1817 – True Politeness, A Hand-book of Etiquette for Ladies

True Politeness IntroductionLadies, the New York publishers, Leavitt and Allen, have just published the book True Politeness, A Hand-Book of Etiquette for Ladies, written by An American Lady. This outstanding 64-page book includes etiquette on salutations, dress, fashion, conversation, visiting, dinner table conversation, and even courtship and marriage. It is a must-have for all American ladies living in proper society.

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The book wisely includes changes in etiquette that have occurred over the past few years. For example, during introductions to a lady or gentleman, ladies are advised to “make a slight but gracious inclination of the head and body. The old style of curtsying has given place to the more easy and graceful custom of bowing.”  No more curtsying, unless of course you are meeting the Queen.

True PolitenessThe American Lady has also seen fit to remind us of numerous ill-bred behaviors and mannerisms. Remember ladies, shaking hands shows ill-breeding as does saying something like “Oh! it is of no consequence” to a houseguest who has broken something (although remembering their clumsiness and not inviting them back is of course acceptable.)

We all remember that drumming your fingers on a table is the beat of the “Devil’s Tattoo,” and woe to any lady who reads in an audible whisper. You never want to disturb those near you!

The American Lady’s advice on courtship and marriage offers a few bright reminders. She confirms that “After marriage you need not retain the whole of your previous acquaintance; those only to whom you send cards are for the future, considered in the circle of your visiting acquaintance.” It is almost worth getting married to be rid of those pesky acquaintances one could do without.

And if marriage is your goal, remember to strictly adhere to the American Lady’s advice on Cards. She reminds us that “Women should never play, unless they can retain the command of their temper. She who wishes to win a heart or retain one, should never permit her admirers to behold her at cards, as the anxiety they produce is as destructive to beauty as to sentiment.”

The book concludes with the important advice:

“Dean Swift, I think, remarks, that good breeding does not consist so much in the observance of particular forms, as in bringing the dictates of refined sense and taste to bear upon the ordinary occurrences of life.”

  1. True Politeness, A Hand-Book of Etiquette for Ladies, By An American Lady, published by Leavitt and Allen in New York in 1817.
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