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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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


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, 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.


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.

May I Introduce You? The Etiquette of Victorian Introductions

Dear Gentle Reader,

What is your position in society? Is it higher or lower than mine? And what of your reputation? This is very important to know because  I might not want to be introduced to you. After all, Lady Constance Howard, author of Etiquette: What To Do, and How To Do It, is emphatic that I, being a female, should be careful with my introductions. She writes, “Those who are talked of in society, who are fast and immoral, should be carefully avoided, not from pride, but from a feeling that a woman’s good name is her greatest treasure, her crown of womanhood, and if she is known to associate with ‘any and all members of her own sex,’ her good name becomes tarnished, her fair fame is called in question, and irreparable mischief ensues.” Therefore, if you feel you are immoral or fast, perhaps we should avoid each other. Should we happen to be introduced by a host “without tact and knowledge of the world” we should follow Lady Constance Howard’s great advice and bow civilly for the sake of the host and then cut each other the very next time we meet.

I know, I know, perhaps you’re not a woman but a privileged nineteenth-century guy. All these rigid, girly rules don’t apply to you. You’re free to introduce yourself to whomever you please. After all, “gentlemen, as a rule, are always ready to make new friends and acquaintances; like butterflies, they like to flit from flower to flower among the pretty faces usually present at all social gatherings…” Well, Lady Constance Howard has some words of wisdom for you: “it is of no consequence to a gentleman in what society he makes his friends and acquaintances, although it is always a mistake for people to go out of their own set, and when gentlemen do, it is a decided mistake, often leading to life-long misery.”

Now that we know the importance of proper introductions, let us take proper heed of Lady Constance Howard’s wise counsel, as well as enjoy the art of Italian Impressionist Giuseppe De Nittis.


Now we will proceed to the correct etiquette for ‘ introductions,’ which word signifies the act of’ presenting’ or ‘introducing’ people to each other, who are previously strangers to one another.

There are all sorts of introductions, premeditated and unpremeditated, ceremonious and informal. On no account should they ever be indiscriminately made; and the amount of tact and knowledge of the world and discretion required, among those who make the introductions, must necessarily be very considerable.

In making introductions, a previous knowledge should be obtained by those making them, as to whether those persons whom they propose to present to each other would be desirous of, or appreciative of, their good offices; or the reverse might be the case if they had expressed no such wish.

It would be a breach of etiquette, and extremely embarrassing, if, without first finding out their mutual wishes on the subject, a lady residing in the country, or in a cathedral town, or watering place, were to present two ladies to each other with whom she was acquainted, residing in the same town, but in different social positions, and consequently moving in opposite circles to each other, unless they had expressed a decided desire for such an introduction.

Without this express wish on the part of the ladies, the result of the presentation would be, a contemptuous disregard on the part of the lady to whom it was most disagreeable, and a prompt decision on her part to discontinue the acquaintance that offended her so much.

Therefore, indiscriminate introductions should never be made.


If there is the smallest doubt as to the desirability of such an introduction, or how it would be received, it should never be indulged in; the awkwardness that must ensue would be indescribably painful to the lady making the introduction, and those introduced.

The correct etiquette is to consult the wishes of both persons before introducing them to each other, whether one person has expressed a wish for an introduction to another person, and has spoken of their desire to a mutual friend, or whether a hostess has an unpremeditated wish that two of her own friends should suddenly become acquainted through her good offices.

This only applies to persons of equal rank; it would be sufficient to ascertain the wishes of the lady of highest rank, where there is an inequality of social position. When their social standing is the same, the person about to make the introduction would ascertain the feeling of the person with whom she was on the most formal terms, for or against the presentation being made. In the same way, if A. expressed a desire to know B., there would only be B.’s pleasure to ascertain on the subject.

The proper form of introduction, according to the degree of intimacy existing between most people in society, would be for the person about to make the introduction, to say pleasantly,—

‘Mrs D., may I introduce Mrs L. to you?’ (being specially careful that Mrs L. did not hear her speech).

An answer having been received, we will say in the affirmative, the introduction would follow, remembering that it is always the lady of lowest rank who is introduced to the lady of highest standing, never is the lady of highest rank introduced to the lady of lowest; this is a very particular point of etiquette, and it must always be very carefully recollected and enforced, as the contrary presentation would be a grave solecism against all the rules of good society, and the remembrance of the strict observances of etiquette which all in a good social position are expected to render each other.

Thus, a hostess would say,—’ Mrs R.—the Duchess of B.,’ thereby speaking the name of the lady first who is lowest in rank, as she is the lady introduced to the lady of superior social position.

This is all that is necessary; it would be in bad taste to repeat the names reversed,—’ The Duchess of B.—Mrs R. Mrs R.—The Duchess of B.”

