In London people apply the best costumes, wear wonderful clothes and attend the best social events. It was the heart of Europe. Since common customs in Europe were not similar, one must be prepared to live in such a place.
Our readings, Roxana and Evelina brought my attention to dancing as common costume.
When Roxana came to England she was put in an English school to learn the language, proper costumes, and to become an English young-lady (Roxana, p. 6). Later, Roxana did not struggle in public. Her knowledge of the costumes gave confidence and power. She danced at any time, and with anyone. These costumes were taught not given.
However, Evelina was not as lucky as Roxana. She came to England unprepared, and had limited understanding of the society. She did not know what to expect and what to learn. Mrs. Mirvan’s family who took care of Evelina was not aware of Evelina’s unpreparedness. They did not know much of her background education. They assumed, but never asked. They overestimated Evelina’s knowledge to common costumes, such as dancing because they assumed that she learned how in France. They were expecting her to be ready for a private ball. However, a private ball in London was not like the ball in France. “A private ball this was called, so I expected to have seen about four or five couple; but Lord! my dear Sir, I believe I saw half the world!” (page 31).
Dancing in a private ball was a skill that people in London considered as common, but it was not for Evelina who had never been to a dance. This atmosphere was all new to her. “He appeared to be surprised at my terror, … for I did not chuse to tell him it was owing to my never before dancing but with a school-girl.” (p. 33).
Not only she was not experienced, she was not familiar to these events. The pressure she was in; she was expected to behave as an English lady, made things worse. Her friend, Maria tried to tell her briefly of some costumes when dancing, “But you must speak to your partner first.” (p. 33). In public dance, one must not dance with a stranger. “for she had told us it was highly improper for young women to dance with strangers, at any public assembly.” (Page 44)
Evelina knew she was not prepared to these occasions and lacked instructions. She was not pleased with herself, “I was quite ashamed of being so troublesome, and so much above myself as these seeming airs made me appear; but indeed I was too much confused to think or act with any consistency.” (Page 34). She knew her public image is not neat anymore.
There were times when she tried to recall the rules she learned at school, but it was too late. She added, “A confused idea now for the first time entered my head, of something I had heard of the rules of an assembly, but I was never at one before,–I have only dance d at school,–and so giddy and heedless I was, that I had not once considered the impropriety of refusing one partner, and afterwards accepting another. I was thunderstruck at the recollection: while some warmth, said, ‘This lady, Sir, is incapable of meriting such an accusation!” (p. 36).
It was unfortunate and unfair to Evelina to be put in a public place in a metropolitan area and expect her to act like a native lady. Luckily though, when Evelina raised her concerns, Mrs. Mirvan was wise enough to take responsibility of this unhappy occasion. “I then told Mrs. Mirvan my disasters, and she good-naturedly blamed herself for not having better instructed me, but said she had taken it for granted that I must know such common customs.” (Page 37).
Roxana knew all that glory that surrounded London, even though she was very young when she went to England. Evelina on the other hand, was lost. She, not only had no proper training, she was not even aware or told of such costumes and lifestyle. No one told her of what to expect or what might go right or wrong. She was unfortunate to have lived with a family that had never observed people of other background.