Manners and Morals of Victorian America

Here’s another book in my research arsenal and sure to get plenty of giggles — Manners and Morals of Victorian America by Wayne Erbsen.

It addresses all sorts of subjects such as: Business Ettiquette, Children, Courtship, Kissing, Dining, and so many more. This is just a treasure-trove of information and I hardly know where to begin.

This one should be #1 though:

Beware of Bad Books – one half of the youth in our prisons and houses of correction started on their evil path by reading bad books, or at best, worthless novels. These books are the nicotine and alcohol of literature; they poison and burn, and blast the head and heart as surely as their cousins do the stomach. (1903)

* * *

No wise girl would accept a man who proposed by moonlight or just after a meal. The dear things are not themselves then. Food, properly served will attract a proposal at almost any time, especially if it is known that the girl prepared it.

* * *

Matrimony for women is the great business of life, whereas for the men it is only an incident. (1838)

* * *

Avoid the pen as you would the devil when you are angry. If you must commit follies, don’t put them down on paper. (1887)

* * *

We kiss too much. The principles of both hygiene and honesty are constantly violated in the practice. We might well indulge in a perfunctory little peck on the cheek that means nothing. It ought not to be necessary—but it is—to say that kissing in public is extremely bad form. (1907)

* * *

It is not allowable for a young man to shake hands with a lady unless she offers hers first. Only those of unimpeachable integrity and unsullied reputation should be introduced to a lady. (1892)

* * *

There is beauty in the helplessness of women. The clinging trust which searches for extraneous support is graceful and touching. Timidity is the attribute of her sex; but to herself, it is not without danger, inconveniences and sufferings. Her first effort at comparative freedom is bitter enough. The delicate mind shrinks from every unaccustomed contact and the warm and gushing heart closes itself, like the blossom of the sensitive plant, at every approach. (1916)

* * *

What men want in a wife for the most part is a humble, nattering, smiling, child-loving, tea-making being who laughs at their jokes however old they may be. Women who coaxes and wheedles us to good humor and fondly lies to us through life. (1886)

* * *

Ladies, never marry a genius. As the supply of geniuses is very limited, this advice may seem useless. It is not so, however, for there is enough and too spare of men who think that they are and take liberties accordingly. (1886)

* * *

No lady should use the piano of a hotel uninvited if there are others in the room. It looks bold and forward to display even the most finished musical education in this way. It is still worse to sing. (1910)

* * *

And one more. These are just too hilarious.

It is evident that although a man may be ugly, there is no necessity for his being shocking. (1836)

* * *

Okay, there you go. I didn’t even get a chance to get into table manners or umbrella etiquette or any of the other interesting topics. I guess I’ll have to save those. It blows my mind that those people went to such lengths to have rules for everything. They had waaaaay too much time on their hands.

Which was the funniest to you?

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Comments

Manners and Morals of Victorian America — 6 Comments

    • Good morning, Veda…….I found it really hilarious–and weird. The things they valued back then cracks me up. How can we kiss too much or that books can lead to jail? Good Lord!

      Have a wonderful day, dear friend. Big hugs and much love!

  1. These are all hilarious, but the first one about reading “bad” books. I have to wonder what they considered “bad” in those days. 🙂 Funny and entertaining stuff. Thank goodness we dropped tons of these crazy rules as we went along. Thanks for the laughs, sister!

    • Hi Jan……I can only imagine what they considered “bad” books. I’m sure romance was at the top. Those men didn’t want women thinking about anything like that — or to realize that they had choices and could change that rigid society. Nope, can’t have women thinking for themselves. The one that was really funny to me was “there is beauty in the helplessness of women.” Just crazy, crazy stuff. Like I said, I think those men had far too much time on their hands.

      Have a great rest of the week and laugh often! Love you, sister! 🙂

  2. These are all hilarious!

    Personal favorites:

    “Matrimony for women is the great business of life, whereas for the men it is only an incident.”
    OH, REEEALLY???

    “What men want in a wife for the most part is a humble, nattering, smiling, child-loving, tea-making being who laughs at their jokes however old they may be. Women who coaxes and wheedles us to good humor and fondly lies to us through life.”
    I must say I really have spent my married life laughing at my husband’s old jokes.:-)

    I must also confess that I am probably guilty of reading “bad books” full of romance and inappropriate kissing. 😉

    • Hi Cheryl C……..I’m so glad you enjoyed these. I can’t imagine a world when there’s too much kissing going on. But then, who would want to kiss any of those stodgy, overweight, rigid men who spent their time trying to keep women in line. And “ugly people can exist but no reason for them to be shockingly ugly.” HaHa! How do you propose to do that I wonder. Put a sack over your head?

      Now, Cheryl, don’t be reading any of those “bad” books this week. And try to avoid kissing. Love you dearly! 🙂

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