Regency Fun and Fanfare

Published: August 21, 2023

On Saturday, July 22, the Clark Library held “Regency Fun and Fanfare: A Workshop on Jane Austen and the Art of the Conversation Fan.” Participants enjoyed discovering the fascinating history and artistry of Regency-era fans in this interactive workshop led by Dr. Leigh-Michil George. Dr. George took inspiration from the charades in Austen’s Emma and The New Paris Conversation Fan for 1802, the latter of which is a part of the Clark’s collections.

Many people might not realize that the Clark’s holdings include multiple printed fans, six of which were on display at the workshop. The fans cover a wide array of topics, such as the marriage of the Prince of Wales to Caroline of Brunswick and a broad look at England’s history. In addition to the fans, participants looked at game-related items from the Regency era, including Changeable Portraits of Gentlemen and Changeable Portraits of Ladies, which, by separating the top, middle, and bottom of 20-some puzzle-like portraits, allow one to make over 21,000 permutations of people’s faces. Of course, we also had to show an Austen novel and therefore put on display the first edition of Sense and Sensibility, in its original, three-volume form, with its title page simply stating that it was, “By a lady.”

Participants also learned about Regency charades, a word game, and impressively created some themselves, battling wits as they went head to head with the fans they had decorated with charades. Finally, they had a chance to try their hand at real charades from the time period – and did incredibly well!

A huge thanks to Dr. Leigh-Michil George for her expert leadership of this engaging and educational event. Thank you also to Alex Siskin for providing inspiration and momentum for this workshop. Finally, thanks to the various staff who made this day possible, including Anna Chen, Carole Robinson, Erich Bollmann, and Arie Nair!

-Ikumi Crocoll, Instruction and Engagement Librarian