“True Christian politeness will always be the result of an unselfish regard for the feelings of others, and though you may err in the ceremonious points of etiquette, you will never be impolite.”

“If you wish to be a well-bred lady, you must carry your good manners everywhere with you. It is not a thing that can be laid aside. True politeness is uniform disinterestedness trifles, accompanied by the calm self-possession which belongs to a noble simplicity of purpose; and this must be the effect of a Christian spirit running through all you do, or say, or think; and, unless you cultivate it and exercise it, upon all occasions and towards all persons, it will never be a part of yourself.”

The Ladies Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness

Author: Florence Hartley Published: 1860


Chapter I.


Chapter II.


Chapter III.


Chapter IV.

How to Behave at a Hotel

Chapter V.

EVENING Parties--etiquette for the Hostess

Chapter VI.

EVENING Parties--etiquette for the Guest

Chapter VII.

Visiting--etiquette for the Hostess

Chapter VIII.

Visiting--etiquette for the Guest

Chapter IX.

MORNING RECEPTIONS OR Calls--etiquette for the Hostess

Chapter X.

MORNING RECEPTIONS OR Calls--etiquette for the Caller

Chapter XI.

DINNER Company--etiquette for the Hostess

Chapter XII.

DINNER Company--etiquette for the Guest

Chapter XIII.

Table Etiquette

Chapter XIV.

Conduct in the Street

Chapter XV.

Letter Writing

Chapter XVI.

Polite Deportment and Good Habits

Chapter XVII.

Conduct in Church

Chapter XVIII.

BALL ROOM Etiquette--for the Hostess

Chapter XIX.

BALL ROOM Etiquette--for the Guest

Chapter XX.

Places of Amusement

Chapter XXI.


Chapter XXII.


Chapter XXIII.

On a Young Lady's Conduct When Contemplating Marriage

Chapter XXIV.

Bridal Etiquette

Chapter XXV.

Hints on Health

Chapter XXVI.



For the Complexion



An English writer, speaking of servants, says:--

"There is no question but that we should seek to perform all our duties without hope of recompense; and yet, as regards our treatment of servants, we should be especially careful that, in endeavoring to make their bodily comfort and mental improvement an object of consideration, we do not allow ourselves to dwell on the hope of gratitude or affection from them in return. Many have done so, and having, with that view, been tempted to accord unwise indulgences and to overlook serious faults, they have found that, far from gaining the love of their servants, they have incurred their contempt; and when they have perceived that their favors, unappreciated, have led but to new encroachments, they have hardened their hearts and rushed into an opposite extreme. Then they have considered their servants as mere machines, from which labor must be extorted by all available means.

"A man servant is rarely grateful, and seldom attached. He is generally incapable of appreciating those advantages which, with your cultivated judgment, you know to be the most conducive to his welfare. Do you accord to him regular hours, a stated allowance of work; do you refrain from sending him out because it is wet and he is unwell; do you serve yourself rather than ring for him at dinner time; he will rarely have the grace to thank you in his heart for your constant consideration. Hear him! He will thus describe a comfortable place:--'There were very few in the family; when they went out of a night, we made it up of a morning; we had nice hot suppers, and the cook made a good hash for breakfast, and we always got luncheon between that and dinner; and we were all very comfortable together, and had a friend in when we liked. Master swore at us sometimes, but often made us a present for it when he had been very violent; a good-hearted man as ever lived, and mistress was quite the lady, and never meddled with servants. It was a capital place!'

"Servants' sympathies are with their equals. They feel for a poor servant run off his legs, and moped to death; they have no feeling for a pains-taking mistress, economical both from principle and scanty means; they would (most of them) see her property wasted, and her confidence abused without compunction. It is the last effort of a virtue in a servant if, without any private reason, he should discharge his duty by informing you of the injury which you are enduring at the hands of his fellow servant. It is an effort of virtue, for it will bring down many a bitter taunt and hard word upon his faithful head. 'I never got a servant out of a place by telling tales on him,' will be said to him. Directly a servant departs, we all know, tongues, tied before, are loosed, to gain our favor by apparent candor. When it can avail us nothing, we are told. We all know this, and have said, 'Be silent now, you should have mentioned this at the time.' Supposing, then, you have the rara avis, the servant that 'speaks at the time,' be chary of him, or let me say her, (the best servants are women.) Oh! as you value her, let her not suppose you cannot part with her. Treat her with confidence, but with strict impartiality; reprove when necessary, mildly, but decidedly; lest she should presume (power is so tempting), and compel you, if you would retain your freedom, to let her go.

