Category Archives: Etiquette

Custom Etiquette Love Men Women

My inclinations lean not your way

Following my post on the ideal exchange for a courting couple, I’ve had quite a few requests for further pearls of wisdom from the same author. So here is more advice on 17th century etiquette. The first is an entertaining example of a letter from an unwanted suitor, and the proper form of reply for a lady of good character.  The second demonstrates how best to handle the sudden arrival of a gentleman during a gathering of respectable ladies.

Love protested, with its Repulse


It hath pleased Heaven you should have the sole command of my affections, with which I am joyfully content and stand disposed to obey you in every thing, when you shall be pleased to count me worthy of your service. Enjoying you I must account my self the happiest man in the world; but being deprived of you I shall not only live, but die miserably; either then reward him who adores you, or chastise him who idolizeth you. Yet must I confess all my good to proceed from you, and that all the evil I can endure must come from your disdain; however hoping that you will commiserate my languishing condition, I shall greedily subscribe my self,

Entirely Yours, &c.

The Answer


If it hath pleas’d Heaven you should love me, you cannot blame me though you suffer by it; should I except the tenders of affection from all such amorous pretenders, I might be married to a whole Troop, and make my self a legal Prostitute. My inclinations lean not your way; wherefore give me leave to tell you, that you would do better to bestow your affections on some Lady who hath more need of a Servant than I have. And if you think your affection ought not to go unrewarded, receive the perswasion which I give you, never to trouble me more, lest you run a worse hazzard by persevering in your intentions. Be advised by her who is

Your faithful Monitor and humble Servant, &c.


A Gentleman accidentally happening into a room where a Company of Ladies are well known to him.

Your pardon, Ladies; let not my coming interrupt your Discourse, but rather give me the freedom that I may participate in the satisfaction.

Our discourse is of no great concernment; we can take some other time to continue it, that we may now give way to yours, which we doubt not will prove every whit if not more agreeable.

My invention, Ladies, cannot want a subject for Discourse, where the company so overflows with wit and ingenuity; but my tongue will want expressions to answer your Critical expectations.

Sir, we acknowledge no such thing in our selves, and therefore let not that, we pray, be the subject of your eloquence lest we suspect you intend to laugh at us.

Ladies, you must suffer me, not withstanding all this, that though modesty interdicts you the acknowledging a truth, yet the respect I bear to Ladies, commands me not only to acknowledge it, but also to divulge and maintain it.

We confess, Sir, the frailty and weakness of our Sex requires some support; and for my own part I cannot look upon any person so worthy as your self to be our Champion.

What power I have to vindicate your person, is derivative from your virtues; and were I so feeble that the supporters of my body were no longer able to support that burthen; yet one propitious glance of any of your eyes would dart heat and vigor through my whole body, and so my feet would be enabled to run in your service.

Have a care, Sir, you do not strain your invention above the reach of an Hyperbole; but lower your fancy to the meanness of our capacity; if you cannot perform it at present we will give you time.

Ladies, I am fearful my company may be troublesome, or interrupt you from more agreeable conversation, wherefore your Servant, Ladies. [Exits, presumably].


© 2009-2012 All Rights Reserved

Etiquette Food Household

How to dismember a hen

These fragments come from a 17th century handbook on housekeeping. Offering advice on everything from blisters, to multiplication, this book was intended as a guide to diligent housemaids everywhere. What follows are its instructions on how to be the perfect maid, and some of the more curious bits of advice on general household management.

Directions for such as desire to be Waiting Gentlewomen:

Be careful that you say prayers morning and evening, that you read good books, and hear Sermons as often as conveniently you can.  That you endeavour carefully to please your Lady, Master or Mistress, be faithful, diligent and suhmissive to them, encline not to sloth or laze in bed, but rise early in a morning. Be humble and modest in your behaviour. Be neat, cleanly, and houswifely, in your clothes, and lay up what money can handsomely be spared.  Be careful of what is given you, or what you have in your charge, that by so doing you may oblige them to be loving and kind to you, and cause them to speak well of you. Do not keep familiarity with any but those with whom you may improve your time. If you are entrusted with any secrets be careful that you reveal them not. Be careful that you waste not, or spoil your Ladies, or Mistresses goods, neither sit you up junketing a nights, after your Master and Mistress be abed.

If You desire to be a Waiting Gentlewoman to a person of honour or quality, you must:

    Learn to dress well.
    Preserve well.
    Write well a legible hand, good language and good English.
    Have some skill in Arithmetick.
    Carve well.

Directions for such who intend to be House-keepers to Persons of Honour or Quality:

Those persons who would qualifie themselves for this employment, must in their behaviour carry themselves grave, solid and serious; which will inculcate into the beliefs of the persons whom they are to serve, that they will be able to govern a Family well. They must endeavour to gain a competent knowledge in Preserving, Conserving, and Candying, making of Cakes, and all manner of Spoon meats, Jellies and the like. Also in distilling all manner of Waters. They must likewise endeavour to be careful in looking after the rest of the Servants, that every one perform their duty in their several places, that they keep good hours in their up-rising and lying down, and that no Goods be either spoiled or embezelled. They must be careful also, that all Strangers be nobly and civilly used in their Chambers, and that your Master or Lady be not dishonoured through neglect or miscarriage of Servants. They must likewise endeavour to have a competent knowledge in Physick and Chyrurgery, that they may be able to help their Mamed, sick and indigent Neighbours; for commonly, all good and charitable Ladies make this a part of their House-keeper’s business.

