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Rated: E · Non-fiction · History · #2247651
People in Jane Austen's time enjoyed the Easter holidays as much as we do.
It made sense for Easter to be a period of travel as in spring the drier conditions on the roads made travel easier than in winter. Regency people were understandably eager to visit friends and relatives further afield after travel had been difficult during winter. Even in spring, bad weather could make travel difficult. In a letter to her sister Cassandra written as late in spring as Friday the 17th of May 1799, Jane Austen mentions that the ‘wet & dirty’ roads made travel unpleasant and her trunk containing her ‘best gown’ was delayed travelling to Bath.

Bath was a popular destination for spring visits. In Regency times it was booming as a fashionable spa town where people went to drink the warm, mineral rich spring water as a cure for many ailments, or simply as a general tonic. In her letters, Jane mentions accompanying her uncle to take a glass of the famous spring water from the Pump Rooms (letter to Cassandra written Tuesday 5th May 1801).

Jane mentioned in a letter to Cassandra written the 5th to the 8th March 1814 that their brother Henry planned to visit his brother’s country estate at Godmersham ‘for a few days before Easter.’

Easter was also a time when new furnishings for houses were ordered and delivered, as Jane comments on in Mansfield Park.

Renovations and building work were also typically begun in spring. In Sense and Sensibility, Mrs. Dashwood considers altering Barton Cottage in spring. As an example of Willoghby’s character, he disapproves of the idea of renovating the quaint but uncomfortable cottage.

Just as in modern times, Easter was a time when well-to-do children had a holiday from school work. In a letter written to Cassandra from Sunday 21st to Tuesday the 23rd of April 1805, Jane commented that schoolboy ‘Bickerton has been at home for the Easter Holidays, & returns tomorrow.’ Jane gives a good account of him and he is fond of both her and Cassandra. His siblings have ‘Masters & Mistresses’ with the girls learning at home, as was common at the time.

Unlike little Henry Knightley who plays outside flying his kite with Mr Weston in Emma, young Fanny Price in Mansfield Park spent her Easter Holidays less happily learning to ride, which terrified her.



Sources:



Jane Austen’s letters, collected and edited by Deirdre Le Faye: https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Jane_Austen_s_Letters.html?id=3gDP8kq561w...



Vic (2021) Easter in Jane Austen’s Day: a pastiche of information, Jane Austen’s World blog https://janeaustensworld.com/2021/04/04/easter-in-jane-austens-day-a-pastiche-of...



Roy and Lesley Adkins (2013) Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England, Abacus

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