Victorian Etiquette

In the Victorian era, it was imperative to display impeccable class and a satisfactory upbringing to be socially accepted. Famous individuals such as Oscar Wilde used intelligence and charming wit to fit into the higher social circles, meaning that to move up in society, etiquette and composure in a social setting was crucial to the quality of life of many Victorians.

Due to the vast amount of rules and regulations that were required to be adhered to, books were published to suggest to the middle and upper classes how they should compose themselves in a social setting. These consisted of texts and manuals such as “The Habits of Good Society: A Handbook of Etiquette for Ladies and Gentleman” and also “The Essential Handbook of Victorian Etiquette”. Victorians who ignored these rules and suggestions were likely to be socially secluded and isolated as the Victorians placed a huge emphasis on social standing, and this was important not only for friends but business and work related endeavors also.

Such rules consisted of items such as:
• Learn to govern yourself and to be gentle and patient.
• Never speak or act in anger.
• Learn to speak in a gentle tone of voice.
• Learn to say caring and pleasant things when the opportunity arises.
• Do not neglect small things if they can affect the comfort of other people.

Rules for mourning:
• Children are not expected to wear mourning clothes, but girls may wear white dresses.
• Widows are expected to wear full mourning dress for two years.
• The deepest mourning clothes should be black.

Rules for dinner:
• The knives and oyster fork should be placed on the right side of the plate, the other forks on the left.
• No more than two vegetables should be served with each entrée.
• Potatoes should not be offered with fish.
• Glasses should be at the right of the plates.

This is a segment taken from my independent research project that I have been conducting over the summer focused on the basics of Victorian-era etiquette.

From, The Victorian Blogger


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