Thursday, January 7, 2016

Manners, Culture and Dress: Educating Emma

When a book is over a century old, you have to wonder how many times was it read and by whom. Through whose hands has it passed?  I purchased an old book several years ago called Manners, Culture and Dress, published in 1890, via an online bookstore so I had not seen it prior to my order arriving on my doorstep.

For me, one of the delights of this old book was the presentation page. The book was presented to Emma C. Savage on Feb 3rd, 1891 by her father and mother. I assume this was a birthday gift. A five-hundred-page text to teach Emma about manners, culture and dress. I picture Emma as being a middle to upper-class young girl who was on the verge of becoming a young lady. 

What did Emma learn from this book?  Just about everything a well-mannered person in 1890 would need to know about how to act, how to speak, how to write, how to dress and even toilette recipes. 

She would have learned how to protect against moths by putting a piece of linen moistened with turpentine in the wardrobe for a single day three times a year.  Here are a few more tidbits:  A lady should never allow a servant to keep people waiting on the doorstep. Invitations to a funeral should be delivered by private messenger. Unmarried ladies should not accept presents from a gentleman to whom they are not related and not married. A lady does not cross a ballroom unattended. White kid gloves should be worn at a ball and only taken off at dinner. A lady must always decide on the pace when riding. While traveling in steamers, do not make a rush for the supper table or make a glutton of yourself when you get there. Never be late to church. It is a decided mark of ill-breeding.

I wonder if Emma took all this advice to heart and became a young lady with impeccable manners?  Due to the good condition of the book, I don't think Emma re-read it. What does that say for Emma? I'm hoping she was an independent young lady. One who didn't always go by the rules.