Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Lady's Book of Manners

The title: The Lady's Book of Manners or Etiquette; Showing How to Become the Perfect Lady: Also Containing Love, Courtship, and Marriage; How to Talk Correctly; Polite and Accurate Conversation and Pronunciation; Common Errors Corrected; How to Read; And a Guide to the Art of Composition and Punctuation
The author: Professor Duncan
Publication: London: William Nicholson and Sons, c.1890
Got it from: JL, Christmas past

This book purports to be a book of manners for women, but it actually contains a lot of advice for men. This leads me to be suspicious that the content of this book and The Gentleman's Book of Manners, advertised within, vary little.

The only way I could properly review this book is by taking notes of things that interested or amused me within, which I will quote here with commentary.

This book was written by someone who calls himself "Professor Duncan." Let's see how his advice stacks up 120 years later.

"To keep clean you must bathe frequently."
I do!

"All washings with soapy or warm water should be followed by a thorough rinsing with pure cold water."
I think the professor has a weird obsession with cold water, as he pimps this book called "Hydrotherapy, or the Cold Water Cure," in the books to read section. I'm fairly certain modern science would agree with me that cold water is not the cure-all.
Professor Duncan: 0; Me: 1.

"Keep the nails smoothly and evenly cut."

The Professor recommends soap for one's toothbrush: "beware of teeth powders, teeth-washes, and the like...if any tooth-powder is required, pure powdered charcoal is the best thing you can procure."
9 out of ten dentists disagree.
Professor Duncan: 0; Modern dentistry: 1

"neglecting hair makes it fall out."
Sorry, no.

"don't sit next to the fire, it is poison carbonic acid gas."
Later, he says the elderly should always be offered the seats next to the fire. Heh.

Spend "four or five hours per day in the open air."
He probably has a point.
Professor Duncan: 1; Me: 1.

"Onions emit so very disagreeable an odour that no truly polite person will eat them."
Professor Duncan: 2; Me: 1.

Advises against bad introductions: "you confer no favour on us, and only a nominal one on the person presented, by making us acquainted with one whom, perhaps, we do not desire to know."
Yeah! You said it!

"No gentleman should be presented to a lady without her permission being previously obtained."
If only. If only.

Introduce you wife as "simply Mrs. Jones."
Can I be Mrs. Smith instead?

"Do not proffer your hand to a gentleman."
Especially if he is holding a knife.

"Should you have cause to avoid the company of any one to whom you have been properly introduced, be respectful towards him, while at the same time you may shun his society."
I did it because the professor said it was okay.

"When tripping over the pavement a lady should gracefully raise her dress a little above her ankle."
When I trip, that happens anyway.

"the morning call should be made between two and four p.m. in the winter, and two and five in summer."
Wow, I was way off base about when a morning call happened.

"young married ladies may not appear in any public place unattended by their husband or elder ladies. This rule must not be infringed, in visiting exhibitions, public libraries, museums or promenades."
I am a bad woman. I attend exhibitions, visit libraries and museums and promenade alone flagrantly. What a hussy.

"Gentlemen are permitted to call on married ladies at their own houses; but never without the knowledge and permission of their husbands."
Eduardo was sad when I told him he had to leave.

"ladies should make morning calls in an elegant and simple neglige."
Wow, I was WAY off base about what went on in morning calls.

Pages 49-52 are cut out. Perhaps they illustrated ankles shown while promenading.

"read, then, as much as carefully as you can on all subjects of general interest, with a view to store up and use in conversation the information you may acquire."
Nobody could accuse me of neglecting this, at least.

"immoderate laughter is exceedingly unbecoming in a lady: she may effect the dimple or smile, but should carefully avoid any approximation to a horse-laugh."
Sorry, I snort, deal with it.

"it is a wide stretch above prudence to take a husband who is either much above or much below her rank."
Then why are stableboy romances so popular, huh?

"for a stylish weddings, the lady requires a bridegroom, two bridesmaids, two groomsmen, and a minister or registrar"
Whew! It's a good thing he mentioned the groom or many ladies would have tried to get married without one.

"is not the wife more, and better, and dearer than the sweetheart? We venture to hint that it is probably your own fault if she is not."
You go, girlfriend!

"[the wife's] home, whether a palace or a cottage, is the very centre of her being, the nucleus around which her affections should revolve, and beyond which she has comparatively small concern."
The note in my margin says: forget you! But I'll leave the last word to the ORLY? owl:

"dress for his eye more scrupulously than for all the rest of the world; make yourself and your home beautiful for his sake; play and sing (if you can) to please him; try to beguile him from his cares; retain his affections in the same way you won them, and - be polite even to your husband."
I love how they assume that the last person you would be polite to is your husband.

"bad cooking may have a very unhappy influence on the mind of your husband, and tempted him some times to visit the Dining Rooms."
Like the time the pizza slid into the oven and we had to get burgers instead. I hang my head in shame.

The last 119 pages concern grammar and how to talk correctly, but I didn't take any notes because it made me sleepy.


Liz Lafferty said...

Me, zero! Especially the loud laughing and I do show a bit too much ankle when I'm in my gym shorts.

KJH said...

Somewhere a Victorian schoolboy is fantasizing about your ankles.

Anonymous said...

So I have to wear a negligee in the mornings? Okay.


Joanna S said...

OK...really funny...I am a fan:)