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Kew Palace

Kew Palace-once known as the Dutch House because of its building style-  you can see the Dutch Gables in the roof, above-  is a fascinating place to visit. It has had associations with the royal family since the early 18th century, and is now well known as the home of George III and Queen Charlotte who lived there occasionally (and at nearby White Lodge, Richmond) while a new palace at Kew, designed by Wyatt was being built. Sadly, this fantastical building was never completed, but the Dutch House- now known as Kew Palace- survives. Here is a rather famous portrait of George III’s father, Frederick Prince of Wales, and his sisters with Kew Palace in the distance:

Frederick, Prince of Wales, and his sisters in the garden at Kew Palace by Philip Mercier

Frederick, Prince of Wales, and his sisters in the garden at Kew Palace by Philip Mercier

George III’s last visit to what is now called Kew Palace was in 1806 when he stopped there to dine on the way to Windsor. Queen Charlotte actually died there in November 1818 :  she had to take refuge there when becoming ill on the way to Windsor. This was the last time the palace was fully occupied, and as a result it became a sort of time capsule of life in a small but royal country home at the beginning of the 19th century.

The Main Kitchen at Kew Palace

The Main Kitchen at Kew Palace

The Palace was restored and opened to the public in 2006, and I’ve since been lucky enough to visit it.  But this year the kitchens at the Dutch House have been opened to the public for the first time and I am hoping to visit them in the next few months. They have been renovated to recreate a specific day: the 6th February 1789, which was the day that George III was allowed to regain the use of knives and forks when eating, after his first acute episode of madness, for as he was no longer considered a danger to himself and to others.

I thought you might like to see some of the interesting videos the Royal Historic Palaces team  have produced to explain the kitchens. Here is their introductory video:

This is a fascinating video about the 18th century kitchen, and the scullery and how they  were restored, and the decisions the curator, Lee Prosser, and to make along the way:

This video explains the type of cookery that took place in the kitchen especially on the great roasting range (which is a rare survivor) and in the bread ovens:

Two of the Georgian dishes served to George III on 6th February 1789 have been adapted for modern kitchens and ingredients and you can see how to make therm here:  first, a Rich Chocolate Tart:

You can download the recipe as a PDF file, here.  A second video is also available to watch, how to make Soupe Barley:

You can download a PDF file of the recipe, here

A video and recipe sheet for a third dish, Mutton Smoured in a Frying Panne,  will be published soon, but some other dishes served at the King’s table are available to read, here.

You can learn about the Staff employed in the kitchen, here, and about the layout of the Domestic Offices, here.

Teh kitchen garden has also been restored,and here is a picture of it courtesy of the RHP Twitter feed:

This is, I am sure you will agree, a fascinating project. The great Tudor Kitchens  at Hampton Court have long been on the tourist trail and Victorian kitchens are a staple of many country houses open to the public. But Georgian examples are rare, as they were so often modernised when new innovations took place. I can’t wait to be able  to report to you about this place in person but in the meantime I hope you enjoy these videos and  recipes ;)

Last week we talked about Burghley House and its fantastic  Heaven Room which was used as the location for Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s drawing-room at Rosings in the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

Today we are going to consider another room at Burghley, whose rose garden is  shown above and whose magnificent oriel window in the great hall is shown below….

The room that merits our attention this week is the Bow Room which served as Lady Catherine’s dining room at Rosings in the 2005 film.

This is another of Burghley’s many painted rooms. It was created in 1697 by Louis Laguerre, the French artist, who was also Louis XIV’s godson.  He appears to have been an altogether more personable character than Verrio about whom  we wrote last week, and, unlike Verrio, no tales of scandal and debaucheries are  told about Laguerre at Burghley today.

The room is, as you can see, quite dark. It faces north and while these painted rooms worked well in sunnier climes, as seen, no doubt, by teh 5th Earl of Exeter on his Grand Tour of Europe, the decoration does cast rather a gloom in the cold Lincolnshire light. The room was originally designed by the 5th Earl as a State Dining Room, but its chilly aspect meant that it gradually fell out of use: the kitchens were a long way away and the food was invariably cold when it reached the hungry diners waiting in this room! Eventually it evolved into a second billiard room and then into a music room until 1990 when the painted surfaces of the room were extensively restored. The room is now fitted up for display and the dining table is set up as it would have been for a formal dinner during the Victorian era.  The West wall, below….

And the East wall, compete with fireplace, again below, show scenes from the lives of Cleopatra and Mark Anthony.

The south wall, which can be seen behind Lady Catherine when she sits at the head of the dining table depicts The Conduct of Scipio Towards His fair Captive

The room now contains articles that had to be removed or put out of shot during the filming of Pride and Prejudice: this bust, below, of the Duke of Wellington would have been highly anachronistic for a film set in 1796, when he was merely a colonel serving in the Netherlands and India.

And this magnificent 19th century silver racing trophy , together with, on the window sill, a silver model of the 3rd Marquess of Exeter as Colonel of the Northamptonshire Regiment, made in 1888, were not seen in the film.

We did see a plethora of footmen( just what  exactly is the correct  collective noun for a group of footmen?) which is reflective of this section from Chapter 29 of Pride and Prejudice that describes the initial dinner at Rosings attended by Elizabeth Charlotte and Mr Collins-but note, not Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam:

The dinner was exceedingly handsome, and there were all the servants and all the articles of plate which Mr. Collins had promised; and, as he had likewise foretold, he took his seat at the bottom of the table, by her ladyship’s desire, and looked as if he felt that life could furnish nothing greater.

As to the dinner being exceedingly handsome, it was certainly very lavish in this production. And in what was most probably a deliberate move, the dinner is shown to be  slightly old-fashioned. Do note the  peacock pie to the right of Lady Catherine at the far end of the table, below:

Peacock pies were very popular throughout the 17th century till the mid 18th century, as part of courtly shows of expense and luxury. The one below made by Ivan Day of Historic Foods is typical of the 17th century : the head and tail feathers were always used to decorate such a pie, not only because they were spectacular, but because their presence  also indicated what meat was to be found inside the pie.

The latest recipe I can find for a peacock pie is in John Thacker’s book,The Art of Cookery written in 1758

Here is the recipe which you can enlarge by clicking on it.

Thacker was the cook to the Dean and Chapter of Durham Cathedral and their hospitality was courtly, lavish and legendary. But ever so slightly old-fashioned  by 1796 the date the film was set ( and also the date when Jane Austen wrote  First Impressions which was to eventually become Pride and Prejudice in 1813).

Lady Catherine, who was played by Dame Judi Dench, is always shown in a sack dress( this purple confection was on show at Burghley House in the Bow Room tin 2005-6,and it was magnificent) which would also have be seen as old fashioned in 1796 . I can only conclude that the filmmakers wanted to depict Lady Catherine as grand and slightly set in her ways, which character traits were reflected in her choice of food and  of dress. Qutie a clever conceit, bearing in mind how stubborn the old bat could be…..

Once again I should like to thank the Burghley House Preservation Trust , the House Manager and the Room Stewards for all their kindness and assistance  shown to me when I visited Burghley to prepare this post.

I realised over the past week that I had not written about Jane Austen and Food for some time…so I’ve decided to make amends  for that by  giving you a detailed history of that most intriguing of dishes from Pride and Prejudice, White Soup.

White Soup is, I suppose, one of the most famous food dishes in Jane Austen’s works, almost on a par with Mr Woodhouse’s gruel. Virtually unknown today, we hear about it because in Pride and Prejudice the genial Mr Bingley famously and much to the chagrin of his sisters, informs the robust Lydia Bennet that she shall name the day for the Netherfield ball

once Nicholls has made white soup enough

White soup originated in 17th century France. Then known as Pottage a la Reine ( Queen’s Soup)  it was  a slightly different dish to that served to Charles Bingley’s guests and produced by the quart by the indefatigable Nicholls.

The first known recipe for this most aristocratic of soups is to be found in the cookery book, Le Cuisinier François (1651) written by Francois Pierre, known as  La Varenne,  who was chef to the Marquis of Uxelles. This was translated into English in 1653, and this is the frontispiece from that first English edition:

His recipe is as follows:

Get almonds. Grind them and set them to boil with good bouillon, along with a bouquet of herbs, a bit of lemon pulp and a little breadcrumb;  then season that with salt.  Take care they don’t burn, stirring them frequently and strain them. Then get your bread and simmer it in the best bouillon you have. After you have deboned some roast partridge of capon get some good bouillon, cook all of the bones with a few mushroom and strain everything through a cloth. Simmer your bread in the bouillon and as it is simmering sprinkle it with the almond milk, and with meat stock then add in a little chopped partridge flesh or capon until it is full. Then get the fire shovel, heat it to red hot and pass it over the top. Garnish your pottage with cockscombs,pistachios pomegranate seeds and neat stock.Then serve.

The decoration of dishes with pomegranate and pistachios-very rare and expensive ingredients in the 17th century- was a common feature of court cookery of the time.

