In the late 1800s, a really well-bred man must follow a strict set of rules when attending a ball. And while your hero may not be such a man (in fact, most romantic heroes are rogues to some degree), he must still know how to act like a gentleman in order not to be forcibly ejected from the premises as he pursues his lady-love.
Here are a few rules that appear in Receptions, Parties and Balls E-book:
"A young man who can dance, and will not dance, should stay away from a ball.
The lady with whom a gentleman dances last is the one he takes to supper. Therefore, he can make no engagement to take out any other, unless his partner is already engaged.
Public balls are most enjoyable when you have your own party. The great charm of a ball is its perfect accord and harmony. All altercations, loud talking and noisy laughter are doubly ill-mannered in a ball-room. Very little suffices to disturb the whole party.
In leaving a ball, it is not deemed necessary to wish the lady of the house a good night. In leaving a small dance or party, it is civil to do so.
The difference between a ball and an evening party is, that at a ball there must be dancing, and at an evening party there may or may not be."
balls, gentlemen, historical novel, parties, rogue, romance novelist, romantic hero
The Villiers family had long been a noteworthy one before George Villiers saw the light. Beauty was their inheritance; and they were further distinguished by a grace of manner, a lively wit, and irresistible charm. It was in the old family hall of the village of Brooksby that George - second son of Sir George Villiers and that extraordinary lady who rose from the rank of a serving-maid to the Lady Villiers and Lady Compton by marriage and Countess of Buckingham by creation - was born. (There's a story in itself.)
The early youth of the lad, who was destined soon to distinguish himself as the more ardent and successful in the realm of gaiety and pleasure, was spent amid rural quiet and the unromantic associations connected with life at a boarding-school. Withdrawn from school at thirteen years of age, Villiers remained for the following three years under his mother's training. Even at this early age so handsome was the youth in person, and so bright and pleasing in mental gifts, that his mother resolved upon sending him for the completion of his education to France, in order that the advantages which had been so lavishly bestowed upon him by nature should be touched to their finest issues by art.
For more, see Essex - Part Four available now as a single volume, or together with the complete series on Essex.
If you are looking for inspiration for a romantic hero, look no further.
It's seems entirely appropriate to play a romantic song from the past on my Romantic Past blog today. Imagine slow-dancing...
Visiting and Calling Cards, goes into detail on the exact social requirements of using calling cards. The rules were strict and if a lady or gentleman was to be found not following them, woe to her or his social standing.
Here is an excerpt from Visiting and Calling Cards, written and published in 1882.
"A card used in calling should have nothing upon it but the name of the caller. A lady's card should not bear her place of residence; such cards having, of late been appropriated by the member of the demi-monde. The street and number always look better upon the card of the husband than upon that of the wife. When necessary, they can be added in pencil on the cards of the wife and daughter. A business card should never be used for a friendly call. A physician may put the prefix "Dr.," or the affix "M.D.," upon his card, and an army or navy officer his rank and branch of service."
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I have just had a couple of weeks vacation and am now back at my desk. I thought it might be fun to compare travel experiences and expectations of today with those of a more than a century ago.
For example, the following is an excerpt from our e-book, Etiquette of Traveling.
"A lady, in traveling alone, may accept services from her fellow-travellers, which she should always acknowledge graciously. Indeed, it is the business of a gentleman to see that the wants of an unescorted lady are attended to. He should offer to raise or lower her window if she seems to have any difficulty in doing it herself. He may offer his assistance in carrying her packages upon leaving the car, or in engaging a carriage or obtaining a trunk. Still, women should learn to be as self-reliant as possible; and young women particularly should accept proffered assistance from strangers, in all but the slightest offices, very rarely."
This advice would apply almost as well today as it did in the 1880s. Women nowadays are pretty self-reliant but most would not turn down to offer of help from a kindly gentleman. I'm fortunate in that I married such a gentleman who routinely offers to carry my bags or help me out. I can generally handle raising or lowering my own car window, but you get the idea.
For more information on the Etiquette of Traveling see the e-book store.
What were weddings like in days gone by, before diamonds were forever, and the bride always wore white?
Our e-book, Courtship and Marriage, goes into great detail about how weddings were done more than a century ago. Socially acceptable behaviour around engagement varied depending where the happy couple lived. Here is an excerpt.
"It is impossible to lay down any rule as to the proper mode of courtship and proposal. In France it is the business of the parents to settle all preliminaries. In England the young man asks the consent of the parents to pay addresses to their daughter. In (North America) the matter is left almost entirely to the your people.
It seems that circumstances must determine whether courtship may lead to engagement. Thus, a man may begin seriously to court a girl, (sic) but may discover before any promise binds them to each other, that they are entirely unsuited to one another, when he may with perfect propriety and without serious injury to the lady, withdraw his attentions."