Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Victorian Etiquette and Our Duties, Opinions, Privacy and Equality

Etiquette and Our Duties 

Out of rights grow duties; the first of which is to live an honest, truthful, self-loyal life, acting and speaking always and everywhere in accordance with the laws of our being, as revealed in our own physical and mental organization. It is by the light of this fact that we must look upon all social requirements, whether in dress, manners, or morals. All that is fundamental and genuine in these will be found to harmonize with universal principles, and consequently with our primary duty in reference to ourselves.

1. The Senses

Whenever and wherever we come in contact with our fellow-men, there arises a question of rights, and consequently of duties. We have alluded incidentally to some of them, in speaking of habits and dress. The senses of each individual have their rights, and it is your duty to respect them. The eye has a claim upon you for so much of beauty in form, color, arrangement, position, and movement as you are able to present to it. A French author has written a book, the aim of which is to show that it is the duty of a pretty woman to look pretty. It is the duty of all women, and all men too, to look and behave just as well as they can, and whoever fails in this, fails in good manners and in duty. 

Is it the 'duty of a pretty girl to be pretty'? I guess the Frenchman thought so at the time!
The ear demands agreeable tones and harmonious combinations of tones—pleasant words and sweet songs. If you indulge in loud talking, in boisterous and untimely laughter, or in profane or vulgar language, or sing out of tune, you violate its rights and offend good manners. The sense of smell requires pleasant odors for its enjoyment. Fragrance is its proper element. To bring the fetid odor of unwashed feet or filthy garments, or the stench of bad tobacco or worse whisky, or the offensive scent of onions or garlics within its sphere, is an act of impoliteness. The sense of taste asks for agreeable flavors, and has a right to the best we can give in the way of palatable foods and drinks. The sense of feeling, though less cultivated and not so sensitive as the others, has its rights too, and is offended by too great coarseness, roughness, and hardness. It has a claim on us for a higher culture.

2. The Faculties

And if the senses have their rights, we must admit that the higher faculties and feelings of our nature are at least equally dowered in this respect. You can not trespass upon one of them without a violation of good manners. We can not go into a complete exposition of the "bill of rights" of each. You can analyze them for yourself, and learn the nature of their claims upon you. In the mean time, we will touch upon a point or two here and there.

Norman Rockwell and Freedom of Worship

3. Opinions

Each person has a right to his or her opinions, and to the expression of them on proper occasions, and there is no duty more binding upon us all than the most complete and respectful toleration. The author of "The Illustrated Manners Book" truly says: "Every denial of, or interference with, the personal freedom or absolute rights of another, is a violation of good manners. He who presumes to censure me for my religious belief, or want of belief; who makes it a matter of criticism or reproach that I am a Theist or Atheist, Trinitarian or Unitarian, Catholic or Protestant, Pagan or Christian, Jew, Mohammedan, or Mormon, is guilty of rudeness and insult. If any of these modes of belief make me intolerant or intrusive, he may resent such intolerance or repel such intrusion; but the basis of all true politeness and social enjoyment is the mutual tolerance of personal rights."

No snooping or peeping in keyholes

4. The Sacredness of Privacy

Here is another passage from the author just quoted which is so much to the point that we can not forbear to copy it: "One of the rights most commonly trespassed upon constituting a violent breach of good manners, is the right of privacy, or of the control of one's own person and affairs. There are places in this country where there exists scarcely the slightest recognition of this right. A man or woman bolts into your house without knocking. No room is sacred unless you lock the door, and an exclusion would be an insult. Parents intrude upon children, and children upon parents. The husband thinks he has a right to enter his wife's room, and the wife would feel injured if excluded, by night or day, from her husband's. It is said that they even open each other's letters, and claim, as a right, that neither should have any secrets from the other.  "It in difficult to conceive of such a state of intense barbarism in a civilized country, such a denial of the simplest and most primitive rights, such an utter absence of delicacy and good manners; and had we not been assured on good authority that such things existed, we should consider any suggestions respecting them needless and impertinent.