For example, here is a winter salad as ordered  by Robert May in his book, The Accomplish’d Cook (1660)

complete with sprinkled pomegranate and nuts

And a rosemary “tree” covered in white snow (egg white,whipp’t)

John Thacker, the cook to the Dean and Chapter of Durham Cathedral  gives interesting directions for dressing and serving the soup in his book, The Art of Cookery (1758).(Do note you can enlarge all the illustrations in this post by clicking on them)

This is how Ivan Day,the wonderful food historian of Historic Food , and whose courses I love to attend, has interpreted it.

Rather faithfully, I think you will agree.(and I thank Ivan for  his kind permission to use his images here).

Here is the heated shovel as recommended by La Varenne, as used by Ivan

Another way to do this would be to use a salamander

Here is one heating up in the roaring fire of Ivan’s Cumbrian kitchen

And here it is in use giving a toasted finish to some stuffed tomatoes which I helped cook on Ivan’s Regency Cookery Course I attended in 2009. This as you can see is a ferociously dangerous cooking method. Luckily for Nicholls it was not required to be used in recipes by the time she was preparing her soup.

Elizabeth Raffald

in her book The Experienced English Housekeeper (1769)

gives a variant on the original French recipe

William Verral, the famous  innkeeper of the White Hart Inn in Lewes in Sussex in his cookery book of 1759, The Complete System of Cookery, gives this disarming but very honest title to his recipe for the soup ; Queen’s Soup, What Queen I Know Not.(!)

By the time we get to Jane Austen’s era, and around the time of the publication of Pride and Prejudice in 1813, the recipe has altered further. Here is Frederick Nutt’s

recipe from his book The Imperial and Royal Cook etc (1809)

And it was not only the swankiest cookery books that gave recipes for White Soup. Our friend, Mrs Rundell gives these recipes for two variants of white soup,

in her book,  A New System of Domestic Cookery (1816)

If you would care to make your own version of  White Soup, here is a modern equivalent of the soup adapted from Eliza Acton’s recipe (dating from 1845-a long time after our era as you can see)quoted by Jane Grigson in her book, Food with the Famous .

White Soup

2 ½ points of veal or light beef stock.

2oz blanched almonds

10z white bread, weighed without crusts

1 egg yolk

¼ pint each double and soured cream or milk Salt, pepper,

lemon juice,

Cayenne pepper

2 oz toasted or fried almonds to garnish.

Serves 6

To make the soup, put the almonds and bread into a blender, add some of the stock and liquidize to a smooth paste.

Using a sieve, strain into the remaining stock, pushing through as much as you can. Beat the egg yolk with the creams or cream and milk and add to the soup. If possible leave for an hour or two; this will improve and mellow the flavour.

Reheat, keeping the soup well below boiling point so as not to curdle the egg. Add salt, pepper, lemon juice and Cayenne pepper to taste and bring out the flavour.

Serve garnished with almonds.

Because Mr Bingley served white Soup at the Netherfield Ball, and because Miss Bates says wonderingly of the supper served at the Crown Inn Ball in Emma

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.

it is sometimes assumed that soup is de rigueur at balls in this era. However, I have poured over my extensive collection of cookery books dating from the late 18th and early 19th century and I have only ever found one list of recommended dished to be served at a ball, and that is from William Henderson’s The Housekeepers Instructor,14th edition dating from 1807.

The Housewife’s Instructor was first written by William Henderson. It was a best seller and appeared in many editions. This 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 is his portrait from the frontispiece to his edition of The Housewife’s Instructor. You can clearly see the entrance to the  Albany below him.

This place is still in existence: here is another view of it taken from inside the courtyard circa 1820.

The Albany has, of course, 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 the for dishes for the first course:

Note the absence of soup in any form.  If someone as smart as Schnebbelie did not include soup as a matter of course for a ball supper, then no wonder that Miss Bates was pleased by the appearance of soup at the Crown: it must have been a superior spread indeed, and this evidence suggests to me that soup at a ball was the exception and not the rule.  It is clear therefore that Mr Bingley (and Mr Weston) were characteristically  most generous hosts ;-)

To round up my posts on Sanditon, written to coincide with Laurel’s Group Read of Jane Austen’s unfinished fragment at Austenprose, I thought I might take the opportunity of writing about Jane Austen and donkeys , or asses as they were  then called.

In Sanditon we hear much of Lady Denham’s asses and her money-making plans for them:

Well, Mr. Parker, and the other is a boarding school, a French boarding school, is it? No harm in that. They’ll stay their six weeks. And out of such a number, who knows but some may be consumptive and want asses’ milk; and I have two milch asses at this present time…Going after a doctor! Why, what

should we do with a doctor here? It would be only encouraging our servants and the poor to fancy themselves ill if there was a doctor at hand. Oh! pray, let us have none of the tribe at Sanditon. We go on very well as we are. There is the sea and the downs and my milch asses.


Now if we could get a young heiress to be sent here for her health — and if she was ordered to drink asses’ milk I could supply her — and, as soon as she got well, have her fall in love with Sir Edward!”

Unfortunately for her, the stout defensive attitude of Mrs Griffiths pours cold water on her plans for her asses milk:

Lady Denham had other motives for calling on Mrs. Griffiths besides attention to the Parkers. In Miss Lambe, here was the very young lady, sickly and rich, whom she had been asking for; and she made the acquaintance for Sir Edward’s sake and the sake of her milch asses. How it might answer with regard to the baronet remained to be proved but, as to the animals, she soon found that all her calculations of profit would be vain. Mrs. Griffiths would not allow Miss Lambe to have the smallest sympton of a decline or any complaint which asses’ milk could possibly relieve. Miss Lambe was “under the constant care of an experienced physician,” and his prescriptions must be their rule. And except in favour of some tonic pills, which a cousin of her own had a property in, Mrs. Griffiths never deviated from the strict medicinal page.

Why was asses milk thought  good for invalids particularly consumptives?

Lets turn to William Buchan and his book Domestic Medicine

which was a very popular home reference book in the early 19th century, and one I think Jane Austen may have read., or at least had access to.

This is what he has to say about the use of asses milk, in particular in relation to consumptive patients:

Next to proper air and exercise, we would recommend a due attention to diet. The patient should eat nothing that is either heating or hard of digestion, and his drink must be of a soft and cooling nature. All the diet ought to be calculated to lessen the acrimony of the humours, and to nourish and support the patient. For this purpose he must keep chiefly to the use of vegetables and milk. Milk alone is of more value in this disease than the whole materia medica.

Asses milk is commonly reckoned preferable to any other; but it cannot always be obtained; besides, it is generally taken in a very small quantity; whereas, to produce any effects, it ought to make a considerable part of the patient’s diet. It is hardly to be expected, that a gill or two of asses milk, drank in the space of twenty-four hours, should be able to produce any considerable change in the humours of an adult; and when people do not perceive its effects soon, they lose hope, and so leave it off. Hence it happens that this medicine, however valuable, very seldom performs a cure. The reason is obvious; it is commonly used too late, is taken in too small quantities, and is not duly persisted in.

I have known very extraordinary effects from asses milk in obstinate coughs, which threatened a consumption of the lungs; and do verily believe, if used at this period, that it would seldom fail; but if it be delayed till an ulcer is formed, which is generally the case, how can it be expected to succeed?

Asses milk ought to be drank, if possible, in its natural warmth, and, by a grown person, in the quantity of half an English pint at a time. Instead of taking this quantity night and morning only, the patient ought to take it four times, or at least thrice a day, and to eat a little light bread along with it, so as to make it a kind of meal.

If the milk should happen to purge, it may be mixed with old conserve of roses. When that cannot be obtained, the powder of crabs claws may be used in its stead. Asses milk is usually ordered to be drank warm in bed; but as it generally throws the patient into a sweat when taken in this way, it would perhaps be better to give it after he rises.

It was also thought to be helpful whenever a patient presented with a persistent cough, coupled with other complaints such as smallpox:

When a cough, a difficulty of breathing, or other symptoms of a consumption, succeed to the small-pox, the patient must be sent to a place where the air is good, and put upon a course of asses milk, with such exercise as he can bear.

Or measles:

Should a cough, with difficulty of breathing, and other symptoms of a consumption, remain after the measles, small quantities of blood may be frequently let at proper intervals, as the patient’s strength and constitution will permit. He ought likewise to drink asses milk, to remove to a free air, if in a large town, and to ride daily on horseback. He must keep close to a diet consisting of milk and vegetables; and lastly, if these do not succeed, let him remove to a warmer climate.

Mrs Rundell, in her section of recipes for invalids in her book A New System of Domestic Cookery, ( my 1819 edition) advises the use of  asses milk too.

In actual fact it has now been proved scientifically that  all these old “cures” may have some truth behind them. Ass’s milk has been found to contain less solids than any other sort of milk. It is richer in sugar than other sorts (except for human milk). It is constituted with less curd and fat than other milks and it is consequently easy to digest. A rather good thing for ill people to consume therefore.

For an ass to produce milk of course the Jenny or female donkey had to have produced a calf, which is why Lady Denham is rather proud to have two milch asses and is eager to make the most of their milk producing period. The Jennys were usually milked twice a day, and usually gave up between half a pint to a pint at each milking. Milch donkey could be hired at the cost of one guinea a week, plus expenses of transport ,and no doubt this was Lady Denham’s plan.

But if you could not obtain fresh asses milk then you could make a substitute.

