I’ve been reading ‘Hints on etiquette and the usages of society with a glance at bad habits‘ by Charles Wm. Day which is fully available online. Up until seeing the link by raincoaster I wasn’t aware that books were fully available on archive.org, but I will now need to have a look for others that might be available.
The book was published in 1844 and is adapted for American society from an original English centred book. Its subjects range from letters of introduction to fashion, conversation and general views on society. I believe the most commonly used word throughout the book is ‘vulgar’ which pretty much describes anything that could possibly be fun.
Obviously this book is terribly outdated with views to modern society and whole chapters on leaving visitor’s cards when calling upon a lady are something that doesn’t apply at all. Other parts on relying on servants to serve dinner or not following fashion are also something that wouldn’t apply in today’s society.
There is nothing more plebian than thin bread at dinner. [Page 40]
Quite a few ideas behind it do apply though, particularly with the conversation section and should still be read for that. It mentions not to talk over others or talking too loudly or whispering with others whilst in company.
Mothers should be on their guard not to repeat nursery anecdotes or bon-mots, as, however interesting to themselves, they are seldom so to others. [Page 97]
Reading this book reminded me of reading an etiquette book when I was in primary school. It used to either belong to my mum or my grandma and was aimed at young girls and teens. I only remember one section dealing with going to an ice cream parlour with a male friend and how every girl should pay attention to not sit within view of a mirror to avoid looking into it during conversation and possibly getting distracted, as well as to never spur the male companion on to do anything daring, such as ordering the largest ice cream!
As a whole etiquette, just like language, is still important. Whether it applies to replying to Facebook messages in a timely manner, something I am always failing at, or how to act within a group or people, it is a skill that needs to be learned. Hopefully though with a little bit more up to date book.