Rules for conversation


To Gert’s shame, she has committed many of these errors of etiquette.  Her particular faults are highlighted in bold.  Are you blameless?

Be careful always to speak in a distinct, clear voice; at the same time avoid talking too loudly, there is a happy medium between mumbling and screaming. Strive to attain it.

Overlook the deficiencies of others when conversing with them, as they may be the results of ignorance, and impossible to correct. Never pain another person by correcting, before others, a word or phrase mispronounced or ungrammatically constructed. If your intimacy will allow it, speak of the fault upon another occasion, kindly and privately, or let it pass. Do not be continually watching for faults, that you may display your own superior wisdom in correcting them ….

In conversing with professional gentlemen, never question them upon matters connected with their employment. An author may communicate, voluntarily, information interesting to you, upon the subject of his works, but any questions from you would be extremely rude. If you meet a physician who is attending a friend, you may enquire for their progress, but do not expect him to give you a detailed account of the disease and his manner of treating it. The same rule applies to questioning lawyers about their clients, artists on their paintings, merchants or mechanics of their several branches of business. Professional or business men, when with ladies, generally wish for miscellaneous subjects of conversation, and, as their visits are for recreation, they will feel excessively annoyed if obliged to “talk shop.” Still, many men can converse on no other subject than their every day employment. In this case listen politely, and show your interest. You will probably gain useful information in such conversation.

The Ladies’ Book Of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness

by Florence Hartley, 1872

13 thoughts on “Rules for conversation

  1. I like that Florence Hartley include authors and painters in her list of professional men. Seems that at times they were not considered part of polite society? And what did one say to women authors of the time?

    Thanks, Gert.

  2. I shall constrain myself from asking questions about how you go about writing this blog, for that would be unfathomably rude, like asking a lady her age. Instead I shall politely listen to (or in this case read) what your kind selves recount, murmur (or in this case text) polite nothings or faint expressions of interest. In effect express nothing (in speech, or in this case writing) that would imply any criticism of the views expounded here. Because that would be unpardonable. And make both parties unduly uncomfortable. And that would not be my intention.

  3. I was once given a book of etiquette by someone very close to one of the Gerts. I learnt that I should be peeling grapes.

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