Social Success: A Victorian Guide to Ladylike Composure

To be a lady, or at least, a successful lady, one must possess more than the simply trappings of the role. It is all well and good (and certainly helpful) to have the right clothes, address and accent. However, one cannot truly be a lady unless one behaves like one.

A lady should have an unshakable composure from which she never falters, and upon which she can fall back.

This composure should not simply emerge in a crisis, but be a defining feature of her daily life. A lady is always calm and her speech and actions are always measured. When entering a party or gathering, she greets her hostess first and smiles politely at any particular friends or acquaintance. When she gives her hand, she does so with a warm pressure and never a shake. When she sits, her posture is composed and correct. She does not sit as though she is a soldier on parade, yet neither does she slouch inelegantly nor perch nervously on the edge of her chair. When she rises, she does so gracefully. When she walks, her step is somehow both light and delicate, but firm and purposeful.

She is thoughtful, considerate and never allows personal unhappiness or discomfort to impact upon the pleasure or enjoyment of others. She should endeavour to never be, or appear to be, very cold, very hot or very tired. Moreover, a lady is never seen to be worried, flustered or cross. A million things may be galloping through her mind, but to all the world she appears both benevolent and serene.

In short, ladylike composure allows one to transcend the harried state of the world.

Of course, this is all very well when one is having a good day. When the children are behaving themselves, the servants aren’t causing any trouble and the husband hasn’t stolen the warm spot in front of the fire. In these circumstances, when any reasonable (although of course still respectable) lady feels the threat of a torrent of rage brewing like a storm in the pit of her stomach, Behind The Past suggests that she feign a fainting fit. This is always very swooning and ladylike, and means you can successfully shut out all offending parties from your room for the rest of the day.


Hughes, Kristine, The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian England From 1811-1901, (Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books, 1998).

This entry was tagged Etiquette, Ladylike, Social Success, Victorian. Bookmark the permalink.

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