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recognizing friends in the street

No one, while walking the streets, should fail, through preoccupation, or absent-mindedness, to recognize friends or acquaintances, either by a bow or some form of salutation. If two gentlemen stop to talk, they should retire to one side of the walk. If a stranger should be in company with one of the gentleman, an introduction is not necessary. If a gentleman meets another gentleman in company with a lady whom he does not know, he lifts his hat to salute them both. If he knows the lady, he should salute her first. The gentleman who accompanies a lady, always returns a salutation made to her.

our deportment, published 1882, p. 146

recognizing acquaintances on the street

One should always recognize lady acquaintances in the street, either by bowing or words of greeting, a gentleman lifting his hat. If they stop to speak, it is not obligatory to shake hands. Shaking hands is not forbidden, but in most cases it is to be avoided in. public.

our deportment, published 1882, p. 147-148


salutations— the bow

The bow is the proper mode of salutation to exchange between acquaintances in public, and, in certain circumstances, in private. The bow should never be a mere nod. A gentleman should raise his hat completely from his head and slightly incline the whole body. Ladies should recognize their gentlemen friends with a bow or graceful inclination. It is their place to bow first, although among intimate acquaintances the recognition may be simultaneous.

A well-bred man always removes his cigar from his lips whenever he bows to a lady.

A young lady should show the same deference to an elderly lady, or one occupying a higher social position, that a gentleman does to a lady.

Decorum, published 1883, p. 42

salutations— the bow

The manner in which the salutation of recognition is made, may be regarded as an unerring test of the breeding, training, or culture of a person. It should be prompt as soon as the eyes meet, whether on the street or in a room. The intercourse need go no further, but that bow must be made. There are but few laws which have better reasons for their observance than this. This rule holds good under all circumstances, whether within doors or without. Those who abstain from bowing at one time, and bow at another, should not be surprised to find that the person whom they have neglected, has avoided the continuation of their acquaintance.


how to avoid recognition.

If a person desires to avoid a bowing acquaintance with a person who has been properly introduced, he may do so by looking aside, or dropping the eyes as the person approaches, for, if the eyes meet, there is no alternative, bow he must.

our deportment, published 1882, p. 48-49

saluting ladies

In bowing to women it is not enough that you touch your hat; you must take it entirely off. Employ for the purpose that hand which is most distant from the person saluted; thus, if you pass on the right side, use your right hand; if on the left, use your left hand.

Decorum, published 1883, p. 44

shopping etiquette

In inquiring for goods at a store or shop, do not say to the clerk or salesman, “I want” such an article, but, “Please show me” such an article, or some other polite form of address.

You should never take hold of a piece of goods or an article which another person is examining. Wait until it is replaced upon the counter, when you are at liberty to examine it.

It is rude to sneer at and depreciate goods, and exceedingly discourteous to the salesman. Use no deceit, but be honest with them, if you wish them to be honest with you.

Avoid “jewing down” the prices of articles in any way. If the price does not suit, you may say so quietly. and depart, but it is generally best to say nothing about it.

It is an insult for the salesman to offensively suggest that you can do better elsewhere, which should be resented by instant departure.

Ladies should not monopolize the time and attention of salesmen in small talk, while other customers are in the store to be waited upon.

Whispering in a store is rude. Loud and showy behavior is exceedingly vulgar.

our deportment, published 1882, p. 152-153


All slang is vulgar. It lowers the tone of society and the standard of thought. It is a great mistake to suppose that slang is in any manner witty. Only the very young or the uncultivated so consider it.

our deportment, published 1882, p. 90

small talk

It is a good plan for a shy young person, who has no confidence in her own powers of conversation, to fortify herself with several topics of general interest, such as the last new novel, the last opera, the best and newest gallery of pictures, or the flower- in fashion; and to invent a formula, if words are wanting in her organization, as to how these subjects should be introduced and handled. Many ideas will occur to her, and she can silently arrange them. Then she may keep these as a reserve force, using them only when the conversation drops, or she is unexpectedly brought to the necessity of keeping up the ball alone.

It demands much tact and cleverness to touch upon the ordinary events of the day at a mixed dinner, because, in the first place, nothing should be said which can hurt any one’s feelings— politics, religion, and the stock market being generally ruled out; nor should one talk about that which everybody knows, for such small-talk is impertinent and irritating. No one wishes to be told that which he already understands better, perhaps, than we do. Nor are matters of too private a nature, such as one’s health, or one’s servants, or one’s disappointments, still less one’s good deeds, to be talked about.

manners and social usages, published 1887, p. 322-323


table etiquette, general rules

Refrain from making a noise when eating, or supping from a spoon, and from smacking the lips or breathing heavily while masticating food, as they are marks of ill-breeding. The lips should be kept closed in eating as much as possible.

