5. Do not annoy your fiancé during the trip. If you ask stupid questions such as, “Darling, would you still love me if I did not have a fortune of fifty thousand pounds?” you may not like the answer that you receive.
(from “How to Elope to Scotland” in The Jane Austen Handbook, page 132)
Margaret C. Sullivan, editrix of Austenblog.com, has created the perfect book for fans of Jane Austen who would like to know more about life in Regency England. The Jane Austen Handbook is a wonderful companion to Austen’s novels, especially given that Austen’s works feature terms and societal rules/norms that are no longer in vogue. I admit that this book would have come in handy when I read Sanditon and was curious about bathing machines; thankfully, there are a lot of great online resources for Austen fans, but The Jane Austen Handbook packs the basic information into a single volume.
Sullivan groups these Regency facts into four sections and introduces each chapter with a relevant quote from an Austen novel. In the first section, “Jane Austen’s World & Welcome to It,” she discusses what constitutes an accomplished lady, the education of ladies and gentlemen, how to write a letter, and where to travel and what to do while you’re there. Various modes of transportation, including gigs, curricles, and post-chaises, are explained and featured in illustrations. In “A Quick Succession of Busy Nothings; Or, Everyday Activities,” Sullivan covers everything from planning a dinner party and raising children to how to dress for particular times of day and how to assemble the appropriate wardrobe. In “Making Love,” selecting a husband, marrying off your daughter, handling unwanted marriage proposals, and eloping to Scotland are hot topics. The final section, “The Best Company; Or, Social Gatherings,” will tell you everything you need to know about paying a morning call and attending dinner parties and balls.
The Jane Austen Handbook features illustrations of clothing and needlework and detailed descriptions of card games played in Austen’s day, among other fascinating tidbits. For readers seeking more information about Austen, the appendix features a short biography, a summary of Austen’s six novels, and details about the various film adaptations. Websites and other resources for Janites are included as well.
Sullivan writes with humor and an obvious affection for Austen and the world that lives on in her novels. My knowledge of Regency England was very limited, consisting of only what I learned from reading Austen’s novels, so I found this book to be very informative. It was a light, fast read, and just what I needed for the work commute. The Jane Austen Handbook would make the perfect gift for an Austen fan, especially one in need of an easy-to-read and thoroughly entertaining resource to keep nearby when reading (and re-reading) Austen’s works.
Disclosure: The Jane Austen Handbook is from my personal library.
© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.