Mr. Darcy, Bookends, and the Largest Wine Cistern Ever Made

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 🙂

I would like to remind my readers that My Mr. Darcy & Your Mr. Bingley is available for sale at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk, and that the blog tour is about to begin! Don’t miss it 🙂

 

 5 April  My Jane Austen Book Club; Vignette, Giveaway

 6 April  So little time…; Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway

 7 April  Half Agony, Half Hope; Vignette

 8 April  Obsessed with Mr. Darcy; Review, Giveaway

 9 April  My Vices and Weaknesses; Character Interview, Excerpt, Giveaway

10 April  Austenesque Reviews; Vignette, Giveaway

11 April  Tomorrow is Another Day; Review, Giveaway

12 April  Savvy Verse and Wit; Guest Post, Giveaway  

13 April  Just Jane 1813; Review, Giveaway

14 April  A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life; Guest Post

15 April  Interests of a Jane Austen Girl; Character Interview, Excerpt, Giveaway

17 April  From Pemberley to Milton; Review, Giveaway

18 April  Diary of an Eccentric; Review, Giveaway

19 April  Darcyholic Diversions; Author Interview, Giveaway

20 April  Babblings of a Bookworm; Vignette, Giveaway

 

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26 Comments

Filed under JAFF

26 responses to “Mr. Darcy, Bookends, and the Largest Wine Cistern Ever Made

  1. J. W. Garrett

    Wow! What a delightful story on how you came to the back cover art. Man, I want that bowl… yeah, right, kidding. I have not completely lost my mind… although there is still some question regarding that. Congratulations on this book and best wishes and much success in its launch.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for your kind comment. Honestly, the thing that amazes me most about the Jerningham Wine Cistern is that some other author of Regency or Georgian stories didn’t stumble upon it first! This really is a Catherine Curzon sort of story of early Georgian excess. I hope you’ll check in on the blog tour soon, and perhaps win a copy of MMD&YMB!

      Like

  2. Jan Hahn

    What an interesting back cover backstory! I enjoyed every word. Congratulations on your new book, Linda, and here’s wishing you great success!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Mary

    Wow!! To think of all the blood,sweat and tears,not to mind the frantic research and the many glasses of wine that must have been drunk in celebration at having finally found the wine cistern!!!

    I can almost sense the collective sigh of relief from here!!!

    Well done to all concerned!!! 😌

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Glynis

    I can’t believe the research some authors do to make their stories accurate to the time period. Love this story, I’m so glad Linda found something even if it did turn out to be not ideal. I had a spending spree yesterday and bought a few books, this was one of them so now I just need to find the time to read them all (along with the ones I was lucky enough to win recently 😊) Thanks for this post Rita

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was just saying that to Mary, one single word may mean a lot of working hours for an author. It is amazing and something we sometimes forget. Writing a book is not an easy task! Have fun reading your new purchases Glynis :)))

      Like

    • There was a certain amount of me being a bulldog with an old shoe. I was not letting it go. Even my editor wasn’t aware how much I was sweating bullets until I found the wine cistern, and we agreed it would work. Then is was champagne corks popping and mopping my brow with relief.

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  5. I love this post! The story behind the wine cistern/bookends is fascinating. I can vividly picture you searching endlessly, Linda. The story of the actual wine cistern is interesting too! To have something like that made and then not be able to have it would be such a disappointment. Can you imagine what the original cost would have been and what that would be in our time? I really cannot!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I neglected to mention lost sleep, but assumed that would be taken as a given! It took about three days of searching every spare minute, and I’m sure those I work with noticed I was more than usually vacant. But at least the research had a happy ending, and so does the novel!

