Friday, December 31, 2010

The Art of Conversation: The Mouth

It is a matter of very little consequence in conversation whether a man has a large or a small mouth, as there are no means of changing that which nature has allotted us. True philosophy teaches us therefore to be thankful for such as we have got, always provided that we get something to fill it with, honestly. There is nothing more absurd than the endeavour of some people when speaking to make their mouth appear small. The result is generally the most insufferable grimace, which it is possible to conceive, disfiguring a countenance. When one is told some extraordinary news it is natural enough to open the mouth and give vent to some such exclamation as oh ! or ah ! But then you must observe the manner in which you do so, and not allow every one to see the interior of the mansion with its garniture of teeth, jawbones, and other accessories. In laughing, it is much better to do so with the lips than to open the mouth wide to give vent to those great guffaws which often accompany great mirth. When you hear a story which interests or amuses you, you must guard against opening your mouth too widely. If ever you should have occasion to read in company, whether prose or poetry, melodrama, or classic tragedy, avoid by all means any approach to those convulsive movements of the mouth that are sometimes seen in people devoid of taste. And finally, you must always keep at a respectable distance from the person with whom you are conversing, as it is possible that you may be surprised by a sudden sneeze or unsuspecting cough, or by some other accident which might cause your friend to consider the propriety of providing himself with his umbrella the next time you accosted him.

Source: How to Shine in Society, or, The Art of Conversation: Containing its usages, laws, rules, application, and examples. (Glasgow: George Watson, 1860), 13-14.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Etiquette of Love, Courtship, and Marriage II


"Falling in Love" is a very common expression, though at the same time an expression which we do not altogether admire. It conveys the idea of a certain degree of fatalism - an irresistible fatality, which sways its sceptre over the heart and affections of the sexes, and must be yielded to either with or without reason. It is as common to hear people talk of a person "falling in love." as to hear of a person falling into a pit, or falling from a precipice, and the idea has been conveyed to youthful hearts that "falling in love" is a natural consequence that cannot be resisted.

Such notions have vulgarized and degraded the nature of true love. They have not unfrequently led to a yielding up of the heart to the first fits of excitement or passion. They have detracted from true love that high and holy character which it ought to maintain. They have destroyed that one existence in which lives all the finest feelings of which humanity is capable, and have poured into the Eden of life, a flood of degradation and death.

There are a variety of causes which may lead to a person's "falling in love." The heart of woman is generally so soft and tender when unadulterated with the specious flattery and deceitfulness of men that there is in them a precocious tendency to submit at once to this soft emotion. In many instances this may be considered an amiable weakness, but its amiability has been questioned; - not, however, without its mitigating circumstances. The heart of woman must cleave to some object. If a young girl has been so unfortunate as to lose her parents, and is without brother or sister, or any affectionate relative in the world, unto whom can she cling for friendship and solace? The bestowment of friendship, or the little attentions of kindness which etiquette demands from any gentleman, will seize with giant strength upon the affections of such an one.

Some woman are naturally so grateful, - so plentifully endowed with the "milk of human kindness," that this feeling carries away their hearts, and ere they are aware of the fact, they have actually "fallen in love." Love steals upon them like sleep stealing upon the senses, or like the rising sunbeams dispersing the shades of night: - it is warm, placid, and imperceptible.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Social Etiquette

There are few things more profoundly unintelligible, and altogether less susceptible of rational explanation, than certain of the rules laid down by the code of what is conventionally termed society. Who framed them, or for what purpose, no one knows, nor would the most persevering enquirer be likely to arrive at a satisfactory solution of the mystery; all that can be said of them is that they are absolute, and not to be departed from on any pretext whatsoever; the slightest dereliction at once placing the offender beyond the pale of recognised civilisation. These traditional regulations, with which every one who is anybody is supposed to be familiar, may be summarily described as defining the mode of life and language adopted by the members of polite society, in contradistinction to what in modern parlance is designated "bad form." From this unwritten but all-potent shibboleth we learn what may with propriety be done, and what not; we are told by it; and if, notwithstanding this salutary warning, we persist in our evil ways, and decline to accept the jurisdiction of our instructors, society washes its hands of us, we pass from its border-land into Bohemia, and are known no more. This being the case, it may not be amiss, in the interest of the uninitiated in such topics, to glean a few stray hints from the above-mentioned statues, the paramount importance of which presumptuous or irreverent outsiders may possibly at first sight be inclined to question.

