Wednesday, June 1, 2011

No Ball Faux-Pas Please!

Those of you have begun reading Evelina have perhaps reached Evelina's first ball in London where the poor girl has made a few social errors resulting in an offended macaroni.  A fatal error!  Just as now, there were many rules of etiquette in Evelina's time; some more obvious than others.  Had she but been schooled in those rules of dance etiquette.

Going to a ball or assembly was not all fun and games, oh no.  Both men and women had obligations, especially the hosts of the party.  Georgiana and Harriet were known to be excellent dancers and Georgiana was known to dance herself into exhaustion due to obligations to the many men who asked her to dance.  It was all part of the toils of the political hostess.  Could you reject a partner who asked you to dance?  Yes; if you had accepted to dance with another gentleman you should certainly decline the invitation; for an invitation to dance was understood to actually be an invitation for at least two dances with your partner.  However, if you wanted to decline, despite not being engaged to another, you should politely beg forgiveness and then sit out for two more dances before considering an invitation from a new partner.  It was almost easier to just accept the dance invitation!  Another reason women may have rarely declined a dance is because it was considered rude on a man's part if he wasn't engaged to a partner to allow a woman to sit out of a dance. In the famous assembly scene in Pride and Prejudice when Lizzie and Darcy meet, Mr Darcy was being rude to not dance when there were ladies without partners.  Of course, if you continue to decline invitations as lady, know that there comes a point when the gentlemen are just being courteous.  Don't be so picky!

Think these dance rules are a breeze?  Take this situational test put together by four lovely ladies at the University of Michigan (although who knows how old this is, they could now be the happy wives of men they picked up with their good dance etiquette these days!).

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed this Austencosmoesque quiz! I should like to inquire as to the rules when G was hostess; to whom did she bow to at her own balls?