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Etiquette

The Victorian emphasis on "proper etiquette" seems amusing to many today, and certainly our American readers will have little time for the niceties of how to behave toward one's social "betters." However, a great deal of what these articles have to say about "etiquette" is nothing more than common sense and common courtesy -- and would hardly go amiss in any social situation.


ETIQUETTE FOR EVERY DAY

Business Habits in Ordinary Life, by the Hon. Victoria Grosvenor (GOP 1888)
Tips on good behavior, letter-writing, etc.
Common Errors in Daily Life: Errors in Taste, by James Mason (GOP 1884)
"It is a great deal better to see with our own eyes than with those of others, and in all subjects of taste to be faithful to our own convictions." At the same time, "An error in taste is an offence against the beautiful."
Common Errors in Daily Life: Errors in Fact, by James Mason (GOP 1884)
"In many cases, no doubt, errors in fact originate in random statements which get accepted because people will not take the trouble of inquiring for themselves. Belief, you know, is a great deal easier than investigation."
Common Errors in Daily Life: Errors in Thought, by James Mason (GOP 1884)
"The world is ruled by thought, and our highest duty is to think well."
Common Errors in Daily Life: Errors in Observation, by James Mason (GOP 1884)
"It is the cultivation of the powers of observation that makes the greater part of the difference between people of the world -- using that phrase in its best sense -- and bookworms."
Deportment, by An Artist (GOP 1891)
Illustrated, humorous guide to how to look well when walking.
Etiquette in Walking, Riding and Driving, by S.F.A. Caulfield (GOP 1884)
The author points out that not so long ago, no unmarried woman would walk abroad alone, without a footman or other chaperone -- and this article addresses how the etiquette of the out-of-doors is changing.
Good Breeding as Shown in Visiting the Poor, by S.F.A. Caulfield (GOP 1885)
This article makes an interesting distinction between upper-class poor (e.g., untitled gentry) and working-class poor. Being aware of these differences is important in determining just how to call upon a person without giving offense!
Good Breeding: Shown When Traveling, by S.F.A. Caulfield (GOP 1884)
Travel should not be regarded as mere amusement, but as a course of training... "Always remember the presence of strangers around you, and that you cannot act as if you were 'monarch of all you survey.'"
The Habits of Polite Society, by S.F.A. Caulfield (GOP 1882)
Among other topics, this article covers the etiquette of mourning and mourning attire.
"Honour Thy Father and Thy Mother," by S.F.A. Caulfield (GOP 1885)
In this series, the author looks at some of the questions sent to the magazine's editors -- and wonders why young ladies are asking strangers the questions they would have once asked their mothers!
How to Address People of Title, by Ardern Holt (GOP 1883)
Is one most honourable or right honourable? Or is one simply "The"? Here's an indispensable article for anyone writing a period romance!
The Privileges of Poverty, by a Middle-Aged Woman (GOP 1891)
A chat on poverty and charity.
Punctuality (GOP 1890)
Some Hints on Giving Presents (GOP 1883)
Tips on choosing the right gift, with suggestions about suitability and economy.
Uninteresting People (GOP 1891)
If one dismisses others as "uninteresting," this author suggests, one runs the risk of being considered so oneself in one's later years!
Unpopular Girls, by a Middle-Aged Woman (GOP 1886)
If one does not wish to be one, one should never dismiss as mere trifles the "little things."
A Word to the Wise, by S.F.A. Caulfield (GOP 1882)
In this article, the author addresses the importance of courtesy toward shop-girls.
Your Money or Your Life, by C.M. Finn (GOP 1891)
Some tips on charitable giving.

ETIQUETTE IN CONVERSATION

The Art of Conversing Agreeably, by S.F.A. Caulfield (GOP 1881)
If one has not learned this art, one risks subjecting one's guests to mindless conversation, or worse, asking them to look at photographs... Some things never change!
Common Errors in Daily Life: Errors in Speech, by James Mason (GOP 1884)
This author notes that it can no longer be said that "Much learning does not become a young woman."
Common Errors in Writing and Speaking: The Use and Misuse of Words (GOP 1893)
An interesting look at what was "correct" in 1893 ("lunch" was not an acceptable substitute for "luncheon," for example).
Good Breeding: As Shown in Conversation, by S.F.A. Caulfield (GOP 1884)
Sometimes, silence is golden!
The Language of Girls, by Elsa D'Esterre-Keeling (GOP 1900)
Some lovely examples of "how girls talk" -- and perhaps how they oughtn't!
On Conversation (GOP 1896)
Everything you need to know to carry on a polite conversation!
A Plea for the Queen's English (GOP 1880)
Tips on avoiding errors in conversation so common amongst our "thoughtless sisters"!
Polite Answers to Impertinent Questions, by Ada Heather-Bigg (GOP 1891)
In particular, this article offers tips on how to deal with the question of "how old are you?"
Polite Language as a Profitable Investment, by James Mason (GOP 1892)
A Pretty Accent, and How to Acquire It, by Susan Shearman (GOP 1898)
"When a girl has found out what the characteristics of the accent of her own locality are, she has only to fight them one by one, till she overcomes them all." And now we know where "BBC English" came from...
Why Personal Remarks Are to Be Avoided, by Ada Heather-Bigg (GOP 1889)
While not all personal remarks are to be avoided, one should shun the offensive, the fulsome, and the embarrassing.

