And since Mary Crawford and Edmund Bertram in from starting to write a one-off letter to Edward Ferrars (which was to be more a business than a social letter, to someone who could be considered a relative of hers by marriage); however, for a continuing correspondence to be carried on in the absence of an engagement is a breach of propriety (a significant point in Marianne's conduct in ).
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So it can be taken for granted that when this phrase appears as part of the narration of According to a somewhat hollow convention of the day, it was considered a violation of etiquette for a woman to decline a man's invitation to dance in any way which would make it seem that she didn't want to dance with personally; rather, she had to maintain the pretense that she didn't want to dance at all with anybody for the moment, and then sit down for at least the next few "sets" of two dances each (i.e.
must not soon be seen to be standing up with someone other than the man she has turned down).
A "coach" is a large enclosed four-wheeled carriage, drawn by four or more horses, with at least two rows of seats in the compartment, and usually with seats on the top etc. The "box" is a luggage compartment to the front of the main coach body; the driver either sits on this coach box, or sits on the front edge of the coach body with his legs resting on the box (depending on the design of the coach); there is also usally a "basket", or open luggage compartment hanging from the rear of the coach body.
Coaches are used by wealthy families, and in long-distance public transportation. ) and six, with a "box" in front and "basket" behind (Rowlandson, 1798).
(The Go to Jane Austen's letters (Brabourne edition) In Jane Austen's day, there were no envelopes (or postage stamps), and the "envelope" mentioned in connection with Caroline Bingley's letter and Darcy's letter was merely another sheet of paper folded around the rest (there could be writing on one side of the "envelope", as well as on the part of the other side that didn't end up on the outside of the letter).
Jane Austen herself was said to be dextrous and neat in folding and sealing letters (though in her letters she often deprecates her own handwriting as being too large, unlike that of Cassandra -- at the time, letters were charged according to the number of sheets of paper, so the smaller you could make your writing, the more you could fit in).
In some cases (depending on the lady's scruples and/or fear of being seen to violate etiquette or fear of giving offense, and the particular circumstances involved), it means she won't dance at all for the rest of the evening.
Thus the following dialog from "The post-office is a wonderful establishment! If one thinks of all that it has to do, and all that it does so well, it is really astonishing! So seldom that a letter, among the thousands that are constantly passing about the kingdom, is even carried wrong -- and not one in a million, I suppose, actually lost!
Barouches are "convertible" -- they can be partially opened in good weather.