"Each person in a dwelling should, if possible, have a room as sacred from intrusion as the house is to the family. No child, grown to years of discretion, should be outraged by intrusion. No relation, however intimate, can justify it. So the trunks, boxes, packets, papers, and letters of every individual, locked or unlocked, sealed or unsealed, are sacred. It is ill manners even to open a book-case, or to read a written paper lying open, without permission expressed or implied. Books in an open case or on a center-table, cards in a card-case, and newspapers, are presumed to be open for examination. Be careful where you go, what you read, and what you handle, particularly in private apartments." This right to privacy extends to one's business, his personal relations, his thoughts, and his feelings. Don't intrude; and always "mind your own business," which means, by implication, that you must let other people's business alone.

The longer we pose, the more I can look down and read her letter...

5. Conformity

You must conform, to such an extent as not to annoy and give offense, to the customs, whether in dress or other matters, of the circle in which you move. This conformity is an implied condition in the social compact. It is a practical recognition of the right of others, and shows merely a proper regard for their opinions and feelings. If you can not sing in tune with the rest, or on the same key, remain silent. You may be right and the others wrong but that does not alter the case. Convince them, if you can, and bring them to your pitch, but never mar even a low accord. 

So if you can not adapt your dress and manners to the company in which you find yourself, the sooner you take your leave the better. You may and should endeavor, in a proper way, to change such customs and fashions as you may deem wrong, or injurious in their tendency, but, in the mean time, you have no right to violate them. You may choose your company, but, having chosen it, you must conform to its rules til you can change them. You are not compelled to reside in Rome; but if you choose to live there, you must "do as the Romans do." The rules which should govern your conduct, as an isolated individual, were such a thing as isolation possible in the midst of society, are modified by your relations to those around you. 

This life of ours is a complex affair, and our greatest errors arise from our one-side views of it. We are sovereign individuals, and are born with certain "inalienable rights;" but we are also members of that larger individual society, and our rights can not conflict with the duties which grow out of that relation. If by means of our non-conformity we cause ourselves to be cut off, like an offending hand, or plucked out, like an offending eye, our usefulness is at once destroyed. It is related of a certain king that on a particular occasion he turned his tea into his saucer, contrary to his custom and to the etiquette of society, because two country ladies, whose hospitalities he was enjoying, did so. That king was a gentleman; and this anecdote serves to illustrate an important principle; namely, that true politeness and genuine good manners often not only permit, but absolutely demand, a violation of some of the arbitrary rules of etiquette. The highest law demands complete HARMONY in all spheres and in all relations. 

New Zealand Suffragette Political Cartoon from late 1800s


In the qualified sense which no doubt Mr. Jefferson affixed to the term in his own mind, "all men are created free and equal." The "noble Oracle" himself had long before as explicitly asserted the natural equality of man. In 1739, thirty-seven years before the Declaration of Independence was penned, Lord Chesterfield wrote: "We are of the same species, and no distinction whatever is between us, except that which arises from fortune. For example, your footman and Lizette would be your equals were they as rich as you. Being poor, they are obliged to serve you. Therefore you must not add to their misfortune by insulting or ill- treating them. A good heart never reminds people of their misfortune, but endeavors to alleviate, or, if possible, to make them forget it."

The writer in Life Illustrated, quoted in a previous chapter, states the case very clearly as follows: "It is in the sacredness of their rights that men are equal. The smallest injustice done to the smallest man on earth is an offense against all men; an offense which all men have a personal and equal interest in avenging. If John Smith picks my pocket, the cause in court is correctly entitled, 'The PEOPLE versus John Smith.' The whole State of New York has taken up my quarrel with John, and arrays itself against John in awful majesty; because the pockets, the interests, the rights of a man are infinitely, and therefore equally, sacred. 

"The conviction of this truth is the beginning and basis of the science of republican etiquette, which acknowledges no artificial distinctions. Its leading principle is, that courtesy is due to all men from all men; from the servant to the served; from the served to the servant; and from both for precisely the same reason, namely, because both are human beings and fellow-citizens!"

From the book "How to Behave,  A Pocket Guide to Republican Etiquette and Guide to Correct Personal Habits" 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Wedding Etiquette of Old

The Victorian Bride, from "The Book of Manners" 

BREAKFAST.  See Wedding Reception or Breakfast.

