Following on from our previous post on this topic, Behind The Past is pleased to announce a further small overview of some key points of Victorian etiquette.
Of particular interest to ladies and gentlemen who want to know how best to mix with their peers and betters, and to conduct themselves in social situations, these five core pieces of advice should stand them in good stead. So, next time a lady is asked to exhibit her accomplishments, or a gentleman if he would care for a cigar, they shall know exactly what to do.
- A lady should be willing and able to exhibit her musical accomplishments at a social gathering. However, she should never appear overly eager to do so.
- However, lady should never exhibit false modesty. If asked to sing or play, she should do so directly, rather than feign a desire to decline. It does not do to ‘fish’, as they say.
- A gentleman should never smoke in the presence of ladies, or in a room which is frequently used by ladies.
- A gentleman should also never smoke in front of a clergyman, without having first obtained their permission. It is very wrong to offer a cigar to a clergyman above the rank of a curate.
- At a dinner party, it is impolite to monopolise the conversation. One ought to mainly talk to the companion on one’s left, and in a moderate tone of voice.
Hughes, Kristine, The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian England From 1811-1901, (Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books, 1998)
Thornwell, Emily, The lady’s guide to perfect gentility, in manners, dress, and conversation … also a useful instructor in letter writing, toilet preparations, fancy needlework, millinery, dressmaking, care of wardrobe, the hair, teeth, hands, lips, complexion, etc., (New York: Derby and Jackson, 1857).