Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Book Review: Jane Austen's Guide to Good Manners: Compliments, Charades & Horrible Blunders by Josephine Ross

"This little guide is the oucome, ultimately, of a correspondence between the Authoress of several novels, including Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Mansfield Park, and her eldest niece - Anna Austen, of Steventon Rectory, in Hampshire."

Published: October 3, 2006 by Bloomsbury USA
Illustrations by Henrietta Webb

Description (from Goodreads):
Jane Austen’s Guide to Good Manners is a light-hearted, insightful handbook written as if intended for her original Regency Era readers, and illustrated throughout with beautiful watercolors. When Anna, Jane Austen’s young niece, sent her a novel for “literary comment,” Jane loved everything about it, except its utter disregard for the manners of the day. The resulting and tender correspondence between the two serves as the foundation for this instructional book.
Etiquette and social behavior of the early 1800s come to life in lovely chapters teaching one on how to pay and return formal “calls,” how to properly refuse a proposal of marriage, who should lead off the dancing at a country-house ball, and what to wear for a morning walk. Jane Austen used these daily customs and niceties to brilliantly illuminate the cloistered world of high society women in her timeless novels. Now with this delightful handbook of correct social behavior, readers will learn just why Mrs. Bennet of Pride and Prejudice couldn’t call alone on her new, rich, bachelor neighbor and had to force the reluctant Mr. Bennet to do so…even as he uttered “Tis an etiquette I despise.”
An indispensable gift for any Austen fan, this beautiful book will prove irresistible to anyone wishing to go back in time to the atmosphere of their favorite Austen novels.

My thoughts:
The ones that I've been following my posts frequently already know that I am doing this school essay called EE (extended essay) about a topic related to Jane Austen. At this point my research question is: What was the role of dance during the time and life of Jane Austen and how does it affect the relationships and plot of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and Emma? Because of this essay, I ordered several different books related to Jane Austen and dance (you can see the other books from my latest IMM post.)

This little guide to good manners was a light and fast read. It has some beautiful illustrations by Henrietta Webb. Those illustrations make the reading even more pleasing. Even though I've done different types of research about Jane Austen for years now, and I already knew something about the manners of the society, it was interesting to read this book, since it highlights some advices Miss Jane Austen herself gave to her niece about how to act in the society.

Since I first time read Pride and Prejudice I have wanted to build a time machine so I could travel back in time to 19th century. The world Jane Austen's novels portray is the world I dream about. I know there were many negative things in the society of that time, and all and all, in the life of the people. But the way Jane Austen portrays the society has made me fall in love with it, and I have become extremely interested about the history of Jane Austen herself and about the society of her time. 

For me, the most useful part of this book, considering my essay, is 'Dancing and Dining'. The other sections of this book are 'Manners makyth Man- and Woman', 'The Forms of Introduction', ' Calling and Conversation', 'Dress and Taste', 'The Subject of Matrimony', 'The Family Circle' and 'The Assistance of Servants'. 

The ideal society I would love to live in would be the mixture of Jane Austen's society and the society we live in right now. I would love to attend formal balls, learn how to sing and dance properly, live in a big country house or manor and ride horse carriages. But I would not want to say goodbye to proper shower, computer, cell phone and the fact that I can wear jeans and short dresses. What I really would love to get from Jane Austen's society to the current society is the manners and respect. I want guys to act like gentlemen, not like animals. I want young people to show respect for older people. I think that the current society is slipping at those things.

I recommend this little book to every fan of Jane Austen, especially at those who are not yet so familiar with the society Jane Austen's novels talk about. This is a delighful addition into my collection of Jane Austen related titles.


  1. Oh, I must get this book for myself! This is a great review and as an Austen fan, I should read this. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Irena, I am happy that you found the review useful.I have another Jane Austen related review coming up later


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