True Ladies and Proper Gentlemen.
This guide to Victorian etiquette and cultural philosophy is a compilation of advice from antique primary sources in my collection and is now available for pre-order from
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Elements of the Beautiful
The love of beautiful adornment is innate in the human mind, and in reality has a great influence in elevating and refining the [human] race. It is true that the mind may sometimes be too much given to personal decoration, but the instincts which cause us to clothe ourselves beautifully are all refining and elevating in character.
The desire to please and to be beautiful surrounds us on every hand with grace, elegance and refinement.
The person who cares nothing for personal appearance is a sloven. Were all to be thus, the human race would rapidly degenerate toward barbarism. The person who is careless of dress is likely to be equally regardless concerning purity of character.
The little girl that studies her features in the mirror, while she evinces possibly a disposition to be vain, nevertheless in this act shows herself to be possessed of those instincts of grace which, rightly directed, will beautify and embellish all her surroundings through life.
The boy that cares nothing for personal appearance, that does not appreciate beauty in others, is likely to develop into the man who will be slovenly in habits, whose home will quite probably be a hovel, and himself very likely a loafer or a tramp. But the boy—the rolicsome, frolicsome boy, ready to roll in the dirt, possibly—who, under all this, aspires to appear handsome, who desires a clean face, clean hands and a clean shirt, who admires a well-dressed head of hair and a good suit of clothes—that boy possesses the elements which in the man, in an elegant home, will surround him with the artistic and the charming.
The love of the beautiful ever leads to the higher, the grander and the better. Guided by its impulses, we pass out of the hut into the larger and better house; into the charming and elegantly adorned mansion. Actuated by its influence, we convert the lumbering railway carriage into a palace-car, the swamp into a garden, and the desolate place into a park, in which we wander amid the trees, the streams of limpid water, and the fragrance of beautiful flowers.
All along the world’s highway are the evidences, among the most elevated and refined, of the love of the beautiful, which, perhaps more than in any other manner, finds expression in dress.
This love of personal adornment being an inherent, desirable, refining element of character, it does not, therefore, become us to ignore or to suppress it. On the contrary, it should be our duty to cultivate neatness of appearance and artistic arrangement in dress, the whole being accompanied by as much personal beauty as possible...