How To Behave Like A Regency Gentleman

Lately, I’ve been super busy moving to a neighboring state and battling the novella that didn’t want to end. My husband and I need new-to-us furniture for our home, so we’ve been haunting a local antique auction. There, I’ve discovered that I possess a surprising skill—I can roughly date prints. I unwittily acquired this skill from hours of looking for illustrations for this blog. How long have I been doing this blog? Too long! And it really doesn’t sell my books, which was kinda the point of starting the blog in the first place. So now it’s a labor of love born of my history geekdom. That said, this morning, I walked into an antique/junk shop, found a quality hand-painted engraving of St. James’s Palace from the 1820s, and quietly paid $15.00 for it. I’m so pleased that I’m going to post on my blog in celebration.

I’m excerpting from A System of Etiquette, published in 1804, and written by John Trusler. You may have read Trusler’s The London Adviser and Guide, which I have previously excerpted. He’s a great resource for specific information about the Regency period, except information pertaining to women. I’m still on the lookout for a Georgian/Regency “etiquette” book for ladies which isn’t just written lectures on virtuous character and proper morals.

This is a long post and covers many topics. You may want to skim over the sections to find the ones interesting to you. 

Note: Trusler’s footnoting is nuts and difficult to follow in the actual text. I’ve put his footnotes in italics in my post. The footnotes make reference to Trusler’s book The Honours of the Table, Or, Rules for Behaviour During Meals: With the Whole Art of Carving and  Trusler’s edition of Principles of Politeness.

The illustrations can be found in The Follies and Fashions of Our Grandfathers (1807) by Andrew White Tuer.

RESPECT TO SUPERIORS

If you meet an acquaintance of this character, either in your walks, or your rides, it is your place to make the first salute; and if going the same way, either to accompany him or not, as you find it most agreeable to him, and not to leave him at any time (unless engagements call you) whilst he seems disposed to hold converse with. you.  It is a proper mark of respect to give him the wall, if walking, and to break way for him; should he be on foot and you on horseback, there cannot be a stronger test of politeness, or greater mark of respect, than instantly alighting, giving your horse to your servant, it’ you have one, and accompanying him on foot, (this is, provided you are both going the same way); if you have no servant with you, lead your horse by the bridle, if he will lead, or make an- apology for your not alighting, if alone, and your horse be untractable, This polite attention is more particularly due to ladies, and a man is a blockhead, if he omits to pay it.

The general salute of persons passing one another in carriages, is merely letting down the side glass and bowing.

Should you, either riding or walking, pass a person much your superior in rank, it is your place to bow to him, not to stop or accost him; but should he stop or accost you, it is your place respectfully to attend to it.

If you ride in company with a superior, keep to the left of him, where the road will admit it; if not, drop behind and keep far enough back, if the lane be miry, not to splash him with your horse; if you pass through a gateway, permit him to pass first.

If riding with a lady, keep on that side of her on which her face will be turned to you; some ladies shift their saddles and ride, sometimes with their feet on the near side of the horse, sometimes on the off. Your situation when accompanying her should be accordingly.

In driving it may not be unuseful to know, that it is invariably the rule, where it can be done, to keep the left side of the road; by so doing, carriages never meet, so as to obstruct each other: according to the old doggrel verse—

The rule of the road is a paradox quite,
For, as you are trav’ling along,
If you keep to the left, you are sure to be right;
If ’you keep to the right, you’ll be wrong.

If in company with a superior, whether walking or riding, should you meet an acquaintance of lower degree, do not stop to speak to him, but salute him only as you pass.

*On paying a visit to a superior, if admitted, it is not respectful to enter his apartment, you can help it, in dirty shoes, or a great coat:  take off your surtout before you enter, and leave it, with your hat, cane and gloves, if your visit is to be of any length, in the anti-chamber ; but if it be merely a visit of respect, or on business that requires but a short stay, if you wear gloves, keep them on, and your hat and came in your hand.

