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The Mirror of Graces: the Final Blush of Accomplishment

A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word [accomplished]; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved.” Pride and Prejudice When so much has been said of the body and its accoutrements, I cannot but subjoin a few words on the intelligence which animates the frame, and of the organ which imparts its meaning. Connected speech is granted to mankind alone. Parrots may prate and monkeys chatter, but it is only to the reasonable being that power of combining ideas, expressing their import, and uttering, in audible sounds, all its various gradations, the language of sense and judgment, of love and resentment is awarded as a gift, that gives us a proud and undeniable superiority above all the rest of the creation. To employ this faculty well and gracefully, is one grand object of education. The mere organ itself, as to sound, is like a musical instrument, to be modulated with elegance, or struck with the disorderly nerve of coarsene vulgarity. I must add to what has been said before, the subject, that excessive rapidity of speaking is, in general, even with a clear enunciation, very disagreeable; but, when it is accompanied with a shrill voice, high in alt, the effect is then inexpressibly discordant and hideous. The first orator the heathen (more…)
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Maxims for Health and Gracefulness

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Cassandra Austen’s sketch of her niece Fanny.

In 1833, Lydia Marie Child published The Girl’s Own Book, a volume full of entertainments for girls of all ages.

She closed her book with a few maxims on child rearing involving both the moral and physical aspects of raising young ladies. Although they may sound quaint and dated, mothers of the Regency. Child rearing has always been considered a woman’s domain, and mothers of this era, with its burgeoning middle class, read countless books on subjects ranging from household management to cookery. Topics their mothers were either too busy or too idle to concern themselves with.

Any number of spoiled children can be found in the pages of Jane Austen’s works, from the heir to Norland Park, to Mrs. Musgrove’s rambunctious grandchildren. We never get to see the children of Austen’s heroines, but they would, no doubt, have been raised in this new era of motherly awareness.

MAXIMS FOR HEALTH AND GRACEFULNESS.
Early rising, and the habit of washing frequently, in cold water, are fine things for the health and the complexion.Walking, and other out-of-door exercises, cannot I much recommended to young people. Even skating, driving hoop, and other boyish sports, may be practised to advantage by little girls, provided they can be pursued within the inclosure of a garden, or court ; in the street, they would of course, be highly improper. It is true, such games are rather violent, and sometimes noisy ; but they tend to form a vigorous constitution ; and girls who are habitually lady-like, will never allow themselves to be rude and vulgar, even in play.

Shoes and garments for children should be quite large enough for ease, comfort, and freedom of motion. Continue reading Maxims for Health and Gracefulness

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Advice to Young Females

“I could do very well without you, if you were married to a man of such good estate as Mr Crawford. And you must be aware, Fanny, that it is every young woman’s duty to accept such a very unexceptionable offer as this.” This was almost the only rule of conduct, the only piece of advice, which Fanny had ever received from her aunt in the course of eight years and a half. It silenced her.   Mansfield Park Jane Austen never wrote a manual of ladylike advice- though her letters to her neices are full of an Aunt’s wisdom. If she had, it might have read something like this excerpt from a anonymous text of 1833. Of course, one can only imagine how much fun Jane, who could “not sit seriously down to write a serious romance under any other motive than to save [her] life” would have had with it. I begin my advice to young females on this subject, by suggesting a caution against forming this connection prematurely. I advise you, as you value your prospects of happiness for life, that you leave all matrimonial arrangements to a period subsequent to the completion of your education.   Another evil which you should avoid is that of forming this relation without due deliberation. Bear in mind that the decision which you form on this subject is to affect vitally your interests in life and at least that of one other individual. Of great importance is the character of (more…)
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On the Important Subject of Dress and Fashion

On the Important Subject of Dress and Fashion we cannot do better than quote an opinion from the eighth volume of the “Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine.” The writer there says, “Let people write, talk, lecture, satirize, as they may, it cannot be denied that, whatever is the prevailing mode in attire, let it intrinsically be ever so absurd, it will never look as ridiculous as another, or as any other, which, however convenient, comfortable, or even becoming, is totally opposite in style to that generally worn.” In purchasing articles of wearing apparel, whether it be a silk dress, a bonnet, shawl, or riband, it is well for the buyer to consider three things: I. That it be not too expensive for her purse. II. That its colour harmonize with her complexion, and its size and pattern with her figure. III. That its tint allow of its being worn with the other garments she possesses. The quaint Fuller observes, that the good wife is none of our dainty dames, who love to appear in a variety of suits every day new, as if a gown, like a stratagem in war, were to be used but once. But our good wife sets up a sail according to the keel of her husband’s estate; and, if of high parentage, she doth not so remember what she was by birth, that she forgets what she is by match. To Brunettes, or those ladies having dark complexions, silks of a grave hue are adapted. For Blondes, (more…)
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“Directions how to make a fire with Lehigh coal”

