General Hints for Ladies

Do not frequently repeat the name of the person with whom you are conversing. It implies either the extreme of hauteur or familiarity.  We have already cautioned you against the repetition of titles.  Deference can always be better expressed in the voice, manner, and countenance than in any forms of words.

Never speak of absent persons by only their Christian or surnames; but always as Mr. ---- or Mrs. ----. Above all, never name anybody by the first letter of his name. Married people are sometimes guilty of this flagrant offence against taste.

No lady should permit any gentleman who is not a near relative, or very old friend of her family, to defray the cost of her entrance fee to any theatre or exhibition, or to pay for her refreshments or vehicles when she happens to be out under his protection.

If a person of greater age or higher rank than yourself desires you to step first into a carriage, or through a door, it is more polite to bow and obey than to decline.

Compliance with, and deference to, the wishes of others is the finest breeding.

When you cannot agree with the propositions advanced in general conversation, be silent. If pressed for your opinion, give it with modesty. Never defend your own views too warmly. When you find others remain unconvinced, drop the subject, or lead to some other topic.

Look at those who address you.

Never boast of your birth, your money, your grand friends, or anything that is yours. If you have traveled, do not introduce that information into your conversation at every opportunity. Any one can travel with money and leisure. The real distinction is to come home with enlarged views, improved tastes, and a mind free from prejudice.

If you present a book to a friend, do not write his or her name in it, unless requested. You have no right to presume that it will be rendered any the more valuable for that addition; and you ought not to conclude beforehand that your gift will be accepted.

Never undervalue the gift which you are yourself offering; you have no business to offer it if it is valueless. Neither say that you do not want it yourself, or that you should throw it away if it were not accepted, &c., &c. Such apologies would be insults if true, and mean nothing if false.

No compliment that bears insincerity on the face of it is a compliment at all.

Unmarried ladies may not accept presents from gentlemen who are neither related nor engaged to them. Presents made by a married lady to a gentleman can only be offered in the joint names of her husband and herself.

Married ladies may occasionally accept presents from gentlemen who visit frequently at their houses, and who desire to show their sense of the hospitality which they receive there.

There is an art and propriety in the giving of presents which it requires a natural delicacy of disposition rightly to apprehend. You must not give too rich a gift, nor too poor a gift. You must not give to one much wealthier than yourself; and you must beware how you give to one much poorer, lest you offend her pride. You must never make a present with any expectation of a return; and you must not be too eager to make a return yourself, when you accept one. A gift must not be ostentatious, but it should be worth offering. On the other hand, mere costliness does not constitute the soul of a present.

A gift should be precious for something better than its price. It may have been brought by the giver from some far or famous place; it may be unique in its workmanship; it may be valuable only from association with some great man or strange event. Autographic papers, foreign curiosities, and the like, are elegant gifts. An author may offer his book, or a painter a sketch, with grace and propriety. Offerings of flowers and game are unexceptionable, and may be made even to those whose position is superior to that of the giver.

Never refuse a present unless under very exceptional circumstances.  However humble the giver, and however poor the gift, you should appreciate the goodwill and intention, and accept it with kindness and thanks. Never say “I fear I rob you,” or “I am really ashamed to take it,” &c., &c. Such deprecatory phrases imply that you think the bestower of the gift cannot spare or afford it.

Acknowledge the receipt of a present without delay.

Give a foreigner his name in full, as Monsieur de Vigny—never as Monsieur only. In speaking of him, give him his title, if he has one. Foreign noblemen are addressed viva voce as Monsieur. In speaking of a foreign nobleman before his face, say Monsieur le Comte, or Monsieur le Marquis. In his absence, say Monsieur le Comte de Vigny.

Converse with a foreigner in his own language. If not competent to do so, apologize, and beg permission to speak English.

To get in and out of a carriage gracefully is a simple but important accomplishment. If there is but one step, and you are going to take your seat facing the horses, put your left foot on the step, and enter the carriage with your right, in such a manner as to drop at once into your seat. If you are about to sit with your back to the horses, reverse the process. As you step into the carriage, be careful to keep your back towards the seat you are about to occupy, so as to avoid the awkwardness of turning when you are once in.

Members of one family should not converse together in society.


This is taken from Routledge's Manual of Etiquette.




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