Victorian Rituals
 


 
Rituals II - Etiquette

Thanks to more than 60 new etiquette guides published during the 1870ís and 1880ís, Victorians could learn how to conduct themselves in all social situations.

The word etiquette is derived from the old French verb estiquer, which means to attach. It first became l'estiquette, describing the list of rules attached to a post in courtyards of castles and palaces. L'estiquette could be updated and replaced daily if necessary.

The rules of etiquette are just as alterable today therefore, yesterday's rules could become today's bad manners.

Many good manners are universal, and many rules of etiquette that were once based on a moral principle may continue to exist today.

Points of Etiquette

Back in the Victorian era a proper young lady had to learn the rules of etiquette everything from how to walk down the street to how to eat fruit ever so elegantly (first peeling it with a silver knife and cutting it in bite-size morsels).

Below are just a few points of etiquette that were once popular during the Victorian era. Many of these could still be beneficial in today's society.

  • Victorian girls were trained early on in life to prepare herself for a life dedicated to home and family if she married, and charity if she didn't. And young ladies, though advised on the importance of catching a man, were warned not to be too liberal in display of their charms. Meekness and modesty were considered beautiful virtues.

  • Invitations should be sent at least seven to ten days before the day fixed for an event, and should be replied to within a week of their receipt, accepting or declining with regrets.

  • Never lend a borrowed book. Be particular to return one that has been loaned to you, and accompany it with a note of thanks.

  • Rise to one's feet as respect for an older person or dignitary.

  • What can I say? A true gentleman tips their hat to greet a lady, opens doors, and always walks on the outside.

  • Break bread or roll into morsels rather than eating the bread whole.

  • Conversation is not to talk continually, but to listen and speak in our turn.

  • Do not monopolize conversation or interrupt another speaker to finish his story for him.

  • And as for the Gentlemen, they should be seen and not smelled. They should use but very little perfume, as too much of it is in bad taste.

  • A lady, when crossing the street, must raise her dress a bit above the ankle while holding the folds of her gown together in her right hand and drawing them toward the right. It was considered vulgar to raise the dress with both hands as it would show too much ankle, but was tolerated for a moment when the mud is very deep. As told by The Lady's Guide to Perfect Gentility.

  • A young lady should be expected to shine in the art of conversation, but not too brightly. Etiquette books of the era concentrate on the voice, rather than the content of speech, encouraging her to cultivate that distinct but subdued tone.

  • When introduced to a man, a lady should never offer her hand, merely bow politely and say, "I am happy to make your acquaintance."

  • While courting, a gentleman caller might bring only certain gifts such as flowers, candy or a book. A woman could not offer a gentleman any present at all until he had extended one to her, and then something artistic, handmade and inexpensive was permissible.

  • Young people should not expect friends to bestow wedding gifts. It is a custom that sometimes bears heavily on those with little to spend. Gifts should only be given by those with ties of relationship, or those who wish to extend a warm sentiment of affection. In fact, by 1873 the words No presents received are engraved upon the cards of invitations.

  • A gentleman may delicately kiss a lady's hand, the forehead, or at most, the cheek.

  • If you are conversing with people who know less than you, do not lead the conversation where they cannot follow.

  • A lady should never join in any rude plays that will subject her to be kissed or handled in any way by gentlemen. ie: If a hand reaches out to admire a breast pin, draw back and take it off for inspection.