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A Christmas Wish – 25th December 2005 

It’s Christmas once again and how many of us are still hoping to find the perfect soul-mate? Internet dating is a cheap, stress-free way of finding your perfect match. All you have to do is list your attributes, detail those traits you want - or don’t want - to find in your perfect partner, write a quick profile 250 words or more, and stick on a recent head and shoulders image of yourself. Wait a minute – stay with me here. Don’t try looking right now – they are still playing with their toys. Here are some pointers:  

You may have difficulty in finding your special someone if:  

*this applies only if your income is less than £100,000pa

 You’ve passed the test? Then read on. You have found your perfect match and meet up with them, and discover that there is no spark? Your eyes are not blinded and your ears not assailed with the sound of the smallest squib? It becomes obvious within the first five minutes that you are not in love. So it’s back to the drawing board.

Or – wonder or wonders – they are all you ever dreamed of, and more. Santa Claus lives.  

I wish all readers their heart’s desire, on this sunny Christmas Day.

* * * * *


from 'The Lady's Realm', Christmas edition 1904

I am a simple woman and very well brought up. My mother was a simple woman, and she taught me that if I did as I was told, and said my prayers, and learnt to sew, and cook, and knit, and keep house, and talk prettily, some day a man would come along and want to marry me. He has not come, and I am still waiting. I have never tried to find that special man, or to attract any other one who came my way, because that would be bold and unmaidenly. I have never learnt any manly games, because they are unwomanly and unbecoming. I have never cultivated my mind, because men dislike clever women. I have never done anything modern at all. My only amusements have been playing the piano and needlework. I am really domesticated, affectionate, meek, and even pretty; qualified in every way to make any man a good all-round kind of wife, after the pattern we so often read about. But still he does not come. And now I am no longer a girl. I have reached that stage when one rather dreads sitting near the electric light, when one refrains from taking a walk in the sun without putting on a spotted veil. To tell the truth, I find existence very dull. There is so little to fill up my time: for my parents are well off, and there is no need for me to cook, or make beds, or darn clothes. I do a lot of fancy work and read a number of library books; but even these delights are apt to cloy upon over-indulgence in them. Sometimes I am tempted to envy the girls I see going off on their bicycles to golf or hockey; or the others who write books, lecture, and earn their livings in some way or another. At least they do not endure continually the half-contemptuous pity of their relatives; they do not feel themselves to be hopeless failures. And by going out into the world the chance comes to them of meeting men who may be so good as to marry them.
But this is only the preface of what I started to say. I have been thinking over the subject lately, and I cannot help coming to the conclusion that there must be something wrong with man. He seems to be so different from the creature I have heard and read about. In the first place, my mother always told me that every man wanted to marry a nice girl, and have a home and children. So far as I can see, he does not want anything of the kind. In all the books I have read, he falls in love violently, woos passionately, worships with chastity, and weds with devotion. I suppose there are, or have been men who go on like that, but I have never met one. I have often seen them "spooney," but never passionate. And I want to know whose fault that is-the man's or my mother's? It is not mine, because I am the ideal woman of a system, just as I was made, and fit for nothing but to be a wife.
I have lived all my life in a moderately sized country town, and this town is full of spinsters and old bachelors. There are almost as many of the latter as the former. Most of them have dangled about me at one time or another, and they have also dangled about the other spinsters. But nothing has come of it-except gossip. We have all been engaged to one another by hearsay-no more. My two brothers, who are unmarried men, and live at home very comfortably (they are both getting rather fat and bald), might have married some extremely nice girls, quite as domesticated as I am; but, as they expressively phrase it, they "are not having any." "No fear," said one of them to me a few days back, when I was recommending a desirable sister-in-law: "what do I want to marry for? I have just enough money to live in comfort without saddling myself with a wife and children." In short, they fight shy of matrimony. Every few months they go up to London "on the spree," as they call it. They spend a good deal of time at the theatres and music-halls, and for a week after their return we hear of nothing but the various beauties of the stage they have seen. They must spend a good deal of money on those places of amusement, on dinners and suppers, and so on, according to their own accounts; and certainly their appetites are spoiled for good plain fare and simple society when they get back. But, although they wax enthusiastic over the London ladies they have seen and met, neither of them brings home a wife.
At the same time, we are continually reading in the newspapers and magazines that the Earl of Tweedledum has married Miss Trotty Dimple of the Gaiety, or the Duke of Tweedledee has espoused Miss Pinky Pearl, whose high kicking has electrified the halls. This seems strange to a simple, well-brought-up young woman, who who has been taught that such persons are not to be mentioned in genteel circles, and that the place they illuminate are sinks of iniquity. Why does man, and not only mere man, but man with a grand British aristocratic title, cull these tarnished flowers to wear in his bosom? It is very perplexing and upsetting to all one's long-cherished ideas as to the rewards of virtue and vice.
I can but conclude that man must be growing less of a man than he used to be in the days of our simple mothers. He no longer falls in love with woman as woman, it appears, but only desires her when he sees other fellows running after her. Nothing else can stimulate his jaded fancy or his passion. Once upon a time he may have yearned for home, wife and offspring; now he shirks the responsibility of fatherhood and fears the restraint of domesticity. He wants to avoid all trouble and enjoy himself; he does not dare to plunge into the deeper waters of life. It is true that in escaping the cares he may miss the raptures, but that does not concern him, for he has ceased either to believe in or desire raptures. He wishes to be amused, not to feel. And if this is not the first sign of approaching decay, I should like to know what is? Before we die sensation grows weaker. As an artless feminine creature who would have liked to build a nest and rear a brood, I ask most humble - what is to become of us if we are not sought by our natural mates? We are worse off than Adam before the miracle of Eve's creation, and even bridge will not console us.
I submit that the plainest sign of man's decadence is that fact that he is always grumbling at woman. In the good old days he just took her in hand and did what he would with her. Then he created: now he only criticises.

