25 Days of Pride & Prejudice, Day 4: How Exactly Do You Become An “Accomplished” Woman?

Day 4. My body has settled into a rhythm.

Wake up.

Watch Pride & Prejudice.

Write.

Enjoy the sweet release of knowing I’m done for another day.

Rest. Gather strength.

Repeat.


In all seriousness though, I don’t think I’ve reached a breaking point yet. I’m sure you’ll all be the first to know when that happens. (Stay tuned around day 16, I’m guessing.)

Today I want to discuss a particular scene. If you’re following this project, then I’ll assume you don’t need a ton of background, but suffice it to say it’s at Netherfield when the Bingleys, Darcy and Elizabeth are talking about what it takes to be considered an “accomplished woman.”

Mr. Bingley: Well, I think it’s amazing that you young ladies have the patience to be so accomplished.

Miss Bingley: What do you mean, Charles?

Mr. Bingley: You all paint tables, and play the piano, and embroider cushions! I never heard of lady but people say she is accomplished.

Mr. Darcy: Indeed, the word is applied too liberally. I cannot boast of knowing more than half a dozen women in all my acquaintance who are truly accomplished.

Elizabeth Bennet: My goodness, you must comprehend a great deal in the idea.

Miss Bingley: Indeed; she must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and all the modern languages to deserve the word. And something about her air, and manner of walking…

Mr. Darcy: And, of course, she must improve her mind with extensive reading.

Elizabeth Bennet: I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women, I now wonder at your knowing any.

Mr. Darcy: Are you so severe on your own sex?

Elizabeth Bennet: I never saw such a woman. Surely she would be a fearsome thing to behold.

Fearsome indeed. Now, there’s a theory that in order to master a craft, a person has to spend 10,000 dedicated hours at it.

So for Day 4, I want to do the math: How long would it take for the Bingleys and Darcy’s “accomplished” woman to earn the title?

That’s right bitches, there’s gonna be math today.

(Btw, please be nice in the comments if I made a math mistake, I have numerical dyslexia. ✌🏻)

So, I found an excellent website article that describes what sort of education the Bingley sisters versus the Bennet sisters would have had, but since we’re focusing on the 2005 movie, I’m going to try and stick as closely to the language used in that version. I do highly recommend that article for some insight into Regency-era education though.

In the movie version, Charles Bingley says accomplished women all:

  • Paint Tables
  • Play Piano
  • Embroider Cushions

Caroline Bingley says a woman who deserves the title must have a “thorough knowledge of”:

  • Music
  • Singing
  • Drawing
  • Dancing
  • Modern Languages
  • Comportment (Yes, I know she didn’t say comportment exactly, but you can actually take classes in comportment, whereas I know of no one who has studied “airs” and “manner of walking.”)

Darcy adds:

  • Extensive Reading

(Remember, we’ll be working off the idea that 10,000 hours is needed to “master” something.)

Let’s start with Charles’ requirements. According to him, all the accomplished women he knows paint, play piano and embroider. (I’d like to take this moment for a quick humblebrag and stay I can play piano and embroider, and while I can’t really paint well, I’m sure I could fake it. Much like Jane’s wedding night with Bingley. HEYOOOO.)

I think it’s fair to halve the 10,000 mastery requirement for Charles’ lax requirements, and simply say for each of these, a woman must have spent about 5,000 hours at each to achieve a “passing knowledge.”

So that’s 15,000 hours to be “accomplished,” according to Charles Bingley.

For extra math fun, let’s say our accomplished lady doesn’t work non-stop at accomplishing accomplishments, but instead works regular 8 hour shifts, every day. That’s 625 days straight, or roughly a year and nine months of accomplishsizing.

As we all knew already, Charles isn’t very picky—even Lydia could probably become “accomplished” in his eyes pretty easily.

Charles Bingley = 15,000 hours/ about one year and nine months

Let’s skip ahead a little and work on Darcy’s requirement next.

I don’t think you can ever “master” reading, so I’m going to do this calculation a little differently.

This is admittedly pretty arbitrary, but bear with me. I’m going to say 15 is a good age to assume someone is reading books on a regular basis. (In b4 the comments: I’m not talking about children’s books, I mean novels or texts or tomes or whatever you want to call the type of book that I know you I’m talking about.)

At 15, you’re old enough to pick and enjoy what you want to read, but young enough that they begin to shape who you become as an adult. (I’m sure some people started earlier or later, but this is meant as an average, OK!? Don’t @ me.)

I also think we can all agree Darcy was talking about Lizzy here when he mentioned this requirement, so let’s use her as a baseline.

Lizzy is 20 at the beginning of Pride & Prejudice. That’s 5 years of reading, and we’ll estimate she reads about two hours a day. That’s two hours a day, times 365 days in a year, times five years for a total of 3,650 hours spent reading.

Darcy = 3,650 hours/ about 1 year and 3 months

Now Caroline’s requirements is where this problem gets tricky: What exactly does a “thorough knowledge” constitute?

