Regency Matchmaking by a Lady of Distinction

     A comment on the English language of the Regency period: IT WAS CONVOLUTED, LONG-WINDED and DIFFICULT FOR TODAY’S READERS TO FOLLOW.  Today’s challenge is to see how well you speak Regency.  The translation is at the end.

Jane Austen's Emma with her Beau

In The Mirror of Graces (1811) the author, a Lady of Distinction, gives some final advice on finding a match to her young readers:  “Let me then in one short sentence, in one tender adieu my fair readers and endeared friends enforce upon your minds, that if Beauty be woman’s weapon, it must be feathered by the Graces, pointed by the eye of Discretion, and shot by the hand of Virtue!

     Look, then, my sweet people, not merely to your mirrors, when you would decorate yourself for conquest, . . . (but) reflect on your hearts and minds.  Remember that it is the affections of a sensible and reasonable soul you hope to subdue, and seek for arms likely to carry the fortress.

     He that is worthy, must love answering excellence.  Which of you all would wish to marry a man merely for the colour of his eye, or the shape of his leg? Think not then worse of him than you would do of yourselves; and, hope not to satisfy his better wishes with the possession of a merely handsome wife.

     Beauty of person will ever be found a dead letter, unless it be animated with beauty of mind.  We must then, not only cultivate the shape, the complexion, the air, the attire, the manners; but most assiduously must our attention be devoted to teach “the young idea how to shoot,” and to fashion the unfolding mind by judgment and virtue.  By such culture, it will not be merely the charming girl, the captivating woman we shall present to the world; but, the dutiful daughter, affectionate sister, tender wife, judicious mother, faithful friend, and amiable acquaintance.

     The basic translation of the above is as follows:  Beauty isn’t everything.  Any man who thinks it is, is not worth having.  Pass him up in favor of a man who appreciates the whole package.

Tomorrow, Proud to be an American     Rita Bay

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