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Understanding the subtle nuances behind formal introductions and customary greetings during Jane Austen’s lifetime is a lot of fun, and it can provide a unique level of insight into her books. The reason: Austen uses breaches of etiquette and manners as commentaries on her characters. In her book Those Elegant Decorums, Jane Nardin says, “In Jane Austen’s novels, a person’s social behavior is the external manifestation of his moral character” (12).

Austen utilizes greetings such as formal introductions, handshakes, curtsies, bows, and even the infamous “cut,” in order to help drive her plots, provide insightful information about her characters, and give subtle hints to her readers.

Making Introductions

 Throughout her novels, Jane Austen makes clever use of the rule that two strangers cannot interact socially until they have been properly introduced by a third party or mutual acquaintance. Today, it might seem rude to mingle with someone in a social setting and not introduce ourselves, but Kirsten Olsen says in All Things Austen that “genteel people who had not been introduced simply did not speak to one another” (132). Austen is able to use this code of conduct to the advantage and disadvantage of her characters.

Catherine Moorland feels the disadvantage of this rule acutely when she first goes to Bath: “she longed to dance, but she had not an acquaintance in the room” and Mrs. Allen only says, “every now and then, ‘I wish you could dance, my dear—I wish you could get a partner.’” (Northanger Abbey 21). Because they have no acquaintance, Catherine cannot dance. When they find a place for tea next to a large party of people, they even spend the meal “without having anything to do there, or anybody to speak to, except each other” (22). But if a girl cannot get a dance partner or find friends at the tea table without an acquaintance, how can she meet a marriage partner? Luckily, there was an exception to this rule: The master of ceremonies at the Lower Rooms could make a proper introduction, which is how Catherine meets Henry Tilney. (See Vic’s article on The Lower Assembly Rooms and Bath Society for more.)

Austen also uses this rule of introductions as the essential “hook” that grabs the reader’s attention at the beginning of Pride and Prejudice when Mrs. Bennet harasses Mr. Bennet to pay a visit to Mr. Bingley. Among the gentry in the country, when someone moved into the neighborhood, it was polite for his neighbors to call on him. Obviously, Mr. Bennet must introduce himself so that his daughters can meet Mr. Bingley. However, there is another reason for Mrs. Bennet’s insistence: Once the call is made, it must be returned. As Olsen says, “virtually all visits required a reciprocal visit so that once one started visiting at a particular house, it was hard to stop” (Olsen 385). This bit of information makes Mrs. Bennet’s shrewd scheming even more humorous for she knows it will inevitably lead to her daughters being introduced to Mr. Bingley.

Later in Pride and Prejudice, when Mr. Collins introduces himself to Mr. Darcy without having been formally introduced, it is an embarrassing breach of conduct, especially as he is of inferior social rank: “Elizabeth tried hard to dissuade him from such a scheme, assuring him that Mr. Darcy would consider his addressing him without introduction as an impertinent freedom, rather than a compliment to his aunt; that it was not in the least necessary there should be any notice on either side; and that if it were, it must belong to Mr. Darcy, the superior in consequence, to begin the acquaintance” (PP 79). This is not merely a terrible social faux pas—Austen is bringing attention to Mr. Collins’s ignorance and over-inflated sense of pride in regard to his connection to Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

Polite Gestures and Greetings

Austen also uses bows, curtsies, nods, and other physical gestures purposefully; body language carries a lot of meaning in her books. Bowing and curtsying, for instance, was to be done elegantly and gracefully. However, the depth and duration of a bow depended on the circumstances. For example, “A short, curt bow, more like a nod, could indicate displeasure or mere formal acknowledgement, while a long bow could be ridiculous in some situations and lend emphasis to one’s words or departure in others” (Olsen 131). We see an example of this subtlety when Mr. Darcy only bows slightly and moves away after Mr. Collins comes forward to introduce himself. Mr. Collins tells Elizabeth that the introduction went well, but from mere observation Elizabeth can see that the opposite is true.

Gentlemen were also expected to bow upon taking leave of a lady. Bows or tips of the hat were given in greeting to women, social superiors, and to acquaintances seen at a distance. Nodding was also important. Nodding was also common courtesy among women. And, much like a visit, a tip of the hat or nod of the head must be returned, as we see in Northanger Abbey when Catherine is looking for Mr. Tilney but is also occupied with “returning the nods and smiles of Miss Thorpe,” which “claimed much of her leisure” (Austen NA 35).

Shaking hands was generally used between men of the same social class. However, Olsen says that “women could choose to shake hands, even with a man, though conduct books indicated that this was a favour (sic) to be distributed with care” (131). We see in Sense and Sensibility that Marianne has become accustomed to granting this favor to Willoughby (and is hurt by his apparent indifference) when she holds out her hand to him and cries: “Will you not shake hands with me?” when they see one another at a party in London (176). When she first sees him, he merely bows “without attempting to speak to her, or to approach.” After spending so much time together, he is incredibly uncomfortable and acts as though they do not know each other as well as they do. Austen uses this scene to reveal to the reader that Willoughby’s feelings and intentions toward Marianne have changed abruptly.

The Cut

Finally, we see that once two people have been introduced, each one must give and return the appropriate calls, bows, curtsies, and nods. When someone deliberately chose not to engage in these polite customs and acknowledge an acquaintance, it was known as a “cut.” Olsen explains that “[a]n introduction was a matter of some importance, as once two people were introduced, they had to ‘know’ each other for good, acknowledging each other’s presence every time they met and accepting visits back and forth. The only way out of perpetual acquaintance was for one…to do something so horrific and unforgivable that the other might ‘cut’ him” (Olsen 132).

For instance, when meeting on the street, if one man saw a gentleman acquaintance, he would tip his hat. The other could then nod back. However, to ignore the other person and refuse to acknowledge him was a “cut.” The “cut” is used pointedly in Pride and Prejudice when Darcy sees Wickham in Meryton: “Mr. Wickham, after a few moments, touched his hat—a salutation which Mr. Darcy just deigned to return. What could be the meaning of it? It was impossible to imagine; it was impossible not to long to know” (73).

