‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’: Jane Austen and Music

Gentle Readers: in celebration of the ‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’ event over the next month, I have asked several of my fellow Jane Austen bloggers to share their knowledge and interest in Austen’s most popular novel. Today, please welcome guest blogger Vic from Jane Austen’s World who shares with us her extensive knowledge of Regency culture and history in four posts during the event. Her fourth contribution is on music during Jane Austen’s era, how it influenced her life, and her writing.

“Yes, yes, we will have a pianoforte, as good a one as can be got for 30 guineas, and I will practice country dances, that we may have some amusement for our nephews and nieces, when we have the pleasure of their company.” – Jane Austen to Cassandra, 1808

Like many ladies of her era, Jane Austen was an accomplished musician. And so were her characters. In Pride and Prejudice, Mary Bennet, Elizabeth Bennet, the Bingley sisters and Georgiana Darcy could all play instruments with skill. Lady Catherine de Bourgh would have been a proficient, as would her daughter Anne, had she learned and practiced. Before the age of electricity and cable the world was largely silent musically speaking, save for the music played by family members, local musicians, or more famous musicians who were paid to play for the rich.

Musicians wandered the land, and London streets offered a pandemonium of sounds, much of it derived from musical instruments. The only music available in the home was that which amateur or professional performers could produce on the spot, so that the ability to play music well was crucial for all walks of life. From childhood on, young ladies were expected to play a musical instrument and study with music masters. Gentlemen sang as well and formed impromptu amateur groups that entertained in taverns and men’s clubs.

Continue reading at Jane Austen’s World

Further reading

Upcoming event posts

Day 20   July 14   Group Read: Chapters 57 – 61
Day 21   July 16   Mr. Darcy & Elizabeth Bennet
Day 22   July 24   Swag winners announced

4 thoughts on “‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’: Jane Austen and Music

  1. What a plethora of musical information! It’s gratifying to know that dear Jane had such an eclectic musical taste… I’ve not even heard of Dibdin nor Shiled! But glad to see that her personal folio included music by Arne, Piccinni, JC Bach, Haydn, and Gluck.

    I’ve often wondered why film adaptations haven’t used songs by these composers, especially Haydn and Gluck! They wrote such exquisite music for the voice.

    And it also made me laugh out loud when in the 1995 P&P adaptation, Mary sang a Handel aria during the Netherfield ball (or was it during the Lucas Lodge party?) and the dog began to howl! It’s like singing a song from our parents’ (or grandparents’) era… Even the dog had better sensibilities! =)

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  2. I have really enjoyed all of the guest blogs. They have been so full of wonderful information. It has been so fun going back in time and learning more about how the characters and Jane Austen lived. THANK YOU!

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  3. Many thanks to Vic of Jane Austen’s World for her four lovely posts on history and culture tied into P&P. She is an incredible resource for Janeites and I always appreciate her willingness to share. Well done!

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