Tag: slang

1860s problems

1860s problems

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Eduard_de_Stoeckl

Regular readers will know that I love old books on etiquette for their combination of timeless, rock-solid advice and things that have turned into baffling absurdities with the passage of decades or centuries. The passages quoted here are from The Gentleman’s Book of Etiquette, and Manual of Politeness by Cecil B. Hartley, 1860. Its publication in Boston shows how, at the time and right through into the twentieth century, upper class English manners were held up as the ideal to which all others should aspire if they were to be thought of as cultured and civilised.

The “hideous Newgate frill” he writes of at one point (see below) is a beard grown only under the jaw line, with shaved chin, cheeks, and upper lip. It was and is indeed hideous. He’s also correct to say that “the moustache should be kept within limits.”

Another thing worthy of note is a…

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Too much impetus in mounting, and other Victorian problems

Too much impetus in mounting, and other Victorian problems

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Firm advice for ladies who pride themselves on saucy chique, very stout persons, and gentlemen who so far forget what is elegant as to smoke in the street from George Routledge’s Manual of Etiquette, circa mid-to-late 1860s judging by the complaint about crinolines, which had gone out of fashion in favour of bustles by the 1870s.

Some of the advice is actually still completely relevant; Mr Routledge’s glove fixation, not so much. “Worsted or cotton gloves are unutterably vulgar,” apparently. You’ve been told.

HancockBored

It is always better to let your friends regret than desire your withdrawal…

If you are yourself the performer, bear in mind that in music, as in speech, “brevity is the soul of wit.” … If your audience desire more they will ask for more; and it is infinitely more flattering to be encored than to receive the thanks of your hearers, not so much…

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What a shocking bad hat

What a shocking bad hat

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I have no idea what's going on in this picture. I have no idea what’s going on in this picture. Quoz!

From Charles Mackay’s Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds (1852), in a chapter called Popular Follies of Great Cities:

“And, first of all, walk where we will, we cannot help hearing from every side a phrase repeated with delight, and received with laughter, by men with hard hands and dirty faces, by saucy butcher-lads and errand-boys, by loose women, by hackney-coachmen, cabriolet-drivers, and idle fellows who loiter at the corners of streets. Not one utters this phrase without producing a laugh from all within hearing.

London is peculiarly fertile in this sort of phrases, which spring up suddenly, no one knows exactly in what spot, and pervade the whole population in a few hours. no one knows how. Many years ago the favourite phrase (for, though but a monosyllable, it was a phrase in itself)…

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