If a servant be in the way, wait to be introduced, if not, knock at the chamber door gently, and when admitted, or desired to sit, seat yourself, but not in a great armed chair, unless the chairs are all so. If you meet the person you are to visit in the open air, don’t put on your hat, till he puts on his, or till he begs you take covered.  – Principles of Politeness

If a passer-by salute the gentleman you are with superior to yourself, with whom you are walking or riding, by taking off his hat and the bow is returned; if he be a stranger to you, it is not necessary that you should take off your hat, except it be to a lady; for as the salute was not intended to you, it would be rudeness to your friend to suppose it.

If a superior accompany you to his house, and make a sign for you to enter first, or to get into his carriage, bow and do it instantly; never dispute it with him, or hang back through respect; for here respect is, to submit to his decision: be assured he knows his rank, (it is what every man studies) and does not want to be reminded of; so, if he stand speaking to you with his hat in his hand, or rise from his seat to receive you, it would be ill-breeding to say, “ I beg my Lord, or I beg Sir, you will be covered—or keep your seat.” It might pass very well from him to you, but not from you to him.

* If he desire you to sit, sit; he offer you the upper hand, take it ; he urge you to approach, do it; to be too ceremonious is to be impertinent; if in the course of conversation, he rise to speak to you, you should rise also.

From a superior to an inferior, familiarity is not only tolerable, but obliging; but from an inferior to a superior, especially where there is no degree of intimacy, it is’ not only unbecoming, but insolent. – Principles of Politeness

If you be offered precedence by superiors, take it; it is uncivil to refuse it.

If in your visits to this superior, you find him engaged in conversation with another; after the first: salute, it will be unmannerly by addressing him, either to draw him from the conversation he is engaged in, or to attempt to take off his attention from the subject he is upon; you are either to wait till he speaks to you, or to address some other person, if present, not so engaged, and more upon an equality.

* Your manner, your tone of voice, language, conversation, all should be humble, modest and respectful. All familiarity in company with our superiors, unless admitted, ought to be avoided.

If a man of rank, a superior, make you a visit, and you know of his coming, ’tis a mark of respect to meet him at his coach-door, and having brought him into the best room of the house, reach him a chair, and when he begs you to sit, seat yourself by him, but in a chair without arms.

If he surprise you busy in your chamber, quit all employment whilst he stays, unless he enjoin you to the contrary. It is a duty indeed we owe to every visitant, whether superior or equal, to treat them with marked respect.

When a person of rank makes you a visit, it is not respectful to suffer him to wait long, unless you be engaged with persons of greater rank, in which case, ’tis right, if you can, to send a person of condition, to entertain him, till you came.

When your visitant leaves you, wait on him to his each: if it be a lady, offer her your hand, but with a glove on, and having helped her into her carriage, wait at the coach-door uncovered, till her carriage be gone.

If there be many persons with you and one of them go away, the rest staying behind, if he that goes, be of more rank than the rest, you should leave them, and wait on him out; if of less, you should let him go alone, only making an excuse; if their condition be equal, regulate your conduct by your intimacy.

If whilst you are speaking to a nobleman, another should enter the room, but of much inferior rank, you are not to drop your conversation with the first, or introduce this inferior by. name; but bowing only to the second comer, continue talking as before. Should the person you are talking to, break off and address the new corner, you may do the same; it is improper at any time to introduce an inferior to a superior, unless at the superior’s request.

In short, to point out all the particulars of your conduct, in order to be respectful, would be tedious to the last degree, it is best learned by imitation. A young man should take notice how well-bred people act, in company with their superiors, and endeavour, as far as possible, to follow their example—Principles of Politeness.

There is a decent familiarity necessary in the course of life; mere formal visits, upon formal invitations, are not the thing; they create no connexion, nor will they prove of service to you; it is the careless and easy ingress and egress, at all hours, that secure an acquaintance to our interest, and this is acquired by a respectful familiarity entered into, without forfeiting s your consequence—Principles of Politeness.