The cut is highlighted several times in Austen’s novels because “in her social world it was almost as dramatic an incident as could possibly happen” (Olsen 133). We see the cut used several times as a way to show that a relationship between two people has been broken for one reason or another. In Sense and Sensibility, after Willoughby breaks Marianne’s heart and she become ill, he tells Elinor that Sir John spoke to him for the first time in two months when they met in public. He says “[t]hat he had cut me ever since my marriage, I had seen without surprise or resentment” (330). Depending on the situation, sometimes it is the one being cut or the one giving the cut who is at fault.

In Pride and Prejudice, when Jane visits Miss Bingley in London, Miss Bingley waits several weeks before returning the call (though a call should be returned within a day or two. Jane writes to Elizabeth: “It was very evident that she had no pleasure in [the visit]; she made a slight, formal, apology, for not calling before, said not a word of wishing to see me again, and was in every respect so altered a creature, that when she went away, I was perfectly resolved to continue the acquaintance no longer” (148). This is a subtle cut and was considered highly impolite.

In each of her novels, Austen utilizes social gestures such as they to give her readers special insight into her characters and plots. When someone is in error, we should always look closely to find out why Austen has written it that way. Often, when the code of conduct is not followed, something (or someone) is amiss. Exploring these nuances is one way to understand the underlying meaning in Austen’s books. For more on these topics, see… (links/references)

Rachel Dodge, May 24, 2017

Inquiring readers: About Ms. Dodge, the author of this article (and more to come):

Rachel Dodge’s knowledge of Jane Austen and the Regency World is impeccable. She has an M.A. in English literature in creative writing and public relations, and is a free freelance web and marketing content writer/editor for churches, missionary organizations, and small businesses. Rachel is a frequent speaker at libraries, literary groups, and reading groups about Jane Austen, 18th-century literature, and the Regency Era. Her written works include: “Exploring Womanhood: Moral Instruction, the Ideal Female, and 18th-Century Conduct in Pride & Prejudice.” (Master’s Thesis on the topic of female etiquette in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice). She belongs to JASNA National, JASNA Greater Sacramento, and Inspire Writers.

You can see why I am so pleased to add Rachel to the Jane Austen’s World group of contributing writers! Please welcome her aboard.

Works Cited

Austen, Jane, and R. W. Chapman. Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1988.

–. Pride and Prejudice. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1988.

–. Sense and Sensilibity. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1988.

Nardin, Jane, and Jane Austen. Those Elegant Decorums the Concept of Propriety in Jane Austen’s Novels. Albany, State Univ. of New York Press, 2012.

Olsen, Kirstin. All Things Austen: A Concise Encyclopedia of Austen’s World. Oxford, Greenwood World, 2008.

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My regular Jane Austen readers have been patient as I succumbed to Downton Abbey fever and began to cover events 100 years after Jane Austen’s death. Customs changed during that intervening century. Take the matter of dress. While proper Regency ladies changed their outfits from morning gowns to walking gowns when they went out, and changed into dinner dress when dining, by Victorian and Edwardian times the custom of a lady changing her clothes throughout the day had turned into a fine art.  One could get by with no less than 4-5 changes per day. A woman who packed to visit a country estate was sure not to be seen in the same outfit twice. This meant that for a 4-day visit she would need at the very minimum to have her maid pack 16 changes of outfits. One can only imagine the work of a lady’s maid to keep all the clothes and unmentionables in perfect (and clean) condition. Such attention to detail required quite a bit of organization.

Morning dress, 1815. Ackermann plate. While she looked proper in her at home attire, this morning dress looks stodgy compared to the Edwardian teagown.

Corsets were worn all through the 19th century and into the early part of the 20th century. Women were constricted into these garments for most of their waking day, but there were times when they were free from these tight-laced garments.  During the early 19th century, upper class women at home would wear comfortable (but beautiful) morning gowns. Dressing gowns were also worn. Such gowns were meant to be seen by the family and close relatives only. The moment a woman expected to be seen, she would change into more proper dress.

Cora, the Countess of Grantham, lived during a time when teagowns were all the rage. These beautiful ornate gowns had the advantage of being simply cut and worn without a corset. It was possible that for just a few hours she could relax comfortably before dinner.

They were generally loose-fitting and elaborately trimmed, and gave full vent to the dressmaker’s or couturier’s skill and taste for theatricality. Tea-gowns were influenced by historical styles from eighteenth century Watteau-pleats, to renaissance hanging sleeves and empire waistlines and quite often, all of them at the same time. Never has so much love and art been invested in such an arguably unnecessary garment. All kinds of informal garments including tea jackets, peignoirs, dressing gowns, combing sacques, morning robes and dressing jackets also had their place in the leisured Edwardian lady’s wardrobe, all of them beautifully decorated and almost all of them now obsolete. 1900-1919: The Last Age of Elegance 

American dancer and actress Irene Castle wearing a teagown, 1913

It had long been the custom for a lady to entertain both male and female visitors in her boudoir. (Read my article on this topic.) During the Regency era, dressing gowns were quite plain and simple compared to teagowns.

1810-23 dresssing gown. Image @Met Museum

At times the teagown gave rise to temptation, for a woman could entertain in private and not need the services of her maid:

Worn between five and seven oclock,  gave rise to the French phrase ‘cinq à sept‘. This referred to the hours when lovers were received, the only time of day when a maid wouldn’t need to be there to help you undress and therefore discover your secret. – “Style”, The World of Downton Abbey, Jessica Fellowes

Early 19th century dressing gown. Image @Met Museum

Attired in her tea-gown, a soft flowing robe of filmy chiffon or fine silk, trimmed with an abundance of lace and often free of corsetry, the hostess must have been a tempting prospect for many men. Such loose gowns afforded women great comfort, ease of access and a tremendous sense of femininity. Little wonder then that whilst hemlines rose and fell the tea-gown, which had appeared in England as early as 1875 lingered on until the 1920s. – Edwardian tea gowns, fashion era

This Lingerie-style dress embellished with Irish crochet, c.1905 (below) can be seen in more detail on Vintage Texiles. Made of sheer cotton decorated with lace and ruffles, this sheer dress required a slip.