Once naming the names of those who are to be introduced to each other, is all that etiquette requires; more than this would be a breach of it, and, therefore, not to be indulged in.

Nittis_-_signora_napoletanaWhen the presentation is between two ladies— one married, the other unmarried—the unmarried lady should be introduced to the married lady, except when the married lady was of lower rank than the unmarried one, in which case the contrary would be the correct case.

When the presentation has been made, thus,— ‘Mrs R.—the Duchess of B.,’ the two ladies so introduced bow to each other, and make some little pleasant, civil speech, such as,—’Very happy to make your acquaintance,’ or, ‘I wanted so much to know you, I have heard so much of you,’ etc.

A bow is sufficient in most cases on being introduced to a stranger. Ladies do not generally shake hands at first, although it is quite etiquette for them to do so if either or both are willing.

If the lady of highest rank offers to shake hands with one in not so high a social position, it would show that she wished to be friendly, and would be very complimentary to the other lady. People who are ladies would always do so, particularly if the lady to be introduced to them seemed at all shy, as such a proceeding and mark of pleasure at making her acquaintance, and sign of friendship, would at once set the other lady at her case, and make everything much pleasanter for all concerned.

Any lady or gentleman introducing two strangers to each other, if they were already intimate friends of his or hers, would expect them to shake hands cordially, not give a stiff”, formal bow, and it would be perfectly consistent with etiquette (indeed a clear proof that they knew what society demanded of them) that they should do so.

It is a recognised privilege of ladies to be the first, indeed to take the initiative on being introduced, as far as shaking hands is concerned.

The lady of the house would, as a matter of course, shake hands with everyone introduced to her in her own house, whether the person introduced came with a mutual friend or by invitation, though previously unknown to the hostess, as certain people are always asked everywhere; they are on the list of every lady in society, and for them not to be present at any social gathering, would at once show that the hostess was not in the best society, the highest social position; their absence would be a fact at once known and reflected upon.

In the case where a visit is not made to the lady of the house, but to some friend or guest staying with her, it would not be necessary for her to shake hands with the visitor, unless she wished to do so, or had some special reason for wishing the visit so made to be the beginning of a friendly acquaintance with herself, and consequently the future entree to her house and parties; but in every case where the visit is made to the hostess, she would shake hands with her guest.

Where it is a question of engaged couples, the fact of persons being introduced to each other who are relations or intimate friends of the ‘fiancies’ would warrant their shaking hands on the introduction taking place; again, the relations on either side would shake hands when presented to each other, and the relations of the affianced on being introduced would shake hands with both bride and bridegroom elect.

When it is a question of ‘garden-parties,’ ‘five-o’clock teas,’ small ‘ At Homes, ‘ ‘afternoon concerts,’ etc., gentlemen would be introduced to ladies by the hostess, at least the principal guests would be so introduced, for the purpose of the gentlemen escorting the ladies to tea or supper, in the event of no other gentleman being present at the moment with whom they were already acquainted.

When any friends of their own were present, the ladies would naturally not be dependent upon the kind offices of the hostess in presenting gentlemen to them for the express purpose of showing them this imperative courtesy and mark of civility.

DeNittis16In cases where no gentlemen of their acquaintance are present, the hostess would introduce a gentleman to a lady without previously consulting her, as the fact of none of her friends being present would warrant such an introduction, and the gentleman, knowing why he was presented to any particular lady, would immediately ask the lady’s leave to take her to tea or supper.

A hostess at such assemblages would be entirely guided by her own tact and knowledge of the world in making general introductions, and where she thought an introduction to a gentlemen would be agreeable to any lady, she would proceed forthwith to introduce him to her, without in any way previously consulting her as to her wishes on the point.

The hostess would be specially careful in the matter of such introductions; young unmarried girls she would, if she thought it advisable, introduce to each other; it would only be when an introduction between two married ladies, or a married lady and an unmarried girl, or ladies of high social standing and rank, or great celebrities, that she would give them the option of an introduction, where she desired to make one between any two of her guests or friends.

The same at dinner parties; both ceremonious and informal ones.

General introductions are not necessary at dinner parties, although naturally, if previously unacquainted, a hostess would introduce to a lady the gentleman who was to take her down to dinner.

Such an introduction would be made during the quarter of an hour when guests are assembling before dinner is announced, and it would not be at all necessary for a hostess to ask the lady’s permission for such a presentation, as the fact of the gentleman being her escort to dinner, would be all sufficient to warrant the introduction being made, without any previous knowledge on the lady’s part of her hostess’s intentions with regard to her.

Of course the hostess would be certain beforehand that the gentleman so introduced was not in any way objectionable to the lady, and that, on the gentleman’s side, there was no disinclination to such an introduction to be feared.

