Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Etiquette of the "Well Bred"

Though the original, priggish "Dame Grundy" may, or may not, have been a fictional character, one can find her in real life and in period dramas. Titanic's Ruth DeWitt Bukater was so overly pretentious and conscious of everyone's manners around her, she wasn't aware she was breaking a cardinal rule of glove etiquette. Molly Brown may have been viewed as ill-bred and vulgar, but she certainly wasn't having her tea with her gloves on! ~ Countess of Rothes: "Look, here comes that vulgar Brown woman." Ruth DeWitt Bukater : "Quickly, get up before she sits with us!"

Little, things so often indicate good breeding, and the manners of those with whom one associates, that a person can not be too careful in observIng the rules of etiquette. For instance, to say "What?" as an interrogation, when not understanding a remark or question, is considered rude and bad form. It is too brusque, according to the theories of Dame Grundy.   
Curiosity, amusement or disdain? Upon observing the "well-bred," the emotions can sometimes be hard to distinguish.
Either "I beg your pardon" or "well," as an interrogation, is correct, and children, particularly, should be trained on these points. To go in front of a person without saying "Excuse me," denotes carelessness in minor points of breeding; also leaving the room without going through the form of asking permission is a solecism, "Excuse me a moment," if the person is soon returning, is correct, or should the absence be for an indefinite time, "Excuse me" is enough to say. 

To seal an envelope the whole length of the gum on the flap is another trifling matter for which a person is judged unfavorably. Unless the envelope contains an enclosure that might slip through an opening, only the very tip of the flap should be fastened. And, while on the subject of stationery, no two things are more indicative of ill breeding than to put a stamp on the left side of an envelope or, indeed, any place but squarely in the upper right-hand corner; and for a woman to sign her name with a prefix of Mrs. or Miss. to a note or letter, if she wishes to indicate her formal name she should put the prefix in parenthesis beside her name in full, or, in the case of a married woman, she signs her own name with her formal name in brackets beneath, as "Mary Jane Smith." and below, ("Mrs. John James Smith"). This is a form that should never be forgotten. 
 Pride and Prejudice's Elizabeth Bennet found that "nothing was beneath this great lady's (Lady Catherine DeBourgh) attention, which could furnish her with an occasion of dictating to others." The Lady Catherine De Bourgh is another priggish, Dame Grundy, tsk-tsking at every perceived lack of "good breeding."
Leaving a spoon in a tea or coffee cup is not uncommon but it is ill bred, and to butter a whole slice of bread at once and eat from it is another social mistake. The slice must be broken into small pieces and each buttered as it is eaten. Loud talking in public places is vulgar, as it is to push and shoulder in a crowd. If every person would remember his or her manners at such times crowds would cease to be objects for dread. —From The Los Angeles Herald, 1909

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Moderator for Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia