Dicken’s Guide to Minding Your Manners

Recently, we’ve been studying the etiquette of Victorian England, and what it took to be a gentleman or a lady. Here’s a hint: a lot. The Victorians were very concerned with how one behaved, and the rules for what one should and should not do were complex and detailed. Much of what we consider to be basic ideals of behavior and courtesy (e.g., Do not talk while your mouth is full, or give up your seat to an elderly person) began during the Victorian Era. Here are a few of my favorite rules:

  1. For the gentleman: “Never scratch your head, pick your teeth, clean your nails, or worse of all, pick your nose in company; all these things are disgusting. Spit as little as possible and never upon the floor”
  2. For the ladies: “a young lady should be expected to shine in the art of conversation, but not too brightly.”
  3. For gentleman and ladies: “a gentleman may take two ladies upon his arms, but under no circumstances should the lady take the arms of two gentlemen.”

So until next time, remember: “You may bow to a woman in a window, if you are in the street, but you must not bow from a window to a lady in the street.” Mind your manners, please.

Test your knowledge of Victorian etiquette with this fun role-playing game from the Musee McCord Museum.

screenshot of Victorian etiquette game