I had a great time writing Lady Charlotte, which is a tit-for-tat relationship between Albert Beckett and Charlotte Rutherford. Cedric, Charlotte’s cousin, thinks her behavior is an embarrassment to the extended family and sets out on a bid to reform her ways. He chooses Albert Beckett to take on that task, who you will soon find out spouts an awful lot about what constitutes good society.
So, where did I get all this stuffy fluff about behavior? It’s from a book that I’ve used quite a bit in research entitled, The Habits of Good Society: A Handbook for Ladies and Gentleman written by an Unknown Author in 1872.
I wrote a review of the book on Amazon that will give you an idea of its contents:
When writing, I try to be as accurate as possible regarding the times. However, this book goes far beyond what I would term a typical reference. It’s actually written by someone during that time period who expounds on the habits of good society. Some of what I read is an absolute hoot, but frankly all the rules and regulations of how to behave sound terribly tiresome to say the least. Of course, in the 21st century, manners are not exactly at the top of our list these days.
Since it’s written by an unknown author, it’s difficult to determine who this individual is in the scheme of society. They do talk quite a bit about the actions, thoughts, and behaviors of the upper class. However, the lower class and some of their bad habits are mentioned too. In fact, the author characterizes bad society in three definitions: low society, vulgar society, and dangerous society. Good manners, by the way, are the necessity of social intercourse.
The book was entered into the Library of Congress in 1871, so it’s geared toward the latter part of the Victorian era. Word usage is a bit different, of course, like “social intercourse,” which we would probably think of something quite different.
The word “vulgar” is used quite often to describe the unacceptable, and ladies who dare to wear their dresses off their shoulders are guilty of immodesty…among other things.
It’s a heavy and tedious read of over 319 pages in print. Subjects covered are good breeding, education, cultivation of taste, reason, the art of speech, knowledge of English literature, moral character, temper, hospitality, good manners, birth, wealth, rank, and distinction.
Overall, I think the book will be a good reference to incorporate more of the thoughts and behaviors into my historical romances.
To order a copy of this fascinating and entertaining book, you’ll have to find a used copy. There are not many around, unfortunately. Check Amazon and other places on the Internet.