I think for this calculation, I’m say Caroline would be a bit pickier than Charles. So we’ll split the difference and say her accomplished lady needs about 7,500 hours of work at a subject—more than Charles requires, but less than total mastery (which would be unladylike!)

Her list is kind of ridiculous, as befits Caroline Bingley:

Music: What does this mean? Is it different than Charles’ piano requirement? The most accomplished musicians I know can play at least 3 instruments, but usually play even more.

Let’s go with three, but obviously Caroline would have meant playing piano as one of them. We’ll leave that one out and assume its already been covered by Charles’ earlier requirement. I think 15,000 hours would satisfy this for Caroline.

Singing: That adds an extra 7,500 hours for a total of 22,500.

Drawing: Another 7,500 brings us to 30,000.

Dancing: Again, another 7,500. We’re now at 37,500 hours for Caroline.

Modern Languages: Thanks to the handy website mentioned above, I learned that “modern languages” for young Regency-era women included French and Italian.

So that’s two languages at 7,500 hours each. 15,000 plus the 37,500 we’ve already racked up is now a mind-boggling 52,500 hours.

Comportment: Ahh comportment. I’ve argued with myself long and hard over this one. Do I count airs and walking as two separate accomplishments? It could also be argued that learning these two skills are lifetime lessons. Those hours would be uncountable.

Purely because I’m not very good at math anyway and I’m already regretting this decision to do so much of it in one sitting, I think we’re just going to count comportment as one skill.

(I’m sure at least half of you are already plotting out exactly how you’re going to tell me what I’ve already done wrong, so feel free to tell me why this is a bad (or good?) idea in the comments.)

So comportment is another 7,500 hours.

That means Caroline’s accomplished woman would need an absolutely insane 60,000 hours to pass muster. That’s 2,500 days straight, or 7,500 working days of 8 hour shifts. That comes out to about 20 and a half years.

Caroline Bingley = 60,000 hours/ about 20.5 years

Now, Charles Bingley and Darcy together is about 18,650 hours. Added to Caroline Bingley’s requirements, and the total time an “accomplished woman” would need would be a WHOPPING 78,650 hours or 3,277 straight days (give or take) or 9,831 working days.

A woman who worked 8 hours a day, every day, at being “accomplished” would be just shy of 27 when she finished, even if she’d started in infancy.

(And, as we all know, Charlotte Lucas is considered a spinster at 27. )

So there you have it, in order to attract a good husband, a woman must work until she’s a spinster and too old to marry well. Yup, that sounds like dating to me.

Come back tomorrow for more insanity and (I promise) less math.

Tell me what you think I did wrong or right in the comments! And, if you missed the first installments, check them out here:

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
And now that it’s over, here’s all the rest:
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9
Day 10
Day 11
Day 12
Day 13
Day 14
Day 15
Day 16
Day 17
Day 18
Day 19
Day 20
Day 21
Day 22
Day 23
Day 24
Day 25

-Admin R

29 thoughts on “25 Days of Pride & Prejudice, Day 4: How Exactly Do You Become An “Accomplished” Woman?

  1. Hello DA,
    Thank you for making me laugh so hard. I’m going to need you to go ahead and add podcasting to your list of personal accomplishments.
    Yours etc.
    A Fan

    Like

  2. This was great! I always kind of thought that what with servants and not being able to do anything truly productive as a “lady” back then, what else would you do but become this “accomplished” woman? But when you break down the math like that… maybe not so much. Plus, you have to account for all that walking and getting perfectly made up to sit in your own house all day in case someone comes to call!

    Looking forward to the rest of this!

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  3. I guess one could argue that extensive reading does not mean picking up any odd book. Surely Darcy had in mind the kind of literature and science that develops the brain, which means he is the rare man who would love a smart woman.
    Thanks to you, I watched the movie again two days ago and thoroughly enjoyed it, much more than when I first saw it. I guess at the time I was experiencing a sort of Keira Knightley overdose, so I resented her in the role of Lizzie. Now I appreciate the movie even more, and thanks to you, I could not help looking at all the hairdos. What did they do to Bingley? Use an entire gel bottle on him or what?

    Anyway, topics I would love you to address in your project:
    – the subtle glances and movements that no one sees ( back glances, side movements, you know what I mean) except us.
    – the way isolation and reflection is conveyed with the use of light and shadow
    – who is Caroline Bingley, deep down?

    There might be more if I watch it again. Looking forward to reading Day 5.
    (Oh, and what about watching and writing after a substantial indulgence of claret, not that I would encourage anyone to become inebriated).

    Like

  4. The math looks good, (what do I know, I didn’t really check it) but I’m thinking 8 hours a day is awfully generous. I mean that hair doesn’t curl itself. Not to mention changing outfits all day long. And visiting. I think 4 to 6 free hours of study a day may be more realistic. But I didn’t do any research so maybe I’m off base here 🙂
    So this is fun. I’m having a good time. Good luck! (I couldn’t do this)

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  5. Thank you for doing the math. Math makes my head hurt. And you know Caroline did not work all day on her accomplishments. I thinks she was going on the “I have them naturally” theory of womanliness. Too bad she was wrong!

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