts I used when preparing to record the show. They may or may not be a 100% faithful representation of the final recording. Audio clips of Pride & Prejudice come from Karen Savage’s narration of Pride & Prejudice, courtesy of LibriVox.org.

Welcome to My Cousin Jane, a podcast about Jane Austen and her works. With your host, Lee Falin. Season 2 – episode 6.

Welcome back to another episode of My Cousin Jane. Each week, we look at what you might think of as the behind the scenes featurettes or deleted scenes of a particular chapter in Austen’s books.

This week, we’re going to talk about Pride & Prejudice Chapter 6.

As always, if you enjoy the show and would like to see it continue, please consider supporting us by going to MyCousinJane.com, signing up for our newsletter, or clicking on the little donate button.

Chapter Summary

Chapter 6 jumps around a bit. We start with a brief blurb about the ladies of Longbourn visiting Netherfield, and the ladies of Netherfield returning the visit.

Sometime after that, Charlotte and Elizabeth discuss how much Mr. Bingley and Jane like each other, and debate whether or not Jane would be better off being more forward about her feelings towards Mr. Bingley.

Charlotte’s thoughts on matrimony here are a bit of a foreshadowing of what is to come later with Mr. Collins.

We then jump to Lucas Lodge, where the Lucas family has invited a large party for an evening get together.

We also discover for the first time that Mr. Darcy is beginning to admire Elizabeth, much to his own surprise. It’s also clear that Darcy is socially awkward, which people could certainly mistake as prideful behavior.

I’m not saying he isn’t guilty of pride, but it’s clear that he (and his sister Georgianna, from things we learn later in the novel), were raised in a somewhat sheltered way that made it difficult for them to converse easily with their peers.

The timing of this chapter is a bit difficult to nail down based solely on what we know so far. We do know that at least two weeks have passed since the first time Mr. Bingley and Jane have danced together.

Now one of the things about Jane Austen’s works is that there are phrases used in them that meant something specific in Regency-era England, that while the general meaning may be somewhat similar to what you think it means today, the actual meaning may have shifted quite a bit since that time period. Or it can have multiple meanings, depending on the context.

I want to discuss three such phrases that Austen uses in this chapter.

Vingt-et-un vs commerce

First, let’s listen to this clip of Elizabeth and Charlotte debating how well Jane knows Mr. Bingley. As always, our audio clips come courtesy of Karen Savage and Librivox.org.

She has known him only a fortnight. She danced four dances with him at Meryton; she saw him one morning at his own house, and has since dined in company with him four times. This is not quite enough to make her understand his character.”

“Not as you represent it. Had she merely dined with him, she might only have discovered whether he had a good appetite; but you must remember that four evenings have been also spent together—and four evenings may do a great deal.”

“Yes; these four evenings have enabled them to ascertain that they both like Vingt-un better than Commerce; but with respect to any other leading characteristic, I do not imagine that much has been unfolded.”

Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 6

Here we learn that both Jane and Mr. Bingley like Vingt-un better than Commerce. These are card games that were popular in the 1800s.

Vingt-un

If you know some French, you might recognize that Vingt-un or Vingt-et-un is French for 21. The game is called by its French name because it appears to have come to Britain from France in the late 1700s.

There are a number of modern variations on the rules for this game. In the US, the most popular variation is called Blackjack, while in the UK today, the most common variation is known as Pontoon.

The name Pontoon first appeared sometime during World War I. Card game historians believe this name may have come from a mis-transliteration of what some less educated infantryman heard when an officer talked about playing “Vingt-un”.

Some historians credit the game’s origins to Spain, sometime in the 1600s. This is because it appears in a short story collection written by Miguel Cervantes (of Don Quixote fame) called Novelas ejemplares.

But according to David Parlett, author of The Oxford Guide to Card Games, the game is probably a derivation of Thirty-One, a game that was popular throughout Europe in the 15th century.

Commerce

Commerce, the other game Elizabeth refers to, is one of the many variations of poker that has been played over the years. Commerce itself has had some variations as well, depending on where and when it was played.

