Travel Advice Exerpts

Today’s exerpt is “Travelling” from Frost’s Laws and by-Laws of American Society.( By S.A. Frost. 1869. )


THERE are many little points of etiquette and  courteous observances which, if attended to, serve very materially to lighten the tedium and fatigue of travel, the non-observance of them being at tended with proportionally disagreeable effects. No situation can be named where the difference between the well-bred and ill-bred of either sex is more marked than when they are upon a journey; and in this country, where all classes are thrown into contact in the various public conveyances, the annoyance of rude company can scarcely be exaggerated.

The duties of an escort to a lady are manifold and various, and the true lady will make them as light as possible, striving, by her own deportment and agreeable conversation, to compensate her gentleman  friend for the trouble she may occasion him. To weary him constantly by complaints of the heat, dust, or flies; to worry for half an hour over some unavoidable mishap or annoyance; to lose or miss some part of her hand-baggage every five minutes; forcing him to rise and search for what she eventually finds in her own pocket; to inquire every few moments, “Where are we now? what time is it? are we nearly at our journey’s end?” to delay him, when the train or boat does stop, for arrangements that should have been made ten minutes before; to fidget about her baggage; or to find constant fault with what he cannot control, are all faults in which lady travellers are prone to indulge, but which all mark low breeding, founded upon intense selfishness.

Good-nature, perfect courtesy, patience, punctuality, and an easy adaptation to perhaps untoward circumstances mark the perfect lady
in travelling. When you see a lady, detained perhaps for hours by a snow-storm, pleasantly trying to beguile the time by conversation, relieving tired mothers, perhaps, of the care of fretful children, jesting pleasantly upon the unpleasant delay, and uttering no complaint or impatient word, even if half frozen or in utter discomfort, you may be certain you see a perfectly well-bred lady in every sense of the words.

No lady should ever allow her escort to enter with her any saloon devoted exclusively to the use of ladies. Because he may be her own
 husband, son, father, or brother does not excuse her, as he cannot stand in such relation to others present.

If a lady in a car or stage finds the exertion of talking tiresome or painful, she may say so frankly, and no gentleman must take offence. Weak lungs may be really injured by the effort made to be heard above the noise of a locomotive or wheels.

In travelling alone, a lady should speak to the conductor on a train, or, in a long steamer passage, introduce herself to the captain, explaining her unprotected situation, and they are bound to extend every courtesy in their power. It is better for a lady so travelling to wait until the rush of passengers is over before quitting a train or  boat, and then, if not waiting to meet any one, leave the station.

A lady travelling alone may, with perfect propriety, accept courtesy from strange gentlemen, such as raising or lowering a window, the offer of a hand across a slippery plank, or any such attention, being careful always to thank him politely for the same, and in a tone that will not encourage conversation or further advances.

Any apology made during a journey for accidental crushing, crowding, reaching over the seat, or the like, must be accepted, a silent but courteous bow being the best acknowledgment of the politeness dictating such apology.

A gentleman, on entering a public  carriage or omnibus, must never step before a lady, but stand aside until she enters, raising the hat slightly if she acknowledges his courtesy, as a true lady will, by a bow. He may offer to assist her if she appears to need it, even if she is a perfect stranger to him.

If a gentleman consents to act as escort to a lady, he must carefully fulfill all the requirements of that rather arduous position. If she meets him at a wharf or depot, he must be a little before the hour for starting, to procure her ticket, check her baggage, and secure for her a pleasant seat. He must never leave her to stand in an office or upon a wharf whilst he attends to her tickets and baggage; but, having seen her comfortably seated in a ladies’ room or cabin, return for those duties. In arriving at a station, he must see her seated in a hack before he attends to the trunks.

