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|Handkerchiefs & Generosity
Written by Robbin
(1/28/2010 1:48 p.m.)
This is a small thing but the mention of shirt handkerchief above caught my eye since I usually think of hankies for noses or shirt pockets. (:D) In A Dictionary of the English Language (1824) Dr. Johnson defines handkerchief as “a piece of silk or linen used to wipe the face, or cover the neck”. I found a description of handkerchiefs (without the “shirt” again) by JulieW in the L&T archives dated 1 October 2003:
As I understand it, throughout the 18th century- up till about 1790 (as speculated by Anne Buck in her fascinating book "Dress in Eighteenth Century England") pieces of fabric draped around the neck were indeed called handkershiefs. They could be very elaborate or very plain, but that's what they were called. Often they were made of the same fabric to match sleeve rufles and aprons.
You can view JulieW’s post and the thread in which it resides at: http://www.pemberley.com/bin/archives/regarc.pl?read=35017
If I have any of this wrong please correct. (:D) I think this is a picture of a handkerchief, as described, from the Jane Info Pages: Portrait of a lady by Henri François Mulard, ca. 1810, http://www.pemberley.com/janeinfo/181mulrd.jpg
…and pray can you tell me of any little thing that would be probably acceptable to Mrs. F. A.? I wish to bring her something: has she a silver knife, or would you recommend a brooch? I shall not spend more than half a guinea about it. (Ltr. 55, Le Faye)
Another mention of a handkerchief made me realize Jane seems bent on generosity in these last two letters. In Letter 55 (above) Jane asked Cassandra’s advice on a gift for Mrs. F.A. of either a silver knife or a brooch and in Letter 56 Jane has made a handkerchief for the other Mary:
I have just finished a handkerchief for Mrs. James Austen, which I expect her husband to give me an opportunity of sending to her ere long. (Ltr. 56, Le Faye)
I think this attention to the Marys is made that much nicer knowing that JA was not a wealthy woman—she was still able to be generous as well as attentive to others. I have noticed in her letters that she always tries to do what is right by folks. (:D)
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