Pride & Precedence: Like I Should be Musical?

A continuing series by Persuasion’s Mary Musgrove


Of all the demands made upon a lady, musical performance is the most unfair. Upon every occasion–say, a rainy afternoon, or before tea, and certainly with after-dinner guests–a lady is asked to play and sing.

I mean, really. Who says I must be musical? Simply because there is a pianoforte in the room, why does everyone look at me? Is it a requirement that every gentlewoman sing and play? Of course I can do both, for I am not a barbarian, but why should I?

My sisters-in-law are another matter. Upon the slightest pretext they plunk down on the piano stool and pound out the most dreadful music. They have very little talent and No Taste. But do their parents notice?

The poet Congreve says that music hath charms to soothe the savage breast. But he might change his mind if he heard my sisters-in-law!

Indivi536The idea that music helps one think creatively I reject. I am accomplished in many areas—most particularly in the area of supervision—but do I get credit? No, that is reserved for the pianist who entertains. It is most unfair.

I must say, I would be a better musician if only I had time to practice! But my time is all about duties–or should I say do-ties? Do this, do that, for everyone else! No one knows what I suffer.

I would very much like to play the harp, as it is such an elegant instrument.  But where is the money to purchase a harp and pay the music teacher? Bless me, it is spent for my husband’s hunting guns and horses!

1Indiv572But what can one expect, living buried in the  country as we do? There isn’t a teacher within twenty miles, whereas if we lived in London or Bath–

Besides, we have my sister Anne to play for us. I have no reason to exhaust myself by practicing scales and dances.

And so I soldier on, willingly providing topics of conversation, gratis, for all my friends and neighbors. It’s yet another evidence of good breeding, a thing my father calls noblesse oblige.

I trust that your musical obligations are more tolerable than mine.

Most cordially,

Mary Elliot Musgrove
Daughter of Sir Walter Elliot, Bart.
Future Mistress of Uppercross
Laura Hile (1)

Mary’s “portrait” is Afternoon Stroll by Giovanni Boldini


10 thoughts on “Pride & Precedence: Like I Should be Musical?

  1. Gayle Mills

    Alas, poor Mary, being musical requires two things: a modicum of talent and a willingness to practice (I know a Lady who could set you to rights on that). Unfortunately, you possess neither, dearest. I suppose you must develop your conversational skills to fill the silence.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Laura Hile

      Dear Mary tells me that an Elliot has no need to practice conversational skills; they are inborn. You see, an Elliot’s calling is to provide the topics for conversation, as a trend-setter.


      Liked by 1 person

    1. Laura Hile

      I like to think I am noble like Anne Elliot, Jacqui, or witty like Elizabeth Elliot. But in truth I am whiny Mary Musgsrove. Why else am I able to write her so easily?


  2. Jennifer Redlarczyk

    Now Mary, you must NOT despair. Not every on has that Mozart Genus, but that does not mean that you are not teachable. No Pianoforte or Harp? No problem, then we shall work on your singing skills. That is assuming you can match pitch. I tell you what, we shall practice in secret, that way we can either amaze the world when you become accomplished or if need be, keep it to ourselves. ♫

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laura Hile

      I relayed your message to Mary, Jen, and she is most enthusiastic.

      “We’ll form a little class with my Austen cousin, Mary Bennet. We Musical Marys must stick together.”

      Um, good luck with that!


  3. Robin Helm

    I give some credit to Mary for recognizing that she is not musical. How many times have we all suffered through the performance of a person who has no clue that music is not their gift?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Robin Helm

        Whenever I hear that someone is looking for a pianist, and another person pipes up and says that they know a lady who can play anything she sees, I sigh. Most of the time, the pianist in question does not live up to their billing. It’s not their fault – they didn’t tell anyone they were a virtuoso, but I always want to hear a person play before I believe the stories.

        Liked by 1 person


Why yes, we DO want a piece of your mind. ;-)

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