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What's A "ladies'-Hand"?

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30 replies to this topic

#1 GabrielleDuVent

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Posted 18 June 2013 - 00:29

I was recently reading Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy, when I came across this passage:

 

"I am no accomplished person. And a companion to you must be that."

"O, not necessarily."

"Not? But I can't help using rural words sometimes, when I don't mean to."

"Never mind, I shall like to know them."

"And - O, I know I shan't do!"  - she cried with a distressful laugh. "I accidentally learned to write round hand instead of ladies'-hand. And, of course, you want some one who can write that?"

 

The first speaker is the heroine of the story, a girl brought up by a working class mother and a sailor. The second is a well-educated lady who asks the girl to be her companion. The girl was previously reprimanded by her (real) father for her uncultured handwriting, when he asked her to draft some sort of a contract or another type of official agreement.

 

I know what roundhand is, but I was under the impression that this was the sort of writing used in rather formal settings; yet she was reprimanded, along with using rural words and other hallmarks of plainer upbringing. So what is a ladies'-hand? I've never seen it before. Does anyone know why her father was concerned with his daughter having roundhand handwriting (cultural context)? And why was it inappropriate for the girl to use roundhand when drafting a contract?

 

 

 


Tes rires retroussés comme à son bord la rose,

Effacent mon dépit de ta métamorphose;

Tu t'éveilles, alors le rêve est oublié. 

 

-Jean Cocteau, from Plaint-Chant, 1923


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#2 dcwaites

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Posted 18 June 2013 - 03:14

Google is your friend --

 

http://worldturndups...-mid-1800s.html


Edited by dcwaites, 18 June 2013 - 03:14.

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#3 GabrielleDuVent

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Posted 18 June 2013 - 03:32

I've seen that page, but I've also unearthed "Copperplate Ladies' hand". I also can't figure out why she was reprimanded for using round-hand, as it was one of the three penmanships allowed to use in France between 17th and 18th century, and were most often used for legally binding documents. 


Tes rires retroussés comme à son bord la rose,

Effacent mon dépit de ta métamorphose;

Tu t'éveilles, alors le rêve est oublié. 

 

-Jean Cocteau, from Plaint-Chant, 1923


#4 smk

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Posted 18 June 2013 - 09:27

Spencerian script was developed in the mid 19th century and was used in the United States.

 

British ladies of that time would learn the 'Italian' hand (not to be confused with the 'Italic' hand). This was a lighter and more delicate version of the English Roundhand.

 

This plate from George Bickham's The Universal Penman shows both styles: TUP - Plate 27

 

Salman



#5 Nanny

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Posted 18 June 2013 - 10:10

Early in the United States, style of handwriting was intended to show tradesman, gentelman, or lady. The girl was probably helping out her father with correspondence appropriate to his station in life. I have some handwritten family letters from early 19th century, but I hesitate to include samples as I do not know what their tutor may have taught. A good resource for this is Handwritng in America by Tamara Plakins Thornton.



#6 GabrielleDuVent

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Posted 18 June 2013 - 15:33

Early in the United States, style of handwriting was intended to show tradesman, gentelman, or lady. The girl was probably helping out her father with correspondence appropriate to his station in life. I have some handwritten family letters from early 19th century, but I hesitate to include samples as I do not know what their tutor may have taught. A good resource for this is Handwritng in America by Tamara Plakins Thornton.

 

This is Thomas Hardy, set in Wessex, England.


Tes rires retroussés comme à son bord la rose,

Effacent mon dépit de ta métamorphose;

Tu t'éveilles, alors le rêve est oublié. 

 

-Jean Cocteau, from Plaint-Chant, 1923


#7 GabrielleDuVent

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Posted 18 June 2013 - 15:34

Spencerian script was developed in the mid 19th century and was used in the United States.

 

British ladies of that time would learn the 'Italian' hand (not to be confused with the 'Italic' hand). This was a lighter and more delicate version of the English Roundhand.

 

This plate from George Bickham's The Universal Penman shows both styles: TUP - Plate 27

 

Salman

 

This makes the most sense. Any clue as to why her father scolded her for using Roundhand for official business?


