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|The Coles and After Dinner Guests
Written by BarbaraB
(4/19/2008 9:16 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, The Coles sow what they reap, penned by Antoinette
"Unless a woman from the gentry married or had her own comfortable income allowing her to live well as a single woman, like Austen's friend Alethea Bigg, the single woman risked living in genteel poverty. This means that she still associates with the gentry, but lives in a second-class way. For example, Miss Bates in Emma is the daughter of a clergyman, and thus she is a gentlewoman. But she lives with her widowed mother in genteel poverty: They reside in the village in an apartment above a business. Likewise, such women's association with gentry put them in a second-tier group. Thus, when the Coles have thier dinner party, Miss Bates is invited only for the after-dinner entertainment."
Apparently, it was a readily understood part of the structure of their society. I have been trying to think back throughout the book and figure out if there were any other instances of this (and, indeed, any other times this happens in any of the other novels though I knnow we can't discuss it here). The Westons had a small dinner gathering but is was not on the level of a formal party in which invitations were isssued, but rather by Mr. Weston himself. Harriet was invited I imagine because Emma maneuvered it and Emma considered Harriet a part of their 'own especial set.' I will have to be on the lookout for any other times we see this or of characters choosing not to stand on ceremony perhaps.
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