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The Crazy Complicated World of Victorian Etiquette

The rules of Victorian etiquette were extremely complicated and for good reason: many of them were once used only at court or amongst the nobility of England. As the middle class steadily gained footing within society due to the Industrial Revolution and the rise of small merchants, the rules became more widely adopted, and therefore more complicated. Here is just a small sampling of the complex social rules that were prevalent during the 1800s.


Via/ Flickr


New friends had to be introduced properly and this was especially true for opposite-sex interactions. A young man approaching a pretty girl on the street would never do in polite society. Rather, a suitable mutual friend or family member of higher social status had to make the introduction, in effect sanctioning the socialization of the two individuals at all.


Via/ Flickr

Letters of introduction were especially important during this time as a voucher for the character of the “lower” person, especially in the physical absence of the introducer, such as when traveling or upon a job interview. These letters were considered social gold and were not at all taken lightly.

Internet Archive

Sample introduction letter from American Etiquette and Rules of Politeness (1883). Via/ Internet Archive

Click “Next Page” to see more of the complex social rules of the Victorian era!

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