      Liked by 1 person

      • You really need to be very persistent to search for so long! I’m glad that at least your search had an happy ending Lind, and a good story to share with us 🙂

        Like

  6. I love your posts, Linda, because of the research you do. There is no way that I would have picked up about bookends, or the history of this lovely object either. And the name of the man who commissioned it?! Good grief, if I’d read that name in a novel I’d have thought it ridiculous! Thank you so much for all your hours of research.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Ceri, and I hope folks will join you and me at the end of the My Mr. Darcy & Your Mr. Bingley blog tour. You and Rita got us started on the journey, and you’ll be on hand for the caboose of the train!

      P.s. And yes, that name is sublimely ridiculous. My next project is a Jane Austen/P.G. Wodehouse mash-up, and you may see this name again!

      Like

  7. Carole in Canada

    Haha! Fabulous story for a fabulous piece! Yes, I can well imagine a Catherine Curzon Georgian story on the excess at that time! I do like that it was eventually used for the debuts of the Darcy daughters!

    Congratulations to you, Janet and the team for a fabulous cover and the research behind it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carole, It does take a team. Between my editor-beyond-price Gail Warner, and artist Janet Taylor, we made a cover that suits the story very well. I had no particular interest in visiting Russia before, but now I am afraid a visit to the Hermitage Museum might be on my bucket list!

      Like

  8. Fascinating insight into the process that produces our beloved stories, both text and images. And what a story about the cooler! Enjoyed the links to the silver shop; it has been my longtime dream to own an antique chased silver tipping kettle. Guess I’d better start playing the lottery! Looking forward to reading this one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Playing the lottery worked for Major Battine in 1737, so it could certainly work for you! I couldn’t find any mention about what he sold it for, but it must have been a fabulous sum for the time. Oh, the things humans do for sparkling metal! Thanks, JanisB!

      Like

  9. I have to confess I didn’t pick up bookends in The Red Chrysanthemum either and I’m usually pretty good at spotting non-Regency words. Who would’ve thought that a little thing like that would drive you so crazy for all those days, trying to work it out right? Thank goodness what you found turned out so spectacularly well. Congratulations on finding it and also for they way you’ve written it into your book. It’s a magnificent and substantial piece. I just had to look up it’s actual dimensions on the Estate Silver website: 54″ wide, 49″ tall and 36″ deep, so presumably it would have stood on the floor rather than on a table.
    Mind you, in your shoes, I’d never get ANY writing done as I’d always be getting distracted by those research rabbit holes. Looking forward to following the blog tour and I’m wondering if we’ll find out more about the front cover, too?
    Good luck with the launch!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anji, thanks for your thoughtful comment. As I’ve said, I am amazed this stunning item isn’t better known. Here’s a plot bunny: following it down its nearly 300 years, from fictional owner to fictional owner. It could transcend what I did with Jane Austen, even passing to the hands of the characters of other famous authors. Or imagine servants in Jo Baker’s Longbourn having to polish the thing, as witnessed by Sarah when she goes to London with Elizabeth Bennet! I’d also like to make sure that the JAFF author Steph Nixon gets a look at it. Her cursed Darcy shape shifts to a panther from time to time!
      Yes, as the blog tour progresses, you’ll be hearing from Jane, partly in self defense, and partly in praise of men in spectacles!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Sheila L. Majczan

    Just catching up on my reading of blogs…again. I have read the book, and posted a review. Love the story about the wine cistern. Can’t imagine the effort it took to move it, making sure it was not scratched or dented or, Heaven Forbid, dropped. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

  11. Dung

    Love the backstory and evolution of that paragraph. If you didn’t tell me that bookend didn’t exist back then I wouldn’t have known! Love learning about history especially when it involves P&P characters!

    Liked by 1 person

    • What I’d like to know, and even she cannot explain it, is why my editor thought to question “bookends” at all. There are some super-sticklers for anachronistic word use where I usually post my stories before publishing, and even they didn’t catch it. It was fate that brought me to the Jerningham Wine Cooler—fate!

      Like

    • The same applies to me Dung, I would never have known, and it amazes me how much work authors need to invest in these “small” details.

      Like

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