"There is one thing a man servant values beyond all that your kindness and your consideration can do for him--his liberty; liberty to eat, drink, and be merry, with your things in the company of his own friends; liberty to get the housemaid to clean his candlesticks, and bring up his coals; and the housemaid wishes for liberty to lie in bed in the morning, because she was up so late talking to John in the pantry; liberty to wear flounces and flowers. The cook desires liberty too. For this liberty, if you grant it, they will despise you; if you deny it, they will respect you. Aim at their esteem; despair of their love or gratitude; make your place what the best class of servants will value, and, though in their heart, they may not thank you for it, you will gain, perhaps, one servant out of twenty who will keep gross imposition and gross immorality at bay.

"These remarks can never be intended to deny the warm attachment of female servants to the children of their employers. Deep love, no doubt, is lavished by many a woman on the babe she has nursed. There is a great deal to be said on the chapter of nurses which would require to be dealt with by itself. Much wisdom is required in the administration of a nursery, to which few general rules would apply. Cruel is the tyranny the nurse frequently practises on the parent, who often refrains from entering her nursery, not from want of love to her children, but positive dread of the sour looks which greet her. Let her be firm, let no shrinking from grieving her darling, who would 'break his heart if his Nanna went,' deter her from discharging the encroaching servant.

"I know a lady who was quietly informed by her nurse that she must have a 'specified hour' for visiting her children, for that her entering without ceremony was most inconvenient. The poor young lady, who was fully persuaded her delicate infant would die, if removed to a stranger's hands, meekly obeyed, and though tortured by the cries of the poor sickly baby, never dared to intrude lest the nurse should abandon it. This is a true history, and the sequel may as well be given: that the nurse remained seven years, at the end of which time, having become insupportable, though really devoted to the children, she gave warning, and, though it cost her mistress bitter tears and much resolution, she was suffered to depart, and then peace entered that house.

"On the choice of servants much of the comfort of the young housekeeper depends. It often happens that her choice has been determined by appearance rather than the value of character. If such be the case, she will have many difficulties to encounter. It is, in the present day, hardly safe to take a servant if there be a single objection to character, however it may be glossed over by the person referred to on this point; for there is now an unhealthy disposition to pass over the failings of servants who have left their places, and to make them perfect in the eyes of others. In respect to sobriety, many people will not acknowledge that a servant had had the vice of drinking, but will cover the unpleasant truth in such gentle and plausible terms that it becomes difficult to comprehend how far the hint is grounded, or not. Be assured when a lady or gentleman hesitates on this point, or on that of honesty, it is wiser not to engage a servant. Nor are you deviating from Christian charity in not overlooking a dereliction of so material a sort. The kindest plan to the vast community of domestic servants is to be rigid in all important points, and having, after a due experience, a just confidence in them, to be somewhat indulgent to errors of a more trivial nature.

