Manners and social usages,

CHAPTER LVIII.HOW TO TREAT ENGLISH PEOPLE.


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The highest lady in the realm, Queen Victoria, is always addressed by the ladies and gentlemen of her household, and by all members of the aristocracy and gentry, as “Ma’am,” not “Madam,” or “Your Majesty,” but simply, “Yes, ma’am,” “No, ma’am.” All classes not coming within the category of gentry, such as the lower professional classes, the middle classes, the lower middle classes, the lower classes (servants), would address her as “Your Majesty,” and not as “Ma’am.” The Prince of Wales is addressed as “Sir” by the aristocracy and gentry, and never as “Your Royal Highness” by either of these classes, but by all other people he is addressed as “Your Royal Highness.”

The other sons of Queen Victoria are addressed as “Sir” by the upper classes, but as “Your Royal Highness” by the middle and lower classes, and by all persons not coming within the category of gentry; and by gentry, English people mean not only the landed gentry, but all persons belonging to the army and navy, the clergy, the bar, the medical and other professions, the aristocracy of art (Sir Frederick Leighton, the President of the Royal Academy, can always claim a private audience with the sovereign), the aristocracy

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of wealth, merchant princes, and the leading City merchants and bankers. The Princess of Wales and all the princesses of the blood royal are addressed as “Ma’am” by the aristocracy and gentry, but as “Your Royal Highness” by all other classes.

A foreign prince is addressed as “Prince” and “Sir” by the aristocracy and gentry, and as “Your Serene Highness” by all other classes; and a foreign princess would be addressed as “Princess” by the aristocracy, or “Your Serene Highness” by the lower grades, but never as “Ma’am.”

An English duke is addressed as “Duke” by the aristocracy and gentry, and never as “Your Grace” by the members of either of these classes; but all other classes address him as “Your Grace.”

A marquis is sometimes conversationally addressed by the upper classes as “Markis,” but generally as “Lord A–,” and a marchioness as “Lady B–;” all other classes would address them as “Marquis” or “Marchioness.” The same remark holds good as to earls, countesses, barons, baronnesses–all are “Lord B–” or “Lady–B.”

Victoria receives the news of her accession to the throne from Lord Conyngham (left) and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

But Americans, who are always, if presented at court, entitled to be considered as aristocracy and gentry, and as such are always received, must observe that English people do not use titles often even in speaking to a duke. It is only an ignorant person who garnishes his conversation with these titles. Let the conversation with Lord B flow on without saying “My lord” or “Lord B–” more frequently than is absolutely necessary. One very ignorant American in London was laughed at for saying, “That isn’t so,

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lord,” to a nobleman. He should have said, “That isn’t so, I think,” or, “That isn’t so, Lord B–,” or “my lord.”

The daughters of dukes, marquises, and earls are addressed as “Lady Mary,” “Lady Gwendoline,” etc. This must never be forgotten, and the younger sons of dukes and marquises are called “Lord John B–,” “Lord Randolph Churchill,” etc. The wife of the younger son should always be addressed by both the Christian and surname of her husband by those slightly acquainted with her, and by her husband’s Christian name only by her intimate friends. Thus those who know Lady Randolph Churchill well address her as “Lady Randolph.”

The younger sons of earls, viscounts, and barons bear the courtesy title of “Honorable,” as do the female members of the family; but this is never used colloquially under any circumstances, although always in addressing a letter to them.

Baronets are addressed by their full title and surname, as “Sir Stafford Northcote,” etc., by persons of the upper classes, and by their titles and Christian names by all lower classes. Baronets’ wives are addressed as “Lady B–“or “Lady C–.” They should not be addressed as “Lady Thomas B– ‘” that would be to give them the rank of the wife of a younger son of a duke or marquis, instead of that of a baronet’s wife only.

In addressing foreigners of rank colloquially the received rule is to address them by their individual titles without the addition of the surname to their titles. In case of a prince being a younger son he is addressed as “Prince Henry,” as in the case of Prince Henry of

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Battenberg. The sons of the reigning monarchs are addressed as “Your Imperial Highness.” A foreign nobleman is addressed as “Monsieur le Due,” Monsieur le Comte,” “Monsieur le Baron,” etc.; but if there is no prefix of “de,” the individual is addressed as “Baron Rothschild,” “Count Hohenthal,” etc.

