Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Jane Austen's answer to Rimmel; Get the Longbourne Look!

I am currently reading Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler, and have been chortling heartily at Courtney/Jane's horror at facing the Nineteenth-Century world with a face devoid of make-up.

Until the last couple of days I would have been in total agreement with her horror, but having spent three days without running water of any kind (thank you, "cold snap"), I've found being bare of face curiously uninhibiting.

However, old habits die hard and as soon as my water returned this morning I was in my electric power shower, blow-drying and ghd'ing my hair, and applying my usual slap. This all put me in mind of a little book I've recently bought and have only just glanced through, Regency Etiquette: The Mirror of Graces which was written by A Lady of Distinction and first published in 1811.

At the back of the book are a number of recipes for unguents, balms, and cosmetic substitutes, such as were acceptable for young ladies of good character to use. My eye was particularly caught by a receipt for "Virgin Milk", which I share with you now.

Virgin Milk

A publication of this kind would certainly be looked upon as an imperfect performance, if we omitted to say a few words upon this famous cosmetic. It consists of a tincture of Benjoin, precipitated by water. The tincture of Benjoin is obtained by taking a certain quantity of that gum, pouring spirits of wine upon it, and boiling it till it becomes a rich tincture. If you pour a few drops of this tincture into a glass of water, it will produce a mixture which will assume all the appearances of milk, and retain a very agreeable perfume. If the face is washed with this mixture, it will, by calling the purple stream of the blood to the external fibres of the epidermis, produce on the cheeks a beautiful rosy colour; and, if left on the face to dry, it will render it clear and brilliant. It also removes spots, freckles, pimples, erysipelatous eruptions, &c. &c. if they have not been of long standing on the skin.

Another one also made me laugh, from the days long before Botox:

A Paste for the Skin

(This may be recommended in cases when the skin seems to get too loosely attached to the muscles.)

Boil the whites of four eggs in rose water, add to it a sufficient quantity of alum; beat the whole together till it takes the consistence of a paste. This will give, when applied, great firmness to the skin.

If anyone cares to try these time-honoured receipts, do please, please, let me know!


  1. Hi, Jane. Those made me laugh, looking back with what we know today. Sorry, I don't care to try them out. :-)


  2. Hi Jane . Great to come across an avid Jane Austen fan. I know I'm an umnlikely candidate but I came to Jane through various influences. Doing a degree in Eng Lit was only one of them.
    You might find some pictures of interest on my BLOG, London Calling.

    All the best and keep on enjoying everything, Jane.

  3. Thanks for that, I'll check out your blog!