ETIQUETTE IN WRITING & LETTERS

Answering Letters, by M.A. Baines (GOP 1885)
"...the courtesy of answering letters should be made a point of etiquette of as much importance as some other social civilities which are punctiliously observed by those who claim to belong to 'polite society'."
The Art of Letter-Writing, by S.F.A. Caulfield (GOP 1880)
"Remember that it is an ill-bred, vulgar thing to do to form your letters incorrectly; it is not only an evidence of bad taste and awkwardness, but it is an act of discourtesy to the person addressed." A three-part series that also covers penmanship and grammar.
Business Habits in Ordinary Life, by the Hon. Victoria Grosvenor (GOP 1888)
Tips on good behavior, letter-writing, etc.
Common Errors in Daily Life: Errors in Spelling, by James Mason (GOP 1884)
Common Errors in Writing and Speaking: The Use and Misuse of Words (GOP 1893)
An interesting look at what was "correct" in 1893 ("lunch" was not an acceptable substitute for "luncheon," for example).
The Injury Inflicted by Bad Handwriting, by Ruth Lamb (GOP 1882)
"What is carelessness but another word for selfishness?" asks this writer, in urging one to be considerate in making one's writing legible to others.
How to Write Letters, by Lily Watson (GOP 1901)
Letters of Invitation, Etc., by S.F.A. Caulfield (GOP 1885)
Excellent examples of proper ways to issue formal and informal invitations.
Preventable Worries, by Eliza Brightwen (GOP 1897)
"I shall touch upon some small annoyances which are apt to hinder the comfortable dispatch of our daily letters." These include the physical difficulties of pen, ink and blotter, and such issues as how to sign a letter, address it, and, of course, write it legibly.
Punctuation Viewed in a New Light, by S.F.A. Caulfield (GOP 1883)
Punctuation is not a mere trifle, says Ms. Caulfield, when one considers that it adds significantly to the comfort and convenience of others!
Some Hints on Letter-Writing (GOP 1894)

HANDLING SOCIAL ENCOUNTERS

The Etiquette of Card-Leaving, by S.F.A. Caulfield (GOP 1895)
A lovely piece not only on how cards should be presented, but how one should include one's name, title (if any), address, etc. (and why omitting "Miss or Mrs." is "bad form"), what cards ought to look like, and more!
Letters of Invitation, Etc., by S.F.A. Caulfield (GOP 1885)
Excellent examples of proper ways to issue formal and informal invitations.

THE ART OF HOSPITALITY

Girls as Visitors, by Lily Watson (GOP 1900)
"I have purposely chosen types of visitors that might figure rather as a warning than an example..." Such visitors include the haphazard visitor, the "missionary spirit," she who must be amused, and she who hates to leave home.
Good Breeding As Shown in Giving Hospitality, by S.F.A. Caulfield (GOP 1884)
A detailed guide on how to be a considerate host(ess) -- with a reminder that as one's guests are also constrained by etiquette not to complain about anything, one must be even more watchful to ensure that they have nothing to complain about!
Good Breeding as Shown in Receiving Hospitality, by S.F.A. Caulfield (GOP 1884)
Besides basic common-sense advice on how to be a good guest, this article also touches on such issues as whether to offer fees (tips) to the servants!
The Guest and Guest-Chamber, and Etiquette Between Guests, by S.F.A. Caulfield (GOP 1895)
"To be thoroughly well-bred, and consequently an agreeable hostess, it is essential that you should mentally exchange places with your guest..." This article also explains the instructions one should provide to one's servants in dealing with guests, down to the towels, soap, and shoe-cleaning!
Visitors (GOP 1891)
"The increased facilities for traveling in this nineteenth century have very much conduced to the practice of entertaining visitors," and this article explains how to do so with care and courtesy.

MOURNING & SYMPATHY

The Habits of Polite Society, by S.F.A. Caulfield (GOP 1882)
Among other topics, this article covers the etiquette of mourning and mourning attire.
Mourning Attire, by S.F.A. Caulfield (GOP 1881)
Some of the history of mourning attire, what is appropriate, and how to provide for others.
On Sympathy (GOP 1895)
How to behave toward those in mourning.
Copyright © 2017 by
Moira Allen.
All rights reserved.

Magazine Abbreviations:
CFM = Cassell's Family Magazine GOP = Girl's Own Paper ILA = Illustrated London Almanack S = The Strand
AM = Atlantic Monthly C = Century Magazine D = Demorest's Monthly Magazine G = Godey's Lady's Book H = Harper's Monthly
Find out more about the magazines used on this site!
PDF files on this site are best viewed with Adobe Reader 9.0 or later. Download Acrobat Reader free.