|GR: Manners and the art of conversation
Written by Line
(11/5/2003 10:52 p.m.)
There has been much discussion at the P&P board about whether or not Darcy was rude to stalk around the Meryton Assembly without talking to anybody, and later at Netherfield, when he ignored Elizabeth when they were left alone together for half an hour, and hardly spoke to her the rest of the day.
It's always struck me throughout her novels that JA seemed to consider making oneself pleasant in society, and the art of conversation, almost as signs of moral character, and TGD seems to confirm this. P.212 says:
"The practice at the heart of polite sociability was conversation. The whole purpose of conversation was positively to please other people, yet the art had to be well-judged"
and on p.213:
The pattern gentleman was under an obligation positively to please women
Polite ideals had extensive currency in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
and on p.219-220:
Parson George Woodward despaired of his gauche and churlish younger brothers: brother Jack had no polite conversation whatsoever, despite his travels.
AV also talks about the notion of "good breeding" at the time meaning not just a show of good manners, but that they should come from the heart. Of course, she also says that these high standards of polite behaviour were conspicuous by their absence as often as not, but I really think that by JA's own standards, and those of many of her contemporaries, refusing to make conversation, or attempting to make the other person feel at ease would have been considered distinctly rude.
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