Tes rires retroussés comme à son bord la rose,

Effacent mon dépit de ta métamorphose;

Tu t'éveilles, alors le rêve est oublié. 

 

-Jean Cocteau, from Plaint-Chant, 1923


#8 inkstainedruth

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Posted 18 June 2013 - 17:21

I'm wondering whether it's because Roundhand would be considered inappropriate for a woman to use, or whether the fact she was doing "official" business correspondence at all.  I haven't read the book (since I mostly despise Thomas Hardy) -- is the girl's father literate?  That might also be an issue (there was a whole lot of class and class stratification issues in _The Return of the Native_, IIRC).

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#9 GabrielleDuVent

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Posted 18 June 2013 - 18:39

The father is not an Oxbridge graduate by any means. He doesn't know how to use sealing wax, but he can read and write. 

 

 

I'm wondering whether it's because Roundhand would be considered inappropriate for a woman to use, or whether the fact she was doing "official" business correspondence at all.  

 

I've wondered about that, but the scene begins with the father summoning his daughter to be his secretary for the moment and draft the agreement. The girl seems to make a big deal out of this (good girl; I'd have said "well, go do it yourself then"). This is very confusing. I'm guessing it's because Roundhand is inappropriate for ladies, but it's not like she's writing a thank-you note for attending the grand ball. 

 

Any Hardy experts?


Tes rires retroussés comme à son bord la rose,

Effacent mon dépit de ta métamorphose;

Tu t'éveilles, alors le rêve est oublié. 

 

-Jean Cocteau, from Plaint-Chant, 1923


#10 smk

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Posted 18 June 2013 - 19:16

 

This makes the most sense. Any clue as to why her father scolded her for using Roundhand for official business?

 

Most probably because he is class conscious and would have preferred to present his daughter as a lady or at least as genteel as the circumstances allowed.

 

I'm no expert but I doubt it would be proper to ask a lady to perform the role of a secretary.

 

S.



#11 GabrielleDuVent

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Posted 18 June 2013 - 19:56

 

Most probably because he is class conscious and would have preferred to present his daughter as a lady or at least as genteel as the circumstances allowed.

 

I'm no expert but I doubt it would be proper to ask a lady to perform the role of a secretary.

 

S.

 

But her father summoned her in, thrust her a pen and paper/parchment, sat her down and made her write... then ushered her out, seeing her roundhand handwriting.

 

This is baffling.


Tes rires retroussés comme à son bord la rose,

Effacent mon dépit de ta métamorphose;

Tu t'éveilles, alors le rêve est oublié. 

 

-Jean Cocteau, from Plaint-Chant, 1923


#12 thang1thang2

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Posted 18 June 2013 - 23:36

 

But her father summoned her in, thrust her a pen and paper/parchment, sat her down and made her write... then ushered her out, seeing her roundhand handwriting.

 

This is baffling.

 

You have to remember the context of the times. In that sort of time period, class and status was everything. You could walk into a jail, kill a cop, and bribe your way out with nothing more than dropping your family name and saying you were a (high class) [extreme example, do not attempt]. Today, you would not be able to do the same; you would have to bribe them with lots of money.

 

Honor, not money, greased the world back then. A good honorable name, a good upstanding reputation and a cultured appearance were the things that made life possible. A family could raise their status by marrying their daughter to someone above their current class/situation. However, one wouldn't want to lower their status by marrying a "rough and uncultured" women, right?

 

So, in order for a family to jump by marrying outside of their class, they would have to seamlessly blend in with the class they were melding in with. As such, this includes all the small things for women-hood. A delicate body, poise, etiquette  accent, usage of slang, handwriting, how they dance, how they set the table, cooking abilities, how good they are with kids, etc.

 

In this scenario, the father seems to be a working man. And he is raising his daughter up as high class as he can, with the hopes that she will be able to marry outside of her class and bring more honor and status to the family. Thus, she should be able to write as the cultured ladies of their time did. In a ladies hand. This hand would have been different enough from the masculine round-hand of its time to be extremely noticeable. It's almost how girls "aren't supposed to swear" today.  So seeing a cute girl with a sailor's mouth is very... offputting. 

