Victorian Etiquette Book Manners Fashion Cosmetics Health Bridal Ladies Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness.
This very scarce c1879 First Edition book is entitled “The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness”. It touts it is “A complete handbook for the use of the lady in polite society, containing full directions for correct manners, dress, deportment, and conversation; rules for the duties of both hostess and guest in morning receptions, dinner companies, visiting, dinner parties and balls; a complete guide for letter writing and cards of compliment; hints in managing servants, on the preservation of health, and on accomplishments, and also useful receipts for the complexion, hair, and with hints and direction for the care of the wardrobe”. The author is Florence Hartley.
The book opens with “In preparing a book of etiquette for ladies, I would lay down as the first rule ‘Do unto other as you would the other should do unto you. You can never be rude if you bear the rule always in mind, for what lady likes to be treated rudely?...Politeness, founded upon such a rule, becomes the expression, in graceful manner of social virtues…true politeness is the language of a good heart…rudeness will repel, where courtesy would attract friends…politeness forbids any display of resentment…Remember that a favor becomes doubly valuable if granted with courtesy, and that the pain of a refusal may be softened if the manner expresses polite regret’”.
The Chapters cover:
How to behave at a hotel.
Evening parties---etiquette for the hostess.
Evening parties---etiquette for the guest.
Visiting---etiquette for the hostess.
Visiting---etiquette for the guest.
Morning receptions or calls—etiquette for the hostess.
Morning receptions or calls---etiquette for the caller.
Dinner company---etiquette for the hostess.
Dinner company---etiquette for the guest.
Conduct in the street.
Polite deportment and good habits.
Conduct in church.
Ballroom etiquette---for the hostess.
Ballroom etiquette---for the guest.
Places of amusement.
On a young lady’s conduct when contemplating marriage.
Hints on health.
For the complexion, etc.
Women of the Victorian period, the Golden Age, were governed by many rules for both the home and social society. It was incumbent upon them to embrace the societal social norms and convections to avoid mistakes and to ensure good matches. Woe be it to the lady who acted out, or was independent, for Victorian society took their rules to be absolute. To observe them carefully was oh so important.
Hartley does a great job in this book describing in detail what to do and not do. It is written in a conversational tone that pokes at the empathy of the reader. For instance: “Never, when advancing an opinion, assert positively that a thing ‘is so’, but give your opinion as an opinion and say, ‘I think this is so’, or ‘those are my views’.”
Neatness says: “this is the first of all rules to be observed with regard to dress. Perfect cleanliness and careful adjustment of each article in the dress are indispensable to a finished toilet. Let the hair be always smooth and becomingly arranged, each article exquisitely clean, neat collar and sleeves, and tidy shoes and stockings, and the simplest dress will appear well, while a torn or soiled collar, rough hair, or untidy feet will entirely ruin the effect of the most costly and elaborate dress”.
This next section is sure to bring a smile, as current folks do this all the time! “A lady who desires to pay strict regard to etiquette, will not stop to gaze in at the shop windows. It looks countrified…”
Conversations were carefully couched at the turn of the century…”when you open a conversation, do so with a slight bow and smile, but be careful not to simper, and not to smile too often. Never point, it is excessively ill-bred. Avoid exclamations; they are excessively bad taste…”.
The chapter on a young lady’s conduct when contemplating marriage is just chock full of interesting tidbits for this period. “In high life, the same haste to dispose of daughters prevails as among the lowest classes. At seventeen, most of our belles of fashion expect to receive proposals. If they do not marry within a few years after their introduction, they have a mortified sense of having lost time, that the expectations of friends and of parents have not been fulfilled; that others have ‘gone off’ before them. The next ten years are often a period of subdued vexation, and the sweetness and contentment of the original character is impaired…” All the pomp and circumstance is laid out with regard to engagements, wedding invitations, and the bride. So many rules to contend with!
Keeping one in good health suggested many do’s and don’ts. “Light and sunshine are needful for your health. Get all you can; keep your windows clean. Do not block them up with curtains, plants, or bunches of flowers---these last poison the air in small rooms… Pure water is needed for your health. Wash your bodies as well as your faces, rubbing them all over with a coarse cloth. If you cannot wash thus every morning, pray do so once a week. Crying and cross children are often pacified by a gentle washing of their little hands.”
Miscellaneous covers a plethora of activities one had to administer, such as: “if you wish to make yourself agreeable to anyone, talk as much as you please about his or her affairs, and as little as possible about your own…to stand with the arm a-kimbo, the hands on the hips, or with the arms crossed, while conversing, is exceedingly unlady-like…accepting presents from a gentleman is a dangerous thing…it is not polite to stare under ladies bonnets…never laugh at your own wit…manners are more important than laws”.
With regard to the household…”politeness is as necessary to a happy intercourse with the inhabitants of the kitchen, as with those of the parlour…a knowledge of domestic duties is beyond all price to a woman. Every one of the sex ought to know how to sew, and knit, and mend, and cook, and superintend a household. In every situation of life, high or low, this sort of knowledge is of great advantage.”
The section on Receipts, as they were called, details out one could make cosmetic formulas, that is, the home preparation. Often ladies were rural, and ready-made cosmetics were not available. There are directions for coldcreams, pomades, pastes, ointments, tooth powders, hair lotion, bandoline, lip salves, rouge, perfumes, and colognes. Also detailed are other remedies for household repairs, such as ‘to clean kid gloves, to clean satin and silks, to restore velvet, to clean ermine fur, to restore scorched linen, to whiten linen that has turned yellow, to clean embroidery, to shrink new flannel, to take out mildew from clothes, to bleach a faded dress, indelible marking ink, to wash hair brushes, to wash the hair, to whiten the hand”.
It would appear that this book was shelved and never opened, as the inside pages are in near FINE condition, with a lovely patina, clean and unmarked. This hardbound, brown cloth covered book has 340 pages. The cover boards are in VG condition, with little wear to the front cover and cover board corners and the top edge of the spine is tender. The boards have a black imprinted design with the title in a gilt cartouche on the spine. The front flyleaf has a Victorian Godey hand colored lady pastedown from long ago (in wonderful condition), the back hinge papers are uncracked. This book has a little different slant on etiquette than some others we have, and it is a fine compliment to any library. Overall size is aprox 5.25 x 7.75 inches.