AUGUST MEETING – DATE CHANGED TO 8/9/14

August 9,  2014 – 12:30 pm. We plan to meet at the Cafe Express at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston for lunch and socializing. After lunch, we are going to do a self tour of the Houghton Hall: Portrait of an English Country House exhibit. This exhibit is included in the price of admission to the museum. Audio tour guides will be available from the museum. More information can be found at http://www.mfah.org/exhibitions/houghton-hall-portrait-english-country-house/ This is a wonderful opportunity to see a renowned collection of paintings, sculptures and decorative arts from the home built by England’s first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, in the early eighteenth century and which still serves as the family estate of the Marquesses of Cholmondeley.

Meetings in August, September and October 2014

August 16, 2014 – 12:30 pm. We plan to meet at the Cafe Express at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston for lunch and socializing. After lunch, we are going to do a self tour of the Houghton Hall: Portrait of an English Country House exhibit. This exhibit is included in the price of admission to the museum. Audio tour guides will be available from the museum. More information can be found at http://www.mfah.org/exhibitions/houghton-hall-portrait-english-country-house/ This is a wonderful opportunity to see a renowned collection of paintings, sculptures and decorative arts from the home built by England’s first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, in the early eighteenth century and which still serves as the family estate of the Marquesses of Cholmondeley.

September 20, 2014 – 2:00 pm-4:30 pm. We will be meeting at the Katy Cinco Ranch Branch Library, 2620 Commercial Center Blvd., Katy, Texas 77494. (Same location where we met in March for the movie). We will be doing a book discussion of Sanditon – one of Jane Austen’s unfinished shorter works (It is about 60 pages). This is available at the library, Amazon, Audible, Barnes & Noble, etc. We will hope you will read this and join us for the discussion. We will have tea as always and if you want to, please bring a nibble or two to share.

October 18, 2014 – 2:00 pm – 4:30 pm. We will again be meeting at the Katy Cinco Ranch Branch Library, 2620 Commercial Center Blvd., Katy, Texas 77494. Our own Grace Scheufler will be speaking on the Regency era and specifically Regency Christmas Traditions.

Hope to see you there!

June Meeting

Our June meeting is on Saturday, June 21, 2014 at 10:00 AM. (Please note the different time).

It will be a 90 minute guided Study Tour of Bayou Bend! Bayou Bend is located at 6003 Memorial Drive at Westcott Street, Houston, Texas 77007. It is the Museum of Fine Arts Houston house museum for American decorative arts and paintings. Displayed in the former home of Houston civic leader and philanthropist Ima Hogg (1882–1975), the collection is one of the finest showcases of American furnishings, silver, ceramics, and paintings in the world. The collection includes items from 1630-1876 and reflects American decorative arts. The house is situated on 14 acres of organically maintained gardens in Houston’s historic River Oaks neighborhood.

We have reserved the Study Tours at beginning at 10:00 am. (Sorry – they don’t do tours in the afternoon). The Study Tour is 90 minutes long and includes visits to many rooms in the house, focusing on the objects in the collection and how they reflect American history. While this is not really about Jane Austen, we think it will be a worthwhile adventure in a wonderful museum in our area.There is an admission fee which will be paid at the time of the Tour:
$15 Adults
$13.50 Students / Senior Adults (ID Required)
$12.50 MFAH Members
$7.50 Children 10-18
Children 9 and younger are not permitted on guided house tours.

We will meet in the welcome/ticket area and let the docents organized the groups and go from there.

We will need a VERY accurate head count NO LATER THAN THURSDAY, JUNE 19, 2014. If you would like to bring a spouse or a friend, that’s great. We just need to know who and how many by June 19!

Please RSVP to Megan at her personal email or at jasnagh1@jasnagreaterhouston.com

May Meeting

On May 17, 2014, we will again gather at our regular meeting place, First Evangelical Lutheran Church, 1311 Holman @ Caroline, at our regular time of 2:30 p.m. On this month’s agenda is . . . fun! Our annual gathering for Regency card games. We will have our usual tea and goodies and pair off for as many rounds of Whist as we care to play. If time allows, we can also engage in a few hands of Loo, as well.

Please bring something to share, if you can, and your favorite tea cup. (Tea cups also available on-site.) As always, an RSVP to Jane is appreciated. Also, if anyone would like to contribute any small items suitable for door prizes, they would be greatly appreciated.

