In honor of Jane Austen’s 240th birthday this past Wednesday I went to my shelf full of Jane Austen inspired works. There are many to chose from, but I wanted something short and light and I ended up with this lovely book.
I picked it up a kindle copy back in September 2013, don’t tell past me because I raved about how I was REALLY good and didn’t buy any books. It must’ve been one of the daily deals.
It was a very quick read, I read it all yesterday in two sittings, and it was quite informative. It explained pretty much any question you could have about manners and etiquette during Jane Austen’s time. (Seriously, see the chapter titles below.) Ross takes the advice from the novels Austen wrote and letters she wrote to her sister, Cassandra Austen, and her niece Anna Austen (janeausten.co.uk links), observing manners and habits of the time.
There are many others out there similar to this in which they share advice from Austen for modern dilemma’s, but I thoroughly enjoyed that Ross wrote the novel as if it were an immediate follow-up of Austen’s life time. She wrote as if she were writing it for other people living during, or just after the Regency Era. It provided a bit of levity and humor throughout what could easily have been a boring reference book about traditional etiquette and manners.
Chapter Titles/Subject Matter
- Chapter the First: Manners Makyth Man — and Woman
- Chapter the Second: The Forms of Introduction
- Chapter the Third: Calling and Conversation
- Chapter the Fourth: Dancing and Dining
- Chapter the Fifth: Dress and Taste
- Chapter the Sixth: The Subject of Matrimony
- Chapter the Seventh: The Family Circle
- Chapter the Eighth: The Assistance of Servants
I also really enjoyed having something confirmed that I always seem to question when someone asks me about the characters of Austen’s novels:
“Contrary to what some ill-informed or ignorant critics have suggested, the Authoress’s novels contain almost no detailed references to clothing—bonnets, ballgowns, or otherwise, or even clear descriptions of her characters’ features and looks.” (Loc. 591)
I always come up blank and am like, uh well in the movies… But apparently there are very few details. I know she talks about height occasionally, but other than that it’s pretty basic.
I also really appreciated the smattering of illustrations by Henrietta Webb. They appeared to be consistent with the period and paired with perfect quotes from the novels or from Austen’s letters.
Recommendation: This was a great quick read that had a great sense of humor. It will be really useful if my Jane Austen Book Club ever actually does a day of pretending to be in Austen. I think we’ve given that idea up though because we all agreed we would probably be bored out of our minds.
Opening Line: “This little guide is the outcome, ultimately, of a correspondence between the Authoress of several novels, including Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Mansfield Park, and her eldest niece—Anna Austen, of Steventon Rectory, in Hampshire.”
Closing Line: “Whatever changes the passing years brings, it is to be hoped that the role of Manners as an integral component of both life and literature will never cease to be of interest to the world at large.” (Not whited out as this is a work of nonfiction.)
Additional Quotes from Jane Austen’s Guide to Good Manners
“The codes of behavior which govern daily life should not be confused with mere formalities. They are based on solid principles of courtesy, propriety and, most of all, regard for the feelings of others.” (Loc. 84)
“Some of her own, her family’s, and her readers’, greatest ‘laughts’ have been at the expense of self-important titled people: and though no supporter of radicalism in any form, she has always been happy to demonstrate a disrespect for those who value themselves on their birth, rather than any more genuinely honourable, or admirable, characteristics.” (Loc. 125)
“A lack of ostentation does NOT indicate any lack of feelings.” (Loc. 237)
“…the truly elegant (gentlemen, especially), having dressed with care, should then seem oblivious to their own appearance.” (Loc. 607)
“Women who can think, or talk, of little else but ‘setting one’s cap at a man’, ‘making a conquest’, or ‘catching a beau’ are displaying, not merely bad manners, but a lack of moral judgement.” (Loc. 793)
“Maintaining appearances is an essential aspect of Good Manners; but this is not to suggest that superficial graces, or false values, are in any way admirable.” (Loc. 1122)