Social Success: Five Pieces Of Victorian Etiquette (Part Four)

In this fourth part in our collection of advice for the aspiring Victorian lady or gentleman, we shall turn our attention to behaviour whilst ‘out and about’. And, we shall take our guidance from our dear American cousins.

Correct behaviour in the daily undertakings of life is as important as correct behaviour at the grandest ball or dinner. Good manners are not things that should only be brought out for special occasions. Indeed, they should be woven into the very fabric of our beings.

And, more cynically, if you are looking to secure a dinner invitation or the favour of a morning call, you should bear in mind who might be watching you. You might like to imagine that your poor conduct goes unobserved, as you push past another person, or stop to admire your bonnet in a shop window, but there is a very good chance that it is noted and noticed. The world is not as large and anonymous as we often think.

Therefore, Behind The Past has put together some small pieces of advice, to aid you as you go about your business:

  1. A lady should not wear bright colours in the street. A little dash of colour to accent an outfit is acceptable, but any more is vulgar.[1] She should also be completely ready to leave the house before she does so. [2] It is unladylike to be seen fussing with your appearance.
  2. If a gentleman should find himself sitting on any form of transport, whilst a lady is obliged to stand, he must offer her his seat without delay.[3]
  3. If a gentleman stops to speak in the street, he must remove his hat for the duration of the conversation.[4]
  4. It is fundamentally wrong for a gentleman to smoke in the street during the day. It is permissible after dark, but if he sees a lady, he must immediately remove the cigar from his mouth.[5] A gentleman never smokes in the presence of a lady.
  5. A lady must look both ways before crossing the street, and not attempt the crossing until she is completely certain it is safe to do so.[6] No one has ever managed to throw themselves out of the path of an oncoming carriage in a ladylike manner. And more importantly, you should not take risks with your safety or welfare.

 

 Footnotes

[1] Hartley, Florence, The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness, (London: Hesperus Press, 2014), [First published 1860], p. 116.

[2] Ibid., p.117.

[3] Hartley, Cecil B, The Gentleman’s Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness, (London: Hesperus Press, 2014), [First published 1860], p.50.

[4] Ibid., p. 48.

[5] Ibid., p. 45.

[6] Hartley, The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette, p. 118.

 

Bibliography

Hartley, Cecil B, The Gentleman’s Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness, (London: Hesperus Press, 2014), [First published 1860].

Hartley, Florence, The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness, (London: Hesperus Press, 2014), [First published 1860].

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