The Family Guide on How to Be A Gentleman


In Aunt Hetty's Ordeal, Miss King is alarmed by Gus Pike's ruffian behavior and strives to teach him proper manners. She lends him a book "How to Be A Gentleman" that demonstrates how to dress properly, comb your hair, greet people in public, and most importantly--how to hold your pinky finger in the air!  The following Family Guide style excerpts demonstrate manners and etiquette for the Edwardian gentleman.


A gentleman faultlessly gloved cannot go far wrong.
Social Etiquette
Maud C. Cooke, 18-

A man who is badly dressed, feels chilly, sweaty, and prickly.  He stammers, and does not always tell the truth.  He means to, perhaps, but he can’t.       
Search Light on Health
Prof. B.G. Jefferis and J.L. Nichols, 1896

A man with a trivial nose should not wear a large moustache.  Doing so will increase the insignificance of his insignificant nose… Sometimes the end of a man’s moustache are visible to persons walking behind him.  This imparts to him a belligerent, aggressive air, that makes small children refrain from asking him the time, and saves him from being asked the way by puzzled pedestrians.
Etiquette for Every Day
Mrs. Humphry, 1904

A gentleman should never attempt to step over a lady’s train; he should go around it.
As Others See Us
Anonymous, 1890

If a gentleman is walking with two ladies in a rain storm, and there is but one umbrella, he should give it to his companions and walk outside.  Nothing can be more absurd than to see a gentleman walking between two ladies holding an umbrella which perfectly protects himself, but half deluges his companions with its dripping streams.
Our Deportment
Compiled by John H. Young, 1881

If a lady and gentleman are walking arm in arm, they should keep step. The gentleman must adapt his long stride to her shorter steps, else they have a curious appearance.
Polite Society At Home and Abroad
Mrs. Annie R. White, 1891

To look back at one who has passed, even if she has on a new dress which does not fit in the back, is not polite.
The Manners That Win
Anonymous, 1880

gentleman sm1

A gentleman will not stand on the street corners, or in hotel doorways, or club windows, and gaze impertinently at ladies as they pass by.  This is the exclusive business of loafers, upon which well-bred men will not trespass.
-Social Etiquette, or: Manners and Customs of Polite Society, By Maud C. Cooke, 1896

A gentleman visitor who neither shoots, fishes, boats, reads, writes letters, nor does anything but hang about, letting himself be ‘amused,’ is an intolerable nuisance.  He had better go to the billiard room and practice caroms by himself; or retire to the stables and smoke.
Manners and Social Usages
Mrs. John Sherwood, 1897

On the road, the constant care of the gentleman should be to render the ride agreeable to his companion, by the pointing out of objects of interest with which she may not be acquainted, the reference to any peculiar beauty of landscape which may have escaped her notice, and a general lively tone of conversation, which will, if she be timid, draw her mind from the fancied dangers of horseback riding, and render her excursion much more agreeable than if she be left to imaging horrors whenever her horse may prick up his ears or whisk his tail.
The Gentlemen’s Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness
Cecily B. Hartley, 1860

No gentleman is guilty of smoking when walking or riding with a lady.  It leaves the impression with others that she is of secondary importance to his cigar.
Polite Society At Home and Abroad
Mrs. Annie R. White, 1891

A man, … whether he aspires to be a gentleman or not, should learn to box. There are but few rules… , strike out, strike straight, strike sudden. Two gentlemen never fight; the art of boxing is brought into use in punishing a stronger and more impudent fellow of a class beneath your own.
~ The Habits of Good Society (1859)

The power to deliver a good scientific blow may be of inestimable value under certain extreme circumstances…” for a “man may come upon some ruffian insulting a woman in the streets; and in such cases a blow settles the matter.”  “Never assail an offender with words, nor when you strike him, use such expressions as, ‘Take that.’  
The Habits of Good Society, 1859

Gentleman unaccustomed to the management of a boat should never venture out with ladies.  To do so is foolhardy, if not criminal...  Men who cannot swim should never take ladies upon the water.
-Social Etiquette, or: Manners and Customs of Polite Society, By Maud C. Cooke, 1896

Great care must be taken not to splash the ladies, either in the first dipping the oars or subsequently.  Neither should anything be done to cause them fright.
-Social Etiquette, or: Manners and Customs of Polite Society, By Maud C. Cooke, 1896

The Family Guide to Conversation


In the episode Proof of the Pudding, Felicity lectures from "The Family Guide," insisting that "bad behavior must be nipped in the bud!" The Family Guide is similar to many etiquette books of the time that outlined rules for proper behavior in society.

During this era, manners and etiquette were important and closely associated with wealth and status. "Good breeding and polite manners are very important," Felicity says in High Society. "How else can one improve their position in life?"

We begin an exploration of Family Guide style etiquette with the following Avonlea era conversation rules.


Money is never talked of in polite society; it is taken for granted.
~ The book of Good Manners, Mrs Burton Kingsland (1901)

It is a mark of ill-breeding to use French phrases or words, unless you are sure your companion is a French scholar, and, even then, it is best to avoid them. Above all, do not use any foreign word or phrase, unless you have the language perfectly at your command.
~The Ladies Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness
Florence Hartley (1860)

The etiquette of hand-shaking is simple. A man has no right to take a lady’s hand till it is offered.
~ The Habits of Good Society (1859)

The gentleman who shakes hands with great warmth and impressment are two distinct individuals; the one is cordial and large-hearted — the other wishes to ingratiate himself.
~ Manners and Rules of Good Society (1912)

To invariably commence a conversation by remarks on the weather shows a poverty of ideas that is truly pitiable.
~ Frost’s Laws and By-Laws of American Society
S.A. Frost, 1869

