Dombey the fake??

119929Dombey, is for many the quintessential authoritarian, emotionally repressed and usually appearing uncaring. His wife, a vessel to deliver his son Paul, his daughter and irrelevance even in his darkest hour he can’t bring himself to hold her.

This is the general reputation for Victorian fathers…however, all is not as it appears.

Fatherhood and the British Working Class, 1865-1914 by Dr Julie-Marie Strange, a social historian at Manchester University is a book that has looked at first hand accounts of the time. “There is a stereotype of the Victorian father which has become a bit of a joke, he is meant to be very strict, completely humourless, a little bit of a hypocrite and definitely not fun, in fact rather severe,” she said.“With working class fathers where there is an added dimension of the stereotype being extremely negative, sometimes alcoholic and often rather brutish.”

However, according to Dr Strange (great name isn’t it) most children described their experiences in a positive light. “The vast majority talked about fathers who were fun, who spent time with their kids in their spare time, fathers who taught their children to be interested in politics, history, religion and how things worked,” she said.

The idea of distant Victorian fathers with too much stiff upper lip to express love for their children was largely created by later generations who wanted to show themselves in a good light compared to their ancestors which sort of saddened me.

Dickens was a fun loving father and he liked nothing better than entertaining, he loved Christmas and playing with his children. Many of our Christmas traditions are due to Dickens…which is no bad thing really.

“When you read stuff about the ‘new man’, it is generally set up against the foil of another, older man who just didn’t do kids and didn’t do family,” Dr Strange said. “But if you look historically the new man pops up again and again, always against this stereotype of the old man as somehow retrograde.

“The context is usually self-justifying, as if to say ‘haven’t we progressed?’”

She added that Victorian comedians used to make jokes about fathers who were left in charge of the children when the mother had to leave. One common theme was that the children would run wild because he was unable or unwilling to discipline them effectively.


Routledge’s Manual of Etiquette

routRoutledge’s Manual of Etiquette is from the late 1880’s, this is a bit of a guess as it bears no date.

However you want to know about manners then the is the manual for you!

Published by George Routledge whose name is still associated with global publishing of quality academic books. This is a great book and goes into some detail regarding etiquette in the ballroom. It is quite an extensive guide.

Also for both the lady and the gentleman as guide on:

Morning callers/calling
Morning and evening parties

and much more…

You can download it here Routledge’s Manual Of Etiquette

Holding the door open

Isn’t it just being polite?

Isn’t it just plain courtesy?

Isn’t it just the basic of manners?

Well apparently not! as twice this morning I had a door let go in my face. One woman actually saw me coming and let the door go just as I got there…I mean come on didn’t your parents teach you to be considerate!

In the Victorian era it was fairly straightforward, well I say that but learning the etiquette and manners of the age must’ve been a bit of a task…there does seem to of been much but some still survive such as holding the door open.

I will hold the door open for anyone, primarily it is for the Lady and knowing how to treat here, it is not being sexist but being polite.

Nowadays some gentlemen continue the social etiquette for how to treat a lady, while others require prompting.

Learning how to behave like a gentleman is easy to learn with some coaching and practice and here’s some top tips!

Remember that when you both enter a restaurant or other public venue, take the lead by opening the door before she approaches it and allowing her to walk through first. make sure you then follow her inside.

Pull the chair out from beneath the table for her and gesture for her to take a seat. Once your lady is seated, help her push the chair closer to the table.

Proffer her your hand to help your lady make it successfully up and down steps or hills especially if she is not wearing the appropriate footwear. If she looks cold or it is raining offer you coat.

You will of course ask how she is doing, how work went, how she feels and what she is thinking about, that way you can gauge how the evening should run.

Always offer your seat on a crowded public bus or train.

With these simple steps you will feel better about yourself and please people around you.


Why Britain Should mind its Ps and Qs

Manners maketh man!

I found this on the BBC today, some thoughts on the etiquette and manners which appear to have all but disappeared. An example from only a few days ago…I was on a bus, some males in their late teens made a scrum on to the bus and one of them didn’t pay. The driver wouldn’t move the bus until they got off…so we sat for about 20 mins, eventually a heavily pregnant lady offered to pay but the driver wouldn’t accept, one male got off but he still wouldn’t move eventually everyone was telling him to get off and he did but that in my opinion is a typical snapshot of the lack of thought, etiquette and manners we can expect today…or is it!

“There is just incredible incivility in this country… people are rude to each other… public discourse is so bad mannered… we have come to assume and resign ourselves to the fact that civility is on a permanent and inevitable downward slide.”

So said David Cameron in 2007, echoing a widespread public view that Britain’s behaviour was indicative of a country careering headlong for hell in a handcart.

I do tend to agree, it does appear that people are ruder, short-tempered, impatient, the usual please and thank you seem to have disappeared.

Indeed a BBC poll a few months later suggested 83% of people thought the UK was suffering moral decline.

However the stand out points are the rudeness and lack of social skills but how often do we consider politeness and recall that?