Turning again to David Parlett, author of The Oxford Guide to Card Games, Commerce is played by dealing a set number of cards face down to each player (most commonly 3 in regency era England). Then the same number of cards is dealt face up in the center of the table.
Players take turns deciding whether to exchange one or more of their cards for the ones in the center of the table.

What constitutes a good hand depends on the version of Commerce being played, but most commonly they are (in order of precedence): A three of a kind, then a consecutive sequence of three cards in the same suit (such as 4, 5, 6 or J, Q, K), followed by a flush (three cards of the same suit), then a pair, and finally a high card (sometimes called a point card).

But again, historians point out that there are so many variations of poker that go by the same name, it’s really hard to know exactly the version that is being played.

But the three-card version of Commerce I just described is the most likely candidate for the time period.

Keep your breath to cool your porridge

Later in chapter 6, we’re at Lucas Lodge, where Sir William Lucas has gathered a large party for an evening of socializing. Mr. Darcy is talking with Elizabeth and Charlotte, and Charlotte has just invited Elizabeth to play the pianoforte.

Here’s what Elizabeth says in reply:

“You are a very strange creature by way of a friend!—always wanting me to play and sing before anybody and everybody! If my vanity had taken a musical turn, you would have been invaluable; but as it is, I would really rather not sit down before those who must be in the habit of hearing the very best performers.”

On Miss Lucas’s persevering, however, she added, “Very well; if it must be so, it must.” And gravely glancing at Mr. Darcy, “There is a fine old saying, which everybody here is of course familiar with—‘Keep your breath to cool your porridge,’—and I shall keep mine to swell my song.”

Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 6

I’ve always been curious just how old that “fine old saying” actually is. The phrase “Keep your breath to cool your porridge” or “Save your breath to cool your porridge,” appears relatively frequently in 18th and 19th century literature.

Pride & Prejudice was published in 1813. You can find the phrase used in Sir Walter Scott’s Old Mortality published in 1841, Jonathan Swift’s satirical etiquette book Polite Conversation, which was published in 1738, and in Captain Charles Johnson’s 1736 book, Lives of the Highwaymen.

The Oxford English Dictionary, which maintains an excellent list of English language word origins, states that the phrase first appeared in print in 1694, in the first English language translation of a classic French story, The Life of Gargantua and Pantagruel.

It’s the story of a giant named Gargantua and his son Pantagruel, who travel around having adventures that are basically satirical social commentaries, very similar to Gulliver’s travels.

In the English translation, a character named Panurge is having a conversation with a Fryer, and at one point says to him,

“Well, friar, spare your breath to cool your porridge.”

The Life of Gargantua and Pantagruel

So thinking that this phrase was originally a French idiom, I tracked down the original French version of the book.

Unfortunately, while the English translator, Peter Anthony Motteux did a great job with his English translation, he is a bit infamous in literary circles for having little concern with adding a great amount of his own material to the translation.

It turns out that the passage where Panurge says “Spare your breath to cool your porridge”, is one of the many places Motteux added his own material. Because while the original French version does a conversation with the fryer, this particular bit of dialogue doesn’t exist there.

But, we still know that this phrase was at least known to the translator as early as 1694, so where in fact did this phrase originate?

Going back just a bit further, there’s one more recorded use of it in 1646 by a British educator named John Clarke. He published a collection of Latin idioms and their English language equivalents. One of the english idioms he uses is, “Save your breath to coole your porridge.”

From his use of it, it’s clear that the phrase has an even earlier origin.

Unfortunately, from there the trail goes cold.

Scotch and Irish Airs

Moving on to our last phrase, after Elizabeth finishes playing the pianoforte, her sister Mary takes over. Let’s listen to what happens next:

Mary had neither genius nor taste; and though vanity had given her application, it had given her likewise a pedantic air and conceited manner, which would have injured a higher degree of excellence than she had reached. Elizabeth, easy and unaffected, had been listened to with much more pleasure, though not playing half so well; and Mary, at the end of a long concerto, was glad to purchase praise and gratitude by Scotch and Irish airs, at the request of her younger sisters, who with some of the Lucases, and two or three officers, joined eagerly in dancing at one end of the room.

Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 6

I want to spend a minute or two talking about Scotch and Irish airs. The term “air” in music sometimes means different things to different people, and even the generally accepted meaning differs slightly between genres of music and across time periods.

In a very simplified definition that tries to capture all of these meanings, an “air” means a melody from a song. What type of melody is where things get muddled a bit.

According to the BBC Classical Music Magazine, the Italian term “aria” is often translated as air in English, and generally means a solo vocal piece that can be extracted from an opera and performed on its own.

Probably the most well known in this style is the aria from Act III of Rigoletto, “La donna è mobile” (or a Woman is fickle).

Often an aria is performed so often on its own, that it becomes more well known than the opera it came from.

For example, many people could probably recognize the aria Largo al Factotum sung by Figaro from The Barber of Seville.

Or the arias Habanera and Toreador Song from Carmen, without having ever seen (or been aware of) the operas these arias originate from.

However, the term air in Regency-era England could also refer to a song-like vocal composition, such as Air on the G String, a special arrangement of part of a suite written by Bach, or one of the many “airs” that were popularized in France, written primarily for the Lute, but also adapted to other instruments.

So which type of air was Mary playing?

One additional clue is that in the various definitions of musical airs we’ve discussed so far, they explicitly mention that airs are not used for dance music. But according to Austen, that’s exactly what Elizabeth’s friends and family were using them for.

Knowing that, and the additional fact that Mary is playing Scotch and Irish airs points us in another direction.

According to The Companion to Irish Traditional Music by Fintan Vallely, in traditional Gaelic music, the term “air” usually refers simply to the melody of a tune. So instead of saying, “How does Jingle Bells go again?”, you would ask “What’s the air to Jingle Bells?”

But it can sometimes be a synonym for an Irish “slow air”, which Valley defines as:

An open-ended melodic formula…Often a slow air will be simply the air of an existing song…The slow air is played solo, is executed differently on different instruments, and individual players’ interpretations of it vary considerably too.

The Companion to Irish Traditional Music

There are lots of different styles of music that get labeled under the umbrella of “traditional Irish music”, and one of the ironic things is that a lot of these songs were originally composed to tell a story about different battles or rebellions, or revolts that the Irish people had against English rule.

So it’s a little ironic that they would then take those songs and sing them in English assemblies or use them for British dances.

Within those different subgenera, you have things like sean-nós, which is a very distinctive vocal style. You also have Irish jigs, which were probably more inclined towards dance.

Here’s an excerpt of a traditional Irish jig played by Barbara Arens on the piano, which is very similar to what Mary probably would have been playing.

Conclusion

That wraps up episode 6 of season 2 of My Cousin Jane.

As always, if you enjoy the show and would like to help us out, please consider supporting us by heading over to MyCousinJane.com and clicking on the little donate button.

Either way, thanks so much for listening.

Subscribe to the My Cousin Jane Newsletter

“I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.”

Season 02, Episode 05 – Pride & Prejudice Chapter 5

Sir William Lucas, Regency Mayors, and Royal House Fires

What exactly was Sir William Lucas’ role as the mayor of a small market town? What’s the difference between The Palace of Westminster, Saint James, and Buckingham? And why should the monarchy invest in fire insurance?  Find out the answers to these questions and more, in this episode of My Cousin Jane.

Audio

A Small Kind of Accomplishment

“And to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”

By donating to support the show, you can improve your mind even further with exclusive behind-the-scenes information, bonus content, and more.

Show Notes

Note: Some of the links on this page may be affiliate links. This means that every time you click on one and then buy something, I get paid billions of pounds by a secret organization trying to bring back the Regency period…or I get a few fractions of a cent from a company like Amazon, one or the other.

