Thursday, March 25, 2010

Happy Lady-Day!

Today, March 25, is what Jane Austen and her Regency contemporaries knew as "Lady-Day." In the Church of England calendar, it was (and still is) the feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary--that is, the day when the Angel Gabriel visited Mary to tell her that she was to become the mother of Christ. In the Regency calendar, it was one of the four "quarter days" on which important business was transacted. In particular--as Co-Coordinator Lisa Brown explained in Rochester on March 20, and will explain again in Binghamton on April 10--it was the day of the agricultural new year, and accordingly the day on which farm workers either renewed their contracts with their employers or sought new ones.

It was also the date of at least one important financial transaction in the Austen family. On December 9, 1808, Jane Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra that "my Uncle and Aunt [James and Jane Leigh Perrot, Mrs. George Austen's brother and sister-in-law] are going to allow James [the oldest Austen son] 100 pounds a year....The Hundred a year begins next Ladyday." In retrospect, we might well ask ourselves whether the wealthy Leigh Perrots couldn't have allotted the 100 pounds a year to Jane and Cassandra, who arguably needed the money even more than James and his family. However, as Jane herself expressed no open resentment on the occasion, let us as her 21st-century admirers try not to express any.

And if you'd like to learn more about the Regency "quarter days" and "cross-quarter days," do come to the JASNA Syracuse meeting at RiverRead Books, 5 Court St., Binghamton, on Saturday, April 10, at 2:00 PM. Regency history? Information about joining JASNA? Live English country dance music? The company of your fellow Janeites? Who could resist?

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