A Jane Austen knockoff or associated book is always a gamble. I’ve read collections of her witty quotes, which are fine, if nothing special or new. Or I’ve read fanfiction-style “sequels,” most of which are terrible. My oldest childhood friend M, also an Austenite, bequeathed me this volume of good manners, according to Regency era. It is truly a delight and a gorgeous book to have in a personal collection.
In Jane Austen’s Guide to Good Manners, Josephine Ross walks you through customs of the day and where we see them at play and being violated in Jane Austen’s novels. I never knew, for example, that Ms. Austen had to write to her publisher to call upon her when she had business with him! It was considered gauche of a woman to call upon a man, as it led to speculations that they were having an affair. There are many codes of conduct that Ross unfolds, whether in calling upon people (still something of a mystery to me until now), why and how you converse during a dance, and how you appropriately conduct courtship and engagements. Each chapter is witty and merry in its execution, and it’s a great insight into a time long since passed in history.
This volume is a wonderful book to own, because Henrietta Web’s watercolor illustrations are truly gorgeous. It makes the book really interesting and visually pleasing to take in. I don’t need art with everything I read, but it sure helps make the process more enjoyable. If you’re a Jane Austen fan, give this a read. It’s a lot of fun, and you’re sure to find something new!
Cross-posted to my blog.