I Won’t Dance; Don’t Ask Me…
“To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love.” (Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 3) During Austen’s time, young people looked for a potential mate at dances. Austen, herself, enjoyed a good dance, and, therefore, she often used dance as part of her plot line. In a 1798 letter to her sister Cassandra, Austen wrote, “There were twenty Dances & I danced them all, & without any fatigue.” Dancing well was a “necessary evil.” Those who trod on their partners toes (i.e., Mr. Collins) were seen as gauche. Children of the gentry learned the latest dance steps early on.
Public balls or assemblies and private balls formed the two types of formal dances. Assemblies took place in large ballrooms in market towns and cities. They were constructed for the purpose of public gatherings. One might also hold a dance in the ballrooms at country inns (as in the Crown Inn in Emma) or in formal ballrooms in large houses (as in the Netherfield Ball in Pride and Prejudice or Sir Thomas’s ball in Mansfield Park).
Occasionally, the gentry would roll up the rugs for an impromptu dance. These were more characteristic of country life.
Characters discussing “dancing” and participating in “dance” occurs often in Austen’s story lines. From Pride and Prejudice, we find, “Elizabeth Bennet had been obliged, by the scarcity of gentlemen, to sit down for two dances…” (and) “Come, Darcy,” said he, “I must have you dance. I hate to see you standing about by yourself in this stupid manner. You had much better dance.” (as well as) “She had known him only a fortnight. She danced four dances with him at Meryton…”
“Every stranger can dance.” Sir William only smiled. (and)
“You would not wish to be dancing when she is ill.” (and)
“…and Elizabeth thought with pleasure of dancing a great deal with Mr. Wickham…” In fact, Austen uses “dance” eight and sixty times during the story line.
“The girls were wild for dancing; and the evenings ended, occasionally, in an unpremeditated little ball.” (and) “This evening ended with dancing.” (as well as) “Oh, no; she has quite given up dancing.” (and)
“Yes, I believe I do; very much recovered; but she is altered; there is no running or jumping about, no laughing or dancing…” There are ten references to dance in Persuasion.
The reader comes across nine and forty mentions of the word “dance” in Mansfield Park. We have such gems as, “…for it was while all the other young people were dancing, and she sitting, most unwillingly, among the chaperones at the fire…” (and) “…been a very happy one to Fanny through four dances, and she was quite grieved to be losing even a quarter of an hour.” (as well as) “…but instead of asking her to dance, drew a chair near her, and gave her an account of the present state of a sick horse…” (and) “I should like to go to a ball with you and see you dance. Have you never any balls at Northampton? I should like to see you dance, and I’d dance with you if you would, for nobody would know who I was, and I should like to be your partner once more.”
“Dancing” is mentioned nine and sixty times in Emma. “She was in dancing, singing, exclaiming spirits…” (and) “She had suffered very much from a cramp from dancing, and her first attempt to mount the bank brought on such a return of it as made her absolutely powerless…” (and) “Indeed I will. You have shewn that you can dance, and you know we are not really so much brother and sister as to make it at all improper.” (as well as) “Pleasure in seeing dancing! – not I, indeed – I never look at it – I do not know who does. Fine dancing, I believe, like virtue, must be its own reward.”
From Love and Friendship, one finds, “The Dancing, however, was not begun as they waited for Mis Greville.” (and) “I soon forgot all my vexations in the pleasure of dancing and of having the most agreeable partner in the room.” (as well as) “I can neither sing so well nor Dance so gracefully as I once did.” There are ten references to “dance” in Love and Friendship.
One and twenty references to “dance” appear in Sense and Sensibility. They include: “In the country, an unpremeditated dance was very allowable…” (and) “Never had Marianne been so unwilling to dance in her life…” (and) “They speedily discovered that their enjoyment of dancing and music was mutual…”
Seven and sixty uses of “dance” can be found in Northanger Abbey. One can find, “He wants me to dance with him again, though I tell him that it s a most improper thing, and entirely against the rules.” (and) “Oh, no; I am much obliged to you, our two dances are over; and, besides, I am tired, and do not mean to dance any more.”
