Recovering the Lost Art of Reading: a Quest for the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. Leland Ryken and Glenda Faye Mathes. 2021. [March] 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
"It is amazing to me," said Bingley, "how young ladies can have patience to be so very accomplished, as they all are."
"All young ladies accomplished! My dear Charles, what do you mean?"
"Yes, all of them, I think. They all paint tables, cover skreens and net purses. I scarcely know any one who cannot do all this, and I am sure I never heard a young lady spoken of for the first time, without being informed that she was very accomplished."
"Your list of the common extent of accomplishments," said Darcy, "has too much truth. The word is applied to many a woman who deserves it no otherwise than by netting a purse, or covering a screen. But I am very far from agreeing with you in your estimation of ladies in general. I cannot boast of knowing more than half a dozen, in the whole range of my acquaintance, that are really accomplished."
"Nor I, I am sure," said Miss Bingley.
"Then," observed Elizabeth, "you must comprehend a great deal in your idea of an accomplished woman."
"Yes; I do comprehend a great deal in it."
"Oh! certainly," cried his faithful assistant, "no one can be really esteemed accomplished, who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with. A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved."
"All this she must possess," added Darcy, "and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading."
"I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women. I rather wonder now at your knowing any."
"Are you so severe upon your own sex, as to doubt the possibility of all this?"
"I never saw such a woman. I never saw such capacity, and taste, and application, and elegance, as you describe, united."