It is rude and awkward to elevate your elbows and move your arms at the table, so as to incommode those on either side of you.

Whenever one or both hands are unoccupied, they should be kept below the table, and not pushed upon the table and into prominence.

Do not leave the table before the rest of the family or guests, without asking the head, or host, to excuse you, except at a hotel or boarding house.

Tea or coffee should never be poured into a saucer to cool, but sipped from the cup.

If a person wishes to be served with more tea or coffee, he should place his spoon in his saucer. If he has had sufficient, let it remain in the cup.

If by chance anything unpleasant is found in the food, such as a hair in the bread or a fly in the coffee, remove it without remark. Even though your own appetite be spoiled, it is well not to prejudice others.

Always make use of the butter-knife, sugar-spoon and salt-spoon, instead of using your knife, spoon or fingers.

Never, if possible, cough or sneeze at the table.

At home fold your napkin when you are done with it and place it in your ring. If you are visiting, leave your napkin unfolded beside your plate. Eat neither too fast nor too slow.

Never lean back in your chair, nor sit too near or too far from the table.

Keep your elbows at your side so that you may not inconvenience your neighbors.

Do not find fault with the food.

The old-fashioned habit of abstaining from taking the last piece upon the plate is no longer observed. It is to be supposed that the vacancy can be supplied, if necessary.

If a plate is handed you at the table, keep it yourself instead of passing it to a neighbor. If a dish is passed to you, serve yourself first, and then pass it on.

The host or hostess should not insist upon guests partaking of particular dishes; nor ask persons more than once, nor put anything on their plates which they have declined. It is ill-bred to urge a person to eat of anything after he has declined.

When sweet corn is served on the ear, the grain should be pared from it upon the plate, instead of being eaten from the cob.

Strive to keep the cloth as clean as possible, and use the edge of the plate or a side dish for potato skins and other refuse.

our deportment, published 1882, p. 126-128

table manners, use of napkins

A napkin should never be put on the table a second time until it has been rewashed; therefore, napkin-rings should be abandoned— relegated to the nursery tea-table.

Breakfast napkins are of a smaller size than dinner napkins, and are very pretty if they bear the initial letter of the family in the centre. Those of fine, double damask, with a simple design, such as a snowdrop or a mathematical figure, to match the tablecloth, are also pretty. In the end, the economy in the wear pays a young house-keeper to invest well in the best of napery— double damask, good Irish linen.

Coarse, heavy napkins are perhaps proper for the nursery and children’s table. If children dine with their parents, they should have a special set of napkins for their use, and some very careful mammas make these with tapes to tie around the youthful necks. It is better in a large family, where there are children, to have heavy and coarse table-linen for every-day use. It is not an economy to buy colored cloths, for they must be washed as often as if they were white, and no color stands the hard usage of the laundry as well as pure white.

Never use a parti-colored damask for the dinner-table.

Ladies who live in the city should try to send all their napery to the country at least once a year, and let it lie on the grass for a good bleaching. It seems to keep cleaner afterwards.

For dinner, large and handsome napkins, carefully ironed and folded simply, with a piece of bread inside, should lie at each plate. These should be removed when the fruit course is brought, and with each finger-bowl should be a colored napkin, with which to dry the fingers.

Large, white napkins are invariably used at luncheon, and the smaller ones kept for breakfast and tea. Some ladies like the little, fringed napkins for tea, but to look well these must be very carefully washed and ironed.

Never fasten your napkin around your neck; lay it across your knees, convenient to the hand, and lift one corner only to wipe the mouth. Men who wear a mustache are permitted to “saw” the mouth with the napkin, as if it were a bearing-rein, but for ladies this would look too masculine.

Napkins at hotels are now folded, in a half-wet condition, into all sorts of shapes: a goose, a swan, a ship, a high boot, are all favorite and fanciful designs; but this is a dirty fashion, requiring the manipulation of hands which are not always fresh, and as the napkin must be damp at the folding, it is not always dry when shaken out. Nothing is so unhealthy as a damp napkin; it causes agony to a delicate and nervous lady, a man with the nose-cold, a person with neuralgia or rheumatism, and is offensive to everyone. Never allow a napkin to be placed on the table until it has been well aired. There is often a conspiracy between the waiter and the laundress in great houses, both wishing to shirk work, the result of which is that the napkins, not prepared at the proper time, are put on the table damp.