"If all young housekeepers were strict upon the subject of dress, much misery to servants would be saved, much temptation avoided, and self-reproach prevented. Instead of this kind, and wise, and matronly particularity, a type of the good, old-fashioned common sense of our grandmothers, ladies now countenance their ladies'-maids in discontinuing caps, or, if they have caps, in wearing flowers and lace, flowered gowns, and other items of little apparent moment in detail, but of much importance to a community as serviceable to the public when well managed and respectable, as they are odious and noxious when immoral or insolent. After these cruel indulgences, ladies marvel when they find servants rise above their station and that they will not bear even a mild reproof; they wonder that a plain, useful servant is nowhere to be met with. There is now no medium between the fine lady with mittens and flowers who dresses your hair, and the dirty sloven of a lodging-house. All housemaids must now be upper housemaids; cooks must be cooks and housekeepers. The homely housemaid--that invaluable character in her way--is indeed difficult to be found; and, at a time when cleanliness is at its zenith, the rarity is to discover any one who will clean. All, except the raw country girl, expect to have deputies; and, if we go on to perfection in this unhealthy system, we shall soon have no working servants above twenty years of age. The consequence is, that a greater number of servants are kept in every household than formerly in similar families; many of these menials are corrupted by congregating together and by idleness. The loud and crying complaints of the worthlessness of this class are but too justly founded. That they are more mercenary than ever, is owing to the pernicious system which lifts them up above their condition, but fails to elevate them in the moral standard. In the scale of virtue they sink every day lower and lower; in the outward attributes they are, as they consider it, raised in character and improved in appearance.

"But is it so? The beauty of every thing is fitness. Is the half-fine, unlady-like, yet lady-like creature, who answers to your dressing-room bell, half so respectable as the old-fashioned, plainly dressed, careful, homely maiden of your young days? Is it not with a feeling of disgust that you turn from the attempted finery, and sigh for plain collars, and caps undecked by flowers, again? I think, among the best-bred, the most sensible, and, indeed, the most highly born people of a superior stamp, this disgust is so strong that, in some families, a grave and suitable costume is introduced for the female servants, and the effect is satisfactory, both on the appearance and on the mode of thinking of these persons. But this wise, and therefore kind plan, is far from being general; and I have heard that a lady's-maid complained to her mistress that she found herself the subject of ridicule, owing to her not wearing silks, and indeed satins, as the other ladies'-maids did.

"It becomes the duty of ladies of influence to rise above the silly vanity which, I fear, affects some of them, of seeing their ladies'-maids as smart as ladies, and to oppose innovations on the decencies of society, so pernicious to the class upon whom much of our comfort depends. In setting out in life, a young married lady ought to be more than ordinarily strict in these matters, for her inexperience will certainly be taken advantage of to some extent. If she be rich enough to have a housekeeper, let her endeavor to select one of strict religious faith, plain in attire, grave, but kind, and of good sense, and even intelligence; for cultivation of mind will never, whatever may be stated, detract from the utility of a servant. It is absurd to attribute to the diffusion of knowledge the deterioration of servants; it is rather owing to the scanty amount of knowledge among them. Most superficial is the education about which so much is said and written; were servants more thoroughly grounded in many branches of knowledge, they would be wiser, less rapacious, more systematic, and better contented than they are. They are wretched reasoners, generally losing sight of their own true interest, and grasping at that which is unreal and visionary. If they were better educated, this would not be the case; they would be less vain, less credulous; they would know what qualities to respect; they would weigh better the advantage of their lot; and they would work better as servants. They would give mind, where now they only give hands; and their acquirements, taken from school as they are in very early youth, are not ever likely to be such as to make the routine of their work distasteful to them, from over refinement or cultivation.

"It is always desirable to have, if possible, servants of one faith. But if it so happens that you have a Roman Catholic servant and a Protestant in your service, you are bound to allow each the free exercise of her religion, and you ought not to respect them if, out of interest, they will conform to yours. An exercise of authority on this point amounts, in my opinion, to an act of tyranny, and it can only tend to promote insincerity, and, perhaps, engender scepticism in its object. Nothing is, indeed, so dangerous as to unsettle the faith of the lower classes, who have neither time nor opportunity of fairly considering subjects of religious controversy.

"While on the subject of servants, I must deprecate the over-indulgence of the present system towards them. Formerly they were treated with real kindness, but it was the kindness that exacted duty in return, and took a real interest in the welfare of each servant. The reciprocal tie in former times between servant and master was strong, now it is wholly gone. The easy rule of masters and mistresses proceeds far more from indifference than from kindness of heart; for the real charity is to keep servants steadily to their duties. They are a class of persons to whom much leisure is destruction; the pursuits of their idle hours are seldom advantageous to them, and theirs are not minds which can thrive in repose. Idleness, to them, is peculiarly the root of all evil, for, if their time is not spent in vicious amusements, it is often passed in slander, discontent, or vanity. In writing thus, I do not recommend a hard or inconsiderate system to servants. They require, and in many instances they merit, all that can be done to alleviate a situation of servitude. They ought not to be the slaves of caprice or the victims of temper. Their work should be measured out with a just hand; but it should be regularly exacted in as much perfection as can be expected in variable and erring human nature.

