Accomplished Young Ladies

14 Oct

In chapter eight we find several of our characters discussing what it means to be “accomplished” women.

  “It is amazing to me, “said Bingley, “how young ladies can have patience to be so very accomplished as they all are.”
     “All young ladies accomplished!  My dear Charles, what do you mean?”
     “Yes, all of them, I think.  They all paint tables, cover screens, and net purses.  I scarcely know any one who cannot do all this, and I am sure I never heard a young lady spoken of for the first time without being informed that she was very accomplished.”    

So to be a catch in 1813, girls needed to know how to paint tables, cover screens and net purses?  It is my understanding that these skills made a woman marketable for marriage at that time.  Why?  I do not know.  But Jennifer Forest has written  Jane Austen’s Sewing Box for the crafty P&P reader who has secret longing to be “accomplished.”

But wait!  It seems needlework and painting are not enough to earn the title of “accomplished” because Caroline Bingly goes on to say…

“Oh, certainly, ” cried his faithful assistant, “no one can be really esteemed accomplished who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with.  A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, all the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved.”

In addition to charm school etiquette, it seems a young lady must have also studied music, fine arts, and languages. 

We’re not done yet.  Of course, Mr. Darcy had his own idea of what makes a woman accomplished.

“All this she must possess,” added Darcy, “and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”

It seems as if Darcy (or more likely, Jane Austen) would have been a fan of the Well-Educated Mind.  That should count as a redeeming quality for Mr. Darcy.

Being on the dating scene in 1813 must have been exhausting for young women in England. 

Now I’m wondering what would make an accomplished woman in 2011.  I am not the only one thinking about it.  I even found a blog called “Modern Mrs. Darcy: redefining the accomplished woman.”  Well, readers, how would we redefine the accomplished woman? 

Any thoughts?


Posted by on October 14, 2011 in Pride and Prejudice


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6 responses to “Accomplished Young Ladies

  1. Jeannette

    October 14, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    I’ll start a list of “nots.” The accomplished woman today does NOT have great skills in thumb typing/texting. The accomplished woman today is NOT fluent in the top 10 TV shows. The accomplished woman today does NOT have a home that looks like it came out of Better Homes and Gardens. The accomplished woman does NOT get a new wardrobe at Macy’s every season.

    I could go on in this vein, because if those things determine accomplishment, I’d be at the bottom of the list.

    I hope the accomplished woman is well-read, has a variety of interests, knows how to make guests feel comfortable and at home, is able to creatively solve problems, and seeks to further her knowledge about all manner of subjects in daily life.

    • Christine

      October 17, 2011 at 2:19 pm

      I like your list of “nots”.

      Part of me wants to be snarky and say that an accomplished woman has a blog that is witty and well-followed. She coupons to save her family tons of cash. She does DIY projects to decorate her home, and she is in the process of writting a book. Doesn’t that seem to be the trend when reading other blogs?

      Maybe an accomplished woman is keeps reaching, stretching, and growing in lots of aspects of her life. She’s humble/honest enough to admit that she doesn’t have it all together and she’s brave enough to try things that she’s never done before. I bet the accomplished woman gently gives advice and readily seeks it.

      It’s hard for me to be serious about this topic. Perhaps because it forces me to look at my own accomplishments and lack thereof. I think I’ll dream a little bit about the new wardrobe part. Are you sure we can’t include that in the list, Jeannette?

  2. Christina

    October 17, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    I love your thorough lists, and instead of adding to them I’m working on a post that links us to a few young women who I think deserve the title. We’ll see, I don’t seem to accomplish much myself these days.


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