Edwardian teagown, 1905. Image @Vintage Textile

More on the topic:

Read more on the topic: Tea Gowns, Edwardian Promenade

Image of an early 19th century dressing gown at the Met Museum

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Inquiring reader: Sit back, relax, and grab a cup of coffee or a glass of wine! This is a long post about foxhunting. (Note: because of the helpful suggestions from equestrian readers, crucial edits have been made.)

Downton Abbey (Highclere Castle) and the start of the hunt

The fox hunting scenes in PBS Masterpiece Classic’s Downton Abbey fascinated me and prompted me to ask: How accurate was the depiction of this sport? Aside from the fashions, how different was fox hunting in the Edwardian era from the Regency era? And what happened to that wily fox, whose odds of escaping a score of determined hunters and a pack of excited hounds must have been close to zero? Or were they? My research uncovered a few interesting bits of information:

Hounds milling before the hunt. Notice William with refreshments. Downton Abbey

Description of the Hunt:

In 1910, 350 hunts existed in Britain, almost twice as many as today. Foxhunting was one of the few country sports in which women played an active role. It had become so popular that foxes were even imported from Europe to meet demand. The anti-hunt movement was a fledgling organisation concerned largely with horse beating and vivisection. For the vast majority, fox-hunting was seen as a harmless and ancient tradition. – Manor House

Before the start of an Edwardian hunt. Image @The Antique Horse

The Master will sound his horn and he and the hounds will take off on the hunt. Everyone else follows. The hounds are cast or let into coverts, which are rough brush areas of undergrowth where foxes often lay in hiding during the day. Sometimes the huntsmen must move from covert to covert, recasting the hounds until a scent is discovered. Once the hounds pick up the scent of a fox, they give tongue. The hounds will trail and track for as long as possible. Either the fox will go to ground or find an underground den for safety and protection or the hounds will wear him out and overtake him in a kill. Temperature and humidity are huge factors in how well hounds keep the scent of a fox. Often the chase involves extreme speed through brush and growth. A rider will need to be skilled in racing, jumping brooks, logs, brush, and the horses must be in excellent condition as well.”  – The history of fox hunting

Moving accident by flood and field

Moving accident by flood and field

Filming the Fox Hunt for Downton Abbey:

While the crew were at the castle they filmed various scenes, inside and out. Lady Carnarvon explained that on one particular day they filmed a hunt. “It was wonderful. It was a beautiful day on the day they were doing it too. The funny thing is the one thing I asked them not to do was go across the lawns because there was to be a wedding. They started very early and they were all hanging around. They were going up and down for hours on end, and then suddenly just out of the laurel bushes went a fox – a real fox. The fox took off towards the secret gardens and the hounds turned in full pursuit. The fox wasn’t caught. It just ran off. The hounds were eventually brought back having gone through a couple of cold frames in the garden. I could see the location manager thinking that is the one thing I asked them not to do,” she laughed. – Highclere Castle is the star of the screen

Dirt dog work, circa 1560

History of the Fox Hunt:

Talk of horses, and hounds, and of system of kennel!

Give me Leicestershire nags, and the hounds of old Meynell!

While Hugo Meynell is widely considered to be the father of modern foxhunting as we know it today (his Quorn Hunt between 1753 and 1800 was quite fashionable), hunting foxes with hounds was not new. Evidence exists that fox hunting has been practiced since the 14th century. In 1534 a Norfolk farmer used his dogs to catch a fox, which consisted of hunting on foot and trailing the animal back to its den. Foxes were thought to be “vermin” and left to commoners to hunt. In those early times, royalty and the aristocracy hunted stags, or deer, which required great swathes of open land and an investment in horses, hounds, and stables. Considering the chasing and killing of vermin to be beneath their status, the aristocracy continued to chase stags until these animals became scarce.

Hunting with hounds on foot

Hugo Meynell began breeding hounds that could keep up with the foxes at the same time that an increased number of 18th century men could devote their time to leisurely pursuits. Consequently, the sport of fox hunting began to take off. (See Rowlandson, The Humours of Fox Hunting: The Dinner, 1799 for a depiction of a group of men enjoying the after effects of a hunt.)

There were no formal hunt clubs during this period. Rather, large landowners kept hounds that accompanied them on private hunts. The hunts were not very effective in controlling the number of foxes in any given area, but the sport was safer than the practice of using spring traps, which could snare a human as well as a fox. (Animal traps from the 16th century. )

 

18th century spring trap

By the early 19th century, a more formal style of foxhunting began to be organized. Roads and railways had cut the land into smaller portions, and it became more convenient for rich landowners and their guests to hunt foxes. Railways also gave a larger number of people in towns and cities easy access to the countryside and an opportunity to join in the sport.

The rising middle clases, eager to improve their social standing, joined the clubs, and by the late 19th century the sport had reached the height of its popularity. In fact, the demand for foxes was so great that some hunts were called off if the probability was high that the fox would get killed. Foxes were so scarce that a large numbers of the animals were imported from Europe to be sold in England.

The Bilsdale Hunt. Image @MSNBC.com

The oldest continuous fox hunt in England is the Bilsdale Hunt in Yorkshire, established by George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham in 1668. Since 2005, foxhunting with hounds has been illegal in Britain, but there are groups that are still unhappy with this turn of events, for foxes are still allowed to be hunted and shot in England. Supporters of the foxhunt state that organized foxhunts never caught enough foxes to affect the total population and that the kills were clean. In addition, foxhunting supports a minor economy of farriers, grooms, horse stables, dog kennels, trainers, veterinarians, shops, inns, taverns, and the like. Since it became organized, the hunt also provided a spectator sport to local villages and market-towns and inspired railroads to expand their services so that participants could join the hunts and travel up and back within a day. The landscape also benefited from the hunt in that landowners planted low bushy coverts for the foxes and maintained their hedges to facilitate jumps. – Encyclopedia of Traditional British Rural Sports: History of Fox Hunting

 

Foxhunting Schedule:

Fox hunting began on the first Monday of November; traditionally a hunt was held on Boxing Day (Dec 26).

In the early morning workers stopped up the holes of the dens where the foxes rested, forcing these nocturnal animals to find shelter above ground during the day.

