I have had a weakness for etiquette books since I can remember. There's something comforting about the idea of the plan of it all, the orderliness, the thought that one could meet any situation head on.
Of course, in real life it's nice to be able to not feel like you're "on" all the time. Like you can relax a bit if you are having a busy or bad day. Really, I suppose, we should strive for somewhere between the extremes of strict prescriptiveness and, well, just letting it all hang out like it sometimes seems. It's at moments I feel most out of control that I like to lose myself in one of the books. I'm sure psychologists can read a lot into that!
Yes, I have a few. And I love them all!
Etiquette books have been written for all ages, and some were even part of the school curriculum, such as the skinny little book on top there that dates to 1921. A former owner liked to copy favorite quotes:
My oldest book dates to 1896. I got it in 1984! It's the poor ratty, spineless one in the stack.
Amy Vanderbilt includes a whole section on men's clothing, which is unusual among my collection.
If you've ever seen an etiquette book, chances are good that it was an Emily Post. This wall of blue, unchanged more or less in appearance over the decades, does try to keep up with the times inside. My set includes editions from 1930, 1944, 1946, 1950, 1960, 1965, 1975, and 2004. The latest one, while leaning heavily on Emily's work, is actually written by Peggy Post, Emily's great-granddaughter-in-law.
In 1970, Seventeen magazine published this one. It's not unlike most etiquette books, and certainly does seemed aimed at well-to-do already-mature teen girls who, I might add, are husband hunting! And perhaps doing a little sea travel:
That garish red book in the stack can only belong to Seventeen's grown-up and slightly tarty sister, Cosmopolitan! Among the "new" etiquette tips about what to bring on a, er, "sleepover" and how to sleep in one's false eyelashes is this gem about language... Modern language:
My favorite among this pike of books, though, is this ratty little paperback:
This book is the most fun to read. It's quite judgmental, very snarky, and gets straight to the point! And there's no sense telling Margery here anything about etiquette. Her mind is already made up:
I wouldn't dare take the last word from Margery!