But now along comes the Young Foundation, a social science think-tank, with a report that says such views are not only bunkum but dangerously counter-productive bunkum. Britain might see itself as rudeness central but when you ask about personal experience, sizeable majorities say they get treated with consideration and respect. Concerns about anti-social behaviour appear to be falling and when asked what is good about living in Britain, among the top answers are tolerance and politeness.

“Generalisations about declining standards of civility are inaccurate and problematic”, say the researchers. “While there are flashpoints of incivility, these tend to be contained to certain places or certain times. But in general Britain remains a well-mannered and courteous country. We still compare favourably to Continue reading

On Courtship and Matrimony Part 2

Ah so young love springs eternal!

At a juncture so critical in the life of a young inexperienced woman as that when she begins to form an attachment for one of the opposite sex at a moment when she needs the very best advice accompanied with a considerate regard for her overwrought feelings the very best course she can take is to confide the secret of her heart to that truest and most loving of friends her mother.

and who do we turn to for sound advice on matters of the heart?

Well not your parents in most cases, maybe a sibling but more than likely your friends who have little or no experience as well!!

Fortunate is the daughter who has not been deprived of that wisest and tenderest of counsellors whose experience of life, whose prudence and sagacity, whose anxious care and appreciation of her child’s sentiments, and whose awakened recollections of her own trysting days, qualify and entitle her above all other beings to counsel and comfort her trusting child, and to claim her confidence. Let the timid girl then pour forth into her mother’s ear the flood of her pent-up feelings. 

Friends in many ways have become family, some times even closer. Now that’s hardly surprising in today’s society where families are so fragmented as opposed to being the centre of community.

Let her endeavour to distrust her own judgment, and seek hope, guidance, and support from one who, she well knows, will not deceive or mislead her. The confidence thus established will be productive of the most beneficial results by securing the daughter’s obedience to her parent’s advice, and her willing adoption of the observances prescribed by etiquette, which, as the courtship progresses, that parent will not fail to recommend as strictly essential in this phase of life. Where a young woman has had the misfortune to be deprived of her mother, she should at such a period endeavour to find her next best counsellor in some female relative, or other trustworthy friend.

Again a trustworthy friend, these are a rare breed in my experience. Trust comes only over a number of years and experience…it’s far too easy to be let down by the people we trust and to find out they are pretenders but back to courting…

We are to suppose that favourable opportunities for meeting have occurred, until, by-and-by, both the lady and her admirer have come to regard each other with such warm feelings of inclination as to have a constant craving for each other’s society. Other eyes have in the meantime not failed to notice the symptoms of a growing attachment; and some “kind friends have, no doubt, even set them down as already engaged. The admirer of the fair one is, indeed, so much enamoured as to be unable longer to retain his secret within his own breast; and, not being without hope that his attachment is reciprocated, resolves on seeking an introduction to the lady’s family preparatory to his making a formal declaration of love. 

Ah a formal declaration of love…it could be none more romantic really. It usually involved:

a formal statement by a plaintiff specifying the facts and circumstances constituting his or her cause of action.

For example, from Mr Darcy to Miss Elizabeth Bennett

“You must know, surely you must know, it was all for you. You are too generous to trifle with me. I believe you spoke with my aunt last night, and it has taught me to hope as I’d scarcely allowed myself before. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes have not changed, but one word from you will silence me forever. If, however, your feelings have changed, I would have to tell you: you have bewitched me, body and soul, and I love… I love… I love you. And I never wish to be parted from you from this day on.” – Spoken by Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice (2005)

Bit of a mouthful really when one hasn’t even had so much as a peck on the cheek but there is a certain charm about it!

But surprisingly after all that…

It is possible, however, that the lover’s endeavours to procure the desired introduction may fail of success, although, where no material difference of social position exists, this difficulty will be found to occur less frequently than might at Continue reading

On Courtship and Matrimony Part 1

Marriage, relationships and of course courting as it was called in the Victorian Era. The root of the word courting comes from “behavior of a courtier” Meaning ‘paying court to a woman with the intention of marriage and is from 1590s.

So here is so fine wisdom from Routledges, so let us look at the First Steps in Courtship:

We will take it for granted, then, that a gentleman has in one way or another become fascinated by a fair lady possibly a recent acquaintance whom he is most anxious to know more particularly. His heart already feels “the inly touch of love,” and his most ardent wish is to have that love returned.

Ah the course of young love, the chase, the catch or in my case flea in the ear and the disappointment! The course of true love rarely runs smoothly, from my own experience it really can be a nightmare (I am happily married now by the way).

In my younger days I was rebuffed for marriage once and it was heartbreaking but I wonder if we hadn’t embarked on a sexual relationship so quickly that rebuffing may not of happened.

Maybe some thing advice could still be of sound use:

At this point we venture to give him a word of serious advice. We urge him, before he ventures to take any step towards the pursuit of this object, to consider well his position and prospects in life, and reflect whether they are such as to justify him in deliberately seeking to win the young lady’s affections, with the view of making her his wife at no distant period. Should he after such a review of his affairs feel satisfied that he can proceed honourably, he may then use fair opportunities to ascertain the estimation in which the young lady, as well as her family, is held by friends.