We will not dwell upon such manifest violations of good breeding as come under the head of positive vulgarity, these being, as a matter of course, tabooed by every right-thinking individual, and justly regarded as an unmistakable criterion of social inferiority, but we may notice one or two minor points of etiquette which, although apparently unimportant, are perhaps on that very account the more strenuously insisted on, as crucial tests by which the right to social recognition is at once established or negatived.

The first and most intelligible of these is the rule that no young lady should be seen in public without a chaperone, who, provided that she is or has been married, is considered, whatever her age may be, as thoroughly suitable for the office. This accommodating privilege, it is true, occasionally entails rather ludicrous consequences; as in the case where damsels of mature years make their appearance in a ball-room under the wing of a mentor younger than themselves, but in her capacity of matron perfectly equal in the eyes of society to the responsibility of protecting them. The next item also concerns the young ladies, those, at least, who chance to inhabit Belgravia, with those liberty of locomotion it has a decided tendency to interfere; their morning walks, even when accompanied by the indispensable abigail, being capriciously restricted to that patrician quarter of the town. They may shop in Sloane Street, or even Knightsbridge, but Hyde Park Corner is a barrier beyond which, like the lote-tree in Mahomet's seventh heaven, for them there is no passing; one step further would lead them into Piccadilly, and then - what would Mrs. Grundy say! Another point, the non-observance of which is a constant stumbling-block to the unwary, and which, more than either of the preceding, distinguishes the legitimate member of society from the mere hanger-on, is the invariable habit, when speaking of titled individuals under ducal rank, of designating them simply as "lord" or "lady," as the case may be. This summary process, incomprehensible to the outsider, who talks, of an earl with bated breath, and positively revels in the word marchioness, has the undoubted advantage, not only of establishing an imaginary link of privileged familiarity between the speaker and the personage alluded to, but also of at once exposing to deserved reprobation any casual slip of the tongue on the part of an inexperienced interloper.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Laws of Precedency

The recognised order of precedency is as follows:-
Peers rank among themselves by date, according to their patent of creation.
Foreign ambassadors are given the precedence of our nobility, as the representatives of the person of the Sovereign who accredits them.
There is no specified place for physicians or medical men, but they are ranked in the Royal household as next to knights.


  • Sovereign.
  • Prince of Wales.
  • Other Sons of Sovereign.
  • Grandsons of Sovereign.
  • Brothers of Sovereign.
  • Uncles of Sovereign.
  • Sovereign's brothers' or sisters' sons.
  • Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Primate of All England.
  • The Lord High Chancellor or Lord Keeper.
  • The Archbishop of York, Primate of England.
  • The Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of Ireland.
  • The Archbishop of Dublin.
  • The Lord High Treasurer.
  • The Lord President of the Privy Council.
  • The Lord Privy Seal.
  • The Lord Great Chamberlain.
  • The Lord High Constable.
  • The Earl Marshal.
  • The Lord High Admiral.
  • The Lord Steward of Her Majesty's Household.
  • The Lord Chamberlain of Her Majesty's Household.
  • Dukes, according to their patent of creation.
  • Marquises, according to their patent of creation.
  • Duke's eldest sons.
  • Earls, according to their patents.
  • Marquises' eldest sons.
  • Dukes' younger sons.
  • Viscounts, according to their patents.
  • Earls' eldest sons.
  • Marquises' younger sons.
  • Bishops - London, Durham, and Winchester. All other English Bishops according to their seniority of consecration.
  • Bishops of Meath and Kildare, All other Irish Bishops according to their seniority of consecration.
  • Secretaries of State of the degree of Baron.
  • Barons, according to their patent.
  • Speaker of the House of Commons.
  • Commisioners of the Great Seal.
  • Treasurer of Her Majesty's Household.
  • Comptroller of Her Majesty's Household.
  • Master of the Horse.
  • Vice-Chamberlain of Her Majesty's Household.
  • Secretaries of State under the degree of Baron.
  • Viscounts' eldest sons.
  • Earls' younger sons.
  • Baron's eldest sons.
  • Knights of the Most Noble Order of the Garter.
  • Privy Councillors.
  • Chancellor of the Exchequter.
  • Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
  • Lord Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench.
  • Master of the Rolls.
  • Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas.
  • Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequter.
  • The Lords Justices of the Court of Appeal in Chancery.
  • Vice-Chancellors.
  • Judges and Barons of the degree of the Coif of the said Courts.
  • Commissioners of the Court of Bankruptcy.
  • Viscounts' younger sons.
  • Baronets of England, Scotland, and Ireland.
  • Knights of the Grand Crosses of the Bath.
  • Knights of the Grand Crosses of St. Michael and St. George.
  • Knights Commanders of the Bath.
  • Knights Commanders of St. Michael and St. George.
  • Knights Bachelors.
  • Companions of the Bath.
  • Cavaliers Companions of St. Michael and St. George.
  • Eldest sons of younger sons of peers.
  • Baronets' eldest sons.
  • Eldest sons of Knights of the Garter.
  • Knights' eldest sons.
  • Younger sons of younger sons of Peers.
  • Baronets' younger sons.
  • Esquires of the Sovereign's Body.
  • Gentlemen of the Privy Chamber.
  • Esquires of Knights of the Bath.
  • Esquires by creation.
  • Younger sons of Knights of the Garter.
  • Younger sons of Knights of the Bath.
  • Younger sons of Knights Bachelors.
  • Clergymen, Barristers-at-law, Officers in the Navy and Army, who are all Gentlemen, and have their respective precedency in their several professions.
  • Citizens.
  • Burgesses.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Etiquette of Love, Courtship, and Marriage I


