Thursday, 16 December 2010

Past Behaviours

Today is Jane Austen's 235th Birthday! So I thought I would reflect on a bygone era.

What is it that changes the way in which we behave, act, do everything as years, decades and centuries pass us by? Is it a particular event, is it due to ever increasing globalisation or is it simply a form of evolution?

Particularly looking at Miss Austen's time, manners were so evident, so integral to everyday life. Why is it we no longer stand on ceremony when a woman enters the room; we no longer bow and curtsy and we no longer change clothes for morning through to supper. Maybe it was all the wars that changed the way in which we chose to live.

Maybe all that destruction, grief and pure violence instilled upon people a sense of longing, of achieving something more than sewing a cushion, receiving a worthy marriage proposal or gallivanting around the countryside on horseback and top hat. Maybe this is the reason why manners became less important. We realised we could live without them and all that wasted time could be spent on imporving one self, finding an occupation or simply enjoying one's freedom just that little bit more. Or maybe the aftermath of the war was simply too much; society was busy recovering, rebuilding and we simply became lazy.

What I have learnt from watching (maybe a rather unhealthy amount of) period dramas is that everything in life is a simplified version of the past. Manners aren't the only changing factor. Society itself has transformed. We are no longer so strict, tight or private.
We no longer abide to such old notions such as sex before marriage, women being looked down upon if they show the first signs of affection or if couples are publicly devoted, women are no longer bound by the clothes they wear...

Was it all those wars? Or was it something else, something more simple. Was it due to the finding of new lands, of new people and cultures. We realised there was more to this world than our small circle of friends. Men travelled, discovered foreign food and women, reviled in unfounded activities and saw what and how they could be living. The human race simply grew, became that little bit more colourful.

Whatever it is that makes us change I am glad of it. If I am honest I'm not sure I could spend an entire day lounging about my house doing idle activities, I would would eventually tire of life and never experience its' great pleasures.

So here is to Miss Austen and her forgotten world, I will always admire your time and can only wish I was able to spend a week in your shoes.

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