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