Sometimes ladies are introduced to each other by the hostess when they have returned to the drawing-room after dinner, if she wished to do so, or had the chance of making such introductions in the twenty minutes or half-hour which elapses before the gentlemen leave the dining-room ; but nothing of the kind is necessary as far as the gentlemen are concerned, for whether they are previously acquainted or not, they would naturally fraternise after dinner over their wine and mutually interesting subjects of conversation; so that the host would make no introduction between his guests who were strangers to each other, the fact of their being present at his table being sufficient to warrant their addressing some pleasant remarks, and entering into conversation with each other, without committing any breach of etiquette.

When most of the guests at a dinner party are strangers to one another, etiquette permits the host and hostess to introduce the chief guests to each other, should they deem it well to do so; but in London it is seldom necessary to do this. There, most of the guests who meet have, at any rate, some slight acquaintance, which allows of their speaking to each other if they find themselves sitting or standing next to each other at a dinner party, or before dinner is announced ; in the country, such introductions are much more general and necessary, as there in all probability many of the guests have never even heard of each other’s existence, until they meet in the house of some mutual friend.

In ‘large parties,’ whether dinner or evening parties, nothing is so easy as for people who for some reason do not wish to speak to one another, or to be introduced to each other, to avoid such an introduction, or such a meeting. There is no solitude like that of a crowd, no place where it is so easy to have those whose acquaintance is pleasant to you, and to absolutely ignore the very existence of those who offend or are distasteful to you.

People may pass hours in the house of a mutual acquaintance, and never show by word or deed that they are conscious of each other’s presence.

In the case of a host or hostess without tact and knowledge of the world, such avoidance might be difficult ; he or she, all unknowingly, might present the two who wished to be strangers, to each other, in which case, good manners and etiquette would require that the two people so introduced should acknowledge the introduction by a slight bow, and take the earliest opportunity of engaging someone else in conversation, besides telling the host or hostess their reasons for so doing.

The bow thus exchanged would be simply given to avoid putting the host or hostess in a very awkward position, through their ignorance of their guests’ dislike to each other; and this civility to each other on the part of those so introduced, would only be meant as a courtesy to the host or hostess, and a dislike to be rude to them under their own roof on the part of their guests; also the two introduced would be at liberty to cut each other the very next time they met, both understanding perfectly why they had exchanged bows.

One rule is fixed as the law of ‘the Medes and Persians, which altereth not,’ namely, that ‘place aux dames’ is the order of the day with regard to introductions, and that absolutely regardless of the rank of a gentleman or that of a lady; whatever that may be, the gentleman is always introduced to the lady, never the lady to the gentleman.

Thus, ‘Lord A.—Mrs B.,’ not ‘Mrs B — Lord A.’

That would be a breach of etiquette too great for words to express.

Nittis_-_Intorno_al_paralumeWith regard to introducing gentlemen to each other, it is not as a rule necessary to do so. If they wish to make each other’s acquaintance, supposing some very particular reason exists why they should do so, or there is some powerful reason which would commend itself to the person making the presentation, or else to the person whose acquaintance was desired, the gentlemen may ask their host or hostess for such an introduction, without risk of their wish being refused, or their acquaintance declined ; but when no such reason exists, the gentlemen, as a rule, are content to talk to the gentlemen they already know, without seeking to extend the circle of their friends and acquaintances.

This only applies to general society; of course, where it is the question of an introduction to some celebrated man, where it is possible to obtain such an introduction, all gentlemen would naturally seek it, and consider themselves honoured by the introduction.

With regard to their introduction to ladies, gentlemen, as a rule, are always ready to make new friends and acquaintances; like butterflies, they like to flit from flower to flower among the pretty faces usually present at all social gatherings; they seldom if ever avoid, but always seek, the acquaintance of ladies, no matter in what society they may meet them; gentlemen are supposed to be chivalrous and gallant enough, even in the nineteenth century, to still wish for ladies’ society.

Of course a gentleman can be, and ought to be, polite to all his acquaintances in every circle, and if he has tact, he can be civil and courteous to all ladies, without offending the prejudices of those in a higher or lower social position ; it is of no consequence to a gentleman in what society he makes his friends and acquaintances, although it is always a mistake for people to go out of their own set, and when gentlemen do, it is a decided mistake, often leading to life-long misery.

When it is a question of one of his own sex, a gentleman is usually just as exclusive in the matter of whom he does or does not know, as a lady would be in choosing her friends, and in the matter of allowing strangers to be presented to her.

Mutual tastes, mutual sympathy, mutual friends form, as a rule, the groundwork of friendship and acquaintances between gentlemen ; of course there are exceptions to this, as to all other rules, no hard and fast line can be set down,’circumstances alter cases.’

