How Rude!

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Emily Post coverThe New Emily Post’s Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage
Post
1959

This is a cool book from a nostalgia point of view.  I enjoyed leafing through it (until my lungs exploded from dust and mold spores, that is.)  However, the school library this came from is not really the place for it anymore.  Kids aren’t interested, and teachers can’t teach from it because it’s so horribly old fashioned.  Check out these excerpts:

The Governess

[Above:] A governess?  When was the last time people used that term? And, wow, that would NOT have been the job for me in 1959 if those were the expectations.
trousseau
[Above:] No one has a trousseau.  They just load up on expensive crap on their wedding gift registry.  I have been married since 1996, and I still don’t own half of this stuff.  8 sheets for each bed? 2 blanket covers made of “washable silk or fine cotton”?  Nope.

lady with no maid

[Above:] “Paying a visit to a lady who has no maid.” Ha ha ha ha ha!!  When I go to Mary’s house, she always says it’s the maid’s day off.  She’s never invited me onto her “veranda,” though. How rude!

visiting cards

[Above:] Visiting cards?  That’s kind of nice, actually.  Completely impractical in the age when a tweet of “@librarymary40 Headed ur way, get out the fine china” would suffice, but…nice.

23 comments

  1. Wow! Those pages are something else! She’s rather hard on governesses. It’s like she has a personal grudge against them. The contrast with the tutor is startling. Young Attractive Male vs Some Old Lady. Has she never read Jane Eyre?

  2. While the manners portrayed here are a little too stiff and formal for modern life, I do think we’ve lost something. It used to be that people knew what to do in a given situation, and now many of us just don’t.

    On the other hand: Manners this formal were partially a way of separating haves from have-nots. And these days I’d be pleased just to see people not be rude jerks in public.

    (Does that make me sound old? I’m only 32.)

  3. Would this be a bad time to admit that I own the 1947 edition, and that I learned most of these rules at my grandmother’s knee? For reference, I’m 43.

  4. I own a 1950 edition and I think it’s fantastic! One rule I like is that you’re supposed to call your in-laws “Mother So-and-so” and “Father So-and-so.” I wish we still did this. Using their first names feels too informal and using “Mr.” and “Mrs.” feels too distant.

  5. I forget if it was Emily Post or some other manners maven who later said not to confuse manners with formalism. We all use (and need) manners in our specific (sub)cultures, but shouldn’t get all het up because someone doesn’t act so very formal.

  6. Groucho: “Ah, Mrs. Rittenhouse. Would you like to pass out on the veranda? Or would you rather pass out right here?”

  7. I have to weigh in on this interesting selection and the ‘obsolete’ reason for its inclusion. When I was at the Wayne County Jail (as librarian lol) it came as a surprise to me that BY FAR the most popular reference book to the inmates was Etiquette by Emily Post (a hard bound copy from abt 1959 like yours). I’ve no idea why but they copied various chapters all the time. I found this to be sociologically significant, but to what extent I do not know. Seeing as this was just a few years ago, I would suggest you may not have realized its current relevance, even if it is to an unsuspected segment of the population, albeit one maybe starving to learn about etiquette.

  8. This seems so much older than 1959. I have an etiquette book from the ’50s that I bought at the library book sale just for the fun of it, and while there was some expectation of having maids and whatnot, they acknowledged that that was largely a thing of the past. There was certainly nothing about governesses (did they even EXIST in the 1950s?).

    The parts I remember most from mine were how much the help is allowed to discipline the children (not very, unless they’ve been with the family a long time and are considered practically family themselves) and when ladies should remove their gloves (rarely).

    I did have an etiquette book when I was little that was by American Girl, which (oddly) culminated in “What to do when you meet the queen.” Of course there is a place in every library for etiquette books, but not 50 year old ones. Times have changed, and so have standards of etiquette. Half the things that were considered obligatory then would be considered rude or snobbish now.

  9. Hehe, oddly enough I graduated from the English Nanny & Governess school a few years ago and am technically considered a governess. I almost never refer to myself as such, but the term is still used occasionally.

  10. @Kaitie- Does your employer provide you with a well-appointed sitting room? 🙂

  11. Something your cook makes? LOL My cook, maid and governess are all in the sitting room enjoying cups of earl grey.

    I’m all for manners, I think our current society is rather lacking in that dept but some of this stuff is a bit ridiculous.

  12. I read the version after this (I think it was 1964) with utter fascination when I was a high school student in 1972. After all these years, I remember the amazing heated, three-level lazy susans on castors that one was supposed to use to host a dinner party if one did not have “help”.

  13. I think the “Blue Book of Social Usage” would have been for the upper class, not for the middle and lower class person, who would have needed less formality. I think there was a different book for “regular, everyday” (plebian?) people.

  14. at their nanny’s kActually Dinah, I think books like this were written for the upwardly mobile, who weren’t taught manners by their nannies.

  15. Oooh–as a writer who does a fair amount of historical short stories, this is very cool. But yeah, not for a general collection.

  16. “How do you do, Mrs. Jones. Please come in. Allow me to serve you some tap water in an old jelly jar. Would you rather sit on this folding chair I rescued from the neighbor’s trash, or this slightly leaning chair I bought at the thrift shop?”
    My ability to entertain has never really involved maids and card trays.

  17. “@Kaitie- Does your employer provide you with a well-appointed sitting room? :-)”

    They do not, but I’ll be bringing it up at my next contract signing 🙂

  18. I actually think this is a good pick (sans mold) for a school or public library where students do one of those “decades” projects. Our students are always in need of closer-to-primary sources to get a better feel for what they’re researching.

    My mother’s Betty Crocker cookbook had a section on serving meals for the family with a servant and for the family with no servant. She got married in 1966.

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