When I had reached my eighteenth Year, I was recalled by my Parents to my paternal roof in Wales. Our mansion was situated in one of the most romantic parts of the Vale of Uske. Tho' my Charms are now considerably softened and somewhat impaired by the Misfortunes I have undergone, I was once beautiful. But lovely as I was, the Graces of my Person were the least of my Perfections. Of every accomplishment accustomary to my sex, I was Mistress. When in the Convent, my progress had always exceeded my instructions, my Acquirements had been wonderfull for my age, and I had shortly surpassed my Masters.
Love and Freindship, Jane Austen
The Game of Graces was a popular activity for young girls during the early 1800s. The game was invented in France during the first quarter of the 19th century and called there le jeu des Graces. The Game of Graces was considered a proper game benefiting young ladies and, supposedly, tailored to make them more graceful. Graces was hardly ever played by boys, and never played by two boys at the same time, either two girls, or a boy and a girl. In 1838, Lydia Marie Child (American abolitionist, women's rights activist and author of such works as Hobomok and A Boy's Thanksgiving, which begins, "Over the River and through the woods, to Grandmother's house we go...") published The Girl's Own Book, a volume full of entertainments for girls of all ages. In it, she describes the game of Graces, thus:
This is a new game, common in Germany, but introduced to this country from France. It derives its name from the graceful attitudes which it occasions. Two sticks are held in the hands, across each other, like open scissors: the object is to throw and catch a small hoop upon these sticks. The hoop to be bound with silk, or ribbon, according to fancy. The game is played by two persons. The sticks are held straight, about four inches apart, when trying to catch the hoop; and when the hoop is thrown, they are crossed like a pair of scissors. In this country it is called The Graces or The Flying Circle.
How to Play: For Modern Players Graces is played with two people. Each person gets two rods, four in total. Then, one of the players takes a wooden hoop and, pushing apart the two rods, makes the hoop fly in the air for the other player to try and catch it. The winner is the player who catches the hoop ten times first.
Mastering aiming and catching can be very time-consuming. To throw the hoop, one takes the hoop and, with one rod in each hand, places the hoop over both of the rods so as they are inside of the hoop. The player would then let the hoop slide slightly down the rod and cross the rods in an X shape. Ideally, the hoop should be on the lower triangle of the X shape. Then, pulling the rods apart, the hoop will quickly slide up and shoot away from the player, towards the direction aimed for. The hoop is generally 9 inches (23 cm) in diameter and decorated with different colored ribbons. The ribbon, used to make the hoop softer to catch, is wrapped all around the hoop in alteration with the ends left hanging off so that they will slow the hoop down in the air. The dowel rods are 15 inches (38 cm) to 2 feet (61 cm) long. Some rods come to a point. It is easy to make your own "Game of Graces" using the inner circles of two embroidery hoops and some dowels. Kits and fully assembled games can be purchased in many giftshops.
Historical information from The Girl's Own Book and Wikipedia.com