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 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.