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Thursday, 1 January 2015

Morning Visits

Darcy and Georgiana visit Lizzy.

Morning visits were a very important part of a Regency lady or Austen heroine's day. After breakfast ladies went shopping or made ‘morning’ visits until dinner, which could be late in the afternoon.If the family you were visiting were out (or ‘denied’ by the servant), you left a visiting card. In Sense & Sensibility, when Elinor and Marianne stayed in town with Mrs Jennings, they knew that Edward Ferrars had arrived in London because: ‘Twice was his card found on the table, when they returned from their morning engagements’. Morning visitors were received in the drawing room and offered refreshments. In Pride & Prejudice, when Elizabeth Bennet and her aunt paid a morning call to Miss Darcy at Pemberley, they were treated to ‘cold meat, cake, and a variety of all the finest fruits in season’.

Ladies wore ‘half-dress’ or ‘morning’ dress for paying morning visits and going shopping. Morning or ‘walking’ dresses (circa 1800) usually had long sleeves. Men like Beau Brummell usually wore a beautifully-cut blue morning coat with brass buttons, a light-coloured waistcoat, buckskins, a crisply starched cravat, and top-boots. Ackermann’s Repository for April 1809 reported that ‘dark blue, olive, and bottle green’ coats with ‘silver and gilt basket buttons’ were fashionable for dress and morning coats. On the morning of her marriage to George Wickham, flighty Lydia Bennet (Pride & Prejudice) ‘longed to know whether he would be married in his blue coat’.
Mr Darcy and his sister Georgiana pay a morning visit to Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. C.E.Brock illustration courtesy of the wonderful Molland’s website.
Morning dress, Lady’s Monthly Museum fashion plate, December 1798. Author’s collection.
Full dress and walking dress, Lady’s Monthly Museum fashion plate, January 1805. Author’s collection.