The Victorian social climber has a hard road to walk. While this glorious revolution in trade and industry has certainly provided the clever and ambitious with ample opportunity to make their fortune, Society has long been suspicious of ‘new money’. One of the ways it seeks to guard itself is with a series of etiquette rules, hoping to catch-out the unsuspecting.
So, while it is very hard to have time for people who cling to such snobbish nonsense, it can certainly be rewarding to beat them at their own game. To that end, Behind The Past has compiled a useful starter-guide to Victorian etiquette for the aspiring gentleman or lady.
- Titles and forms of address must be used correctly and it is best to err of the side of caution. First names can only be used securely among family and very close friends.
- Also, gentlemen often prefer to address one another by their surnames or, if applicable, the land attached to their title even if they are good friends.
- A lady should never be unattended in a ballroom. Her escort or chaperone should not leave her, and in return, she should not leave them. At the end of the dance, her partner should return her to her appointed guardian(s).
- If a gentleman is introduced to a lady in a ballroom, he should understand that the acquaintance only lasts for the duration of the ball. After that point, he has no right to claim an acquaintance with the lady in question. Only the lady has the power to acknowledge or continue the acquaintance.
- If a gentleman and lady meet in the street, it is for the lady to acknowledge the acquaintance. If she wishes to talk, the gentleman should walk with her, rather than changing direction or stopping.
Don’t despair if your etiquette worries are not fully dispelled here – more articles and information will be posted soon!
‘Etiquette for the Ballroom (1880), Victorian Web, http://www.victorianweb.org/history/Etiquette.html.
‘Greeting’, Mass Historia, http://walternelson.com/dr/greeting.
‘Social Rituals During the Victorian Era’, A Victorian, http://www.avictorian.com/social_rituals.html.
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