 

Ladies weren't the secretaries of the day, but if they were asked to write a letter or correspond, they should do it in  the lady fashion; with the proper handwriting. Not doing so makes their entire appearance unseemly and, depending on who they're writing to, could be disastrous for the entire family reputation. Who would want to do business with someone who can't even educate their children properly? How can I expect THEM to do their business properly in one area if they can't do it properly in another?



#13 dcwaites

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Posted 19 June 2013 - 00:09

Where's caliken when you need him?


fpn_1412827311__pg_d_104def64.gif

 

 

“Them as can do has to do for them as can’t.

And someone has to speak up for them as has no voices.”

Granny Aching


#14 beak

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Posted 19 June 2013 - 00:36

I didn't take the style of writing to be the cause when I read MoC (about a year ago), but put it all down to the tensions and the contradictions he felt about her.  Like one of those family rows that is not about the thing it appears to be about.  Could be wrong, but I'll chuck in the suggestion.  Again, he was always touchy about his status, which could have something to do with it.  Not a Hardy expert, by a long chalk.

 

There's quite a bit in this book about pens, paper and writing - some good tips to be had if, as you point out, we can interpret them correctly.


Edited by beak, 19 June 2013 - 00:40.

Sincerely, beak. God does not work in mysterious ways – he works in ways that are indistinguishable from his non-existence.

#15 Redonna

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Posted 19 June 2013 - 00:44

Oh, I haven't read this book, but it certainly sounds interesting to me. Free Kindle download on it's way. Thanks GabrielleDuVent



#16 inkstainedruth

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Posted 19 June 2013 - 00:58

@thang1thang2:

Thanks for the explanation.  It all now makes perfect sense. 

It's amazing how a simple question about penmanship opens up a whole world of knowledge.  I'm continually astonished at the things I learn on here.  :thumbup: 

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#17 GabrielleDuVent

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Posted 19 June 2013 - 08:26

 

You have to remember the context of the times. In that sort of time period, class and status was everything. You could walk into a jail, kill a cop, and bribe your way out with nothing more than dropping your family name and saying you were a (high class) [extreme example, do not attempt]. Today, you would not be able to do the same; you would have to bribe them with lots of money.

 

Honor, not money, greased the world back then. A good honorable name, a good upstanding reputation and a cultured appearance were the things that made life possible. A family could raise their status by marrying their daughter to someone above their current class/situation. However, one wouldn't want to lower their status by marrying a "rough and uncultured" women, right?

 

So, in order for a family to jump by marrying outside of their class, they would have to seamlessly blend in with the class they were melding in with. As such, this includes all the small things for women-hood. A delicate body, poise, etiquette  accent, usage of slang, handwriting, how they dance, how they set the table, cooking abilities, how good they are with kids, etc.

 

In this scenario, the father seems to be a working man. And he is raising his daughter up as high class as he can, with the hopes that she will be able to marry outside of her class and bring more honor and status to the family. Thus, she should be able to write as the cultured ladies of their time did. In a ladies hand. This hand would have been different enough from the masculine round-hand of its time to be extremely noticeable. It's almost how girls "aren't supposed to swear" today.  So seeing a cute girl with a sailor's mouth is very... offputting. 

 

Ladies weren't the secretaries of the day, but if they were asked to write a letter or correspond, they should do it in  the lady fashion; with the proper handwriting. Not doing so makes their entire appearance unseemly and, depending on who they're writing to, could be disastrous for the entire family reputation. Who would want to do business with someone who can't even educate their children properly? How can I expect THEM to do their business properly in one area if they can't do it properly in another?

 

That's the same in any "old world" country even today, though (interestingly, back in 1700s and 1800s, "old world" referred to Eastern Asia, not Europe... but I digress). What I'm curious about is whether women were always supposed to write in ladies'-hand, as roundhand is far more appropriate for business settings. As much as I use scented inks, I would not use it to sign my will. 

 

I didn't take the style of writing to be the cause when I read MoC (about a year ago), but put it all down to the tensions and the contradictions he felt about her.  Like one of those family rows that is not about the thing it appears to be about.  Could be wrong, but I'll chuck in the suggestion.  Again, he was always touchy about his status, which could have something to do with it.  Not a Hardy expert, by a long chalk.