Around 11 a.m. the riders (field) would assemble, with around 40-50 hounds.

The Master of the Hounds was in charge of the hunt and supervised the field, hounds, and staff. The huntsman, who had bred the hounds and worked with them, would be in charge of the pack during the hunt.

Chasing the fox. Downton Abbey

Once the group was assembled, the hunstman would lead the pack of hounds and field to where a fox might be hiding. When the fox was flushed out into the open, the group would pursue the fox, with the huntsman leading the group. The field would follow at a gallop and watch the hounds chase down the fox.

When the fox was cornered, the hounds took over.

Hunt festivities included lawn meets, where food and drink were served to the people who gathered together, and hunt balls.The cost of horses, outfits, and operating expenses made the activity prohibitive for those with limited means, and only those with a great deal of money could afford to participate. – What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew, Daniel Pool – p171-173

Women and Foxhunting:

Waiting for the hunt to begin, Downton Abbey

Few women rode in a fox hunt during the Regency period. It took great skill and courage for a woman to join the hunt, for in those days the side-saddle lacked the leaping horn, which offered a more secure seat and made taking fences safer.

The Inconvenience of wigs, Carle Vernet. Image @Yale University Library

By the mid-19th century, women began to join in the sport in greater numbers. An article written by Catriona Parratt discusses women’s involvement:

“Preeminent among these activities was foxhunting, one of the few sports for which there seems to have been no rigidly prescriptive code limiting women’s participation. In fact, some women embraced the sport with a zest which was evidently not considered inappropriate. This may be explained in part by the extreme social exclusivity which attended to the leaders of the foxhunting set. Members of the aristocracy and the upper middle classes were probably sufficiently secure in their status to ignore, to some extent, more bourgeoise notions of respectability… According to one enthusiast, 200 riders was considered a poor turn out, while few meets attracted less than 100 men and women. A figure of thirty women is given in an account of the Tipperary Hunt in the 1902 season, but the overall evidence is very impressionistic…

There are also several accounts of women achieving the honour of being the first to ride in at the death of the fox, something which seems not to have offended their supposedly more delicate sensibilities. In a 1900 meeting of the Dartmoor Pack, the brush [tail] was awarded to a Miss Gladys Bulteel, of whom it was noted that her pony “was piloted with exceptional skill,” while in a previous month’s run of the same pack, a Miss Dorothy Bainbridge claimed the coveted trophy. None of this is to suggest that women participated in equal numbers or on equal terms with men… Rather, it is clear that some women were active, enthusiastic, and skillful participants who were drawn to the sport by “the enjoyment, the wholesomeness, even the nerve-bracing dash of danger.” – Athletic “Womanhood”: Exploring Sources for Female Sport in Victorian and Edwardian England Cartriona M. Parratt*, Lecturer, Dept. of Physical Educ

Kemal Pamuk (Theo James) meets Lady Mary

Comments about the Fox Hunt in Downton Abbey from the Horse and Hounds forum:

As I researched foxhunting, curiosity led me to a discussion forum at the Horse and Hounds website. I wanted to know what the experts thought of the foxhunting scenes in Downton Abbey. Here they are in a nutshell, with the names of the individuals taken off:

Master of the Hunt sounds the call

They should have told that daft lady [Mary] side saddle person to put a bloody thong and lash on her hunting whip and hold it the right way too..thong end up please. Suppose we should be grateful it was’nt filmed in high summer! And WHY film the field and hounds all mingled but apparently in full cry..UUURRRGGGHH it drives me nuts.”

“Not unless they have a leather loop on one end for the thong and lash? Do sidesaddle whips have bone “gate hooks” on the top end?? In one shot the lady did have a thong attached ..but still holding it the wrong way anyway, shortly before, no lash!! Pathetic.”

“My thoughts that the horses were not typical or hunters of that era, also would there have been a coloured, I thought that the craze for colours was a recent thing and they were frowned on in ‘those days’. “

The field follows the Master and pack

I am amazed that finally a TV programme has made the effort to show not only a hunting scene but a lady hunting on PRIMETIME TV and people are moaning about minor details! I hunt side saddle, I do it because I love it, so I was over the moon to finally see something relevant to it on t.v. Would you have preferred they didn’t show it at all and cut the hunting scenes entirely??

Lets not forget these programmes are filmed for public entertainment, they are not historical documentarys. Please could we all be a little more supportive of equines on TV regardless of the reasons, then maybe we would see more.”

“Well if you want to moan about the most minute details of the scenes (and don’t forget, what you see on screen in a STORY not a documentary !!!) why not start with the fact that the forward seat was unknown in Edwardian times?”

Master of the Hunt and pack set off ahead of the field

We noticed the coloured horse too and said no way would they have had one of them!! They only pulled carts in those days. Still – we all got excited when the hunting scene started!!”

Lady Mary and Evelyn Napier, Downton Abbey

Lady Mary and Evelyn Napier

Did anyone spot which hunt’s tail coat was being worn by Mr Evelyn Napier?”

“It was the vine and craven hunt huntsman David Trotman scarlet coat with gold vine leafs on black collar. The Vine & Craven [were] filming at Highclere Castle…”Horse and Hounds forum

Riding hell bent for leather through the fields. Downton Abbey

Master of the Hunt and other staff:

The Master of the Fox Hounds (MFH) or Joint Master of the Fox Hounds operates the sporting activities of the hunt, maintains the kennels, works with, and sometimes is, the Huntsman. The word of the Master is the final word in the field and in the kennels.  The Huntsman is responsible for directing the hounds in the course of the hunt.

The Huntsman usually carries a horn to communicate to the hounds, followers, and whippers-in.  Whippers-in are the assistants to the Huntsman. Their main job is to keep the pack all together.”  – Human roles in fox hunting

The huntsman drinking a pre-hunt drink. Image @Icons A Portrait of England

From Baily’s magazine of sports and pastimes, Volume 2, 1861, p. 182: “As well might you assert that because a nobleman throws open his house and grounds to the public one or two days in the week from free goodwill that he has not the right to exclude any persons he may object to. A Master of fox hounds hunts his country upon the same conditions. Any landowner can prevent him riding over his fields or drawing his coverts. By the landowners he stands or falls. He recognizes no other power to interfere with his conduct in the field.”

