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Hold the sticky pudding

Some handy tips for all you middle-class female readers of this blog, via the Victorians (and culled from Liza Picard's excellent Victorian London: The Tale of a City, 1840-1870):

"…you must be sufficiently well-read to be able to share in the conversation when necessary, gently introducing subjects of which you have read in the latest informative magazine, and on which the stupidest gentleman can shine. But you must at all costs avoid any hint of being intelligent."

"If about to faint with emotion, make sure there is a convenient sopha on which to subside. Not all gentlemen can be relied upon to catch a falling female in time."

"At assemblies and dinner parties, do not eat more than a bird-like morsel. Never, I need hardly say, drink more than to touch the glass to your lips when called upon to partake in a toast. Alcohol combined with tight stays unfailingly results in unbecoming floridity. A well-trained lady's maid will see that there is a cheering glass awaiting your return, along with a cold fowl."

"When other peoples' children are presented to you, express delight and admiration, no matter how unprepossessing the infants. Resist any temptation to call attention to their running noses, wet pantaloons, or digital nasal explorations. One can only hope that all these matters will be taken care of by some third party such as the nursemaid."

"If invited to your host's garden…[and] if you step in something undesirable, wait until you have a chance to wipe your shoe, discreetly. Try not to carry the offending matter into your host's house, no matter how deeply you feel the original blame lies with him for putting you in this unfortunate predicament."

"If you rely on those slight aids to beauty widely available nowadays, make sure, by prior experiment, that they are not likely to fail you. I have known several courtships brought to untimely halts by eye-black running, rouge rubbing off on to pale waistcoats, false hair becoming detached, bust improvers deflating, and teeth falling out at quite the wrong moment. In that context may I earnestly advise you never to attempt a sticky pudding."

"You should take energetic measure to ensure that you do not waste your charms on an unworthy object. As we all find, time marches on, and destroys that beauty which may be your most potent weapon. Fine whiskers are delightful, but a good income is infinitely more attractive."

Marine Autumn

I owe you marine autumn
With dankness at its roots
and fog like a grape
and the graceful sun of the country;
and the silent space
in which sorrows lose themselves
and only the bright crown
of joy comes to the surface.

--Pablo Neruda.


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