In Rambler 97 Samuel Richardson argues in favour of the course of courtship of his own youth. It is interesting to see how much the mores had changed between his times and those of Austen.
Austen famously paraphrased his words in Northanger Abbey:
for if it be true, as a celebrated writer has maintained, that no young lady can be justified in falling in love before the gentleman’s love is declared, it must be very improper that a young lady should dream of a gentleman before the gentleman is first known to have dreamt of her.
It is likewise significant to note that no positive hero of Austen’s ever seeks the lady’s family’s approval for courtship or asks for her hand before her own consent is given. Such a kind of behaviour is left to men like Mr. Collins or Henry Crawford.
It cost me much to part with the blue coat which I wore the first time I danced with Charlotte. But I could not possibly wear it any longer. But I have ordered a new one, precisely similar, even to the collar and sleeves, as well as a new waistcoat and pantaloons.
But it does not produce the same effect upon me. I know not how it is, but I hope in time I shall like it better.
In “The Laws of Etiquette; Or, Short Rules and Reflections for Conduct in Society” written in 1836 in the US by a Gentleman there’s this paragraph:
If you accompany your wife to a dance, be careful not to dance with her. Such are some of the canons of the ball.
Does anyone know if it was the same in England in Austen’s times? Or if there was such a rule in reference to private balls, was it also valid for public assemblies?
I looked through Emma, and indeed, it seems that husbands and wives are not dancing with each other. When Frank plans the ball he says: “You [Emma] and Miss Smith, and Miss Fairfax, will be three, and the two Miss Coxes five, (…) And there will be the two Gilberts, young Cox, my father [Mr. Weston], and myself [Frank Churchill], besides Mr. Knightley.” Continue reading →
I thought that I might write down the things I know about balls and the ballroom etiquette, since they might be helpful in understanding Austen’s books.
There were three kinds of dancing opportunities:
1.) A public assembly,
2.) A private ball,
3.) An impromptu dance at someone’s house.
London society at Almack's
General rules about dancing:
Every set of dances consisted of two dances and took up from half an hour to an hour or even longer. A man could ask a woman twice, which means that they would dance two sets and spend an hour or even two together during one evening. Asking a woman twice always meant a special attention, however, the meaning of the attention would depend on the kind of the ball. If there were many ladies of a man’s acquaintance he could ask one lady twice only if she was his fiancée, or he meant to propose to her soon. If he knew only a few ladies it would mean that he preferred the one above the others, and if he knew only one or two ladies present it’d mean nothing. Continue reading →