Nineteenth-Century Quotes to Amuse, Delight, and Annoy

In honor of signing my contract to write an e-book (based on my Master’s thesis) on middle-class mourning etiquette, fashion, and contradictions in late Victorian New York, I posted some of my favorite nineteenth-century sentiments below.

Martin Justice, “At your feet, ladies, I say, but I go,” published in Henry Wallace Phillips, “The Little Canoe, Century, Nov. 1903. Image via Library of Congress, Cabinet of American Illustration, http://loc.gov/pictures/resource/cai.2a13622/.
Martin Justice, “At your feet, ladies, I say, but I go,” published in Henry Wallace Phillips, “The Little Canoe, Century, Nov. 1903. Image via Library of Congress, Cabinet of American Illustration, http://loc.gov/pictures/resource/cai.2a13622/.

On love and courtship
“The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” —Fanny Fern (Sara Parton), 1853

“Women are said to be fickle, but are they more so than men? A man’s ideal is as variable as the wind. What he thinks is his ideal of woman is usually a glorified image of the last girl he happened to admire.” —Myrtle Reed, The Spinster Book, 1903

On life
“Doing the things which ought not to be done never loses fascination and charm.” —Myrtle Reed, The Spinster Book, 1903

On the color black
“Many persons have a mistaken idea that if an article is black it is of the proper shade, and that everything purchased will correspond because it is black. There is no greater error committed.” —Godey’s Lady’s Book, 1889

On walking or riding in public
“Swinging the arms when walking, eating upon the street, sucking the parasol handles, pushing violently through a crowd, whispering in public conveyances, are all evidence of ill-breed in ladies.” —Thos. Hill, Hill’s Manual of Social and Business Forms, 1888

“Never be seen in the street without gloves. Your gloves should fit to the last degree of perfection.” —Nugent Robinson, Collier’s Cyclopedia: Commercial and Social Information, 1882

“Ride always on the right hand of the lady; thus you do not brush her skirts . . . you then have your left [hand] at her service, to catch a runaway horse, etc.” —Harper’s Bazaar, 1882

On death and fashion, in all seriousness
“If, after the death of a near relative, one wears colors, makes calls and attends social functions, it must inevitably follow that one will be considered heartless.” —Ellin Craven Learned, The Etiquette of New York To-day, 1906

On death and fashion, satirized
“Grief which must express itself in the outer garments is apt to be so sincere that its gradual mitigation should be very carefully marked—otherwise its original sincerity might be doubted.” —Life magazine, 1899

On grooming
“A book called The Ugly Girl Papers, which Harper & Brothers send by mail for $1, will give you information about removing superfluous hairs. Our advice, however, is to let them alone, as most depilatories are injurious.” —Harper’s Bazaar, 1882

 

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