Etiquette advice from Mark Twain & Lewis Carroll

Advice to Little GirlsThe more I talk about the time I attended finishing school, the more I learn that adults eat this stuff up. Children on the other hand … what eight-year-old has time for a lesson on the proper response to “How do you do?” or the proper method for table setting? They’ve got Dance Dance Revolution to dance and Pokemon to poke or whatever it is eight-year-olds do these days.

But there are ways to get them interested — mostly by having fun with it all, and of course, this means it’s fun(ny) for adults too. And by ways, I mean books, both of which I read about via Brainpickings (here and here).

The first: Mark Twain’s Advice to Little Girls. As one would expect of the legendary wordsmith, advice offered includes such gems as:

Good little girls always show marked deference for the aged. You ought never to ‘sass’ old people unless they ‘sass’ you first.


If your mother tells you to do a thing, it is wrong to reply that you won’t. It is better and more becoming to intimate that you will do as she bids you, and then afterward act quietly in the matter according to the dictates of your best judgment.

The second: Lewis Carroll’s Hints for Etiquette, Or Dining Out Made Easy, a feature included in The Alice in Wonderland Cookbook. “We are bound in justice to say that nothing here stated will be found to contradict the habits of the best circles,” begins the list of etiquette tips, which include:

In proceeding to the dining-room, the gentleman gives one arm to the lady he escorts– it is unusual to offer both.

and …

As a general rule, do not kick the shins of the opposite gentleman under the table, if personally unacquainted with him; your pleasantry is liable to be misunderstood — a circumstance at all times unpleasant. 

Not exactly orthodox advice, but that is why they’re charming and would pair quite nicely with an Emily Post manual for kids.

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