I fear that in the last few generations, we have lost much of the graces of social behavior. I literally cringe when I hear much of the talk of today, the attire (or lack thereof), the sloppy appearances in restaurants or at funerals. I decided to do a quick look-back of various etiquette recommendations of the 1800s. I think we would do well to apply some of them today. The rest are quite funny!
1. When accompanying a lady into a public place, proceed her through the room and prepare the seat for her.
2. Never let a lady get a chair, ring a bell (for service), or pick up something dropped.
3. If one desires to be a gentleman, walk like a gentleman. If one desires to be a lady, walk like a lady.
4. Offer a lady your seat if none is available, even if it is the best seat in the house.
5. Never lose one’s temper.
6. If you wish to meet someone across the room, make it look like an accident, don’t let them know you are seeking them out.
7. Do not constantly consult your watch.
8. Remove your hat when entering a room; a gentleman never leaves his hat on in room unless there is no place to hang it.
9. Don’t lean your head against a wall. It will either ruin the wallpaper or you’ll get lime in your hair!
10. Do not dress in bright and gaudy colors to attract attention.
11. Do not continue with your needlework when someone else is in the room (unless you’re all doing needlework!)
12. When attending the opera, ladies should wear hoods which are to be removed. Bonnets are not as acceptable.
13. Never use someone else’s snuff box unless permission has been granted.
14. When taking a lady to the opera or performance, stay with her; do not walk around. Do not talk during the performance.
15. Don’t sit while a lady is standing without offering to find her a chair.
16. It is preferable to find a lady a different seat than the one you have been sitting upon as it is still warm.
17. A lady should wear gloves at all times, even when shaking hands.
18. It is impolite for a gentleman to spit in the presence of a woman.
19. Showing affection in public is brazen vulgarity.
20. Don’t touch any ornaments in a house where you are a guest.
21. Don’t loll on a chair.
22. Do not read while others are talking.
23. Don’t make noises with your hands or feet.
24. Don’t throw things, hand them.
25. Return a borrowed book.
26. Never break a social engagement, especially with a lady.
27. When asked to play an instrument or sing, say yes or not, don’t wait to be begged.
28. Request something, don’t demand it.
29. Do not point or whisper about another person.
30. If there is an inferior person to you in the room, treat him as you would an equal
31. Don’t give one person all your attention if there are others in the room.
32. Never ask a lady a question about anything. (hmmmmm)
33. Don’t smoke in the presence of a lady even if she says its okay. Never smoke in a parlor as it leaves an offensive odor.
34. Do not drink to excess.
35. Don’t talk about the failures of others.
36. Don’t talk about a person who no one else knows.
37. Don’t laugh if someone makes a mistake.
38. Don’t omit to pay the proper attention to company entering or exiting a room.
39. Don’t laugh loudly
40. Don’t read aloud without being asked.
41. Don’t crowd people or bump elbows.
42. Don’t speak unless you have something interesting to say.
43. Don’t contradict your parents, your friends or even strangers.
44. Do not speak only of yourself and your interests.
45. Do not ask a speaker to repeat himself.
46. When introducing your family members, state their names, not that they are your brother, sister, etc.
47. A gentleman always carries their hat in their hand; do not place it on a table or chair.
48. Do not swing your arms or make awkward gestures in company or on the street.
49. Visits of condolence should be made within a week.
50. Don’t offer advice.
51. Ladies may walk unattended in the street, being careful to neither walk with a hurried step, do not stand in front of shop windows and stare in, to not look backward, or send to notice anyone who ventures to address you. Be sure that you get home before dark and do not be out even after dusk.
52. Do not lean on the shoulder of another person or a chair.
53. Talk of interesting things such as books, balls, bonnets, traveling or the weather.
54. Young married ladies may visit their acquaintances alone, but they may not appear in public places unattended, either by their husbands or elder ladies.
55. Always leave children at home, or if they do accompany you, leave them in the carriage until your visit is over. If you have an infant, the nurse may await your return or stay in an anteroom, unless a specific request to the contrary has been made.
56. Visits of courtesy and ceremony are usually paid at Christmas, New Year, and at holidays.
57. .Avoid the use of slang terms and phrases in polite company. Those terms belong to barrooms and other low places.
58. Never offer to shake hands with a lady in the street, if you have on dark gloves, as you may soil her white ones.
59. On introduction into a room, a married lady offers her hand, a young lady does not.
60. Avoid speaking too frequently of acquaintances with celebrated men unless you are a public man yourself.
61. It is much more a useful ability to yield a point than to argue it.
62. Avoid flattery.
63. To use phrases with double meanings is positively insulting.
64. If you have been introduced to a person whose acquaintance you do not desire, you can merely make a formal bow of etiquette when you meet him, and you do not need to converse with him, but the bow is indispensable.
65. Don’t sit a foot away from the table or sit jammed up against it.
66. Don’t tuck your napkin under your chin or spread it upon your breast; bibs and tuckers are for the nursery. Let it fall over your knee.
67. Don’t eat soup from the end of your spoon, but from the side. Don’t gurgle or draw in your breath audibly or make noises when eating soup.
68. Don’t talk when your mouth is full.
69. Don’t drink from your saucer.
70. Don’t leave any door open that you found closed or close a door that you found open.
71. Don’t neglect the small hairs that project from the nostrils and grow about the apertures of the ears.
72. Don’t use hair dye; the color is not like nature and it deceives no one.
73. Don’t wear your hat cocked over your eye or thrust back upon your head; one is rowdyish, the other rustic.
74. Don’t chew or nurse your toothpick in public or anywhere else.
75. Don’t talk about maladies or your afflictions or other troubles. A complaining person is at once a pronounced bore.
© Copyright 3 March 2011, Sandra K. Gorin