A Complete Manual of the Manners and Dress of American Society Book Antique Victorian Eliza Bisbee Duffey
This very, very early book on ladies’ and gentlemens’ etiquette is authored by the famous Eliza Bisbee Duffey. She was quite the forerunner in her day, writing books also on relations of the sexes, quite taboo by Victorian standards!
The book opens to a charming frontispiece illustration with courting scene, wedding, parties, riding, driving, street, traveling, and toilet cartouches. This book is very scarce, a FIRST EDITION published in 1877 by the Porter Coates Company.
The Contents include:
Part One: Etiquette for General Occasions.
Introductory. Introductions. Salutations. Conversation. The etiquette of visits. Dinner parties and balls. Etiquette of the street. Etiquette of traveling, driving, and riding. Etiquette of public places. Epistolary etiquette. Etiquette of courtship. Table etiquette. Miscellaneous rules of etiquette. Etiquette of visiting cards.
Part Two: Washington Etiquette and Etiquette of Foreign Courts.
Social etiquette at Washington. Foreign titles. Presentation at court.
Part Three: Etiquette of Special Ceremonials
Wedding etiquette. Anniversary weddings. Births and christenings. Funerals.
Part Four: Dress
The toilette. General rules in regard to dress. Morning dress for house and street. Riding, driving, and visiting dresses. Evening costumes. Costumes for public places. Costumes for traveling. Wedding outfit. Mourning. Toilette recipes.
Part Five: The Letter Writer.
Business letters. Letters of ceremony. Love letters.
Oh my, society was so strictly governed by social rules, and woe be it to someone who strayed from acceptable and necessary etiquette! Books like this one might be the only source for a young man or woman to learn the necessary steps to climb the social ladder. Especially so, if one lived in outlying areas. Comparing this to today’s norms is just a hoot indeed!
For instance: “A gentleman whose thoughts are not upon marriage should not pay too exclusive attention to any one lady. …But as soon as he neglects all others to devote himself to a single lady he gives that lady reason to suppose he is particularly attracted to her, and there is a danger of her feelings becoming engaged.”
Obviously, the most read section in this book is on courtship and marriage. With regards to a Lady’s “No”: “It is not always necessary to take a lady’s first ‘no’ as absolute. Diffidence or uncertainty as to her own feelings may sometimes influence a lady to reply in the negative, and after consideration cause her to regret that reply. Though a gentleman may repeat his suit with propriety after having been once repulsed, still it should not be repeated too often or too long, lest it should degenerate into importuning. If a lady really has no love to give, in that case she will soon learn to despise the importunate suitor, and he thus loses the possibility of retaining her friendship.”
Table etiquette is always a favorite in these books, to think there were really manners back when! For instance:
“Tea and coffee should never be poured into a saucer to cool. If by chance anything unpleasant is found in the food, such as a hair in the bread or a fly in the coffee (!), remove it without remark. Never hold your knife and fork upright on each side of your plate while talking. Do not find fault with the food.” Many more examples are listed.
Ah yes, The Toilette is another favorite, by any society, then or now! “It is the duty of every woman to make herself as beautiful as possible; nor is it less the duty of every man to render himself pleasing in appearance. This duty of looking well is one we owe not only to ourselves, but to others also (very different from today, don’t you agree?).”
A Gentlemen’s Dressing Room is thoroughly laid out, from straight razors, shaving brush, soaps, boot stands, gloves, and even a flesh brush. The Bath advises: “Only the most vigorous constitutions can endure the shower bath, therefore it cannot be recommended for indiscriminate use. A douche or hip bath may be taken every morning. We do not bathe to make ourselves clean, but to keep clean, and for the sake of its health giving and invigorating effects. Once a week a warm bath, at about 100 degrees may be used, with plenty of soap in order to thoroughly cleanse the pores of the skin. After the bath the rough towels should be vigorously used, not only to help remove the impurities of the skin, but for the beneficial friction which will send a glow over the whole body. The hair glove or flesh brush may be used to advantage in the bath before the towel is applied.” The author further extols the benefits of the Air Bath.
The Eyes, Lashes and Brows: “A beautiful eyelash is an important adjunct to the eye. The lashes may be lengthened by trimming them occasionally in childhood. Care should be taken that this trimming is done neatly and evenly, and especially that the points of the scissors do not penetrate the eye…never shave the brows.”
On men going bald: “If the hair is to be found falling out, the first thing to do is look to the hat and see that it is light and thoroughly ventilated. There is no greater enemy to the hair than the silk dress hat. The single eyelet hole through the top does not secure sufficient circulation of air for the health of the head. It is best to lay this hat aside altogether and adopt a light straw in its place.”
On and on the Toilette section reads, Miss Duffey conscientiously covering all areas of physical appearance and dress. Underwear for men, and colors for women’s dress are copiously laid out, and well as what dresses to wear at what time of the day and evening, as well as riding, driving, visiting calls, parties, church, theater, opera, concerts, parties and balls. One of my favorites is that of Bathing Costumes: “A bathing dress is best made of flannel. A soft gray tint is the prettiest, as it does not so soon fade and grow ugly from contact with the salt water. It may be trimmed with bright worsted braid. The best form is the loose sacque or the yoke waist, both of them to be belted in and falling about midway between the knee and the ankle. Full trowsers gathered into a band at the ankle, an oilskin cap to protect the hair, which becomes harsh in the salt water, and merino socks of the color of the dress complete the costume. Any other material than flannel becomes limp and unsightly after being worn for a short time.” Can you imagine how heavy this garb would be?!
Near the back is another favorite section on Toilette Recipes, or cosmetics. Included are to remove wrinkles, to remove sunburn, cold cream, to prevent the hair from falling out, hair curling fluid, bandoline, lip salve, rose water, plasters, for roughness of the skin, to soften the hands, to remove pimples, to remove tan, remedy for black teeth, cure for corns, pomade against baldness, cologne, ox marrow pomatum, how to make shoes and boots waterproof, laundry aids, how to darken hair…yes, the ol’ Victorians used any and everything they could get their hands on to make homemade remedies. Many, many more concoctions are listed, and I just wonder, how useful would they be work today??? Can you imagine (this is for the men) using a hair product (pomatum) made of beef tallow and suet…? Or ladies, try darkening your hair with a lead comb…!
This hardbound, reddish brown cloth covered book has black recessed imprinting on the cover, and the title in gilt on the spine. As you can see, the cover boards and spine ends have some wear. The cover is in very good condition. The inside hinge papers are holding well. There are a few signatures loose, although the book text block is still holding remarkably well for its age. The pages have a nice patina, and it actually looks as if the book was never read, just shelved for a long time. 352 pages. This great book is a delight to read and oh so entertaining. Measures aprox 5.25 x 7.75 inches, and is a FIRST EDITION.
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