Etiquette: Rules and Usages of the Best Society was published in Australia in 1885 for the benefit of “the better sort” among our colonial cousins. Not the crims, in other words. Some of the advice is very wise, some of it is surreal, while some of it– such as the recommended homemade treatments for acne or grey hair– is liable to end with a trip to the accident and emergency room.
THE “CUT DIRECT”
The “cut direct,” which is given by a prolonged stare at a person, if justified at all, can only be in case of extraordinary and notoriously bad conduct on the part of the individual “cut,” and is very seldom called for. If any one wishes to avoid a bowing acquaintance with another, it can be done by looking aside or dropping the eyes. It is an invariable rule of good society that a gentleman cannot “cut” a lady under any circumstances, but circumstances may arise when he may be excused for persisting in not meeting her eyes, for if their eyes meet, he must bow.
In conversation, one must scrupulously guard against vulgarisms. Simplicity and terseness of language are the characteristics of a well-educated and highly-cultivated person. It is the uneducated or those who are but half-educated, who use long words and high-sounding phrases. A hyperbolical way of speaking is mere flippancy, and should be avoided. Such phrases as “awfully pretty,” “immensely jolly,” “abominably stupid,” “disgustingly mean,” are of this nature, and should be avoided. Awkwardness of attitude is equally as bad as awkwardness of speech. Lolling, gesticulating, fidgeting, handling an eye-glass or watch-chain and the like give an air of gaucheire, and take off a certain percentage from the respect of others.
FORMING STREET ACQUAINTANCES
A lady never forms an acquaintance upon the street, or seeks to attract the attention or admiration of persons of the other sex. To do so would render false her claims to ladyhood, if it did not make her liable to far graver charges.
CONDUCT IN CHURCH
In visiting a church of a different belief from your own, pay the utmost respect to the services and conform in all things to the observances of the church– that is, kneel, sit and rise with the congregation. No matter how grotesquely some of the forms and observances may strike you, let no smile or contemptuous remark indicate the fact while in the church.
FAMILY JARS NOT TO BE MADE PUBLIC
Whatever may be the family disagreements, they should never be made known outside of the home circle, if it can be avoided. Those who expose the faults of the members of their family are severely judged by the world, and no provocation can be a good excuse for it. It is exceedingly vulgar, not to say unchristianlike, for members of the same family to be at enmity with each other.
IDLENESS A SOURCE OF MISERY
Perhaps the greatest cause of misery and wretchedness in social life is idleness. The want of something to do makes people wicked and miserable. It breeds selfishness, mischief-making, envy, jealousy and vice, in all its most dreadful forms.
No attention should ever be paid to anonymous letters. The writers of such stamp themselves as cowardly, and cowards do not hesitate to say or write what is not true when it suits their purpose. All statements made in such letters should be regarded as false, and the writers as actuated by some bad motives. Anonymous letters should be burned at once, for they are not to be noticed.
PROMPT PAYMENT OF BILLS
If an account is presented to you for payment, you should, if it is correct, pay it as promptly as though it were a promissory note at the bank already due. The party who presents the bill may be in need of money, and should receive what is his due when he demands it, but some houses in a large way of business pay on special days of the week, and this is a good plan.
(Note: I’m self-employed and there are lots of employers who really need to get this suggestion into their heads. Usually their excuse is that they pay on special days of the week, and then they still don’t pay on that day.)
A love of dress has its perils for weak minds. Uncontrolled by good sense, and stimulated by personal vanity, it becomes a temptation at first, and then a curse. When it is indulged in to the detriment of better employments, and beyond the compass of means, it cannot be too severely condemned. It then becomes criminal.
INDIFFERENCE TO DRESS
Indifference and inattention to dress is a defect of character rather than virtue, and often denotes indolence and slovenliness.
Long, flowing hair on a man is not in good taste, and will indicate him to the observer as a person of unbalanced mind and unpleasantly erratic character– a man, in brief, who seeks to impress others with the fact that he is eccentric, something which a really eccentric person never attempts.
The moustache should be worn neatly and not over-large. There is nothing that so adds to native manliness as the full beard if carefully and neatly kept.
HARMONY OF COLOURS IN DRESS
Some colors may never, under any circumstances, be worn together, because they produce positive discord to the eye. If the dress be blue, red should never be introduced by way of trimming, or vice versa. Red and blue, red and yellow, blue and yellow, and scarlet and crimson may never be united in the same costume. If the dress be red, green may be introduced in a minute quantity. Scarlet and solferino are deadly enemies, each killing the other whenever they meet.
A small person may dress in light colors which would be ridiculous on a person of larger proportions. So a lady of majestic appearance should never wear white, but will be seen to best advantage in black or dark tints. A lady of diminutive stature is dressed in bad taste when she appears in a garment with large figures, plaids or stripes. Neither should a lady or large proportions be seen in similar garments, because, united with her size, they give her a “loud” appearance. Indeed pronounced figures and broad stripes are never in perfect taste.
The shower bath can only be endured by the most vigorous constitutions, and therefore cannot be recommended for indiscriminate use.