Sally Holloway, ‘Food, Family & Feeling: Edible Gifts and the Making of Marriage in Georgian England’ (11 mai)

Jeudi 11 mai à 17h (Serpente, salle D421)

Sally Holloway, ‘Food, Family & Feeling: Edible Gifts and the Making of Marriage in Georgian England’

It is well established that the navigation of courtship in Georgian England was shaped by a range of romantic gifts including ribbons, rings, garters, gloves, and portrait miniatures, which helped to generate feelings of love and shepherd courting couples toward the altar. Yet these were not the only items which couples had at their disposal: in Jane Austen’s Emma (1815), it is the humble walnut which enables the farmer Robert Martin to express his admiration for the heroine’s protégée Harriet Smith, while in Pride & Prejudice (1813) it is the beautiful pyramids of hothouse fruits and hospitality at Pemberley which first lead Elizabeth Bennet to realise her love for Mr Darcy. Such edible offerings are largely absent from scholarship on courtship in Georgian England, though they were likely among the most common material objects routinely exchanged by and shared between couples.

This paper sets out how courting couples orchestrated their relationships using a breath of edible gifts from cakes and sweetmeats to apricots, peaches, pineapples, melons, duck, pork, venison, turbot, oysters, and sturgeon. These sweet treats, fruits, meats, and fish could variously be deployed as a means of flirtation, to gauge early romantic interest, underscore the status and generosity of the giver, show investment in the bodily health of the recipient as a future spouse, and bind two families together before matrimony. Together, they add a crucial dimension to our understanding of the widely recognised ‘gift mode’ during courtship, illuminate the mechanics of courtship as rooted in family homes and gardens, and the new spaces of the metropolitan public sphere, and demonstrate how natural or perishable items such as food could operate as powerful vehicles for emotional meaning.

Dr Sally Holloway is a Vice Chancellor’s Research Fellow in History and History of Art at Oxford Brookes University. She specialises in histories of emotions, gender, and visual and material culture in Britain over the long eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. She is the co-editor of Feeling Things: Objects and Emotions through History (Oxford, 2018), and the author of The Game of Love in Georgian England: Courtship, Emotions and Material Culture (Oxford, 2019) which has recently been released in paperback (2022).