The Collected Sayings of Lord Pompadour Snedley
By Regina Scott
In the early nineteenth century in England, there was the 10,000, the Haut Ton, the Beau Monde. They were from the finest families, wore the finest clothes, threw the finest parties. To be admitted to their company was a fate devotely to be desired. So it wasn't strange that as time went on, industrious ladies and gentlemen claimed that they knew the secret to the appropriate behavior necessary to mingle with the elite. Those who wished to breathe that rarified air studied these etiquette guides and decried anyone who varied from the impressive list of dos and do nots.
Daphne Courdebas, a dear friend of Lady Emily Southwell, my sleuth in Secrets and Sensibilities and Art and Artifice, is a devotee of the most recent master of etiquette to arrive on the scene: Lord Pompadour Snedley. He has a rather interesting approach to popularity. If you've read Art and Artifice, you'll know why he sometimes veers from what one would expect. And I highly doubt anyone who slavishly followed his advice would be welcome in the homes of the aristocracy.
Or even considered sane.
So, for your enjoyment and edification, I have collected some of Lord Snedley's better known sayings. Embrace them at your own risk.
"A young lady on her first Season must in all ways be graceful, poised, and demur. Unless, of course, she is particularly pressed, as in discovering that her gown does not match her dancing slippers or determining that the tea has gone tepid, and then she may utter a single, decided shriek."
"On her first introduction to a gentleman, a young lady would do well to keep her eyes on his chin, unless of course he should have a pock or wart there. Raising her eyes to his will make her appear forward and staring at his feet will make the fellow uncomfortable. I also advise against staring at birthmarks or protrusions of any sort."
"It is nothing short of rude to forget a person's name or consequence, even if you have only met that person once and your Great Aunt Ermintrude quite monopolized the conversation. If you cannot remember the person's name, I strongly suggest that you mumble so as not to give offense or hold your hand to your ear and shout 'eh?' as if you require an ear trumpet."
"It is the duty and privilege of all young ladies to marry, unless they wish to enter a nunnery or the theatre at Convent Garden."
"Gentlemen, when you visit, stay a quarter hour, no more, no less. Unless, of course, you are pressed to stay by a particularly winsome young lady, or you find yourself enamored of the lemonade served that day, drink fourteen glasses, and must needs make use of the retiring facilities."
"A true lady never insists upon having her own way. She may plead, cajole, berate, and implore. Tears are always a wise gambit. So, I have been told, is carrying a pistol in your reticule. Do, however, make sure it harmonizes with your costume for the day."
"You may find it difficult to understand the young gentleman about town. He may be a Corinthian, cavorting with the sporting set. He may be a dandy, forever changing his clothes. He may be a member of the Featherstonehaugh Club, where they dance under the light of the waning moon. I advise against this last group: far too intellectual."
"Young ladies are indebted to their chaperons, those maternal sorts who hover about at balls, making sure that everything is aboveboard. Do insist that they stay away from card tables, sharp objects, and the occasional cavorting in the servant's hall."
"London has a number of fine shopping establishments, from the fashionable Bond Street to the lesser known Square of St. Mungo the Flatulent. All a young lady needs is a well filled reticule, a pair of sharp eyes, and the bargaining voice of a Haymarket fishmonger."
"Another sight of great popularity is the Elgin Marbles from far off Greece, on display at his lordship's home on Park Lane. As her escort, I would expect a young lady to marvel at the sweeping majesty, admire the sculpted muscles, and adore the chiseled profile. The Marbles aren't half bad either."
"It is the darkest sin imaginable to make your hostess odd numbers at table, especially on a Tuesday."
"Indulging in flirtation is every young lady's prerogative and quite expected in more fashionable circles. If you feel daunted, I suggest you practice on a door knob, which will not notice if your hair was parted the wrong way nor remark that you have parsley stuck between your front teeth."
"You would be wise to avoid St. James's in the afternoon, and do not venture near it by evening. This is the territory of the gentleman. Of course, if a gentleman offers to smuggle you in, by all means go. It's jolly fun."
"There is nothing finer than a young lady gowned in classic white. She is elegant, refined, pure as the driven snow. Of course, in a pinch, amaranthus, corbeau, morone, and naccarat are equally fine colors, if you can ever find someone to tell you what they look like."
"Always treat a guest in your home with the greatest civility, unless of course you catch the fellow slipping the silver up his sleeve or ogling the picture of your great-aunt Bess. Then, by all means, throw him out on his ear."
"A young lady needs no jewels to adorn her. She is a creation of nature, pure and sweet. Of course, should a gentleman offer, I'd go for carbuncles."
"A young lady would do well to stamp her letters with her own style. Perhaps a flamboyant signature, stationery embossed with little cupids, or excessive use of the word blunderbuss."
"Do you best not to vex your hostess by arriving too late or leaving too early. However, sometimes drastic measures are needed, such as when your hostess serves blanc mange with tripe."
"Morning calls are made in the afternoon. I have never fully understood why. Very likely the first fellow who tried it could not get up out of bed so early, or had let his pocket watch to his uncle's cousin's former valet before the varlet ran off to join the circus."
"A young lady would be well advised to dress carefully for a ball. One never knows who's watching: the Prince Regent, the lady patronesses of Society, or that rather odd fellow with the opera glasses, third row, center."
"The truly fashionable are never found at home unless suffering from bilious gout or the need to hide from creditors."
"Do not become too enamored of consequence. Some perfectly fine fellows have no titles and should rightly be encouraged. That does not count the dashing infantryman on half pay or the brawny fellow who comes to service the Necessary."
"There is nothing more tiresome than a young lady who enacts a scene at a ball. Expect a gentleman to step on your toe, forget to procure you punch, and spend an inordinate amount of time staring at your décolleté. If he vexes you, simply rap him with your fan. Dumping the contents of the punch bowl on his head, though effective, is generally to be avoided."
"Any acquaintance should undergo the most strict scrutiny before being given entrance to the inner sanctum, unless, of course, you admire their quizzing glass."
"A gentleman who cannot be bothered to attend to the social niceties should be forced to sit upon pin cushions for a week."
"On the matter of mourning, I advise at least a year for a husband and longer for someone you loved. If you are the son of the deceased, my condolences on the loss of your friend and mentor, the one who raised you from a lad. Spend your inheritance as soon as possible."
"A gentleman is known by how he stands, head high, nose higher, shoulders back, stomach tight. And if all fails, try the Terpsichorean Slouch."
"In case circumstances do not favor you and you must take to shanks mare, I strongly advise bringing along smelling salts, the lavender-sulfuric variety if possible. I have been known to use them after an exertion of a quarter mile."
"Honesty is the best policy in all things, except when answering the question, 'Does this gown show I've eaten a dozen cakes in the last fortnight?' of course."
"Being a young lady on her first Season is a very fine thing. Do not fear to be yourself, whether that means painting, flirting, riding, writing, or sliding down the banister. You never know what very presentable gentleman you might meet while doing so."
Try Art and Artifice to read more about Lord Snedley's mysterious origins.