We all know that Edgar Allan Poe wrote wonderful stories and poems, but did you know he also wrote articles for the magazines of the time? One such piece, widely believed to have been written by Poe, was published in Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1846. It’s entitled “A Few Words on Etiquette” and, although appearing in a women’s publication, looks to be more along the lines of advice to young men of the time.
Some of the information could be relevant even today, as exampled in this somewhat comical section on how to conduct yourself when seated at the table next to a lady, who perhaps is not as familiar with etiquette as the reader of the article:
“If the lady be something of a gourmande, and in over-zealous pursuit of the aroma of the wind of a pigeon should raise an unmanageable portion to her mouth, you should cease all conversation with her and look steadfastly into the opposite part of the room.”
Other advice is somewhat harsh:
“Familiarity of manner is the greatest vice of society, and when our acquaintance finds himself entitled to say, ‘Allow me, my dear fellow,’ or any such phrase, cut him directly.”
“Dance quietly but gracefully, moving only your legs and feet, not your body to and fro like a pendulum. If you have no ear for music, or a false ear, never dance at all.”
Much of his advice reflects the age in which it was written:
“If you have remarkably fine teeth, you may smile affectionately upon the bowee without speaking.”
“Never enter your own house without bowing to any one you may meet there…”
Can you imagine entering your house today and bowing to your spouse or sibling? They would think you were off your rocker.
Poe certainly does not express any hesitance in offering his very definite opinions:
“Punning is now decidedly out of date. It is a silly and displeasing thing…”
“Green spectacles are an abomination, fitted only for students of divinity; blue ones are respectable and even distingué.”
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