The Gentlemen’s Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness

Book titles were longer in the past. I suspect this was at least partly down to people having more time. That, and the fact that your book’s title was the first impression the potential reader got, so it better tell the reader what the book was all about.

Hence why the full title of this 1860 book was rendered as:

THE
GENTLEMEN’S BOOK OF ETIQUETTE,
AND
MANUAL OF POLITENESS;
BEINGA COMPLETE GUIDE FOR A GENTLEMAN’S CONDUCT IN ALL
HIS RELATIONS TOWARDS SOCIETY.

CONTAINING

RULES FOR THE ETIQUETTE TO BE OBSERVED IN THE STREET, AT
TABLE, IN THE BALL ROOM, EVENING PARTY, AND MORNING
CALL; WITH FULL DIRECTIONS FOR POLITE CORRESPONDENCE,
DRESS, CONVERSATION, MANLY EXERCISES,
AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS.

FROM THE BEST FRENCH, ENGLISH, AND AMERICAN AUTHORITIES.

Quite a mouthful, to be frank.

In among useful advice on how to behave in the ballroom, and various manly exercises1 to maintain health, there is this glorious tidbit on regarding shaving:

Napoleon shaved himself. ‘A born king,’ said he, ‘has another to shave him. A made king can use his own razor.’ But the war he made on his chin was very different to that he made on foreign potentates. He took a very long time to effect it, talking between whiles to his hangers-on. The great man, however, was right, and every sensible man will shave himself, if only as an exercise of character, for a man should learn to live, in every detail without assistance. Moreover, in most cases, we shave ourselves better than barbers can do. If we shave at all, we should do it thoroughly, and every morning. Nothing, except a frown and a hay-fever, makes the face look so unlovely as a chin covered with short stubble. The chief requirements are hot water, a large, soft brush of badger hair, a good razor, soft soap that will not dry rapidly, and a steady hand. Cheap razors are a fallacy. They soon lose their edge, and no amount of stropping will restore it. A good razor needs no strop. If you can afford it, you should have a case of seven razors, one for each day of the week, so that no one shall be too much used. There are now much used packets of papers of a certain kind on which to wipe the razor, and which keep its edge keen, and are a substitute for the strop.

From The Gentlemen’s Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness, Chapter VII

The whole book is an amusing read – perhaps best enjoyed in small portions – that helps us picture what life for the well-to-do gentleman in the antebellum United States had to deal with on a daily basis.

The book can be read or downloaded for free from Project Gutenberg. And if you like books, I’ve committed one myself.

Footnote

  1. …while indulging in the recreative sports which are to restore and invigorate us, we must be mindful of the many points of etiquette and kindness which will do much, if properly attended to, to promote the enjoyment of our exercise…

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