The Mirror of Graces

"It is vain to expend large sums of money and large portions of time in the acquirement of accomplishments, unless some attention be also paid to the attainment of a certain grace in their exercise, which, though of a circumstance distinct from themselves, is the secret of their charms and pleasure-exciting quality." A Lady of Distinction The Mirror of Graces, 1811 The Mirror of Graces RL Shep, the publisher who had the foresight to reprint this wonderful book first published in 1811 deserves all the compliments in this world (and the next) for recognsing this book as a classic. It is at once hilarious to our modern eyes, and a startling insight into life of the well bred miss in Regency Times. The book is packed full of classical references and piously rendered good advice which jostle in happy company in each breathless sentence. The front page gives a glowing summary of what will be found in the book including "cultivation of the mind and the Disposition and Carriage of the Body; offering also the most efficacious Means of preserving Beauty, Health and Loveliness." Don't think that the archaic language will put you off- it is too funny to put down. For example - on Dancing and other accomplishments we are confidently informed; "Set then, this music of Paphos far aside; instead of songs of wantons, if we are to have amatory odes, let us listen to the chaste pleadings of Plutarch, to the mutual vows of virtuous attachment." This book was not a comical portrayal of its day, it was read for the good advice it rendered and indeed it is very revealing on the fashion dictates of the day - washing, exercise, diet, dancing, dress and general deportment. There is even a stack of cosmetic recipes in the back which you can have a go at trying for yourself - though I cannot personally recommend the "Eau de Veau," which includes such promising ingredients as a calf's foot, rice, bread, camphor and alum. I can tell you that the author cannot speak too highly of it. Now, if anyone else would like to try it... From the chapter "On Deportment": "Their is scarcely an observer of manners and their effects who will not maintain that the most beautiful and well-dressed woman will soon cease to please unless her charms are accompanied with the ineffable enchantment of a graceful demeanour." The virtuous maiden also receives the following admonishment: "Again, I repeat, the libertine, the gross Epicurean, may feast his imbruted gaze upon a form so stripped of decency; for he is a creature whose sense are bent to the earth and the basest offerings are his banquet." This, apparently, is the result of leaving too much shoulder showing! There is good advice on colours, flowers, - I guess I could go on all day. The content is absolutely matchless and if you have an interest in this period - the Regency or Georgian times, you must have a copy. My final note is on the quality of RL Sheps books - in short Excellent. They have bound the copy so well that despite my frequent mistreatment, bending it at the spine, throwing it in full bags to carry around and so on, it is sitll in almost perfect condition Regency Etiquette, I think, is a must buy for people with interest in Regency romances or fashions. Anyone with an interest in buying good quality historical fashion reprints should make R. L. Shep one of their "must visit" sites. The on-line address (URL) for R. L. Shep is: Anonymous. Regency Etiquette; The Mirror of Graces (1811), By a Lady of Distinction. (Facsimile of the 1811 publication). Fort Bragg, CA: R. L. Shep, 1997. 241 pages of the original facsimile, plus a few unnumbered additional illustrations at the back. ISBN# 0-914046-24-1. $17.95. Softcover. The Mirror of Graces is available from   Anne Woodley is an Amazon top 500 reviewer as well as the patroness of Janeites, the Internet discussion, as well as mistress of the Regency Ring. Her excellent page, The Regency Collection is a treasure trove of information. Enjoyed this article? Visit our giftshop and escape into the world of Jane Austen.

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