Tuesday, March 31, 2015

George Washington's Rules for Gentlemanly Behavior, 1748

Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Isabella reporting,

Recently Loretta shared an 1873 guide to etiquette for a Victorian gentleman. Suggested rules for good manners weren't new then, however. From Baldassare Castiglone's The Book of the Courtier, first published in 1508, through Emily Post and Miss Manners, advice has been available for those who wish to improve their manners, and aspire to appear as well-bred gentlemen or ladies.

Long before George Washington became America's first president and the Father of Our Country, he was a sixteen-year-old Virginian acutely aware of his lack of the formal education and cultured manners that he observed in the wealthiest planters and other English gentleman of the Georgian era. At some point, young George must have come across Youths Behaviour, or Decency in Conversation Among Men, a 17th c. English translation of a guidebook first published by French Jesuits in 1595. The maxims in Youths Behaviour covered not only basic manners and general courtesies, but also larger issues of character and moral judgement, with suggestions for how a gentleman should respect others and conduct himself in the world.

The numbered maxims must have struck a chord with George, because around 1748 he carefully copied them into the back of a notebook - his commonplace book - for future reference. Titled The Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior, he referred to them throughout his life, and they formed the backbone of his own personal code of behavior. There are 110 rules in his list; here are only the first seven of them. Although centuries old, most of the rules are still quite applicable. Modern sixteen-year-olds should take note.

1st. Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.

2nd. When in Company, put not your Hands to any Part of the Body, not usually Discovered.

3rd.  Show Nothing to your Friend that may affright him.

4th.  In the Presence of Others, Sing not to yourself with a humming Noise, nor Drum with your Fingers or Feet.

5th.  If you Cough, Sneeze, Sigh, or Yawn, do it not Loud, but Privately; and Speak not in your Yawning, but put Your Handkerchief or Hand before your face and turn aside.

6th.  Sleep not while others Speak, Sit not when others stand, Speak not when you Should hold your Peace, walk not on when others Stop.

7th.  Put not off your Clothes in the presence of Others, nor go out your Chamber half Dressed....

The original handwritten version George Washington's Rules of Civility is now in the Library of Congress. If you enjoy the challenge of 18th c. penmanship, you can read it in its entirety online here, or transcribed here.

Left: Colonel George Washington, by Charles Wilson Peale, c. 1772.
Right: The first manuscript page of George Washington's Rules of Civility, Library of Congress.

Monday, March 30, 2015

A Family Tea Party in Earthenware

Monday, March 30, 2015
Tee Total Family Group
Loretta reports:

A recent visit to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta  offered disappointment on one hand and delightful surprises on the other.  The disappointment was in discovering that the one floor I wished to visit was closed for refurbishing.  From the ramp, we had tantalizing glimpses of 19th C European works as well as boxes filled with paintings and other items under wraps.

The delightful surprise was a charming collection of18th and 19th C ceramic works, which included this family party.

The card information was sparse, and I know next to nothing about Staffordshire work, but diligent searching led me to a similar group at Case Antiques
The latter has sustained some damage while the High Museum’s “Tee total” seemed to be in pristine condition (but obviously we were not examining it under a black light, so it might have been repainted)—as were some other pieces I will show at another time.

Here it is again at the V& A.

For an entertaining and informative overview of Staffordshire figures (including this charming scene), I recommend you spend a few minutes reading Touching the Past: Staffordshire Figures 1780 to 1840.

*"Figural Group, ca. 1820**, Earthenware, Staffordshire Factory, Staffordshire, England.  Bequest of Mrs. Norman Powell Pendley, 1988.148.1"

**Other sites cite an 1830s date or "early 19th century."

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Breakfast Links: Week of March 22, 2015