When a gentleman is spoken of as ‘ Do you know M.? he is such a good fellow, one of the most charming men I know,’ and when all concur in a unanimous verdict as to his popularity, then you may be sure that all men will wish to make his acquaintance, likewise all the ladies; and when the fiat as to his excellence is pronounced by gentlemen, then people may be quite safe, as a man well spoken of by his fellow-men, is always one whose friendship and acquaintance is an honour and a pleasure; men have innumerable chances of judging other men’s characters, which ladies cannot possibly have, therefore a man’s opinion is the one to be guided by always.

A mutual acquaintance or friend may be asked by a gentleman for an introduction to a lady; it is quite in accordance with etiquette that he should do so; and when a gentleman wishes to make the acquaintance of any particular lady, it is the accepted rule that he should do so always.

As far as ball-room introductions are concerned, it is decidedly best to consult a gentleman, previously to introducing him to any lady, as to whether he wishes to be introduced to a lady or not. The hostess would say, ‘Would you like to be introduced to Miss C.?’ or some other civil speech which would have the effect of ascertaining the gentleman’s wishes on that point.

The reason for this is obvious, namely, at a ball a gentleman is usually introduced to a lady for the express purpose of requesting her to give him the pleasure of a dance, or take her to supper: a ball-room introduction means this.

Supposing the gentleman so introduced did not know how to dance, or did not wish to dance, if his wishes were not known to his hostess beforehand, the lady to whom he was introduced would feel extremely mortified at his apparent neglect of the express purpose for which he was presented to her, and the introduction, so far from availing anything in bringing about an agreeable friendship or acquaintanceship between the two thus introduced, would only prove a source of annoyance and awkwardness to both, which might easily have been avoided.


When a lady does not wish to dance, it is not necessary to ask her if an introduction to any gentleman will be agreeable to her, the introduction would be undertaken as a matter of course, and as a looked-for and expected civility.

Ladies cannot be too particular as to the acquaintances they make, especially where members of their own sex are concerned. A lady should have too much consideration for her own character and good name, her social position, and her duty to society, to be seen with doubtful friends and acquaintances. Those who are talked of in society, who are fast and immoral, should be carefully avoided, not from pride, but from a feeling that a woman’s good name is her greatest treasure, her crown of womanhood, and if she is known to associate with ‘any and all members of her own sex,’ her good name becomes tarnished, her fair fame is called in question, and irreparable mischief ensues.

In ‘country houses,’ the principal guests, if previously unacquainted, would be introduced to each other by the hostess or host on the afternoon of their arrival, especially in the case of the ladies of highest rank. Such introductions would be made as the hostess deemed expedient; and where very large numbers of people were congregated, general introductions would be very fatiguing, quite unnecessary, and not required by strict etiquette.

Being under the same roof in a country house, except in the cases before named, is introduction enough; the fact of ladies and gentlemen so finding themselves, is really an act of presentation, although this fact does not oblige the guests to become great friends or acquaintances, it remains with the people so introduced to be friends or not in the future, though many intimate friendships are the result of meetings in country houses.

The same at ‘Afternoon Teas ‘ and ‘At Homes.’

People would converse generally, if they liked, and it would be no breach of etiquette on their part that they should do so.

Although ladies might converse with other ladies, gentlemen with gentlemen, and ladies with gentlemen, this civility would not constitute an acquaintanceship afterwards, beyond the act of a bow when they meet again, if they desired it; not that, if it were unpleasant to either or both of them.

If they so wished it, any gentleman and lady conversing under these circumstances, might bow when they next met, or two gentlemen might so form an acquaintance.

On leaving, if a lady and gentleman had been holding a long conversation in the house of a mutual friend or acquaintance, or he had shewn her any very marked civility, he would bow to her. In the case of two ladies who had been exchanging polite remarks at a ‘tea,’ it is optional whether they bow or not, but good manners should prompt them to do so. Should they be of different social positions, the lady of highest rank would, of course, take the initiative, and bow to the other lady when their conversation ended or she left the room.

If several people make a morning call at the same time, the hostess would be civil to each in turn, making some pleasant remark. She would not allow the conversation to become too general, except when all the guests were acquainted with each other.

No introduction should be made by a hostess unless she was quite sure that such an introduction would be agreeable to both, and in every way one to be desired. If a hostess knew that two people did not wish to make each other’s acquaintance, she would most carefully avoid such an introduction, even in the case when one lady only was averse to its being made.

When no such dislike exists, and their social positions warrant it, a hostess would at once introduce the guests to each other.

If a lady and gentleman who were strangers to each other met on the landing outside a drawing-room door, he would make her a bow, which courtesy she would acknowledge by one also; and he would step aside, so as to allow her to enter the room first.