I've been having a good deal of fun in recent days, tweeting the occasional bit of Victorian etiquette on various subjects. Just little tidbits once or twice a day. So I thought it might be fun to share a little more in a blog post. Some topics are much too large for 140 characters. Take courtship & matrimony, for instance. Here is just some of the advice that would be given to the characters of my Victorian-era-set historical romances:
- Never offer anyone the chair from which you have just risen, unless there be no other disengaged. It may be still warm from your person.
- The fair one [females] must at all costs, conceal her emotion. To admit to affection at this [early] stage is to admit to humanity. No true gentlewoman admits to feelings. If one may intrude a stark, unfamiliar and, be it said, American word—she is sexless.
- The admirer of the fair one is, indeed, so much enamoured as to be unable longer to retain his secret within his own breast; and, not being without hope that his attachment is reciprocated, resolves on seeking an introduction to the lady's family preparatory to his making a formal declaration of love.
- A lady should be particular during the early days of courtship … His habits and his conduct must awaken her vigilant attention before it is too late. Should he come to visit her at irregular hours; should he exhibit a vague or wandering attention, give proofs of a want of punctuality, show disrespect for age, sneer at things sacred, or absent himself from regular attendance at divine service, or evince an inclination to expensive pleasures beyond his means or to low and vulgar amusements; should he be foppish, eccentric, or even slovenly in his dress; or display a frivolity of mind, and an absence of well-directed energy in his worldly pursuits: let the young lady, we say, while there is yet time, eschew that gentleman's acquaintance, and allow it gently to drop.
- A lady cannot with propriety accept presents from a gentleman previously to his having made a proposal of marriage.
- A lover needs very little to assure him of the reciprocation of his attachment: a glance, a single pressure of the hand, a whispered syllable on the part of the loved one, will suffice to confirm his hopes.
- [for the betrothed] In private, the slightest approach to indecorous familiarity must be avoided; he must remember that she is a gentlewoman first and becomes a woman only after the "I will;" indeed, it is pretty certain to be resented by every woman who deserves to be a bride. The lady's honour … is now in her lover's hands, and he should never forget this assumption in his demeanour to, before and when left alone with her.
- By [the time the wedding date is set] the gentleman will have made up his mind in what form to be married. He has the choice whether he will be married by BANNS, by LICENCE, by SPECIAL LICENCE, or before the REGISTRAR, but woe betide the unlucky wight who should venture to suggest the last method to a young lady or her parents!
- It is unnecessary to add that very much of the social pleasure of the day will depend on [the bridesmaids and groomsmen's] proper mating. Young and unmarried they must be, handsome they should be, good-humoured they cannot fail to be, well dressed they will of course take good care to be.
- The words "honour and obey" must be distinctly spoken by the bride.
Okay, I'll have to stop there. My 21st Century sensabilities have me aching to add commentary to more than one of the above. I'll just say that, while there are many ways I might wish to turn back the clock on what is acceptible in our society when it comes to dating/courtship and marriage, I confess I'm not sorry I don't have to keep track of all the rules contained in my Victorial etiquette manual.
Oh, and I really don't care if I sit in a chair that is still warm from your person. LOL!