Who is the accomplished lady? Jane Austen tells us who deserves the respect and praise of being educated, refined and accomplished.
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Inspiration from the past written by Jane Austen on “How To Be Accomplished”
It is quite inspiring to look to the past,
to the era of Jane Austen, where people from that time period seemed to be educated and refined. It wasn’t in the time
of quick, hurry and rush as it is now. People took their time. Women became ladies.
I suppose we are more educated in the times that we are living in. However, there is different a spirit of elegance or essence of how people
lived their lives in those times, according to the writings of Jane Austen.
Reading deeper into the writings of Jane Austen, one can discover how society viewed the quality and class of ladies.
Similar to today, men of status wanted to marry women of the highest quality. She is described in many words today, ‘educated’, ‘beautiful’, ‘family oriented’, ‘intelligent’, ‘kind’, ‘elegant’ etc.
but we can sum it up by saying that she is an accomplished lady.
Like in Jane Austen’s times, an accomplished lady commands the respect of society and everyone around her. She will probably have a score of very eligible suitors.
What are the Traits of an Accomplished Lady?
Jane Austen tells us how society determined ‘who is the accomplished lady’ by her famous book, “Pride And Prejudice
The words in italics are quoted from the book.
‘It is amazing to me,’ said Bingley, “how young ladies can have patience to be so very accomplished, as they all are.”
‘All young ladies accomplished! My dear Charles, what do you mean?’ (says his sister.)
‘Yes all of them, I think. They all paint tables, cover screens and knit purses. I scarcely know any one who cannot do all this and I am sure I never heard a young lady spoken of for the first time, without being informed that she was very accomplished.’
My Darcy, his friend far from agreed with him.
He goes on to state that he does not know more than six women whom he can consider to be an accomplished lady. And Mr Bingley’s sister heartily agreed with him.
‘Then,’ observed Elizabeth, ‘you must comprehend a great deal in your idea of an accomplished woman.’
Bingley’s sister, who probably had her eye on Mr Darcy eagerly agreed as she was trying to impress him. She is described as “his faithful assistant” (with sarcasm from Jane Austen I’m sure) below.
‘Oh! certainly,’ cried his faithful assistant, ‘no one can really esteemed accomplished, who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with. A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing and the modern languages to deserve the word; 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.’
‘All this she must possess,’ added Darcy, ‘and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.’
Thus, we can draw these conclusions from Mr Darcy, and representative at that time of the description of the ideal woman.
Traits of An Accomplished Lady
In summary, a woman must have a thorough knowledge of
- modern languages
- must possess a certain something in her air
- manner of walking, (and I suppose her gestures)
- the tone of her voice,
- her address and expressions
- She must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.
These are what respectable men in that day wanted as wives. They certainly did not want silly wives.
How Does That Apply in Today’s Society?
What really left me astounded was how little that has changed from 200 years ago.
The descriptions are how one today defines as traits of class. The more traits you have, the ‘classier’ the world views you as.
If a woman or a young girl in her education pursued the above list, then we can call her what we call today as being ‘classically educated‘.
She will have her character shaped through the the discipline of her mind through hard work, acquisition of knowledge and the esteem of the arts and language.
In a nutshell.
Just food for thought. What do you think?