If a superior or a lady pay you a visit, on their departure, it is a mark of respect to accompany them out, waiting at the door till the carriage draws up, bowing as it goes. A lady you are to hand into her carriage with right hand, taking her by the left hand gently and modestly. If a prince deign to visit you, the etiquette is, on parting, going out before him calling his coach and accompanying him to it uncovered, and waiting at your door also uncovered, as the carriage drives off:  if it be night, to take a candle in each hand, light him down the stairs and wait within the door, in the hall, till the carriage has left it.

Ladies are to be respectfully handed, from one room to another, down the stairs, and to the coach step, be the distance ever so great between the stairs and the carriage.

If you receive a letter of introduction to any one residing in a place to which you are going, this letter should be delivered by you personally, as soon after you arrive as possible; to let any length of time slip between the date of the letter, and the time of’ delivering it, unless your excuse be an exceeding good one, is disrespectful; if it cannot be avoided, the best apology that can be made, should be made.

WITH RESPECT TO EQUALS

The above measures are not so immediately necessary; you may fall in, as you find it convenient, without this restraint, and act as your good sense and, good manners shall direct you: *

* When an expected guest comes to dine with you, if your equal, or indeed not greatly your inferior, he should be sure to find your family in order, and yourself dressed, and ready to receive him with a smiling countenance. This inspires an immediate cheerfulness into your guest, and persuades him of your esteem, and desire of his company; you are not to suffer him to knock a considerable time before he gains admittance, and then the door being opened by a maid, or some improper servant, who wonders where the devil all the men are, and being asked her master is at home, answers, “ She believes he is,” and conducts him into a hall, or back-parlour, where he stays some time before you, in dishabille, wait on him, from your study, or your garden, ask pardon, and assure your friend that you did not expect him so soon!—Fielding on Conversation.

When your guest offers to go, it be in the country, there should be no solicitation to stay, unless for the whole night, and that no farther than to give him a moral assurance of his being welcome so to do. No assertions that he shan’t go yet, no laying on violent hands, no private orders to mounts to delay preparing the horses or vehicle, and entitle your friend to an action for false imprisonment—Fielding on Conversation.

 

WITH RESPECT TO INFERIORS

You will, I dare say, feel yourself disposed to shew all that good nature, and condescension that will tend ‘ to make you beloved. If you at any time stoop to associate with such, your plan is to study to conduct yourself so, that and shall not feel their inferiority, On this head, I am persuaded that I need say no more. I have said a good deal respecting this in The Principles of Politeness, as I have with regard to polite attention both to women and men, in company or elsewhere.

Though Lord Chesterfield has been condemned for recommending simulation among men, there is .no getting on peaceably without it. Sincerity is a virtue not calculated for promiscuous company; it then becomes imprudence: the humour of acting always on one principle is like that of sailing with one wind, whereas the expert mariner steers his way by plying in all directions as occasions serve, and making the best of all weathers: a fair and seasonable accommodation of one’s self to the various exigences of the times, is the golden virtue that ought to predominate in a man of life and business, and there is no being Well with the world, as I have said, without it. All the rest is the cant of inexperienced wisdom.

CHOICE OF ACQUAINTANCE.

If a young gentleman herd with low bred men, and men of abandoned character, it is as natural to suppose that he will catch some low bred maxim, and customs, as that he would be infected with their contagious distemper, was he to visit them when sick.

The old adage, ” Tell me what company you keep, and I will tell you what you are,” is a just one, and it is verified by experience, that he who wishes to be the best man in the company he keeps, will soon become the worst of any company he comes into; for he that makes himself an ass, invites others to ride him; Seneca used to Say, that he never went among low or disorderly men, but he came home a worse man than when he went out. You may chance to meet with in life a person or two of this cast, even among the gentry; but it will be but one or two, for gentlemen in general, if they find a man so disposed, will, if already admitted among them, soon desert him; if not admitted, will be cautious how they receive him. Be assured, the best mode of being respected as a gentleman is, to associate with such and such only. So if a lady is seen often in company with women of suspicious character, she will be shunned herself.

