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Learning resources from INTO UEA

Men wore corsets (part 2): questions

Click on the words or phrases in the article that answer these questions:

  1. What kind of dancing was no longer done?
  2. What innovations were introduced into the old dances?
  3. What was the purpose of the dances?
  4. How much space was there between the male and female dancers?
  5. Who was the most senior servant?
  6. What was work like for more junior servants?
  7. How long did these arrangements last?
  8. What has happened to the books by earlier female novelists?

Regency dance was a blend of high and low culture. In the wake of the French Revolution, English elites abandoned stately and elegant dance styles in favor of traditional country dance; even the well-to-do knew these lively jigs from their summer holidays in the country. Regency dance adapted these folk styles to courtly tastes, replacing the claps, hops and stomps with dainty steps and baroque music while retaining the rustic flavour of the original.

Ladies led, gentlemen followed. Regency-era dances were designed to showcase eligible young ladies. The lady always moved first, and the gentleman’s duty was to guide her through the dance and protect her from any errant Mr Collinses on the dance floor. Couples danced very close to each other and with tiny, intricate steps to allow for conversation and flirtation.

Downstairs was just as hierarchical as upstairs. A servant’s rank determined his or her contact with the masters of the house. Highest in the chain of command was the master’s steward, akin to a personal assistant, who managed all staff and household affairs. Under him, the butler and the housekeeper supervised male and female staff, respectively. The lower one’s rank, the more physically demanding the work; scullery maids, lowest of the female servants, were expected to clean and scour the kitchen for 18 hours a day. Rank was always more important than tenure, meaning that a footman of ten years ranked no higher than a butler of five. These conventions did not change until after World War I.

Jane Austen was preceded by a long line of female authors. Some two thousand novels came before hers, mostly written by poor single women. The majority of these works have been lost to posterity.