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John H. Young
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On "Speaking One's Mind", he writes that "certain honest but unthinking people often commit the grievous mistake of 'speaking their mind' on all occasions and under all circumstances, and oftentimes to the great mortification of their hearers . . . a little reflection ought to show how cruel and unjust this is". In a section entitled "The Relations of an Engaged Couple", he writes that "A lady should not be too demonstrative of her affection during the days of her engagement. There is always the chance of 'a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip'" On being presented to the Court of St. James -- presumably something everyone should do at least once -- he tells us that "It is desirable to be early to escape the crowd.... When a lady] arrives before His or Her Majesty, she should courtesy as low as possible, so as to almost kneel". There are also recipes for such household necessities as "hair restorative", and he reveals the subtleties of flowergiving with a list of bouquets and their hidden messages: snapdragon signify presumption, white daisies innocence. A gift of dandelions is an invitation to a bout of Victorian debauchery. But it is much more than a collection of rules, and most of Young's advice about how to navigate the quirky mores of the nineteenth century are as commonsensical now as they were then. It isalso surprisingly progressive. Young contended that women were every bit as capable of intelligent conversation as men, and that young men who sought to impress ladies by condescension were guilty of very poor form.
Every page in "A Guide to the Manners, Etiquette, and Deportment of the Most Refined Society" contains something curious, ponderous, or hilarious. It is a fascinating and entertaining look at everyday life in the late nineteenth century, and in many ways the basis for everyday life in our own.
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