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by Kim Pederson…….

Everyone needs help sometimes, especially with regard to putting the spark back into relationships teetering on the edge of gutteringdom. Guttering is a great word, isn’t it? It acts as a gerund for the verb “gutter” that denotes the melted wax that runs down a candle. The intransitive verb “gutter” means, in turn, to flow in rivulets as in wax down a candle, to incline downward in a draft or wind as candle flames do, or to burn feebly as again in a candle. So why all this waxing ineloquent? Because one solution to relationship woes is to get an extra-long courting candle.

Well, that’s a bit off, really, as am I. The said extended taper has more to do with winning a mate than derifting a chasming coupling. This bit of wisdom comes to us from the actress Kate Beckinsale via Vanity Fair. Beckinsale stars in the new film Love and Friendship, adapted from a Jane Austen short story by the same name. In association with the film, Vanity Fair offers “Kate Beckinsale’s Guide to 18th Century Dating Rules” or as the video clip puts it, “How to Get a Guy in the 1800s.” Here’s a list of her tips, all aimed at women. (Men, of course, never need or heed advice on anything at anytime.)

  • A lady should be expected to shine in the art of conversation, but not too brightly. (So no four-syllable words like…yikes, I don’t know any four-syllable words.)
  • Make optimum use of the courting candle, by which families allow couples to talk until the said illuminative device burns below a certain level (no word on how the candle stops conversation at that point).
  • A lady should finish her toilet before entering the room for dancing (toilet meaning the process of washing, grooming, and arranging oneself for the day’s activities or for a special occasion and probably that other thing, too).
  • A lady never serves herself from a buffet line (I can understand this aversion; I’ve been to Vegas).
    No lady should be left unattended in public circumstances such as a ball. (Very much like luggage in an airport, Beckinsale adlibs, it might explode.)
  • A lady, when crossing the street, should not raise her skirt with both hands as it exposes too much ankle. (I guess men of “honor” witnessing such lewd behavior might suffer from terminal anklangst. Can’t have that.)
Jane Austen, drawn by her sister Cassandra (c. 1810) Sigh! Nary a courting candle in sight. or, conversely, Huzzah! Nary a courting candle in sight!*
Jane Austen, drawn by her sister Cassandra (c. 1810)
Sigh! Nary a courting candle in sight.
or, conversely,
Huzzah! Nary a courting candle in sight!*

At the end of the short video, Beckinsale looks back on the list and says, “And that’s how you get a man in the 1800s. That sounds horrible. I’d rather not have one.” Apparently author Jane agreed with her. She had one proposal during her life. The suitor was Harris Bigg-Wither. She initially considered his proposal from the “first look at the purse” perspective and accepted, even though HBW “was a large, plain-looking man who spoke little, stuttered when he did speak, was aggressive in conversation, and almost completely tactless.” She woke up the next morning and snapped out of it. I guess thinking of the potential snigger-factor of being named Jane Bigg-Wither was more than she could contemplate, causing her to switch to the fish/bicycle relationship axiom and say, in concert with Beckinsale, “I’d rather not have one.” Given what I know of males from the inside looking out, who can blame them?

* Jane Austen, drawn by her sister Cassandra (c. 1810). By Cassandra Austen (1773-1845). CC BY-SA 3.0.
Posted by Kim Pederson at 7:51 PM No comments:


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