My husband and I managed to watch our way through the entirety of the BBC Pride and Prejudice mini-series (1995) last week. Amazingly, neither of us saw it when it was on TV (though I recall my friends and sister being very keen on it), and the last time I read P&P was so many years ago that I couldn’t remember the plot in any detail. Consequently each episode saw us agog to know what happened next.
And not only agog about the unfolding story either – well, at least not in my case. While I readily admit to swooning over Mr Darcy by the end (sigh!!), I also became – quite naturally, I would argue - rather obsessed with checking out the teawares that featured in different scenes. So many gorgeous patterns – and honestly, just as swoon-worthy as Mr Darcy from my perspective (although I am willing to recognise that not everyone may share this point of view).
Where else to start my search but with the omniscient Google – but even I was surprised how quickly a search for ‘china pattern bbc pride and prejudice’ returned me exactly the results I was looking for. Check out this article about the china pattern used at Longbourn, and this one about the ones at Netherfield and elsewhere – both from the highly informative Jane Austen’s World blog.
How I would love to have a single teacup – an entire set would definitely be too much to hope for – in the Cornelia Green pattern by Mottahedeh as used at Longbourn! Well, perhaps I can always keep an eye on eBay.
But what kind of tea would Jane Austen – and her characters – be drinking? That early in the 19th century it would almost certainly have been China tea – tea gardens did not really get underway in Assam, India, until after 1825, so The Story of Tea informs me. During Austen’s period, tea was generally drunk after dinner (which was usually served around 3 or 4 pm), and not as ‘afternoon tea’ – that only became popular a little later in the 1800s.
There is a great deal of helpful background on daily life in England during the 19th century (from servants, to ‘the season’, to food, clothing and social calls) in the entertaining book by Daniel Pool, What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew, which I recently acquired from the library. Alas, it contains nowhere near as much detail as I would like about tea; I shall have to explore its extensive bibliography to find out more. Indeed, I am not sure how I shall resist reference works with such arresting titles as this: Movable Feasts: A reconnaissance of the origins and consequences of fluctuations in meal-times, with special attention to the introduction of luncheon and afternoon tea, by Arnold Palmer, 1952. Looks like the kind of thing I could really snuggle up with – so long as I also had a cup of tea, of course.