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Social Manners





Australian Etiquette, Or the Rules and Usages of the best Society in the Australiasian Colonies.


D E McConnell,
Sydney/Melbourne 1885




Awkwardness of attitude is a mark of vulgarity. Lolling, gesticulating, handling an eye-glass, a watch-chain or the like, gives an air of faucherie. A lady who sits cross-legged or sideways in her chair, who stretches out her feet, who has a habit of holding her chin, or twirling her ribbons or fingering her buttons; a man who lounges in his chair, nurses his leg, bites his nails, or caresses his foot crossed over bis knee, shows clearly a want of good home training. Each should be quiet and graceful, either in their sitting or standing position, the gentleman being allowed more freedom than the lady. He may sit cross-legged if be wish, but should not sit with his knees far apart, nor with his foot on his knee. If an object is to be indicated, you must move the whole hand, or the head, but never point the finger.

Anecdotes, Puns and Repartees

Anecdotes should seldom be brought into a conversation. Puns are always regarded as vulgar. Repartee should be indulged in with moderation, and never kept up, as it degenerates into the vulgarity of an altercation.

A Sweet and Pure Breath

The breath should be kept sweet and pure. Onions are the forbidden fruit, because of their offensiveness to the breath. No gentleman should go into the presence of ladies smelling of tobacco.


It is neither respectful nor polite to smoke in the presence of ladies, even though they may have given permission, nor should a gentleman smoke in a room which ladies are in the habit of frequenting. In those homes where the husband is permitted to smoke in any room of the house, the sons will follow the father’s example, and the air of the room becomes like that of a public house.

Suppression of Emotion

Suppression of undue emotion, whether of laughter, of anger, or of mortification, of disappointment, or of selfishness in any form, is a mark of good breeding.

Extravagance in Dress

Dress, to be in perfect taste, need not be costly. It is unfortunate that in Australia too much attention is paid to dress by those who have neither the excuse of ample means nor of social culture. The wife of a poorly paid clerk, or of a young man just starting in business, aims at dressing as stylishly as does the wealthiest among her acquaintances. The sewing girl, the shop girl, the chambermaid, and even the cook, must have their elegantly trimmed dresses and expensive cloaks for Sunday and holiday wear, and the injury done by this state of things to the morals and manners of the poorer classes is incalculable.

Among the rich, a fondness for dress promotes exertion and activity of the mental powers, cultivates a correct taste, and fosters industry and ingenuity among those who seek to procure for them the materials [and the labour for making clothes].

[From Our Australian Cousins, by James Inglis. London. 1880.]