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eBook formatKindle Edition, (torrent)En
File size4.6 Mb
GanreNon Fiction
Pages count350
Book rating4.32 (97 votes)
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I am now the proud owner of a first edition of this book, published in Boston in 1875. On page 68 (the chapter about "Visiting") I found a carefully cut out column from a very, very old newspaper, apparently used as a bookmark.

At first, I wondered if the lady who had made it all the way to Chapter VII was planing a journey. There were listings for railway departures to Atlantic City, Cape May, Sea Isle City and Ocean City and an advertisement from the Phila. & Reading Ry. boasting "Engines Burn Hard Coal—No Smoke" followed by a time table for trains to New York.

But then I turned the newspaper clipping over and the poem I found gave me this tantalizing clue about why so many, many years ago, a young woman who lived in Boston might have started reading this book, and then perhaps, set it aside.Here is the first verse of five:

I've jest come here a-visitin' my daughter f'r a spell;
She lives upon an "anvenoo" 'n talks of bein' "swell".
We al'ays called her Susan Jane, but here t'me says she:
"I'm 'Mrs. James Delancy Smythe'—that's so high-toned y'see.
Somehow, it seems t''ve turned her head t' come down here 'n' live,
'N' talkin' of her country home's a thing she won't f'rgive,
That she's almost ashamed of me—'n' I'm her mother, too.

The book itself provides an interesting window into late 19th century manners. It is full of sensible advice, some of which is still useful: "A lady is never so well dressed as when you cannot remember what she wears", "Do not be too submissive to the dictates of fashion", "with the simplest materials, harmony of color, accurate fitting...and perfect neatness, she will always appear well dressed". Miss Hartley advises that one's feet should always be tidy...I wonder what she would think of flip-flops!

On conversation: "The art of conversation consists in the exercise of two fine qualities. You must originate, and you must sympathize; you must possess at the same time the habit of communicating and of listening attentively. The union is rare but irresistible. None but an excessively ill-bred person will allow her attention to wander from the person with whom she is conversing..."

On dinner company: "The greatest tact is displayed where the hostess makes each guest feel perfectly at ease. She will aid her husband both in leading and supporting the conversation and will see that no guest is left in silence from want of attention."

On conduct in the street: "If you wish to take an omnibus or car, see that it is not already full. If it is, do not get in. You will annoy other, and be uncomfortable yourself. It is best to carry change to pay [the fare], as you keep others waiting whilst the driver is making change, and it it apt to fall into the straw when passing from one hand to another...In taking your place in an omnibus or car, do so quietly, and then sit perfectly still. Do not change your place or move restlessly. Make room for others if you see that the opposite side is full." "Loud talking and laughing in the streets are excessively vulgar."

On accomplishments: "The young lady who comes modestly forward, when called upon as a performer, would cease to please, were she for an instant, to assume the air and confidence of a professional musician...there is an effort and a dash, which disgust in the lady who has bad taste enough to assume them."

It was a full-time job learning to be a lady in 1876!

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