The time immediately following the death of a loved one was sometimes so busy, there was little time for mourning. People needed to be notified of the death, funeral, and interment arrangements needed to be handled, and the arrival of relatives far and wide often resulted in time spent entertaining rather than mourning. But no matter how busy or how sad a person felt, by the beginning of the nineteenth century mourning was complex and mourning etiquette needed to be observed.
Of course, this did not mean that people were to wear black at the slightest hint of bereavement. Neither were they to show an utter disregard on the death of a loved one. They were also not to acknowledge the departure of a loved by only wearing only a band of crape (now more frequently spelled crepe) around the arm, as that was a mark of mourning adopted by servants and certainly not an appropriate outward sign of respect by close relatives for the memory of a dear departed loved one.
By the late 1800s, traveling was something that many nineteenth century women had done at least once To be at ease, it required the Victorian woman follow proper etiquette. Sometimes travel involved nothing more than a day trip, while at other times it required an overnight stay. But no matter if the trip was long or short, proper etiquette was important.
The first rule of Victorian traveling etiquette was to be punctual. Women were advised to “rise early enough to have ample time for arranging everything needful for the day’s journey. If you sleep upon the boat, or at a hotel, always give directions to the servant to waken you at an hour sufficiently early to allow ample time for preparation.” Continue reading →
Conversation was something that could happen everywhere — at formal dinner parties, on streets, in coffee houses, at public amusements, and when traveling. Charming conversation was one type of conversation, and it was the type of conversation that had numerous amiable qualities: “kindness, politeness, patience, and forbearance.” Sometimes, however, conversations were nothing more than “frivolous,” and people were warned that although young ladies often enjoyed frivolous “small talk,” there were some young ladies who enjoyed a “most sensible discourse.” Certain conversations were also, to a degree, “sacred” and were not to “be repeated.”
But no matter what type of conversation people enjoyed, nineteenth century people were warned not to imagine themselves more important than another person. In fact, it was noted that people were to consider themselves “one of the multitude … [as] people have things of much more interest to engross their attention than your words or looks.” Continue reading →
Duels of the seventeenth and eighteenth century were conducted primarily with swords, although by the late eighteenth century they were fought with pistols. Fortunately, pistol dueling fell out of fashion by the mid-nineteenth century. However, prior to its demise a “Royal Code of Honor” existed and was adhered to by dueling Principals and Seconds. The code stated, “No duel can be considered justifiable, which can be declined with honor, therefore, an appeal to arms should always be the last resource.” Continue reading →
The first real bicycle — a two-wheeled machine, operated by crank-action on a rotating axle — did not appear until the early 1860s, and cycling did not become a widely popular activity until the 1870s. However, once it did become popular it was touted as a way for a person to achieve independence, and, in fact, cycling was noted to allow “every man … [to] become his own locomotive.”
With every nineteenth century man having his own locomotive, etiquette rules soon developed, and bicyclists were encouraged to follow them. Some of these rules are listed below: Continue reading →
Certain etiquette and conduct was expected of an eighteenth or nineteenth century gentleman when courting. One etiquette book noted that “courting ought never to be done except with a view to marriage.” One nineteenth century gentleman maintained that “true courtship consists in a number of quiet, gentlemanly attentions, not so pointed as to alarm, not so vague as to be misunderstood.” This meant a gentleman had to walk a fine line. He could not pay exclusive attention to any particular woman unless he was serious and wanted to pursue marriage, and he could not attend church with a woman regularly, give her costly presents, or be her constant escort unless he had serious intentions. If he neglected “all others to [solely] devote himself to a single lady he [gave] that lady reason to suppose he [was] particularly attracted to her … [and there was] danger of her feelings becoming engaged.” In addition, by avoiding such singular-focused behavior, a gentleman would avoid winning a love he could not reciprocate, stop wasting his time and money, or sidestep falling in love with someone considered unworthy.
Ice skating was a popular pastime among Britain’s upper and middle classes by the mid 1800s. It was so popular the first attempt at creating artificial ice skating rinks occurred in England in 1841. It required using a mixture of hog’s lard and salts. But these artificial rinks were so smelly, they quickly fell out of fashion. Some thirty years later, in 1876, the first mechanically frozen ice rink appeared in London. Although it was a vast improvement over the smelly rinks of the 1840s, most people still relied on local frozen ponds, rivers, or streams. Continue reading →
Etiquette was not just practiced at the dining room table or on the streets but also at church, and depending on the church you attended there were different customs and etiquette rules. One etiquette expert noted that it was a sign of ill breeding to be late to church, and noted:
“[I]n visiting a church of a different belief from your own, pay the utmost respect to the services and conform in all things to the observances of the church — that is, kneel, sit and rise with the congregation. No matter how grotesquely some of the forms and observances may strike you, let no smile or contemptuous remark indicate the face while in the church.”
Another book noted that no matter what church a person entered, the person’s thoughts should be “fixed upon high and holy subjects, and … [the person should show] devotion, even if … ignorant of the forms of that particular church.” Continue reading →
One writer noted, “a glove is an object of luxury, elegance and refinement,” which made them a frequent fashion accessory. In fact, both men and women wore gloves in the 1800s. But when wearing gloves required people to follow all sorts of etiquette rules. One etiquette book demonstrated this perfectly. It advised women in no uncertain terms to “never go out without gloves; put them on before you leave the house. You should no more be seen pulling your gloves in the street than tying the strings of your bonnet.” Women could also not button up their gloves after they left their house. Their toilette was supposed to be complete before they opened the door to step outside. Other glove etiquette rules required men and women to navigate them, as well as consider the rules for glove etiquette indoors and out, in warm or cold weather, and at funerals, balls, or dinner parties. Continue reading →
“There is one piece of property, which is nobody’s property, or everybody’s property, or is not property at all—and that is, Umbrellas.” That was the opinion of one nineteenth century writer and to a degree it was true because no article was borrowed more frequently or returned less than the umbrella. In fact, it was noted over and over in etiquette books and articles printed in the nineteenth century:
Frequently a borrowed umbrella is never thought of by the borrower till after the weather clears up, the lender most probably suffering inconvenience for want of it. Often, it is detained till the next rain, when the lender has to take the trouble of sending for it. And then it is very possible it may not be found at all, some person in the mean time having nefariously carried it off. In such a case it is a matter of common honesty for the careless borrower to replace the umbrella with a new one, as…[an] empty expression of regret or unmeaning apologies will [not] be sufficient compensation for a substantial loss.
Although some nineteenth century people may have thought they did not need to heed the rules when it came to borrowing an umbrella, etiquette books disagreed. In fact, they also offered umbrella etiquette advice about the proper use and handling of an umbrella, even when not braving a storm. Continue reading →