My copy of The Family Receipt Book,

a fanatically detailed and comprehensive encyclopedia of domestic knowledge circa 1810, gives this recipe for artificial asses milk:

And even Mrs Rundell obliged with three alternatives to fresh asses milk:

Some of the ingredients these recipes used may now seem odd to us –snails?– but some are now  virtually unknown.

Eringo root is perhaps the most  puzzling ingredient. It is in fact the roots of the Sea Holly, Eryngium maritimum

(Photograph from Wikipeadia Commons)

which have been candied or picked.

Sea Holly is in fact no relation at all to evergreen holly trees but is a tall, bluish-green evergreen perennial found growing wild on coastal areas in England. It is in fact a member of the umbellifer family of plants ( which includes parsley, carrots and parsnips).

Here are some which have been candied by Ivan Day of Historic Foods.

You can see I think the resemblance they have to parsnip tips.

It was fantastically popular sweetmeat in the 17th and 18th centuries and  used not only as a sweet addition to artificial asses milk , but as an aphrodisiac.

In The Merry Wives of Windsor by Shakespeare,  Falstaff calls for them:

Let the sky rain potatoes;

let it thunder to the tune of Green-sleeves,

hail kissing-comfits and snow eringoes ,

let there come a tempest of provocation…

(See: Falstaff, Act 5, scene v,)

and I suppose at his advantaged age he might have needed them.

Next onto the other use for asses a means of transport and of  which Jane Austen made much use  in her last months at Chawton .

Inevitable I suppose, given Mr Woodhouse’s preference for plain cooking….and Emma’s charitable impulses, but let’s delve into this subject today, shall we?

First, food for invalids.

For a good indicator of the type of food recommended for weak stomachs in this era we can do little better than to look to the advice our old friend Mrs Rundell for her wise advice.

In her book, A New System of Domestic Cookery formed upon Principals of Economy and adapted to the use of Private Families by a Lady a whole chapter is devoted to this type of cooking:

Cookery for the Sick and for the Poor.

In her introduction to the chapter, she sets out her sensible approach to this subject:

The following pages will contain cookery for the sick; it being of more consequence to support those whose bad appetite will not allow them to take the necessary nourishment , thus to stimulate that of persons in health.

It may not be necessary to advise, that a choice be made of the things most likely to agree with the patient; that a change be provided; that some one at least be always ready; that not too much of those be made at once, which are not likely to keep ,as invalids require variety; and that they should succeed each other in forms and flavours.

Jane Austen was obviously very familiar with this type of food for the advice doled out by Emma and Mr Woodhouse in the book neatly coincides with that given by Mrs Rundell.

Here is her recipe for Water Gruel:

Put a large spoonful of oatmeal by degrees into a pint of water, and when smooth boil it.

Another way- Rub smooth a large spoonful of oatmeal, with two of water and our it quick; but take care it does not boil over. In a quarter of an hour strain it off: and add salt and a bit of butter when eaten. Stir until the butter be incorporated.

And here are her recipes for preparing eggs:

Mr Woodhouse would no doubt approve:

“Mrs. Bates, let me propose your venturing on one of these eggs. An egg boiled very soft is not unwholesome. Serle understands boiling an egg better than any body. I would not recommend an egg boiled by any body else — but you need not be afraid — they are very small, you see — one of our small eggs will not hurt you…

Emma, Chapter 3

She makes this point about cooks, proving what a treasure Mr Woodhouse has in Serle: many houses a good sick cook is rarely met with: and many who possess all the goods of fortune have attributed the first return of health to an appetite excited by good kitchen psychics as it is called.

Her remaks on providing food for the poor as also very revealing:

Emma, to give her her due, clearly knows a lot about the practicalities of food, and her knowledge is demonstrated in her gift of pork to the Bates.

Emma is often thought of  as a spoiled little rich girl with an empty head and list of unread books. But, in her defence, Emma knew exactly how the different cuts of pork should be cooked and what woud be of use  to the less prosperous  characters in Highbury:

“It is a great pity that their circumstances should be so confined! a great pity indeed! and I have often wished — but it is so little one can venture to do — small, trifling presents, of any thing uncommon — Now we have killed a porker, and Emma thinks of sending them a loin or a leg; it is very small and delicate — Hartfield pork is not like any other pork — but still it is pork — and, my dear Emma, unless one could be sure of their making it into steaks, nicely fried, as our’s are fried, without the smallest grease, and not roast it, for no stomach can bear roast pork — I think we had better send the leg — do not you think so, my dear?”

“My dear papa, I sent the whole hind-quarter. I knew you would wish it. There will be the leg to be salted, you know, which is so very nice, and the loin to be dressed directly in any manner they like.”

Emma, Chapter 21

(Diagram showing the cuts of Mutton, Veal and Pork from the 1819 edition of Mrs Rundell’s book)

Mrs Rundell’s advice on porkers is pertinent:

Porkers are not so old as hogs; their flesh is whiter and less rich, but it is not so tender. It is divided into four quarters. The fore-quarter has the spring or fore-leg. the fore-loin or neck , the spare rib and griskin. The hind has the leg and loin.

Her advice regarding the Loin is:

Loin and Neck of Pork: Roast them.

But as regards the leg……

To boil a leg of Pork

Salt it eight or ten days; when it is to be dressed, weight it; let it lie half an hour in cold water to make it white: allow a quarter of an hour for every pound and half an hour over ,from the time it boils up; skim it as soon as it boils, and frequently after. Allow water enough .Save some of it to make peas-soup. Some boil it in a very nice cloth, floured; which gives a very delicate look .It should be small and of a fine grain. Serve peas-pudding and turnips with it.

Mr Woodhouse  would surely have approved of Mrs Rundell’s style, I think:

“That’s right, my dear, very right. I had not thought of it before, but that was the best way. They must not over-salt the leg; and then, if it is not over-salted, and if it is very thoroughly boiled, just as Serle boils our’s, and eaten very moderately of, with a boiled turnip, and a little carrot or parsnip, I do not consider it unwholesome.”

Emma, Chapter 21

Here are a few pieces of sensible advice from Mrs Rundell’s General Remarks and Hints on Providing Food for the Poor:

I promised a few hints, to enable every family to assist the poor of their neighbourhood at a very trivial expense; and these may be varied or amended at the discretion of the mistress…

When the oven is hot, a large pudding maybe baked and given to the sick or young family; and thus made the trouble is little;…

Shades of Miss Bate’s  twice baked apples…

I found in the time of scarcity ten or fifteen gallons of soup could be dealt out weekly at an expense not worth mentioning even though the vegetables were brought .If in the villages about London abounding with opulent families the quantity of ten gallons were made in ten gentlemen’s houses there would be a hundred gallons of wholesome agreeable food given weekly for the supply of forty poor families, at the rate of two gallons and a half each.

What a relief to a labouring husband, instead of bread and cheese, to have a warm comfortable meal! To the sick ,aged and infant branches how important and advantage! More less to the industrious mother whose forbearance may have a larger share frequently reduces that strength upon which the welfare of ah family essentially provides.

It rarely happens that servants object to seconding the kindness of their superiors to the poor: but should the cook in any family think the adoption of this plan too troublesome ,a gratuity at the end of the winter might repay her if the love of her fellow creatures failed of doing it a hundred fold….

If you are at all interested in the domestic food as described in Emma, then I can think of no better book to read than Mrs Rundells cookery book. And luckily for us, Persephone Books have recently issued a very reasonably priced and beautifully produced edition of the 1816 edition of this book. It’s not very often I really do urge you to buy a book (Really !?!) but I would  urge everyone to  buy this ;-)

The conversation was here interrupted. They were called on to share in the awkwardness of a rather long interval between the courses, and obliged to be as formal and as orderly as the others; but when the table was again safely covered, when every corner dish was placed exactly right, and occupation and ease were generally restored…

Emma, Chapter 26.

Dear,dear….what would Mr Conset say about the Cole’s staff ,who are not doing a very accomplished job at the dinner party in front of the assembled Great and Good of Highbury?

He was a chef who wrote The Footman’s Directory and Butler’s Remberancer, published in 1823, and in it gave strict and minutely detailed  instructions for the correct setting of the dinner table and how to manage it all with style.

The first two courses would have seen the table laid with a green baize cloth put underneath a white damask linen one, to prevent the table from becoming marked with heat marks from the hot dishes served in the first and second courses.

There was, or so it seems to me, ample opportunity for the staff to make mistakes and appear clumsy.

Here is an example of a grand first course from The Housewife’s Instructor by Henderson.

And here is an examle of the types of dishes that would follow in a grand second course:

Let’s look at Mr Consett’s directions for laying the cloth:

In putting on the cloth, let the table be dusted ,and the green one put on first.. then take the linen one , observing to have it the right side outermost ; this you may easily tell by the hemming and the fold of it: be likewise particular in having the bottom of the cloth face the bottom of the table, as in most families they have some sign woven in their table-linen, such as their crests or coats of arms. If the pattern be baskets of flowers, the bottom of the basket must be towards the person who sits at the bottom as the design ought likewise to go exactly down the middle of the table.

