Good afternoon everyone,
Last month I was honoured to be part of the double cover reveal of My Mr. Darcy & Your Mr. Bingley by Linda Beutler with the lovely Ceri from Babblings of a Bookworm, where she revealed the front cover and I revealed the back cover.
On the back cover there was a “bowl” that spiked everyone’s curiosity, and considering all the speculation that was created around its meaning, Linda Beutler considered it would be a good idea to clarify the story behind the mysterious bowl.
I’m happy to receive her today as my guest, and I hope you all find the story of the bowl entertaining! I confess I found both the story behind it, and the passage of the book where it is mentioned very amusing 🙂
Mr. Darcy, Bookends, and the Largest Wine Cistern Ever Made
By Linda Beutler, author of My Mr. Darcy & Your Mr. Bingley
Now there are three things you would not think likely to come together in the same title of a blog post, let alone contribute to the back cover of a novel. How this came to be is yet another illustration of the labyrinthine mole tunnels in which authors are lost while researching even the simplest facts.
In my case, the horrifying detail I was grappling with was that the word bookend—specifically its plural form—was not documented in English usage until 1908. Now why my editor chose to question the origin of “bookends” in this case, I know not. I was perusing my first title of Jane Austen Jan Fiction the other evening (The Red Chrysanthemum, Meryton Press 2013), and found “bookends” mentioned in it, so it got by her that time! But she and I have refined our list of non-Regency words over the now four novels we have worked through together; unearthing the sorry truth about bookends was bound to happen eventually.
Why was the use of “bookends” so important? Because of this little scene in Chapter 19, the unedited version:
Like unmatched bookends, Elizabeth and Jane pressed their hands to their brows and rested their elbows on the arms of the settee, with a bemused Georgiana between them. Although so unlike in form, Jane and Elizabeth Bennet did share some mannerisms that could only have developed so identically from years of providing sisterly solace.
Darcy thought the tableau would make a strange yet lovely painting, and would have given a great deal to understand the thoughts of the three ladies, Elizabeth most particularly.
There it is, simply that I needed something usually found in a pair but not necessarily matched. Candlesticks on a sideboard flanking a bowl wouldn’t work: in such cases the candlesticks were meant to match, and anyway the concept of a “console set” was something Wedgewood came up with in the 1880s.
A sort of obsessed delirium beset me, to which my husband will attest. I searched Regency era paintings online hoping to see bookends on the well-appointed shelves of some old aristocrat (bookends existed all right, they just weren’t called anything), and Darcy could then refer to the painting as something he owned. Oh no, nothing so simple was forthcoming. In the Regency, ones bookshelves were expected to be full.
A search of random Regency objet d’art began and turned up nothing at all after hours of searching. Occasionally my husband would walk by my steaming laptop, to see if I had any sanity left. Finally, I increased the search to Regency and Georgian objet d’art, and bingo! There appeared to my bleary eyes the magnificent creature, which was, for its time, the largest wine cistern ever created. And bless its heavy silver heart; the handles on the original did not match. I might have wept. I don’t remember.
The image was sent to my editor, Gail Warner, with no small amount of trepidation, along with a rewrite:
Like the two Graces forming the handles on Darcy’s silver punch bowl—figures of beauty captured in attitudes of woe—Elizabeth and Jane pressed their hands to their brows and rested their elbows on the curved arms of the settee, leaning away from the bemused Georgiana between them. Although somewhat unlike in form, Jane and Elizabeth Bennet did share traits that could only have developed so identically from years of providing sisterly solace.
Darcy thought the tableau would make a strange yet lovely painting, and he would have given a great deal to understand the thoughts of the three ladies, Elizabeth most particularly.
Sighs of relief were heard far and wide. My husband had a home-cooked meal again. But now for the disclaimer: the handles of the object in question (which is actually not a punch bowl) were intoxicated satyrs, not Graces in attitudes of woe. Careful examination of the original also reveals the handles to be so very mismatched as to be of the opposite sex! But we had come this far; we could no longer quibble.
Once the image was sent to the always inventive artist Janet Taylor, who was instantly besotted, it was small work for her to massage the image into exactly what was needed. There was never a question of anything else being on the back cover once Janet saw the picture. It is a supremely Darcy-esque item, especially with those lurking panthers at the base. So manly! Problem solved without losing the little word picture in Darcy’s head.
The real history is as fantastic as the item itself. Known as the Jerningham Wine Cooler (with its own Wikipedia page), it was commissioned in 1734 by London goldsmith and banker Henry Jernagan for a client with a name right out of P.G. Wodehouse, Littleton Poyntz Meynell. Mr. Meynell wanted to own the largest wine cistern (cooler) ever made. It took a team of artists four years to make, and the solid silver finished product weighed 8,000 ounces (500 lbs. or 226.79 kilos). For reasons not explained, when the time came to pay-up, Jernagan could not, and instead put it up for a lottery to raise the funds. The winner was Major William Battine, and he sold it to Grand Duchess Anna Leopoldovna of Russia. By 1743 the wine cooler was ensconced in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg where it is still on display.
Roughly 200 “electrotype” copies have been made since 1884 (silver plated over a copper core). If you want to own the only sterling silver copy ever made—much lighter than the original at only 400 lbs.—you may contact https://estatesilver.com of New York, and it will be yours for $1,600,000.00 (hope they include shipping in that sum). It must be the establishment’s pride and joy, because the gloriously mismatched handles are their website banner.
Naturally some Darcy backstory must be supplied too. Mr. Darcy’s grandfather was the winner of the original “punchbowl.” Known for his luck, he had purchased £20 worth of lottery tickets. While the family always fancied it for the ballroom at Pemberley, it was never moved from Darcy House in London. Although rarely used, our Mr. Darcy was fond of it, and had a glass case made to prevent tarnishing. It was last used for the coming out balls of the daughters of Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy, some 25 years after the end of My Mr. Darcy & Your Mr. Bingley.
Thank you so much for visiting us today Linda, and for sharing this story with us! I believe you have now satisfied our curiosity 🙂
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10 April Austenesque Reviews; Vignette, Giveaway
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20 April Babblings of a Bookworm; Vignette, Giveaway