* Depend upon it, in the estimation of mankind, you will sink or rise to the level of the company you keep.–Principles of Politeness.

Sensible of the necessity of this, a Derbyshire Baronet, who unexpectedly came into possession of the title and a fortune sufficient to support it, took the following step to obtain the respect of the neighbouring gentry. He was a man of no education, and lived by writing for attornies, and thus earned about a guinea a week; his wife was the daughter of a bricklayer, a decent woman, who, to add t ‘their income, took in linen to clear-starch. He was respected among his equals, and his usual rendezvous in an evening was an alehouse. On coming to this title and fortune, after he was settled in the family-mansion, he made an entertainment and invited all his old acquaintance with their wives; treated them hospitably and kindly, and after dinner addressed them in the following manner,

“Gentlemen, it has pleased Providence, to bless me with distinction and an ample fortune, to raise me from the obscure situation I have been long in, and place me in a more exalted one: though pride is no part of my composition, I know well what is due to that situation of life, I am now to move in and the class of people I shall be expected to associate with ; prudence will. oblige we therefore to drop all my old acquaintance; but, in dropping them, I shall never lose sight of their friendships to me, nor the happiness I have enjoyed in their society. I trust you all wish me so well as not to be displeased at this resolution; for were I to keep company with you, as I have hitherto done, I should not be received into that which my fortune entitles me to expect, and then I should disgrace my ancestry;–I never mean to do. I shall from this time always be happy to hear of your well-doing, and if at any time it should he in my power to be of any use to you, I shall cheerfully do it; but you must in good nature excuse my associating with you as before, and not think the worse of me for this that, if they could not increase it, they would never interrupt it.

This sensible conduct soon got wind among the gentlemen of the country: they approved it, and not long after, he made a second entertainment, invited them and their ladies; his house was filled, and his former situation was forgotten.

Whatever you do then, young man, select your friends from among the virtuous of your own class; he as kind as you please to those below you, but never suffer them to exclude you from the society of gentlemen.

This not being a moral treatise, I shall not enter into the necessity of not mixing or living with the abandoned, even of your own class. If you respect yourself, or wish to be respected, you will never be seen in company with those dissipated men of fashion, who spend their hours either at a tavern, a gaming-house, or a brothel.

* Be it then your ambition to get into the best company, and when there, emulate their virtues, but not their vices. You have no doubt, often heard of genteel and fashionable vices; these are, whoring, drinking, and gaming. It has happened, that some men, even with these vices, have been admired and esteemed ; understand this rightly; it is not their vices for which they are admired, but for some accomplishments they at the same time possess; for their parts, their learning, or their good-breeding: be assured, were, they free from these vices, they would be much more esteemed. In these mired characters, the bad part is overlooked, for the sake of the good—Principles of Politeness.

KEEPING ACQUAINTANCE

Should any gentleman take up his residence near you, and you wish to be acquainted with him. If you live in any stile nearly equal to him, you are to pay _him the first morning visit; If not, endeavour to get introduced or procure some person of equal rank with him to accompany you for that purpose; for to obtrude yourself upon him, by a first visit, would be  arrogant. But should you fix your own abode in a new neighbourhood, you are to wait to receive the first visit, before you pay one, and unless you be honoured with such a visit by any neighbour, you cannot expect his acquaintance, except by the introduction of some friend with whom he is acquainted.