This is what he has to say about the removal of the first course:

As soon as you receive the signal for removing the first course, take the small knife tray with a clean knife-cloth in it, and take all the carving knives, forks and spoons which have been used, form off all the dishes, before you attempt to take the dishes. Observe when you take off the knives forks and dishes  to begin at the bottom of the table and take the knives etc from the left-hand side of the dish, and go regularly round, removing from the sides as you go down the table; then when you come to the bottom where you began, put down your tray and begin  removing the dishes form off the table in the same way you did the knives, forks etc.; remove the bottom dish first , then the side, top and the other side: as you must consider in taking off an putting on, you should lose no time, nor be running  backwards and forwards anymore than you can help; let your dishes be taken off and put on in a systematic order so that you make no bustle and confusion in the room;br quick but quiet in your movements; as you take off the dishes put them in a large tray which of course you have ready and if ther is no one to take them downstairs for you do it yourself; empty your tray as quick as possible and but the second course on it; but be not in  too great a hurry  as you may spill the gravy or break the dishes but be no longer than you can help in carrying the things up and down.

It sometimes happens  when there have been but four dishes for the first course  there have been six for the second;be particular in putting them on; have the bill of fare in the tray  on the sideboard then you will be able to look at tit and prevent making mistakes as it is reasonable to think that ladies and gentlemen  like to have the dishes put on the same way which they  have contrived for the things to answer each other.

If you were to pay attention in settling the dishes in the tray  you could place them in it as they are to go onto the table;this certinaly would be an advantage to you and you may esily do so when you have all the dishes up; begin to put them on in the same order as you took the others off, the bottom dish first , then the left side, and top etc. ; be very particular to have them in a proper line with each other and at equal distances from the sides and ends of the table.

When you have put them all on, take the covers from off those which are covered then be ready to wait on the company: when you see they are finishing the second course  let the cheese plates be put before them as you change the others, a small knife and if there is a salad a fork also should be put in the plate.

He then makes these remarks about the removing of the cloth:

After the first and second courses have been removed, and the cheese eaten-  and surely there would be cheese at the Cole’s dinner  party,for we know they served it to Mr Elton at one of their “experimental” men-only dinners-  the dessert could then be served :

…as soon as the company have done with the cheese, remove it from the table; then take all the things quite off, both dirty and clean; have a spoon( if there is not a proper table–brush) with a plate, and take off all the bits of bread, then with a clean glass-cloth and another plate, brush all the crumbs off the cloth; as soon as this is done put round the finger –glasses, one to each person. If you have not got the desert ready before you put the finger–glasses on, you had better get it while they are using; during that time, likewise, remove as many of the things as you possibly can out of the room. As soon as the finger –glasses are done with , remove them; then take off the cloth with the green one also ,and put them out of the room at once, other wise it is very likely in your haste you may fall over them; when you have removed the cloths, if the hot dishes have drawn out the damp, take a cloth and wipe it off ,but do not do it with a dirty cloth as this will not be pleasant for the company to see…As soon as you have wiped the table , put the desert on; put the dessert dishes nearer the middle of the table as you did with the meat etc., etc., as they are smaller.

(Illustration of a winter and summer dessert from Duncan Macdonald’s NewLondon Family Cook Book)

Observe the same rule in putting on the dessert as the other courses, unless there are more dishes in the dessert then in the other courses; in this case , you may put on the dessert dishes top, middle and bottom before you put on the sides; when they are all put on then put on the sugar basin and the water jug, between the top and bottom dishes and middle one in the same line; then put the cut-glass rummers between the two side dishes and the middle two on each side; then put the wine decanters on at the bottom of the table, next to the gentlemen, but if there be none but ladies, put the wine near the one who sits at the top. Let four table spoons be laid to serve the dessert with and if there be a cake, let a knife be put with it; next put on the dessert plates and two wine glasses to each person; and when the dessert is all set out be as quick as you possibly can in removing everything out of the room except the clean glasses in the side board, the cruet stand and the clean plate ;the clean knives forks and plates on the side table may also be left; but remove all the dirty plates, knives , forks, beer, toast and water etc.etc. All things of the eating and drinking kind should be removed before you leave the dining room; but let it be done quickly and with as little noise as possible as not to appear all in a bustle and confusion when leaving the room, for a good servant is to have everything in the room ready when called for ….The sooner you leave the room after the dessert is put on the better; never loiter about the room when the company are drinking their wine; some servants that I know will be rattling the knives and forks and removing all the clean glasses etc etc from the dining rooms before they leave it, but this is quite unnecessary. You may leave the sideboard and side table to look ornamental without much trouble or loss of time.

I could imagine that staff unused to such formalities would be a little awkward in performing these tasks seamlessly. We know that the staff are very inexperinced for not only is the dining room a new addition to the Cole’s house but they have never attempted to entertain on this scale before:

The Coles had been settled some years in Highbury, and were very good sort of people — friendly, liberal, and unpretending; but, on the other hand, they were of low origin, in trade, and only moderately genteel. On their first coming into the country, they had lived in proportion to their income, quietly, keeping little company, and that little unexpensively; but the last year or two had brought them a considerable increase of means — the house in town had yielded greater profits, and fortune in general had smiled on them. With their wealth, their views increased; their want of a larger house, their inclination for more company. They added to their house, to their number of servants, to their expenses of every sort; and by this time were, in fortune and style of living, second only to the family at Hartfield. Their love of society, and their new dining-room, prepared every body for their keeping dinner-company; and a few parties, chiefly among the single men, had already taken place.

Emma,Chapter 25

I know Id hate to try it…..and I feel for those poor inexperienced staff…..

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

(Rowlandson’s view of an assembly at Scarborough circa 1813.  Can you spot the Bingleys?)

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 is his portrait from the frontispiece to his edition of The Housewife’s Instructor. The entrance to the  Albany is shown below him.

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 …..

Poor deluded, sentimental Harriet Smith: preserving precious treasures, made into  sacred relicts, simply because they were  once touched by the hand of her “beloved”

She held the parcel towards her, and Emma read the words Most precious treasures on the top. Her curiosity was greatly excited. Harriet unfolded the parcel, and she looked on with impatience. Within abundance of silver paper was a pretty little Tunbridge-ware box, which Harriet opened: it was well lined with the softest cotton; but, excepting the cotton, Emma saw only a small piece of court plaister.

“Now,” said Harriet, “you must recollect,”

“No, indeed I do not.”

“Dear me! I should not have thought it possible you could forget what passed in this very room about court plaister, one of the very last times we ever met in it! It was but a very few days before I had my sore throat — just before Mr. and Mrs. John Knightley came; I think the very evening. Do not you remember his cutting his finger with your new penknife, and your recommending court plaister? But as you had none about you, and knew I had, you desired me to supply him; and so I took mine out and cut him a piece; but it was a great deal too large, and he cut it smaller, and kept playing some time with what was left, before he gave it back to me. And so then, in my nonsense, I could not help making a treasure of it; so I put it by never to be used, and looked at it now and then as a great treat.”

“My dearest Harriet!” cried Emma, putting her hand before her face, and jumping up, “you make me more ashamed of myself than I can bear. Remember it? Aye, I remember it all now; all, except your saving this relick: I knew nothing of that till this moment — but the cutting the finger, and my recommending court plaister, and saying I had none about me! Oh! my sins, my sins! And I had plenty all the while in my pocket! One of my senseless tricks! I deserve to be under a continual blush all the rest of my life. Well” (sitting down again) “go on: what else?”

“And had you really some at hand yourself? I am sure I never suspected it, you did it so naturally.”

“And so you actually put this piece of court plaister by for his sake!” said Emma, recovering from her state of shame and feeling divided between wonder and amusement. And secretly she added to herself, “Lord bless me! when should I ever have thought of putting by in cotton a piece of court plaister that Frank Churchill had been pulling about! I never was equal to this.”

Emma, Chapter 40

But what exactly was court plaister? I confess I’ve always been intrigued by this and when I saw a small packet of it years ago in a display of 18th century life at the Mozart Gebursthaus Museum in Salzburg I’ve longed for my own pretty pink packet of the stuff!

It was in fact an early form of  sticking plaster, made from small pieces of silk, coated with a substance which became sticky when wetted  and would have been used just as we do Band Aids today to protect a small cut: the sort of cut you could easily get from a penknife as Mr Elton did.

It could be brought commercially; apothecaries sold it. Here is an advertisement  for court plaister ( among other interesting items ) from the newspaper, The Cumberland Packet, dated April 22nd 1777:

Court plaister, 6d and 1s. KENNEDY’s Corn Plaister ** Issue Plaisters which stick without **isting, 1s the box.  Orange turned Peas for Issues, 4s per hundred.  The Original DR. GODFREY’s Cordial, for Children &c. 6d.

