Thursday, June 2, 2005

Perfect Etiquette (1879)

Moving books between my home and my office, I rediscovered a pamphlet that I bought some years ago at a library sale: Perfect Etiquette; Or, How to Behave in Society. A Complete Manual for Ladies and Gentlemen, Embracing Hints on Introduction, Salutation, Conversation, Friendly Visits, Social Parties, On the Street, In Public Places, In Traveling, Driving and Riding, Letter Writing, At the Table, Making and Receiving Presents, Courtship, Wedding Etiquette, Christening, Funerals, Etc., with Suggestions How to Dress Tastefully. The Toilette, With Simple Recipes for Improving the Complexion, etc. (New York: E.G. Rideout & Co., 1879). It appears to be the cheapest of paperbacks, the pages stapled, the cover nothing more than another page. Yet the 1879 pages are virtually free of foxing, which is more than I can say for paperbacks that I bought as an undergraduate in the 1970s.

Here are three entries from Perfect Etiquette. About the salad oil, I will add the usual disclaimer: do not try this at home.

Our Hair.
A good head of hair is the pride of every one, and to be kept in order, it should be brushed often and carefully. The brush should be of medium hardness, and the hair should be divided, so as the scalp should be brushed also, and all the scurf taken away.

Pure unscented salad oil is all that is required for the hair, and this should be applied with the hands, and rubbed off with flannel before going to bed, so as not to stain the pillow.

Bald Heads.
The covering of the head is one of the natural causes of baldness which is found more often in men than women; and whenever it is noticed coming on, the silk hat ought to be dispensed with and a straw one substituted.

The Beard.
Those who shave do well; but those who do not do better. If nature intended for men to shave, she would not have been so lavish in providing them with beards, and it is best for men not to shave at all, for nothing adds to the beauty of man so much as a full flowing beard.

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