Once again, it is time for us to rush into the fray of popular etiquette. Knowing how to act and behave is absolutely imperative to the art of social climbing. Of course, when you have the biggest house and more money than everyone else, you’ll find that people become suddenly very understanding of your blunders and forgiving of your foibles. Until then, however, Behind The Past is here to guide you:
- Always remember that introductions are a delicate business. It is exceedingly presumptuous to assume that your acquaintance, or that an introduction you can offer, is wanted. It should always be phrased as a question. For example, you might say something like, “Mrs Oak, would do me the honour of allowing me to introduce my niece, Miss Beech?”
- In a family with more than one daughter, only the eldest has the distinction of being introduced with the surname only. So, for instance, the eldest daughter of the Willow family would be ‘Miss Willow’. Her younger sisters would be known as Miss Rose Willow, Miss Lavender Willow, Miss Marigold Willow and so on.
- Debts between gentlemen (such as those incurred at the gaming table) must be settled immediately. Tradesmen can wait.
- You should always be polite and civil to servants, but never informal.
- Galloping in Hyde Park is absolutely forbidden.
With all of this, and as hinted above, forgiveness of breaches of etiquette and behaviour is, perhaps regrettably, inextricably linked to wealth and social position. The eldest son of a Duke with an impeccably lineage might well get away with galloping across Hyde Park. A young man drawn from the ranks of the gentry or middle classes would probably find himself severely rebuked and ostracised.
Kloester, Jennifer, Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, (London: William Heinemann, 2005).
Ross, Josephine, Jane Austen’s Guide to Good Manners: Compliments, Charades and Horrible Blunders, (London: Bloomsbury, 2006).