Category Archives: Jane Austen

The English Calendar Holidays

Cross of St. George


Terribly confusing to be reading along in Austen or Dickens or even Miss Read, and come into a passage describing something happening in Michaelmas Term.

Boxing Day is a little more familiar, but still kind of wispy or vague to most Americans.

Hence, some lists for quick reference. It may be helpful to others; certainly it will be for me.

Reference guide for older literature

Twelfth Night January 5
Epiphany January 6
Plough Monday First Monday after Epiphany
Hilary Term (law courts) Begins in January
Hilary Term (Cambridge) Begins in January
Hilary Term (Oxford) Begins in January
Candlemas February 2

Lady Day (a quarter day) March 25
Easter Term (Oxford)
Easter Term (Cambridge)
Easter In March or April
Easter Term (law courts) Begins after Easter
Ascension 40 days after Easter
Whitsunday (Pentecost) 50 days after Easter
May Day May 1

Midsummer(a quarter day) June 24
Trinity Term (law term) Begins after Whitsunday
Trinity Term (Oxford) Begins in June
Lammas (Loaf Mass) August 1

Michaelmas (a quarter day) September 29
Michaelmas Term Begins in October
Michaelmas Term Begins in November
All Hallows, All Saints November 1
All Souls November 2
Guy Fawkes Day November 5
Martinmas November 11

Christmas (a quarter day) December 25
Boxing Day Generally first week after Christmas
~~
“Term” refers to both academic and court sessions. Session was the preferred word after 1873 for the court.

Quarter days were the beginning day for a quarterly commitment for a labor contract or rent.

Modern Calendar Public Holidays
New Year’s Day January 1
Good Friday variable
Easter Monday variable
May Day Bank Holiday 1st Monday in May (formerly Whit Monday until 1971)
Spring Bank Holiday Last Monday in May
Late Summer Bank Holiday Last Monday in August
Christmas Day December 25
Boxing Day December 26

~~
St. Andrew’s Day, honoring the patron saint of Scotland is an official holiday in Scotland and is celebrated on November 30.

However, St. George’s Day (honoring the patron saint of England) is not an official bank holiday, but celebrated by patriotic English citizens. Wikipedia says: “The date of St George’s day changes when it is too close to Easter. According to the Church of England’s calendar, when St George’s Day falls between Palm Sunday and the Second Sunday of Easter inclusive, it is moved to the Monday after the Second Sunday of Easter.”

Information was gathered from the book “What Jane Austen At and Charles Dickens Knew” by Daniel Pool and this Wikipedia article on English Holidays.

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Filed under 1800s, Books, England, Holidays, Jane Austen, Jane Austen, Reference

Dancing Jane Austen Style


(Click on image to enlarge)

The dances described in “Pride and Prejudice” are described as being glorified square dances, “in which three or more couples, the men and women in separate lines some four feet apart, facing one another, danced their way through a series of figures.

A figure was merely a sequence of movements, like those in square dances in which men and ladies opposite one another advanced and then retreated, or locked arms and swung around, or do-si-doed (from the French dos-a-dos), or wove their way through the other dancers.”

“Quadrille – Originally a card game played by four people with forty cards that was the fashionable predecessor of whist. Also, the dance that became popular in the mid-century, which had five figures, or sets of movements. It was basically a slowed-down square dance, involving four couples who started from the four points of an imaginary diamond. Even couples who started from the four points of an imaginary diamond. Even by the mid-century the dance had slowed down practically to a walk. It was used as the lead-off dance at almost all dances and balls, the waltz and the polka following.”

The Sir Roger de Coverley, although common in Dickens literature was mentioned as early as 1695. It is defined as: “A jolly type of country dance used to finish off dances and popular at Christmas. It involved the first man and last lady and last man and first lady from two lines of parallel men and women swinging out and then back, then swinging round, then weaving their way through the lines and then promenading, etc. The dance is known in the United States as the Virginia Reel.”


Excerpts are from “What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew – from Fox Hunting to Whist~the Facts of Daily Life in 19th-Century England” by Daniel Pool (1993).

The illustration of The Five Positions of Dancing is from the book “Jane Austen” by Brian Wilkes.

