In September 1813 Jane Austen was staying with her brother Henry at his Henrietta Street address in Covent Garden, along with their brother Edward, his daughter Fanny and two of Fanny’s younger sisters. On the 16th Jane wrote to her sister Cassandra, ‘We are now all four of us young Ladies sitting around the Circular Table in the inner room writing our Letters, while the two Brothers are having a comfortable coze in the room adjoining.’
It is a charming picture, but how were the four ladies illuminating their work? Probably not with smelly tallow dip candles, unless they were in an economical mood. Those were made from mutton fat, usually contained bits of meat, smelled strongly and, in homes with any pretence to gentility, were confined to the service areas.
There was an “economy” candle available – tallow with a wick that had been dipped in wax which…
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