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Puffery Prevails - Etiquette in 19th-Century England

Marjorie Morgan discovers the origins of the image-making of modern marketeers and admen in the upwardly mobile world of 19th-century English society.

From the sixteenth to the mid-eighteenth century, etiquette referred to the rules governing court behaviour and ceremonial. Its definition had expanded in scope in England during the late eighteenth century to include a London-based, female-dominated coterie known as 'Society'. By 1800, this coterie had replaced the court as both the centre of fashion and the prevailing locus of aristocratic sociability.

Composed of those families who deserted their country estates for the duties of Parliament and delights of the London Season, 'Society' revolved around the private drawing-room and established detailed behavioural rules, or etiquettes, for that social sanctum. It was a how-to book explaining this fashionable, drawing-room etiquette that Fanny Burney's Evelina longed for when she exclaimed, 'There ought to be a book of the laws and customs a-la-mode, presented to all young people upon their first introduction into public company'.

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