"Another point on which I would recommend firmness is that of early hours. In this respect example is as important as precept; but, however uncertain you may be yourself, I would not relax a rule of that kind. For every comfort during the day depends upon the early rising of your servants. Without this, all their several departments are hurried through or neglected in some important respect.

"Your mode of address to servants must be decisive, yet mild. The authoritative tone I do not recommend. It is very unbecoming to any young person, and it rarely attains the end desired; but there is a quiet dignity of deportment which few servants ever can resist. This should be tempered with kindness, when circumstances call it forth, but should never descend to familiarity. For no caution is more truly kind than which confines servants strictly to their own sphere.

"Much evil results from the tendency, more especially of very young, or of very old mistresses of families, to partiality. Commonly, one servant becomes the almost avowed favorite; and it is difficult to say whether that display of partiality is the more pernicious to the servant who is the object of it, or to the rankling and jealous minds of the rest of the household. It is true that it is quite impossible to avoid entertaining a greater degree of confidence in some servants than in others; but it should be shown with a due regard to the feelings of all. It is, of course, allowable towards those who take a decidedly responsible and confidential situation in a household. Still, never let such persons assume the reins of government; let them act the part of helmsman to the vessel, but not aspire to the control of the captain.

"It is generally wise and right, after a due experience of the principles and intentions of servants, to place confidence in their honesty, and to let them have the comfort of knowing that you do so. At the same time, never cease to exercise a system of supervision. The great principle of housekeeping is regularity; and without this (one of the most difficult of the minor virtues to practice) all efforts to promote order must be ineffectual. I have seen energetic women, clever and well-intentioned, fail in attaining a good method, owing to their being uncertain in hours, governed by impulse, and capricious. I have seen women, inferior in capacity, slow, and apathetic, make excellent heads of families, as far as their household was concerned, from their steadiness and regularity. Their very power of enduring monotony has been favorable to their success in this way, especially if they are not called upon to act in peculiar and difficult cases, in which their actual inferiority is traceable. But these are not the ordinary circumstances of life.

"In closing these remarks on the management of servants, let me exhort you never to forget that they are fellow-laborers, in the life of probation, with ourselves; let us not embitter their lives by harshness, or proffer to them temptation from carelessness and over-indulgence. Since all that is given us of this world's goods is but in trust, let us regard our servants as beings for whose conduct, while under our control, we are more or less responsible. It is true that, if they come to us with morals wholly depraved, it is not likely that the most strenuous exertions can amend them; but many waver between good and evil. Let us endeavor to excite in their minds a respect for virtue, to give them motives for industry, inducements to save their wages. Those who have large households should not deem the morals of the meanest of their servants beneath their investigation, or too obscure for their influence to reach."

Some attention is absolutely necessary, in this country, to the training of servants, as they come here from the lowest ranks of English and Irish peasantry, with as much idea of politeness as the pig domesticated in the cabin of the latter.

Opening the door seems a simple act, yet few servants perform it in a proper, respectful manner. Let your servant understand that the door must be opened immediately after the bell rings. Visitors, from neglect of this rule, will often ring several times, and finally leave the door. I have known an instance when in a case of severe illness the patient lost the visit of the doctor, who, after ringing some minutes, was obliged to pay other visits, and could not return to the sufferer's house until several hours later.

When opening the door some servants hold it ajar and hold a long parley with the person on the steps, as if afraid they wished to enter for the purpose of murder or theft.

Train them to answer the door promptly, speak politely to any one who may be there, excuse you, if necessary, to visitors in courteous terms, or, if you are in, show the callers into the parlor, take their card, and come back quickly with your answer.

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