March 21, 2006 at 7:47 pm #1906MiskatonicParticipant
Excerpt from What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist – the Facts of Daily Life in 19th Century England by Daniel Pool
1. In riding horseback or walking along the street, the lady always has the wall.
2. Meeting a lady in the street or in the park whom you know only slightly, you wait for her acknowledging bow–then and only then may you tip your hat to her, which is done using the hand farthest away from her to raise the hat. You do not speak to her–or to any other lady–unless she speaks to you first.
3. If you meet a lady who is a good friend and who signifies that she wishes to talk to you, you turn and walk with her if you wish to converse. It is not “done” to make a lady standing talkingin a street.
4. In going up a flight of stairs, you precede the lady (running, according to one authority); in going down, you follow.
5. In a carriage, a gentleman takes the seat facing backward. If he is alone in a carriage with a lady, he does not sit next to her unless he is her husband, brother, father, or son. He alights from the carriage first so he may hand her down. He takes care not to step on her dress.
6. At a public exhibition or concert, if accompanied by a lady, he goes in first in order to find her a seat. If he enters such an exhibition alone and there are ladies or older gentlemen present he removes his hat.
7. A gentleman is always introduced to a lady–never the other way around. It is presumed to be an honor for the gentleman to meet her. Likewise (and it is the more general rule of which this is only a specific example), a social inferior is always introduced to a superior–and only with the latter's acquiescence. Elizabeth Bennet is horrified when the obtuse Mr Collins insists on introducing himself to Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. She tries to persuade “him that Mr Darcy would consider his addressing him without introduction as an impertinent freedom, rather than a compliment to his aunt; that it was not in the least necessary there should be any notice on either side, and that if it were, it must belong to Mr Darcy, the superior in consequence, to begin the acquaintance.”
8. A gentleman never smokes in the presence of ladies.
Her rules of conduct are much simpler.
1. If unmarried and under thirty, she is never to be in the company of a man without a chaperone. Except for a walk to church or a park in the early morning, she may not walk alone but should always be accompanied by another lady, a man, or a servant. An even more restrictive view is that “if she cannot walk with her younger sisters and their governess, or the maid cannot be spared to walk with her, she had better stay at home or confine herself to the square garden.”
2. Under no circumstances may a lady call on a gentleman alone unless she is consulting that gentleman on a professional or business matter.
3. A lady does not wear pearls or diamonds in the morning.
4. A lady never dances more than three dances with the same partner.
5. A lady should never “cut” someone, that is to day, fail to acknowledge their presence after encountering them socially, unless it is absolutely necessary. By the same token, only a lady is ever truly justified in cutting someone: “a cut is only excusable when men persist in bowing whose acquaintance a lady does not wish to keep up.” Upon the approach of the offender, a simple stare of silent iciness should suffice; followed, if necessary, by a “cold bow, which discourages familiarity without offering insult,” and departure forthwith. To remark, “Sir, I have not the honour of your acquaintance” is a very extreme measure and is a weapon that should be deployed only as a last resort.
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