Mrs. Weston proposed having no regular supper; merely sandwiches, &c. set out in the little room; but that was scouted as a wretched suggestion. A private dance, without sitting down to supper, was pronounced an infamous fraud upon the rights of men and women; and Mrs. Weston must not speak of it again.
Emma, Chapter 29
An infamous fraud indeed! After the exertions of a ball , refreshment had to be provided, surely ;-)
Jane Austen does not really give us many details of the supper served at the Ball at the Crown .What little we do know is related by our ever important informant, Miss Bates:
This is meeting quite in fairy-land! Such a transformation…..Upon my word, this is charming to be standing about among such friends! And such a noble fire! I am quite roasted. No coffee, I thank you, for me — never take coffee. A little tea if you please, sir, by and bye, — no hurry — Oh! here it comes. Everything so good!”
I never saw any thing equal to the comfort and style — Candles every where. ..Well, this is brilliant! I am all amazement! could not have supposed any thing! Such elegance and profusion! — I have seen nothing like it since — Well, where shall we sit? where shall we sit? ..Dear Jane, how shall we ever recollect half the dishes for grandmamma? Soup too! Bless me! I should not be helped so soon, but it smells most excellent, and I cannot help beginning.”
Emma, Chapter 38
To find out what was served at balls in the early 19th century we cannot turn to homely cookery books like Mrs Rundell’s New System of Domestic Cookery. No, we have to turn to far more fancier selections.
The Housewife’s Instructor was first written by William Henderson. It was a best seller and appeared in many editions. The revision overseen by Jacob Christopher Schnebblie contained his suggestions for a ball supper suitable for twenty people.
Jacob Christopher Schnebbelie had been the principal cook at Melun’s Hotel in Bath and Martelli’s Restaurant at The Albany, in Piccadilly, London.
This place is still in existence :here is another view of it taken from inside the courtyard. The Albany has a connection with Jane Austen, in that Henry Austen’s bank’s offices and headquarters were at Number 1, the Courtyard at The Albany between the years 1804-1807.
The building was divided into a series of apartments which were inhabited by officers, professional men and unmarried members of the aristocracy and the gentry. It was (and still is )a fearsomely smart address.
Here are his suggestions for the first course:
Do note the repetition of the dishes: the male diners would have served themselves and their female partners without the need to pass dishes over the table. And do remember that all these illustrations can be enlarged merely by clicking on them: it helps to see the detail.
We know from Miss Bates speech, above, that soup was served at the Crown supper , so it seems the redoubtable Mrs Stokes made an even grander effort than these smart metropolitan suggestions in rural Surrey. Little wonder Miss Bates thought herself blessed to be there.
Here are his suggestions for the dessert:
The Pines mentioned above are, of course, pineapples: a very special, expensive and rare fruit.
I am so glad that Mrs Weston was rightly prevailed upon by Emma and Frank to provide a grand repast for their friends and neighbours at that ball. Perhaps, after all, it did resemble this one …..