Saturday, March 28, 2015
Fresh for your weekend browsing - our weekly round-up of fav links to other blogs, web sites, images, and articles via Twitter.
• 18th c. Masquerade balls.
• Shocking! "Leading actresses in men's togs": it's a 1903 issue of Vanity Fair's Bifurcated Girls!
• About those infamous 18th c. mouse-skin eyebrows: maybe not.
• DIY: how to knit your own ancient Egyptian Coptic socks.
• John Ruskin's romantic mid-19th c. daguerreotypes of Venice.
Image: The early 14th c. architecture at Wells Cathedral was a high-point of civilization. You search for words.
• In 1777, Abigail Adams wrote to John about "Rout and Noise in the Town": the female food riots of the American Revolutions
• Imagine "accidentally" inheriting a 500-year-old manor with a 50-room mansion.
• Goethe's Theory of Colors: The 1810 treatise that inspired Kandinsky and early abstract painting.
Image: Painted stockings, c. 1920.
• New museums to discover in Washington, DC: the George Washington University Museum and the Textile Museum opened this weekend.
• Self-control and the manly body, 1760-1860.
• The suffocation death of an orphaned chimney sweep in Somers Town, 1788.
• Early 19th c. cheating valets and the tricks of the trade.
• The tragic story of the last UK men hung for gay sex. Dickens wrote about them.
• The turbulent reign of Henry IV.
Image: After the Great Reform Act, Wellington was lampooned for being out of touch with the mood of the era.
• Beware of goblins bearing gifts: the Morristown Ghost.
• Not so prim Pilgrims: Sexual propositions in the Plymouth Colony Court Records, 1633-86.
Bedlam burial ground dig in London could unearth more than 3,000 bodies.
• The growing legend of Lydia Taft: did she really vote in an Uxbridge town meeting in 1756?
• Startling portraits of early English Royals.
• Meet Doris Raymond, the fairy godmother of vintage clothing.
Image: Exquisite wedding bonnet of silk net and blonde lace, c1825-29.
Women, plumbers, and doctors: Advice for American housewives regarding sanitation in the home, 1885.
• For lovers of historical maps: beautiful 17th c. Speed maps of Great Britian.
• Revolutionary women artists, 15th-19th c.
• Hunting for - and finding - medieval people of color in paintings at the Gemaldgalerie, Berlin.
Image: A delicate sight over Greenwich: the young Moon and Venus meet in the west.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday Video: A Day at Versailles

Friday, March 27, 2015

Isabella reporting,

This week on Twitter, museums and historic buildings around the world shared behind-the-scenes glimpses of their treasures with the hashtag #SecretsMW (Secrets of Museum Week.) This video was posted by the Chateau de Versailles as their contribution, and surely there must be no grander place in Europe for secrets. I love how this "tour" travels from the Baroque state rooms of Louis XIV to the much lighter, more feminine apartments of Marie-Antoinette, built nearly a century later. Of course there's also the Hall of Mirrors, spouting fountains, astonishing formal gardens, and fireworks to end the day. Just beautiful!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Do English Gentlemen Make Good Husbands?

Thursday, March 26, 2015
General George S. Patton
Loretta reports:

General George S. Patton was a complicated, controversial man.  His military career, however, is not our topic.  The Two Nerdy History Girls focus on social history—people and their everyday lives, mainly—rather than politics and wars.  If you want more information about his triumphs and his not-so-stellar moments, you’ll find an abundance of material online, along with the many thousands of pages written about him.

Instead, I present him here between the wars (during the 1920s) as a father, explaining his reasons for declining a position in London in the office of the military attaché:

“We have two marriageable daughters who ... will be rich someday.  If we go to London it stands to reason that one or both of them will marry an Englishman.  Englishmen, well-bred Englishmen, are the most attractive bastards in the world, and they always need all the money they can lay their hands on to keep up the castle, or the grouse moor, or the stud farm, or whatever it is they have inherited.  I served with the British in the war*, and I heard their talk.  They are men’s men, and they are totally inconsiderate of their wives and daughters; everything goes to their sons, nothing to the girls.  I just can’t see Little Bee, or Ruth Ellie in that role.  Someday, just tell them what I did for them and maybe they won’t think I’m such an old bastard after all.”—Carlo D’Este, Patton: A Genius for War
*The Great War/WWI

Image:  George S. Patton signed photo by U.S. Army. Scanned from a file in Patton's personnel record available at the Military Personnel Records Center

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will allow you to read at the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.
Two Nerdy History Girls. Design by Pocket