I love the Regency era, and the majority of my writing takes place in the age the BBC has blessed us with via their incredible period pieces. As much as I've studied those few years in the greater Georgian period, I always have more questions. Lately, I've been studying up on how children were educated.
In Persuasion, we know that the younger Musgroves all go to school. We also find out the both the Bingley sisters attended school - presumably gaining their many "accomplishments." Did you know that Jane Austen was sent away to school for the first time when she was seven years old? She was sent to a different school not long after, and then brought home and never sent away again. Her father also took in young boys as boarders and educated them.
Boarding schools for girls were called Ladies' Seminaries. They were usually run by single women. Advertisements for these schools appeared at the beginning of each year, in January, in all the papers. Usually these ads would be prefaced by rather flowery expressions of gratitude. For instance, in the Bristol Mirror, January 8th, 1820:
The Misses Hewlett beg leave to offer their most respectful acknowledgements to those Friends who have already entrusted them with the Education of their Daughters.
And just beneath that advertisement, another:
Mrs. Emblin presents her warmest acknowledgements to her Friends, for the confidence with which she has been honoured so many years past; and begs leave, most respectfully, to assure them and the Public, that, with able Assistants, she will spare no effort in the conscientious discharge of her duty....
Mostly these announcements served to tell families when school would recommence.
What were these young ladies actually learning? In the Stamford Mercury, in August 1820, a teacher was sought who "must be capable of assisting to teach Drawing, and understand all kinds of Needle Work."
French was also a common subject, with "natural speakers" highly sought after. French, drawing, needlework "fancy and plain," reading, writing, and etiquette were commonly taught. Occasionally, schools would employ outside "masters" to teach other accomplishments, such as dancing and playing the pianoforte.
|Boarding School attended by Jane and Cassandra Austen|
I found several delightful articles about the education of women in that time period as well as how it's portrayed in Austen's books.
For further reading:
Education of Upper-Class Women in Regency Era
The Education of Young Men and Women in the Regency
The Regency Boarding School - 1816
The Education of Girls in Jane Austen's England
19th Century Learning Academies and Boarding Schools: An Eyewitness Account