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Regency Etiquette: The Mirror of Graces, 1811 Enlarged Edition
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The book is packed full of classical references and piously rendered good advice which jostle in happy company in each breathless sentence. Don't think that the archaic language will put you off- it is too funny to put down.
for example - on Dancing and other accomplishments we are confidently informed; "Set then, this music of Paphos far aside; instead of songs of wantons, if we are to have amatory odes, let us listen to the chaste pleadings of Plutarch, to the mutual vows of virtuous attachment."
This book was not a comical portrayal of its day, it was read for the good advice it rendered and indeed it is very revealing on the fashion dictates of the day - washing, exercise, diet, dancing, dress and general deportment. There are even a stack of cosmetic recipes in the back which you can have a go at trying for yourself - including Eau de Veau, a face tonic, which is made by boiling up a calves foot!
From the chapter "On Deportment": "Their is scarcely an observer of manners and their effects who will not maintain that the most beautiful and well-dressed woman will soon cease to please unless her charms are accompanied with the ineffable enchantment of a graceful demeanour."
There is good advice on colours, flowers, - I guess I could go on all day. The content is absolutely matchless and if you have an interest in this period - the Regency or Georgian times, you must have a copy.Read more ›
It is instead an interesting if repetitive specimen of the conduct book for young ladies, covering behavior in a very general way - you should dress to suit your body type and station, dress and carry yourself modestly, not allow gentlemen friends to take liberties, etc. The only specifics covered are the rules of precedence, and even these are given only for precedence among women, e.g., daughters of dukes, daughters of marquisses, viscountesses, etc. There are also some strange cosmetic recipes included at the end of the book, many of them so bizarre it was hard to imagine that any women of any era would be willing to put such concoctions on their skin or hair.
As another reviewer said, having read this book once I felt no need to read it again, and for this reason I regret spending $18 to buy it. However, if you are looking for an example of a general female conduct book of the period, you may consider the money well spent.
Otherwise, the book is a product of its time. We today obviously do not differentiate between a morning dress, a walking gown, or an opera dress. We do not dance the same type of dances. And the balance of power in terms of sexual politics has changed quite a bit.
On the whole, I found this a fascinating look at the world of women in the Regency. If you are a big fan of Jane Austen or Fanny Burney, this is a great companion text to understand the women and the motivations of their female characters.
Parts of the book are a bit tedious to read (prefeminist views) and most of the book is good; just keep moving along. A fairly easy to read book.
Their only options in life were to marry and marry well...I do imagine Ms. Austen read this book...(it could've happened)