A gentle reminder: If your personal finances allow, please remember to pay your regional dues to our Treasurer, Barbara Butler. $25 per individual or couple–fees are used to pay speakers’ honorariums and dinners, our web site, and any other incidentals that may come up. Should this amount be a burden for you, but you would still like to contribute something, please speak to one of the co-coordinators or the Treasurer.

April Outing

The day is fast approaching! Saturday, April 12th, is the date for our Road Trip to Waco to tour the Browning Library on the campus of Baylor University. For a preview of the Library, see www.browninglibrary.org. We are scheduled to tour with a docent. The tour is free, takes about an hour, and we are welcome to remain for further perusal after the tour.
After the Library, we should all be ready for lunch. (Restaurant TBA) Then it’s meander back home, with visions of Texas wildflowers along the way. There is a possibility of a stop midway at a member’s home.
If you would like to come on this outing and/or drive, please RSVP.
Our tentative plan is to meet at Buc-ee’s on 290 (Mueschke Road exit, I think–the address is 27106 US Hwy 290, Cypress, TX 77433) at 8 a.m. The drive to Waco is about 2 1/2 hours.

MARCH 22, 2014 MEETING

There has been a slight change in plans; however, we have a meeting place, still in Katy/Cinco Ranch, at the Cinco Ranch Branch Library, 2620 Commercial Center Blvd., Katy, TX 77494, phone 281-395-1311.
Our arrival time has to be adjusted slightly, to 12:30 rather than 11:45 as previously stated. Otherwise, it’s all a go–lunch will be provided, and we’ll view Mansfield Park after our meal. We have until 4:30.
Lunch is provided, but if you would like to bring a dessert to share, feel free; however, you’re not obligated. We’ll be dining with paper and plastic–hope that doesn’t offend anyone’s sensibilities. If you would like to continue our custom of bringing your own special teacup, you may do that, too.
If you haven’t already RSVPd, please do so, for accurate food counts.
Keep April 12th in mind, too! Road trip to Waco and the Browning Library. 

Are you accomplished??

Caroline Bingley

Would you be able to make it in the ton? Do you have what it takes?

Ladies’ Accomplishments

During the Regency era, a proper education was crucial to a middle or upper class young lady’s future. Since a woman’s only ‘proper’ aspiration was to marriage, her education focused on making her noticeable to potential husbands. Her accomplishments enabled her to display cultural distinction and set herself apart from women who were merely ‘notable’—those who could only manage a household but not cultivate elegant socializing.

The number of accomplishments a young lady acquired reflected the financial state of her family and the level of sacrifice they were willing to make to improve her chances of marrying well.

Men of the middle and upper classes sought a wife who would be a social asset to them (in addition to a good dowry of course.)  Being a “social asset” meant being somewhere between ignorant and illiterate and an intellectual.  She could never be an intellectual threat to her husband, but should be able to follow conversation, and perhaps more importantly keep a conversation away from unpleasantries and steered toward good humor for all.

Certain subjects were considered necessary for becoming that desired social asset.  These included:

Reading 

No young woman could be considered accomplished without the ability to read. Not only was it necessary for basic household management and correspondence, but it formed a foundation for intelligent conversation and for reading aloud for the entertainment of others.

Though young ladies were not encouraged to read heavy subjects like philosophy and theology, serious books were considered appropriate as they enabled interesting conversation. Similarly, scripture to enable her to recognize passages and sermons, such as Fordyce’s, aimed at young women, were appropriate reading for an accomplished lady.

Writing 

In this context, writing did not refer to a creative endeavor, but rather being able to create a letter with beautiful penmanship, correctly spelled and with excellent grammar.  Young women would be schooled in the art of letter writing, with books dedicated to the topic and offering examples of good letters for her to emulate. 

Arithmetic 

No mistress could run a household or estate without a solid understanding of basic math.  She had to be able to keep accounts, balance a budget, calculate how much food and others supplies needed to be bought, track expenses and even forecast trends in the use of supplies.

Few women would have exposure to advanced algebra or other pure mathematics.  She had no practical use for them and would be dangerously close to challenging her husband’s expertise if she knew them.

Sciences and Social sciences

The natural sciences and social sciences were significant to young ladies only insofar as they facilitated the art of refined conversation.  General awareness and rote memorization in areas of history, politics, geography, literature and philosophy were sufficient for ladies of quality.

A cursory knowledge of botany was common.  Ladies who were more interested might also become learned in the use of plants as home remedies since the mistress of an estate was often the first one consulted in cases of injury and illness.

