An Accomplished Young Lady by Maria Grace — 30 Comments

  1. Just goes to show me how ill equipped I would be in that era. The fully accomplished lady had quite a lot to learn. Here in the USA we rarely learn to speak any language other then English. Although I did study 3 other languages I speak none of them. Music: I know of so few of my friends and acquaintances who can both sing and play an instrument. Philosophy – never studied it and should just sit quietly if it came under discussion! I could balance a ledger. And I do attempt to keep up with the world news – horrific as it continues to be with wars and inhumanities to our fellow beings.

    Thank you for this lesson on an accomplished young lady. Very edifying.

    • I thought it was really interesting to take a glimpse on what they actually had to know to keep up. Thanks, Sheila.

  2. I had to laugh at the “reddened faces and heaving bosom” remark relating to playing wind instruments! I know what you said is true, that playing these instruments wasn’t thought attractive or acceptable for ladies. But it struck me that dancing would have produced redder faces and even more heaving and bouncing of the bosoms, and yet it was not only acceptable but considered a sure step to romance! Go figure.

    • That double standard is a little funny, isn’t it Shannon. Make it was okif everyone in the rom was doing it, but not ok if you were the only one.

  3. Well I wouldn’t have fit in. While I studied music for many years and earned a B. of Music degree, my instruments would have made me a social pariah….violin AND oboe. Fast lane to spinsterhood or bluestocking lane for me.

  4. I’d do pretty well in the reading, writing, and music categories but not so well in languages, drawing, dancing, and botany. I can do needlework but I can’t make clothes. I also had a good laugh about the types of instruments that ladies were not supposed to play — and why!

    • I can hold my own pretty well in today’s world, but like you, I wouldn’t have cut he mustard in the Regency era! Kind of interesting, isn’t it?

  5. Interesting!

    The drawing/painting would definitely be a weakness for me – unless stick people suddenly became all the rage. I can read music but I only play the clarinet, so that’s a no-no. And singing? Oh no, definitely not. I didn’t know that playing the guitar was an acceptable feminine art! I’m glad.

    The rest I think I’d do well in, though I have no experience with needlework.

  6. Wow it seems so demanding to have to exhibit proficiency at so many different skills, but discouraging that it was mostly just for show — it seems like a young lady should be well-read, but not so much that she might become expert or truly interested in a weighty topic! Also it seemed like the music proficiency was just enough to perform, and that perhaps real study or performance of music was discouraged for women. What did the potential mates think about all this? Did those husbands actually care about needlepoint or painting ability?

    • You’re right, Kathy, an accomplished woman should definitely not present a challenge to her husband’s expertise on any matter. She was not to be the expert on anything. As far as performing went, a proper young lady could do so in front of friends and family in a home, but public performances were strictly out of the question. Performers had dicey reputations as best.

      As for the men, it of course depended on he individual. But in the upper levels of society, a wife was to be a social asset and the degree to which her accomplishments made her so mattered.

      Thanks, Kathy!

  7. Oh dear! The ONLY thing I am accomplished in is reading. My writing belongs on the bottom of the pile…food for the goats….I played the flute…forget it, Natural sciences….bugs are wonderful! (another no-no). I speak fluent German and no French—-oh, dear. I am fair at decoupage and needlepoint. A most definite spinster. No gentleman would give one look, let alone 2, especially since my first time on the dance floor I would fall over my own feet, forget my dance partner’s. I do ride sidesaddle…but, alas, not enough accomplishments.

    • I am impressed that you ride sidesaddle! I am looking for somewhere around here where I could take a couple of lessons for research sake! Thanks, Deborah!

      • I took both sidesaddle and English lessons in college. I had been riding English for years when the opportunity for sidesaddle lessons was offered. I was jumping sidesaddle within months even though I wasn’t yet jumping English. I found it a much more comfortable ride than English and felt much more secure.

        • I’m impressed as well, Deborah! I learned to ride many years ago (forgot to put that in my list) but only what you call English style. I’ve had to give up in the last few years due to a back injury, sadly, after being told one more fall could result in serious problems. Western style was always something I wanted to try but there wasn’t anywhere near where I grew up here in the UK, where I could try it out. I’ve been told it’s a lot more comfortable then English style. Sidesaddle always looks so wrong and lopsided to me so I guess I’m missing something when you say it feels more secure. Good for you for trying it out!