Transcript

Note: Transcripts on this site are the scripts I used when preparing to record the show. They may or may not be a 100% faithful representation of the final recording. Audio clips of Pride & Prejudice come from Karen Savage’s narration of Pride & Prejudice, courtesy of LibriVox.org.

Welcome to My Cousin Jane, a podcast about Jane Austen and her works. With your host, Lee Falin. Season 2 – episode 05.

Welcome back to another episode of My Cousin Jane. Each week, we look at what you might think of as the behind the scenes featurettes or deleted scenes of a particular chapter in Austen’s books.

This week, we’re going to talk about Pride & Prejudice Chapter 5.

As always, if you enjoy the show and would like to see it continue, please consider supporting us by going to MyCousinJane.com, signing up for our newsletter, or clicking on the little donate button.

Chapter Summary

In this chapter, we are once again discussing the recent ball, the charming behavior of Mr. Bingley, and the infamous behavior of Mr. Darcy.

Just to set up the timeline a bit, the ball happened in the evening in Chapter 3. Later that night, Chapter 4 finds Elizabeth and Jane discussing the ball. Chapter 5 opens the next morning when the Lucas family drops by for a visit.

There are a lot of names mentioned in this chapter. Sir William Lucas is the head of the family, married to Lady Lucas. They have several children, but the only one that’s important to the story is Charlotte, she’s 27 years-old and a close friend of Elizabeth.

Speaking of Elizabeth and names, she gets called a lot of things in the novel, and while this might be obvious, I think it’s worth mentioning her nicknames, just to clear up any confusion. As we mentioned last week, she is addressed as Miss Elizabeth or Miss Elizabeth Bennet by people outside of her family. She is also called Lizzy by her parents and sometimes by her siblings, and Eliza by her friends.

She’s referred to by Elizabeth, Lizzy, and Eliza all in the course of a single page in this chapter. On one hand, that’s a great example of differentiating character voice, but it could be confusing to new readers.

Also in this chapter we have a few minor characters discussed, such as Mr. Robinson and Mrs. Long. The latter we already heard about in the first chapter, and who will be mentioned again, but neither of these characters are important to the story.

Saint James

There are two things I want to talk about today regarding Sir William Lucas, but let’s start by listening to this clip about his rank, courtesy of Karen Savage and LibriVox.org:

For, though elated by his rank, it did not render him supercilious; on the contrary, he was all attention to everybody. By nature inoffensive, friendly, and obliging, his presentation at St. James’s had made him courteous.

Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 5

So first of all, Sir William was presented to the king for knighthood at Saint James.

One interesting pattern you see with the homes of British monarchs is that they get destroyed by fires relatively frequently.

Up until the 1500s, the main resident of English royalty was the Palace of Westminster. But after a fire destroyed the royal apartments in 1512, Henry VIII moved to the nearby Palace of Whitehall. Which was also destroyed by a fire in 1622.

Fortunately, in the 1530s, Henry VIII had purchased an old hospital from Eton College that had been dedicated to Saint James (As an aside, this was not James the son of Zebedee, but the other apostle named James, sometimes known as James, son of Alphaeus).

He had the hospital torn down and built a palace in its place, which was called St. James. After Whitehall burned down, it became the principal residence for the monarchy until 1762 when the newly married King George III decided that it was just too cramped, and purchased a large townhouse called Buckingham House.

Through a series of improvements and additions, this gradually became Buckingham Palace, and though St. James was still the site of many official ceremonies (and is still the official site of the royal court today), but Buckingham gradually became the center of the monarchy.

Then in 1809, the royal apartments at St. James were destroyed by, you guessed it, another fire, and the royal family began living at Buckingham Palace full time. When Queen Victoria took the throne in 1837, she made Buckingham Palace the official residence of the monarchy, which it remains to this day.

However, St. James is still used for many official functions, most notably the Accession Council, a ceremonial group that formally proclaims the successor to the throne upon the monarch’s death. Several members of the royal family have also lived (or currently live) in various apartments associated with St. James.

We can only hope that Buckingham Palace has good fire suppression.

