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Story Of London Victorian

Victorian Etiquette XII: Habits And Customs


The London Journal, launched in 1845, was one of the most widely read publications of nineteenth-century Britain. Its weekly appearance ushered in the period when mass-market reading, in a modern sense, was born. Between April 12 and August 30 1845, the Journal carried seventeen articles under the heading “Etiquette for the Millions,” written by G.W.M Reynolds. They were clearly aimed at educating the mass readership (mostly the newly emerging middle-classes) in the behaviour expected of them in public. At times trenchant, the views expressed in the articles describe a view of society that is very, very different from that which we experience today. But, perhaps, one that many sections of modern society hanker after. In this set of instructions the question of personal hygiene is raised and useful tips for limiting halitosis or wind on the stomach are given us. WE then learn that over-exercising the brain is never good and can lead to insanity. Boasting is absurd and only a cowardly scoundrel will boast of his victories over women’s weakness!



A Victorian laundress at work.FOR the sake of your own comfort and that of the individuals with whom you associate, keep your person cleanly. Do not imagine that you can push cleanliness to a fault. You cannot perform your ablutions too often.A contemporary writer very justly observes”When we consider the structure and workings of the human frame; when we consider various and complicated machinery; when we consider the repeated and continual supplies animal, vegetable, and other substances, which we consume, and which enter, almost as soon eaten, into a state of decomposition and corruption; that the essences of such digested food spread all through the system, and that a great portion of these essences passes off with the perspiration through the pores of the skin, – is it ant wonderful that our bodies are not in a state d continual disease?”Nothing can be more disgusting than to sit next to an individual whose person, when warm, is offensive. It is not sufficient to wash the exposed parts of the body: the ablution of the whole should be deemed a daily duty.Some persons perspire more than others; and, when heated, especially by dancing, are surrounded by an unpleasant atmosphere. Nothing but frequent and copious ablutions can mitigate, or subdue, this offensiveness.The hair should always be kept in good order: the teeth should be cleaned at least twice a day; and great care should be devoted to the fingernails. Dirty nails are an especial abomination.Persons, who possess a naturally offensive breath, should be particularly careful in cleansing their mouths often. If they cannot altogether remove the effects of a serious; derangement of the digestive organs, they can at least prevent the impurity of their mouths and teeth from aggravating the nuisance. Such persons should eat a morsel of biscuit or a crust of bread frequently, so as never to leave the stomach empty. They should also be very particular with respect to the air which they breathe: we mean, that they should avoid confined rooms as much as possible. When the atmosphere of an apartment is so close that the quantity of oxygen is increased, to the depreciation of the azote and carbonic acid which form its other component parts, the circulation of the blood is quickened, and a species of feverish symptom evinces itself in the human frame. It is then that a bad breath becomes inevitable.For those persons who wish to retain a healthy and wholesome appearance, plain food and abstemiousness in respect to strong drink, are essential. Let the food be plainly cooked; and let it consist of a proper mixture of animal and vegetable substances. Nothing can be more absurd than for persons to partake of food which produces uncomfortable feelings after dinner, and which renders them sleepy or creates wind upon the stomach. They become disagreeable companions, and are often betrayed into downright rudeness.Moreover, gluttonous and intemperate habits produce an irritation of temper, which unfits its victim for society. They also render the flesh impure: and cutaneous eruptions ensue. An individual possessing a countenance garnished with pimples, is not a very pleasant guest at a dinner-table.The cultivation of the mind is as necessary to constitute an agreeable companion in society, as to suit the more worldly purposes of the individual. It, moreover, contributes largely to the health and long life of the individual. The author from whom we have quoted above, says, in reference to this subject,-” However, cultivation must be well distinguished from excitement of the mind, by which is meant any undue activity of the mental faculties or the passions. The greater number of persons afflicted with dispepsia, are either speculators or persons ardently engaged in study. So long as excessive mental excitement is kept up, little relief can be obtained, even by the strictest attention to diet. The mental faculties, to a certain degree, partake of the decay of the corporeal powers; and the exercise of the intellect must, therefore, in advanced age, be of the most gentle and unexciting kind. The aged should abstain from engaging in any undertaking which requires great mental labour. It is fortunate for man, that when old age arrives, his passions lose much of their strength; otherwise they would much shorten life, and even bring on insanity.”One of the best evidences of good-breeding is a due command over the passions and feelings in public; and this mental equanimity is only to be obtained (when it is not a natural endowment) by means of intellectual cultivation It is extraordinary to what an extent all externs things influence the behaviour and conduct o persons in society.Not only is it very improper and highly indecorous to manifest any evil passion in society but also highly prejudicial to the health. Hatred malignity, and revenges retain the brain in a perpetual condition of excitement, which leads to physical irritation. Jealousy also affects the brain; and its baneful influence extends sympathetically to the heart. Fear diminishes the pulsations of the heart, and injures the digestive organs. Envy corrodes the heart; and the effect of this passion is also manifested by diseases of the lungs and stomach. Hence is it evident that a proper command over the passions is not only necessary to the maintenance of all social amenities, but also to health and longevity.Mental cultivation, then, is required to subdue the passions, and to teach us how to conquer improper feelings. True Gentility exists not in wit, wealth, fashion, exterior, or conduct, – but in the Mind; for the Mind must guide the Manners.Proofs of a little mind are Affectation in women and Conceit in men. They lead to an artificial mode of behaviour, which pervades conversation, manner, deportment, and demeanour.They moreover engender false sentiments, and render the heart hollow and insincere.Advances from simple acquaintance to intimacy and friendship should not be made too rapidly: extravagant professions are seldom sincere; or, if sincerely uttered at the moment, are rarely verified by subsequent actions. Let acquaintance gradually ripen into intimacy; and intimacy will soon become friendship, where the two individuals are capable of appreciating the noble feeling.Boasting is absurd. To talk of your own physical strength, mental capacity, or extensive acquaintance with influential persons, is a species of egotism not to be endured. But of all kinds of braggadocia, that in which some men indulge at the expense of the reputation of women, is the most vile and contemptible that can be conceived. To crush a woman’s fame by means of a shrug, a wink, a hint, or a shake of the head, is as bad as to express the insolent vaunt in plain terms. We know that women are sometimes frail; but he must be a cowardly scoundrel who would boast of his victories over that weakness.G.W.M. Reynolds.
The London Journal,
For the week ending June 21, 1845.