Edgar Lubbock, Master of the Blankney Hunt

Description of the above image: Edgar Lubbock LLB was the Master of the Blankney Hunt at the turn of the 20th century. He was born on 22 February 1847 in St James, London the eighth son of Sir John William and Harriett Lubbock. Educated at Eton and the University of London he studied Law and became an accomplished lawyer. Through his career he held varying positions, including Lieutenant of the City of London, Director of Whitbread Brewery, Director of the Bank of England and in 1907 Lord Lieutenant of Lincolnshire. He died in London on 9 September 1907 aged 60 whilst Master of the Blankney Hunt. – Metheringham Area Mews

The Dogs:

The true point of riding to hounds was (and is) to watch the hounds work. Those who galloped wildly or jumped unnecessarily were termed “larkers” – an insult – and disdained by the serious hunters. – Word wenches, fox hunt

The hounds are the most vocal component of the hunt and the means by which the fox is flushed out and then chased until it was too exhausted to go farther. In England, there were two breeds of dogs that were necessary to the hunt: Harriers, which are slightly smaller than foxhounds, and who chased the fox over hill and dale; and terriers, who followed the fox into the den and dug it out.

Harriers (Hare Hounds or Heirer)


The Harrier, also known as the Hare Hound or the Heirer, is a hardy hound, with a strong nose, that was developed in England to hunt hare.  Hare hunting has always been popular in England, sometimes being even more popular than fox hunting because hunters could trail their hare hounds on foot, without the need for the many horses required to follow fox hounds on the hunt. Moreover, hare hunting was never reserved to royalty; it was always accessible to commoners, who could add their few Harriers to a “scratch pack” made up of hounds owned by different people and still participate in the sport. Reportedly, in 1825, the slow-moving Harrier – in size between the larger English Foxhound and the smaller Beagle – was crossed with Foxhounds to improve its speed and enable it to better hunt fox in addition to hare. – Harrier overview

Terriers

Fox Terrier. Image @Chest of Books

With the growth of popularity of fox-hunting in Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries, terriers were extensively bred to follow the red fox, and also the Eurasian badger, into its underground burrow, referred to as “terrier work” and “going to ground”.[1] The purpose of the terrier is that it locate the quarry, and either bark and bolt it free or to a net, or trap or hold it so that it can be dug down to and killed or captured.[2] Working terriers can be no wider than the animal they hunt (chest circumference or “span” less than 35 cm/14in), in order to fit into the burrows and still have room to maneuver.[3] As a result, the terriers often weigh considerably less than the fox (10 kg/22 lbs)[4] and badger (12 kg/26 lbs),[5] making these animals formidable quarry for the smaller dog. – Wikipedia

My terrier no longer has the slender girth to chase a fox into its den, for he eats too many doggie biscuits.

Read more about terriers:

The Kill:

Foxes were killed in one of two ways:

1) Hounds chased the foxes until they were caught and then dispatched it. There seems to be a widespread disagreement about the kill, some saying it was quick, and that the fox died from a nip to the back of the neck, and others saying that the fox was repeatedly bitten or torn apart, and sometimes died slowly from its injuries.

2) The fox went to ground (inside a hole or den), and then was dug out with terriers.

Animal rights experts also found the chase itself, with the fox hunted to the point of exhaustion, cruel.

A lurcher adopts a fox cub, the opposite of a kill. Jack and Copper are famous in the U.K. Image @Animal Tourism.com

I could not show an image of a kill, so I’ve presented you with the opposite image: This young lurcher has adopted a fox cub. Jack, the hound, and Copper, the cub, are famous in the U.K. for their playful wrestling matches. Image @Animal Tourism.com

Final Words about Foxhunting in America:

Since Cora (the Countess of Grantham) in Downton Abbey was an American heiress, the information below regarding the American fox hunt is appropriate to this post:

Description of a Fox Hunt by a New England minister

Fox hiding in the covert.

Foxhunts were imported into America in the 17th century. In 1799, a wry New England minister gave a glimpse of the sport in the New World: “From about the first of Octor. this amusement begins, and continues till March or April. A party of 10, and to 20, or 30, with double the number of hounds, begins early in the morning, they are all well mounted. They pass thro’ groves, Leap fences, cross fields, and steadily pursue, in full chase wherever the hounds lead. At length the fox either buroughs out of their way, or they take him. If they happen to be near, when the hounds seize him, they take him alive, and put him into a bag and keep him for a chase the next day. They then retire in triumph, having obtained a conquest to a place where an Elegant supper is prepared. After feasting themselves, and feeding their prisoner, they retire to their own houses. The next morning they all meet at a place appointed, to give their prisoner another chance for his life. They confine their hounds, and let him out of the bag—away goes Reynard at liberty—after he has escaped half a mile—hounds and all are again in full pursuit, nor will they slack their course thro’ the day, unless he is taken. This exercise they pursue day after day, for months together. This diversion is attended by old men, as well as young—but chiefly by married people. I have seen old men, whose heads were white with age, as eager in the chase as a boy of 16. It is perfectly bewitching. The hounds indeed make delightful musick—when they happen to pass near fields, where horses are in pasture, upon hearing the hounds, they immediately begin to caper, Leap the fence and pursue the Chase—frequent instances have occurred, where in leaping the fence, or passing over gullies, or in the woods, the rider has been thrown from his horse, and his brains dashed out, or otherwise killed suddenly. This however never stops the chase—one or two are left to take care of the dead body, and the others pursue.” – Colonial Williamsburg, Personable Pooches

Middleburg Christmas parade. Image @Washington Post

Comment made on a Word Wenches post by a reader who lives in Virginia’s hunt cup country: I live in Virginia hunt country, in fact in the Old Dominion hunt area.  My property deed has one covenant on it. We must allow the huntmaster through. We can deny the rest of the hunt if we want. The covenant was signed by King Charles (I am not sure which one). Fauquier County has 3 hunts and the U.S. largest Steeplechase race, the Gold Cup. .. Many of the more recent mansions (post US Civil War through the 1920s) in Fauquier and neighboring Loudoun were built as hunt houses. – Word Wenches, Fox Hunting

Jacqueline Kennedy. Equestrian outfit in the 1970s.

