How To Become Conversable

However beautiful or fashionably dressed a lady may be, she can never gain permanent hold upon society, without that peculiar talent for conversation, which is the well-known specialite of French women—and which depends more upon a variety of information, and a certain intuitive tact in the use of it, than in any specially developed accomplishment, as a virtuoso or a blur. Men of intelligence and of experience in the world, who are familiar with all great artists, and cannot but be bored by the grand scenas and arias attempted in private society, derive an ever fresh and exquisite pleasure from the conversation of a well-taught, observant, and appreciative woman.

Our correspondent, Laura, who writes us on this subject, says that she has been brought up in the country; but, being now resident in town, she feels herself miserably deficient in general information. How can she acquire the requisite amount of it? Every individual has a private gift, "mission," capacity, and stock of information. No two individuals can be educated alike. They may learn the same lessons, and read the same books, and see the same society, and yet they will grow up very different characters. Their impressions are different—their reminiscences are different—their imaginations and passions arc different; and the more original they are, the more unlike others who have been educated along with them.

The best of all information for general chit-chat society is, viva voce, or live information; and this is only to be had in society itself. Therefore, those who see most society, are best fitted, because best trained for it. Nevertheless, to finish the lady and gentleman, reading is indispensable; and the fashion of the day prescribes the character of the reading, if you wish to be à la mode. Poetry, the drama, the opera, and music, in general, are indispensable for, ladies. If you would be learned in their history, you may read Schlegel's Lectures on Dramatic Literature; Hazlitt's Criticisms; Madame do Stall's Germany, (infinitely superior to her Corinne;) Miss Strickland's Queens of England; Hogarth's History of Music; Fetis' History of Music.

With those, you may do very well, in respect to music and the drama. As to painting, we are sorry to say that we know of no American work that gives any adequate view of the art of artists of this country. America has made such rapid advances in painting, that our own artists furnish the staple for this species of conversation. Our correspondent, however, will do well to read Dunlap's Lives of the Painters, and Allan Cunningham's Biography of Painters and Sculptors. In regard to ancient art, it is necessary to have Pilkington's Dictionary of Painting, which contains brief biographies of all the great masters, with very correct and dear explanations respecting the different periods, styles, schools, nationalities, etc. It is an invaluable work.

Modern history is a frequent topic of conversation, now-a-days, with both sexes; and we advise our correspondent, if she is (as every American girl of course ought to be) familiar with the history of her own country, to make herself acquainted with the leading incidents of the French Revolution, (Lamartine's History of the Girondists, or Thiers' History of the French Revolution, will furnish the means) and especially with the fall, captivity and death of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, and with the grand era of Napoleon I, without a pretty good knowledge of which, one is not safe in a modern drawing-room. For this, we would recommend the Memoirs of the Duchess d1 AbranUs, Miohelot's Women of the Revolution, and anything and everything about Bonaparte, that can be got hold of—not forgetting the minute record of Las Cases. For the principal military events in the great Emperor's career, Mr. Abbott's work will answer the superficial needs of conversation.

As to a knowledge of contemporary light literature, the Reviews and Magazines are the great resource. With Graham, and the four British Reviews, republished in New York, our Correspondent need never be at a loss. If she reads French, she had better subscribe to the Semaine Litteraire and the Courrier des Etats Unis, in New York.

We have thus, as we think, laid out the mental programme for our unknown correspondent, which, if she follow, she will at the end of a few months find herself able at least to maintain an easy and respectable position in any society—and to rise as far above that as her natural intellectual gifts will allow her. All that we have above set down, is an easy task, and can be achieved by a resolute, ambitious girl, in six months, in the intervals of dressing, shopping, visiting and flirting. But should she find it necessary to encroach upon any of these employments, let her begin by curtailing, or altogether abolishing, the last.

Further reading:
Graham's American Monthly Magazine of Literature, Art, and Fashion, Volumi 46-47

Book Reviews: The Rise Of Thomas Cromwell & Billie Holiday The Musician And The Myth

Hello everyone,

here are today's reviews. Enjoy:

The Rise of Thomas Cromwell: Power and Politics in the Reign of Henry VIII, 1485-1534 by Michael Everett
Thomas Cromwell is often portrayed, both by historians, novelists, and film makers, as a Machiavellian politician and revolutionary evangelical who rose to power by masterminding Henry VIII's split with Rome. While it makes for an intriguing story, Everett thinks we've been exaggerating his importance, and his influence on Henry VIII. By combing through historical documents and primary sources, he retraces Cromwell's early career, from his humble beginnings to his rise at court. The figure that emerges from these pages is that of a very skilled, highly efficient, and hard-working administrator to whom Henry VIII could delegate all kinds of matters, knowing they would be taken care of. It was the King who made all the important decisions. Cromwell only executed them.
Because the book deals with Cromwell's early career, as a lawyer and merchant first, and later as a servant of the King who was responsible for various Crown lands (it was this work, Everett argues, that brought him to the attention of Henry VIII), it is sometimes dry in places. Some topics, like law, just aren't that engaging, unless you have a passion for them. But that doesn't mean the book is boring. On the contrary, it is full of fascinating insights into Cromwell's work and personality that give us a better understanding of who this man really was and how he managed to rise so quickly at court. It's a must read for anyone interested in Cromwell and the Tudors.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

Billie Holiday: The Musician and the Myth by John Szwed
Never title was more apt. When I picked up this book, I expected to read a regular biography of Billie Holiday. A chronological account of her life and work, starting from her birth, to her rise to fame, her turbulent love life, and her death. Instead, what I got was a study of Billie as a musician and an investigation into the myths that still surround her. The first part of the book is dedicated to debunking all the lies and misconceptions about Billie, including those she herself told in her autobiography. Szwed skilfully separates fact from fiction to reveal what really happened, both in her personal and professional life.
The second part of the book focuses on Billie, The Musician. Szwed brings back to life the musical world Billie inhabited and its protagonists. Her voice, her creative process, her performance style, the songs she wrote and sang, and the impact she had on the music world are all analysed to explain what made her so incredibly talented and loved, even decades after her death.
Well-written and engaging, the book is a fascinating study of Billie's life and work, providing lots of interesting insight into a bygone era and one of its main protagonists. You can tell how much Szwed loves his subject. His passion exudes from every page. Unfortunately, the book also confused me. Billie Holiday: The Musician And The Myth is only for die-hard fans (or detractors) of Billie. Because the book doesn't follow a chronological order and is more a debate on Billie and her art, only they have the necessary background information to fully appreciate it. If you, like me, simply wanted to know more about her life, this book isn't for you. It did, however, made me curious to discover more about Billie Holiday and listen to more of her songs.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 3.5/5

Are you going to pick up these books?

Disclaimer: this book was sent by PR for consideration. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.

Louise & Artois

The Comte d'Artois, younger brother of Louis XVI, loved beautiful women, but only one completely captured his heart. Her name was Louise d'Esparbès de Lussan. Born in 1764, Louise lost her mother shortly after her birth. Her grandmother raised her until she was 12, when she was then sent to the convent of Panthemont, where she remained for 5 years.

At the tender age of 17, Louise left the convent to marry Denis, Vicomte de Polastron, the brother of Gabrielle de Polignac, Marie Antoinette's best friend and governess of the royal children. Gabrielle took an instant liking to the shy, sweet, and modest girl and got her a position as lady-in-waiting to the queen, with an apartment in the palace. "We shall be always together; she shall be not only a sister to me, but a cherished child," Gabrielle said of her sister-in-law. Louise must have been grateful for that, especially because right after the wedding ceremony her husband, promoted to the rank of colonnel, had to leave to take command of his regiment. He'd be away for a whole year.

Although Louis had Gabrielle to help her out at Versailles, her life at court didn't start well. Her introduction to the Queen was a disaster. Everything had been carefully arranged. Louise was sumptuously dressed, her hair powdered, and instructed on how to curtsey. But when the fatal moment came, Louise forgot everything she had been taught. She simply stood there, frozen. She didn't move even when the Queen embraced her. Her behaviour was a disgrace and soon became the talk of the court. All the courtiers avoided her, not wanting to be associated with her.

One man, however, approached, and started talking to her. A dashing, charming man who chased all the pretty women at court, Artois was instantly smitten with the shy, gentle, and virtuous Louise. Suddenly he started spending a lot time in Madame de Polignac’s apartments to be close to Louise. Everyone knew what this meant (Marie Antoinette even warned Louise to be wary of the Comte's attentions), but not Louise. She was too naive to understand what Artois' intentions were.

A year went by and Denis came back to court, and got his wife pregnant. She gave birth to a son, Louis. Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette stood as godparents. Motherhood suited Louise. It brought her happiness and gave her a new-found confidence. Rather than being deterred, Artois was now more in love than ever before. He wrote Louise a passionate love letter, which only confused and distressed her. She showed it to a few trusted friends and the Queen, who told her to leave the court and move to Paris, and return to Versailles only on the days when she was "in waiting".