Very little starch should be put in napkins. No one wishes to wipe a delicate lip on a board, and a stiff napkin is very like that commodity. At a fashionable dinner no one folds his napkin. He lets it drop to the floor, or lays it by the side of his plate unfolded. When the fruit napkin is brought he takes it from the glass plate on which it is laid, and either places it at his right hand or across his knee, and the “illuminated rag,” as some wit called the little embroidered doyley, which is not meant for use, is, after having been examined and admired, laid on the table, beside the finger-bowl.

Napkins, when laid away in a chest or drawer, should have some pleasant, cleanly herb like lavender or sweet-grass, or the old-fashioned clover, or bags of Oriental orris-root, put between them, that they may come to the table smelling of these delicious scents.

Nothing is more certain to destroy the appetite of a nervous dyspeptic than a napkin that smells of greasy soap.

manners and social usages, published 1887, p. 364-370

table manners, use of fork, spoon, knife, and fingers

The fork should be raised laterally to the mouth with the right hand; the elbow should never-be crooked, so as to bring the hand round at a right angle, or the fork directly opposite the mouth.

The fork should not be overloaded. To take meat and vegetables and pack them on the poor fork, as if it were a beast of burden, is a common American vulgarity, born of our hurried way of eating at railway-stations and hotels. But it is an unhealthy and an ill-mannered habit. To take but little on the fork at a time, a moderate mouthful, shows good manners and refinement. The knife must never be put into the mouth at any time— that is a remnant of barbarism.

The spoon is to be used for soup, for strawberries and cream, for all stewed fruit and preserves, and for melons, which, from their juiciness, cannot be conveniently eaten with a fork. Peaches and cream, all the “wet dishes,” as Mrs. Glasse was wont to call them, must be eaten with a spoon.

On elegant tables, each plate or “cover” is accompanied by two large silver knives, a small silver knife and fork for fish, a small fork for the oysters on the half-shell, a large table-spoon for soup, and three large forks. The napkin is folded in the centre, with a piece of bread in it. As the dinner progresses, the knife and fork and spoon which have been used are taken away with the plate. This saves confusion, and the servant has not to bring fresh knives and forks all the time. Fish should be eaten with silver knife and fork; for if it is full of bones, like shad, for instance, it is very difficult to manage it without the aid of a knife.

After the dinner has been eaten, and the dessert reached, we must see to it that everything is cleared off but the table-cloth, which is now never removed. A dessert-plate is put before each guest, and a gold or silver spoon, a silver dessert spoon and fork, and often a queer little combination of fork and spoon, called an “ice-spoon.”

Pears and apples should be peeled with a silver knife, cut into quarters, and then picked up with the fingers. Oranges should be peeled, and cut or separated, as the eater chooses. Grapes should be eaten from behind the half-closed hand, the stones and skin falling into the fingers unobserved, and thence to the plate. Never swallow the stones of small fruits; it is extremely dangerous. The pineapple is almost the only fruit which requires both knife and fork.

A knife and fork are both used in eating salad, if it is not cut up before serving. A large lettuce leaf cannot be easily managed without a knife, and of course the fork must be used to carry it to the mouth. Thus, as bread, butter, and cheese are served with the salad, the salad knife and fork are really essential.

Salt-cellars are now placed at each plate, and it is not improper to take salt with your knife.

Dessert-spoons and small forks do not form a part of the original “cover;” that is, they are not put on at the beginning of the dinner, but are placed before the guests according as they are needed; as, for instance, when the Roman punch arrives before the game, and afterwards when the plum-pudding or pastry is served before the ices.

The knives and forks are placed on each side of the plate, ready for the hand.

For the coffee after dinner, a very small spoon is served, as a large one would be out of place in the small cups that are used.

manners and social usages, published 1887, p. 359-362

talking with a lady in the street

In meeting a lady it is optional with her whether she shall pause to speak. If the gentleman has anything to say to her, he should not stop her, but turn around and walk in her company until he has said what he has to say, when he may leave her with a bow and lift of the hat.

our deportment, published 1882, p. 149

toothpick, use of

The use of a toothpick of the proper kind is essential to a due care of the teeth, but should be no more exposed to public notice than any other necessary but unpleasantly suggestive article of the toilette.

the bazar book of decorum, 1870, p. 141