Members Meeting - May 21 2016

The Quintessential Regency Picnic

For our final meeting of the season, we were treated to a discussion about the Quintessential Regency Picnic from Michelle while enjoying some delicious Regency punch.

The picnic as we know it originated in the mid-eighteenth century. It was an indoor, high fashion, elite occasion, almost similar to a potluck, in that the guests would bring something to contribute to the event. Notwithstanding the addition of dishes from the guests, these events would have required a great deal of effort and organization by the staff of the hosting house. In the mid-nineteenth century, picnics morphed into more of an outdoor excursion, similar to what we identify as a picnic today but on a much grander scale including furniture, dishes, etc., essentially taking the grandeur of the dining room outdoors.

In Emma, there were two picnics: the strawberry hunt at Donwell Abbey and the excursion to Box Hill. The outing at Donwell Abbey was the picture of order and peace. Michelle likened the nature of the day at Donwell Abbey to the owner of the estate, Mr. Knightley. Mr. Knightly made a comment which may have been a foreshadowing of the events to come at Box Hill. "My idea of the simple and the natural will be to have the table spread in the dining-room. The nature and the simplicity of gentlemen and ladies, with their servants and furniture, I think is best observed by meals within doors."

The excursion the Box Hill took place the following day and what should have been a glorious day for all, turned out quite differently. The parties, for the most part were idle and cross, and in feeling constrained Emma lashes out at poor Miss Bates. Following her rudeness, Emma simply wants to be left alone and to go home and when Mr. Knightly confronts her for her poor behaviour, Emma feels the full weight of his disappointment, and in the following days, attempts to make amends for her behaviour. Michelle proposed that perhaps Jane Austen was mocking those similar to Mrs. Elton in their sense of decadence and frivolous leisure. (There was also a planned picnic in Sense and Sensibility but the event was cancelled last minute when Colonel Brandon was called away urgently.)

Picnic Pastimes

Following Michelle's discussion about picnics, she enlightened us as to the various pastimes which may have been enjoyed during a picnic.

Kathleen, adorable little Teigen, and Michelle demonstrated some of the pastimes, including the Game of Graces (throwing and catching of one or two hoops), Lawn Bowls, Battledore/Shuttlecock (modern day badminton), croquet (which became more popular in Victorian times), Bilbocatch, and Maypole dancing.

The Maypole dancing was indeed most entertaining for all of us as we followed Kathleen's instructions of weaving eight ribbons around a maypole. We did fairly well but things took a bit of a turn when we attempted to turn around and unweave the ribbons.

Next we were invited to enjoy tea, fruit, and cookies while enjoying some activities including crafting picnicking headbands, and personal games of bilbocatch. It was a wonderful end to a wonderful season. Thank you Michelle, Kathleen, Teigen, and everyone else who contributed to our Quintessential Regency Picnic!

Thank you, Michelle, and all our picnic volunteers and attendees!