In a hotel, the gentleman must escort the lady to the parlor before securing her room, but not detain her afterwards. However agreeable she may be, he may be certain she is longing to rest after her journey, and remove the travel stains from her face and dress. He must at once escort her to her room, ascertain what hour it will be agreeable for her take the next meal, and meet her again in the parlor at that hour. He must not leave her upon arriving at the journey’s end until he has escorted her to the house, and if he remains in the  city, he must call the next day to inquire after her health. After that, the lady may continue the acquaintance or not, as she pleases; but if she declines to do so, by nonrecognition at the next meeting, he is at liberty to decline acting in the capacity of escort to her again.

A gentleman who is travelling alone may offer little courtesies to strangers, and even to ladies, carefully maintaining a respectful manner, that may assure them they need not fear to encourage impertinence by accepting the preferred civilities.

In travelling abroad, the truest courtesy is to observe as far as practicable every national prejudice. The old proverb, to “do in Rome as Romans do,” is the best rule of etiquette in foreign travel. The man who affects a supercilious disdain for all foreign customs and forms will not convince the natives of his vast superiority, but impress them with the belief that he is an ill-bred idiot. The most polite, as well as agreeable travellers are those who will smilingly devour mouse-pie and bird’s-nest soup in China, dine contentedly upon horse-steak in Paris, swallow their beef uncooked in Germany, maintain an unwinking gravity over the hottest curry in India, smoke their hookah gratefully in Turkey, mount an elephant in Ceylon, and, in short, conform gracefully to any native custom, however strange it may appear to him.

“Comparisons are odious,” and to be continually asserting that everything in the United States is vastly superior to everything abroad is a mark of vulgarity. If you really think there is nothing to be seen abroad as good as you have at home, why, you are foolish not to stay at home and enjoy the best.

A lady may, under certain circumstances, as, if she be a married lady, and not too young, begin a conversation with a strange gentlemen; but he must not, under any circumstances, begin a conversation with her. An unmarried lady, unless advanced in life, is not supposed to begin conversation with a strange gentleman.

When a lady, travelling alone, wishes to descend from a railway car, it is the duty of the gentleman nearest the door to assist her in alighting, even if he resumes his seat again. He may offer to collect her baggage, call a hack, or perform any service her escort would have attended to.

If a train stop for refreshments, a gentleman may, with perfect propriety, offer to escort a strange lady, who is alone, to the refreshment-room, or to bring to her any refreshments she may desire. If she accepts his offer, he must see that she is served with all that she desires before attending to his own wants. A lady may always accept such an offer of attention, thanking the gentleman for his politeness, and dismissing him by a courteous bow, which he must accept as an intimation that his services are no longer required.

Smoking in the presence of ladies is uncourteous, even if there is no law against it in the car, stage, or boat. Some smokers, of more inveterate weakness in the direction of tobacco than of strength in politeness, make a parade of asking the permission of any lady who
 may be present; but this is hardly enough. A lady will not like to refuse, although she may dislike the smoke, and she ought not to be put to her election between two alternatives almost equally disagreeable. If gentlemen only are present, the question should be put to each and every one of them whether they have any objection to smoking in their presence. One dissentient voice should carry the day; for no gentleman has a right to insist upon his own special gratification if it will cause annoyance and discomfort to others present. Should there be no objection on the part of the entire party, the gentleman who first strikes his fusee should offer it to any others near him about to indulge also before he uses it himself.

As regards the right to have the window up or down, the person who sits facing the the engine has the command. Ladies, being present,
should, of course, be consulted, no matter on which side they may be sitting, and their wish must be considered a final settlement of the question.

If a gentleman have any newspapers, he must offer them first to his travelling companions. If refused, he may use them himself, thus leaving them free to read also if they so desire.

It is a breach of etiquette for a lady to touch her baggage in a hotel after it is packed. There are plenty of servants to attend to it, and they should carry to the hack even the travelling- shawl, satchel, and railway novel. Nothing looks more awkward than to see a lady, with both hands full, stumbling up the steps of a hotel hack.

Published in: on February 16, 2013 at 9:52 am  Leave a Comment  

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