My favorite quote regarding dancing comes from Northanger Abbey. In it, Henry Tilney makes a comparison between “dancing” and “matrimony.” He says, “…that in both, it is an engagement between man and woman, formed for the advantage of each; and that when once entered into, they belong exclusively to each other till the moment of its dissolution; that it is their duty, each to endeavor to give the other no cause for wishing that he or she had bestowed themselves elsewhere, and their best interest to keep their own imaginations from wandering towards the perfections of their neighbours, or fancying that they should have been better off with any one else.”
So, what are your favorite scenes in Austen’s novels that are associated with dancing? In November, we will celebrate the 200th Anniversary of the Netherfield Ball. Are there other poignant Austen moments centering around dance? Please share your favorite scenes with all of us.
To celebrate this post, I am giving away an autographed copy of two of my Regency romances. In each, dancing plays a major role in bringing the couples together. To be entered in the giveaway, leave a comment below (or) use the Rafflecopter link to connect this post to social media. I am offering an autographed copy of A Touch of Cashémere, as well as an autographed copy of my latest Regency, A Touch of Grace (which went live on Amazon and CreateSpace this past weekend).
After years away from England, members of the Realm return home to claim the titles and the lives they once abandoned. Each man holds on to the fleeting dream of finally knowing love. For now, all any of them can hope is the resolutions of their previous difficulties before Shaheed Mir, their old enemy, finds them and exacts his revenge. Mir seeks a mysterious emerald, and he believes one of the Realm has it.
MARCUS WELLSTON never expected to inherit his father’s title. After all, he is the youngest of three sons. However, his oldest brother Trevor is judged incapable of meeting the title’s responsibilities, and his second brother Myles has lost his life in an freak accident; therefore, Marcus has returned to Tweed Hall and the earldom. Having departed Northumberland years prior to escape his guilt in his sister’s death, Marcus has spent the previous six years with the Realm, a covert governmental group, in atonement. Now, all he requires is a biddable wife with a pleasing personality. Neither of those phrases describes Cashémere Aldridge.
CASHEMERE ALDRIDGE thought her opinions were absolutes and her world perfectly ordered, but when her eldest sister Velvet is kidnapped, Cashé becomes a part of the intrigue. She quickly discovers nothing she knew before is etched in stone. Leading her through these changes is a man who considers her a “spoiled brat.” A man who prefers her twin Satiné to Cashémere. A man whose approval she desperately requires: Marcus Wellston, the Earl of Berwick. Toss in an irate Baloch warlord, a missing emerald, a double kidnapping, a blackmail attempt, and an explosion in a glass cone, and the Realm has its hands full. The Regency era has never been hotter, or more dangerous.
After years away from England, members of the Realm return home to claim the titles and the lives they had previously abandoned. Each man holds onto the fleeting dream of finally know love and home. For now, all any of them can hope is the resolution of their earlier difficulties before Shaheed Mir, their old enemy, finds them and exacts his revenge. Mir seeks a mysterious emerald, and he believes one of the Realm has it.
GABRIEL CROWDEN, the Marquis of Godown, easily recalled the night that he made a vow to know love before he met his Maker. Of course, that was before Lady Gardenia Templeton’s duplicity had driven Godown from his home and before his father’s will had changed everything. Godown requires a wife to meet the unusual demands of the former marquis’s stipulations. Preferably one either already carrying his child or one who would tolerate his constant attentions to secure the Crowden line before the deadline.
GRACE NELSON dreams of family died with her brother’s ascension to the title. Yet, when she meets the injured Marquis of Godown at a Scottish inn, her dreams have a new name. However, hope never has an easy path. Grace is but a lowly governess with ordinary features. She believes she can never earn the regard of the “Adonis” known as Gabriel Crowden. Besides, the man has a well-earned skepticism when it comes to the women in his life. How can she prove that she is the one woman who will never betray him? The Regency era has never been hotter.