Artois was in despair, but didn't give up. Instead, he took every opportunity to meet her, even if he couldn't speak to her. One night he even disguised himself, wearing a big wing and riding coat, to attend the opera, knowing Louise would be there. His disguise didn't fool anyone. It only managed to create a stir and confirm what everyone else already "knew": the two were lovers. Louise felt very humiliated by these false rumours. Virtuous and faithful, she had no intention to betray her husband. Even though Denis could be difficult to live with, she was determined to avoid all temptations to stray.

Things went on like this till July 1789, when both Artois and the Polignacs fled the country. Louise and her family went to Turin, where they heard of the money problems the Comte and his colony of émigrés, now in Germany, were facing. Louise asked her grandfather for her dowry money (it had never been paid), and, with her son and two servants in tow, went to Coblentz. Her arrival caused as a sensation. Artois couldn't believe his eyes. He had resigned himself to never see her again, and there she was. He was touched by her gesture, but also understood that her actions would be interpreted by the gossips as proof she was his lover.

And soon, she really would be. By the time Artois and his court had settled at Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh, the couple was openly living together. Their relationship brought Louise joy but also sorrow. A deeply pious and virtuous woman, living a life that went against her moral principles didn't allow her conscience to rest easy. But she and Artois were so much in love, there was no turning back now.

Louise and Artois would occasionally go to London, where the Comte would gamble, hoping to raise some money, as his income was so small and his debts mounting. It's on one of those trips, in 1804, that Madame de Gontaut, a cousin of Louise who hadn't seen her in ages, realised there was something wrong with Artoi's mistress. Louise was pale and coughed a lot. Apparently noone else, not even Artois had noticed. Madame de Gontaut, though, took Louise to the King's doctor, who diagnosed her with consumption. She didn't have long left to live. Artois was devastated.

Louise needed rest and calm, so Madame de Gontaut found a house in the country for her. But her conscience couldn't find peace, so a priest was summoned. He reassured Louise that God would forgive her sins, but only if she gave up Artois and never saw him again. The poor woman agreed on one condition. That she might at least be able to see him one last time on her deathbed. The priest agreed. Artois, his heart broken, left.

He would be back a week later, when he was quickly summoned at her bedside as Louise lay dying. As a last favour, Louise asked Artois to give himself entirely to God. He agreed. After her death, Artois repented and even took a vow of chastity, which he kept for the rest of his life.

Further reading:
Memoirs of the Duchesse de Gontaut, gouvernante to the children of France during the restoration, 1773-1836
Tea At Trianon

Historical Reads: The A to Z of life in Pompeii

What was life like for the Romans who lived in Pompeii? History Extra investigates:

C is for cafe culture
The latest estimate reckons that there were about 200 cafes and bars in the town altogether – about one for every 60 residents. A counter usually ran along the street to catch the passing trade, selling cheap takeaway food from large jars.

Wine was stacked up behind it and there were tables in a back room for sit-down eating and drinking. It was the reverse of today’s society, where the rich eat out and the poor cook up at home. In Pompeii, the poor, living in tiny quarters with no facilities, relied on cafe food.

D is for diet (and dormice)
Rich Pompeians did occasionally eat dormice. Or so a couple of strange pottery containers – identified, thanks to descriptions by ancient writers, as dormouse cages – suggest. But elaborate banquets were a rarity and just for the rich.

The staples were bread, olives, beans, eggs, cheese, fruit and veg (Pompeian cabbages were particularly prized), plus some tasty fish. Meat was less in evidence, and was mainly pork. This was a relatively healthy diet. In fact, the ancient Pompeians were on average slightly taller than modern Neapolitans.

E is for education, education, education
One of the puzzles of Pompeii is where the kids went to school. No obvious school buildings or classrooms have been found. The likely answer is that teachers took their class of boys (and almost certainly only boys) to some convenient shady portico and did their teaching there.

A wonderful series of paintings of scenes of life in the Forum seems to show exactly that happening – with one poor miscreant being given a nasty beating in front of his classmates. And the curriculum? To judge from the large number of quotes from Virgil’s Aeneid scrawled on Pompeian walls, the young were well drilled in the national epic.

To read the entire article, click here.

The Sad Life Of Princess Elisabeth Of Romania

Elisabetha Charlotte Josephine Alexandra Victoria, the daughter of Ferdinand, Crown Prince of Romania, and his wife, Marie of Edinburgh, was born on 12 October 1894 at Peleş Castle, near Sinaia. Although her father was a Roman Catholic, he was forced to obey the Romanian constitution and baptise his daughter in the country's official religion, Greek Orthodox. The Pope wasn't very understanding, and had Ferdinand excommunicated.

