View Full Version : Calling customs in Regency England

12-08-2014, 07:57 PM
I have found that a new neighborhood, in the country, would be called on, or left cards by, the highest ranking individual of that neighborhood (if my research is right). BUT, I have a specific situation I cannot find the answer for:

If the daughter of a gentleman, who had been considered landed gentry before running up debts, moves to a new neighborhood to run a school for young ladies, would the highest ranking family call upon her or not because her status was so reduced?

I am guessing not but cannot find the precise answer from my research, and this is an important point for me.

Thank you in advance for your help!

12-08-2014, 08:09 PM
What reason would they have to do that?

12-08-2014, 08:17 PM
It's a social custom question. My story is set in regency England. Social customs were very rigid, in terms of calling, leaving cards, etc.

12-08-2014, 08:47 PM
No, I don't think they would call on her. From Georgette Heyer's Regency World (p. 86):

A few women, such as Ancilla Trent in The Nonesuch, deliberately chose to support themselves through teaching rather than burden their families, but for those women of good birth such a decision generally placed them outside their social circle.

The quote specifically refers to a governess, not a school teacher, but I think once a woman left her social circle and went to work for a living she wouldn't be 'one of them' anymore.

But keep in mind that people were as individual in the past as they are now. If you want someone to visit your MC, it could be a close school friend who married a local landowner, or an eccentric aunt who refuses to look down on her. Someone who cares about her enough (or just likes to flout convention) to do so even if it's 'not quite the thing.'

12-08-2014, 09:17 PM

Thank you very much! My teacher, and her students are invited to a party, given by an old, wealthy naval captain as he is the benefactor of her school. This is held in the country, not in town. If I'm taking that quote right, this would be unheard of in town but perhaps alright in the country.

I was thinking of Emma Woodhouse's calling on Miss Bates.

12-08-2014, 09:31 PM
I was thinking of Emma Woodhouse's calling on Miss Bates.

Miss Bates was still technically of Emma's class, though in very "reduced circumstances."

A similar and more appropriate comparison might be Anne Elliot's calling on her old friend Mrs. Smith.

"Westgate Buildings!" said he, "and who is Miss Anne Elliot to be visiting in Westgate Buildings? A Mrs Smith. A widow Mrs Smith; and who was her husband? One of five thousand Mr Smiths whose names are to be met with everywhere. And what is her attraction? That she is old and sickly. Upon my word, Miss Anne Elliot, you have the most extraordinary taste! Everything that revolts other people, low company, paltry rooms, foul air, disgusting associations are inviting to you. But surely you may put off this old lady till to-morrow: she is not so near her end, I presume, but that she may hope to see another day. What is her age? Forty?"

12-08-2014, 11:35 PM
I don't think customs during the British Regency, especially in the country, were all that strict.

That said, I don’t, however, think that a high ranking person would call on a school teacher unless there was some connection—the school was sponsored by the high ranking person, person was on the board of governors, the school was located in a building the person owned, etc. And in that case, it would be more on the level of a business call to ensure all was well as the school or to check out the teacher.

Also, if the teacher was a social acquaintance of the family then the high ranking person could decide to call or to cut the connection and not call.

In the country, many of the landowner’s wives or other female dependents would make charity calls on tenants or a combination of social and business calls on the vicar’s family. Such a call on a school teacher, especially to discuss the welfare of the tenant’s children, would not stretch my suspension of disbelief.

ETA: If the young lady moves to the neighborhood to run a non-charity school for bording pupils, some social intercourse with the local gentry would be appropriate, especially if she's teaching the daughters of gentry. I'm with you, though, in that I would not expect a formal call as a matter of course and custom from the highest ranking woman in the district.

I would recommend caution before using information from Georgette Heyer's Regency World without verifying from another source. Some of the information is good. Some of it is problematical. Sorting the good from the problematical takes more research.