This is the classic book “Etiquette” that people still reference for methods of doing all sorts of things the right way. It was originally published in 1922.
Cover: Basic non-fiction default cover often used for old books.
I expected the book to be dryer than it was. Emily Post interjected anecdotes into most explanations and made up unique last names for the people she used as examples of what to do and what not to do. Short run-downs of weddings, funerals, dinner parties, and outings in the country made the etiquette she stressed make sense.
In fact, a lot of what was de rigeur for the higher classes back then would be beneficial to everyone these days. I’m not hunting for a direct quote, but she did describe etiquette as a system that made sure no one took too much of anything for themselves.
Too much attention? Prevent this by wearing appropriate clothing, following social mores, having well-behaved children or none at all in certain circumstances, and acting as each location or situation requires.
Too much food? Fancy dinner parties back then seemed as orchestrated as a military campaign. No one could reach across and just grab another roll or end up wasting things on their plate if they took too much.
Too much time? When people went calling during open houses on Saturdays, they were instructed to stay no more than twenty minutes unless the hostess particularly asked them to stay and they were close, personal friends. This rule surely would come in handy when desperately trying to hint to some guest over-staying their welcome while you yawn behind your hand.
Of course, large parts of it were useless. No one cares if the footman wears striped satin trousers on Sundays (They don’t? Ha.) and texting has negated the practice of dropping calling cards at friends’ houses to see if they want to hang out. A fair bit involved traditional gender roles, but not much that seems overtly sexist if you take the time period into consideration.
Overall I am glad I read the whole thing. It was highly interesting as not only a glimpse into a different historical time period, but also as a reminder that manners matter, even if time changes them.