DON’T talk like a man
A well-bred woman in the Regency era needed to tread a fine line between being polite, but not being too familiar or, heaven forbid, overly-friendly or flirtatious. Failing to stay within the boundaries of acceptable social intercourse could have serious consequences and call into question a lady’s manners or even her character.
According to historians of the time, a lady was to behave with âcourteous dignity’ at all times. She was expected to treat both acquaintances and strangers alike with equal grace and good manners and, if engaged in conversation, she could talk on a wide range of topics – though, of course, explicitly expressing an opinion was largely frowned upon. Feminine humor was acceptable, but outbursts of laughter or outward displays of emotion were most certainly not. Above all, any hint of vulgarity was strictly forbidden. Only men could make rude jokes or laugh loudly, and even they could only do so when in the company of other men or, at most, of women of ill-repute.
The rules for social interactions and conversation in the street were equally as strident as they were for behind closed doors. For instance, a lady should never be seen standing and talking on the street. If she met a friend or acquittance and wished to converse, then they were expected to walk and talk. One other major no-no of the Regency era was to âcut’ someone. Indeed, even to be accused of âcutting’ could prove to be a major strain on your character. But this didn’t mean stabbing someone! Instead, cutting in this context meant simply failing to acknowledge the presence of someone you had previously been introduced to socially. A gentleman was certainly not allowed to cut someone. Ladies did, however, have a bit more leeway. Only a woman could ignore someone else, but only if they had strong justification for doing so. As you can imagine, just walking down a busy street could be a social etiquette minefield!