I've been reading and collecting old books for as long as I can remember and was skimming through my bookcases when I came across an etiquette book that my mom gave to me when I was a teenager and suggested I read it to learn how to be a proper lady. I never did read it, I just tucked it away for all of these years, but when I found it the other day, I sat down to read some of the things a "lady" must and must not do according to “True Politeness, A Hand-Book of Etiquette For Ladies.

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The book, written anonymously and published in 1847 by Leavitt & Allen, offered a few bits of advice that definitely still apply today but the majority of the advice would seem utterly outrageous if a "lady" were to follow it in the year 2020.

One outrageous piece of advice was this, "It is not contrary to good-breeding to laugh in company, and even to laugh heartily when there is anything amusing going on; this is nothing more than being sociable. To remain prim and precise on such occasions is a sheer affectation.” I'm almost afraid to think about how proper people in the 1800s would view me if they could see me today. I laugh. All the time. And not only that, I laugh loud and hard with no reserve.

One piece of advice that makes even in the year 2020 is this, "Never give away a present which you have received from another; or at least, so arrange it, that it may never be known." I wholeheartedly agree. There is nothing worse than giving someone a gift that you put a lot of thought into only to see it at another person's home because it was regifted.

But, it's more fun to look at the bits of advice that absolutely don't fit into life today, isn't it? So let's!

Five Outdated Pieces of Advice From a 19th Century Etiquette Book


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