On Saturday December 15th, 11 members met to celebrate the end of the year, Christmas and, of course, Jane Austen’s birthday, at a progressive lunch featuring food, wine and recipes from the Regency Era.
It was indeed a festive occasion with members drinking a first toast to Jane with Veuve Clicquot, an inspired choice as the vineyard was established in 1772. This was followed by a 2002 Vintage Moet Chandon, provided by the same generous but non-drinking member! One generous, thoughtful member presented everyone with a gold wrapped example of a sequel to one of Jane Austen’s novels. The titles alone produced laughter and speculation. For instance, my gift was Old Friends and New Fancies by Sybil G. Brinton, published in 1913, which “intertwines the lives of the most beloved characters from all six Austen novel’s with new characters of the authors devising”.
The lunch that followed included savoury pies, Martha Lloyd’s chicken curry, salamagundy, buttered prawns and salads. A short drive followed to another members house and dessert of berries, lemon pie, ratafia biscuits and another toast to Jane in Constantia, specially sourced by a member for the occasion. Constantia was recommended to Elinor by Mrs Jennings for “its healing powers on a disappointed heart”.
Tea and coffee was followed by a viewing of Jane Austen : The Unseen Portrait in which Dr Paula Byrne sets out to prove, by working with various experts, including art historians, fashion experts and forensic analysts, that the portrait her husband bought for her for 2000pounds is a lost portrait of Jane Austen.
The portrait has generated considerable debate and we were all intrigued by the possibility that this could be Jane Austen. I suspect that most of us agreed with Deirdre Le Faye that it is unlikely, although the two other experts on the program, Professor Kathryn Sutherland of Oxford University and Professor Claudia Johnson of Princeton were more inclined to support Paula Byrne’s hypothesis.
It was, therefore, a memorable event, a most appropriate way to end the year with good food, good wine, convivial company and an ongoing debate sure to produce spirited discussion in 2013.
As Jane Austen said, through Anne Elliot, “My idea of good company is the company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company”.