Etiquette and Dress Code of a Fox Hunt:

The etiquette of the hunt field was (and is) as intricate and strict as that of the ballroom. I imagine (and please correct me if I am wrong), that each club has its own variation of rules. Loudoun County is west of Washington D.C. and sits near the middle of the hunt country of Northern Virginia, where Jacqueline Kennedy frequently hunted when she lived in Georgetown. Click here to read the extensive rules of etiquette of the Loudoun Hunt: Etiquette and the rules of Attire.

Edwardian riding habit. Image @side saddle girl

More on the foxhunt:

Addendum to original post:

This post began innocently enough, for I had no idea about the emotions surrounding the fox ban. Various views are presented in the comment section. Tony Grant, who writes for this blog and who lives in London, said in an email:

A fox creeps in Tony's yard towards the dustbins

Because foxes are no longer hunted their population has expanded unbelievably. They no longer keep to the countryside but live in the towns and cities as scavengers. They live in dens created in parks and the bottom of peoples gardens. They scavenge dustbins. We have an epidemic where I live in South London. They walk down my road and enter my garden on a regular basis. They are not afraid of humans.

Here are some pictures taken in my back garden. This fox wanted to raid our dustbins.

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I found the following tips in a 1919 book, Searchlight for Health. As far as I can tell, the etiquette of paying calls did not change significantly from Jane Austen’s time to the Edwardian era, or from having crossed an ocean. Here then, are the rules as outlined in this Project Gutenberg book:

Emma and Harriet visit Mrs. and Miss Bates

Emma and Harriet visit Mrs. and Miss Bates

In the matter of making calls it is the correct thing:

  • For the caller who arrived first to leave first.
  • To return a first call within a week and in person.
  • To call promptly and in person after a first invitation.
  • For the mother or chaperon to invite a gentleman to call.
  • To call within a week after any entertainment to which one has been invited.
  • You should call upon an acquaintance who has recently returned from a prolonged absence.
  • It as proper to make the first call upon people in a higher social position, if one is asked to do so.
  • It is proper to call, after an engagement has been announced, or a marriage has taken place, in the family.
  • For the older residents in the city or street to call upon the newcomers to their neighborhood is a long recognized custom.
  • It is proper, after a removal from one part of the city to another, to send out cards with one’s new address upon them.
  • To ascertain what are the prescribed hours for calling in the place where one is living, or making a visit, and to adhere to those hours is a duty that must not be overlooked.
  • A gentleman should ask for the lady of the house as well as the young ladies, and leave cards for her as well as for the head of the family.

Another book, Mrs. Astor’s New York by Eric Homberger (2004), gives a glimpse of what a call might look like for young ladies of quality in New York at the turn of the 20th century. (Edith Wharton does this so well.) The art of social climbing remained quite strict and, in fact, was probably stricter as a result of the Victorian era. Keep in mind that this book and the one above were written in the U. S. about Americans:

So simple a matter as paying a morning call was hedged around with complications. A male escort or female companion was not needed if a lady went in a carriage, but a gentleman was expected to accompany a lady walking on foot. It was permissible for two ladies walking together to make a call without male escort. When paying a call, female guests were expected to remain seated in chairs or benches lining the perimeter of the room, waiting for servants to pass refreshments in sequence. A hostess alone had the freedom to stand and cross the room. Larger social events, variously termed ‘routs,’ ‘conversaziones,’ and ‘squeezes,’ were less rigid in the assignation of gender roles, and the provisions of tables for chess and cards, or music for dancing, greatly increased the variety of entertainment.

For a truly comprehensive chapter on paying morning calls during the latter part of the 19th century, click on this link to read the chapter, Etiquette for the Caller, from The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness, Florence Hartley, 1872. Again, this is an American etiquette book.

Click here to read my other post on etiquette:

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    I did myself the honour of calling in Berkeley Street last Tuesday, and very much regretted that I was not fortunate enough to find yourselves and Mrs. Jennings at home. My card was not lost, I hope.” Willoughby to Elinor, Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 28

    The astute reader of Sense and Sensibility knows that Willoughby took care to visit Berkeley Street at precisely the time when no one would be “At Home” to receive him. This duplicitous action served to raise Marianne’s hopes when there was none, for Willoughby was already courting Miss Sophia Grey, an heiress with 50,000 pounds. When he found no one at home, Willoughby most likely placed his card in a silver salver on the hall table, much like the one from 1765, see image.

    The etiquette of the time dictated that when a gentleman paid a call to a lady, he must leave his card behind. If no one was “At Home”, the visitor, in this instance Willoughby, would turn down one corner of the card. This meant that he had come in person. A gentleman was obliged to leave two calling cards, one for the man of the house, and one for the lady. If there was no gentleman, then only one card would be left.*

    A visitor bearing a card in person carried more social weight than if one merely sent a groom or footman to present the card. Cards, like ladies’ fans, conveyed many messages. If a card was merely presented reciprocally by a third party, the card giver could be giving the strong message that they were unwilling to further the social acquaintance. “A reciprocal card may be given to the caller. If it was not presented formally, this usually meant there was no desire to further the acquaintance. If, however, a formal call was returned with a formal call, there was hope for the relationship to grow.” If a card was conveyed to the mistress of the house, and she decided not to receive the caller, then this would be a clear rejection. In this instance, the butler would announce that his mistress was ‘not at home’.
    A gentleman’s card was slightly smaller in size than a lady’s, for he had to carry his cards inside his coat. Both sexes would have their names printed in simple script on cream colored stock. Cards were most likely kept in a beautiful card case (Click here to see an example), which came in many shapes and styles. Fancy visiting cards printed with flowers and scenes did not become popular until the Victorian era, and even then the upper classes refrained from using showy cards. Printed on the card were the person’s address and name, preceded with a title (or Mr. or Mrs.). The precise name and title on the calling card would be announced to the person who was receiving. Visits were kept short, no more than 20-minutes to 30 minutes, and were held in the drawing room on the first floor. Formal morning calls were actually paid after luncheon, between 3-6 pm on the day that the lady of the house had announced she would be receiving.

