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|She might not be called Harriet but
Written by Tarn
(10/26/2008 10:17 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Harriet Smith's character (Vol. 2, Ch.5), penned by Caroline SO
she might have been based on the same real-life character - Madame St. Quentin, French speaking 'mainstay' of the school at reading Abbey that Jane and Cassandra went to in the 1780's, and in 1814, next door neighbour to Henry Austen, at 23 Hans Placeš.
One of the many things I like about Mrs Smith, is that she knits. Miss Austen's ladies trim bonnets, paint china, net cloaks, work fillagree, embroider, sew and make fringe - but Mrs Smith is the only Lady that knits. Perhaps it was too much like a working class occupation, hence being carried on for money and taught by a woman who earns her own living. (Still, if nursing without pay was an acceptable occupation for ladies like Mrs Harville, I wouldn't be shocked if it turned out that in the long watches of the night she not only darned her families stockings, but knitted them gratis,too).
At first I thought that Mrs Smith was knitting with wool - but looking around for thread cases, pin cushions and card racks (on the net), I am convinced that she was doing very fine work using cotton, or silk. At the time, silk was in short supply (due to the recent war with France), but if anyone had the contacts to obtain something it would be Mrs Smith, so maybe the high priced things she had in stock were silk.
And I found this great link - Mara Riley's research and patterns for 18th and 19th century hand knitting.
(1) W.& R.Austen-Leigh Jane Austen, Her Life and Letters A Family Record pp.27, 305 (accessed from Project Gutenberg)
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