Title: Things That Are Not Done
Author(s): Edgar and Diana Woods
Publisher: Universal Publications Ltd.
Publication date: 1937 [Out of print]
I’m fortunate enough to have come into possession of many old, rare, and unusual books over the years.
Today I thought I’d feature one of my favourites – a 1930s book on etiquette. The difference between the advice for men and women (or girls, as the book frequently says) is both shocking and hilarious.
Although this post is intended to be humorous, I also hope it serves as a reminder that inequality still exists and we are all responsible for stamping it out.
And yes, this is a real book, intended to be a real guide for etiquette!
Enjoy the post and have a wonderful Sunday!
About the book
As a child I had an elderly neighbour who, to the best of my knowledge, did not have any family. She had one friend who cared for her everyday, and when she sadly passed away, the friend was going to throw out her book collection. Thankfully my father came to the rescue and offered to give them a new home, and eventually I pilfered the collection away into my own.
The book is not dated but having checked with the British Library, I know it was published in 1937. From the inside of the book I believe it was purchased for or by my neighbour in April 1942 for 2s. 6d (12½p).
It was published by Universal Publications Ltd. in London, but due to its generic name I’m unfortunately unable to find out much about the publishing house.
The book is described as ‘An outspoken commentary on popular habits and a guide to correct conduct’. From appearance to travelling by train, let’s take a look at what this book has to say on some everyday subjects!
Rules for those in love
Advice for girls and women
“Don’t marry a man who takes no interest in sport, and don’t marry one whose whole interests are in sport. If sports mean nothing to him he is a poor sort of man, and if they mean everything to him he will neglect the real things of life.”
“Don’t marry a man who has no time for dogs. Ten to one such a man will only have time for himself.”
Advice for men
“Don’t marry a girl who must be always going somewhere and doing something. She is not the sort to make a comfortable home for you.”
“…don’t marry a girl who is utterly bored by the thought of clothes. She will never look her best and, when you take her out, you will be ashamed of her appearance.”
Advice for wives and husbands
“Wives should not bore their husbands, as soon as they come home after a hard day’s work, with what the milkman did. And husbands, when their wives have had nobody but the baker to speak to all day, should not want to go to sleep the moment they get in-doors.
Husbands, if your wives talk of nothing but small-minded things, don’t get restless. It is a sign that the poor things are suffering from the monotony of four walls. A visit to the theatre or cinema is an excellent cure.”
In the dance room
“Don’t forget those duty dances, if you are a man. The pretty girl who has come with her ugly sister has not sat out a dance, but the ugly sister has not yet had a single partner. It will be a very kindly act if you go across and make yourself nice to the ugly one.”
“If your wife is present and this is her first dance for fifteen years, don’t point out her mistakes and don’t tell her how badly she is dancing. But if you must do these churlish things, don’t let the whole room know what you are saying.”
“The woman who blackens her eyelashes is asking for trouble.”
“Finger-nails are another source of feminine excess. The woman who goes about her daily avocations with blood-red finger-nails is merely harking back to the days of savagery, when hands smeared with blood were a sign of successful fighting.”
“‘Daring clothes,’ as some women call them, are not smart. They merely proclaim the wearer’s lack of decorum and stamp her as fast.”
To womankind in general
“Thank goodness we have reached an age when women are no longer regarded as things to be petted and spoiled by men. To-day they are able to express an identify of their own and to live on an equality with men. Therefore it is wrong for you to expect something more than equality. You may get it, but it is not yours to expect.”
“If you wear shoes, pay particular attention to your socks. If there is a hole in the heel or even if the heels are much darned, you are lowering your dignity.”
Answering the front door
“When there is a ring at the front door, see that it is answered smartly. To keep people waiting an undue amount of time is ill-mannered.”
“To carry on a conversation on the doorstep is not done by people who matter.”
Going by train
“If you are a man and are comfortably seated, don’t stand up for a pretty girl and sit tight when a plain girl enters. Your manners have nothing to do with the looks of the lady passengers.”
And lastly, personal hints
“Nice girls don’t leave a dance to go for a motor run with their partner.”
“Never ask a lady to wait for you outside a theatre, restaurant or other place of entertainment. She should always be invited to wait in the entrance hall.”
If you’d like more sage advice, please see the following publications, priced at 1s. each:
- Do’s and Don’ts for Husbands
- Do’s and Don’ts for Wives
- Do’s and Don’ts for Dancers
- Do’s and Don’ts for Sweethearts
I hope you enjoyed this post. I found it quite difficult to narrow down exactly what I wanted to include as, to be honest, the whole thing is an absolute gem. My favourite has to be the advice to women not to expect equality – what would the authors make modern society?!
Which is your favourite quote? Let me know in the comments below.
If you enjoyed this post, check out my post on my most treasured book in my collection.