CAKE.  At the conclusion of the wedding breakfast the cake is placed before the bride, who first cuts a piece, and then it is passed to the others. More often it is put up in small white boxes and given to the guests, or the boxes containing the cake are placed on a table in the hallway, and the guests each take one on their departure.

DAY.  The wedding-day is named by the bride, and her mother's approval is asked by the groom.

It is not customary for the bride to see the groom on the wedding-day till she meets him at the altar.

KISS.  The kiss in the ceremony is being done away with, especially at church weddings. Only the bride's parents and her most intimate friends should kiss her, and for others to do so is no longer good form.

RECEPTIONS OR BREAKFASTS.  The married couple, on arriving at the house of the bride, place themselves in a convenient location, and, assisted by the best man, maid of honor, and the parents of both parties, receive the invited guests. Congratulations are given to the groom and best wishes to the bride.

A reception is more often given than a breakfast, as it allows more invitations and more freedom, and the refreshments are placed on the tables, so that the guests help themselves or are served by the bridesmaids. The guests wait upon the married couple. 

At a breakfast, when the congratulations are over, the breakfast is announced, and the married couple lead the way to the table reserved for them. Parents of both parties, the best man, and the maid of honor are usually placed at this table.

Guests leave a card for the host and hostess and another for the married couple.

Invitations are sent with the wedding invitations, but only to the nearest relatives and friends.

They should be immediately acknowledged, either by letter of acceptance or declination with regret.

TRIP.  All details should be arranged beforehand by the best man, who knows the destination, and should keep it an inviolate secret, revealing it only in case of accident.  It is becoming the fashion for the married couple to do away with the trip, and instead to begin their married life in their own home.

VEIL. This should be white. While its length depends upon the wishes of the bride, the long veil is more in keeping with the traditions and customs of the wedding ceremony.

WOMEN-CARDS.  When invitations have been received to the church but not to the wedding reception, cards should be sent to the bride's parents and to the bridal couple.


AISLE PROCESSION.  See Weddings-Procession Up the Aisle.

ANNIVERSARIES.  See Anniversaries-Wedding.

ANNOUNCEMENTS.  Announcement cards are sent the day after the wedding, and need not be acknowledged. They should be prepared beforehand and ready to be mailed. The expense is borne by the family of the bride.

At a home or a private wedding, announcement cards can be sent to friends out of town.

AT HOME.  See Home Weddings.   
1920s Bride's Maids and Ushers

BEST MAN.  See Best Man.

BEST WISHES.  Best wishes should be given to the bride and  congratulations to the groom.

BOUQUETS.  The bouquet carried by the bride is furnished by the groom, who may also provide bouquets for the bridesmaids if he wishes.

BRIDE.  See Bride.

BRIDESMAIDS.  See Bridesmaids.

CAKE.  See Wedding Cake.

CALLS.  See Weddings-Invitations-Calls.

CARDS OF ADMISSION TO CHURCH. These cards are used at all public weddings held in churches, and when used no one should be admitted to the church without one. They are sent with the wedding invitations. They are kept in stock by the stationer, and are not expensive.

CARDS, VISITING, AFTER MARRIAGE.  Mr. and Mrs. cards are used by the wife only within one year after the marriage, after which separate cards are in order. These Mr. and Mrs. cards are used in sending gifts, congratulations, condolence, and at ceremonious affairs, when both the husband and wife are represented.

CARRIAGES. Carriages should be provided to take the bride and her family to the church and back to the house, and also the guests from the church to the receptions.

The expense is borne by the family of the bride, save for the carriage used by the groom, which takes him and the best man to the church, and later takes the married couple to the house, and after the reception, to the station.


CONGRATULATIONS.  Congratulations may be sent with letter of acceptance or declination of an invitation to a wedding to those sending the invitations. And if acquaintance with bride and groom warrant, a note of congratulations may be sent to them also. 

Guests in personal conversation with the latter give best wishes to the bride and congratulations to the groom.



DANCES.  It is not usual to have dances after the wedding.



EXPENSES.  All the expenses are borne by the bride's family, except the fees for the license, clergyman, organist, and sexton. 