MANNERS FOR MEN by Mrs. Humphry first published 1897

It is not at all necessary that a man should accept invitations from a girl to meet her at restaurants, subscription dances, bazaars, or any other place. If a girl so far forgets herself, and is so lacking in modesty and propriety as to make appointments with young men in such ways as these, she cannot be worth much, and may lead the young man into a very serious scrape. A public horse-whipping is an extremely disagreeable thing, and yet cases have been known when such have been administered by irate brothers or fathers, when the only fault committed by the young man had been to obey the commands of a forward and bold young woman - one of the sort to whom Hamlet would have said, "Get thee to a nunnery."

Woman's Ideal Man

I suppose there was never yet a woman who had not somewhere set up on a pedestal in her brain an ideal of manhood...First of all, he must be a gentleman...Gentleness and moral strength combined must be the salient characteristics of the "gentleman" together with that polish that is never acquired but in one way; constant association which those so happily placed that they have enjoyed the influences of education and refinement all through their lives. He must be thoughtful for others, kind to women and children and all helpless things, tenderhearted to the old and the poor and the unhappy, but never foolishly weak in giving where gifts do harm instead of good - his brain must be as fine as his heart, in fact. There are few such men; but they do exist. I know one or two. Reliable as rocks, judicious in every action, dependable in trifles as well as the large affairs of life, full of mercy and kindness to others, affectionate and well-loved in their homes, their lives are pure and kindly.
It was once said by a clever man that no one could be a gentleman all round who had not knocked about the world and associated with all sorts and conditions of men, high and low, rich and poor, good and bad...The man who emerges unharmed from the fire of poverty and its associations, and who retains his independent manliness in relations with those high-placed, must have within him a fibre of strength that is the true essence of manliness. So many, alas! go down, down, when "puirtith cauld" touches them with her terrible, chilly finger. And so many become obsequious and subservient, false to themselves, in dealings with those above them.

Well! my ideal does neither. He is always true to himself, and "cannot then be false to any man." And he must have a sense of humour, too, otherwise he would be far from perfect. How life is brightened by a sense of fun! Think of what breakfast, lunch, and dinner would be if life were to be as solemn and as serious as some folk would have it!

