Monday, February 11, 2013


This week, in honor of Valentine's Day (Or Singles Awareness Day.  Whichever you happen to celebrate.) we're reviewing Pride & Prejudice.  It was written in the early 1800s, and has a lot of old language and a lot of things that, unless you happen to know about them, are a little confusing.

Etiquette and manners were a HUGE deal during the 1800s, and everything depended on them.  You'll hear a lot about manner and impropriety and connections throughout the book.  So to help you better understand it, I'm going to give you some brief pointers about how to conduct yourself in Jane Austen's Era.


You can talk to anyone you haven't been introduced to.  And you have to be introduced by someone else that you already know.  Unless you're a woman.  Then you have to be introduced by a man you know to anyone that you don't know.  This is why Mrs. Bennet wants Mr. Bennet to go to Netherfield and call on Mr. Bingley.  She can't meet him herself, nor can her daughters.

There are a multitude of other things that you can't do before being introduced: dance, bow, curtsey or generally acknowledge the other person.  It's considered extremely rude if you were to go up to someone and address them in any way, without an introduction first.

Also, the person of the highest social standing must do the introductions.

Example: Mr. Collins introduces himself to Mr. Darcy, despite the fact that they haven't been introduced.  Mr. Darcy is also of a much higher class than Mr. Collins, adding insult to injury.


A man always asks a lady to dance, never the other way around.  The two must be introduced before they can dance.  It's also a really big deal if a man dances more than one set with a woman.  It shows preference.

Dances are also very routine.  They were more like the Electric Slide in the sense that there were specific steps that everyone knew.  The dancing groups also moved, so that everyone had a chance to be at the "top" of the line and admired by the entire room.

A lady can not refuse to dance with someone, or she is required to sit out dancing for the rest of the evening. 

The Master of Ceremonies has the final word when pairing people up.  If he tells two people to dance, they dance.  This is also a great way for introductions to be made.  If you ever read Northanger Abbey, Catherine meets Mr. Tilney in this manner.

Example:  Mr. Bingley asks Jane to dance two sets with him at the first ball.  Elizabeth doesn't want to dance with Mr. Collins, and inevitably ends up sitting out dancing the whole night because his dancing is so dreadful.

Man and Woman Interaction:

Men must always accommodate the lady.  If a man and woman run into each other on the street, the man must walk with her to her destination (weather it is his or not) because it was improper to let ladies stand in the street.  Men had to stand when women arrived at and left the table.

What's more, women and men were not allowed to be alone together until married or related.  They must be accompanied by a chaperon at all times (which, ironically, could also be a man.)

Example: When Jane walks around with Mr. Bingley, Elizabeth, Darcy and Kitty all accompany them.

Random Facts:

It was all about who you knew.  The better your connections, the more likely you were to be married well.  For instance, Darcy comments on Elizabeth's imprudent family and lack of connections.  The only family she has are Aunts and Uncles on the less rich side of London.  Whereas not only is Darcy well-off, but also the Nephew of Lady Catherine De Bough, who was very rich and even had a title.

You should never not recognize an acquaintance   If you know the person, you should acknowledge their presence, or it's considered an awful impropriety.

I hope this clears some things up in the book.  I know a lot of things can seem ridiculous, especially when it comes to the interactions between women and men.  If you have any other etiquette questions, post them here!

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