Elisabeth's mother was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria and a supporter of all things British. She hired English governesses to take care of her children (although, when her parents were away, Elisabeth, as the eldest daughter, was often required to look after her siblings), and British tutors to educate her children at home. An avid reader, Elisabeth loved literature, but also painting, embroidery, singing, and playing the piano. But the outbreak of the First World War put an abrupt halt to her education.

During the war, the princess, together with her sister Mignon and their mother, took care of the wounded soldiers at hospitals located in the Moldova region, the only part of Romania that hadn't been occupied by enemy troops. She also kept drawing and painting. Some of her pictures were printed in the “Calendarul Regina Maria”, whose proceeded were used for the war relief effort. After the war, in 1919, Elisabeth spent one year in Paris to study music and painting.

Marie was now old enough to get married, as her grandmother, Maria Alexandrovna of Russia, kept pointing out. It seems the old lady was the first to suggest an union with George, Crown Prince of Greece. Queen Sophie of Greece was ecstatic at the idea. In a letter to Marie, she wrote: "We found her lovely most sympathetic and charming. Upon our dearest son Georgie she has made a deep impression. We are most anxious to know whether Nando and you would have any objections to a marriage between the two young people, who seems to have a deep feeling for each other.” The couple tied the knot on 27 February 1921.

Elisabeth loved her husband, but she found life in Greece difficult. She was homesick, "mentally starved [...] hungering for the music and art and affection that were showered on her in Romania", and often left home alone as her husband spent long periods at the front. Greece, at the time was at war with Turkey. The internal political situation was in turmoil too. The republican party was busy trying to gain power and sought every opportunity to diminish the power of the monarchy and its reputation with the people.

Soon, Elisabeth's health grew worse. The princess suffered from typhoid fever and pleurisy, and had to undergo, without anaesthesia, two operations. Her parents, fearful for her life, rushed to her bedside. But, luckily, the princess recovered, although her heart, from then on, would always be weak. That year, King Constantine I of Greece, also had to abdicate in favour of his son. Upon hearing the news, Elisabeth, burst in tears. The throne she was suddenly thrust on was very shaky, and, to make matters worse, the monarchy had no money. Elisabeth was forced to economize, and struggled to pay even for necessary expenses. Still, Elisabeth did her best as Queen, even helping to raise money for the poor.

In December, her reign ended. Elisabeth and George went into exile in Romania, where they settled at the Cotroceni Palace. But her husband kept spending long periods in England, and, slowly, the couple started growing apart. In 1935, they divorced. Now, Elisabeth, who had lost her Romanian citizenship when she got married, asked to regain it. She then bought a house, which had always been a big dream of hers, to decorate as she pleased, and entertain her friends in, and founded, at her own expense, a hospital and home for children in Bucharest. It was one of the most modern institutions of its type.

But the peace she had found was shattered again by the outbreak of World War II. The Russians, who now controlled the country, forced King Michael to abdicate in 1947. The whole royal family, Elisabeth included, was forced to leave Romania in a hurry. Elisabeth died in exile, at Cannes, on 15 November 1956.

Further reading:
Lost In The Myths Of History
Roumania and her Rulers by Mrs Philip Martineau
The Story of My Life, vol. II, by Queen Marie of Romania

Courtship and Marriage

Today, dating seems to have no rules anymore. But, once, in Victorian America, if you wanted to court a woman, you had to do it properly. Here's how:

Young people of either sex, who have arrived at mature age, and who are not engaged, have the utmost freedom in their social intercourse in this country, and are at liberty to associate and mingle freely in the same circles with those of the opposite sex. Gentlemen are at liberty to invite their lady friends to concerts, operas, balls, etc., to call upon them at their homes, to ride and drive with them, and make themselves agreeable to all young ladies to whom their company is acceptable. In fact they are at liberty to accept invitations and give them ad libitum. As soon, however, as a young gentleman neglects all others, to devote himself to a single lady, he gives that lady reason to suppose that he is particularly attracted to her, and may give her cause to believe that she is to become engaged to him, without telling her so. A gentleman who does not contemplate matrimony should not pay too exclusive attention to any one lady.

