Even though August has come to a close and summer is starting to fade away, there is still some exciting news for all of us Jane Austen fans! The publishing house in association with the library at the University of Oxford has just produced a new piece based on the 'household book' compiled by Martha Lloyd. Now, you may be wondering like the rest of us who this Martha Lloyd could be, and why the University of Oxford are so interested in her household book. It transpires that Lloyd lived with the Austen family for some years, and her household book documents many of their recipes and remedies.
It is estimated Lloyd wrote the household book sometime between 1798 and 1830, quite likely adding to it as the years went by. Lloyd lived with the family whilst they were in Chawton, and Jane described her in a letter to Cassandra as "the friend and sister under every circumstance". It seems most likely Lloyd first moved in with the family when they were in Southampton, and then moved with them to Chawton in 1809.
Many connections can be made between the household book and Jane's novels, most of which were written whilst she was in Chawton. The book features a recipe for a 'white soup', most likely the same dish as the one with the same name featured in Pride and Prejudice. Mr Bingley promises to host a ball at Netherfield and says "as soon as Nicholls has made white soup enough I shall send round my cards". In addition to this white soup, the book includes several French recipes which are described as to the tastes and lavish lifestyle of Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. The last touching connection in the household book is Mrs Austen's recipe for curing hams, mentioned by Jane in several of her letters.
The original book was sold in 1956 by a descendant of the Austens and is now on display in Chawton for all to delight over. Julienne Gehrer, an editor at Bodleian Library, explains she was fascinated by the original household book because she felt it gave a window into life with the Austens and means we can more successfully "piece together a day at Chawton". To conclude our brief look into the life and lady that was Martha Lloyd, she eventually married Jane's older brother Sir Francis and became part of the Austen family forevermore.
If you want to get into the spirit of cooking like you're in nineteenth-century England, take a look at our collection of cookbooks. From The Jane Austen Regency Cookbook and Gin Austen to an illustrated cookbook version of Pride and Prejudice, we have all your culinary needs covered!
Words by Hannah England.
Martha Lloyd was James Austen’s sister in law and a long time friend of the family. She started living with Mrs Austen and the sisters after the Rev. Austen died and they moved to Southampton. Later she moved to Chawton with the family. After Jane had died Martha Lloyd married Jane’s brother Sir Francis Austen.