Languages

Despite the Napoleonic wars, a working knowledge of French was indispensable for a young lady.  Italian and German, for singing and understanding sung performances were also useful, but conversational fluency was not expected.  Greek and Latin, beyond a handful of commonly used phrases were the purview of men and not included in a young lady’s curriculum.

Music

Though not expected to be virtuosos, quality young ladies were expected to be proficient musicians.  Playing and singing were considered seductive to men since they displayed her body and bearing to potential suitors. Furthermore, once married, musical skills would be useful for long evening of entertaining both her husband and her guests.

Only a few instruments were considered appropriate for young ladies.  Anything which needed to be blown into was a risk for causing a reddened face and heaving bosom, neither of which would be attractive, much less alluring, so they were out of the question. The violin, which required raised arms, was also inappropriate.  The short bodied dresses of the era presented too many possibilities for embarrassing mishaps.  Moreover, the violin required a higher level of expertise to perform and the potential for embarrassing oneself was higher.

The harp was the most desirable instrument, but most had to make do with the piano which had replaced the harpsichord in popularity. Some young ladies also learned the guitar.

Not only did girls need to be able to play and sing, but they had to be able to dance. The dance floor was the place for young ladies to interact with their suitors, a place where they could escape the watchful eyes of their chaperones and engage in somewhat private conversation and even touch, which was otherwise entirely forbidden. Skilled and graceful partners were highly desirable. Girls who danced poorly could expect to spend a lot of time without a partner.

Artistic endeavors

Girls were encouraged to draw and paint and given training in it whenever possible.  Particularly talented girls might even exhibit their work at local or national levels, or teach other girls, all of which could be valuable if she failed to obtain a husband.

Filigree work, now known as quilling, and japanning, now called decoupage, were also encouraged as ways for ladies to display their artistic skills. Screens, small chests and trunks and various bric-a-brac were frequently the object of their efforts.

Needlework (plain and fancy)  

Needlework was one of the most practical subjects for a young lady. No matter what her future might hold, clothing, plain or elegant, would be a part of it. Clothing required mending and making.  Even ladies who could hire out their own sewing would often engage in making garments for charitable cases in their parish. Fancy work included embroidery, cross stitch, knotting, netting and more.

Needlework need not be a solitary endeavor. Often, women would bring along their work baskets during social calls and work as they visited. If someone arrived without something to work on, a hostess might offer something from her workbasket to her visitor.  Of course, the elegance of the project would reflect upon the seamstress and fancy projects were more desirable for working in company than plain.

All these accomplishments might be acquired in a variety of ways, depending on the accomplishments of a girl’s mother and the means of her family.  Her education would begin at home, conducted or at least supervised by her mother.  If a family’s situation allowed, a governess might be hired or teaching masters brought in for specialized subjects like music and dance. Families of better means might send their daughters for a year or two to boarding school to ‘finish’ a young lady’s accomplishments.

Armed with these skills, a young woman would be considered ready to enter society and engage in the all-important task of finding a suitable husband.

References

Baird, Rosemary. Mistress of the House, Great Ladies and Grand Houses. Phoenix (2003)

Collins, Irene . Jane Austen, The Parson’s Daughter Hambledon (1998)

Collins, Irene . Jane Austen & the Clergy The Hambledon Press (2002)

Davidoff, Leonore & Hall, Catherine. Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class 1780-1850 Routledge (2002)

The Female Preceptor. Essays On The Duties Of The Female Sex, Conducted By A Lady. 1813 and 1814

Fullerton, Susannah. Jane Austen & Crime JASA Press (2004)

Harvey, A. D. Sex in Georgian England Phoenix Press (1994)

Jones, Hazel. Jane Austen & Marriage Continuum Books (2009)

Lane, Maggie. Jane Austen’s World Carlton Books (2005)

Laudermilk, Sharon & Hamlin, Teresa L. The Regency Companion Garland Publishing (1989)

Le Faye, Deirdre. Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels Harry N. Abrams (2002)

Martin, Joanna. Wives and Daughters Hambledon Continuum (2004

Selwyn, David. Jane Austen & Leisure The Hambledon Press (1999)

Sullivan, Margaret C. The Jane Austen Handbook Quirk Books (2007)

Watkins, Susan. Jane Austen’s Town and Country Style Rizzoli (1990)

This information was provided by Grace Scheufler (aka Maria Grace).