 

There's quite a bit in this book about pens, paper and writing - some good tips to be had if, as you point out, we can interpret them correctly.

 

At this point, anyone who has read this book is welcome to "chuck in suggestions". My mate has suggested that it is likely that Henchard has no idea that Roundhand is far more appropriate for business setting and has a notion of "ladies should write ladies'-hand always" in a rather upstart manner, but he also added that he's taking a wild guess (and that's a lot of "that" in that sentence).

 

Oh, I haven't read this book, but it certainly sounds interesting to me. Free Kindle download on it's way. Thanks GabrielleDuVent

 

It felt like downing a very heavy Sunday dinner. If anything, I'd like to thank the person who suggested this book after my "I hate Hardy, Tess is an idiot" diatribe. 

 

Tess is still an idiot, however.


Tes rires retroussés comme à son bord la rose,

Effacent mon dépit de ta métamorphose;

Tu t'éveilles, alors le rêve est oublié. 

 

-Jean Cocteau, from Plaint-Chant, 1923


#18 thang1thang2

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Posted 19 June 2013 - 20:10

 

That's the same in any "old world" country even today, though (interestingly, back in 1700s and 1800s, "old world" referred to Eastern Asia, not Europe... but I digress). What I'm curious about is whether women were always supposed to write in ladies'-hand, as roundhand is far more appropriate for business settings. As much as I use scented inks, I would not use it to sign my will. 

 

 

Of course they would still use the Ladies' hand of the day. The whole point of the ladies hand was that it was "for ladies". As such, to break out of that gender context would have been such a glaring flaw as to supersede any and all other social clues such as "whether it's business or pleasure, etc". Also, as women weren't expected to write or read much of all (it would have strained their brains), you wouldn't have wanted to strain them further with more than one writing style.



#19 GabrielleDuVent

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Posted 19 June 2013 - 20:16

 

Of course they would still use the Ladies' hand of the day. The whole point of the ladies hand was that it was "for ladies". As such, to break out of that gender context would have been such a glaring flaw as to supersede any and all other social clues such as "whether it's business or pleasure, etc". Also, as women weren't expected to write or read much of all (it would have strained their brains), you wouldn't have wanted to strain them further with more than one writing style.

 

MoC was written after Newnham College, Cambridge was founded. So clearly "women weren't expected to write or read much" doesn't apply across the board.


Tes rires retroussés comme à son bord la rose,

Effacent mon dépit de ta métamorphose;

Tu t'éveilles, alors le rêve est oublié. 

 

-Jean Cocteau, from Plaint-Chant, 1923


#20 WestLothian

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Posted 19 June 2013 - 21:25

18th Century Copperplate Handwriting by Sherwood Carter History

Copperplate evolved in the earliest part of the 18th century due to a need for an efficient commercial hand in England. The "secretary hand" (a cursive variety of Gothic minuscule), the "mixed hand", and the more elegant Italian cancellaresca testeggiata had given way to something plainer and more practical. Two varieties of a new "copperplate" style became common: "round hand," the bolder of the two, was considered appropriate for business use, and "Italian," a lighter and narrower form, was considered the ladies' hand.

 

 

The father may have wished the daughter to be educated to become a ladies companion and with writing to match this position.

 

Quote

"She started the pen in an elephantine march across the sheet. It was a splendid round, bold hand of her own conception, a style that would have stamped a woman as Minerva's own in more recent days. But other ideas reigned then: Henchard's creed was that proper young girls wrote ladies'-hand – nay, he believed that bristling characters were as innate and inseparable a part of refined womanhood as sex itself." (20.14)

 

Elizabeth-Jane's handwriting is very masculine – it's what was described in those days as "round-hand." She taught herself to write and did an excellent job by almost anyone's standards. But back in the day, most people thought that a proper, upper-class young lady should write in "ladies' hand," which was a fancier-looking (and harder to read) script. - http://www.shmoop.com

 


Edited by WestLothian, 19 June 2013 - 21:32.






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