Sunday, May 11, 2008
Etiquette Regency Style
Manners might not always be in evidence in today's society but two hundred years ago it was a very different story. In Daniel Pool's excellent book, 'What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew' the following is an example of just some of the rules a well brought up young lady was required to abide by.
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 say, 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.'
On heavens, it's only eleven in the morning. Excuse me whilst I dash off and ditch the pearls!