How did people of the 18th century raise their daughters, besides to be well-mannered, based on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The 18th century genteel class raised their daughters to not just be well-mannered but also to be accomplished. Since the home was the woman's domain, young ladies were raised to essentially be the household entertainers. Since all entertainment was live, it was the woman's domain to entertain. Hence, any tool that would enable a woman to be conversational and entertaining was an essential element in her education and a significant part of her upbringing.

One way in which women entertained in the home was by learning how to play music and sing, making music an essential part of a woman's education. In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth actually informs both the reader and Lady Catherine that all five Bennet daughters were raised without a governess and, therefore, only the girls who wanted to learn educated themselves. As a consequence, only Elizabeth and Mary learned how to play the piano, and, though Mary tries, only Elizabeth knows how to sing.

A second part of a woman's education and upbringing to learn to be entertaining is to learn art. Women were encouraged to learn to draw and paint, partially to entertain guests with the finished product and partially because the activity is entertaining itself. Women were also educated to learn foreign languages. One reason is that knowing foreign languages would assist with their abilities to converse with guests, making the study of foreign languages another tool for entertaining.

Other elements of a woman's education assist in her abilities to make the home both attractive and beautiful. Bingley expresses a woman's necessary education when he praises women's accomplishments, saying:

It is amazing to me ... how young ladies can have patience to be so very accomplished ... They all paint tables, cover skreens, and net purses. (Ch. 8)

Darcy further adds his insight as to how a young lady should be educated, and therefore raised when he replies:

A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages ... she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions. (Ch. 8)

Hence, we see that in the 18th century, daughters were educated and raised to make the home nice and to be entertainers.

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Pride and Prejudice

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