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Gentlemen Etiquette

For the gentlemen of the 1800s, what to do and what not to do was to be well rehearsed for when out and about in society.

Entry last updated on 06/29/2018; Authored by Renee Warren; Content ©www.JaneAusten.org



In today's world, where it seems that the Gentlemen is a thing of the past, it is hard to imagine a society where rules once governed "gentlemanly" behavior. In Jane Austen's Regency Period, there stood a set of hard and fast rules meant to dictate one's actions in a public and private setting. The gentlemen was most often born from good breeding or through an effort to assimilate to society's expectations and these rules ultimately became a part of his life.

Below are some of the expectations of the gentlemen covering various categories - from types of wine to drink with certain foods being served to one's perfect conduct when in the presence of ladies.

1. Gentlemen should be introduced to ladies and not vice-versa.

2. Introduce those parties only when they are each sure to get along.

3. Only introduce a gentlemen to a lady when you have secured her permission.

3. Seniority / superior persons should be introduced to lesser ones.

4. When introduced to a lady, always bow and never extend your hand.

5. Letters of introduction should never be delivered by the writer himself.

6. Letters of introduction should always remained sealed when handed over to the recipient.

7. Afternoon visits during summer months are expected only from 3PM to 5:30PM. Afternoon visits during winter months should range between 3PM and 6PM.

8. Morning calls for a gentlemen require him to take his hat and riding accessory into the home with him to not make oneself appear too comfortable to the host/hostess; however, it is expected to leave your dog outside.

8. One day a week should be reserved for personal time so as to be able to accept guests.

9. Stay no more than 30 minutes to avoid overstaying your welcome.

10. A "visiting card" should be left at the visiting residence for the expectation that a future call is made.

11. Rise when a lady takes her leave of a room.

12. Wait until new-announced arriving visitors are seated before taking your formal leave of a residence.

13. Keep a broad range of conversation topics on hand to better adapt your speech to a varying audience; always remember to speak to the interests of your subject so as to be agreeable to them; consider falling back to current or recent historical events when the conversation requires it.

14. When dealing with educated ladies, it is expected that the Gentlemen avoid topics centered on politics and science.

15. Never speak loudly lest one draws the focus of the room unto himself; keep your voice low but audible and clear.

16. Do not resort to slang, puns or sayings in your speech.

17. Never, ever interrupt one who is speaking; the art of listening is an agreeable skill as making oneself interested in the topic at hand.

18. Do not stare at a person while speaking to them as this may distract your company or make them feel uneasy; quick glances should suffice. Never constantly repeat the name of the person you are speaking to.

19. Invitations and letters of acceptance should always be composed of in the first person.

20. For the gentlemen, any correspondence should be printed upon plain paper.

21. Replies to incoming letters should be prompt so as to not keep your writer in waiting, particularly if the request involves a dinner party.

22. When meeting new people, with the expectation that you are to shake hands, remove your hat with your left hand and shake with your right.

23. If you come across a lady in the street with whom you are already acquainted with, acknowledge her and proceed to walk by her side in the direction she is heading; when the conversation is complete, excuse yourself in the proper way.

24. When on horseback and meeting a female acquaintance, dismount your steed and lead it and you approach the lady.

25. A gentlemen's dress should be so well composed that it should never be noted by observers.

26. Never allow your wardrobe to fall out of fashion but also never allow it to be too new so as to be very noticeable.

27. Always dress for the appropriate time of day, let the seasons dictate your choice of colors and style; avoid dazzling patterns and style if at all possible.

28. In evening hours within the presence of family, always wear black; dress up if you expect evening company.

29. A black tie should not be worn when dining outside of the home.

30. When in evening hours, hankerchiefs should always be white in color.

31. If necessary to blow one's nose, attempt to bring as little attention to oneself as possible.

31. Jewelry should be avoided when at all possible.

32. When walking about the town, always wear gloves; a cane is optional; wearing gloves when entering any drawing room is also expected; always put your gloves back on before leaving a dinner table, particularly when you are expected to dance shortly thereafter.