    In 1861, Mrs. Beeton published her seminal Book of Household Management, and wrote that: “a strict account should be kept of ceremonial visits, and notice [taken] how soon your visits have been returned. An opinion may then be formed as to whether your frequent visits are … desirable.” Miss Caroline Bingley, for example, made it quite clear with her short and belated visit to Miss Bennet, who was visiting London, that she did not wish to further the social acquaintance. More importantly, Jane quickly understood her point.

    It was quite the practice to impress other visitors with the names on the calling cards left on one’s silver salver. Obviously, the card of the most notable visitor, such as Viscountess Dalrymple in Persuasion, would be displayed most prominently on top of the card heap.

    The Bath paper one morning announced the arrival of the Dowager Viscountess Dalrymple, and her daughter, the Honourable Miss Carteret; and all the comfort of No. –, Camden Place, was swept away for many days; for the Dalrymples (in Anne’s opinion, most unfortunately) were cousins of the Elliots; and the agony was how to introduce themselves properly.

    Sir Walter, however, would choose his own means, and at last wrote a very fine letter of ample explanation, regret, and entreaty, to his right honourable cousin. Neither Lady Russell nor Mr Elliot could admire the letter; but it did all that was wanted, in bringing three lines of scrawl from the Dowager Viscountess. “She was very much honoured, and should be happy in their acquaintance.” The toils of the business were over, the sweets began. They visited in Laura Place, they had the cards of Dowager Viscountess Dalrymple, and the Honourable Miss Carteret, to be arranged wherever they might be most visible: and “Our cousins in Laura Place,”–“Our cousin, Lady Dalrymple and Miss Carteret,” were talked of to everybody. – Persuasion Chapter 16

    A person leaving town would inform his friends of this action by dropping off a card with the letters P.P.C. written on them. The initials meant “pour prendre conge” or French for ” I’m leaving.” [Some cards used P.D.A. (pour dire adieu)]*. When a man married, he sent round cards to former acquaintances who were respectable enough to frequent his home. Anyone not receiving a card automatically understood their acquaintance to have been dropped. (Georgian Index) (Also, The Jane Austen Centre.)

    Read more about calling cards in these links:

    • *Etiquette for Gentlemen: Rules for Perfect Conduct, Copper Beech Publishing, 1995, p. 13. ISBN 978 1 898617 08 2

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    Rowlandson illustration from Wikipedia

    ‘What a charming amusement for young people this is, Mr. Darcy! There is nothing like dancing, after all. I consider it as one of the first refinements of polished societies.’

    ‘Certainly, sir; and it has the advantage also of being in vogue amongst the less polished societies of the world; every savage can dance.’

    Sir William only smiled. ‘Your friend performs delightfully,’ he continued, after a pause, on seeing Bingley join the group; ‘and I doubt not that you are an adept in the science yourself, Mr. Darcy.’

    ‘You saw me dance at Meryton, I believe, sir.’

    ‘Yes, indeed, and received no inconsiderable pleasure from the sight.
    – Conversation between Sir William Lucas and Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice, Chapter VI.

    Dances figure prominently in Jane Austen’s novels. Whether performed in public assembly rooms in Meryton or in private at the Netherfield Ball, dances offered social opportunities for young people to mix and mingle and converse in an acceptable fashion. In an era when a young lady of good breeding was strictly chaperoned and escorted everywhere she went, she would find it difficult during a routine day to meet privately with a single gentleman, even one who was courting her. Indeed, such conduct was strictly forbidden (and the reason why Marianne Dashwood’s behavior with Willoughby was considered shockingly forward). The ballroom, however, afforded a social situation in which a couple could arrange to be together for one or two sets. Since a dance would often last for half an hour, the dancers had ample time to converse, flirt, and even touch one another in an accepted manner.

    A gentleman would, of course, never ask a young lady to dance unless he was first introduced to her. This is one of the reasons why Henry Tilney made sure to arrange a formal introduction to Catherine Morland and Mrs. Allen through the Master of Ceremonies.

    During this era people were often judged for their ability to dance skillfully, and a gentleman was pressured to cut a fine figure on the dance floor. In his advice to his son about manners and deportment, Lord Chesterfield wrote: “Now to acquire a graceful air, you must attend to your dancing; no one can either sit, stand or walk well, unless he dances well. And in learning to dance, be particularly attentive to the motion of your arms for a stiffness in the wrist will make any man look awkward. If a man walks well, presents himself well in company, wears his hat well, moves his head properly, and his arms gracefully, it is almost all that is necessary.”

    It is notable that Mr.Collins movements are awkward, and that his conduct on the dance floor mortifies Lizzy: “The first two dances, however, brought a return of distress; they were dances of mortification. Mr Collins, awkward and solemn, apologising instead of attending, and often moving wrong without being aware of it, gave her all the shame and misery which a disagreeable partner for a couple of dances can give. The moment of her release from him was exstasy.” (Pride and Prejudice) Mr. Collins’ ineptness as a dancer would have been immediately understood by the contemporary reader to mean that he was not a polished gentleman. To compound his lack of manners, he boldly walks up to Mr. Darcy to introduce himself.

    Young ladies and gentlemen practiced their dancing steps, belying Mr. Darcy’s assertion that “every savage can dance.” Professional dancing masters were employed to ensure that a young lady and gentleman learned the steps to a variety of intricate dance movements. Such instruction also helped a young gentleman to keep his bearing upright. Lord Chesterfield wrote his son, who was taking The Grand Tour, “Remember to take the best dancing-master at Berlin, more to teach you to sit, stand, and walk gracefully, than to dance finely. The Graces, the Graces; remember the Graces! Adieu!” Learning the steps was easier said than done, since “between 1730-1830 over twenty-seven thousand country dances with their tunes were published in England alone.” Thankfully, the Master of Ceremonies would choose only a certain number of dances to be performed for the evening, most likely consisting of the most fashionable dances of that particular year.* (Thompson, The Felicities of Rapid Motion)

    The most important lady present would open the ball by dancing the first set, as Elizabeth Elliot did as the eldest daughter. Emma Woodhouse would have also been given the honors. Mr. Darcy’s rank and friendship with Mr. Bingley most likely put his position at the top of the line of dancers. Thus, when he asks Elizabeth to dance at the Netherfield Ball they would figure prominently in the line of dancers. The other couples in a country dance set would follow the lead of the top couple, and progressively work their way down the line. Sets of five to eight couples were popular during this period, with partners standing opposite each other as the other couples completed a sequence of movements

    Standing and facing each other in line, therefore, was typical for couples engaged in a country dance. However, they were expected to make some conversation as they waited for the next movement. A gentleman, if he applied himself, could skillfully lead the conversation and put a young lady at ease, or pretend to be interested in any topic she brought up. Mr. Darcy chose to remain silent.

