Consequence of power

Illustration by C.E. Brock, Persuasion, Chapter 20CONSEQUENCE

Upon Lady Russell’s appearance soon afterwards, the whole party was collected, and all that remained was to marshal themselves, and proceed into the Concert Room; and be of all the consequence in their power, draw as many eyes, excite as many whispers, and disturb as many people as they could. The Narrator on Sir Elliot & Party, Persuasion, Chapter 20

Sir Walter Elliot and Lady Dalrymple have made their grand entrance into the Concert Rooms in Bath with all the pomp and fanfare that appearance alone can muster!

Ok, does this sound like a scene from your high school years? A group of girls all dressed up for a Saturday night outing, entering a Megaplex theater lobby in a peal of laughter and animation; – – engaging everyone’s attention? Yes? Well add some elegant clothing and refined manners to the scene, and you have much the same result. All show for self gratification and attention!

Is Jane Austen eluding to a slight jest at the aristocracy here? She has certainly supplied the novel with dandified examples for us to reflect upon in Sir Walter & Lady Dalrymple. They seem so far above the consequence of the rest of society that they are indeed a rare breed in their own minds. It must be a lonely and cold view from the top.

If you are interested in cultivating your inner Aristocrat, you might enjoy this informative article How to be Jane Austen, in the LA Weekly on-line, by Gindy Alimurung. Of particular interest is a quote by a Friends of the English Regency Society member who aptly sums up what it takes to be in the ton.

“Members of the aristocracy had dance masters, riding masters, writing masters,” says host Alice Massoglia. “From the time you could walk, you took lessons in comportment and manners. These people were obsessed with appearances. Were your horses evenly matched? Is your dress au courant? Are the vegetables at your supper parties imported? If you were the Countess of something, you could expect to be invited out to society every night.”

*illustration by C.E. Brock, “of all the consequences in their power” frontispiece, Persuasion, Published by J.M. Dent & Co, London (1899) 

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