If a superior condescend to pay you the first morning visit, as it will sometimes happen, from your residing in his neighbourhood, and wishing to be acquainted with you; return that visit as soon as possible ; within a day or two. This will be a proof of the honour you conceive done you: if it be an equal that pays you the first visit, you may return it at the first convenient opportunity, but never delay it longer than about a fortnight, lest it should be concluded as want of respect. If the first visit be to any neighbour, by you, and he should not be at home, never fail to leave a card, with your name on it, and place of abode; lest he should not be made acquainted with the visit you made him. If he receive your card, and does not return your visit, he means not to cultivate your acquaintance; if you have any doubt, whether your card were delivered, you may either pay him a second visit or not, as you think proper.

The first visit paid, and returned, they may be interchanged once in three or four weeks, or oftener, if you wish to be intimate; but intimacy seldom takes place, unless the parties meet still more frequent, either at their own houses, or at the house of some common friend; it is eating and drinking together, and uniting in parties, that creates intimacy and friendship; otherwise, a man may visit for years, and scarce personally know the person visited; such things have happened, for as leaving your name on a card at the door, is considered as a visit, this may go on reciprocally for a length of time, and if such visiters never meet at home, they do not personally know each other, when they chance to meet at any common friend’s house, or elsewhere; and of course such meeting would be very awkward.

On paying visits of ceremony, care should be taken not to make them too long, nor too frequent ; a quarter of an hour, or twenty minutes, is sufficient time to exchange compliments, or run over the topics of the day; but if the visiters become congenial to each a other, and intimacy succeed, time and length of visits, need not be pointed out, they will direct themselves.

Visits of ceremony in the country, are not expected if beyond the reach of a morning’s ride.

It is the fashion exalted life now among equals, never to be at home to a morning visiter; nor indeed to any visiter we are not in the habits of intimacy with; therefore to refuse admittance to a visiter, you are not disposed to receive, will not be considered as rude. At such times, your servant should be directed to say that you are not at home. This is in fact no lie, for the expression not at home, merely implies that you are not disposed to see company, and it is understood in this sense. Of course if you meet with the same reply when you go to pay a visit, you are not to be offended; unless you had been particularly invited, and you go at the appointed time. For so much do persons of fashion wish to be at their case, that such ceremonies are introduced, as put them perfectly so.

Indeed, if a superior pay you a visit, it will be a compliment paid him, to be seen, if you really are at home , let your dress be what it may; but with equals and inferiors you may act as you please.

CARDS OF INVITATION

Have been introduced, lest the carelessness or stupidity of servants, or their multiplicity of messages should lead them into mistakes, and occasion disappointments and errors—but they cannot be too short or Concise, provided they be explicit.

The following is a proper card of invitation to dinner, if to a superior; but this card should be enclosed in a cover, and sealed, and properly directed;

 

Or if in a letter

Answered.

Or in answer to the Card, No.1.

If the invitation be to an equal, the word favour may be substituted for honour, as in N0. 1.

If to an Inferior, the card should convey compliments, as in No. 4.

On receiving an invitation in writing, never omit to return an answer in writing, and that as soon as possible. Though compliments from a superior are passed in a card to you; I conceive it more respectful to omit that term in your reply (unless you use respects or best compliments, as implying something more humble) and word your answer thus:

If going from home for any length of time, a visit of ceremony is necessary, in order to take leave. If the party he not at home, leave a card with your name only, writing under it,–To take leave.

If an Earl’s title be his family-name, as‘ that of Stanhope, Spencer, &c. the address is to Earl Stanhope, Earl Spencer, &c. but if the title be taken from some town or place, as Oxford, Essex, &c. the address is Earl of Oxford, Earl of Essex, &c. ‘

So likewise with Marquises, as Marquis Townsend, Marquis Wellesley, &c. but Marquis of Exeter, Marquis of Tavistock, &c.

 

Never send letters to a Peer, or a Member of Parliament, by the two-penny post, in London, as they do not pass free by such conveyance; many persons of rank, have forbidden the receipt of such letters at their houses, that they may not be troubled with disagreeable applications. If in cities and towns, and within small distances; it is a proper mark of respect, to send such letters by a servant, or some private hand.

