On a sun-bathed Saturday morning, as I arrived at Irving's Hackberry Creek Country Club, happy golfers greeted each other as they met for early tee times. But it wasn't until I spotted a pair of long coattails and a top hat saunter past the women's aerobics class on the front lawn that I knew I was in the right place.
I followed those coattails to the ballroom where history buffs, literature aficionados and members of the Jane Austen Society of North Texas had converged to put a many spin on their annual June with Jane Austen seminar. Move over Elizabeth Bennett (Pride & Prejudice? Anyone?); this year, the focus was all about Jane's guys.
Here's what I learned:
Cosplay: It's Not Just For Comic-Con Kids Just like your favorite Con, whichever it may be, there are no rules when it comes to dress at these events. You don't have to dress up, and many people didn't. But those who did took it all the way. From ladies' dainty drawstring purses to men's cravats, no details or accessories were left to chance.
I even received some useful flirting advice: ladies should always spritz their fans (preferably made of sandalwood) with a bit of perfume before leaving the house. Coquettishly fan yourself while chatting up the gentleman of your choice, and he won't be able to resist your alluring scent.
How to Properly Snort a Powdery Substance No, not the Columbian kind. I'm talking about snuff.
In Austen's time, snuff was popular in all levels of society, even among women. The crushed tobacco leaves act as a stimulant that send morphine-like amino acids through the nervous system.
Provided with a few tablespoons of my own to partake in, I understand why this popular pastime has been left out of the canon of Jane Austen film adaptations. I'm pretty sure an apprehensive grimace flashed across my face as I experienced a tingling sensation through my nostrils. Afterwards, I can't say I didn't enjoy the fact that everything smelled rather pleasant for a while: hints of nutmeg? Then the unfortunate truth was revealed that anything that goes into the nose later comes out which explains the popularity of handkerchiefs, and why they were the size of tea towels and often reddish, brown in color.
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Port: High in Class and Alcohol Content As all proper ladies and gentlemen do, we sampled several port wines prior to luncheon as we learned the history of port and even some delicious recipes for port-based sauces. The main difference between port wine and other wines is a higher alcohol content. And while you may not associate the grain alcohol Everclear with highfalutin, elite English society, it is an important ingredient to your fruit port.
Real Men Know How To Dance After lunch came the optional English-country dance class. This was an important skill for men in Austen's time, because a man who could not dance was judged as weak and useless.
They may have been outnumbered, but the men who remained in attendance for the dancing portion of the afternoon all earned major points with their ladies. Beginners and experienced dancers alike learned one of the traditional English dances often seen in the movies, called Mr. Beveridge's Maggot (apparently "maggot" means "whim"). They proved, as one dancer's t-shirt boasted, "any savage can dance."
There's Still Time for You If you're a history buff, fan of Jane Austen books or movies, or just love getting dressed up, join the Jane Austen Society of North Texas and their friends as they celebrate the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice at Netherfield Ball on Saturday, June 22, 2013, an event inspired by the ball of the same name in the book with dancing, treats and lots of fun. Reserve your spot now.