If good manners are not practised at home, but are allowed to lie by until occasion calls upon their wearer to assume them, they are sure to be a bad fit when donned. It may be a trifle of the smallest to acquire a habit of saying "if you please" and "thank you" readily, but it is no trifling defect in a young man to fail to do so. If he does not jump up to open the door for his mother or sister, he may omit to do so some day when the neglect will tell against him in the estimation of those to please whom he would gladly give much. Carelessness in dress and personal appearance amount to bad manners. In the home there is sometimes a disagreeable negligence in this respect. At the breakfast-table unkempt hair, untended finger-nails, and a far from immaculate collar are occasionally to be seen, especially on late-comers who do not practise the ingratiating politeness of punctuality. Lounging, untidy habits are another form of bad manners. The ill-bred young man smokes all over the house, upstairs and downstairs, and even in his mother's drawing-room. He may be traced from room to room by the litter of newspapers and magazines he leaves behind him The present fashion of taking one's reading in pills, so to speak, snatching it in scrappy paragraphs from weekly miscellanies, is but too favourable to this lack of order. In this young man's own room there is chaos. The maids have endless trouble in clearing up after him. His tobacco is spilled over tables, chairs, and carpets. His handkerchiefs, ties, socks, and collars are lying about in every corner of the room. He is too indolent even to put his boots outside the door at night that they may be cleaned in the morning. To save himself trouble he bangs all the doors instead of gently latching them. And yet, perhaps if he could but realise that all this is "bad manners", he would become as neat as he is now the reverse, and would be as decorative at table as he is, at the present moment, unornamental.
It is not only young men whose standard of behaviour in the home is a low one.

Masters of the house, fathers of families, men of middle age, who are terribly put out if any one fails in duty to them, are sometimes conspicuously ill-bred in everyday matters. They are late for every meal, to the discomfort of other members of the family and the great inconvenience of the servants. Polite to the world outside, they are brusque and disagreeable in their manner at home: rough to the servants, rude to their wives, and irritable with their children... Sometimes a good heart and considerable family affection are hidden away behind all this, but the families of such men would be very glad to compound for a little less affection and hidden goodness and rather more gentleness and outward polish.
Apart from faults of temper, men fall into careless habits of speech and manner at home, and one form of this, viz., habitually using strong language in the presence of women and children, is particularly offensive...
He must find amusement somewhere. It is only natural to youth to crave it. At first his taste is jarred by those inferior to him, and his fastidiousness offended by their manners. But, such is the fatal adaptability of human nature to what is bad for it, he soon becomes accustomed to all that he first objected to...After a few months his speech begins to assimilate the errors of those about him in his leisure hours. He uses the very expressions that jarred upon him at first. His dress and carriage deteriorate, and he is well on his way downhill in life long before he realises that he has quitted his own level, probably for ever.

In the Street

Should a man be so fortunate as to be of some service to any lady in the street, such as picking up a parcel or sunshade she may have dropped, or helping her out of any small difficulty, he must raise his hat and withdraw at once. Such trifling acts as these do not constitute an acquaintanceship, and to remain by her side when the incident is over would look like presuming on what he had done, as though it gave him a right to her continued acknowledgements. This would be ungentlemanly.
At the same time, these occurrences are sometimes deliberately planned by girls and women with a direct view to scraping acquaintance with young men. It is scarcely necessary to say that girls who stoop to this kind of manoeuvring are hardly ever gentlewomen. Members of good families have been known to do such things in the wild exuberance of youth and high spirits, but they cannot hope to retain the respect of those who know them when they deliberately lower themselves in such ways as these. Picking up promiscuous male acquaintances is a practice fraught with danger. It cannot be denied that girls of the lower middle class are often prone to it; and there are thousands of young men who have no feminine belongings in the great towns and cities where they live...But they must hesitate before choosing as wife a girl who shows so little discretion as to walk and talk with young men of whom she knows nothing beyond what they choose to tell her.

The seaside season is prolific in these chance acquaintanceships - "flirtations", as they may perhaps be called. Bicycling is well known to favour them... 
Should what he hears be encouraging, then let him ask her to introduce him to her family as a suitor for her hand. Should the girl fall in love with him, let him protect her against herself like a preux chevalier, like an honourable and high-minded English gentleman. If he feels that he cannot reciprocate her sentiment, he should give up seeing her. Should she, as some girls of the kind have been known to do, pursue him with letters making appointments, she makes his task of renunciation a difficult one, but he should fulfil it nevertheless.
It is difficult in this way. Suppose a girl writes to a young man: "Meet me at the tea-rooms, No. 440, Bond Street, to-morrow afternoon." There is no chance of replying in time to prevent her going there, and to absent himself would be to administer a severe snub to a girl he likes very well, and who has flattered his self-love in many ways during their acquaintanceship. What can he do? It is a point that he must decide for himself, taking all the circumstances into consideration, and not forgetting to regard her ultimate welfare in the matter at least as much as his own actual wishes.

