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.”
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?