Victorian Etiquette VIII: Behaviour out of Doors
Date Sunday, July 24 @ 05:38:42
Topic London's People


The London Journal, launched in 1845, was one of the most widely read publications of nineteenth-century Britain. Its weekly appearance ushered in the period when mass-market reading, in a modern sense, was born. Between April 12 and August 30 1845, the Journal carried seventeen articles under the heading "Etiquette for the Millions," written by G.W.M Reynolds. They were clearly aimed at educating the mass readership (mostly the newly emerging middle-classes) in the behaviour expected of them in public. At times trenchant, the views expressed in the articles describe a view of society that is very, very different from that which we experience today. But, perhaps, one that many sections of modern society hanker after. In this set of instructions we are introduced to the mysteries of the glove and warned against carrying "a huge stick, fit only to wrench off knockers or break policeman's heads." And ladies are required to sacrifice a new silk gown if caught in the rain. . .!


A genteel and quiet deportment in the streets is the characteristic of a well-bred person. You may be well assured that the individual who swaggers along, elbowing his way amidst males and females in a passionate manner, pushing right and left, with his had cocked on one side, and his whole appearance wearing a most consequential air, is possessed of a coarse and vulgar mind. There is a proper medium between jostling through the streets like a bully and sneaking along like a thief.

When you walk for pleasure, do no hurry along as if you were going to a dinner party and were half an hour too late.

Always give the wall to females; an dif you meet a lady in a narrow street where one of you must step off the pavement into the mud, adopt that alternative yourself. Should she acknowledge your civility by a slight bow, raise your hat and pass on.

Do not smoke in the streets.

When walking with a friend, should you meet an individual known only to yourself, do not introduce him and your friend to each other.

Should you, when walking up and down a public place of resort, or general lounge, meet persons with whom you are acquainted, but whom you do not choose to join, you need not bow every time you pass them. The first time is sufficient. If you have not joined them at first, do not afterwards go up and walk with them, as such a proceeding would be as much as to say that you only joined hem because no friends more agreeable appeared on the spot.

Never "cut" any one, unless he or she have been guilty of some act injurious to character. If you happen to be introduced to a person whom you find to be disagreeable and whom you do not like, you can easily avoid his company by means of a cold ceremonial bow, which is an intimation that you do not wish to be more friendly.

When you meet a lady in the street, do not purposely throw yourself in her way to obtain the honour of a bow: wait till she bows to you. It is her duty to notice you first: do not attempt to stop her to converse, unless she hesitates or pauses as if she intended to speak. Never nod to a lady; but raise her had, however intimate you may be with her and her family.

If you have met a person of rank superior to your own at a party, do not bow to him first when you meet him in the street. If he wishes for your acquaintance, he will recognise you. Should you obtrude yourself upon his notice, your feelings may be wounded by his forgetfulness or indifference. A well-bred person of rank is always most anxious to place his inferiors at their ease in his presence.

When you meet a friend in the street, do not shout out his name, so that everyone who is passing may know who he is.

You ought to take off your right glove to shake hands with a lady; but do not do so if your glove be so tight, or the weather is so warm, because it takes a long time to remove; because you would in this case keep her standing in an embarrassing position with her hand extended.

You need not take off your glove to a gentleman unless he has his glove off at the time, or takes it off expressly to shake hands with you.

Never whistle or sing as you walk along.

Do not carry a huge stick, fit only to wrench off knockers or break policeman's heads; but, if you fancy a walking stick, let it be a slight cane of a dark colour.

When you hand a lady into a vehicle, make a slight bow as she passes you to step in. If, at a party, you hand a lady to a vehicle, and are not on intimate terms, take your hat off.

Never touch your hat, nor salute with your cane, to either lady or gentleman.

When walking with a lady, give her the wall or the most convenient and comfortable portion of the path.

Ladies taking gentlemen's arms should simply allow their fingers to rest upon the arm, with scarcely any pressure at all.

Do not attempt to stop an acquaintance who is on horseback, when you are on foot.

The demeanour of females should be especially correct, quiet, and reserved in the streets. If they be caught in the rain, they should not raise their clothes above the ankle, even though they risk spoiling a new gown. It is better to get a silk gown covered with mud than to acquire a character for levity or immodesty.

Ladies wearing their veils down should always raise them when they stop to converse with an acquaintance, whether male or female.

Ladies are never expected to take off their glove to shake hands.

It is not correct for a lady to carry her handkerchief in her hand. She should use a reticule or bag, if she be too proud for pockets.

No well-bred man will ever raise his eye-glass to look at a lady.

G.W.M. Reynolds.
The London Journal,
For the week ending June 14, 1845.

TO BE CONTINUED.



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