You can be contact her at: email: author.MariaGrace@gmail.com; Facebook: facebook.com/AuthorMariaGrace; on Amazon.com: amazon.com/author/mariagrace; on Twitter @WriteMariaGrace,  or visit her website Random Bits of Fascination at RandomBitsofFascination.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Mistress of the Manor

We had the great privilege  at our February meeting of having Grace Scheufler (aka Maria Grace) speak on the duties of the mistress of the manor. Grace generously provided the following which also contains some references for further study.

Mistress of the Manor-what did she do all day?

Period dramas have left many of us with the notion that ladies of the landed gentry in the Regency era had little to do but dress in lovely gowns, embroider and gossip.  Reality could not be farther from this image. In general, both master and mistress of the manor did a great deal of work around the estate, often working alongside the servants in the efforts to get everything done.

Labors tended to be divided along gender lines. So much so that single men sought female relatives to manage their households. Bachelors looked to sister or nieces while widowers often called upon daughters or the dead wife’s kin.  So, even if a woman did not marry, there was a very strong possibility she might take on the responsibilities of a household sometime in her lifetime.  Gentlemen tended to respect the household mistress’ authority; her contributions to the home had worth equal to his.

Responsibilities of the Mistress

The role of an estate’s mistress was the equivalent of, depending on the size of the estate, managing a small hotel to being the CEO of a major corporation. She oversaw the finances, food service, hiring and training of the staff, procurement, charitable contributions of the ‘company’ as well as the interior design of the ‘corporate headquarters’ and entertaining. Depending on her intelligence, she might also assist her husband with overall estate business. While accomplishing all this, she was also expected to raise her children and cared for sick family members. Talk about a working mother.

Children 

The mistress’ responsibilities to her children are perhaps the most obvious.  First, she was expected to provide them in the first place. A man expected to have an heir to whom he could pass the estate. Once children were born, it was on her shoulders to hire the nursery maids and governess, if the estate could afford them. If not, she would care for them herself. She was responsible for their education, whether she conducted it herself or hired others to teach them.

As her daughters grew older, it was her role to insure they acquired the expected accomplishments for their station. A young woman’s accomplishments were a primary way for her to attract attention from potential marriage partners and getting her daughters well married was an important task for any mother. The degree of a woman’s accomplishments reflected both her family’s wealth and their commitment to having her marry well.

Necessary female accomplishments included singing, playing an instrument, dancing, speaking French and possibly Italian, drawing and painting, sewing and decorative needlework, elegant penmanship, and the ability to conduct polite conversation that revealed suitable knowledge of history, literature and poetry. Reading aloud in a pleasing manner might also be considered as part of this list, although not nearly as significant as the others. Interestingly enough, sufficient understanding of mathematics to manage household ledgers was also required. The mistress of the house would tutor them in the skills she could and arrange for masters to be brought in to teach the rest, if the family finances allowed. Girls might also spend time away at school to attain some of these accomplishments.

Dancing, singing and playing music were particularly valuable accomplishments because they displayed the young woman’s body and bearing to potential suitors. The harp was considered as the most distinguished instrument, but most girls had to settle for the piano.  No well-bred lady would ever play a wind instrument as blowing into something might result in a red face or heaving bosom, neither of which would be particularly attractive. Similarly, the violin was not an appropriate instrument for a lady because raising the arms to play it in a short bodied dress was an invitation to disaster. Moreover, while one could fudge and slur their way through a piano piece, the violin was not an instrument for amateurs.

Finances

Managing the household budget and accounts made up a large part of the mistress’ efforts.  Numerous domestic manuals, including Mrs. Rundell’s, “A New System of Domestic Cookery”, were available to assist women in the process.  Mrs. Rundell warned ‘the welfare and good management of the house’ depended on their careful surveillance. Accounts should be regularly kept and ‘not the smallest article’ omitted. That included weighing meat, sugar and similar commodities when they came from the retailer and comparing them with the charge. So, the mistress also served as the CFO of her domestic organization, carefully managing the budget and the household’s use of credit.

She might earn some additional money from managing the dairy and poultry, which was almost exclusively a female domain. Selling eggs, milk and surplus fowl could bring a tidy sum into the household, if carefully managed. Of course, doing so also meant more that required her attention.

Supplying the Manor

All manner of supplies for the home were handled by the mistress.  What could not be made in house was purchased.  What could be made was. Planning for and managing the creation of necessary products could be a huge year-round endeavor.

Most ladies had books of ‘reciepts’ and instructions into which they added their newest receipts to those of their foremothers. All manner of foodstuffs and herbs were raised and preserved using recipes and instructions in their receipt books. To neglect this process was to risk the family go without during the winter when it was often difficult to purchase supplies.

