Review: _A Dance with Jane Austen:_ A lovely little book on the art of courtship and dancing
Mention that a book has a tie to Jane Austen and it is very nearly a guarantee that I will buy it. In the 1990's I started to read Jane Austen's novels, and watch the film adaptations, and realised that I was falling headlong in love with this author. Every time I reread her works, I discover something new about the world she was writing about. And from there, it was not just a leap to start reading the nonfiction that has been written over the decades about Jane Austen and the Georgian world (1715-1837) that she inhabited.
One of the greatest themes that Miss Austen wrote about was the art of dancing. For those in the late Georgian period, gathering together for an evening of dancing was an approved way of men and women getting together and sizing each other as possible marriage material. With parents, especially mothers, as chaperones for young women, it was a safe way for a couple to meet, enjoy each others' company, and perhaps seal a proposal -- or not.
But Jane Austen also used a ball for revelations about her characters -- especially with two of her most beloved characters -- Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy. When they first meet, it's at a local ball, and Mr. Darcy, with his arrogance and snobbery, dismisses Elizabeth Darcy as not at all worthy to even be introduced to, much less as a potential wife. From that opening, the entire story of the Bennet family and their triumphs and foibles unfold.
But what else would be there, and just what would a person in the Georgian period expect to know, and to encounter? The author Susannah Fullerton, explores just that. She goes into where balls took place, whether at an inn that had what they called 'assembly rooms,' or a private home, dressing for a ball, civil behaviour, the various dances, and what would be offered for refreshments. It's a fascinating look.
Using both Jane Austen's novels, letters, the books of the period, and the film and television adaptations, all these questions are answered. Indeed, given that the book is just over 165 pages long, I was surprised by how much detail and information was provided. In addition to an introduction by Austen scholar Deirdre la Faye, there are innumerable illustrations, photos, and stills from various sources that are a feast for the eyes as well as the mind.
This is a book that I can happily recommend to anyone interested in finding out more about Jane Austen and her world. I give this one four and half stars, rounded up to five. Very much recommended.
A Dance with Jane Austen: How a Novelist and her Characters went to the Ball
Susannah Fullerton; Deirdre la Faye, introduction
2012; Frances Lincoln Limited, Publishers
This was previously published elsewhere with slightly different content. The original post has been removed from the previous site. Rebecca Huston asserts her rights as the sole owner of this review.