Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Tuesday Ten: Victorian Etiquette

As a writer, I’m usually leery of challenging myself, but there are times when it turns out to be fun. And I don’t merely mean making the leap from historical writing to contemporary and back again. I’m talking about moving outside of my comfort zone.

To put it quite simply: my heroes have always been cowboys. *G* Well, cowboys, gunfighters, lawmen, range detectives—in other words, men who don’t have “purty” manners and are basically take-me-as-I-am kind of guys. And pairing them with a heroine who will at least pretend to be offended when he cusses, spits or smokes is a lot of fun. But the hero in my WIP this time around is different. He’s a gambler, a con artist, a snake oil salesman—and he’s the kind of guy who wants to make a good impression. So if he wants to move in certain social circles, proper manners and etiquette are a must for him.

And that’s what has led me out of my comfort zone into the land of the unknown, LOL. Sure I knew the basic customs of the era, but I’ve never had a character that had to adhere to them. But here, for a late Tuesday Ten, (sorry, my internal calendar is a day off this week) are some of the more interesting “rules” I’ve learned along the way, some I knew and have had fun breaking, others were no-brainers (it’s bad manners to pick one’s teeth at the table. LOL. I’ll bet even my most trail-weary cowboy knows that one) but they were all fun.

It was not considered appropriate for a young man to approach a young lady. Even if they had already met, he must still be introduced by a mutual friend a second time before he can speak to her freely.

In a stage of courtship, the couple always walked apart - the only contact allowed was for him to offer her his hand over rough spots while walking

Women never rode alone in a closed carriage with a man who was not a relative

Women did not call on an unmarried gentleman at his home

Men could not be received into the home if a woman was there alone, a family member must be present at all times.

A true gentleman always tips his hat when greeting a lady, opens doors and always walks on the outside. (Sigh.)

When introduced to a man, a lady should never offer her hand, merely bow politely and say “I am pleased to make your acquaintance.”

A gentleman may delicately kiss a lady’s hand, forehead or at most, her cheek. (I suspect my heroes’ have broken this rule a time or two. *G*)

A lady should never be neglected. A gentlemen should help her with her cloak, shawl or any other outer garment she may wish to remove. (A safe bet to say my heroes are quite capable in this area.)

When ascending a staircase with a lady, a gentleman is to go at her side or before her.

Happy Writing!


Kristin-Marie said...

Breaking such rules did cause scandals, of course. A good list.

Jennifer Ross said...

I'm surprised at the one about going up the stairs. You'd think he'd be behind her to break her fall (and with such long gowns, its not like he'd get to see something interesting)

I would like to see a man express his undying devotion by kissing his lady love's . . . forehead. Hilarious.

Nicole McCaffrey said...

I had the same thought about the stairs, Jenn.

And LOL on the kissing. Can you imagine an alpha hero, finally alone with his lady-love, he grabs her, pulls her in close...and places a chaste smack on her forehead!

Susan Macatee said...

LOL! I love these rules.

And I actually did have the hero in my out-of-print young adult romance kiss the heroine's forehead the first time he was alone with her.

Of course that one was a sweet romance. My adult time travel romance is a lot more spicy. The hero in that one breaks a lot of conventions, but of course he has a modern-day heroine to contend with. LOL.