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|Townies Ideas and Conspicuous Consumption.
Written by JulieW
(4/24/2008 9:35 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Seperate candles for card tables?, penned by MarianneR
Ms Elton is shwoing off, with her ideas of card parties. Her ideal card party is based upon the ones she had attended in Bath. She is shocked at the provinciality of Highbury society. She can tell them all what to do, for only she knows what true style is, as only she has seen it in operation ...at Bath.
This remember in a comunity where the nearet thing to a smart gambling den is the local whist club made up of such high living people as Mr Perry ;-)
Let's remind ourselves of exactly what she says:
She would soon show these country bumpkins how everything ought to be arranged...ice(,ice was only available in the country to those who had access to an ice house, possibly Mr Woodhouse and Mr Knightley,but that would be it, whereas in the town it could be brought from smart confectioners shops,like Mollands but probably not easily obtained in Highbury), candles(wax, of course- expensive things in those days when candles were taxed),extra servants , and most insluting of all.... the unbroken packs of cards
Why in the friendly community that is Highbury would that be thought necessary?
If you consider it, though it might be "smart" its also a bit insulting: the only people with whom the Eltons are going to play cards are , on the whole, the good and honest inhabitants of Highbury and not one of them is renowned for being a card shark. The Westons,The Bates's, Mr Knightley,Mr Perry The Coxes and Coles........?
In aristocratic circles where people might not be intimately known to each other in large parties, or indeed, reputations may be too well known ,then that situation warranted new decks of cards being purchased for each card party, if one was suspicious of the morals/reputation of an attendee where gaming was concerned ; or at public assemblies such as at Bath, another situation where you could possibly be mixing with strangers/and or card sharks, then yes, having new packs was probably a very wise precaution. But to do it in your own home, where you are playing cards with your intimate circle....?
It indicates not only out of place smartness but a lack of trust in ones guests, which is typical of Mrs Elton and her ilk.
I'll bet they don't use new unbroken packs at Hartfield when Mrs Goddard and Miss Bates arrive for their games of quadrille ;-)
And as to the hired waiters: they would be from The Crown ,no doubt, and no they would NOT have been slaves, but employees. The Somerset Case, as decided by Lord Mansfield didn't , in strict legal theory, end the right of slave owners to own slaves even if they were in Britain,but most people thought it did (and that was the important point about it,IMHO),as evidenced by this (rather long) extract from Thomas Clarkson's History of the Abolition of the Slave Trade:
But soon after the work just mentioned was out, and when Mr. Sharp was better prepared, a third case occurred. This happened in the year 1770. Robert Stapylton, who lived at Chelsea, in conjunction with John Malony and Edward Armstrong, two watermen, seized the person of Thomas Lewis, an African slave, in a dark night, and dragged him to a boat lying in the Thames; they then gagged him, and tied him with a cord, and rowed him down to a ship, and put him on board to be sold as a slave in Jamaica. This base action took place near the garden of Mrs. Banks, the mother of the present Sir Joseph Banks. Lewis, it appears, on being seized, screamed violently. The servants of Mrs. Banks, who heard his cries, ran to his assistance, but the boat was gone. On informing their mistress of what had happened, she sent for Mr. Sharp, who began now to be known as the friend of the helpless Africans, and professed her willingness to incur the expense of bringing the delinquents to justice. Mr. Sharp, with some difficulty, procured a habeas corpus, in consequence of which Lewis was brought from Gravesend just as the vessel was on the point of sailing. An action was then commenced against Stapylton, who defended himself, on the plea, “That Lewis belonged to him as his slave.” In the course of the trial, Mr. Dunning, who was counsel for Lewis, paid Mr. Sharp a handsome compliment, for he held in his hand Mr. Sharp’s book on the injustice and dangerous tendency of tolerating slavery in England, while he was pleading; and in his address to the jury he spoke and acted thus: “I shall submit to you,” says Mr. Dunning, “what my ideas are upon such evidence, reserving to myself an opportunity of discussing it more particularly, and reserving to myself a right to insist upon a position, which I will maintain (and here he held up the book to the notice of those present) in any place and in any court of the kingdom, that our laws admit of no such property* .” The result of the trial was, that the jury pronounced the plaintiff not to have been the property of the defendant, several of them crying out “No property, no property.”
She is just showing off, that vulgar Mrs Elton.
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