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.
One scene that readers will often find themselves in Lady Charlotte is the interior of a London gentlemen’s club frequented by the characters. To learn more about these gathering places for 19th-century males, visit the link below.
The Gentlemen’s club, or as previously known “traditional gentlemen’s club”, has been tucked away in the streets of London for hundreds of years! Source: The History of London’s Gentlemen’s Clubs
Lady Charlotte believes in soup and soap but is by no means a saint. She is a lady of disgrace but has a big heart filled with empathy for the poor.
Her one pet peeve in is a certain aristocrat she calls a “pompous ass.” Will he be the one to find the redemption for his arrogant behavior through soup, soap, and salvation?
Stay tuned for the release date of Lady Charlotte. The chance to pre-order will be available soon.
To read more about the early days of the Salvation Army in East London, follow the link below.
‘Soup, Soap and Salvation’ may sound a simplistic motto, but it addresses the heart of human need and is embedded into the fabric of Salvation Army mission and motivation.
Source: Soup, Soap and Salvation
“The advantage of the ball in the upper classes is, that it brings young people together for a sensible and innocent recreation, and takes them away from the silly, if not bad ones; that it gives them exercise, and that the general effect of the beauty, elegance, and brilliance of a ball is to elevate rather than deprave the mind.”
The quote above comes from my favorite discovery, which is a book entitled, “The Habits of Good Society: A Handbook for Ladies and Gentlemen” by an unknown author, originally published 1872. Frankly, it’s a hoot to read, filled with, “thoughts, hints, and anecdotes concerning social observances, nice points of taste and good manners, and the art of making one’s self agreeable.“
Because of the information about life in Victorian times, I thought that I would occasionally write a post about the tidbits found between its pages. If you’re interested in purchasing the book, it is available on Amazon, but I’ll warn you that it’s a bit of a task to read. It’s been reviewed by one person – me. For authors, it’s wealth of information.
The chapter on balls humorously begins with the following. “Balls are the paradise of daughters, the purgatory of chaperons, and the pandemonium of paterfamilias.” They are a father’s nightmare, because daughters need new dresses and the brougham won’t be available the night of the affair. Of course, there is always the hope one’s daughter might returned engaged. Balls are apparently better entertainment for young men rather than drinking and gambling and a form of good exercise. There are differences in attending a ball and giving a ball.
In order to give a ball during the season, one must be sure to have a big enough room. Overcrowding is not good for comfortable dancing. One hundred or more attendees constitute a large ball, and below that number it is simply a ball. Under fifty, and you’re only attending a dance. Numbers must be proportionate to the size of the rooms, as one must be able to move around in order to meet new acquaintances. The standards for an agreeable ball are good ventilation, good arrangement, a good floor to dance upon, good music, a good supper, and good company. Remember that the beauty of the dresses worn by the young ladies is only enhanced with good lighting.
As far as music, here are the recommendations. Four musicians are enough for a private ball. A piano and violin are the mainstay. Dances should be arranged beforehand, as well as pre-printed dance cards for the ladies. A small pencil should be attached to the end of each card. Out of twenty-one dances, seven should be quadrilles, three of which may be lancers, along with seven waltzes, four galops, a polka, and some sort of other dance.
Of course, every ball has its wallflower. A young lady, even a plain one, may be a good dancer and should always have some partners. The right of introduction rests on the lady and gentleman of the house, but a chaperon may introduce a gentleman to her charge. How a lady refuses a dance must be done carefully. One should not lie that she has a headache to get out of dancing with a partner. A man should never press her to dance after one refusal. A man should ask by saying, “May I have the pleasure of dancing this waltz with you?” Just because she dances with you at a ball, it does not mean that she cares to have a relationship. On the Continent, a man should never dance twice with the same lady if she is unmarried. In England, men may choose one or two partners and dance with them through the evening without expecting to commit to marriage. And this part, I really love:
“The well-bred and amiable man will sacrifice himself to those plain, ill-dressed, dull-looking beings who cling to the wall, unsought and despairing. After all, he will not regret his good nature.”
Wallflowers receiving an invitation to dance usually give the best conversation, dance the best, and show great gratitude for the attention. At the end of every dance, a man offers his right arm to his partner, walks the room with her, and asks if she will take refreshment.
There is quite a bit more about holding a ball, attending a ball, eating at a ball, and the proper manners desired. I hope you enjoyed this peek into 1872. Now close your eyes and imagine that handsome man in the cravat coming your way. Will you accept his invitation to dance or politely turn him down? Since I’m the wallflower type, no doubt I’ll do my best to make an impression.
I’ve never put anyone famous into one of my novels as a cameo appearance, however, Lady Charlotte has the perfect backdrop to insert an iconic individual into the mix–Oscar Wilde. To learn more about Oscar Wilde, below is a link to his official website. Some of my favorite quotes are below. However, I have many more.
“Never love anyone who treats you like you’re ordinary.” ― Oscar Wilde
“Women are meant to be loved, not to be understood.”
― Oscar Wilde,
“The most terrible thing about it is not that it breaks one’s heart—hearts are made to be broken—but that it turns one’s heart to stone.” ― Oscar Wilde,
“The very essence of romance is uncertainty.” ― Oscar Wilde,
“All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does, and that is his.” ― Oscar Wilde,
“Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead. The consciousness of loving and being loved brings a warmth and a richness to life that nothing else can bring.” ― Oscar Wilde
“Ordinary riches can be stolen, real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you.”
― Oscar Wilde
Welcome to the Frontpage page of the official Oscar Wilde website. Learn more about Oscar Wilde and contact us today for licensing opportunities.