Monday, 15 October 2012

A thing or two about manners

I don’t even want to think about how long it has been since my last post.  It’s been a long time for which I offer my sincerest and most humble apologies.  But there is no excuse for bad manners, which is absolutely what I’ve demonstrated.  However, it’s probably time to move on, to get passed this and talk about serious matters.

But I can't ignore the fact of my manners, so over the course of the next few weeks I hope to bring you some sweet little tid bits from my gospel on all things etiquette (in a time where being sexist was probably not as much of a faux pas as it is now).  The book that holds the key is Amy Vandebilt’s Complete Book of Etiquette (for info, Amy Vandebilt is not directly of ‘the’ Vandebilt family, figures of American aristocracy who made their fortune in shipping and on the railway.  According to wikipedia, which never lies, they are the seventh wealthiest family in history).

My Dad bought it from a flea market while we were living in Canada, and I love its trivial nature, obscure facts and queer ideas on how to be proper.  The first edition was published in 1952 - the print I have is from 1967.  As you can see it’s in terrible condition, the dust cover ripped and dog eared and well… very well loved.  The most fantastic thing about it though is the simple pencil drawings.

One of the three illustrators is listed as Andrew Warhol, and yes, it’s that Warhol, the illustrations for the book being done before he shortened his name to Andy and made it big on the Big Apple art scene.

As a guide to gracious living, the book provides guidance on how to behave in any situation - from a papal audience, to the launching of a ship or how survive a life without servants.

In the chapter dedicated to social pleasantries, under the heading ‘personal questions – what are they’ Ms Vandebilt helpfully provides:

I’d never ask my best friend whether he or she had dyed hair, false teeth, a wooden leg, or a glass eye.

Gentlemen, in particular, you should also be wary to: 

Never call out a woman’s name in public place, or in conversations use the names of friends, clients, or employers where they may be overheard by strangers.  Talking in public places should always be keyed low, though it must never seem too intimate, either, where a woman companion is concerned.  A gentleman does nothing to make a lady conspicuous in a public place. 

And finally, a few words to the single ladies of marriageable age: 

Do not by any chance ask the gentleman to call on you, unless friends will be present, if you are a woman living alone and are of marriageable age (and when does that cease to be?).  The more eligible he is, the more is must seems that the courtesy you are extending him in asking to call comes at another’s request.  Never be too obvious in your bachelor-gathering.

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