How to Lift a Swan:

Slit her right down in the middle of the Breast, and so clean throughout the back, from the Neck to the Rump, and so divide her equally in the middle, without tearing the flesh from either part. Having layed it in the dish with the slit side downwards, let your sawce be Chaldron apart in saucers.

To cure Corns:

Take Beans, and chew them in your mouth, and then tie them fast to your Corns; and it will help. Do this at night.

To wash Silk Stockings:

Make a strong Ladder with soap, and pretty hot, then lay your stockings on a Table, and take a piece of such cloth as the Seamen use for their sails, double it up and rub them soundly with it, turn them first on one side and then on the other, till they have passed through three ladders, then rince them well, and hang them to dry with the wrong side outwards, and when they are near dry, pluck them out with your hands, and smooth them with an iron on the wrong side,

How to sit to write:

Chose a foreright light, or one that comes on the left hand, hold your head up the distance of a span from the paper, when you are writing hold not your head one way nor other, but look right forward: Draw in your right elbow, turn your hand outward and bear it lightly, grip not the pen too hard, with your left hand stay the paper.

How to dismember a Hen:

To do this you must take off both the legs and lace it down the breast, then raise up the flesh and take it clean off with the pinnion, then stick the head in the brest, set the pinnion on the contrary side of the Carkass, and the legs on the other side, so that the bones ends may meet cross over the Carkass, and the other wing cross over upon the top of the Carkass.

To make an excellent Plague-water:

Take a pound of Rue; Rosemary, Sage, Sorel, Celandine, Mugwort, of the tops of red Brambles, Pimpernel, Wild Dragons, Agrimony, Balm, Angelica of each a pound: Put these together in a pot; then fill it with White Wine above the Herbs, so let it stand four days; then distil it in an Alembick for your use.

For the Worms in Children:

Take Wormseed and boyl it in beer or ale, and sweeten it with a little clarified jelly, and then let them drink it.

To make a Beef Pasty like Red Deer:

Take fresh Beef of the finest without sinews or suet, and mince it as small as you can, and season it with salt and pepper, and put in two spoonfuls of Malmsie, then take Lard and cut it into small pieces, and lay a layer of Lard and a layer of Beef, and lay a shin of Beef upon it like Venison, and so close it up.

How to keep the Hair Clean, and Preserve it:

Take two handfuls of Rosemary, and boyl it softly in a quart of Spring water, till it comes to a pint, and let it be covered all the while, then strain it out and keep it, every morning when you comb your head, dip a spunge in the water and rub up your hair, and it will keep it clean and preserve it, for it is very good for the brain, and will dry up Rheum.

Booze Custom Dining Etiquette Family Household School

If spitting chance to move thee

These fragments, on etiquette and manners, come from a little book entitled The School of Vertue (1619). Intended primarily to be read by children, it also contains wise child-rearing advice for parents.


Laying the cloth, and making ready the table:

Be sure to be ready, the bord to prepare
at times: as accustom’d with diligent care:
the table cloth first see fairely spread.
faire trenchers, cleane napkins, the salt & the bread,
let glasses be scoured, in country guise,
with salt and faire water, and ever devise
the place most convenient, where they may stand,
the safest from breaking and neerest at hand.

The Nose:
Not imitate with Socrates,
to wipe thy snivelled nose
upon thy cap, as he would do,
nor yet upon thy clothes.
But keepe it cleane with handkerchiefe
provided for the same,
not with thy fingers or thy sleeve
therein thou art to blame.
Blow not allowd as thou shalt stand
for that is most absurd,
Sniffing like a broken winded horse
is to be abhorred.
Nor practise snufflingly to speake,
for that doth imitate
the brutish Stork and Elephant
yea and the wailing cat.
If thou of force do chance to sneeze
then backwards turne away
from presence of the company
wherein thou art to stay.

To laugh at all things thou shalt heare,
is neither good nor fit,
it shewes the property and forme
of one with little wit.

If spitting chance to move thee so
thou canst it not forebeare,
remember do it modestly,
consider who is there.
If filthinesse, or ordure thou
upon the floore do cast,
tread out, and cleanse it with thy foot,
let that be done with haste.

If thou to vomit be constrain’d
avoyd from company:
so shall it better be excus’d
if not through gluttony.

Privy members:
Let not thy privy members be
layd open to be viewed,
it is most shameful and abhord,
detestable and rude.

Urine or wind:
Retaine not urine nor the winde,
which doth thy body vex,
so it be done with secrecie
let that not thee perplex.

And in thy sitting use a meane
as may become thee well,
not straddling, no nor tottering,
and dangling like a bell.

