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old school etiquette
July 16, 2009 6:10 PM   Subscribe

"To you, my friends, whose identity in these pages is veiled in fictional disguise, it is but fitting that I dedicate this book." Old school etiquette from the inimitable Emily Post and others.

Etiquette for Americans, by "A Woman of Fashion".
The Etiquette of New York To-Day, by Mrs. Frank Learned.
Encyclopaedia of Etiquette, by Emily Holt.
The Secret of a Happy Home, by Marion Harland.

Harland also wrote a generously annotated cookbook which includes many delightful bon mots:
"Pork fat and pies kill more people yearly in the States than do liquor and tobacco," said a popular lecturer upon conservatism. Perhaps so; but I incline to the belief that bad pastry is answerable for a vast majority of the murders.
posted by lalex (12 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
If bandits kidnap you, look for fingerprints on or about your person. That's a crimestopper!
posted by turgid dahlia at 6:27 PM on July 16, 2009


Wow, that "woman of fashion'' had been mauled pretty badly in the etiquette wars:
Dinners are terribly hard to give; they require practice, as well as experience and money. Unless you can put them out of your mind, do not attempt them. They will be mediocre, in spite of your best efforts, and no one will thank you.
posted by yoink at 6:42 PM on July 16, 2009


I totally love the hand-set typography of that first link. Beautiful.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:58 PM on July 16, 2009


It just occurred to me for the first time in my miserable short life how painstaking of a task it must be to hand-justify an entire book.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:03 PM on July 16, 2009


No post on Post would be complete without a link to Dorothy Parker's evisceration of same. I do loves me some Emily --- finally got me straighted out on the line of succession in gent's formalwear* --- but she can be a little de trop.


*white tie, black tie, suit, sport coat, casual.
posted by Diablevert at 9:59 PM on July 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


There seem to be geographic restrictions on all of these books. I only got snippet views before I turned on my proxy (I'm in Beijing). Just a heads-up for anyone else who's outside of Google's copyright region and is perplexed about the paucity of actual content in the post.

Cool stuff though, once I figured out how to view it.
posted by zhwj at 10:46 PM on July 16, 2009


Thanks for the Dorothy Parker link, Diablevert.
The rules for the finding of topics of conversation fall damply on the spirit.
What a wonderful sentence.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:20 AM on July 17, 2009


Cool stuff though, once I figured out how to view it.

zhwj: please share. I went to Gutenberg for the Emily Post and Marion Harland texts, but cannot locate the others.
posted by ninazer0 at 3:18 AM on July 17, 2009


Nice Post post!

Dorothy Parker's essay I would hardly call an evisceration. She admits that she could use the coaching even if she would refuse most of it.

My favorite Post parody-- PJ Orourke's Modern Manners.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:27 AM on July 17, 2009


My favorite Post parody-- PJ Orourke's Modern Manners.

Drat you (politely) Potomac Avenue!

I just had to buy that after reading a couple of pages at your link.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 6:54 AM on July 17, 2009


No post on Post would be complete without a link to Dorothy Parker's evisceration of same. I do loves me some Emily --- finally got me straighted out on the line of succession in gent's formalwear* --- but she can be a little de trop.

Oddly enough, I always found that Emily Post was very witty and gentle. The expectations were very dated, but I found her really forgiving. She'd often show people behaving badly, but she was quite even handed in her examples, such that she seemed like she was trying to get across "If you wish to wear your underpants on your head, recognize you may develop a reputation for eccentricity, however we’re all a little silly now and then."

And telling people to talk about their radio purchases was very appropriate to the era, just like modern small talk would involve say, a comparison of different MP3 players. Sure her language is cordial to the point of crazy these days, but it’s been about ninety years of language evolution and several editions, the most modern of which lacks the authors charm but otherwise is up to date.
posted by Phalene at 4:38 PM on July 17, 2009


Sure her language is cordial to the point of crazy these days, but it’s been about ninety years of language evolution and several editions, the most modern of which lacks the authors charm but otherwise is up to date.

Well, in fairness to Parker, I think that a lot of what she was poking fun at in the book was a stuffiness and formality which made it out of date in its own time. What makes the book so fascinating is that it is a guidepost to the mores of Gilded Age New York --- Edith Wharton would never have bought a copy, because she would already have known everything in it. A very great deal of the book is taken up with things like visiting cards and country house stationary and what to wear to the opera and who gets introduced to who if you're having both an ambassador and a minor member of royalty over to dine. By the 1920s when Parker's writing, the hip young crowd that was reading the New Yorker would have found advice on almost any of these things ridiculously out-of-touch. That's what she tweaking with her little riff on "If you please, my name is Stimson" --- Parker's already living in an era when a man would go directly to a young woman and ask her out, and if she accepted, maybe take her someplace like the Cotton Club, and then a speke, and then if he was very fortunate indeed, perhaps home. Whereas Post writes of a world of debutante balls and chaperons.

What's especially funny about it is that Post herself was not un-acquaited with certain profound alterations in what was considered acceptable in polite society --- according to this book review, he own life was beset by a front page tabloid scandal when her husband decided to prosecute rather than pay off the editors of a gossip rag who had details on his own extramarital affairs. After the hubbub had died down, Post divorced him, and it was partially to support herself that she wrote Ettiquite in the first place.
posted by Diablevert at 4:03 AM on July 19, 2009


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