Esquire is an arbitrary title, flattering.to most men, and is generally made use of in directing to gentlemen who live on their means. Merchants, barristers, magistrates, aldermen, captains, and many others are entitled to the appellation of Esq. and men of large property, even if in trade.—See the Table of Precedency (page 92)

When addressing nobleman in conversation, if under the rank of a duke, we always say, My Lord, and Your Lordship, but this last only occasionally; if used too often, it is fulsome.

If’ we speak to a duke, we say, Lord Duke, and Your Grace; if to a prince, Sir, and Your Royal Highness.

Persons on an equality and intimate, will call them merely Prince or Duke.

If other noblemen be present, and you wish to address one in particular, under the rank of a duke, you address him thus, Lord Exeter, though a marquis; Lord Ligonier, though an earl; but if a duke, we say, if there be but one present, Duke, or My Lord Duke; if more than one, Duke of Richmond, Duke of Athol, and so on; but never abbreviate their titles, as calling one Lord Ex. or another Lord Lig. This would be rude, because too familiar, unless you be of superior or equal rank, and even then it would be ungenteel.

A King’s Nephew or Niece, has only the title of Highness not Royal Highness. As his Highness William Duke of Glocester—Her Highness the Princess Sophia of Glocester. The next male descendant of the Duke of Glocester, on the death of his father, would be only his Grace, not Highness.

To ladies of quality, we never say, My Lady; their servants so address them, but not their acquaintances; but yes, Madam, and no, Madam, using your Ladyship occasionally, as we do your Lordship, when speaking to a nobleman.

So, when we write to any Lord, under the rank of Duke, we begin with My Lord; if to a Duke, My Lord Duke; if to an Archbishop Bishop, My Lord;  if to a Clergyman, Rev. Sir; if to; woman of quality, Madam, even to a Duchess, and never use the expression Lordship, Ladyship, or Grace, but; once or twice in a letter, and that principally, where you may have occasion to allude to their rank, their power, or their influence, as for example:

  1. “My Lord,

I have taken the liberty to write to your Lordship, to say, that the horse you bought of T. B. is by no means a sound one. It is an imposition on your Lordship, and it if the man had served me so, I would return him, &c.“

But with a little study, letters to noblemen, may be so penned, as not to have occasion to introduce the words, you or yours in any part of it, of course Lordship need not be substituted for either. The above might have been worded thus:

  1. “My Lord,

Indulge me with the liberty of saying, that the horse which T. B. sold to your Lordship, is by no means sound, and had he so imposed upon me, I would have returned it, &c.”

If you be in intimate with a nobleman, or his lady, your letters may begin with My dear Lord, or, Dear Madam, and may end in a similar Way, as,

  1. I have the honour to be my Lord, or my dear Lord, Madam, or my dear Madamyour Lordship’s, or your Ladyship’s most respectful servant,–or I remain with all due respect, your Lordship’s— as it may be.

Such are the usual forms, but they may be varied at the writer’s discretion: all that is necessary is, that when writing to superiors, we should express ourselves with becoming humility, and deference, and not omit giving them to understand, that we have not lost sight of their rank: when writing to friends, we are be respectful and friendly.

Archbishops are addressed thus, my Lord, or your Grace.

Bishops, my Lord, or your Lordship.

Their sons and daughters, as plain gentlemen, or gentlewomen, Madam, or Mrs.

To Deans, and Archdeacons, we usually say, Mr. Dean, or Mr. Archdeacon; to Military Men, we give in conversation or writing, (if above a Captain in the army, or a Lieutenant in the navy, who ranks as a Captain in the army, their military titles, as General A—, Colonel B—, Major C—, Admiral D—, Commodore E—, Captain F—.

