Late European History
21 November 2012
Do’s and Don'ts of Pride and Prejudice
In 19th century England, manners played a big role. In her book Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen portrays many different aspects of English social manners in the 1800s, and these facets of English etiquette, including traveling etiquette, social propriety, and dancing, greatly affect the plot of the book.
One aspect of English social etiquette was the set of strict rules for how one was to act to appear as a socially adept person and therefore a desirable match for marriage. They were for the most part unspoken rules, but during the 19th century there began to be a growing selection of etiquette books available, for instance, Dr. Fordyce’s Sermons to Young Women. Mr. Collins’ attempt to read this book aloud to the Bennet girls is received with little enthusiasm, especially from Lydia (Austen 321).
One wanted to follow these rules well so as not to appear socially awkward (Article). Most rules were quite commonsensical, like one that states that a gentleman must always be introduced to a lady (Article). Making introductions the other way round would be quite unacceptable. There were some rules that were aimed towards protecting the respectability of a young lady. Two such rules were that a lady was never to wear pearls or diamonds before noon, and that she should never call on a gentleman unless it was a matter of business. Doing either of these things would establish a woman as a lady of loose reputation (Article). However, it was possible to follow the rules too well (Article). Mr. Darcy’s main criticism of Jane Bennet is that, in his opinion, she does not love Mr. Bingley; he says, “… [Jane] I also watched. Her look and manners were open, cheerful, and engaging as ever, but without any symptom of peculiar regard, and I remained convinced from the evening’s scrutiny, that though she received his attentions with pleasure, she did not invite them by any
Cited: Austen, Jane. The Complete Novels of Jane Austen Volume I. New York: Modern Library, 1992. Print. Jane Austen’s House Museum. “The Manners and Customs of Life in Jane Austen’s Time – OR How to Win the Mating Game!.” Jane Austen’s House Museum. N.p., 2007. Web. 12 Nov. 2012.