Some persons have a mania for Greek and Latin quotations; this is particularly to be avoided. It is like pulling up the stones from a tomb wherewith to kill the living.
~ Treasures of Science, History and Literature
Moses Falsom and J.D. O’Connor, 1879

To use a foreign phrase and then to translate it, is as much as to say your listeners are ignoramuses.
~ The Manners That Win
Anonymous, 1880

When asking questions about persons who are not known to you, in a drawing-room, avoid using adjectives; or you may enquire of a mother, ‘Who is that awkward, ugly girl?’ and be answered, ‘Sir, that is my daughter.’
~ The Gentleman’s Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness
Cecily B. Hartley, 1860

If you talk sentences, do not at the same time give yourself a magisterial air in doing it.
~ Martine’s Hand-Book of Etiquette
Arthur Martine, 1866

Do not, however much you may be pleased with any remark, cry out ‘Bravo!’ clap your hands, or permit any gesture, silent or otherwise, to mark your appreciation of it.
~ Frost’s Laws…
S.A. Frost, 1869

It is well said by a late eminent barrister, that literature in ladies should be what onions ought to be in cookery; you should perceive the flavor, but not detect the thing itself.
~ The Habits of Good Society
Anonymous, 1859

Immoderate laughter is exceedingly unbecoming in a lady; she may affect the dimple or the smile, but should carefully avoid any approximation to a horse-laugh.
~ The Perfect Gentleman
By a Gentleman, 1860

A lady-punster is a most unpleasing phenomenon, and we would advise no young woman, however witty she may be, to cultivate this kind of verbal talent.
~ Collier’s Cyclopedia
Compiled by Nugent Robinson, 1882

Never use the phrases, "What-d-ye call it," "Thingummy," "What's his name," or any such substitutes for a proper name or place. If you cannot recall the names you wish to use, it is better not to tell the story or incident connected with them. No lady of high breeding will ever use these substitutes in conversation.
~The Ladies Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness
Florence Hartley (1860)

Top 5 Hoaxes of the Victorian Era

Top 5 Hoaxes of the Victorian Era

We follow our post Top 10 Road to Avonlea Hoaxes by stepping outside the series and taking a look at hoaxes perpetrated during the heyday of Hetty's generation--The Victorian era.

P.T. Barnum was once alleged to have said that "there is a sucker born every minute," and Davey Keith certainly fits that description.  In the epsode Davey and the Mermaid, the unwitting Davey Keith visits Snibb's Midway and believes that Melusina the mermaid is real.  

Hetty and Rachel break Davey out of the spell and help uncover the trecherous dealings of Snibb's Midway.   Hetty grew up during the Victorian era and surely would have heard of mermaid hoaxes, like Barnum's infamous FeeJee mermaid hoax included in this list.  

Derived from the Museum of Hoaxes, this is my list of the top 5 Hoaxes of the Victorian Era (1837-1901).  

5. Ice Worms of the Klondike (1898)

In 1898, the Klondike Nugget reported that ice worms were appearing out of a nearby glacier. Journalist E.J. White created the hoax after receiving a directive to increase newspaper sales.

The hoax created a sensation--townspeople would search for the worms and listen closely for these creatures’ unusual “chirping” sounds.  Apparently, there is a festival for the ice worms in Dawson, Alaska that continues to this day.

4. Hearst’s Spanish-American War (1895)

Media tycoon William Randolph Hearst purchased the New York Journal in 1895 and dispatched Frederic Remington to Cuba to illustrate the skirmish between the Cubans and the Spanish. When no conflict was reported, Hearst fabricated a war in Cuba that increased newspaper sales. Talk about fake news!

3. Central Park Zoo Escape (1874)

On November 9, 1874, the New York Herald reported that there was a “mass escape of the animals in the Central Park Zoo”. According to the article, the rampaging animals killed 48 people and wounded 200 others.

Among the sightings was a lion spotted inside a church and a rhino that somehow managed to fall into a sewer. The author finally revealed it was a hoax in the last paragraph, stating that the managing editor only intended to draw attention to the poor conditions of the zoo.

Despite this revelation, the article provoked mass panic as men took to the streets to defend their homes and family. It is rumored that the editor of the New York Times ran into the streets waving two pistols in the air and yelled at police for not doing more to stop the rampage.

The Herald never apologized for the article and the panic it caused.

2. The FeeJee Mermaid (1842)

A traveling English naturalist named Dr. J. Griffin arrived in New York City with a spectacular curiosity—a mermaid supposedly caught near the Feejee islands. The body of the mermaid was put on display in Barnum’s museum, and enormous crowds turned out to see it.

Barnum hyped the exhibit by running advertisements in the major newspapers that showed a beautiful naked figure. The actual exhibit however, was not so alluring.

It was a small, taxidermically preserved creature with the withered upper body of a monkey and the dried tail of a fish. Dr. J. Griffin was actually Levi Lyman, who worked for Barnum. The FeeJee mermaid was lost when Barnum’s museum burned down during the 1860s.

1. The Great Moon Hoax (1835)

Beginning on August 25, 1835, the New York Sun published six articles falsely claiming that famous British astronomer Sir John Herschel invented a telescope powerful enough to examine life on the moon.

Among Herschel’s lunar observations were bison, unicorns, fire-wielding biped beavers, and a race of man-bats that built a mysterious golden roofed-temple. The sensational articles captured the imagination of the American public but eventually people became skeptical.

Despite the demand from rival ‘penny papers’ that the New York Sun admit it perpetrated a hoax, the paper claimed it was an innocent victim of the ordeal. The hoax is usually attributed to Sun reporter Richard Adams Locke.

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