Nonfiction Book Reviews
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Title: Regency Ettiquette: The Mirror of Graces (1811) / by a Lady of Distinction
Original Title: The mirror of graces; or, the English lady's costume: Combining and harmonizing taste and judgment, elegance and grace, modesty, simplicity, and economy, with a fashion in dress; and adapting the various articles of female embellishments to different ages, forms, and complexions; to the seasons of the year, rank, and situation in life: with useful advice on female accomplishments, politeness, and manners; the cultivation of the mind and the disposition and carriage of the body: offering also the most efficacious means of preserving beauty, health, and loveliness. The whole according with the general principles of nature and rules of propriety.
Author: Annonymous 'by a Lady of distinction'
First published 1811 in London by B Crosby. Reprinted 1997 in United States of America by R.L. Shep
ISBN: 0914046241, 9780914046240
Facsimile, 241 pages, illustrated in bl&w
The writer of the following treatise on the art in which consist the strength of beauty, the fascination of elegance, and the all-conquering power of taste, is a lady who has past several years in an intimate acquaintance with the manners of fashions, not only of the highest rank of the country, but also of most of the foreign courts.
These pages were not intentionally at first written for publication, but originally composed by the desire of some female friends, who live at a remote part of the west of England; and who, aware of her consummate knowledge of the world, and experience in all that is honorable in the art of captivation, had applied to her for certain directions on the subject. She indulgently complied with their request, and in the elegant treatise we now present to our readers, gratified her friends with as fine a lesson on personal and mental accomplishments as could ever flow from the experienced and delicate pen of a woman of virtue and of taste.
Women have all through the ages wished to make the best of themselves and the Regency era was no different. Originally published in 1811, Mirror of the Graces is a close sister to modern self-help and beauty books. The advice therein is not remarkable by its nature but rather as how modern it sounds and it's value not as a guide for today's woman but because it brings us close to our sisters from two centuries ago.
Clothed in the necessary pious language of the era - vanity was after all a sin regularly preached against alongside greed and wickedness - its value is in the glimpse we get of the life of the Regency gentlewoman before the suppressive Victorian age stamped out nearly all her independence. Here the woman is urged to enlarge her mind as well as care for her body; where personal hygiene goes hand in hand with fashion, taste with cosmetics and style is as necessary as intelligence.
Don't let the reprint title of this book fool you - it's not about seating arrangements and precedence but the expectations placed on the well bred woman in all areas of her life; something few available books from the era discuss so thoroughly.
Description of the Plates
- Preliminary Observations
- General Remarks
- On the Female Form
- General Thought on Dress and Personal Decoration
- On the Pecularities of Dress, with Refernce to the Status of the Bearer
- On the Detail of Dress
- On Deportment
- Pecularities in Carriage and Demeanour
- On the Management of the Person in Dancing and in the Exercise of Other Female Accomplishments
Notes on the Mirror of the Graces