The wedding-ring, the carriages for the groom, ushers, best man, and the carriage which takes away the married couple, are also paid for by the groom.

He also furnishes souvenirs to the maid of honor and bridesmaids, best man and ushers, and all expenses of the wedding trip.

If the groom gives a farewell bachelor dinner, he bears all expenses.

FAREWELL BACHELOR DINNERS.  See Groom-Farewell Dinner.

FAREWELL BRIDAL LUNCHEON.  See Bride-- Farewell Luncheons.

FEES.  The wedding fee, preferably gold or clean bills in sealed envelope, is given by the best man to the officiating clergyman. Custom leaves the amount to the groom, who should give at least five dollars or more, in proportion to his income and social position. The clergyman usually gives the fee to his wife.

FLOWER GIRLS.  See Flower Girls.
Nellie Grant married at the White House in 1874. The wedding was on May 21, 1874 in the East Room of the White House. The  newspapers and magazines were buzzing with all of the details, from decorations, the flowers, Nelli Grant's gown, the guests, and foods served.  Harper’s Weekly describing gifts; “… a dessert-service of eighty four pieces [given] by Mr. George W. Childs, and a complete dinner-service by Mr. A.J. Drexel, the combined value of the two being $4500.” It went on to write that the newlyweds received a “little” gift of $10,000 from Mr. Grant along with a silver Tiffany fruit dish that Nellie swooned over. Brides back then were taken to swooning.

FLOWERS. Flowers are in general use. The quantity and quality of floral decorations must depend upon the taste and the wealth of the parties concerned.

BRIDE.  The bride, if she desires, carries at the wedding ceremony a bouquet given by the groom. Flowers are sometimes dispensed with, and a Prayer-Book used.

CHURCH.  In addition to the palms in the chancel, a string of flowers or white ribbons is stretched across the middle aisle, to reserve this place for the immediate family and specially invited guests.

USHERS.  Boutonnieres, provided by the bride's family, should be given to the sexton by the florist on the wedding-day. They may be made of lilies of the valley, white roses, or the like.

Sometimes the ushers call at the house of the bride to have her fix them in the lapel of their coats.

GIFTS.  The nearest members of each family should arrange among themselves what gifts to send, and thus avoid duplicates.

Expensive presents are sent only by most intimate friends, and articles of utility by relatives or near friends. All gifts should be sent within two months of date of marriage, and should have thereon the woman's maiden name, initial cipher, or monogram, and should be acknowledged by the bride at the earliest moment, and not later than ten days after her marriage.

It is not in good taste to make an ostentatious display of the gifts, and if they are exhibited, the cards of the donors should be removed, and only intimate friends invited.

Those sending gifts should have the courtesy of an invitation to the wedding breakfast or reception.

If any gifts are sent to the groom, they should bear his initial.

 A wedding invitation does not necessarily imply that a gift must be sent, as the sending of a gift is optional.

GROOM. See Groom.
Portrait of a Bride and Her Groom 1900

GUESTS-BREAKFASTS OR RECEPTIONS.  The invited guests leave the church for the bride's residence, and there are introduced by the ushers to the married couple and those standing up with them. If the guests are unknown to the ushers, they should give their names to one of them, who offers his left arm to the woman, while her escort follows and is introduced at the same time.

At the breakfast, guests are usually assigned places, but, if not, may take any seat. Only the specially invited guests await the departure of the married couple, which ends the reception or breakfast.

If boxes of wedding-cake are placed on a table, each guest takes one on his departure.

GUESTS-CALLS.  Invited guests should call at least within ten days and leave their cards.

DRESS.  Broadly speaking, at a morning or afternoon wedding the guest wears afternoon dress, and at an evening wedding evening dress. From the latter rule there are no deviations possible, but in the former there is greater latitude. Thus it would be possible for a man to wear a black cutaway coat at an afternoon wedding.

MEN.  If the wraps are not left in the carriage, they are removed in the vestibule and are carried on the arm into the pew. A man follows the woman, who is escorted to the pew by the usher. At the end of the ceremony the guests should not leave until the immediate family have passed out.

