Caught My Eye by Katina: How an 18th-Century Cookbook Offers Glimpses of Jane Austen’s Domestic Life

by | Jul 26, 2021 | 0 comments

Julienne Gehrer Takes a Closer Look at Martha Lloyd’s Household Book

Martha Lloyd’s Household Book is one of the few items we have from Jane Austen’s closest friend. As Martha was an integral part of Jane’s life, her recipe book is a highlight of the collection at Jane Austen’s House in Hampshire. It is fitting that the book resides at Chawton Cottage, a place both women called home. Much of what we know about Martha is through Jane’s letters and a few family reminiscences. But if we reread what has been written about Jane Austen we can catch glimpses of Martha Lloyd, who was often a figure in the background or just nearby. Included as a natural preface to Martha’s household book is an extensive biography of Martha Lloyd. Knowing more of Martha’s life leads us to a greater understanding of the deep friendship between Martha and Jane, a friendship that also included Jane’s sister Cassandra.

My first visit to Chawton Cottage in 1996 piqued my curiosity about the woman behind the manuscript cookbook. In more recent years I began connecting Martha’s recipes with the food references in Jane’s letters. With entries for toasted cheese, orange wine, pickled cucumbers, mead and many others, Martha captured much of what Jane enjoyed at the dinner table. Recipe contributions from Mrs. Austen, Captain Austen and Mrs. Lefroy affirmed Martha’s place within Jane’s inner circle. In fact, Martha lived over half her adult life within the closely knit Austen family. Many of the names in Martha’s book also appear in Jane’s letters. Some families—Fowle, Craven and Dundas—are actually more closely linked to Martha than to Jane.

Read the full article from Lit Hub HERE!

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