It is not at all necessary that a man should accept invitations from a girl to meet her at restaurants, subscription dances, bazaars, or any other place. If a girl so far forgets herself, and is so lacking in modesty and propriety as to make appointments with young men in such ways as these, she cannot be worth much, and may lead the young man into a very serious scrape. A public horse-whipping is an extremely disagreeable thing, and yet cases have been known when such have been administered by irate brothers or fathers, when the only fault committed by the young man had been to obey the commands of a forward and bold young woman - one of the sort to whom Hamlet would have said, "Get thee to a nunnery."
Such invitations as these are better ignored, though it is difficult for the average young man to resist the temptation of being courted and flattered, and of seeking the society of girls who administer these pleasant attentions. But if their standard is a high one, they would say to themselves: "What should I like another fellow to do, supposing the girl were my sister?" (Almost always he mentally adds, "God forbid!") This clears up the question for him at once. If he is high-minded and honourable he keeps away. If he is unscrupulous and self-indulgent he meets the girl and lets the acquaintanceship drift on to dangerous ground.
Such girls as these can never tell if a man whose past and present and surrounding circumstances are unknown to her is a scoundrel or otherwise. Fortunately, the code of manners obtaining amongst the educated and well-brought-up forbids all such indiscriminate acquaintance-making. Girls who stoop to it are usually those who have failed to secure attention in their own circle, and are, as a rule, the sort of girl who marries a groom or runs away with a good-looking footman.

A young man once asked me if it would be etiquette to offer an unknown lady an umbrella in the street, supposing she stood in need of one. I replied: "No lady would accept the offer from a stranger, and the other sort of person might never return the umbrella." 


The man of "perfect manners" is he who is calmly courteous in all circumstances, as attentive outwardly to the plain and the elderly as he is to the young and pretty...women love gentleness in men. It is a most telling piece of the necessary equipment for society. A gentle manner, a gentle voice, and the absence of all self-assertion that is the root of the matter, have won more love than good looks.
..the wooden stare has been adopted so universally by our golden youth. This is useful for wearing at one's club or in the stall of a theatre, and it at once stamps the proprietor of the stare as being "in it." The fashion is not confined to England. It reigns in New York, and even in far Australia there is a select coterie of golden or gilded youth who are beginning to learn how to abstract every atom of expression from the countenance, and to look on vacancy or seem to do so. As there, there is no considerable expertness achieved in the matter in Antipodean circles, but in New York a very fair impression of imbecility is conveyed in the look of the ultra-fashionable young man. 

Engagement and Marriage 

The old-fashioned rule that a man must approach the father of a girl before offering himself in marriage to her has now, to some extent, died out. At the same time it is considered dishonourable for any one to propose to a girl in the face of the decided disapprobation of her family. Clandestine courtship is also regarded as dishonourable, except in circumstances where the girl is unhappy or oppressed and needs a champion. The usual way to ask for the admired one's hand in marriage is in person. This is always preferable to writing, though some men have not the courage to adopt the first course. Should the lady accept the offer, the happy wooer must take the earliest opportunity of seeing her father, or, failing him, her nearest friend, and begging him to permit the engagement. Should he consent, all is well; but in the contrary case, his decision must be accepted. To allow a girl to engage herself against the wish of her family is to drag her into a false position. 


