Tuesday, July 13, 2010

From the NHG Library: How to curtsey

Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Loretta reports:

My latest favorite research book is The Lady's Stratagem: A Repository of 1820s Directions for the Toilet, Mantua-Making, Stay-Making, Millinery, & Etiquette. Yes, it sounds like a tall order, but the book comes through, all 755 pages of it. Herein you will learn how ladies dyed their grey hair, what they used to clean their teeth, and what cosmetics were available. You will find instructions for making several different  kinds of stays as well as how to unlace them.  Want to know how to make a hat?  Puzzled about the rules for mourning?  Wondering how a widow ought to behave?  Curious about etiquette at a dinner party?  It's all here, and more, much more.  The table of contents is 36 pages long.

Needless to say, I'm in love with this book.  I'm not the only one.  Over at the History Hoydens, Kalen Hughes provides a fine overview of the book as well as a look at the Controversy about Hair Washing.

My focus today is curtseys, which have played important roles in more than one of my books.  To my delight, the book offered illustrations as well as instructions:

"The Courtesy.  The following is the usual mode of performing the courtesy.  First bring your front foot into the second position. (In Fig. 1, B, C, D, E, and F respectively denote the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth positions of the feet.)  Then draw the other into the third behind, and pass it immediately into the fourth behind; the whole weight of your body being thrown on the front foot.  Then bend your front knee, your body gently sinks, transfer your whole weight to the foot behind while rising, and gradually bring your front foot into the fourth position.  Your arms should be gracefully bent, and your hands occupied in lightly holding out your gown.  Your first step in walking, after the courtesy, is made with the foot which happens to be fowards at its completion.  The perfect courtesy is rarely performed in society, as the general salutation is between a courtesy and a bow (see Fig. 1 G). —The Young Lady's Book."


Heather Carroll said...

That sounds great! It will promptly be added to the never-ending wish list.

Laura said...

Now I know how to form the perfect curtsey, thanks! Beautiful book.

nightsmusic said...

OMGosh I need that book!

Sorry. It just seems the epitome of anything you would ever need if you write during that era.

Alas, it will have to go on my wishlist for now.

I guess I didn't realize how much a curtsy was based on the five basic ballet positions. Very interesting.

Bearded Lady said...

oh oh must have it. The illustrations alone are priceless. Do you remember what it says about hair dieing?

LorettaChase said...

I can't say enough about this book. It completely exceeded my expectations. Bearded Lady, there are several pages about hair dyeing. It does point out that commercial dyes are made with nitrate of silver "or lunar caustic" & one must be careful not to burn oneself. Elsewhere, the dangers are pointed out in more detail. But there are recipes for a lady's maid, "for staining the hair black...a Chestnut-color...Flaxen," etc.

Katya said...

I put this book on my wish list:)
Yesterday I was going through "English Painting" by R.H. Wilenski and found this caricature by E.F. Burney. ( http://www.vandaprints.com/image.php?id=13603 ) I think it rather suits the descriptions of what length ladies have to go through.

MuffyC said...

I was doing some research on the curtsy, curtsey, courtesy and came upon this blog. I tried to buy this book from Amazon.com, but they told me it could not be sent to my address. There was something about it being too heavy. In any case, there is a seemingly complete volume at http://ia600306.us.archive.org/11/items/youngladysbookma00londiala/youngladysbookma00londiala.pdf.
I'm still looking for the section on "The Courtesy" that is referenced in the blog.

LorettaChase said...

Muffy, this isn't the same book by a long shot. The one I refer to in the post is a recent publication, a collection of materials from the 1820s. This may explain why you're not finding what you're looking for. Meanwhile, I'm still scratching my head about Amazon saying a book was too heavy to ship.?????

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