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Jane Austen Era Hats and Bonnets


“The cartoonist’s view of a lady’s hat shop. Jane and her sister Cassandra spent much time shopping and keeping in touch with changes in fashion, and Jane’s letters record many shopping excursions.”


“Silk drawn or poke bonnet, ca. 1815 – 1840
Bonnets like this one were stylish up to 1840, although the brim’s shape varid somewhat. This bonnet measurs 13″ from back to front; the brim measures 8″ from the crown to it’s edge. $600 – 1,000.00”


“London head-dresses of around 1800. There is much talk of hats in Jane Austen’s letters. Top cenre in this illustration is the ‘Marmeluke cap’ which became fashionable after Nelson’s victory at the Battle of the Nile. Jane Austen’s letters tell us that she wore such a cap at Lord Portsmouth’s Ball. Victoria and Albert Museum, London.”

Ackerman's Repository fashion plate, 1818

Cartoonist’s drawing of a hat shop and the sketch of London headresses are from “Jane Austen” by Brian Wilks, 1978.

All other photos in this post are from “Vintage Hats & Bonnets 1770 – 1970” by Susan Langley, 1998.

Related posts:
Jane Austen Era Straw Bonnets
Annotated Progression of Ladies Fashion, 1785 – 1820

Fashion Contrasts: 1770 and 1815
Annotated Jane Austen

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Jane Austen Era Straw Bonnets

Fashion plate from Le Bon Genre, No. 28, "Atelier de Modistes"


“This charming plate depicts a milliner’s studio, ca. 1807, showing many fashionable hat styles. Note the straw poke bonnet on the girl in the pink gown, and lingerie cap on the girl to her right. A poke bonnet and a round straw bonnet rest on hatstands in the background. The girl on the extreme right is fashioning a turban on a wonderful milliner’s head; she wears a wonderful gold ornament in her hat. A wonderful “skimmer” is on the floor beside her chair.”

Wikipedia defines a Poke Bonnet as “a women’s bonnet (hat) in the shape of a hood, featuring a projecting rim on the front side, which would shade the face of the wearer.

The poke bonnet came into fashion at the beginning of the 19th century. It is called a poke bonnet because all of one’s hair could be poked inside it.”

Early 19th century Leghorn straw poke bonnet


Trim on this hat is turquoise silk ribbon. “The original lining is intact. Due to their large size and fragility, they were difficult to store so few survive. Dimensions 11″ end to brim horizontally, 9″ across the eyes, and 6 1/2″ brim edge to crown join. $800.00 – 1,200.”

…”straw poke bonnet of intricately woven bands of braided straw in an openwork design, similar to fashion plate No. 42 (above left). This hat retains its original silk lining and is trimmed with two sheer silk ribbons (original?). Dimensions 12″ back to front horizontally, 8″ width across the eyes, and approximately 11″ vertically from top to chin. There are several breaks in the straw edge. $400.00 – 800.00.”

Above left is wallpaper box (circa 1820). Value: $800.00 – 1,200.00.”

Now, that’s a great box (and I love old boxes), but twice the value of the hat??

Split straw bonnet, circa 1810.


This rare bonnet has “overlapping layers of straw, the fancy openwork, and long, slightly angled crown. The ribbons present are probably not original. The hand-stitching is clearly visible in the close-up. This bonnet came from Massachusetts. Dimensions: 14″ horizontally (side back to side front), approximately 8″ wide across the eyes, and 9” from top front to chin. $1,000 – 2,000.

The Kyoto Costume Institute’s wonderful book, Revolution in Fashion 1715 – 1815, pictures on page 99 a hat very similar to this one. It also resembles an early nineteenth century straw bonnet at the Rhode Island Historical Society, made by the famous Betsy Metcalf. In 1798, Betsy, at the age twelve, made what is believed to be the first documented American straw bonnet. She the ‘learned all who care to make bonnets,’ launching the American straw hatmaking industry.”

All photos and quotes in this post are from “Vintage Hats & Bonnets 1770-1970” by Susan Langley. These prices are only a guide and were set in 1998 when it was first published.

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Filed under 1800s, America, Antiques/Vintage, Books, Crafts, England, Fashion, Femininity, Hats, History, Jane Austen, Made in the U.S.A.