Guests who are not invited to the breakfast or reception should not take offense, as the number present on such occasions is necessarily limited. These guests may seat themselves or are seated by the ushers, but not in the pews reserved for the family and specially invited guests.

WOMEN.  No one should be present at a wedding in mourning, and it should be laid aside temporarily even by the mother, who wears purple velvet or silk.

Women on entering the church take the usher's left arm, and are escorted to the pew, while their escort follows behind.

If they are immediate members of the family or are specially invited guests, they should give their names to the usher that he may seat them in the places reserved for them.

HATS OF GROOM AND OF BEST MAN.  To do away with the possibility of the best man having to take care of the hats of groom and best man during the wedding ceremony, it is a good plan for both groom and best man to leave them in the vestry, and to have them carried out to the front of the church, ready for them at the end of the ceremony.

HOME.  See Home Weddings.

HOST.  See Father of Bride.

HOSTESS.  See Mother of Bride.

HOURS.  Any hour from nine in the morning to nine in the evening is appropriate.

The morning hours are usually selected for quiet home affairs; twelve o'clock, or high noon, is still considered as the fashionable hour, while from three to six is the hour most convenient for all concerned.

Evening weddings are not very convenient, chiefly because it is not as easy to handle the details as in the daytime.

INVITATIONS.  The woman's parents, guardians, or others give the wedding, send out the invitations, and bear all the expense of engraving and sending out the same. They are issued in the name of the one giving the wedding, and should be sent to near-by friends about twenty days in advance of the wedding day and earlier to out-of-town friends. With them are sent the invitation to the wedding breakfast or reception, and also the card of admission to the church.

The groom should supply a list of names of such persons as he desires to have present, designating his preference for those to be present at the breakfast or reception.

In addressing wedding invitations, two envelopes are used. The inner one, unsealed, bears the name only of the person addressed, and is enclosed in another envelope, sealed, bearing the address of the person invited.

Parents should, of course, order these invitations of a fashionable dealer in stationery, that good taste may be observed.

If the invitation contains an invitation to the breakfast or reception, it should be accepted or declined at once, and the answer sent to those issuing the invitation. If the invitation does not include a breakfast or reception invitation, no acknowledgment is necessary.

Should the wedding, however, be at home, and the guests limited in number, an acknowledgment should be sent. If the invitations bear the letters R. S. V. P. an acknowledgment is necessary.

BRIDESMAIDS.  At a large church wedding several invitations are usually given to the bridesmaids for their own personal use.

CALLS.  Very intimate friends can call personally. Friends of the groom who have no acquaintance with the bride's family should send their cards to those inviting them. Those who do not receive wedding invitations and announcement "At Home" cards should not call, but consider themselves dropped from the circle of acquaintances of the married couple.

CARDS, LEAVING.  If a person is invited to a wedding at a church, but not to the reception or breakfast, a card should be left or mailed both to the bride's parents and to the married couple.

Those present at the ceremony should leave cards in person for those inviting them, and if this is not possible, they can send them by mail or messenger.

Those invited but not present should send cards to those who invited them.

RECALLED.  When for some good reason a wedding has to be canceled or postponed, the parents of the bride should, as soon as possible, send printed notices, giving the reasons, to all the invited guests.

JOURNEY.  See Wedding Trip.

MAID OF HONOR.  See Maid of Honor.

MARKING GIFTS.  See Marking Wedding Gifts.
Wedding Party in Late 1800s
MARRIED COUPLE.  Immediately after the wedding breakfast or reception, the bride, with her maid of honor, retires to change her clothes for those suitable for travel. The groom, with his best man, does likewise, and waits for his wife at the foot of the stairs. As she comes down the stairs she lets fall her bridal bouquet among the bridesmaids, who strive to secure it, as its possession is deemed a lucky sign of being the next bride.

As the couple pass out of the front door it is customary for the guests to throw after them, for luck, rice, rose leaves, flowers, old shoes, etc.

The form to be used in signing the hotel register is: Mr. and Mrs. John K. Wilson. Good taste and a desire for personal comfort demand that their public acts and words be not of such a character as to attract attention.


AT HOME.  At the end of the wedding trip they proceed to their own home, and immediately send out their "At Home" cards, unless they have followed the better plan of enclosing them with their wedding cards.

