Category Archives: Etiquette

Clothing Custom Etiquette

The first Englishman who ever carried an umbrella

These fragments come from The Umbrella and its History by William Sangster (1855). Sangster takes the reader on a whistle stop tour around the world of umbrellas and parasols, providing some intriguing descriptions of the use of the umbrella. The following snippets include his account of the umbrella’s first public outing in England by a man.

The general use of the Parasol in France and England was adopted, probably from China, about the middle of the seventeenth century. At that period, pictorial representations of it are frequently found, some of which exhibit the peculiar broad and deep canopy belonging to the large Parasol of the Chinese government officials, borne by native attendants. John Evelyn, in his Diary for the 22nd June, 1664, mentions a collection of rarities shown him by one Thompson, a Catholic priest, sent by the Jesuits of Japan and China to France. Among the curiosities were ‘fans like those our ladies use, but much larger, and with long handles, strangely carved and filled with Chinese characters,’ which is evidently a description of the Parasol.

In Coryat’s Crudities, a very rare and highly interesting work, published about a century and a half prior to the general introduction of the Umbrella into England, we find the following curious passage: ‘Also many of the Italians doe carrie other fine things of a far greater price, that will cost at least a duckate, which they commonly call in the Italian tongue Umbrellas, that is, things that minister shadow unto them, for shelter against the scorching heate of the sun. These are made of leather, something answerable to the forme of a little canopie, and hooped in the inside with divers little hoopes, that extend the Umbrella in a pretty large compasse. They are used especially by horsemen, who carry them in their handes when they ride, fastening the ende of the handle upon one of their thighs: and they imparte so long a shadow unto them, that it keepeth the heate of the sun from the upper part of the bodies.’

The Umbrella was not used by gentlemen for a long time after its merits had been recognised by the fair sex. Pursuing our quotations, we find an allusion to the Umbrella, as employed by ladies, in Gay’s Trivia:

Good housewives all the winter’s rage despise,
Defended by the ridinghood’s disguise:
Or, underneath th’ umbrella’s oily shed
Safe through the wet on clinking pattens tread.
Let Persian dames th’ umbrellas rich display,
To guard their beauties from the sunny ray:
Or sweating slaves support the shady load,
When Eastern monarchs show their state abroad.
Britons in winter only know its aid,
To guard from chilly showers the walking maid.

It is recorded in the life of that venerable philanthropist, Jonas Hanway, the friend of chimney-sweeps and sworn foe to tea, that he was the first man who ventured to dare public reproach and ridicule by carrying an Umbrella. He probably felt the benefit of the Umbrella during his travels in Persia, where they were in constant use as a protection against the sun.  It was more than probable, however, that Jonas Hanway’s neatness in dress and delicate complexion led him, on his return from abroad, to appreciate a luxury hitherto only confined to the ladies. Mr. Pugh, who wrote his life, gives the following description of his personal appearance, which may be regarded as a gem in its way:

In his dress, as far as was consistent with his ideas of health and ease, he accommodated himself to the prevailing fashion. As it was frequently necessary for him to appear in polite circles on unexpected occasions, he usually wore dress clothes with a large French bag. His hat, ornamented with a gold button, was of a size and fashion to be worn as well under the arm as on the head. When it rained, a small parapluie defended his face and wig.

Hence it was long ere the Umbrella became an article of general use, which is strikingly confirmed by an anecdote we derive from that amusing repertory of facts, Notes and Queries.  Mr. Warry, many years English Consul at Smyrna, described to a friend the envy and astonishment of his mother’s neighbours at Sawbridgeworth, in Hertfordshire, where his father had a country house, when he ran home and came back with an Umbrella he had just brought from Leghorn, to shelter them from a pelting storm which detained them in the church porch after the service on a summer Sunday. Now, as this occurred about the year 1775 or 1776, and Sawbridgeworth was so near London, it is plain that Umbrellas at that time were almost wholly unknown. Since this date, however, the Umbrella has come into general use, and in consequence, numerous improvements have been effected in it. The transition to the present portable form is due, partly to the substitution of silk and gingham for the heavy and troublesome oiled silk, which admitted of the ribs and frames being made much lighter, and, also, to the many ingenious mechanical improvements in the framework, chiefly by French and English manufacturers.

