The London social season (lasting from Easter until August 12th, the start of Grouse hunting season) was each year awash in girls just "out" in society. The principle reason for "coming out" was to marry well. Girls were expected to be quite childlike until they were about 18, when they were taken to London from their parents' country homes to be presented at court. This was their offical entry into society which made them available for parties, balls, and of course, marriage. At least, this is the idea for the daughters of the nobility and gentry. I have yet to discover what exactly this meant for girls of "good" family such as the Bennets or the Dashwoods. Neither family were nobility who would have been received in court. I can only assume that for their daughters to be "out" meant that they were permitted to go to social events. Therefore when Lady Catherine De Bourgh questions Elizabeth Bennet on the subject, Lizzie replies that all her sister are "out" because they all attend the local parties and balls.
(Above: Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet as Elinor and Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility)
I Could Have Danced All Night...
In Jane Austen's time, the most common dances were "country dances" which consisted of several couples walking through a series figures together. Pool describes a figure as a "series of movements" in which the couples stood, moved forward, walked around one another, sometimes with arms or hands interlaced, wove between the other dancers, and then stepped back into their places. One or two, or all of the couples could move at the same time. In some cases, this left a number of the dancers standing by waiting their turns to move allowing, "time for the long, bantering Austenian conversations" (59).
Emma (Gwyneth paltrow) and Mr. Knightly (Jeremy Northam) dance in the 1996 adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma
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