Observe in curtsie to take
a rule of decent kinde,
bend not thy body too far forth,
nor backe thy leg behind.

How to order a childe in his diet for [alcoholic] drinke:
For a childe to make the beginning of his dinner drinke is a good way to breed him up to drunkenesse. Especially if he take it for wanton custome, and not for necessity of thirst. It is dishonest to be suffered and anoysome to the body of a childe. Let not a childe drinke after he hath supt hot broth, immediately upon it; much lesse if he hath been fed with milke. Let not a childe drinke above twice or thrice at the most at one meale, and that gently, and not without reason: who bestoweth wine and beere on his childe beyond reason, defameth and abuseth him more by dishonouring his reason and provoking him to an unreasonable diet.’

© 2009-2013 All Rights Reserved

Custom Etiquette Household

In the privy that annoyes you

Given that this week marks 100 years since Thomas Crapper died, the man widely believed to have been the inventor of the flushing toilet, I thought a few snippets on the history of this most essential of household devices might prove interesting.

It was not in fact Thomas Crapper who invented the internal flushing waste disposal system but an Elizabethan, Sir John Harington, godson to Elizabeth I. In 1596 he published his New Discourse of a Stale Subect: An Anatomie of the Metamorphosed Ajax. Subtitled Wherein by a tripartite method is plainly, openly, and demonstratively, declared, explained, and eliquidated, by pen, plot, & precept, how unsaverie places may be made sweet, noysome places made wholesome, filthy places made cleanly. Published for the common benefite of builders, house-keepers, and house-owners. Harington was quite the wit, and the title is a pun on the slang for urine (stale) and for privies (jakes).

The traditional receptacle used by the Elizabethans was the chamber pot. Chamber pots would be stored out of sight, perhaps placed discreetly under the bed, or in a corner behind a door. They were emptied by servants, if the owner was lucky enough to have any, otherwise people were forced to empty their pots out onto the street from an upper window. The very wealthy invested in a close-stool; a forerunner to the commode.



Elizabeth I had four richly decorated commodes, which she used in her bedchamber, and when touring the great houses of England. Most buildings had privies; outdoor sheds or huts with a bench over an open hole, but it was not until later that waste disposal became more organised. By the 1660s, the wealthy had cesspits installed in their homes, into which all the waste would be deposited before being collected at night by the Night-Soil men. Most homes by this stage did have some running water, but it would be another century before homes were fitted with flushing toilets.

What follows are Sir John Harington’s instructions on installing a flushing loo, complete with Ikea-style diagrams.

Wherefore now, seriously and in good sadnesse to instruct you, all Gentlemen of worship, how to reforme all unsaverie places of your houses, whether they be caused by privies, or sinkes, or such like (for the annoyance comming all of like causes, the remedies neede not be much unlike) this you shall do. In the Privie that annoyes you, first cause a Cisterne, containing a barrell or upward, to be placed either behind the seat, or in any place either in the roome, or above it, from whence the water may by a small pype of leade of an inch be conveyed under the seate in the hinder part thereof (but quite out sight) to which pype you must have a Cocke or a washer to yeeld water with some prettie strength, when you would let it in. Next make a vessell of an ovall forme, as broad at the bottome as at the top, two foote deep, one foote broad, xvi. inches long, place this very close to your seate, like the pot of a close stoole, let the ovall incline to the right hand. This vessell may be brick, stone, or leade, but whatsoever it is, it should have a Current of 3. inches, to the backe part of it, (where a sluce of brasse must stand) the bottome, and sides all smooth: and drest with pitch, rosin, and waxe, which will keepe it from taynting with the urine.



In the lowest part of this vessell; which will be on the right hand, you must fasten the sluce or washer of brasse with soder or Ciment, the Concavitie or hollow thereof, must be 2 inches and ½. To the washers stopple, must be a stemme of iron as bigge as a curten rod, strong and even and perpendicular; with a strong skrew at the top of it, to which you must have a hollow key with a woorme fit to that skrew. This skrew must, when the sluce is downe, appeare through the planke not above a straw-breadth on the right hand, and being duly placed, it will stand three or foure inches wyde of the midst of the backe of your seate. Note that children and busie folke disorder it not, or open the sluce, with putting in their hands without a key, you should have a little button, or scallop shell, to bind it down with a vice pinne, so as without the key it will not be opened. These things thus placed: all about your vessell and elsewhere, must be passing close plastered with good lyme and hayre, [Note: Else all is vayne. ] that no ayre come up from the vault, but onely at your sluce, which stands close stopt, and ever it must be left, after it is voyded, halfe a foote deepe in cleane water. If water be plentie, the oftener it is used and opened, the sweeter; but if it be scant, once a day is enough, for a neede, though twentie persons should use it.

If the water will not run to your Cesterne, [Note: the great washer you shall buy at the Queenes Brasiers in Lothbery at the Bores head. ] you may with a force of twentie shillings, and a pype of eighteen pence the yard, force it from the lowest part of your house to the highest.

© 2009-2013 All Rights Reserved

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