From The Lady’s Guide to Perfect Gentility, by Emily Thornwell, 1856:
CONVERSING WITH MODESTY AND SYMPATHY
Always seek to converse with gentlemen into whose society you may be introduced, with a dignified modesty and simplicity, which will effectually check on their part any attempt at familiarity; but never say or do anything that may lead them to suppose you are soliciting their notice.
How to treat flattery.--If a gentleman approaches you with words of flattery, and profuse attentions, especially after a short acquaintance, extend no encouraging smile or word; for a flatterer can never be otherwise than an unprofitable companion. It is better by a dignified composure, to appear not to notice, than, with smiles and blushes, to disclaim flattery; since these are frequently considered as encouragements for further effusions of these “painted words.”
How to address young gentlemen.—Do not be tempted to indulge in another proof of feminine indecorum, which may be countenanced, but can never sanctioned by example; that of addressing young gentlemen of your acquaintance, who are unconnected with you, by their Christian names. It opens the way to unpleasant familiarities on their part, more effectually than you can well imagine, unless you have been taught the painful lesson by the imprudence of a friend.
Undue pretensions to learning.—Avoid even the appearance of pedantry…whether your pretensions to learning are well founded or not; the simple fact that you aim to appear learned, that you deal much in allusion to the classics, or the various departments of science, with an evident intention to display your familiarity with them, will be more intolerable than absolute ignorance.
Against sarcastic remarks.—Be careful also how you indulge in sarcasm. If you are constitutionally inclined to this, you will find that there is no point in your character which needs to be more faithfully guarded. It too often happens, that those who possess this talent use it indiscriminately; and perhaps even more frequently to confound modest and retiring virtue than to abash bold and insolent vice. But be assured that it is a contemptible triumph that is gained, when, by the force of sarcasm, the lips of a deserving individual are sealed, and the countenance crimsoned with blushes.
Things, words, and sayings, to be avoided in conversation.—Do not use such words as “I guess,” “I calculate,” “I expect,” “I reckon,” too often, and, as they are generally used, out of place.
Laugh not at your own story; if it have any wit, it will be appreciated.
Speaking of any distant person, it is the height of rudeness to point at him.
Do not forget names, nor mistake one name for another. To speak of Mr. What-d’ye-call-him, or You-know-who, Mrs. Thingum, What’s-her-name, or How-d’ye-call-her, is exceedingly coarse and unlady-like. It is the same to begin a story, without being able to finish it, breaking off in the middle with the exclamation “I’ve forgot the rest.”
MODELS AND PLANS FOR VARIOUS LETTERS AND NOTES PERTAINING TO DOMESTIC MATTERS, FRIENDSHIP, LOVE, MARRIAGE, ENTERTAINMENTS, ETC., ETC.
A young lady to her mother, on entering a boarding-school
Troy, Jan. 1st, 1855
My Dear Mother:
As you are, no doubt, desirous to hear whether I am both well and happy in the new scene of life to which I have been introduced, I avail myself of the first opportunity to ease your anxiety upon this subject. My health has been uniformly good since we last parted; indeed, I may say that it is rather improved, owing, probably, to the change of air, and the regulations made in regard to our diet, duties and exercise.
On missing your company, and that of my father, sisters, and brothers, and meeting with a number of new associates in the persons of my school-fellows, I felt myself at first in rather low spirits, and it was some time before I could reconcile myself to the loss of the comforts and indulgences of home. But I have now surmounted all unpleasant feelings in these particulars, and can truly say that I am as contented and happy, almost, as I used to be at home; I will not say quite, since I am separated from the presence of my dear parents.
You may gather, therefore, from what I have said, that I have no cause to find fault with any one of those in whose charge I have been placed, or with any of my school-fellows; indeed, I am confident that in a short time I shall have formed some delightful friendships. I feel assured that this favorable intelligence will give you delight; and may I hope soon to be cheered by news equally satisfactory from my much loved home! Believe me, my dear mother,
Your affectionate daughter,
Invitation to a pic-nic party.
My Dear Miss Welby;
I am endeavoring to form a small party to visit Lenox on Tuesday next. We propose to make the trip by water, and have engaged a boat of good capacity with an excellent awning. Some of the gentlemen who are already engaged to join our party, have promised to row, and our boat will be amply furnished with a cold collation.
On reaching Lenox, we purpose to repair to the wood or park, and then on “Nature’s verdant carpet,” to spread out our chickens, and hams, and pastries, and fancy we are leading a sylvan life. Should you have no prior engagement, will you do us the favor of forming one of the party? Your company will indeed be most welcome. Mrs. M. and your friend Jennie, with a few others, will be of the party. Should the weather permit, we shall start as early as nin o’clock, by which hour we expect our party will all be assembled at Mrs. Sibley’s, that place having been decided upon as being most convenient.
Your affectionate friend,
A lady in answer to a letter in which her suitor intimates his wish to discontinue acquaintance.
I acknowledge the receipt of your last letter, which now lies before me, and in which you convey the intimation, that the position in which, for some time past, we have regarded each other, must henceforth be abandoned.
Until the receipt of this letter, I had regarded you in the light of my future husband; you were, therefore, as you have reason to know, so completely the possessor of my affections, that I looked with indifference upon every other suitor. The remembrance of you never failed to give a fresh zest to the pleasures of life, and you were in my thoughts at the very moment in which I received your letter.
But deem me not so devoid of proper pride as to wish you to revoke your determination, from which I will not attempt to dissuade you, whether you may have made it in cool deliberation, or in precipitate haste. Sir, I shall endeavor to banish you from my affections, as readily and completely as you have banished me; and all that I shall now require from you is this, that you will return to me whatever letters you may have of mine, and which I may have written under a foolish confidence in your attachment, and when you were accredited as the future husband of,
Yours as may be,
A lady on receiving proposals from a gentleman who wishes to pay his addresses.
The attentions which you have so long and so assiduously shown to me have not escaped my notice; indeed, how could they, since they were directed exclusively to me, and in preference to others who, for personal attractions and mental endowments, had far higher claims to your consideration? Yet, as I could not fail to notice, you seemed insensible to their presence: on me your regards appeared to be fixed; in me your thoughts appeared to centre; studious of my looks, my words, my actions, you were constantly alive to the anticipation of my faintest wish, and eager to gratify that wish, even at the sacrifice of your own convenience. I admit the truth, that, pleased and flattered by such attentions, I fondly endeavored to persuade myself that attachment toward me had formed itself in your breast.
Judge, then, what must have been my feelings on reading the contents of your letter, in which you propose to pay your addresses, in a manner, the object of which cannot be mistaken—that I may regard you as my acknowledged suitor, and that you have chosen me as the one most likely to contribute to your happiness in the married state.
On consulting my parents, I find that they do not object to your proposal; therefore, I have on ly this to add—may we still entertain the same regard which we have hitherto cherished for each other, until it shall ripen into that affection which wedlock shall sanction, and which lapse of time will not allow to fade.
Believe me to be,
Yours, sincerely attached,