A Georgian Springtime
“Your lilacs are in leaf, ours are in bloom. I had a pleasant walk in Kensington Gardens on Sunday with Henry and Mr Tilson – everything was fresh and beautiful, ” wrote Jane Austen in a letter to her sister Cassandra in April 1811. After a long winter, Jane was clearly enjoying the warmer weather and new growth of springtime.
In Georgian times, as is true today, spring also marked a time of much bigger changes. In Sense and Sensibility, having moved into her new cottage, Mrs Dashwood optimistically declares, “perhaps in the spring, if I have plenty of money, as I dare say I shall, we may think about building.” On a practical level, it was a time for the lady of the house to air out the rooms, check houseware itineraries and address any staffing needs for the busy season ahead.
For the highest levels of society (commonly known as ‘the ton’ during the Regency period), February marked the beginning of one of the most important times of year, both politically and personally. The London season ran in line with the opening of the new parliamentary session until its June recess. The aristocracy were entertained with balls, galas, races and the theatre.
Most crucially, the season served to further the ‘marriage market’ for eligible young females central to the plot of Austen’s novels. Debutantes, dressed in their finest and educated in accomplishments such as dancing and playing the piano forte, were presented to society and the expectation was that they should find a husband with suitable wealth and status. For many of these debutantes, success was nothing short of a necessity. It is entirely appropriate therefore that in Persuasion, Captain Wentworth makes his second proposal to Anne Elliot in late February. Spring, a time of change, but also of renewal, lies ahead for them both.
We hope you too will enjoy the promise of this season in the warmer weeks ahead.