Friday, August 21, 2015

19th C. Etiquette for Young Men

A Society Woman Tells Young Men How to Get Into Society and the Secret of Social Success
No lassoing required! A young woman and young man of society mugging for the camera on the beach at the turn of the century. "If this lady takes him up and introduces him and he makes himself agreeable his social fortune is made." 

Pictures and Works of Art Offer Topics for Conversation- What it is to be a Gentleman
There's no sitting on the fence about it; He should never push or transcend the delicate outlines of social sufferance; he must remember Thackeray's noble description: "What is it to be a gentleman? Is it to be honest, brave, to be gentle, generous, to be wise, and possessing all these qualities to exercise them in the most graceful manner..."
The young men of our free country, no matter how humble their station, should study manners and proper dress and proper courtesy, for there is no knowing where they will land as they climb the hill of life. Their tailors and their observation will tell them how to dress. Neatness should be their first and firmest ally then —no matter how plain their clothes.

A young man should never be too fine for his work — heavy shoes for walking, plain clothes for morning, and always a change for dinner and evening. Fresh stockings and neat-looking feet are indispensable, and clean lines are the very alphabet of good dressing.  A gentleman's dress should always be so quiet as not to excite attention. Thackeray was very funny about a too-new hat, and spoke of taking a watering-spot to it. The suspicion of being " dressed up " defeats any toilet. 


A young man coming to a great city unknown, may experience some difficulty in getting into society.  He should try to bring letters from some one who knows him well in his own sphere to some prominent social leader. If this lady takes him up and introduces him and he makes himself agreeable his social fortune is made. But such social good fortune cannot always be commanded. Young men often pass a lonely youth in a great city without meeting with the desired opportunity. To many it comes through college intimacies, on the cricket ground, at the clubs, in places of business, and so on.

It is hardly creditable for a young man to pass his life in a great city without trying to know the best ladies' society. He should seek to do so, and ask a friend to introduce him. He should never push or transcend the delicate outlines of social sufferance; he must remember Thackeray's noble description: "What is it to be a gentleman? Is it to be honest, brave, to be gentle, generous, to be wise, and possessing all these qualities to exercise them in the most graceful manner. Ought a gentleman to be a loyal son, a true husband, and honest father fought his life to be decent, his bills to be paid, his tastes to be high and decadent. Yes. A thousand times yes." 


Young men with all these virtues are sometimes led astray, in coming to New York, by the sight of certain gaudy adventurers, who get into society and unaccountably succeed by means of manners, impudence, self-assurance, audacity and plausible ways. They also see a set of men succeed, and get to be leaders of the german, and they observe fashionable men whom they despised, whom they looked upon as cowards and snobs in college or at school. This success (not of the fittest) is apt to disgust manly young man, and keep them out of society —a great loss to society. But this is a side issue. If the manly young man waits a few years he will see these men sink into obscurity. No success is so ephemeral.—New York Sun, 1888


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