(Not)Dancing With One’s Wife

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?

Waltz, 1817

Waltz, 1817

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

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Ballroom Etiquette

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.

Almacks

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