Firm advice for ladies who pride themselves on saucy chique, very stout persons, and gentlemen who so far forget what is elegant as to smoke in the street from George Routledge’s Manual of Etiquette, circa mid-to-late 1860s judging by the complaint about crinolines, which had gone out of fashion in favour of bustles by the 1870s.
Some of the advice is actually still completely relevant; Mr Routledge’s glove fixation, not so much. “Worsted or cotton gloves are unutterably vulgar,” apparently. You’ve been told.
It is always better to let your friends regret than desire your withdrawal…
If you are yourself the performer, bear in mind that in music, as in speech, “brevity is the soul of wit.” … If your audience desire more they will ask for more; and it is infinitely more flattering to be encored than to receive the thanks of your hearers, not so much in gratitude for what you have given them, but in relief that you have left off.
Remember that all “slang” is vulgar.
It has become of late unfortunately prevalent, and we know many ladies who pride themselves on the saucy chique with which they adopt certain Americanisms, and other cant phrases of the day. Such habits cannot be too severely reprehended. They lower the tone of society and the standard of thought. It is a great mistake to suppose that slang is in any way a substitute for wit… Puns, unless they rise to the rank of witticisms, are to be scrupulously avoided. A lady-punster is a most unpleasing phenomenon, and we would advise no young women, however witty she may be, to cultivate this kind of verbal talent… Do not be always witty, even though you should be so happily gifted as to need the caution. To outshine others on every occasion is the surest road to unpopularity.
Lady correspondents are too apt to over-emphasize in their letter-writing, and in general evince a sad disregard of the laws of punctuation. We would respectfully suggest that a comma is not designed to answer every purpose, and that the underlining of every second or third word adds nothing to the eloquence or clearness of a letter, however certain it may be to provoke an unflattering smile upon the lips of the reader.
All letters must be prepaid.
Never be seen in the street without gloves; and never let your gloves be of any material that is not kid or calf. Worsted or cotton gloves are unutterably vulgar. Your gloves should fit to the last degree of perfection.
Never be seen without gloves in a ball-room, though it were for only a few moments. Ladies who dance much and are particularly soigné in matters related to the toilette, take a second pair of gloves to replace the first when soiled.
In morning costumes, a pair of gloves badly chosen will mar the effect of the whole. Imagine a lady dressed in mauve silk, with a mauve bonnet, and emerald green kid gloves! Or vice versâ, in green silk, with a bonnet to match, and mauve-coloured gloves!
Avoid too much impetus in mounting, audible testimony to eating, riding-whips in the hall
When eating or drinking, avoid every kind of audible testimony to the facts.
When a gentleman makes a morning call, he should never leave his hat or his riding-whip in the hall, but should take both into the room. To do otherwise would be to make himself too much at home. The hat, however, must never be laid on a table, piano, or any article of furniture; it should be held gracefully in the hand. If you are compelled to lay it aside, put it on the floor. Umbrellas should invariably be left in the hall.
If the lady be light, you must take care not to give her too much impetus in mounting. We have known a lady nearly thrown over her horse by a misplaced zeal of this kind.
Triflers, artists, and flinging one’s cigar in the presence of ladies
Some men make a point of talking commonplaces to all ladies alike, as if a woman could only be a trifler. Others, on the contrary, seem to forget in what respects the education of a lady differs from that of a gentleman, and commit the opposite error of conversing on topics with which ladies are seldom acquainted.
If you so far forget what is elegant as to smoke in the street, at least never omit to fling away your cigar if you speak to a lady.
A great French writer has said, with as much grace as philosophy, that the artist and man of letters needs only a black coat and the absence of all pretension to place him on the level of the best society. It must be observed, however, that this remark applies only to the intellectual workers, who, if they occasionally commit a minor solecism in dress or manners, are forgiven on account of their fame and talents.
Uncivilized dress and colours which “swear” awfully
Very stout persons should never wear white. It has the effect of adding to the bulk of the figure. A lady in deep mourning should not dance at all.
A gentleman should always be so well dressed that his dress shall never be observed at all… If any friend should say to you, “What a handsome waistcoat you have on!” you may depend that a less handsome waistcoat would be in better taste. If you hear it said that Mr. So-and-So wears superb jewellery, you may conclude beforehand that he wears too much.
If in the morning you wear a long cravat fastened by a pin, be careful to avoid what may be called alliteration of colour. We have seen a torquoise pin worn in a violet-coloured cravat, and the effect was frightful.
If you suffer from weak sight, and are obliged to wear coloured glasses, let them be of blue or smoke colour. Green are detestable.
The dress of the bride during the honeymoon should be characterised by modesty, and attractive simplicity, and scrupulous neatness. The slightest approach to slatternliness in costume, when all should be exquisitely trim from chevelure to chaussure, would be an abomination, and assuredly beget a most unpleasant impression on the susceptible feelings of the husband. He will naturally regard any carelessness or indifference in this respect, at such a time, as a bad augury for the future.
There are still to be found amongst the uncivilized races those who are contented with as small an amount of clothing as satisfied the first inhabitants of Eden. Yet many of these show that they study personal appearance quite as much as the most fashionable of Parisian belles; for they bestow much labour, time, and thought, and endure much actual suffering in the elaborate patterns with which they tattoo, and, as they vainly suppose, embellish their faces and persons.
Who but a Widow Barnaby would wear a bright emerald green satin dress in the morning, and a bonnet profusely ornamented with large and brilliant scarlet flowers? Yet we ourselves have seen a lady, of ample dimensions and advanced years, similarly attired, and could think of nothing but one of those large gaudy macaws which are met with in every zoological garden. Who that had any regard for his own liberty would marry such a strong-minded, pretentious dame? Who could endure for life the vulgarity of mind that suggested such a costume for a fête in the country on a hot summer’s day? There are some persons who think to overpower their neighbours by the splendour of their attire.
There are colours which “swear” so awfully, that no one with any pretension to good taste would wear them; yet we not unfrequently find instances of them. A yellow gown has been worn with a bright green bonnet; red and green, like our friend a-la-macaw; salmon colour and blue; yellow and red; green and blue. Two ill-assorted shades of the same colour, such as a dark and light blue; or a red lilac and a blue lilac; or a rose pink and a blue pink; or drab and yellow. Instances may be multiplied without end of incongruous inharmonious blending of colours, the mere sight of which is enough to give any one a bilious fever.
Exposed to the gaze of policemen and errand-boys
Did our readers ever see a London housemaid cleaning the doorsteps of a London house? It is a most unedifying sight. As the poor girl kneels and stoops forward to whiten and clean the steps her crinoline goes up as her head goes down, and her person is exposed to the gaze of policemen and errand-boys, who are not slow to chaff her upon the size and shape of her legs. Can this be called dressing in good taste? Would it not be wiser to discard the crinoline altogether till the day’s work is done, and the servants make themselves tidy for their tea and their evening recreation?