33. If your are required to wear glasses, always choose a light frame of light color.

34. For the gentlemen personal hygiene is a must: hair, teeth, nails, and clothing should all be meticulously kept so as to not bring attention to any one part.

35. When riding your steed on public roads, keep to the left to converse with your company; pass other company on the right hand side.

36. Always aid a lady onto her horse by offering your hand/hands as a support for her foot; coordinate the action by the count of "three".

37. Assist the lady in the saddle by readying the stirrups.

38. If riding by carriage, always disembark the transport before the females; this will place you in a better position to assist them as they disembark.

39. Never stand in front of a roaring fireplace with your back to it.

40. Never offer someone the chair your arose from.

41. Never lose your temper; it can be a signal of ill-breeding or poor upbringing.

42. Be courteous and silent when one of your party is in song or playing an instrument.

43. When leaving a formal engagement (dinner party), it is your responsibility to seek out the hostess and pay her a fond farewell.

44. Dinner parties expecting a large turn-out should be finalized three weeks before the date; invitations should be sent three weeks before the expected date so as to allow your company to plan ahead or decline.

45. If you must decline a formal dinner invitation it is courtesy to provide the reason as to why you will not be able to make the event.

46. It is the job of the master or mistress of the home to assign gentlemen partners to ladies and these gentlemen are to assist the ladies to the table.

47. Dinners of high societal guests should be conducted with rank in mind.

48. It is the job of the host/hostess to arrange the proper seating for the guests so that each may find good company for the duration of the dinner.

49. When first seated at the dinner table, promptly unfurl your napkin and set it across your lap.

50. When your food arrives, do not wait for everyone to be served; begin eating when possible. If your portion is too hot to eat comfortably, appear as though you are preparing to eat.

51. If eating foods with seeds inside, dispose of the seeds by way of a spoon; never spit food out in plain sight of your company.

52. Always be mindful of which wines best accompany certain meals.

53. Always wait for your dish to be sufficiently cool prior to eating; this is utterly important with soups and similar hot dishes.

54. Do not be shy in asking your server what ingredients are in the meal prior to receiving it; in this way you may decline a particular dish, or portion of a dish, before it is prepared and handing to you.

55. Always drink as quietly as possible.

56. When the ladies of the company rise to leave (as a group), it is expected that the men of the room respond by rising (as a group). The men will remain standing until the very last lady has completely exited the room.

57. If you have invited a friend to join you at a dinner engagement, it is your responsibility to ensure their happiness throughout the evening; if introducing a foreigner, give their complete name to the party.

58. If you are an overnight guest of someone, always accept their proposed gestures concerning activities of the day (such as riding, walking, etc...).

59. A guest should always be ready to entertain oneself; this relieves the host/hostess of the commitment to see to the guest's happiness and well-being.

60. As a guest, a gentlemen should never sit idly or remain indoors with the women for long periods of time.

60. If removing a book from the master's library, always gain permission to do so.

61. If you are a gentlemen of modest means, never attempt to tip hired help or servants to the way a wealthy gentlemen would.

62. Upon returning from your stay, promptly send out a letter of thanks to your host/hostess.

63. If entering a public venue where ladies are present, a gentlemen knows to tip his hat to the company.

64. If entering a public venue with ladies in your company, clear their path and lead them to their seats; in the same way, when making your way through crowded public spaces, always lead the ladies; if there is a wall present, position yourself between the lady/ladies and the passing crowds - allow the lady to walk safely with the wall on one side and you on the other.

65. A lady should never pay for anything when in the presence of a gentlemen. If repayment is agreed upon by the two parties, this should occur after the event and in private.

66. Never smoke in the presence of a lady; if approached by a lady while smoking, immediately dispose of your cigarette/cigar.

67. A gentlemen never refuses a gift bestowed upon him.

68. Always attempt to acquiesce to the requests of someone of noble rank or greater age.

69. Silence is better than openly disagreeing.

70. A gentlemen never boasts of his standing or good fortune; if you must speak of your extensive travels, speak of how your travels have changed you for the better.

71. Do not scrape your plate or pick at your teeth. 72. Do not lick your fingers to turn the pages of a pamphlet or book.