THE OLD SCHOOL RULES Female Deportment in 1853

Modern society expects (or should I say 'hopes') everyone has a general understanding of good manners. But back in the times of Queen Victoria, decorum and respectability was very serious business and went much deeper than just knowing how to perform a proper curtsy or which utensil to use to fork your shrimp. In 1853, the year the book 'Cranford' was published, something as simple as a lady entering a room had a 'Do/Don't' list as long as the ivory handle of her parasol!
(I love the one below about a lady's feet not being shown, as if no one should know she had feet 😄)

On Female Deportment: “As a lady enters the drawing­ room, she should look for the mistress of the house, speaking first to her. Her face should wear a smile; she should not rush in head foremost; a graceful bearing, a light step, an elegant bend to common acquaintances, a cordial pressure, not shaking of the hand extended to her, are all requisite to a lady. Let her sink gently into a chair, and, on formal occasions retain her upright position; neither lounge nor sit timorously on the edge of her seat. Her feet should scarcely be shown, and not crossed… Excepting a very small and costly parasol, it is not now usual to bring those articles into a room. An elegantly worked handkerchief is carried in the hand, but not displayed so much as at dinner-parties. A lady should conquer a habit of breathing hard, or coming in very hot, or even looking very blue and shivery. Anything that detracts from the pleasure of society is in bad taste.”

Excerpt from 'CRANFORD' by Elizabeth Gaskell

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