In the crowded traffic of large towns and cities it would be difficult, if not impossible, to observe the good rule of courtesy that prohibits the driver of any private carriage from overtaking and passing that of a friend or neighbour on the road. The members of the Four-in-Hand and Coaching Clubs still observe it, and seldom pass each other without an apologetic wave of the hand or raising of the hat. It is not every one who can emulate the Prince of Wales, who, when driving a coach, can take a cigar from his lips and raise his hat with the whip-hand, the reins, of course, being in the left. It is not unusual, nowadays, to see a man driven by a lady. In such a case he must be on the alert to afford her every assistance in his power. In handing a lady up to her place on a coach some expertness is required, especially where the usual short ladder is not available, and she has to mount first on the wheel and then on to the coach itself...A lady would resent being asked to meet any one unsuitable on a drive, even though the latter may be relegated to a back seat. Sometimes ladies are very anxious to take the reins and drive themselves, a circumstance which has often occasioned agonies of nervousness to other women on the coach. It is quite possible to refuse such a request in a polite and gentlemanly way, partly by seeming to ignore it or laughing it off...
A man usually dismounts when calling for a lady to take her for a ride, if she is to be mounted. Sometimes, however this rule is remitted, as in the case of a restive and very fresh animal; the groom then assists the lady to mount. The driver of a four-in-hand very seldom dismounts in such circumstances, though, of course, there are exceptions to this as to almost all other rules.

It used to be considered bad manners to smoke when driving with a lady. This is now quite antediluvian, so to speak. Permission must, of course, always be asked of the lady. It is scarcely ever refused, and it is almost an exceptional thing to see a man driving without a cigar between his teeth...
Some ladies have a great disinclination to mount a four-in-hand or mail phaeton until the driver is seated with the reins in his hand and in full command of the horses...Consequently it would be no breach of good manners for the gentleman driving to take his seat and thus reassure his nervous companion.

Dinner Parties

It is as well to keep the pronoun "I" in the background just at first. If your partner is as nice as she might be, she will soon give you abundant opportunity for talking about yourself.
By the way, a man must not at his very first dinner-party expect to be given a pretty girl to take down. He may possibly be so fortunate, but those prizes are usually reserved for men of more experience in social life. The young man has probably been invited to make up the necessary number of men, and an unmarried lady of a certain age or an elderly woman without much claim to consideration will probably fall to his share. However, there is this consolation, she will be excellent for practising upon. He would not mind making small mistakes so much as if his partner were a young and charming girl...

It is a very old-fashioned piece of good manners to wait until every one is served. So old-fashioned that it survives at present only among the uncultured classes. The correct thing to do nowadays is to begin eating without reference to others. The old style must not only have been trying in consequence of seeing one's food grow cold before one's eyes, but it must also have been responsible for making dinner a very slow and tedious meal. Now the attendants remove the plates from the guests first helped directly the fork is laid down, and this greatly accelerates the service...
With regard to desert fruits,&c., there are a few puzzles to be found among them for the inexperienced. Grapes present one of these. They are taken up singly, and afterwards the skin and seeds have to be expelled as unobtrusively as possible. It is a matter of great difficulty to accomplish this by any other method than using the hand, therefore this is the accepted custom. The forefinger is curved above the mouth in a manner which serves to conceal the ejectment, and the skin and seeds are in this way conveyed to the plate, the fingers being afterwards wiped with the napkin. Bananas are peeled with the knife and fork, and the pieces are conveyed to the mouth by means of the fork. Oranges are cut in two, then in four, and with the aid of knife and fork the contents of each section are extracted in two or more parts, and carried to the lips on the fork. Apples and pears are peeled with the knife and fork; peaches, apricots, and nectarines in the same way. Strawberries are taken by the stem, dipped in sugar and cream, and carried to the lips with the fingers.
At a formal dinner-party the evening suit is imperative, with dress-coat, white or black waistcoat, black trousers, and white tie. When dining with friends with whom one is on terms of familiarity, the dinner-jacket may be substituted for the coat. Black ties often take the place of white. Patent-leather shoes or boots must be worn. It would be unpardonable to appear in thick walking-boots or shoes; and the necessity for immaculately polished footgear has cost the young man of the present day many a cab. His varnished shoes must show no trace of mud or dust. To tell the truth, he often carries a silk handkerchief in his pocket wherewith to obliterate the traces of the latter. The pocket handkerchief used with evening dress must be of white cambric, and of as good a colour as one's washerwoman will permit. It ought to be of fine quality. The hair must be short and very well brushed.

still to come... 
At a Restaurant "When accompanying ladies who express a wish for refreshment..."
At the Play "At a theatre the underbred man is often in evidence..."

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