Love is a subject which has interestingly occupied the attention of both sexes ever since Adam and Eve were first created. Men of various minds and diversified character, and ladies of every distinction have all paid their court at the shrine of love. It has been justly styled the "ruling passion," and is no less predominant than universal. A celebrated writer on this subject has said, "that love forms part and parcel of a woman's existence - that in other words, from the moment of her emergency into womanhood until she has attained her fiftieth year, her affections are constantly occupied with one or other of the opposite sex. Equally true is it, that young ladies are constantly thinking of and earnestly panting after the matrimonial state. Men have various objects of ambition: - women have only one, and that one is marriage. All their thoughts, all their intrigues, all their scheming, all their actions - have the promotion of the one grand object - getting comfortably married - in view. It seems to them the end, as it constantly is the aim of their existence."

How far these remarks are true we leave it to our fair readers to judge; but we are of opinion that much that goes by the specious character of love has little or no effect upon the heart.

We have always looked upon love in a very different light from that species of flirtation and merriment which characterizes the joyous hours of youth. True love is sober, serious, and sedate. It is one of the most serious and important acts which can characterize the life of either man or woman. Some of the deepest realities in our experience are the effects of love.

There are many false impressions as to the real nature of genuine love. Many form their estimate of love from that unnatural system of philosophy found in novels and light reading. Other look upon it as a system of flirtation and coquetry. True love is founded upon esteem, and requires something more than external beauty to make it perennial.

Source: T.E.G., The Etiquette of Love, Courtship, and Marriage (London: Simpkin, Marshall & Co. ; Easingwold: Thomas Gill, 1847), 13-15.

N.B.: This is only the first section of the small book, The Etiquette of Love, Courtship, and Marriage. Further sections will be used for future posts.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Etiquette of Little Things.

There are some people who never seem to be sure whether they ought to shake hands with you or not, and from shyness or nervousness put out their hand halfway, and then draw it back in a hesitating, lukewarm fashion that is both most disconcerting and awkward. Others, again, there are who will shake hands with you one day in quite a friendly manner, and the next, perhaps, merely favour you with a formal bow, and, though this conduct may, and very frequently does, arise from the same cause as the half-extended hand, it is more often than not attributed to caprice, conceit, or a desire on the part of the offender to give herself airs, and yet all the while the person who does these things, instead of being desirous to give herself airs, is often painfully anxious to do, not only what is correct, but also what is polite and agreeable. Still, people, as a rule, do not, or will not, believe this, and both dislike and resent being met one day as a friend and next day treated as a mere acquaintance.

