Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Just A Reminder to Put Your Best Foot Forward: You Don't Know Who Might be Watching

Portrait of Georgiana, Duchess of
Devonshire, by Sir Joshua Reynolds.
Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons
"...Hetty and I took a walk in the Park on Sunday morning, where, among others, we saw the young and handsome Duchess of Devonshire, walking in such an undressed and slatternly manner, as, in former times, Mrs. Rishton* might have done in Chesington garden**. Two of her curls came quite unpinned, and fell lank on one of her shoulders; one shoe was down at heel, the trimming of her jacket and coat*** was in some places unsown [sic]; her cap was awry; and her cloak which was rusty and powdered****, was flung half on and half off. Had she not a servant in superb livery behind her, she would certainly have been affronted*****. Every creature turned back to stare at her. Indeed I think her very handsome, and she has a look of innocence and artlessness that made me quite sorry she should be so foolishly negligent of her person. She had hold of the Duke's arm, who is the very reverse of herself, for he is ugly, tidy, and grave. He looks a very mean****** shopkeeper's journeyman."

Fanny Burney's comments in a letter to her friend and second "Daddy" Mr. Crisp, April 1776.*******


*Mrs. Maria Rishton, Fanny's close, flighty, spirited friend.
**Chesington, the private, rural home where Mr. Crisp boarded, and where Fanny and Maria often stayed.
***"jacket and coat": jacket and petticoat. "Coat", the 1880s-era editor of Fanny's early journals tells us, was an old term for "petticoat", and when Fanny edited her journals later, she often corrected the word to read "petticoat".
****"rusty and powdered": "rusty" was often used to describe black garments of which the dye, never fast, had faded in spots. "Powdered", I am guessing refers to some of her hair powder having fallen on it. Ugh.
*****"affronted". In this case, may mean something on the order of being snubbed, or worse.
******"mean". In that day, mean usually meant poor, penurious, of low means.
*******The Early Diary of Frances Burney, 1768-1778. Vol. II. Edited by Annie Raine Ellis. London: G. Bell and Sons, Ltd., 1913, pp. 138-139. 

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