In a lecture to the North American Jane Austen Society Convention, I spoke about The Tea Things of Jane Austen. This Regency period writer often used tea as a literary tool to bring the sexes together, and the term “tea things” was sometimes used to set the stage for conversation.
London author Jane Pettigrew and I recently visited the Jane Austen Research Library at Chawton House where we had tea in the Elizabethan-era kitchen with director Katie Childs. We discussed the ability of the Austen family to afford tea at the turn of the 19th century.
While the Austens were often on the verge of poverty, tea would have been a household essential. Jane had been given a 20£ yearly allowance while her father was living. Her father died in 1805 leaving his wife and daughters with an annual income of 160£, enough to afford some tea. She could have afforded the least expensive Chinese bohea from Twinings shop on The Strand in London.
By October 1811, she had received 140£ in royalties for Sense and Sensibility—no small amount for a woman writer of that era. As a reward for her good fortune, she placed an order for Wedgwood China that year.