To the Unknown Author of The Habits of Good Society
My copy from Amazon arrived yesterday. It’s a classic reprint, originally published in 1872. What a hoot. It’s a goldmine of comments that might have you rolling on the floor with laughter.
The book appears not to be just a set of rules, but contains a vast amount of thoughts on society, social intercourse (not the kind of intercourse you think I’m talking about), private habits, and social behavior, along with the proper dress for a variety of occasions for men and women. (Ladies, only white gloves, please. The new rage of lavender is scandalous. And for goodness sake, they better not be dirty!)
I thought that I would post interesting tidbits regarding English thoughts and ways of life as I make my way through the text. Even if the advice is 143 years out of date, you might be able to apply it to all those Regency and Victorian era books you read. Maybe the characters are not as well-bred as the author would have you believe. Here is one example:
“Let a man be of no matter what station, he has there a right to speak to his fellow man…” The thought here is that there is no harm in speaking to a person who is not of one’s class (i.e. lower) who happens to strike up a conversation. For example, it is considered kindly to reply to a statement from a lower-classed workman who might say, “It’s a fine day, sir.” No need to be a snob. Answer kindly. Nevertheless, there are boundaries to be kept when it comes to conversation.
“But of course, there is a limit to be fixed. Englishmen respect nothing so much as their purses and their private affairs, and in England you might as well ask a stranger for five pounds as inquire what he was traveling for, what his income was, or what were the names of his six children. It is a gross impertinence in this country to put curious questions to a person of whom you know little.”
Oh, and by the way, it is considered bad breeding and vulgar to ask someone how much something costs. For example, did you just comment that you liked my gown but asked how much I paid per yard for the fabric? Shame on you! You are definitely ill-bred.