"Different amusements every evening! We had Bullet Pudding, then Snap-Dragon, & . . . we danced or played at cards." Fanny Austen Knight~1806
Everyone knows that the Austens were a great family for games- whether charades, family theatricals or a quiet game of cards. These activities often occur in Jane Austen's novels not only as natural ways to spend time, but frequently furthering the plot or adding an unexpected twist. Emma (charades and alphabet blocks) and Mansfield Park (a very telling game of Speculation) have major revelations through simple games, while all of the books feature some kind of card play, either to while away an evening in dull company or as a time waster until a ball is over.
One tends to believe Jane Austen found playing cards tiresome as it is always portrayed as a game for either very silly or boring people. Could she be speaking for herself when Anne Elliot says, "I am no card-player"? I shall not try to describe the various and often confusing rules of the many card games, but here are some activities you may wish to try on your own:
"I was surprised that you did not know what a Bullet Pudding is but as you don’t I will endeavor to describe it as follows: You must have a large pewter dish filled with flour which you must pile up into a sort of pudding with a peak at the top, you must then lay a Bullet at the top & everybody cuts a slice of it & the person that is cutting it when the Bullet falls must poke about with their nose & chins till they find it & then take it out with their mouths which makes them strange figures a covered with flour but the worst is that you must not laugh for fear of the flour getting up your nose & mouth & choking you. You must not use your hands in taking the bullet out."
~Fanny Austen Knight to Miss Chapman, 1808
Answers follow at the bottom of this page.
- In confinement I'm chained everyday / Yet my enemies need not be crowing. / To my chain I have always the key / And no prison can keep me from going. / Small and weak are my hands, I'll allow / Yet for striking my character's great. / Though ruined by one fatal blow / My strokes, if hard pressed, I'll repeat. - attributed to Jane Austen's uncle, Mr. Leigh Perrot
- Divided, I'm a gentleman /In public deeds and powers. / United, I'm a monster who / That gentleman devours. - attributed to Jane Austen
- When my first is a task to a young girl of spirit, / And my second confines her to finish the piece / How hard is her fate! / But how great is her merit, / If by taking my all, she effects her release! - attributed to Jane Austen
- My first has the making of honey to charm, / My second brings breakfast to bed on your arm, / My third bores a hole in leather so fine, / While united the whole breaks the heart most kind. - Anonymous
- You may lie on my first by the side of a stream, / And my second compose to the nymph you adore, / But if, when you've none of my whole her esteem / And affection diminish - think of her no more! - attributed to Jane Austen
Answers to Charades: 1-A Repeating Watch; 2-Agent; 3-Hemlock; 4-Betrayal; 5-Bank Notes