In our  epistles to superiors, if we wish to be thought respectful, the paper on which we write, should be good, and not less than a sheet, the ink black, and the hand-writing intelligible, and without any abbreviations; and this sheet whether sent through the post-office or not, or whether the person write to, be a member of either house of parliament or not; and though the expence of postage be double, it is not to be regarded, if the person you write to be opulent; I say in any of these cases, the sheet you write on, should be enclosed in an envelope or cover, provided, if sent by the post, the enclosed and its cover, do not exceed in weight one ounce, so as to prevent its passing free to a Peer or Member of Parliament, or double postage to any other friend; for to suppose your friend (unless he have a small circumscribed fortune) will grudge double postage, is to suppose him penurious and mean. On the same principle, never think of freeing a post letter, by paying the postage, unless it be to one to whom you are convinced the expence of postage will be inconvenient or disagreeable.

PRECEDENCY, &c

When invited to dinner, make a point of always being there in proper time, not to make the company wait; fifteen minutes at least before the appointed hour, and to prevent mistakes, see that your watch goes right, and make a proper allowance for the time in going. A superior, indeed, will not wait your coming beyond the time; and if you enter after the company be seated, you are a general disturber.

Persons accepting an invitation to dinner from an inferior, are apt to come late and make the company wait, perhaps half an hour, to shew, I presume, their consequence.—This is a piece of insult which they expect to have put up with. It is unpardonable, but if they will do it, there is no alternative, without affronting them, but either submitting to it, or not inviting them.

In paying dinner visits, and where you expect to meet company, your dress should be better than ordinary, by no means in boots; in receiving visits at home, dress is not so necessary.

On your entering the room where the company is, address. yourself first to the lady of the house, by approaching her, bowing respectfully and then retiring. No saluting ladies now, by kissing them, as formerly, unless they be relations or very intimate friends, whom you have not seen for some time and even then not in company with others. Your next address is to the master of the house, and afterwards to the rest to whom you are introduced by a respectful bow to each. Should you be acquainted with any of the company, after your compliments are paid to the mistress and master of the house, to bow and I address the rest, according to their rank, is proper; to the ladies first, and then the gentlemen.

It is necessary, prior to dinner, to look round, and consider the several degrees of rank of the company present that there may be no confusion in walking into the room where the table is served. TheTable of Precedency (page 92) at the end of this volume , will help you out. The ladies of course will go first; and without the trouble of marshalling them, every woman of fashion knows her. own rank, and will walls out first, second, ,or third, according to their rank. Suppose a Duchess, a Countess, and a Viscountess,  be present, the Duchess will take the lead, the Countess will follow, and the Viscountess next, let their ages be what they may. If no woman of quality be present, the married women take the lead, according to age, the oldest first, next the unmarried women.

Gentlemen proceed in the same order; but where the master of ,the house directs; obey as he directs: Custom, though l know not for any good reason, has established that a giddy girl of sixteen, if married, should have a degree of respect superior to a single woman of twice her age; she shall among her equals in rank, walk first into the room, be offered the first place at table, receive the first attentions of the company, be selected out first to dance at a bell, &c.

Under this form of precedency, it is the duty of all gentlemen, particularly married ones, to attend to this mode of conduct; and where the ladies are handed from the drawing room to the saloon, or room where the table is spread for dinner; that gentleman who has the first rank, or the elder man of the company, is first to hand the lady of the house to the dining room, the gentleman next in rank conducts the woman of the highest rank present, following the lady of the house, and so on, the master of the house last, conducting the lady least in rank. Where all are equal, married men and married ladies take the lead, the eldest first and the younger following.

Seats at table are generally thus taken, ladies at the upper end of the table, according to the precedency above mentioned, and gentlemen at the lower; but the master or mistress of the house will sometimes direct it otherwise, and seat the ladies and gentlemen alternately, that is one gentleman and one lady, and so on, for convenience, that the former may serve the latter.

There cannot be a greater mark of ill-breeding, than to interrupt this order, or for a person to seat himself otherwise.

* The mistress of the house always seats herself at the upper end of the table, ladies be present; if not, the master takes the upper end. But on such occasions, whatever part of the table the master or mistress site, that is to be considered as the upper end.—Honours of the Table.

