Tag: Letters

The Etiquette of Broken Betrothals: Victorian Advice on Ending an Engagement

Jilted by Briton Riviere, 1887.
(Philadelphia Museum of Art)

In the Victorian era, a broken engagement was no small matter. If a gentleman jilted his fiancée, he risked doing untold damage to both her reputation and his own. Even so, if an engaged couple discovered that they were incompatible, Victorian era marriage manuals and books on etiquette strongly advised breaking the engagement rather than embarking on what would surely be a miserable marriage. As The New York Fashion Bazar Book of Etiquette (1887) explains:[…]Continue Reading


Twelve Victorian Era Tips on the Etiquette of Ladylike Letter Writing

“The palm of good letter-writing has been universally awarded to the fair sex.”
Etiquette of Good Society, 1893.

Yes or No? by Charles West Cope, 1872.
(Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool)

For Victorian ladies, there was much more to letter writing than simply dashing off a note. There were rules for proper correspondence, encompassing everything from acceptable shades of paper and ink to penmanship, wax seals, and conditions under which a woman must write in the third person. I can’t tackle all of these rules in a single article. Instead, I’ve gathered twelve quotes from various Victorian etiquette books addressing the basics of ladylike letter writing. I present them to you below.[…]Continue Reading


Robert Southey and the Cats of Greta Hall

Greta Hall in Keswick by Johann Jacob Weber, 1843.
Greta Hall in Keswick by Johann Jacob Weber, 1843.

Born of humble origins in 1774, Robert Southey went on to become Poet Laureate of England from 1813 until his death in 1843.  A contemporary of 19th century Romantic poets like William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, he was an incredibly prolific writer, both of poetry and of prose.  He was also a great lover of cats, as evidenced in his vast correspondence with friends and family.[…]Continue Reading


A Soldier Writes Home: Letters from the Georgian Era through World War II

“The field of battle is a festival of honour; a sublime pageant.  But this is war!”
Sir Robert Ker Porter, 1809.

Summoned to Waterloo by Hillingford 1897
Summoned to Waterloo by Robert Alexander Hillingford, 1897.

Whether it is touched upon in conversation between those characters safe on the home front or dealt with directly via a character who has been in the military or is still serving abroad, war is a part of many historical novels.  Indeed, there aren’t many fans of Georgian and Regency fiction who could not recite to you the salient facts of the Battles of Trafalgar or Waterloo.  However, what makes us, as readers, invested in the characters does not come down to a mere recitation of facts on a timeline.  It comes down to emotional authenticity.[…]Continue Reading


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