Australian Etiquette, 1903

fashionSnippets 169.  In 1903 a book of useful household advice was published in Australia, How to Make and Save Money.  There is a lot of interesting information in there (and a lot that is frankly alarming) and we have looked at some of that in some previous snippets, but towards the end of the book there is also some advice on etiquette for the Australian gentleman.

In making an introduction, the gentleman should be introduced to the lady, not the lady to the gentleman.

If both are of the same sex, present the inferior in social position to the superior.

Permission must always be obtained before a gentlemen is presented to a lady.

On gentlemen being introduced to each other, they usually acknowledge by a bow, not by offering the hand.

Any one meeting at the house of a mutual friend and not introduced, should not claim acquaintance if they meet elsewhere.

When out walking with a friend, if you meet or are joined by a third party, it is not necessary to introduce one to the other.

Letters of introduction should be sent by post, enclosing your own card, and not by personal delivery.  This is, however, not always convenient.

If anxious to honour the person introduced, invite him to dinner and have some friends to meet him.

Morning calls are usually made between the hours of two and four.

When returning purely complimentary calls, you may leave your card without going in.

All visits of congratulation or condolence should be paid within a few days of the event that occasions them.

On making morning calls, a gentleman should not leave his hat in the hall, but take in into the room with him, holding it in his hand during his brief stay. Leave your umbrella in the hall.

When a lady visitor leaves the drawing-room it is polite to rise.

It is bad form to look at your watch during a visit.

In conversation avoid political and religious subjects, and never interrupt another person while speaking. Do not converse in a language that any in the company does not understand. Avoid whispering as it is bad taste.

When speaking with persons of rank, avoid the too frequent use of their titles; address a nobleman as you would any other gentleman. The Prince of Wales is only addressed as “Sir” in conversation; the Queen as “Madam.”

It is customary to write letters of invitation and acceptance in the third person. Invitations are now usually issued in the name of the lady of the house. Letters to strangers should commence with “Sir” or “Madam,” and at the close, on the left hand corner of the page, write the name of the individual addressed.

At evening parties, put on your gloves before entering the room, pay your respects to the lady of the house on entering, and do not remain to the close, unless you are on very familiar terms of friendship with the hostess.

Except in a case of necessity, never stop a business man in the street. If you must speak with him, walk on in his direction, state your business briefly, apologising for the detention.

In walking with a gentleman, your superior in age or station, give them the place of honour by taking yourself the outer side of the pavement. In walking with a lady, always take the outer side of the pavement.

“It is in good manners and not in good dress, that the truest gentility lies.”— Dr. Watts.

A lot of that is reasonably familiar, but the following seems somewhat unusual:

Telegraph of Love. — If a gentleman wants a wife, he wears a ring on the first finger of the left hand; if he be engaged, he wears it on the second finger; if married, on the third; and on the fourth if he never intends to be married. When a lady is not engaged, she wears a hoop or diamond on her first finger; if engaged, on the second; if married, on the third; and on the fourth if she intends to die unmarried. When a gentleman presents a fan, flower, or trinket to a lady with the left hand, this, on his part, is an overture of regard. Should she receive it with the left hand, it is considered as an acceptance of his esteem; but if with the right hand, it is a refusal of the offer. Thus by a few simple tokens explained by rule, the passion of love is expressed; and through the medium of the telegraph, the most timid and diffident men may, without difficulty, communicate his sentiments of regard to a lady, and, in case his offer should be refused, avoid experiencing the mortification of an explicit refusal.

Presumably “third finger”, for example, does not count the thumb on the hand, so that would make sense in terms of the traditional ring finger.  The meanings of the other fingers are less familiar.  I am not aware of Australia have different traditions in that respect, but if any readers can offer any insight into this, please make use of the comments section.

If you enjoyed this “snippet” please consider sharing on Facebook or Twitter, to help other people find and enjoy Windows into History. You can keep updated each time I post a new entry by clicking on the follow button on the right of the screen. I welcome any comments or suggestions, and will consider guest posts.


About Roger Pocock

Author of Co-writer on Administrator of
This entry was posted in 20th Century, Books, History, People, Snippets and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Australian Etiquette, 1903

  1. Coral Waight says:

    Interesting. My father is 96 and he still takes the outer side of the pavement, leaving me on the inside. And no way would he walk through a doorway in front of a woman. Always ladies first. It’s a sign of respect for that age group. Some of the other rules, though, seem a bit over the top. So many of them to remember. A way of keeping the classes separate, maybe?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Many of the rules of etiquette are in line with current custom or common sense (“never interrupt another person while speaking”). This one got me thinking: “When out walking with a friend, if you meet or are joined by a third party, it is not necessary to introduce one to the other.” Presumably this was because the two acquaintances might be from different social classes. Today it would be considered impolite not to make the introduction.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s