To be honest I never had a clue how to attacrt the ladies, thankfully God blessed me and I was am/was not a bad looking chap but if I had looked like some sort of jack-pine savage…well what then!!

It is perhaps needless to add, that all possible delicacy and caution must be observed in making such inquiries, so as to avoid compromising the lady herself in the slightest degree. When he has satisfied himself on this head, and found no insurmountable impediment in his way, his next endeavour will be, through the mediation of a common friend, to procure an introduction to the lady’s family. Those who undertake such an office incur no slight responsibility, and are, of course, expected to be scrupulously careful in performing it, and to communicate all they happen to know affecting the character and circumstances of the individual they introduce.

Of course it’s always nice to find out if the young lady you are attracted to that reciprocates as it tends to cut out the inevitable kick in the teeth, embarrassment and broken heart that we would much sooner avoid… and so to the fairer sex…

We will now reverse the picture, and see how matters stand on the fair one’s side. First let us hope that the inclination is mutual; at all events, that the lady views her admirer with preference, that she deems him not unworthy of her favourable regard, and that his attentions are agreeable to her. It is true her heart may not yet be won: she has to be wooed; and what fair daughter of Eve has not hailed with rapture that brightest day in the spring tide of her life? She has probably first met the gentleman at a ball, or other festive occasion, where the excitement of the scene has reflected on every object around a roseate tint.

Sadly it tends to be at a pub or a club and the roseate tint tends to be vast amounts of alcohol nowadays.

We are to suppose, of course, that in looks, manner, and address, her incipient admirer is not below her ideal standard in gentlemanly attributes. His respectful Approaches to her in soliciting her hand as a partner in the dance, &c. have first awakened on her part a slight feeling of interest towards him. This mutual feeling of interest, once established, soon “grows by what it feeds on.” The exaltation of the whole scene favours its development, and it can hardly be wondered at if both parties leave judgment “out in the cold” while enjoying each other’s society, and possibly already pleasantly occupied in building “castles in the air.” Whatever may eventually come of it, the fair one is conscious for the nonce of being unusually happy.

The thrill of first meetings, getting to know each other…that wonderful butterfly feeling when you first fall in love. I believe that still exists today…

This emotion is not likely to be diminished when she finds herself the object of general attention accompanied; it may be, by the display of a little envy among rival beauties owing to the assiduous homage of her admirer. At length, prudence whispers that he is to her, as yet, but a comparative stranger; and with a modest reserve she endeavours to retire from his observation, so as not to seem to encourage his attentions. The gentleman’s ardour, however, is not to be thus checked; he again solicits her to be his partner in a dance. She finds it hard, very hard, to refuse him; and both, yielding at last to the alluring influences by which they are surrounded, discover at the moment of parting that a new and delightful sensation has been awakened in their hearts.

Ah that fantastic moment of mutual understanding and excitement…if only we could keep that for a life time!

On table manners part 3

So the dinner party is going well but are you really going to ruin it by carving the roast with a bread knife or partaking in asparagus in an ill-bred fashion…of course not and Routledges comes up with some great tips:

Always help fish with a fish-slice, and tart and puddings with a spoon, or, if necessary, a spoon and fork. Asparagus must be helped with the asparagus-tongs. In eating asparagus, it is well to observe what others do, and act accordingly. Some very well-bred people eat it with the fingers ; others cut off the heads, and convey them ‘ T the mouth upon the fork. It would be difficult to say which is the more correct.

I never eat food with my fingers if I can help it although it is of course acceptable on some occasions, fruit being such an occasion!

In eating stone fruit, such as cherries, damsons, &c., the same rule had better be observed. Some put the stones out from the mouth into a spoon, and so convey them to the plate. Others cover the lips with the hand, drop them unseen into the palm, and so deposit them on the side of the plate. In our own opinion, the last is the better way, as it effectually conceals the return of the stones, which is certainly the point of highest importance. Of one thing we may be sure, and that is, that they must never be dropped from the mouth to the plate.

Spitting at any time for whatever reason at the meal table is an affront to mankind and should be met with a look of disappointment or utter horror…and don’t forget…

In helping sauce, always pour it on the side of the plate. 

Alcohol is still an important part of any dinner party. A good wine as I stated earlier is readily available for around £5 but the temptation is sometimes to have a touch too much.

If the servants do not go round with the wine (which is by far the best custom), the gentlemen at a dinner-table should take upon themselves the office of helping those ladies who sit near them. Ladies take more wine in the present day than they did fifty years ago, and gentlemen should remember this, and offer it frequently. Ladies cannot very well ask for wine, but they can always decline it. At all events, they do not like to be neglected, or to see gentlemen liberally helping themselves, without observing whether their fair neighbours’ glasses are full or empty. Young ladies seldom drink more than three glasses of wine at dinner ; but married ladies, professional ladies, and those accustomed to society, and habits of affluence, will habitually take five or even six, whether in their own homes or at the tables of their friends.

Continue reading