Social Success: Five Pieces Of Regency Etiquette (Part Five)

In this most recent five-point guide to proper etiquette, we take the display of accomplishments as our theme.

It has often been remarked that young ladies are now more accomplished than ever before. We are taught to dance and sing and play and paint and embroider and the list goes on… But all of these are worthless, if a young lady does not display them in a manner which is to her benefit. Thus, the next time you are called upon to ‘exhibit’, as they say, here are some words of advice that it might be worth bearing in mind:

  1. Accomplishments become a mere exercise in, and display of, vanity, unless they are tempered with grace.[1] Grace and modesty bring enjoyment to the eye of the observer, or the ear of the listener. The accomplishment itself is secondary. You can play perfectly, but if you play perfectly and arrogantly, all true pleasure is taken away.
  2. If a lady is called upon to sing, she should choose a song that gives neither herself, nor anyone else listening, cause to blush.[2] If she wishes to sing of love, for example, that love should be chaste and virtuous.
  3. Indeed, this discretion should be carried over into her mode of singing. She should never undertake to act any of the sentiments to which she gives voice.[3] Emotion may be conveyed through her tone, or perhaps her expression, but that is the absolute limit of the matter.
  4. When asked to play, a lady should not sit stiffly in her seat with her elbows pointing out.[4] An awkward manner is neither graceful nor ladylike. Grace and ease are the order of the day.
  5. In dancing, the enjoyment of the onlooker is found in more than just watching the couples move with ease and in harmony.[5] Enjoyment is also found in seeing happiness amongst the couples, and hearing the hum of pleasant conversation mingled with the music.[6] Therefore, while a lady must dance her steps correctly, she must also try to do so with an amiable manner.



[1] A Lady Of Distinction, The Mirror Of Graces, (Kessinger Legacy Reprints), [Previously Published: Edinburghand London: Adam Black, and Longman and Co., 1830], p. 136.

[2] Ibid., p. 153.

[3] Ibid., p. 152.

[4] Ibid., p. 154.

[5] Ibid., p. 137-138.

[6] Ibid.



A Lady Of Distinction, The Mirror Of Graces, (Kessinger Legacy Reprints), [Previously Published: Edinburgh and London: Adam Black, and Longman and Co., 1830].

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