There is another thing, too, that constantly leads to misconstruction, and not infrequently checks what might otherwise have proved a pleasant friendship, and this is the carelessness, of forgetfulness of a mistress who leaves the thinking of all little things to servants, and trusts too much to their memory and discretion. She will, perhaps, forget to say whether she is to be at home to visitors or not. Then when the hall-door bell rings, the servant will probably go to answer it without thinking of, or waiting to make sure about, the matter, and, in consequence, has to say in reply to the visitor's question, "Is Mrs A at home?" "that she is not sure, but will go and see." While she goes the visitor has to stand at the door and wait her return. If she comes back and says that she is sorry, but finds that her mistress is not as home, the probability is that the visitor, on hearing this, will walk away with the firm, but secret, conviction that the lady was at home all the while, but that for some reason or other she did not care to see her, and, therefore, told her servant to say that she was not at home. Naturally, this view of the matter is followed by the resolution not to cultivate the friendship of Mrs. A. Or, perhaps, the servant will admit the visitor, show her into the drawing-room, and, leaving her there, will return after a while, and say that she is sorry that she has made a mistake, but finds that her mistress is not at home, after all. Now, neither of these things would have happened if the mistress had remembered to tell the servant that she would not be at home that afternoon. Little mistakes of this sort, are doubly awkward should they happen when it is a visitor's first call.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Etiquette in Driving.

As regards the small courtesies of life, a hint is sometimes needful, even to the ordinary well informed. Thus about carriage law. It is considered improper to take your umbrella or your pet dog, or, indeed, any parcel, into a friend's carriage, for you are not only not to overload it, and on no account to injure it, but are to do your best to ornament it. And here, by the way, let us say that you will never under any circumstance usurp your friend's place in her own carriage, which is on the seat facing the horses. Of course the most honoured guest will always be invited to sit beside her; but it would be as absurd a discourtesy to oblige her to leave that seat herself, by assuming it, as to turn her out of her own parlour. She will, however, always follow, and never precede, her guest into the carriage.

It needs little practice to enter a carriage gracefully; it should be done with an easy slowness - a quick person's movements are seldom as graceful as a slow one's - the left foot on the step if you are going to face the horses, keeping the right to enter the carriage, which will let you dispose of yourself without a toddling little third step when in; the right foot will be put on the step first if you are to set with your back to the horses; this supposes but one step; should there be two, the process must be reversed. It is best then to lean back in your carriage and take your ease, as that is what you are riding for.

Source: The Lancaster Gazette and General Advertiser for Lancashire, Westmorland and Yorkshire, Wednesday October 3, 1877, Issue 4762

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Left or Right? - Part 3 (Final)

To judge from the eagerness with which our correspondents pursue this point, we are induced to believe that it is one of national importance, probably not less urgent than the questions that have now occupied the attention of five or six hundred gentlemen for five nights. Indeed that this is a legitimate conclusion we have a more ancient authority than "Ambidexter," or "Hafiz," or "A Constant Reader." Louis le Grand, when told that something or other was only a ceremony, asked, "And is not the monarchy itself a ceremony?"

Having thus admitted the dignity of the subject, we proceed to such a grave consideration of it as may have the effect of setting all future doubts at rest. When a modest and discreet Alumnus of the University of Cambridge originally, and with befitting deference, referred this matter to our decision, we did not hesitate to give an opinion that ought to have been decisive. But the inconvenient modern practice, of setting up private judgement against decisions pronounced ex cathedru, induced a correspondent, calling himself "Ambidexter," to question our judgement. He availed himself  - dexterously we grant - of the fantastic tricks of certain architects in the construction of dwelling-houses to show that in particular cases our rule did not apply. He instanced the somewhat apocryphal existence of such modes of communication as passages, and the rare occurrence of central stairs, to prove that it was not always possible to give the wall to a lady. In the answer we gave to the plain question of our original correspondent we did not feel it necessary to lay down a code that should embrace every imaginable contingency; but, as the subject has since been mooted by two other writers, we will not shrink from the enunciation of a general rule. The following are the letters to which we refer :-

"Sire - Having seen in your valuable paper two articles respecting the custom of handing a lady from the drawing-room into the dining-room, I beg to offer my opinion, that when a gentleman hands a lady down stairs from the drawing-room he should, in ordinary staircases, always give her the wall; and if, as your correspondent "Ambidexter," in this day's Post, says, there is a central staircase, with a baluster on both sides, the lady should always in that case have the side of the baluster where the step is the broadest, whether it be right or left it matters not. In handing a lady from one room to the other it is the custom always to give the lady the right arm. - I beg to remain, Sir, your very obedient humble servant,
"May 7.                "A CONSTANT READER."