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Etiquette Family

Put not your sickle into another mans corne

These snippets come from The last advice of Mr. Ben. Alexander (late minister of West-Markham, in the county of Nottingham) to his children (1659). Its charm, for me, lies in the certainty of the advice, and in the author’s employment of the odd curious metaphor.

Take heed of wantonnesse, in word or deed, for the snuffe of lust goeth out with the stinke of loathing.

The Cordiall woundings of a faithfull friend will keep thee from the wounding cordialls of a flattering foe.

Regard not vaine talke, they are light leaves that do wagge with every winde.

Put not your sickle into another mans corne, least you cut your fingers.

Weare your cloathes neat, but suitable to your fortune, least on the one hand you be accounted a sloven, or on the other, proud, and vain glorious.

Ride not hastily through a Town, men do think that either the horse, or your braines are not your own.

Make not Musicke your study, for, besides the unprofitableness of it, it rendreth a man suspected of Levity.

Eate not so long as you are able, meates in England, which do most inveagle the stomach, are stewed up in great houses.

Provide not roome in your breast for the passion of feares, by a tedious expectation of what may come; ill fortune, it is as unconstant as good, and a wet day may be as short, as a faire day is pleasant.

Marry not for beauty or unendowed handsomeness, lest you bury your judgement in sensuall affection.

© 2009-20123 All Rights Reserved


When a girl ceases to blush

The following snippets come from a little 18th Century book entitled A Father’s Legacy to His Daughters by Dr Gregory of Edinburgh. The author lays down his ideals of womanhood in the hope of instructing and educating young ladies everywhere:

One of the chief beauties in a female character is that modest reseve, that retiring delicacy, which avoids the public eye and is disconcerted even at the gaze of admiration… When a girl ceases to blush, she has lost the powerful charm of beauty. Pedants, who think themselves philosophers, ask why a woman should blush when she is conscious of no crime?  It is a sufficient answer that nature has made you to blush when you are guilty of no fault, and has forced us to love you because you do so.

Wit is the most dangerous talent you can possess. It must be guarded with great discretion and good nature, otherwise it will create you many enemies… Be even cautious in displaying your good sense. It will be thought you assume a superiority over the rest of the company. But, if you happen to have any learning, keep it a profound secret, especially from the men, who generally look with a jealous and malignant eye on a woman of great parts, and a cultivated understanding. Consider every species of indelicacy in conversation as shameful in itself, and as highly disgusting to us. All double entendre is of this sort. This dissoluteness of men’s education allows them to be diverted with a kind of wit which yet they have delicacy enough to be shocked at it when it comes from your mouths.

There is a species of refinement in luxury, just beginning to prevail among the gentlemen of this country, to which our ladies are yet as great strangers as any women upon earth; I hope, for the honour of their sex, they may ever continue so: I mean the luxury of eating. It is a despicable selfish vice in men, but in your sex it is beyond expression indelicate and disgusting.

The intention of your being taught needlework, knitting, and such like is not on account of the intrinsic value of all you can do with your hands, which is trifling, but… to enable you to fill up, in a tolerably agreeable way, some of the many solitary hours you must necessarily pass at home.

Dress is an important article in female life. The love of dress is natural to you, and therefore it is proper and reasonable.  Good sense will regulate your expense in it, and good taste will direct you to dress in such a way as to conceal your blemishes, and set off your beauties, if you have any… A fine woman shows off her charms to the most advantage when she seems most to conceal them. The finest bosom in Nature is not so fine as what imagination forms.

I would have you dance with spirit, but never allow yourself to be so far transported with mirth as to forget the delicacy of your sex.

I know no entertainment that gives such pleasure to any person of sentiment or humour as the theatre. But I am sorry to say that there are a few English comedies a lady cannot see without a shock to delicacy… Sometimes a girl laughs with all the simplicity of unsuspecting innocence, for no other reason but being infected with other people’s laughter. If she does happen to understand an improper thing, she suffers a very complicated distress… The only way to avoid these inconveniences is never to go to a play that is particularly offensive in delicacy. Tragedy subjects you to no such distress.

© 2009-2013 All Rights Reserved

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