When the men and women are so mixed, it is a mark of good manners to carve and help the ladies, to any dish that may be near you.

Wiping a plate with your napkin is rude, the whole service of the table among the opulent is naturally clean ; if a plate accidentally be otherwise, call to a servant for another.

Drinking of healths during dinner or supper, among the first class of people, is entirely exploded; but if the master of the house set the example, you may follow it.

Call for any wine you please, without waiting to be asked; in some houses, the master announces to his, company, the different sorts of wine on the side-board; in great houses, where this be not done,-all common wines are supposed to be present. At the house of a friend, you are expected to be as much at your ease, as if at home, and of course may freely ask for any wine, you know the master is accustomed to keep, whether it be on the side-board or not, and whether before dinner or after. But this liberty is seldom taken by those, who do not give the same liberty at their own houses

However, I cannot do better than to recommend a young person to read the little tract l have published, called The Honours of the Table, now in its fourth edition, wherein he will see the conduct he should observe, whether visiter or visited; this will teach him at the same time, the whole art of carving, (shewn in a variety of cuts) and how to acquit himself with gracefulness and respect to his company.

If you wish to depart before the rest of the company, never take out your watch to see the hour, as this would seem to remind others of the time; nor take any leave, but what they call a French leave, and which our polite neighbours, the French, have instructed us in, that is, to steal off as unnoticed as possible, for if you chuse to go, it is not necessary that you drag others with you.

* French leave was introduced, that on one person leaving the company, the rest might not be disturbed; looking at your watch, does what that piece politeness was designed to prevent;.it is a kind of dictating to all present, and telling them it is time, or almost time to break up.–Principles of Politeness.

Vales to servants are never given; of course, to offer a servant a piece of money, is an affront to the master; it is as much as to say, that he cannot afford to pay his own attendants.

If cards be introduced, it is not necessary to play, if you dislike it; unless indeed there be not sufficient persons to make up a party without you ; but even in that case, you may be excused, if you be never known to play elsewhere ; at no rate attempt to play at whist, or quadrille, if you do not play tolerably; for though you may be indifferent about losing your own money, you ought not to be so, with respect to that of others, and though your partner may say little, he will think the more. If you do sit down to play, never wrangle, or find the least fault with your partner’s play; it will not mend him, of course it will do no good, and always gives great offence.

*If desired to play at cards, deeper than you would, refuse it ludicrously; tell them if you were sure to lose you might possibly sit down, but, that as fortune may be favourable, you dread the thought of having too much money, ever since you found, what an incumbrance it was to poor Harlequin; and therefore you are determined not to put yourself in a way of winning, more than such and such a sum a day. This light way of declining invitations to vice and folly, is better than a sententious refusal, which would be laughed at: never receive your winnings with elation, or lose your temper with your money.— Principles of Politeness.

If invited to drink at any man’s house, more than you think is wholesome, you may say, “ you wish you could, but so little makes you both drunk and sick, that you should only be bad company by doing it, of course, beg to be excused.”—Principles of Politeness.

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4 Responses to How To Behave Like A Regency Gentleman

  1. Absolutely great. Need to copy out the part about addressing peers and highlight it. I have been looking for an etiquette book directed at women for some time. Have found conduct books but none that lay down rules for cards, inner , and such The ones I have come across have all been addressed to men. It isn’t until after 1840, that I find some addressed to women. Of course, many of the rules could apply to men and women, but most are specifically to men. Odd.

  2. Susanna says:

    It’s very frustrating. I’ve looked and looked for etiquette/conduct/manners/behavior/deportment for women pr-1830. I just want the pragmatic stuff…

  3. Sarah Waldock says:

    the more basic stuff didn’t change much, did it? this rings serious bells with strictures laid down when I was growing up in the 1960s before courtesy was killed

  4. Susanna says:

    Twitter and FB pretty much stomps on courtesy.

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