Monday, January 25, 2010

Decadence Of The Curtsey

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I often wish to be transported back in time to the age when manners were different, and courtesy was valued. Where a handsome bow or graceful curtsy was the familiar greeting and handshakes meant true friendship or a binding oath.
Wouldn't it be lovely if we could reinstate the curtsy as an acceptable greeting? Imagine going to a dinner party or church gathering and sweetly bobbing to friends and acquaintances!


courtesy - early 13c., from O.Fr. curtesie, from curteis "courteous," from curt "court". A specialized sense of curtesie is the source of English curtsy.

curtsy
- 1570s, "bending the knee and lowering the body as a gesture of respect," a 16c. variant of courtesy. Not originally exclusively feminine.
- Online Etymology Dictionary

Below is an excerpt from Manners for Women by Mrs. Humphry which was first published in 1897. As you can see even at the end of the Victorian era the curtsy was in danger of becoming extinct.

the curtsey
"Girls are never taught to curtsey now, as they used to be. A real, old-fashioned "courtsey", as it used to be spelled, is quite an elaborate performance."

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"First, you draw back the right foot, getting it straight behind the other, and down you go, as far as the suppleness of your limbs will permit, coming up to the "recover" with all the weight on the right foot, and the left pointed out most daintily. "
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"A curtsey is about the only thing in the world that is helped out by the high-heeled shoe."


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"The only trace of this old-fashioned and very graceful bit of deportment is the very deep reverence made by the ladies of Her Majesty's Drawing-Rooms. Some of them preform it with practiced aplomb. Others never achieve it."

-above from Decadence Of The Curtsey, from Manners for Women by Mrs. Humphry



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"Her eye half met Captain Wentworth's, a bow, a curtsey passed; she heard his voice; he talked to Mary, said all that was right; said something to the Miss Musgroves, enough to mark an easy footing; the room seemed full, full of persons and voices, but a few minutes ended it." - Jane Austen's Persuasion, Chapter 7


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"Elizabeth merely curtseyed to him, without saying a word". - Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 30

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"She curtsied her acquiescence." - Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey, Chapter 22

"Wherever they went, some pattened girl stopped to curtsy, or some footman in dishabille sneaked off." - Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey, Chapter 23

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If it weren't for the fact that I often wear slacks this time of year and that people might look at me strangely, I would so enjoy trying a curtsy every now and then. Curtsies are just part of the joy of old-fashioned things!
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to practice my curtsy! :)

8 comments:

Joanna said...

My sentiments exactly! How about this, if I ever meet you, we can skip the handshake and curtsy!

Miss Jen said...

What a splendid post!! :)
Yes... curtsies are Oh~ soooo lovely.
*sigh*

Blessings~ Miss Jen

LadyBug-Laurie said...

Sounds good Joanna! :)

Muse in the Fog said...

great post! What a beautiful thing.

Grace said...

I agree, completely! If only I were back in that time period-- I would appreciate being transported very much! {sighs}
I adore your blog, especially since I love old-fashioned ideas and lifestyles! I dearly want to bring the curtsy back into fashion, it's quite elegant. Much is said by a graceful, simple curtsy!
I'll have to practice my curtsy momentarily...

God Bless you!
Grace Marie

Francie said...

I'm sure you will be pleased to know that your post prompted me to practice my curtsey in my bathroom. The bending "as far as the suppleness of your limbs will permit" proved to be quite difficult :)

Mia said...

You've inspired me! I'm so glad I now know how to curtsy correctly! :) I've practised 5 times, hehe!


Mia

Clara said...

Hi! I'm the owner of a Jane Austen's Fan Blog in Portugal. I loved this post and I want to ask your permission to publish it in my blog with the normal references to the original author and the link to this blog and original post.

Thanks.

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