Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Jane Austen School of Homemaking

I think it ought to be noted that I am, like much of my sex, an avid Jane Austen reader; an enthusiast to be sure. I find myself easily lost in the language of her novels and the sweeping orchestral panoramics of the movies. And their lives - they were simpler then. All a woman worried about was finding a suitable mate of good fortune and making sure you had an appropriate bonnet to wear with your new sprigged muslin dress. Your time was to be spent in such pursuits as drawing, writing letters, needlepoint, and practicing your pianoforte.

When did they have time to do the washing, the dusting, the candlemaking , the cooking, and so forth?

They didn't. They had maids, menservants, and housekeepers. How else could Marianne Dashwood declare that she was going to spend six hours of every day in earnest study after she realized the frivolity of her life thus far? What kind of inheritance would Longbourne have been for Mr. Collins had it not been perfectly able to keep a cook? Of course they needed servants - they had things to do!

Daniel Pool, in his book What Jane Austen Ate & Charles Dickens Knew,

a reference guide detailing all things 1800's and English, states:
"That was, afterall the whole point of being a lady - you didn't DO anything, except tell the servants what to do, receive your callers, and work on your embroidery or perhaps paint decorative flowers on the fire screen for the hearth."

What a life, eh?

But, as nice as it sounds, I have to say I enjoy the thought of keeping up with all those things myself. Ok, maybe not the actual keeping up with them, but certainly of being capable of doing so. I'd like to walk through this life not overwhelmed by the mounting pile of laundry in the corner or the dust accumulating in between the slats on the back of my dining room chairs. I want my future chdren to say that I was amazing. "My mom did it all!" they'll say when I'm old & gray. I hope.

Meanwhile, it turns out that the lifestyle portrayed in Regency novels is not one that can be easily copied, though I do think that knitting and practicing music are wonderful and fulfilling passtimes. But who has extra time to pass?

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