(Important in The Counterfeit Guest)

Funerals could be complex affairs in the late eighteenth century, although the rituals of grief, burial, and mourning were not as formally prescribed as in the nineteenth century. ‘Funeral arrangers’ or ‘furnishers’ managed the formal process for the upper and middle classes, with ‘undertakers’ performing this function at the lower end of the social scale. At the very least, proper provision had to be made for the body of the deceased. This could include an inner coffin, a lead shell, and an outer coffin of oak or mahogany. All three could be expensively decorated. The body usually remained at home until the day of the funeral, which might be 7-12 days after the death. Because embalming was unusual outside the aristocracy and royal family, coffins were sealed, and measures were taken to minimise the evidence of decay. The participation of women at funerals seems to have been varied in this period. Cassandra Austen did not attend her sister Jane’s funeral in 1817, but there are contemporary references to women mourners and even pall bearers in the 1780s and 90s. The pall was a cloth spread over the outer coffin when it was borne to the church and to the grave. Four ‘bearers’ held the corners, and where the deceased was a woman, her female friends might be chosen to perform this task.