Monday, December 6, 2010

Left or Right? - Part 2


SIR - Having a real and somewhat sensitive regard for the credit of the Morning Post, I cannot but feel a proportionate mortification and regret that you should have fallen so short of the mark in your rather oracular answer returned to a consulting question of so much social importance as that of "Juvenis," in your paper of Wednesday. May I respectfully beg of you accordingly to re-consider it, and give us something more generally philosophical and satisfactory.
"There is but one rule," you say, "in such cases, the gentleman gives the wall to the lady." Is it possible to be content with this solution? I will not open at large the more delicate bearings of the question, nor drag prominently forward the suspicions of a want of due gallantry to which you may have rendered yourself here liable, considering what sort of persons are proverbially said "to go to the wall." Any covert insinuation of that nature, I am well persuaded, was most remote from your intention. But your response is plainly contracted and partial, and not at all fitted to meet the comprehensiveness of the question proposed. You seem in the first place, to assume, as matter of course, a handing down stairs, into the dining-room.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Left or Right? - Part 1


SIR - A dispute having arisen on a subject on which some bets have been made, we have agreed to refer to you for your decision in the matter (as being the best judge we could think of). It is this, viz. - Whether a gentleman handing a lady down to dinner should give her his right arm or left. If you would be kind enough to answer this in your next, you will oblige your constant reader,
Trin. Coli., Cambridge, Monday, April 26.

[We hold that there is but one rule in the case referred to: the gentleman gives the wall to the lady. Is it quite true that some two or three years ago the law was violated for a short time, like many other laws, for the sake of expediency. The ladies then - the more's the pity - wore enormous sleeves, and a proximity to the wall was considered dangerous to the contour of the manches bouffantes. During the continuance of this very absurd fashion, it became advisable to secure as much space as possible for the gigots, and the lady, therefore, preferred being placed next the banisters. But now that the sex have returned to something like their fair proportions, the necessity no longer exists, and the "majesty of the law" is vindicated. The lady resumes the post of honour - ED. MORNING POST.]

Source: The Morning Post, Wednesday April 28, 1841, Page 5, Issue 21929

Thursday, December 2, 2010

For Fiancee and Bride.

Although more freedom of action is accorded by some parents to a girl when she is engaged to be married, the rule of etiquette, which prescribes that no young unmarried lady should enter society or appear at any public place of amusement without a chaperon, is not in the slightest degree relaxed, and it would be quite incorrect for an engaged couple to do so. At a dinner party it is customary to send an engaged couple into dinner together; but it is considered very bad taste for them, at a ball or dance, to dance or sit out too much together, or to make themselves conspicuous in any way by their behaviour. When the families of an engaged couple are not already acquainted it is the family of the gentleman, and not the lady, who should take the initiative in the matter by writing to the bride-elect and calling upon her and her parents, and these letters should be replied to at once, and the visits returned as soon as possible. Although it is the parents of the bridegroom-elect who take the first step in making an acquaintance, it is the mother of the young lady who sends the announcement of the engagement to the papers, and it is she also who writes and announces it to the relations and near friends of her family; and if from any cause the engagement should be broken off, it is the mother of the young lady who announces the fact.

When sending a wedding present, a letter should accompany it of congratulation and good wishes, and it is also a good plan to enclose with the present the card of the donor, and all presents received should at once be acknowledged by a letter of thanks, the bride-elect writing to all who have sent their presents direct to her, and the bridegroom writing to those friends who, being unacquainted with the bride, have sent their gifts direct to him. Should it happen that the engagement is not carried out, all wedding presents are returned to the respective donors. On the wedding day, the presents received are arranged on tables of various sizes for the inspection of the guests, and each should have the name of the donor attached to it, and for this purpose the cares enclosed with the present when sent are generally used.