And here is a link to the apothecary’s shop at Colonial Williamsburg: among the items listed for sale in this 1774 advert form that site is court plasiter :

“Anchovies, Capers, Allspice, Pepper, Ginger, Best Sallad and Barbers Oil, Durham Mustard, Sago, Salop, Saltpetre, Cloves, Cinnamon, Nutmegs, Honey, Lavender, and Orange Flower Waters, Anodyne Necklaces, Court Plaister, White and Brown Sugar Candy, Barley Sugar, Candied almonds, Carraway Comfits, Orange Chips, Prunes, Essential Salt of Lemons, which make good Punch, and takes all Kinds of Stains and Spots out of Linen, &c. Anderson’s, Lockyer’s, and Keyser’s Pills, Eau de Luce, Hill’s Balsam of Honey, Do. Tinctures of Valerian, Golden Rod, Elixir Bardana, and Essence of Water Dock, Turlington’s Balsam, Godfrey’s and Freeman’s Cordials, James’s Fever Powders, Bateman’s and Jesuit’s Drops, British Oil, Stoughton’s Bitters, Blackrie’s Lixivium for the Stone and Gravel, Squire’s and Daffey’s Elixirs, Dickenson’s Drops for Convulsion Fits, Copperas, Logwood, Borax, Birdlime, Red and White Lead, Verdigrise, Prussian Blue, French and Pearl Barley, Breast Pipes, Nipple Glasses, Urinals, Smelling Bottles, Tooth Brushes, Antimony, Brimstone, Spelter, Zink, Rotten Stone, Pewter, Syringes, Lancets, Crucibles, Black Lead Pots, Pill Boxes, Vials, Gallipots, Glister Pipes, &c.”

But it could be made at home.

Here is a recipe for court plaister from The New Family Receipt Book.

This was published in  1810 by Jane Austen’s publisher John Murray. It was meant as a companion piece to our friend, Mrs Rundells’s New System of Domestic Cookery. Some people think she was also the author of this work: comparing the styles of the two books, I’m not so sure.

The New Family Receipt-Book offered  comprehensive practical advice on a mind boggling range of subjects all relating to domestic economy; they  included brewing-how  to prevent beer from going flat-, building-how to preserve churches from dilapidation-, food, clothes, perfumes, rats and the destruction of vermin, drowning-method of recovering persons apparently drowned as recommend by the Humane Society-, remedies for various ailments and illnesses, horticulture, agriculture –how to prevent haystacks taking fire–  angling-to prevent taking cold from angling-,  the care  of books-how to remove grease from the leaves of books and, possibly my favourite:

Rules for collecting curiosities on sea voyages...

This was another success for John Murray and he published further editions in 1815, 1818, 1820, 1824, and 1837. This is the 1815 edition.

Making court plaister,as you can see, is not particularly complicated but the right ingredients have to be obtained. Isinglass is the interesting one : isinglass is a substance obtained from the dried swim bladders of fish. Chemically it is a form of collagen. Today it is used mainly for the clarification of wine and beer.

Isinglass was originally made exclusively from sturgeon, especially Beluga sturgeon, hence its name Russian Isinglass. However in  1795 William Murdoch, the Scottish engineer and inventor and member of the Lunar Society in Birmingham,  created a cheap substitute using the swim bladders of cod . This was extensively used in Britain in place of Russian isinglass as it was cheaper. Here is a photograph of  some isinglass:

The bladders, once removed from the fish, processed and dried, are ready to be used to make your court plasiter. Today you can if you want to recreate   the plaister, obtain isinglass from  specialist art dealers , like Cornelisson in London

…which is where this packet  was purchased.

We used them as a setting agent in  making jellies on Ivan Day’s Regency Food course. Whether the jelly was as delicious it looked I leave it to yourself to determine….

Back to court plasiter.

On a slight detour from Harrriet’s relicts, you may be interested to know that in the 18th century court plasiter had a far more decorative alternative use: it was used to make patches to be worn cosmetically, to hide a spot, to improve one’s appearance or even to indicate one’s political affiliations (Whigs wore them on the left of their faces, Tories wore them on the right..or  so is it is believed.)

Patches were kept in small boxes  complete with looking glasses in the lids , to facilitate  the wearer attaching them to that all important “correct’ spot.

So there you are: that tiny piece of discard court plasiter is all poor old Harriet had to “remember” her unrequited “love” for Mr Elton (to whom we say boo, hiss)

It would be akin today to someone keeping the slivers of protective plastic  that cover the sterile surface of a band aid.

No wonder Emma is amused/horrified.

“Ah! poor Miss Taylor. She would be very glad to stay.” There was no recovering Miss Taylor — nor much likelihood of ceasing to pity her: but a few weeks brought some alleviation to Mr. Woodhouse. The compliments of his neighbours were over; he was no longer teased by being wished joy of so sorrowful an event; and the wedding-cake, which had been a great distress to him, was all eat up. His own stomach could bear nothing rich, and he could never believe other people to be different from himself. What was unwholesome to him, he regarded as unfit for any body; and he had, therefore, earnestly tried to dissuade them from having any wedding-cake at all, and when that proved vain, as earnestly tried to prevent any body’s eating it. He had been at the pains of consulting Mr. Perry, the apothecary, on the subject. Mr. Perry was an intelligent, gentlemanlike man, whose frequent visits were one of the comforts of Mr. Woodhouse’s life; and, upon being applied to, he could not but acknowledge, (though it seemed rather against the bias of inclination,) that wedding-cake might certainly disagree with many — perhaps with most people, unless taken moderately. With such an opinion, in confirmation of his own, Mr. Woodhouse hoped to influence every visitor of the new-married pair; but still the cake was eaten; and there was no rest for his benevolent nerves till it was all gone.

Emma, Chapter 1

From the  beginning of this novel we are thrown amid the turmoil weddings can cause. Mr Woodhouse’s antipathy towards matrimony is admirably displayed in his attitude towards the consumption of the most important part of a wedding breakfast-the wedding cake. Poor Mr Woodhouse-so distressed by the mere sight of it.

What would Poor Miss Taylor’s Wedding cake have been like? Let’s see shall we?

Wedding Pies-fruit loaves encased in pastry or elaborate marchpanes made of marzipan- were served at weddings throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, and the tradition of a bride pie containing a glass ring, survived in Scotland well into the early 19th century. The idea of the glass ring was very similar to the bean found in the old Twelfth Night Cake- and it would be used give an indication not of the King for the night but of the next person to be married. Whosoever found it was the chosen one …

However from the mid 18th century a new style of confection arrived on the scene : The Bride Cake, which began to be known  around 1800 as a Wedding Cake.

The earliest printed recipe for a bride cake that we know of was created by that extraordinary woman, Elizabeth Raffald.

Elizabeth Raffald was an entrepreneur supreme.

She was born Elizabeth Whittaker, in Doncaster, Yorkshire in 1733, and worked as a housekeeper to several families, the last of which were the Warburton’s of Arley Hall in Cheshire. This was where she met and married their gardener, John Raffald.

It would appear that on their marriage in 1763 both their employments with the family were terminated ( a not uncommon situation) and the newly -weds  moved to Manchester, where Elizabeth kept a confectioner’s and perfumer’s shop while her husband ran a market stall selling vegetables, for as his family were the possessors of many market gardens in the area, they  could keep him supplied with his stock in trade.

Together they eventually took over the running of inns; first,  The Bull’s Head Inn in the Market Place in Manchester , and then the King’s Head Inn in Salford, complete with a 40 foot long assembly room. This was where Elizabeth honed her culinary skills which had been learned while she was in service : her she ran a cookery school where she undertook the  training of young ladies, and where she began collecting and inventing recipes and eventually publishing her book “The Experienced English Housekeeper” , which was  dedicated to her old employer, Lady Warburton( a smart commercial move)

(Do remember-all the recipes, images etc in this post can be enlarged simply by clicking on them)

It was an instant success, reprinted many times, and though it was much copied –as we shall see below- it made her a wealthy woman.

She also opened, again in Manchester, the first Registry for Servants, and compiled two editions of her influential and successful “Directory of Manchester”

She also  wrote another book on midwifery.

Sadly , her husband  developed a drinking problem and  despite all her hard work and success, he ran up heavy debts.

She was in the process of preparing a third edition of her  Directory to  begin to replay these debts when in April 19th 1781 she suddenly died of a “spasm”, which in our understanding probably means she suffered a stroke.  She was buried at Stockport Parish Church.

In her book The Experienced English Housekeeper (1769) she gave this account of how to cook cakes in general- do note her interesting remarks about wooden garths or hoops being preferable to tin ones:

She then gives her recipe for what eventually translated into the type of wedding cake eaten at most wedding in England for the past  250 years( though the fashion has changed somewhat recently);

The cake she recommended is then covered in a layer of marzipan, -possibly a hark back to the age of the marchpanes of the 16th and 17th centuries, which were made of marzipan , cooked in an oven briefly to dry and them gilded with designs and conceits and because of their association with wedding feast , the marzipan became  known a “ love” or a  “matrimony”.


She then recommends that on top of the marzipan layer, icing –basically what we now know as Royal Icing- is spread over the marzipan covered cake :

Elizabeth Raffald’s recipe for  her Bride Cake marked a departure from the  old Bride Pies which were basically dough cakes made with fruit and  risen with yeast. Though she used dried fruits( though not as much as in modern recipes) her cake  eschews years and  has eggs as its raising agent.

These great cake were certainly the ones Jane Austen referred to in Chapter 1 of Emma. William Henderson in his recipe book, The Housekeepers Instructor or New Universal Cook,  of 1806

gave this recipe, which was you can see is virtually identical to Mrs Raffald’s.