English Mayors

Let’s listen to one more clip about Sir William from this chapter:

Sir William Lucas had been formerly in trade in Meryton, where he had made a tolerable fortune, and risen to the honour of knighthood by an address to the king during his mayoralty.

Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 5

From this clip we learn, aside from the fact that Sir William earned his fortune through trade, that he was previously a Mayor of a small market town. But what exactly does that mean? How did one become a mayor in Regency England, and what would your responsibilities be?

One thing to note is that until around the year 2000, there were no directly elected mayors in England. The first time a mayor was directly elected was when Ken Livingstone became the first Mayor of London. (Boris Johnson and Sadiq Khan have followed in that office).

Since then, several smaller municipalities have adopted the idea of having mayors directly elected by the people.

I should point out that the directly elected office of Mayor of London, created in 2000, is different from the office of the Lord Mayor of London, which has been around since the 1200s.

The Lord Mayor is elected through a secret ballot process carried out by the Livery Companies and the Court of Alderman. It has a long and colorful history that began with King John (of Robin Hood fame), and if you are interested in British history or political intrigue, I encourage you to read about it.

During regency times, every municipality had a slightly different way of handling local government. Sometimes, local councils (village councils, city councils, borough councils, etc…) had representatives elected by the people. Sometimes those offices were for fixed terms, other times they were life appointments.

The council members would sometimes appoint a mayor to chair the council. Sometimes this post was called “mayor”, sometimes “alderman”. Sometimes the councilors themselves were called aldermen, and sometimes there were a mix of councilors, one or more aldermen, and possibly a mayor.

For example, in Ipswich, local government consisted of Bailiffs and Burgesses; meanwhile, Leeds had a Mayor, Alderman, and Burgesses; and Louth had a “Warden”, assistant warden, and a Court of Six Assistants.

If that sounds confusing to you, you’re not alone.

There were some changes to the old system in the mid 1800s. The first was the Representation of the People Act in 1832, which brought about two major changes.

First, it expanded the right to vote to small landowners, tenant farmers, shopkeepers, and anyone paying rent above a certain amount. Though unfortunately women were still explicitly excluded from voting.
The act also abolished the so-called pocket boroughs (also called “rotten boroughs”). These were small municipal areas that for historic reasons had a right to send two MPs to the House of Commons.

The problem was that some of these boroughs didn’t actually have anyone living in them, and the MPs were essentially selected uncontested by the land owner (and were thus, in his pocket).

Then, in 1833, Lord Grey (who everyone believes Earl Grey tea is named for), had a committee formed to survey the existing systems of local government across England.

The commission found not only large variation in systems, but widespread corruption and dereliction of duty.

Their final report to the King included this fun quote:

… the existing Municipal Corporations of England and Wales neither possess nor deserve the confidence or respect of Your Majesty’s subjects, and that a thorough reform must be elected, before they can become, what we humbly submit to Your Majesty they ought to be, useful and efficient instruments of local government.

Royal Commission on Municipal Corporations, 1835

Now, there is some debate about whether this report was completely objective and honest, as most of the members of the committee were part of a specific political group known as the Radicals, who sought widespread reforms in a variety of areas.

But objective or not, the report resulted in the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835, which brought about a complete reformation of local government. Local municipalities would be governed by local councils elected by their taxpayers.

There were to be annual elections, and each year one-third of the council seats would come up for election. The council members elected aldermen to serve on the council for six years.

This system has been modified several more times over the years by subsequent legislation.

The point of all of this municipal history is that if you want to understand exactly what Sir William Lucas’ duties were as mayor of a small market town in Regency England, it’s pretty impossible to say.

Not only were there widespread reforms rolling out across England throughout the 1800s, but prior to that reform, there was little uniformity in the various systems of local government.

So for all we know, could have been doing anything, or, if Lord Grey’s committee is to be believed–possibly doing nothing.

Conclusion

That wraps up episode 5 of season 2 of My Cousin Jane.

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Either way, thanks so much for listening.

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“I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.”