    They stood for some time without speaking a word; and she began to imagine that their silence was to last through the two dances, and at first was resolved not to break it; till suddenly fancying that it would be the greater punishment to her partner to oblige him to talk, she made some slight observation on the dance. He replied, and was again silent. After a pause of some minutes, she addressed him a second time with:

    “It is your turn to say something now, Mr. Darcy. — I talked about the dance, and you ought to make some kind of remark on the size of the room, or the number of couples.”

    He smiled, and assured her that whatever she wished him to say should be said.

    “Very well. — That reply will do for the present. — Perhaps by and by I may observe that private balls are much pleasanter than public ones. — But now we may be silent.”

    “Do you talk by rule then, while you are dancing?”

    “Sometimes. One must speak a little, you know. It would look odd to be entirely silent for half an hour together, and yet for the advantage of some, conversation ought to be so arranged as that they may have the trouble of saying as little as as possible.” – Pride & Prejudice, Volume 1, Chapter 18

    In a public assembly, where people paid a fee to attend, people from various walks of life would come in contact with one another. “Aristocrats would interact with gentry, tradespeople, or even servants who were called in to make up a set if there were not enough couples…” (Sullivan, p 168). Mr. Darcy chose to dance only with Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley at the public assembly rooms in Meryton, thereby displeasing a wide variety of people, particularly Mrs. Bennet, who was vocal about her displeasure, for there was a scarcity of gentlemen and Lizzy had been forced to sit out two dances. For her part, once a lady refused a gentleman, she was honor bound to pass on other invitations to dance for the rest of the evening.

    Private balls became more popular towards the end of the century, when many grand houses began to boast their own ballrooms. At private affairs, the host and hostess could invite the ‘right’ sort of people. These balls were not only more selective, but they provided music played by more professional musicians, and offered delicious and elaborate refreshments as well.

    Illustration from The English Folk Dance and Song Society

    Mr. Beveridge’s Maggot is the music featured at the Netherfield Ball in Pride and Prejudice 1995 (You can listen to it by clicking on the YouTube video above). The piece was written by Johan Playford in 1695, and published in Playford’s Dancing Master, a country dance guidebook. Maggot in those days meant “favorite,” and the term probably was used in conjunction with a favorite dance. “Today there are two modern versions of the dance – one published by Pat Shaw and one by Cecil Sharp. Shaw’s version of Mr. Beveridge’s Maggot is generally accepted to be the most authentic since it follows the AAB structure of the music, and Playford clearly states that the second, or B, line of music should be ‘played but once’.”

    Links and Resources:

    Festival Ball Tickets for September 27, 2008 are now on sale at The Jane Austen Centre, Bath. Tickets this year are £65. To purchase tickets and for further information on the ball and dance workshop taking place in the afternoon of the ball, contact Farthingales or call 44 (0)1225 471919

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    To the unrefined or underbred, the visiting card is but a trifling and insignificant bit of paper; but to the cultured disciple of social law, it conveys a subtle and unmistakable intelligence. Its texture, style of engraving, and even the hour of leaving it combine to place the stranger, whose name it bears, in a pleasant or a disagreeable attitude, even before his manners, conversation and face have been able to explain his social position. The higher the civilization of a community, the more careful it is to preserve the elegance of its social forms. It is quite as easy to express a perfect breeding in the fashionable formalities of cards, as by any other method, and perhaps, indeed, it is the safest herald of an introduction for a stranger. Its texture should be fine, its engraving a plain script, its size neither too small, so that its recipients shall say to themselves, ‘A whimsical person,’ nor too large to suggest ostentation. Refinement seldom touches extremes in anything. From “Our Deportment” by John H. Young, 1879 & 1881, p. 76.

    During the Georgian, Regency, and Victorian eras, calling cards were a necessary accessory for a gentleman or lady who called upon friends or acquaintances, or who wished to announce their presence in town. In fact, one wasn’t received unless one conveyed one’s card first. Gentlemen could place their addresses on their cards, but ladies could not, and a matron would naturally place her married name on her card, such as Mrs. John Smith.

    The best calling cards were made from plain, excellent quality paper and were engraved. They were kept in beautiful cases, such as the one above. A gentleman’s card case was slightly smaller than a lady’s, since he had to carry it in his pocket. Ornamentation on a card was considered to be poor taste, although as the 19th century progressed, the more colorful calling card seemed to become quite common.

    For the recipient, calling cards were a handy way of recalling who had come to visit, and which calls needed to be returned. They were also effective in letting one know exactly where one stood in the social order. For example, if an individual received a calling card in lieu of a personal visit, well, then, the point was likely made.

    For more detailed information about calling cards, click on the following links:

    • The Gentleman’s Page goes into great detail about the etiquette of handing out cards in late 19th Century America. By scrolling down the page, you can view several samples of calling cards here.
    • Calling Cards and Stationary describes the use of calling cards during the Victorian period, such as: The card was conveyed to the mistress of the house, who would then decide whether or not to receive the caller. Out of respect, no questions or inquiries as to the whereabouts of the residents or the mistress were asked during the initial visit. If the mistress was ‘not at home’, it was a rejection of the visitor. A reciprocal card may be given to the caller, but if none was given formally, this generally indicated less desire to further the acquaintance. However, if formal calls were given, there was hope for the relationship to grow.

    Calling card of Le Marechal Foch, French hero who lived during the turn of the 20th century. Note the writing on the card.

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