While it is proper on the Continent to address an unmarried woman as mademoiselle, without the surname, in England it would be considered very vulgar. “Miss” must be followed by the surname. The wives of archbishops, bishops, and deans are simply Mrs. A–, Mrs. B–, etc., while the archbishop and bishop are always addressed as “Your Grace” and as “My lord,” their wives deriving no precedency and no title from their husbands’ ecclesiastical rank. It is the same with military personages.

Peeresses invariably address their husbands by their title; thus the Duchess of Sutherland calls her husband “Sutherland,” etc. Baronets’ wives call their husbands “Sir John” or “Sir George,” etc.

The order of precedency in England is strictly adhered to, and English matrons declare that it is the greatest convenience, as it saves them all the trouble of choosing who shall go in first, etc. For this reason, among others, the “Book of the Peerage” has been called the Englishman’s Bible, it is so often consulted.

But the question of how to treat English people has many another phase than that of mere title, as we look at it from an American point of view.

When we visit England we take rank with the highest, and can well afford to address the queen as

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“Ma’am.” In fact, we are expected to do so. A well-bred, well-educated, well-introduced American has the highest position in the social scale. He may not go in to dinner with a duchess, but he is generally very well placed. As for a well-bred, handsome woman, there is no end to the privileges of her position in England, if she observes two or three rules. She should not effuse too much, nor be too generous of titles, nor should she fail of the necessary courtesy due always from guest to hostess. She should have herself presented at court by her Minister or by some distinguished friend, if She wishes to enter fashionable society. Then she has the privilege of attending any subsequent Drawing-room, and is eligible to invitations to the court bails and royal concerts, etc.

American women have succeeded wonderfully of late years in all foreign society from their beauty, their wit, and their originality. From the somewhat perilous admiration of the Prince of Wales and other Royal Highnesses for American beauties, there has grown up, however, a rather presumptuous boldness in some women, which has rather speedily brought them into trouble, and therefore it may be advisable that even a witty and very pretty woman should hold herself in check in England.

English people are very kind in illness, grief, or in anything which is inevitable, but they are speedily chilled by any step towards a too sudden intimacy. They resent anything like “pushing” more than any other people in the world. In no country has intellect, reading, cultivation, and knowledge such “success” as in England. If a lady, especially, can talk well,

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she is invited everywhere. If she can do anything to amuse the company–as to sing well, tell fortunes by the hand, recite, or play in charades or private theatricals–she is almost sure of the highest social recognition. She is expected to dress well, and Americans are sure to do this. The excess of dressing too much is to be discouraged. It is far better to be too plain than too fine in England, as, indeed, it is everywhere; an overdressed woman is undeniably vulgar in any country.

If we could learn to treat English people as they treat us in the matter of introductions, it would be a great advance. The English regard a letter of introduction as a sacred institution and an obligation which cannot be disregarded. If a lady takes a letter to Sir John Bowring, and he has illness in his family and cannot ask her to dinner, he comes to call on her, he sends her tickets for every sort of flower show, the museums, the Botanical Garden, and all the fine things; he sends her his carriage–he evidently has her on his mind. Sir Frederick Leighton, the most courted, the busiest man in London, is really so kind, so attentive, so assiduous in his response to letters of introduction that one hesitates to present a letter for fear of intruding on his industrious and valuable life.

Of course there are disagreeable English people, and there is an animal known as the English snob, than which there is no Tasmanian devil more disagreeable. Travellers everywhere have met this variety, and one would think that formerly it must have been more common than it is now. There are also English families who have a Continental, one might say a cosmopolitan,

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reputation for disagreeability, as we have some American families, well known to history, who have an almost patrician and hereditary claim to the worst manners in the universe. Well-born bears are known all over the world, but they are in the minority. It is almost a sure sign of base and ignoble blood to be badly mannered. And if the American visitor treats his English host half as well as the host treats him, he may feel assured that the entente cordiale will soon be perfect.

One need not treat the average Englishman either with a too effusive cordiality or with that half-contemptuous fear of being snubbed which is of all things the most disagreeable. A sort of “chip on the shoulder” spread-eagleism formerly made a class of Americans unpopular; now Americans are in favor in England, and are treated most cordially.

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