I am not ashamed to admit that I am addicted to books. I buy books the way some women buy shoes or some men buy fishing lures. I simply cannot resist a book, whether it be a beautiful book, an enjoyable book or a useful book. Now that dinner is over and the dishes done, I am perusing one of my favorites, a book that is both beautiful AND useful.
JANE AUSTEN’S TOWN AND COUNTRY STYLE, by Susan Watkins (1990: Rizzoli International Publications Inc., New York, NY) is a very satisfying book. Whether you are interested in Jane Austen and her writing, the history of the Regency period, or architecture and the decorative arts, this book is a treasure. Ms. Watkins helps us to see how people lived in Jane Austen’s time (admittedly the gentry class, but still…) by using illustrations (paintings, photographs, account records, fabrics, and more are all here) and by writing fascinating text. She uses characters and quotes from Austen’s novels, as well as from her letters, as lead-in’s to provide more detailed information about daily life at this time. The final chapter on entertaining includes photographs of food prepared based on period recipes. (If they taste as good as they look, it helps me to understand the Prince of Wales fondness for stuffing himself!) Interior and exterior design, gowns, table settings and more all appear here with a wealth of information in a friendly format with text that is as enjoyable to read as it is informative.
Ms. Watkins also provides a chronology of Jane Austen’s life, and a directory of Georgian design information sources, ranging from museums and houses, , to fabric and wallpaper purveyors, to societies, in England, the USA and some fashion/costume sources in France. Her bibliography is organized relative to the different subjects, and is very user friendly, which is a blessing if you want to look more deeply into one area or another.
This is one of my favorite go-to books, whether for reference, or just to enjoy a browse. Even though it is a bit older, it is a valuable addition to any Janeite’s library.