They are at perfect liberty to send them to whom they please, and thus to select their friends.  At these "At Homes" light refreshment is served, and the married couple wear full evening dress.

They are generally given a dinner by the bridesmaids, and are entertained by both families in appropriate ways.

MEN-DRESS. At a morning or afternoon wedding the groom, best man, and ushers wear afternoon dress, but at an evening wedding
they wear evening dress.

For further details see BEST MAN--Dress.
Groom--Dress. Ushers--Dress.

MOURNING.  Mourning  should not be worn at a wedding, but should be laid aside temporarily, the wearer appearing in purple.   
West African Royalty, Sara Forbes Bonetta, on her wedding day with her Groom, in 1862.  Queen Victoria had raised her as a 'goddaughter' in the British middle class. This description is of the wedding; "The wedding party, which arrived from West Hill Lodge, Brighton in ten carriages and pairs of grays, was made up of White ladies with African gentlemen, and African ladies with White gentlemen. There were sixteen bridesmaids."

MUSIC.  The organist and the music are usually selected by the bride. Before the arrival of the bride the organist plays some bright selection, but on her entering the church and passing up the aisle he plays the Wedding March.

PAGES.  See Pages.

PRIVATE.  See Private Wedding.

PROCESSION UP THE AISLE.  Many styles are adopted for the procession up the aisle. A good order is for the ushers to come first in pairs, then the bridesmaids, maid of honor, and last the bride on her father's arm.

At the altar the ushers and bridesmaids open ranks to allow the bride to pass through. This order is usually reversed in the procession down the aisle.

RECALLING INVITATIONS. See Wedding Invitations

RECEPTIONS. See Wedding Receptions.

REHEARSALS. Rehearsals should be held even for a quiet home wedding, and at a sufficiently early date to insure the presence of all who are to participate.

REPORTERS.  See Reporters--Weddings.

RIBBONS.  See Ribbons at Church Weddings.

RICE.  See Weddings--Throwing of Rice.

RING. This may be dispensed with, save in the Roman Catholic and in the Episcopal Church service. It is usually of plain gold, with initials of bride and groom and date of marriage engraved therein.

It is bought by the groom, who should give it to the best man to be kept till it is called for by the clergyman during the ceremony. It is worn on the third finger of the bride's left hand.

SECOND MARRIAGES. See Widows--Weddings.

SIGNING THE REGISTER.  This is sometimes done by the bride and the groom, and takes place in the vestry, where the best man signs as chief witness and some of the guests as witnesses.

SOUVENIRS. See Souvenirs.

THROWING OF RICE.  The throwing of rice is to be discouraged, but if it is to be done, the maid of honor should prepare packages of rice and hand them to the guests, who throw it after the bridal couple as they leave the house for their wedding trip.

TOASTS.  Toasts to the bride and groom are customary at the wedding breakfast.

If the groom gives a farewell bachelor dinner, he should propose a toast to the bride.

TROUSSEAU. See Trousseau.




WOMEN--DRESS. Women wear afternoon or evening dress, as the occasion requires.




WIDOWS CARD.  During the first year of mourning a widow has no cards, as she makes no formal visits. After the first year, cards with border of any desired depth are used.

Either the husband's name or the widow's baptismal name may be used, but if in the immediate family the husband's name is duplicated, she should use her own name to avoid confusion. When her married son has his father's full name, the widow should add SR. to hers, as the son's wife is entitled to the name.

MOURNING.  A widow should wear crepe with a bonnet having a small border of white. The veil should be long and worn over the face for three months, after which a shorter veil may be worn for a year, and then the face may be exposed. Six months later white
and lilac may be used, and colors resumed after two years.

STATIONERY, MOURNING. A widow's stationery should be heavily bordered, and is continued as long as she is in deep mourning. This is gradually decreased, in accordance with her change of mourning.

All embossing or stamping should be done in black.

WEDDINGS. Widows should avoid anything distinctively white, even in flowers--especially white orange blossoms and white veil, these two being distinctively indicative of the first wedding. If she wishes, she can have bridesmaids and ushers. Her wedding-cards should show her maiden name as part of her full name.