Jane Austen's Christmas: The Festive Season in Georgian England by Maria Hubert
From the almost dismissive references in Jane Austen's novels, one could be forgiven for thinking that Christmas in Georgian England was a somewhat dismal affair. To the contrary, Miss Austen would have known elaborate house parties and fancy dress balls. The Mummers would surely have attended her home in Hampshire, as would the Waits, encouraging "good Christians" to "awake" on Christmas morning. She is also known to have enjoyed Christmas pudding, still then a fairly new dish, loved by the Georgian monarchy and copied by many families at the time. Readers will discover the little-known story of how "Emma" came to be dedicated to the Prince Regent, and how the Austen family entertainment was almost ruined one year because of the prudishness of a country cousin. The elaborate Christmas seasons enjoyed by Jane's sisters at brother Edward's home in Kent contrast with those of the Georgian parson, Rev William Holland, among whose parishioners Christmas was but a poor affair. In this text, readers can experience Christmas in the later Georgian period, as described by many of Austen's contemporaries, including Robert Southey, John Clare and Sir Walter Scott; and play the very games and charades that the Austens themselves enjoyed and wrote. Or try some of the authentic recipes from her own kitchen - perhaps the festive rice pudding, a gloriously rich dessert. And read poems and songs of the festive season, and learn of parlour theatricals in the Christmas holidays. The observations of an Englishman's Christmas as seen through the eyes of a contemporary American writer, Washington Irving, provide an eye-witness account of how an outsider viewed a Georgian Christmas. Contemporary engravings and sketches illustrate the customs and traditions of the day, alongside portraits of the Austen family.