Beyond this, the mistress of an estate oversaw the making, mending and cleaning of the family’s clothes. Clothing for the servants might also be included in her purview. Soap for laundry and household use required animal fat and wood ashes to be saved and stored until needed. Water from boiling rice and potatoes was saved for starching clothes. Animal and even human urine (yikes!) was also saved for wash day.

Various medicinal preparations would also be crafted and kept on hand in case of need.

Servants

Although men were legally responsible for hiring and firing servants, the mistress oversaw the engaging, instructing and supervising of domestic servants.  Close control and supervision could be necessary. Many records of the era note inefficient and dishonest servants were common place.  Furthermore, servants were often only seeking short term situations, so the high turnover rate required the mistress to be constantly on the lookout for recommendations for new potential servants.

Not only did the mistress manage the servants, she was also in a position to care for their needs. She typically kept herself informed about their families, illnesses and needs and provided for their care including clothing, medical care, possible education, and occasionally leave in emergency situations.

Community

The responsibilities of a landowner’s wife extend beyond the home into the community at large, both to those who were her social equals and to those below her in social rank.

To those on her level, she would be expected to host dinners and social gatherings, providing entertainment and social connections for her sphere. Regular calls would be paid normal among her social circle.

To her social inferiors, she owed another kind of duty. In rural areas where no doctor was available, she might be called upon for her advice in treating the sick and injured. The village children needed to be educated—she was the one to organize the dame school to teach them to read and write. At Christmas time, she would provide gifts of baby clothes, blankets, shawls, coats, stockings and flannel petticoats to the villagers.

The mistress of the estate also was expected to care for the poor. She might meet with the local clergy man to find out their needs and determine how to meet them.  It was her role to visit them, deliver food-often in the form of leftovers from her own table, give advice, and listen to their complaints. Since the indigent had no other support system the gracious provision of the estate’s mistress provided a needed safety net.

So much for covering screens and eating biscuits. The Regency estate’s mistress was no lady of leisure; she was a full time working mother, business partner to her husband, and ideally, a leader in her community.

References

Davidoff, Leonore & Hall, Catherine.  Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class 1780-1850. Routledge (2002)

Horn, Pamela. Flunkeys and Scullions, Life Below Stairs in Georgian England . Sutton Publishing (2004)

Le Faye, Deirdre.  Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels. Harry N. Abrams (2002)

Rundell , Maria Eliza Ketelby.  New System of Domestic Cookery: Founded up Principles of Economy; and Adapted to the Use of Private Families. (1806)

Sullivan, Margaret C.  The Jane Austen Handbook .Quirk Books (2007)

Vickery, Amanda.  The Gentleman’s Daughter. Yale University Press (1998)

 

Regency Interpreter

Our region is VERY lucky to have among our members Grace Scheufler who writes under the nom de plume, Maria Grace.

Grace did a series called the Regency Interpreter on her website about the 2007 Mansfield Park movie that looks at the Regency era details that are not so easy to catch in the movie.  Here’s the link information to that (just copy and paste in your browser): http://randombitsoffascination.com/category/faascinating-history/regency-interpreter/

When you visit her website, plan to spend some time – there is so much wonderful information and just plain fun stuff,  you will be there awhile!

February 15, 2014 Meeting

Our meeting will take place on February 15th, at our usual site–First Evangelical Lutheran Church, 1311 Holman at Caroline, Houston, at 2:30 p.m.

This month, we are very fortunate to have as our presenter one of our own, author Grace Scheufler (nom de plume, Maria Grace). Her presentation is: Mistress of the Manor – What Did She Do All Day?

Period dramas have left many of us with the notion that ladies of the landed gentry in the Regency era had little to do but dress in lovely gowns, embroider and gossip.  Reality could not be farther from this image. In general, both master and mistress of the manor did a great deal of work around the estate, often working alongside the servants in the efforts to get everything done.

Labors tended to be divided along gender lines. So much so that single men sought female relatives to manage their households. Bachelors looked to sister or nieces while widowers often called upon daughters or the dead wife’s kin.  So, even if a woman did not marry, there was a very strong possibility she might take on the responsibilities of a household sometime in her lifetime.  Gentlemen tended to respect the household mistress’ authority; her contributions to the home had worth equal to his.

We will further explore what these contributions looked like and how they were accomplished.

As always, bring something that goes with tea to share, and your tea cup! And an RSVP to Jane or Megan is always appreciated!