Jane Austen and Food

Jane Austen and Food

by Maggie Lane

Why is it so appropriate that the scene of Emma's disgrace should be a picnic, and how do the different styles of housekeeping in Mansfield Park engage with the social issues of the day?While Jane Austen does not luxuriate in cataloguing meals in the way of Victorian novelists, food in fact plays a vital part in her novels.

The attitudes of her characters to eating, to housekeeping and to hospitality are important indicators of their moral worth.

This culminates in the artistic triumph of Emma, in which repeated references to food not only contribute to the solidity of her imagined world, but provide an extended metaphor for the interdependence of a community.In this original, lively and well-researched book, Maggie Lane not only offers a fresh perspective on the novels, but illuminates a fascinating period of food history, as England stood on the brink of urbanisation, middle-class luxury, and change in the role of women.

Ranging over topics from greed and gender to mealtimes and manners, and drawing on the novels, letters and Austen family papers, she also discusses Jane Austen's own ambivalent attitude to the provision and enjoyment of food.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Nonfiction
  • Rating: 3.82
  • Pages: 224
  • Publish Date: August 2nd 2003 by Bloomsbury Academic
  • Isbn10: 1852851244
  • Isbn13: 9781852851248

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It's true Maggie Lane explains things I always wondered about, like why General Tilney was upset about "the butter being oiled" (whatever that meant) or how Miss Bates baked her apples twice (wouldn't you just bake them until they were done?). Lane also gives detailed information about things I didn't know enough to wonder about. The meaning of the word "morning" in Austen's time, for instance. Lane writes about Regency food; if you want to learn how to actually prepare such food, you'll need a copy of Hannah Glasse's 1747 The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, or Mrs. Rundell's A New System of Domestic Cookery.

This book does an excellent job at detailing and explaining all the mentions of food from both Austen herself, and in the novels. I almost wish it was broken into Jan Austen's life, and then the novels themselves.

The first three chapters of this book were interesting and informative, because they focussed on the realities of Austen's time and place and life, and the part played by food therein. Lane's insistence that Austen consciously incorporated the emphasis and symbolism of food into her work is redolent of university literature courses which define and trace leitmotifs that the original authors were unaware of, as if the authors had consciously sat down to write to a hidden agenda. This is particulary evident in the emphasis on food in Emma; not content with giving an entire chapter to this idea, it permeates the text to an exhausting degree.

Maggie Lane how food is portrayed in Jane Austen's novels and juvenilia in this fascinating book. If you enjoy Jane Austen's novels and like reading about the more minor aspects of her writing then you may enjoy this book.

She just far enough away for us to need some explanation of some of the things that her contemporary readers wouldn't have thought twice about and this is one of the things that this book does very well. There is also the significance of female characters as 'housekeeper' and what this says about them.

Maggie Lane, an English author of several books about Jane Austen and her time, has examined the books to find out Jane Austens attitude to food and how it affects the social sphere and customs of her characters. Her mother catered for this big family, and we can imagine the logistic of preparing things to eat every day, which must have been full time work. Although Jane Austen did not herself care to much about this duty (it was taken over by her sister Cassandra when her mother died) she nevertheless had an idea of how the food issue worked. A world that seemed to consist of a leisurely life, with visits, walks, dinners and teas. Maggie Lane gives a general idea of the overall social customs of England and the different class traditions at the time, and compare it to Jane Austens writing. This shows us that Jane Austen really knew what she was writing about, and a lot of the references to food as based on real life scenarios. Maggie Lane has managed to cover all references to food there are in the books, and for someone who does not indulge in food and eating, there are a lot. It is not only Jane Austens own experience and writing we meet here, but it is compared with the social customs at the time, which makes it a very rich book. If you are interested in food and its traditions, Jane Austen, social history, and customs during this era, this is a book for you. Jane Austen and Food Maggie Lane Endeavour Press Ltd.