"Naturally, a 'Lady of Distinction', in coy anonymity, has written it. But this book was no joke in Regency times, and much of the advice would have been taken very much to heart....The style of writing of this period can only be described as flowery; everything is padded out with endless adjectives, adverbs, and classical references. So one receives the following advice: 'Again, I repeat, the libertine, the gross Epicurean, may feast his imbruted gaze upon a form so stripped of decency; for he is a creature whose senses are bent to the earth and the basest offerings are his banquet.' This, apparently, is the result of leaving too much shoulder showing!" (Anne Woodley, editor, Regency Collection On-Line)
This audiobook will be especially indispensable to anyone interested in the times of Jane Austen, of English Regency, of Napoleon, the early United States, and the War of 1812.
(P)2004 Blackstone Audiobooks
Those who are hoping for a modern narrative will be disappointed. But for listeners who want to understand the Georgian era, this is a valuable little book from the period, which reveals more about social and religious thought than it does about etiquette and fashion. Like many of the "conduct books" written at the time, this book exhorts women to be modest above all and in all things. The author gives guidelines for young women concerning dress, deportment, and many other aspects of life in the upper classes, all with strong messages about social duty, deeply rooted in religion. Be prepared for a writing style that sounds stuffy and pretentious today, but was a model of refinement in its time.
I bought this book because it was narrated by Nadia May. I didn't have any idea what the thing was about except Jane Austen referred to it in Northanger Abbey when Mrs. Moreland decides that one of the essays: The Mirror, was the very thing to cure Catherine of repining. Hah! As if The Mirror could cure Catherine of Henry Tilney.
The observations made in the 1700's by the Lady of Distinction are not out of date although one of her toothache remedies may not be the thing: it includes opium. She believed a woman's treatment by men and other women depends greatly on her dress, manners, deportment, and speech: outer signs of her inner self.
Some may smirk at the Lady's advice but what is there to ridicule about modesty, self respect and self command which is the sum of this work? One can look at any of our cities today to see the results when those virtues are lacking in women. The Lady of Distinction suggests that strict codes of conduct and freedom are not incompatible. Liberty and licentiousness are not synonymous. The author suggests the true source of women's power lies within themselves and women are and always have been the guardians of western civilization. Since I am certain this work was read by Jane Austen, one can ask the question, were Elisabeth Bennett, Catherine Moreland, Anne Elliot, Elinore Dashwood, Fanny Price or Emma Woodhouse weak women? Did they set low standards for themselves or their men? In Laurie Viera Rigler's book Rude Awakening of a Jane Austen Addict, Miss Jane Mansfield the gentleman's daughter who suddenly find herself transported from 1813 Regency England into the body of Courtney Stone in 2009 LA, asks, "Women's movement? Toward what, a lack of self respect?" Are the rules of millennia obsolete? I have seen a number of reviews of Emma, Sense and Sensibility and Mansfield Park which suggest that many women think so.
I very much enjoyed this book and would listen to it again. It was interesting to listen to when keeping in mind Jane Austen's novels and the history of the period. I'm fond of history, Jane Austen and etiquette manuals encompassed two of the genres and helped my enjoyment of the third so I was very happy!
Nadia May read the book exactly as I would imagine a lady of the period reading it. Very prim and proper but still enjoyable to listen to.
I was drawn to this book for its time period. Post Napoleon/Pre Dickens. The one charm of this book is the fact that not only is it dated...but dated with a Jane Austen sensibility. A book on deportment, fashion and nutrition. What to wear, what to say, what to own. The stifling stuffiness kept me from connecting with this book, but I enjoyed the information and the schoolmistress delivery.
"Fascinating social document"
If you like Georgette Heyer's novels you will enjoy this book. Apart from the social history itself, with the kind of daily details seldom given (the corsetry section alone is a real eye-opener) it is beautifully read, by an excellent speaker who seems to be offering guidance in the most appropriate way. If you are not used to listening to fact books, this could be a really good start.
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