Coal definitely made a brighter, warmer, and less smoky fire than wood, and in Jane Austen’s day, had become a preferred source of heat. The Industrial Revolution, which began in the late 1700’s was fueled by coal and though it had been a prime energy source for centuries, the oldest continuously worked deep-mine, Tower Colliery, was opened in Wales, in 1805. Prior to that coal had been gathered “at the surface” or in private mining endeavors. The first commercial coal mines in the United States were started in 1748 in Midlothian, Virginia, near Richmond, Virginia. The following excerpt from The House Servant’s Directory, was written by Robert Roberts in 1827. Mr. Roberts had been butler to the governor of Massachusetts in 1809 and drew upon his work in that great house, to offer this advice to his fellow laborers. Directions how to make a fire with Lehigh coal And now, Joseph and David, I must address a few ‘last words’ to you on the subject of making coal fires. Having put down all that need be said in respect to employers and servants in their conduct towards each other, I wish to add some very superior directions for making fires of what is anthracite coal, otherwise called Lehigh, Rhode Island, or any hard coal. Very few servants at first understand the method of kindling and continuing a fire of Lehigh coal, many will never learn, and many more from erroneous instructions, whilst they think they understand is, make but a (more…)
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Advice to the Cook

The Cook must be quick and strong of sight: her hearing most acute, that she may be sensible to when the contents of her vessels bubble, although they be closely covered, and that she may be alarmed before the pot boils over; her auditory nerve ought to discriminate (when several saucepans are in operation at the same time) the simmering of one, the ebullition of another, and the full-toned warbling of a third. It is imperiously requisite that her organ of smell be highly susceptible of the various effluvia, that her nose may distinguish the perfection of aromatic ingredients, and that, in animal substances it shall evince a suspicious accuracy between tenderness and putrefication: above all, her olfactories should be tremblingly alive to mustiness and empyreuma. It is from the exquisite sensibility of her palate, that we admire and judge the cook; from the alliance between the olfactory and sapid organs it will be seen, that their perfections is indispensible. Good manners have often made the fortune of many, who have had nothing else to recommend them: ill manners have as often marred the hopes of those who have had everything else to advance them. Dinner tables are seldom sufficiently lighted, or attended; and active waiter will have enough to do, to attend upon half a dozen good eaters: there should be half as many candles as there are guests, and their flame be about eighteen inches above the table, our foolish modern candelabras seem intended to illuminate the ceiling, (more…)
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Advice to House Servants

Miscellaneous Observations, Compiled for the use of House Servants Many well-meaning servants are ignorant of the best means of managing, and thereby waste as much as would maintain a small family, besides causing the mistress of the house much chagrin by their irregularity: and many families, from a want of method, have the appearance of chance rather than of regular system. To avoid this, the following hints may be useful as well as economical:– Every article should be kept in that place best suited to it, as much waste may thereby be avoided, viz. Vegetables will best keep on a stone floor; if the air be excluded.—Meat in a cold dry place.—Sugar and sweetmeats require a dry place; so does salt.—Candles cold, but not damp.—Dried meats, hams, &c. the same.—All sorts of seeds for puddings, saloop, rice, &c. should be close covered, to preserve from insects; but that will not prevent it, if long kept. Bread is so heavy and article of expense, that all waste should be guarded against; and having it cut in the room will tend much to prevent it. It should not be cut until a day old. Earthen pans and covers keep it best. Straw to lay apples on, should be quite dry, to prevent a musty taste. Large pears should be tied up by the stalk. Basil, savoury, or knotted marjoram, or thyme, to be used when herbs are ordered; but with discretion, as they are very pungent. The best means to preserve blankets (more…)
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How to Write a Novel

Period Advice on How to Write a Novel Jane Austen was extraordinarily close to her neice, Anna Austen. Anna, a budding novelist, made the most of this relationship by sending her aunt mauscript copies of her work to critique and correct. Although she would never see the book in print, Anna eventually had several works published, including, Mary Hamilton (1833), The Winter’s Tale (1841), Springtide (1842) and Recollections of Aunt Jane (1864). The friendship and candor expressed in the following letters by Jane Austen to her neice also provide valuable advice to any hopeful writer. Also of interest is Jane Austen’s own Plan of a Novel (according to hints from various quarters). MY DEAR ANNA, I am very much obliged to you for sending your MS. It has entertained me extremely; all of us indeed. I read it aloud to your Grandmama and Aunt Cass., and we were all very much pleased. The spirit does not droop at all. Sir Thos., Lady Helen and St. Julian are very well done, and Cecilia continues to be interesting in spite of her being so amiable. It was very fit you should advance her age. I like the beginning of Devereux Forester very much, a great deal better than if he had been very good or very bad. A few verbal corrections are all that I felt tempted to make; the principal of them is a speech of St. Julian to Lady Helen, which you see I have presumed to alter. As Lady (more…)