The Lady's Guide to Perfect Gentility (1856)

I received a belated birthday present in the post earlier this week. A re-print of part of a 1856 guide to perfect gentility for ladies. Its full of fascinating and useful advice such as 
'do not be tempted to indulge in another proof of feminine in decorum .. that of addressing young gentleman of your acquaintance, who are unconnected with you, by their christian names. It opens the way to unpleasant familiarities on their part, more effectually than you can well imagine'
There are also strong words against sarcastic remarks;
'Be careful also how you indulge in sarcasm. If you are constitutionally inclined to this, you will find that there is no point in your character which needs to be more faithfully guarded'
Perhaps, something I should be taking myself to task over!

My favourite part of the book provides sample letters for a range of situations, they mainly seem to relating to questions of the heart. Examples include 'A letter refusing proposals', 'A widow in answer to a proposal' and 'A letter expressive of her apprehension that her suitor has transferred his affections'. If that turns out to be the case then there is 'A letter in answer to a letter in which her suitor intimates his wish to discontinue acquaintance', which includes the fantastic line 'Sir, I shall endeavor to banish you from my affections, as readily and completely as you have banished me'.

Sadly, the book does not provide a template for a letter to a female friend thanking her for the receipt of a most delightful belated birthday present, so I guess I will just have to manage on my own. Starting by saying thank you sparklydatepalm!  

But I will leave you with an extract 'From an aged lady in the country to her niece in New York, cautioning her against keeping company with gentlemen of bad reputation'

'The sincere affection which I ... have prevailed on me to write you what I have heard concerning your too unguarded conduct, and the too great freedom you manifest when in the company of a certain Mr. Buxby. You have been seen with him at the theatre, at Niblo's, at the Museum, as well as promenading Broadway! ... Your familiarity gives me no small concern, as his character is extremely bad, and he has acted in the most ungenerous manner to two or three estimable young ladies of my acquaintance ... I have heard that he is deeply in debt, as also that he is privately engaged to a rich old widow in the Jerseys. In short, he is a perfect libertine, and is ever boasting of the frailty of our sex, and adducing proofs to sustain him'


  1. What a cutting remark in 'A letter in answer to a letter in which her suitor intimates his wish to discontinue acquaintance'. Glad it arrived safely, if belatedly.


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