Annotated Progression of Ladies Fashion, 1785 – 1820

Having just read Persuasion by Jane Austen, I’m particularly interested in the details of that era. Today at the library I was able to check out several non-fiction books about her and early 19th century historical details.

However, this post features selections from my own copy of John Peacock’s broad treatise on fashion history.

These illustrations only roughly represent her years. She lived from 1775 to 1817; the pictures are for fashions from 1785 to 1820. Since Miss Austen completed the rough draft of Persuasion in 1817, her stylish characters would’ve worn dresses from the last sketch below.

(Clicking on a picture will enlarge it.)

Also, please note that they are intended to show the progression and details of fashion development. I think it helps to see how styles can sometimes ease from one to another. Other times they change radically.

1785 - 1798

1798 - 1800

1800 - 1811

Regency 1811 - 1820

Sketches are from John Peacock’s book: Costume 1066 – 1966, A Complete Guide to English Costume Design and History (copyrighted 1986). Mr. Peacock was the senior costume designer for BBC Television when the book was printed.

The calligraphy is by Rachel Yallop.

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Filed under 1700s, 1800s, Books, Clothing, Dresses (Including Formals), England, Ephemera, Fashion, Femininity, Hairstyles, Hats, History, Jane Austen, Shoes

Fashion Contrasts: 1770 and 1815

DK Costume Book by Rowland-Warne

Vintage Hats & Bonnets by Langley

Apparently it’s not a particularly modern practice for fashion designers to make yesterday’s clothing look dated and outmoded.

Even though the time gap (from the 1770s – 1815) shown here spans 45 years, the changes were huge. It’s doubtful that many women would be wearing the same apparel for all those years (despite the superior quality of fabric then as opposed to now), but it is possible that women who wore the 18th century styles when they were young may not have wanted to change with the times and would have looked extremely outdated even to a casual observer.

Albeit that we are discussing clothing, a comment about hair styles comes to mind. I read once that a hairdresser said he could tell within 5 years when a woman graduated from high school by her hair and makeup – no matter her age.

The difference in hair styles between 1770 and 1815 were at least as striking as the change in clothing: from massive powdered wigs to ringlets and close to the head buns.

Guild Hall, Windsor


The DK Costume book by L. Rowland-Warne was one that I bought in 1999 in Windsor. Every Sunday morning vendors were set up under the portico at the front of the Guild Hall – built around 1687 under the direction of Sir Thomas Fitz then Sir Christopher Wren. There were a couple of book sellers and I was able to get this costume book from one and a vintage Penguin Agatha Christie novel from another.

Vintage Hats & Bonnets by Susan Langley was bought on a trip to Massachusetts a few years ago. While Joe attended a class for his job, I drove over to Lowell and had an absolutely marvelous time at a hat exhibit at the American Textile Museum. Well worth the time if you’re ever in the area.

Fashion Museum, Bath


V & A


The V&A was the museum which Mr. Thackeray’s (Sidney Poitier) class went to for their field trip in To Sir, With Love. Remember the girls in their mini-skirts looking at the wide-skirted dresses?


At the Museum of Costume in Bath (in 2007 the name was changed to Fashion Museum) and then at the Fashion exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum, we saw the false hips that women wore under their dresses to make their hips so broad.

No, I can’t imagine it either.

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Annotated Jane Austen

In years past, I’ve read Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Northanger Abbey. Her other books (Emma, Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility) I’m familiar with only through films.

But this summer, I’m in kind of a Jane Austen mood, and so am attempting to read the volumes I’ve neglected and possibly re-read the others. I decided to begin with Persuasion.
Grapevine Public Library has several different copies, and I was pleased to find that one is annotated and illustrated.

Front of the bookmark


One of the drawbacks of reading on my own (not in a bookclub) is the inability to share and explore with others the joys and frustrations of a story or an author or a subject. The annotations relieve this somewhat.

Oh, how I’d love to be in a Cozy Bookclub.

In person.

With nice cups of tea and biscuits.

Back of the bookmark


For now I will have to content myself with my hand-made Jane Austen bookmark and lots of sidenotes.

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