          • I never liked western. I felt no leg communication with the horse. When I dismounted western the one time I rode I forgot about the horn and dismounted like I was on an English saddle and cracked 2 ribs. I have serious back problems that could result in paralysis if I dall the wrong way and so ride very seldom.

          • As for side saddle there is a double pmmwl so the right leg is held much higher so there is really no twist and you are centered. The crop replaces the right leg. I had no habit so I rode in breeches. My cousin took pictures so if you want to give me your email address, or friend me on facebook I can send you pics to shoe leg & body placement. The pics are old, but sufficient for the purpose.

            • The double pommel, as I understand didn’t come into use until 1840, well after my books are set. Without the second pommel, the side saddle was relatively unstable and not good for challenging or fast riding, thus my heroines have not favored it.

              Interestingly, I spotted a number of period movies (Mansfield Park for one) that have the wrong style (double versus single pommel) of side saddle shown. Apparently it is because the old style is considered so dangerous, they won’t have actresses using it in movie shoots.

          • As the pre 1840’s sidesaddle is so dangerous I wouldn’t have set foot in it. English astride would’ve been safer. Even though modern sidesaddle kept me from being thrown when English would’ve sent me flying without wings

  8. Well…let’s see…I can read, write, love numbers and sing. My sewing, languages and instrument playing would keep me single. Let’s not forget that I CANNOT dance. Yep, I would surely have been the maiden aunt. LOL Amazing how many of us would not be considered accomplished. I’m also a great walker and adore my sister! =D Maybe that and my reading alone would have caught me a Mr. Darcy?

  9. I barely passed HomeEc as the dress I made still gives me the shudders to even visualize it! I do sing and did play the clarinet but that would have made my face red and my bosom heaving! I love reading, history and speak some German. I suppose I would be ‘tolerable’ but definitely not ‘tempting’ especially if I had to wear a dress I made! Loved this post and love the paintings! Where did you find them?

  10. Thanks for sharing this useful information, Maria. By Regency standards, I’m not accomplished enough. Thank goodness I don’t live in that era because I don’t know where I’ll fit in.

  11. Right, I need to make an itemised list here, I think!

    Reading – yes, I LOVE reading, always have. I don’t have as much time to devote to it as I would wish, but from talking friends and colleagues, I manage a lot more than most. However, scripture and sermons would not be on the list as I’m borderline agnostic. Guess that would make me somewhat of a social pariah in those times.
    Writing – yes, I CAN write, but my handwriting was once described by one of my teachers as looking like a spider had crawled over the page. Despite my best efforts, it hasn’t improved much over the years.
    Arithmetic – I worship whoever invented the pocket calculator!
    Sciences and social sciences – I am a science graduate (pharmacy) so I know something of chemistry, biology and botany, especially when it comes to using plants as remedies. Social sciences? No.
    Languages – I studied French and German till the age of 16 but have forgotten most of it due to lack of use.
    Music – the only instrument I learned was the clarinet, like Carole in Canada. Can’t remember getting a red face or heaving bosom from it though! I always wanted to learn the piano but I have tiny hands and can barely stretch an octave, so I guess I wouldn’t have been very good. As for singing, think of Mary Bennet’s “Sluuuumber dear maid” from P & P 1995 and you’ll have some idea of my skills. When it comes to dancing, I’d probably give Mr. Collins a run for his money. I’m one of the clumsiest people I know!
    Art and needlework – I’m a non-starter in the drawing and painting stakes. Needlework is different and of all the “accomplishments” would probably be my best. I’m quite skilled at embroidery, cross-stitching and needle-point and can make clothing if pushed. What it would look like without the assistance of a sewing machine, though, is anyone’s guess.

    So, reading, science and needlework. Guess that wouldn’t put me anywhere in Caroline Bingley’s estimation, though Darcy might admire the improvement of my mind by the amount of reading I do manage to fit in.

    • LOL! I love it. I do think Darcy would be impressed by you I am. Now I know who to go to with questions about medicinal plants! Yeah! Thanks, Angi!

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