Sunday, 5 June 2011

Jane Austen Quote Week 154

Here is the story that led me to this week's quote.

I have most recently looked into 'other cultures/lands' than my native America, because I stumbled across the movies "A Town Like Alice" (which I saw), "The Flame Trees of Thika" (at my library) both of which so intrigued me that I remembered a book recommended by a friend "Reading Lolita in Tehran" and then stumbling again across a book "Last Journey: a Father and Son in Wartime" (Iraq). Then I realized how little I knew of other places in this big, wide world of ours.

All that made me wonder what Jane might have written about other lands. Then I remembered this book I had: "Jane Austen's Brother Abroad - The Grand Tour Journals of Edward Austen" edited by our own Jon Spence of "Becoming Jane" fame. (My copy is autographed by Mr. Spence - you may turn green with envy now!). Here follows an excerpt from the first chapter dated August 5th, 1786 [Neuchatel to Berne]:


I walked out in the evening with my new English companions and amused myself in feeding with bread a couple of enormous bears which are kept in a ditch at the entrance of the town for no other reason than through custom and a bear being the arms of the canton. From thence we continued our walk about a mile out of town to be spectators at a ball consisting of the nobility and gentry of the place which was had in the open air under a silken canopy suspended to four pine trees. The fineness of the evening, the dress and the seeming gayety of the dancers, the trees crowded with lamps of different colors, a number of sky rockets which continued to enlighten the air above us, and in short the whole sight pleased me exceedingly and gave me a good opinion of the manners in which the Bernois amuse themselves.


The dress of the women of the lower rank in the Canton of Berne is very singular in the eyes of Englishmen. It consists of a short blue petticoat tied high up their waists and just reaching down to their knees. Their stockings are in general red. Their shift (for they wear not neck handkerchiefs) comes under their chin and buttons down their neck. Instead of stays they have a red cloth stomacher which comes up to the breast and is fasten'd round their waist with brass hooks and eyes. Their hair is combed back over their forehead and meets behind in two black ribbons, one of which is platted in to each plat, generally train on the ground. On the top of their heads they wear a plain cap of black velvet with broad lace of the same color. When they marry they no longer wear these long flowing plats of hair, but either cut them off or, what is more common, wear them in a kind of tress round the crown of their head, where they fasten them with a silver clasp. The men wear an odd sort of large puckered breeches, or rather trousers, which reach down to their feet, a short thick waistcoat, and frequently a small cloth hat, as do sometimes the women, when they go out.


All I can say to that is "My! how times have changed!" You know what would be really fun to do - have ladies from many different lands get together and talk about their lives to discover how each of us really live and our beliefs, etc. Well, I can still dream.

Yrs aff'ly,
Linda the Librarian

Pic: Cover to 'Jane Austen's Brother Abroad' from JASA


Icha said...

Nice find, Linda.

God, I'm so jealous at your signed copy!

Rachel said...

Me too!!