A beautifully produced book with quantities of illustrations from Cruikshank cartoons to Raeburn family portraits in oil. If you’re a fan of Jane’s and especially if you’re a devotee of Georgette Heyer, you will love paging through to find treasures like the pen-and-ink drawing of the 24 different styles of men’s hats to the full-size painting of Edward Villier Rippingille’s The Stage-Coach Breakfast which feels that it simply must have inspired the stop that interrupted Venetia’s hurried trip home to blackmail Dameral into marrying her in Heyer’s Venetia.
Jane Austen’s needle-case, made by her own hands, is seen here and delicately and delightfully illustrated it is, too, and on page 93 there is a cutting diagram for a man’s shirt organized with geometric precision to take advantage of every square inch of fabric. The cover art of the book is taken from William Blake’s portrait, Mrs. Q.:
This is thought to be the portrait Austen described as ‘Mrs Bingley…is exactly herself — size, shaped face, features, & sweetness; there never was a greater likeness…
Hessians, spencers, pelisses, round gowns, and dampened muslin underskirts–on a princess of the Blood Royal yet!–all present and accounted for in detail and placed into historical and literary context. There are some fun appendices, too, including a list of Jane Austen’s characters and a glossary, although I was annoyed when the latter didn’t include an Alexandrian cap. An Alexandrian cap, you will recall, is what Frederica wore to Charis’ coming-out ball at Alverstoke House and I have always wanted to know what a cap that could not make Frederica look in the least like a dowager looked like.
My only quibble with this book is that the font is so light in weight that it renders the captions difficult to read and the whole text hard on the eyes.