A Jane Austen Christmas by Carlo DeVito
Since Christmas is my favorite holiday, I was especially interested in reading more about how it was celebrated in the time of my favorite author. This non-fiction book is a delightful and informative look into the lives of the Austen family during six special Christmastides. From balls and assemblies to the publishing of Emma, we get a glimpse into some of the history of Jane and her family as well as the traditions of the times.
The book is divided into the six Christmastides plus an Epilogue and in this review I will break it down into parts with a sampling of what is contained in each.
Part One: 1786
This section consists of some background history of George Austen which I found both interesting and sad. The Twelve Days of Christmas, Twelfth Night and holiday decorations are discussed. Cousin Eliza is introduced and her flirtations with Henry and James begin.
Part Two: 1794
England is at war with France. Eliza shows up at Christmastide but this time as a widow. Jane’s father, George indulged her in her passion for writing. For her nineteenth birthday, he gave her a mahogany writing desk. There is more history revealed between Eliza, Henry and James.
Part Three: 1795
Jane is friends with Madame LeFroy. This was the Christmastide when Jane met and fell in love with Tom LeFroy. Some of her letters to Cassandra indicate her feelings during this time.
Part Four: 1802
Jane’s father retired and moved the family to Bath. Edward Austen (Knight) is adopted by Thomas Knight, who is the brother of George Austen. Jane and Cassy visit the Bigg sisters, where Jane, almost twenty-seven years old, receives a proposal from Harris Bigg-Wither. Some of the card games that are played during the festive season are explained, an interesting side note to the traditions of the times.
Part Five: 1809
George Austen died in 1805 and Jane, Cassandra and their mother have moved to Gay Street in Bath. Henry, Jane’s favorite brother, and Eliza join them for the holidays in Lyme Regis in 1803 and 1804. The Austen ladies receive an invitation to move to Chawton Cottage on October 24, 1808 where they actually move July 7, 1809. There are quite a few holiday and other recipes contained in this part. Most importantly, Jane renews her writing.
Part Six: 1815
Jane Austen is now a published author. This is the year of the great Battle of Waterloo and also the year that Emma is published in December. There was an article in a paper that came out on Jane’s birthday telling about the publication of Emma although it had not actually happened yet. Some of Jane’s last letters are included and her feelings about the dedication of Emma to the Prince Regent are revealed.
Epilogue: Two Christmases
Jane’s health is obviously deteriorating. More of her last letters are revealed. Northanger Abbey and Persuasion are published together with a touching ‘Biographical Notice of the Author’ by Henry. In Cassandra’s own copy of Persuasion, she marked a passage. In the margins of the book (at that passage) she had scribbled in her own hand, “Dear, dear Jane! This deserves to be written in letters of gold.” (Page188 of A Jane Austen Christmas)
I found A Jane Austen Christmas by Carlo DeVito to be well researched and fascinating. Some things I had read before and others I had not. For any fan of Jane Austen or the Regency period, this is a book to own and have readily available. I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more of how Christmastide was spent in the life and times of Jane Austen, from what was cooked to card games and dances. Add to that some history of Jane and her family, a few illustrations and a gorgeous book jacket on a hardcover book, you have a book worthy of a special place in any library.
Now to the delight of all you dear readers, there is a giveaway offered by the publishing coordinator of Cider Mill Press, Brittany Wason and author, Carlo DeVito. One hardcover book will be given away and the giveaway is US and Canada only. Please leave a comment with your contact info. The giveaway will end at 11:59, the 8th of October, 2015. Thanks for visiting and good luck in the giveaway.