Monday, March 16, 2015

Etiquette for the Victorian Gentleman

Monday, March 16, 2015
Tissot, The Bridesmaid
Loretta reports:

The following is from Mr. Cecil B. Hartley’s “One Hundred Hints for Gentlemanly Deportment,” Chapter 10 of The Gentleman’s Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness.

This is is from the 1873 edition, but earlier and later editions repeat the list.  Space doesn't permit including the full 100, but I recommend you click on this link and keep reading.
1. ALWAYS avoid any rude or boisterous action, especially when in the presence of ladies. It is not necessary to be stiff, indolent, or sullenly silent, neither is perfect gravity always required, but if you jest let it be with quiet, gentlemanly wit, never depending upon clownish gestures for the effect of a story. Nothing marks the gentleman so soon and so decidedly as quiet, refined ease of manner.

2. Never allow a lady to get a chair for herself, ring a bell, pick up a handkerchief or glove she may have dropped, or, in short, perform any service for herself which you can perform for her, when you are in the room. By extending such courtesies to your mother, sisters, or other members of your family, they become habitual, and are thus more gracefully performed when abroad.

3. Never perform any little service for another with a formal bow or manner as if conferring a favor, but with a quiet gentlemanly ease as if it were, not a ceremonious, unaccustomed performance, but a matter of course, for you to be courteous.

4. It is not necessary to tell all that you know; that were mere folly; but what a man says must be what he believes himself, else he violates the first rule for a gentleman's speech—Truth.

5. Avoid gambling as you would poison.  ...

6. Cultivate tact! In society it will be an invaluable aid. Talent is something, but tact is everything. Talent is serious, sober, grave, and respectable; tact is all that  and more too. It is not a sixth sense, but it is the life  of all the five. It is the open eye, the quick ear, the  judging taste, the keen smell, and the lively touch; it is  the interpreter of all riddles—the surmounter of all difficulties—the remover of all obstacles. It is useful in all  places, and at all times; it is useful in solitude, for it  shows a man his way into the world; it is useful in society, for it shows him his way through the world. Talent  is power—tact is skill; talent is weight—tact is momentum; talent knows what to do—tact knows how to do it;  talent makes a man respectable—tact will make him respected; talent is wealth—tact is ready money. For all the practical purposes of society tact carries against talent ten to one. 

Image: James Tissot, The Bridesmaid (between 1883 and 1885), collection of Leeds Art Gallery.

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will allow you to read at the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.


Principe said...

I observe all these precepts on a daily basis, altho' I DO bow ironically if performing some small courtesy.I remember many years ago riding on a city bus and having a delightful conversation with a fulsome young lady. As I left I opened my silver card case and presented my card, NOT a business card by the way! She exclaimed upon receiving same "I didn't know there were any of you left!" I replied, "Ah, Miss, we are an endangered species!"

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