Social Success: Suitable Careers for Respectable Regency Gentlemen

Well, the obvious answer is that a respectable Regency gentleman has no need of a career. Indeed, some would say that the mark of a gentleman is that he never appears to be engaged in the act of supporting himself and his family. Rumour has it that Lord Wellington, in particular, is somewhat suspicious of any officers under his command who seem to need their salary.

However, this discussion really does require more analysis and nuance. Firstly, we must elaborate on what we mean by a ‘career’ and, secondly, what we mean by ‘gentlemen’.

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Etiquette: Five Further Pieces of Victorian Etiquette

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.

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Social Success: Suitable Activities For Respectable Regency Ladies

A well-born and well-bred lady will know from her earliest days that the vociferous and perhaps, at time, intemperate actions of her brothers can never be repeated by herself. A true lady should be amiable, restrained and circumspect in her actions and behaviours. The hustle and bustle of a busy, public life should hold no appeal for a lady, whose primary concerns and interests lie in the domestic circle.

Yet within this domestic circle, a number of idle hours can arise. After all, a lady has no need to seek employment. Although she may oversee the housekeeping, the bulk (or ideally all) of the actual work should be undertaken by servants. And while even a quiet day may require a reasonable number of different outfits, so that some time will be taken up with the labour of dressing (or being dressed), there is only so long this activity can realistically engage a ladies’ attention.

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Calling Cards: Frances Abington

The latest addition to the new Calling Card section is Mrs Frances Abington. A famed and adored actress, and a noted for her keen taste in fashion, Mrs Abington is one of the celebrities of the age.

Her origins and early life are somewhat elusive, but it is believed that she was born Frances Barton in London in 1737. She began her working life as a flower girl and street singer, where she earned the nickname Nosegay Fan. In 1755 she joined the Drury Lane Company and from 1759 she was listed in the bills as Mrs Abington, taking her surname from her husband, although the marriage was not a happy one. Yet despite marital disappointment, she met with public success and went on to have a long and extensive career. Mrs Abington finally bowed out from the stage in 1799.

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Social Success: Five Pieces of Victorian Etiquette

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.

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Review: A Very British Romance with Lucy Worsley

In this new three-part documentary series showing on BBC4 (and iPlayer), Lucy Worsley explores three centuries of romance, arguing that the way this is experienced can be traced back through specific historical events.

The first programme begins in the Georgian era and charts the rise of the romance novel, which Worsley argues changed the way we felt and thought forever. However, the history of emotions can be a rather murky topic at times. It must be stressed that Worsley is exploring romance and the experience of thereof (i.e. courtship and marriage, and how this is perceived and handled by individuals and the wider community) rather than the internal, personal feeling of love.

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Social Success :The Art of the Calling Card

Following on from our earlier discussion of how to pay a call in Regency Society, we now turn our attention to the art of the calling card. The correct usage of the calling card shows good manners and propriety. It displays to your friends, and importantly those who you hope to soon count among your friends, that you are well-versed in the nuanced rules and proper etiquette of Society.

The form of the calling card is of the utmost importance. We are judged on first sight by our appearance, and the same can be said for a calling card. The ideal calling card should be white card of good quality, with your name printed in a clear but pleasant black script. If appropriate, your current abode or ‘at home’ days can be neatly written in your own hand.

When arriving to make a call, you should present your card to the butler. He will then see if the person you wish to visit is at home. If not, you can leave your card so that your acquaintance knows you called. This can be particularly useful if you are returning a call, and do not wish the other person to feel slighted.

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Social Success: How to Pay a Call in Regency Society

The paying and returning of calls, and doing so correctly, is one of the key points of etiquette of our present times. In metaphorical terms, it is the oil which keeps the social wheel turning. Paying and returning calls is the way one makes and furthers acquaintances, or alternatively, ends them.

There are a series of rules and codes of behaviour which need to be followed in the calling process, in order to achieve the highest levels of success. And, as success can never be truly achieved without diligent application and study, we have compiled here the necessary skills for you to endeavour to learn and replicate yourself.

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Review: Ian Hislop’s Age of the Do-Gooders

For fans of Have I Got News For You, this documentary has Ian Hislop, first in a top hat and then on the streets of central London with a loudspeaker. So basically, it has everything you could want from a television show.

On a more serious note, this documentary is comprised of a series of lively biographies of Victorian do-gooders doing good. And while being a rather light-hearted taken on history (there are some particularly amusing cartoons of a young William Wilberforce) it avoids making itself ridiculous in the process. Rather than simply listing the great and their good works, Hislop also seeks to confront the harsh reality of Victorian life. By not shirking away from the darker aspects of this period, and by acknowledging that for all the good done there were thousands upon thousands who did not benefit from it, Hislop’s documentary remains genuinely engaging and interesting. After all, for all the tongue-in-cheek guides to social climbing published here in our Handbook, the Victorian era was one where life could truly be (and for most was) violent, brutal and short.

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