His only departure from her text to is give more detailed cooking instructions-send it to a moderate oven– probably due to the advances in cast iron range ovens that were available to him and other cooks of the period.

Would the cake have been plain or was it decorated? Debate still rages in the historical food world on this point, but  some evidence from good old Parson Woodforde  throws some light on this vexed question.

James Woodforde was  a not very remarkable Anglican  parson, living in Norfolk in his parish of Weston Longeville but his magical legacy to us is his  detailed dairy of his life ,habits, travels and food which he  compiled for  over 45 years. This is what he has to say about  wedding- cakes:

June 1st 1795.

..Mr Custance brought us the Morn’ two Maccarel. Dinner to day, Maccarel & Shoulder of Veal. Mr and Mrs Bodham sent over to enquire after us this Morning from Mattishll-Want to see us. Mr Custance sent us this Evening a large piece of a fine Wedding Cake sent from London to Mr C on the marriage of Miss Durrant (Daughter of  Lady Durrant) and Captain Swinfen of Swinfen Hall in the County of Stafford, eldest Son of____Swinfen esq. Very curious devices on the Top of the Cake

(See Dairy of A Country Parson Edited by John Beresford, Volume IV pp200-201.)

Ivan Day in his chapter Bride Cup and Cake in Food and the Rite of Passage edited by Laura Mason, points out that Mrs Frazer,  confectioner of Edinburgh, gives details of how to  decorate a Plumb Cake with  such devices, in her book:

(I do apologise for the rather tatty appearance of this frontispice_the rest of the books is perfect, but the frontispiece is in a dreadful condition).

Ivan therefore concludes that a Bride cake might well have  looked like a pale version of a great decorated 12th night cake, decorated with pastillage  decorations, formed by using  boxwood moulds as we saw in our post in Twelfth Cakes, here.

(Here is my view of our Twelfth night Cake suitably  manipulated to look white-well, white-ish)

And it was most probably white, though late in the 1820s there was some indication- notably by “Mistress Margaret Meg Dods”-

that the bride cake could also be pink,  just like the recipes given for Twelfth Night Cakes  by John Mollond and Duncan MacDonald.

The Victorians changed all that and great fruit cakes, covered with marzipan and white royal icing and icing decoration became the norm for weddings in England until very recently.

I find it fascinating to see how the tradition of the Bride/Wedding cake and the Twelfth Night Cake morphed together: and of course given the difficulty and expense of making pastillage decoration it is no surprise that the making of a wedding cake eventually became  the sole preserve of professional confectioners.

So the you have it, Miss Taylors Wedding cake, a thing not dissimilar to the one I had at my wedding  20+years ago.

With its richness, no wonder Mr Woodhouse was concerned. But thank goodness for the good sense of Mr Perry, which reigned supreme ;-)

There was a strange rumour in Highbury of all the little Perrys being seen with a slice of Mrs. Weston’s wedding-cake in their hands: but Mr. Woodhouse would never believe it.

Emma, Chapter 1

The end of the Christmas Season in Jane Austen’s era was marked on Twelfth Night by many with a celebration, which often included games, charades, punch  and the all important Twelfth Night Cake.

Celebrations on Twelfth Night had long been a tradition in England dating from the medieval period. The celebrations- or revels- of Twelfth Night had always incorporated elements of disguise, elaborate display and social role reversal, often led by a Master of Ceremonies or a Lord of Misrule, but more often by the Bean King, so-called because he was elected by him discovering a dried bean cooked in his chosen slice of the Twelfth Night Cake. His Queen Consort was similarly discovered: she was the woman who found a dried  pea in the cake.

This topsy-turvy world where the “king’ and “queen” could be the lowest members of the household, empowered to give out orders to their betters for the duration of the night survived after the Interregnum and the attempts to ban such festivities, but in a slightly changed form.

Samuel Pepys wrote about the great expense of his Twelfth Night Cake ( it cost him 20 shillings in 1668). His cake was cut into twenty pieces to be distributed among his guests, but no bean or pea was concealed within it. The “king “ and “queen” and other characters were found by guests picking slips of paper containing names of their characters from a hat.

The characters varied, and often took their inspiration from popular books or plays.

During Jane Austen’s life time, the celebration of Twelfth Night was at the height its of popularity. And during the 1790s sets of “characters” were available to purchase from enterprising stationers, and above is one example. They were cut up and chosen from a hat, the person having thus chosen  having to maintain their  “character”  all though the evenings party.

This is Issac Cruickshank’s satirical view of a Twelfth Night party in 1794- enlarge the picture to take a look at the saucy verse to get the gist of his barbed wit.

Fanny Knight, Edward Austen Knight’s daughter and Jane Austen’s niece, wrote about some of her Twelfth Night Celebrations at Godmersham, the Knight’s country estate in Kent. Here is her report of the 1809 Twelfth Night Party:

…after Dessert Aunt Louisa who was the only person to know the characters…took one by one  out of the room and equipped them, put them into separate rooms and lastly dressed herself. We were al conducted into the library and performed our different parts. Papa and the little ones from Lizzy downwards knew nothing of it  and it was so well managed  that none of the characters knew one another ..Aunt Louisa and L.Deeds were Dominos; F.Cage, Frederica Flirt (which she did excellently); M.Deeds, Orange Woman; Mama, Shepherdess; Self Fortune Teller; Edward, beau; G, Irish Postboy; Henry Watchman ;William, Harlequin; we had such frightful masks that it was enough to kill one with laughing at putting them on and altogether it went off very well and quite answered our expectations.

Though by Jane Austen’s time the cake was no longer used  to assist in the choosing of characters, it was still and important part of the proceedings.  They were costly and complicated to make properly and  many people if they could manage to afford them  bought them from confectioners shops.

In towns it became a tradition for the highly decorated cakes-  garlanded with sugar paste- pastillage– or Plaster of Paris figures and  crowns-to be displayed in confectioners shop windows which were  illuminated small oil lamps. In the winter  evenings  people would  go from shop to shop admiring the displays.

The first known recipe for a Twelfth Night cake is given in John Mollond’s recipe book of 1803 (this is the 1808 edition):

And here it is:

This was the recipe we followed at Ivan Day’s Taste Christmas Past course which I attended in the summer. The cake was a light  fruit cakes, yeast risen, which had a similar texture and taste to the  mixture used in German Stollen cakes today.

Lets see how it was made, shall we?

First you have to prepare your hoop :these were the fore-runners of cake tins, most often made of wood, and had to be lined with cartridge or brown paper smothered in softened butter, to prevent the cake burning and sticking.

The yeast is prepared and mixed with the dry ingredients.

Then it is put in font of the fire to rise, covered with a damp cloth.

When cooked and cool it is decorated.

A paste of marzipan is coloured with cochineal and covers the cake.

Then the important  decoration begins. Or in reality it began a few days before for the tiny crowns ,which always were part of the decoration of this cake, have to be made in advance.

They are made from moulded sugar paste –or pastillage- made from a mixture of icing sugar and gum dragon or tragacanth.The moulds  are made of box wood and are extremely fine grained, which makes them a perfect medium for fine carving.

This is the  mould we used to create the crowns, and as you can see all the component part are here in one exactly carved mould.

The part of the mould that is going to be used has to be prepared with a dusting of cornflower, to try to prevent the pastillage  sticking to the mould.

The pastillage is worked into the mould and pressed down very hard to “take” the impression well.

The excess is cut off using a sharp blade,

and the completed piece removed from the mould by tapping it sharply on a hard surface

I can testify from my experience on the course that this is no easy exercise! No wonder people bought them from confectioners.

Once all the component parts are made,(above are the purple “velvet” cushion for the crowns) the cake can be decorated with the assembled crowns of coloured sugar paste, and edged with borders of roses

You can hopefully see from this close up just how beautifully intricate are the moulded pieces of pastillage .

These crowns can them be guided and painted and additional pastillage decorations can be added to suit.We ran out of time on our very hectic but fabulous course,and Ivan Day finished the cake  after we had left to rest! This is the beautiful end result and I thank him for permission to use this image here:

So there you have it – Twelfth Night Regency Style,and as perhaps Jane Austen celebrated it. Sadly the tradition of celebrating Twelfth Night complete with character and cakes  in England dwindled in the mid 19th century and now is virtually unknown. The Christmas Cake eaten in England today has more in common with the bride cakes of Jane Austen’s era (as we shall see in a few days time when our Emma season of posts begins) but I thought you might enjoy this excursion into this old celeration.

We have very little knowledge  of the food served at Randalls when Mr and Mrs Weston hold a Christmas Eve dinner for their surrogate family the  Wooodhouses and the Knightleys-and  Mr Elton in Chapters 14 and 15 of Emma. We are told that a saddle of lamb is included in the  fare:

With such sensations, Mr. Elton’s civilities were dreadfully ill-timed; but she had the comfort of appearing very polite, while feeling very cross — and of thinking that the rest of the visit could not possibly pass without bringing forward the same information again, or the substance of it, from the open-hearted Mr. Weston. So it proved; — for when happily released from Mr. Elton, and seated by Mr. Weston, at dinner, he made use of the very first interval in the cares of hospitality, the very first leisure from the saddle of mutton, to say to her —

“We want only two more to be just the right number. I should like to see two more here, — your pretty little friend, Miss Smith, and my son — and then I should say we were quite complete. I believe you did not hear me telling the others in the drawing-room that we are expecting Frank? I had a letter from him this morning, and he will be with us within a fortnight

So we are left somewhat to our own devises to imagine what else would be on the table.

