Members Meeting - March 19 2011

China and Charity

With slightly warmer temperatures and spring on the horizon, we met at the cozy Sunalta Community Centre once again. The meeting began with some tantalizing promises of events to come - The May Gala, Words, Wands and War, an upcoming Bonnet Making workshop and a "mystery event".

The first speaker was Dr. Diana Patterson, an associate professor of English at Mount Royal University who instructed us in the history of Josiah Wedgwood, the evolution of porcelain in England and the rise of the popular willow pattern. She noted that Wedgewood china would be the type found in most of Austen's books. 

Next we had a lovely 'lenten' tea of brownies and gingerbread hosted by the Barton's. Finally, Michelle Agopsowicz, who has a Masters of Social Work, imparted her research on charity in Austen's work and times. We learned of the importance of two classes of poor Ð the deserving and undeserving. Such classes may still hold in our views of social services today. Michelle shared several Austen quotations which revealed the importance of charity as a theme in her works. Thanks to Michelle's generosity, her presentation is available in pdf.

Portland Vase , circa 1790, made by Josiah Wedgwood for the Duke of Portland

Portland Vase, circa 1790, made by Josiah Wedgwood for the Duke of Portland

On 16th September, 1813, Jane Austen wrote a letter to her sister Cassandra, in which she noted a visit with her brother and a niece to Wedgwood's in London: "We then went to Wedgwoods where my brother and Fanny chose a Dinner Set, I believe the pattern is a small Lozenge in purple, between Lines of narrow Gold; - and it is to have the Crest." The dinner set was owned by Jane Austen's brother, Edward Austen, and as Jane was a frequent guest at her brother's house in Chawton she must have seen, used and eaten from these dishes many times.