Saturday, 16 November 2013

Accomplished Regency Ladies

"It is amazing to me," said Bingley, "how young ladies can have patience to be so very accomplished as they all are...They all paint tables, cover screens, and net purses. I scarcely know any one who cannot do all this, and I am sure I have never heard a young lady spoken of for the first time, without being informed that she was very accomplished" - Pride and Prejudice.

It seems that young ladies learned many accomplishments from the time they were children. They studied French and spoke Italian so that they could translate romantic songs, as well as singing and practicing on a pianoforte and or a harp.

They also practised the art of drawing with a pencil and coloured their sketches with watercolours. Gothic novels such as The Mysteries of Udolpho included ancient castles about to fall into ruins and eerie landscapes. Such subjects were popular - even more so if a tree struck by lightning or another picturesque feature could be included.

I can easily imagine young ladies heads bent over their sketches, fingers striking chords or feet practising dance steps. I can also imagine some rebellious little ladies who did not want to please their mammas and papas by becoming expert in the arts of filigree, with decorative needlework, netting and other feminine accomplishments.