Duncan Macdonald, in common with many of the writers of cookery books in this era,  gives seasonal bills of fare in his book ,The New London Family Cook(1809), suggesting dishes for four categories of tables: Table I- small family dinners of two courses, Table II -grander family dinners,Table III – a single course dinner, and  Table IV- very grand dinners of two courses.

As it is a special occasion therefore I have selected Table IV fare for December to suggest what might have been eaten at that special meal:

And here is the second course….

Most dinners of this era consisted of two courses, the second course  was a mixture of sweet and savoury dishes. On special occasionas a desert- fruits,nuts and sweetmeats- would have also been served in addition, and so I have decided that the gregarious and generous Mr Weston would have  served one too..Here are Macdonald’s suggestions for a small winter dessert:

One of the dishes served in MacDonald’s first course is a sirloin of beef. At Christmas ,especially in the north of England this was often served with hackin- a Christmas pudding cooked in an animal’s intestine or stomach-usualky a sheep or ox . Beef and goose were the favoured meats at Christmas in Jane Austen’s era, not turkey.

Spit roast meats were the glory of the English kitchen,and the English cooks’ ability to spit roast was envied throughout Europe. It is an art and a difficult one to master. Let’s see how it was done….as we did on Ivan’s Days Christmas Foods of the Past Course, earlier in the summer

First take your sirloin and thread it carefully on an iron spit to set before a good fire.

You have to carefully  negotiate the centre of the meat with the spit to ensure that as it turns around on the spit, it cooks evenly.

While it is cooking you can either be high-tech and  use, as Ivan Day does in his Georgian kitchen, a clockwork spit ,as modelled here by my friend ,Farah:

This magical labour  saving contraption had to be wound  every  30 minutes or so ,for the clockwork is unwound by a weighted chain( the weight is an old cannon ball,which you can just see hanging behind Farah’s shoulder); gravity  forced the mechanism to work. The sound of this ticking away and being re- wound is very atmospheric…

Or if you were in Bath you might have used a  turnspit dog….

Bath was the last place in England which  used these on a regular basis: the turnspit  dog was a special breed, now extinct…

Or if you had none of these devices then you would have turned the spit by hand. I’ve done it and its a very , very hard and skilled  job

and very hot as you can see. Here is my friend, Katherine Cahill author of Mrs Delays Menu’s Medicines and Manners working very hard here roasting a suckling pig in Ivan’s kitchen in the heat of the summer….


The beef did not need constant attention if the clockwork pit is turning it gently in front of the fire-freeing the cook for other tasks…

..but sometimes the beef  needed to be moved closer or further away from the heat in order that it cooked  evenly and did not burn.

While the  beef is slowly roasting in front of the fire it is time to make a hackin,which ,as I explained above was a form of plum or Christmas pudding  cooked in the intestines of animals- and, in the north of England, was served with the meat, not as a separate sweet pudding.Here we used lambs stomach….

They had to soak for a long time in water-which was changed  repeatedly in order to clean them and rid them of their slightly cheesy smell.

Here is the pudding stuffed stomach, wrapped in muslin ready to be cooked

.We also made puddings in the form of a ball , wrapped in a floured  pudding cloth- an art that has mostly been lost today:

and put one pudding in a mould..all variations that were in use in the long eighteenth century.

This is Macdonald’s recipe which is very similar to the one we used on our Christmas Past course:

Here are eggs, lemons, candied citrons,spices including nutmeg

Raisins, currants and a good Georgian glass of brandy:

The puddings were boiled or baked for hours before  they were ready to serve. Sometimes as here the puddings cooked in the intestines-known as Hackin -were sliced and placed under the roasting beef to soak up the  juices , dropping from the beef

The beef was here covered with cartridge paper to prevent the outside from burning….

We didn’t eat the hackin cooked in the lambs intestines, but we devoured our cannon ball-shaped pudding and sliced it to serve with our beautifully cooked beef.

Unconventional today, but delicious, I am happy to confirm.

Tomorrow..the sort of alcohol that made Mr Elton the type of man known as a U.I.B. (Unsafe In Coaches)….

This book-a copy of the 15th edition of  The Compleat Housewife originally published in 1753- has recently been published by the Chawton House Library, the first in a series of affordable reprints of  texts concerned with the domestic side of life in the long eighteenth century.All profits from this series of reprints will go directly towards the Chawton House Library acquisitions fund, helping them to improve and expand the library collection for generations of future readers. One can only approve …..

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Do allow me to tell you a little about its author-and be warned , for we only know a little about her…After Elizabeth Raffald , author of The Experienced English Housekeeper and Hannah Glasse, author of The Art of Cookery Eliza Smith(as she is usually called) is one of the best known female 18th century cookery writers.Very little is known about her life apart from the few hints she gives in the Preface to her book:

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(Note that the preface above was taken from my copy of her book NOT the copy under review here which is NOT a facsimile)

In it she claimed

that for the Space of Thirty years and upwards … I have been constantly employed in fashionable and noble Families, in which the Provisions ordered according to the following Directions, have had the general Approbation of such as have been at many noble entertainments’.

Basically then, she was an housekeeper. Probably, unlike others of her calling more fortunate than herself,-Mrs Raffald notably- she did not leave private domestic service to take up a career as a confectioner or to run a school of cookery.

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There are slight hints in her book of an association with the Netherlands, and Lord Montagu has suggested, in the introduction to a facsimile edition of her work published in 1968 that she may have worked at his home, Beaulieu Abbey in Hamsphire:

I was fascinated to find that several of the recipes contained were identical to those in manuscript form in my books. Although it is not known  in which great house Mrs E. Smith worked it is more than probable that some of these dishes were orignially created in one of my ancestors kitchens.

(See page 133, A short- title caltolgue of Household and Cookery Books published in the English Tongue 1701-1800 by Virginia Mclean.)

Eliza Smith’s book, though not the first recipe book to be published in England is of interest to historians because it was the first to be published in America-at Williamsburg. It does contain some interesting and innovative recipes. She was among the first cookery writer to include potatoes for savoury dishes, and she even inlcuded one recipe using tea.

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This was for a caudle, a hot drink made with ‘strong green tea’, white wine, grated nutmeg, and sugar, thickened with eggs like a custard. It soudns delicious.

Her book ends with a substantial section of medicinal recipes that she called ‘family receipts’. Some are identified with members of the gentry, but interestingly many more with members of the medical profession. Her knowledge of the technicalities of medicine went beyond what might be expected in a book of  typical‘family receipts’ of the time. She died in circa 1732  and her book lived on and eventually went into 18 editions thoughout the 18th century.

She appears to have disliked the fashion for cookery books written by grand men cooks,-cookes to Princes and Kings-as she felt they did not surender all their secrets to the reader thereby enabling them to sucesfuly replicate the recipes .Mrs Bennet, admirer of  grand French cooks would have surely been shocked…

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(Do note you can enlarge this section of Eliza Smith’s preface simply by clicking on it)

So why should a mid-18th century cookery book interest readers of Jane Austen? Because many in Jane Austen’s not particularly fashionable part of the world would have replied upon recipe books like Eliza Smith’s for  both their fare and for their medicine. As  Gillian Dow  of Chawton House Library and Southampton University writes, in the introduction to the book:

Austen’s letters to Cassandra are a rich source for piecing together female domesticity in the early nineteenth century. One can, however, have too much of a good thing: Austen famously writes, after a visit from her brother Edward to Chawton in September 1816,

‘Composition seems to me Impossible, with a head full of Mutton Joint and Rhubarb’.

Austen’s major preoccupation at Chawton was, after all, not the running of a household, but rather the publication, revision and composition of her six novels, all of which were sent out from Chawton to be published between 1811 and1818. In these classic works of English literature, the way in which the domestic informs the narrative intrigues a twenty-first century reader.

Would Betty’s sister, an excellent housemaid who works very well with her needle, have done well as a lady’s maid for the Dashwoods in Sense and Sensibility? Can we ever have such an intricate understanding of the variety and merits of strawberries as the party at Donwell Abbey in Emma? It is to the literature of Austen’s own period that we must turn for answers to these, and many other, vexing questions. For those who wish to understand Mr Woodhouse’s discourses in praise of gruel in Emma, Mrs Bennet’s anxiety when there is not a bit of fish to be got and Lizzie Bennet’s preference for a plain dish over a ragout in Pride and Prejudice, these reprints of rare texts from the Chawton House Library collection will have much to offer. What precisely were the ‘usual stock of accomplishments’ taught to Henrietta and Louisa Musgrove at school in Exeter in Persuasion, and why does Lydia gape at Mr Collins’s reading of Fordyce’s Sermons in Pride andPrejudice? Some answers will be found in Chawton House Library reprints of conduct literature. And for a true understanding of what it might mean for Fanny Price to be scorned by her better-dressed cousins for having only two sashes in Mansfield Park, for Henry Tilney to understand muslins particularly well in Northanger Abbey, and indeed just how Lucy Steele might have gone about trimming up a new bonnet, with pink ribbons and a feather, in Sense and Sensibility, instruction will come from reprints of works on eighteenth-century dress and fashion.

