Posted by Laura W on December 22, 1997 at 15:17:06:
In response to Two Questions, written by Marie Bernadette on December 21, 1997 at 14:49:16
] Does anyone know how seating arrangements were determined? In my story one of my characters is a marquis. He is a French émigré living in England. His brother and his wife come to visit. Also in the household are their mother and one of their sisters. Who would determine the seating arrangements at table?
Seating arrangements were directed by the lady of the house. In this case, it would be the marquis's mother, if I understand correctly that she is living with him and he is unmarried. When he marries, his wife will take over the running of the house and his mother will "retire," a source of much friction between mothers- and daughters-in-law, and one reason why the "dower house" was considered a convenient arrangement.
Now I'm rambling but let me point out further that sometimes sons brought their wives home to live with his family while his father was still living. An example from the Regency era would be William Lamb and his wife Lady Caroline, who lived with his parents, Lord and Lady Melbourne. It caused a lot of conflict, even in a large establishment such as Melbourne House, which allowed them to lead very separate lives.
] Second question: I was recently told not to use contractions in the speech of my characters. I noticed that JA's characters do not speak in contractions, but other modern novels about that time period do use contractions. Also, would the use of contractions be according to class or dialect? For example, would my educated characters speak more formally, but the lower class people speak with contractions? Does it depend on the type of conversation and with whom one is conversing?
I don't know the answer to this for sure, but I think that the class distinction is a very good guess. You might do a search here at Pemberley on the JA texts and see if some people like Lydia use contractions (she uses bad grammar fairly often, e.g., "Kitty and me," which is meant to show how frivolous and ignorant she is).
You might try surveying Trollope and/or Burney to get a better idea of how the classes used contractions-- for example, in _The Warden_, the "low church" cleric might use contractions, but Mrs Proudie would never (just a guess).
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