I couldn’t agree more: for that is my rasion d’etre here at this blog, after all ….

My only real gripe with the book is that is  not reproduced in facsimile: but it is being sold at a very reasonable price ( it is a hardback book and prettily produced) so  such minor quibbles should be kept in proportion.

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I really am looking forward to seeing what other texts will be published  in this series. The library at Chawton  is not only stocked with interesting fiction but has many, many  copies of recipe, conduct , instruction and gardening books. I know that every time I have visited it has made my mouth water with anticipation…. And I hope you find me bringing this to your attention worth while.

Continuing the Emma theme I thought you might like to know something about this book,and below is the frontispiece to the 1816 edition,complete with cook , hanging hams and a larder of food to be prepared and cooked.

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This is one of my favourite period cookery books.

Editions of Mrs Rundell’s work are not rare but some are hard to date ,and many of the later editions are  out of our time period (so caveat emptor). I have two editions of the work: one published in 1816 and one in 1819 .

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And they are becoming rather expensive  should any of you decide to buy an original copy. But you may be interested to know that the wonderful Persephone Books of London have recently issued a rather fine facsimile edition of the 1816  text of Mrs Rundell’s book.

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It is, like all their books, a paperback ,but it is as you can see beautifully produced , complete with bookmark which matches the end papers.

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Perspehone books have a wonderful reputation for re-published texts written by women which are interesting and have merit but which have fallen out of print. In the past they have concentrated on editions of books  published from the late 19th century onwards,and this, I believe, is the earliest book that they have reissued.

Not only are their books beautiful, but they are also bargains. This edition of Mrs Rundell’s recipe book is only £10. When I tell you I thought I had a bargain getting my 1816 edition for £170 you can clearly see just how reasonable is the price.

So why should Mrs Rundell interest those of us interested in Jane Austen and Emma in particular? I consider that of all her works  it is Emma that is most domestically focused. We learn a lot of the domestic detail of the lives of the people in this book. For example, we come to know exactly how Isabella Knightley under the influence no doubt of her father, prefers her gruel to be prepared:

This topic was discussed very happily, and others succeeded of similar moment, and passed away with similar harmony; but the evening did not close without a little return of agitation. The gruel came and supplied a great deal to be said — much praise and many comments — undoubting decision of its wholesomeness for every constitution, and pretty severe Philippics upon the many houses where it was never met with tolerable; but, unfortunately, among the failures which the daughter had to instance, the most recent, and therefore most prominent, was in her own cook at South End, a young woman hired for the time, who never had been able to understand what she meant by a basin of nice smooth gruel, thin, but not too thin. Often as she had wished for and ordered it, she had never been able to get any thing tolerable.

Chapter 12

That Mrs Weston keeps Turkies

Mrs. Weston’s poultry-house was robbed one night of all her turkies — evidently by the ingenuity of man.

Chapter 55

That Emma knows the best joints of pork to send to Miss Bates:

“It is a great pity that their circumstances should be so confined! a great pity indeed! and I have often wished — but it is so little one can venture to do — small, trifling presents, of any thing uncommon — Now we have killed a porker, and Emma thinks of sending them a loin or a leg; it is very small and delicate — Hartfield pork is not like any other pork — but still it is pork — and, my dear Emma, unless one could be sure of their making it into steaks, nicely fried, as our’s are fried, without the smallest grease, and not roast it, for no stomach can bear roast pork — I think we had better send the leg — do not you think so, my dear?”

“My dear papa, I sent the whole hind-quarter. I knew you would wish it. There will be the leg to be salted, you know, which is so very nice, and the loin to be dressed directly in any manner they like.”

Chapter 21

and which strawberries were in fashion from the ramblings of Mrs Elton:

The best fruit in England — every body’s favourite — always wholesome. These the finest beds and finest sorts. — Delightful to gather for one’s self — the only way of really enjoying them. Morning decidedly the best time — never tired — every sort good — hautboy infinitely superior — no comparison — the others hardly eatable — hautboys very scarce — Chili preferred — white wood finest flavour of all — price of strawberries in London — abundance about Bristol — Maple Grove — cultivation — beds when to be renewed — gardeners thinking exactly different — no general rule — gardeners never to be put out of their way — delicious fruit — only too rich to be eaten much of — inferior to cherries — currants more refreshing — only objection to gathering strawberries the stooping — glaring sun — tired to death — could bear it no longer — must go and sit in the shade.”

Chapter 42

If you want  to know more about this sort of domestic detail, -just how to keep Turkies in the early years of the 19th century for example, then Mrs Rundell’s book is for you. Her book was first published in 1806, but the edition of 1816 perfectly coincides with the publication of Emma (which though technically published in late 1815 is actually dated 1816 on the frontispiece of the first edition) And, importantly, Mrs Rundell was writing precisely for the class of people we meet in Highbury.

Let’s learn a little about the famous Mrs Rundell.

Mrs Rundell lived from 1745-1828. Born Maria Eliza Ketelby ,  she was the only child of Abel Ketelby, a barrister of the Middle Temple, who was  resident at Ludlow in  Shropshire. She married, on 30 December 1766, Thomas Rundell, who was a surgeon practising at Bath, where they then lived. It was running this household successfully for nearly 30 years that gave her the necessary experience to enable her to write her book. They raised two sons and three daughters.  In 1795 Thomas Rundell died, after a long and painful illness.

After her husband’s death Mrs Rundell lead a peripatetic sort of life, similar to that of Jane and Cassandra Austen, residing with relatives in Swansea in Wales, then with her married daughters and frequently in London at the home of her brother- in-law, Philip Rundell, the rich  partner of the famous family firm of goldsmiths, Rundell and Bridge, crown jewellers  to the Royal Family and to the astronomically rich.

Despairing of the  books on domestic management available in the early 19th century, Mrs Rundell began collating recipes and household tips in order to  be able to pass on her experience to her daughters.  She originally intended to make only four copies of her book: one for each of her daughters, and one for herself.

But John Murray the publisher, heard of the manuscripts existence (he was a neighbour of Phillip Rundell) and began negotiations to publish. We shall see later on in this post that Mrs Rundell, expert in matters of domesticity may well have done better at this time to have seen the charismatic Mr Murray through Jane Austen’s clear and business-like eyes( Murray was by 1815 also Jane Austen’s publisher):

Mr Murray’s Letter is come: he is a Rogue of course, but a civil one

(See: Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 17th october 1815)

Mrs Rundell’s manuscript was published in 1806 under the title of Domestic Cookery; a second amplified edition was completed at Ambleside where Mrs Rundell was living with her married daughter.  The book had an immediate success. 5000–10,000 copies were printed annually, and succeeding editions were enlarged and embellished by engravings. In truth, it became one of John Murray’s most valuable properties and in 1812, when he bought the lease of his premises in Albemarle Street, the copyright of Domestic Cookery formed part of the surety.

As the earliest manual of household management with any real pretensions to completeness, it called forth many imitations but I fear non surpassed Mrs Rundells clear, concise and above all sensible advice. She has a distinct voice- one she shared with  others writers of the period like Mrs Lybbe Powys-one which rings out clear and kind and never slip-shod.

The history between John Murray and Mrs Rundell is however not one of perfect concord.  In the entertaining introduction to the  Persephone books edition , Janet Morgan details what eventually descended into a sad tale of litigation ,counter claim and loss,which as a lawyer makes for sad but all too familiar reading for me. Don’t  presume business between freinds will always remain amicable and never sue unless you are absolutely forced are maxims that both Mrs Rundell and Murray should have followed. Both Mrs Rundell and Mr Murray would have benefited from some sound advice , a contract, and arbitration,IMHO and Mrs Rundell lost money she  could obviously not afford to lose.

However…..Mrs Rundell’s book is invaluable to those of us who try to imagine what life was really like  when Jane Austen was writing her books.The introduction ot her book, entitled “Miscellaneous Observations for the use of the Mistress of a Family” contains a veritable  goldmine of good sense and minute observation on many topics-servants, personal devotion, the education of girls etc., etc. This book would have been devoured by the Harriet Smiths of the world on marriage. perhaps it would have been Mrs Goddard’s parting gift to her….

So if, after reading Emma you need to know how  the good people of Highbury would prepare food for invalids, for the poor, or make a good gruel (just the way Mr Woodhouse would like it) or how to care for turkies which have not been stolen by the apparent ingenuity of man, then this book is for you .

My only gripe is that the end pages of this edition book have not been included. In the original copies they contain advertisements for John Murray’s other books: so the 1816  editions has these:(please do click on the illustrations to enlarge them and to see the detail!)


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and the 1819 edition these:

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I find it just perfect example of synchronicity to see editions of Emma,  Mansfield Park, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey advertised in these  books. It is sad that they were not included. Still…..That quibble apart I highly recommend this reasonably priced edition of a very useful book. However sadly her publishing history ended, Mrs Rundell’s legacy to us  is the early editions of her works . This facsimile edition make it very accessible to all, and I thank Persephone books for  their book  number 84. Is it too much to hope that more facsimile books of this era will follow? .

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