A young lady who is not engaged may receive calls and attentions from such unmarried gentlemen as she desires, and may accept invitations to ride, to concerts, theatres, etc. She should use due discretion, however, as to whom she favors by the acceptance of such invitations. A young lady should not allow special attention from anyone to whom she is not specially attracted, because, first, she may do injury to the gentleman in seeming to give his suit encouragement; and, secondly, she may keep away from her those whom she likes better, but who will not approach her under the mistaken idea that her feelings are already interested. A young lady should not encourage the addresses of a gentleman unless she feels that she can return his affections. It is the prerogative of a man to propose, and of a woman to accept or refuse, and a lady of tact and kind heart will exercise her prerogative before her suitor is brought to the humiliation of an offer which must result in a refusal.

No well-bred lady will too eagerly receive the attentions of a gentleman, no matter how much she admires him; nor, on the other hand, will she be so reserved as to altogether discourage him. A man may show considerable attention to a lady without becoming a lover; and so a lady may let it be seen that she is not disagreeable to him without discouraging him. She will be able to judge soon from his actions and deportment, as to his motive in paying her his attentions, and will treat him accordingly. A man does not like to be refused when he makes a proposal, and no man of tact will risk a refusal. Neither will a well-bred lady encourage a man to make a proposal, which she must refuse. She should endeavor, in discouraging him as a lover, to retain his friendship. A young man of sensibilities, who can take a hint when it is offered him, need not run the risk of a refusal.

It is impossible to lay down any rule as to the proper mode of courtship and proposal. In France it is the business of the parents to settle all preliminaries. In England the young man asks the consent of the parents to pay addresses to their daughter. In this country the matter is left almost entirely to the young people.

It seems that circumstances must determine whether courtship may lead to engagement. Thus, a man may begin seriously to court a girl, but may discover before any promise binds them to each other, that they are entirely unsuited to one another, when he may, with perfect propriety and without serious injury to the lady, withdraw his attentions.

Certain authorities insist that the consent of parents must always be obtained before the daughter is asked to give herself in marriage. While there is nothing improper or wrong in such a course, still, in this country, with our social customs, it is deemed best in most cases not to be too strict in this regard. Each case has its own peculiar circumstances which must govern it, and it seems at least pardonable if the young man should prefer to know his fate directly from the lips of the most interested party, before he submits himself to the cooler judgment and the critical observation of the father and mother, who are not by any means in love with him, and who may possibly regard him with a somewhat jealous eye, as having already monopolized their daughter's affections, and now desires to take her away from them altogether.

Parents should always be perfectly familiar with the character of their daughter's associates, and they should exercise their authority so far as not to permit her to form any improper acquaintances. In regulating the social relations of their daughter, parents should bear in mind the possibility of her falling in love with any one with whom she may come in frequent contact. Therefore, if any gentleman of her acquaintance is particularly ineligible as a husband, he should be excluded as far as practicable from her society.

Parents, especially mothers, should also watch with a jealous care the tendencies of their daughter's affections; and if they see them turning toward unworthy or undesirable objects, influence of some sort should be brought to bear to counteract this. Great delicacy and tact are required to manage matters rightly. A more suitable person may, if available, be brought forward, in the hope of attracting the young girl's attention. The objectionable traits of the undesirable suitor should be made apparent to her without the act seeming to be intentional; and if all this fails, let change of scene and surroundings by travel or visiting accomplish the desired result. The latter course will generally do it, if matters have not been allowed to progress too far and the young girl is not informed why she is temporarily banished from home.

Parents should always be able to tell from observation and instinct just how matters stand with their daughter; and if the suitor is an acceptable one and everything satisfactory, then the most scrupulous rules of etiquette will not prevent their letting the young couple alone. If the lover chooses to propose directly to the lady and consult her father afterward, consider that he has a perfect right to do so. If her parents have sanctioned his visits and attentions by a silent consent, he has a right to believe that his addresses will be favorably received by them.

Respect for each other is as necessary to a happy marriage as that the husband and wife should have an affection for one another. Social equality, intellectual sympathy, and sufficient means are very important matters to be considered by those who contemplate matrimony.

It must be remembered that husband and wife, after marriage, have social relations to sustain, and perhaps it will be discovered, before many months of wedded life have passed, when there is a social inequality, that one of the two have made a sacrifice for which no adequate compensation has been or ever will be received. And so both lives become soured and spoiled, because neither receives nor can receive the sympathy which their efforts deserve, and because their cares are multiplied from a want of congeniality. One or the other may find that the noble qualities seen by the impulse of early love, were but the creation of an infatuated fancy, existing only in the mind where it originated.

Another condition of domestic happiness is intellectual sympathy. Man requires a woman who can make his home a place of rest for him, and woman requires a man of domestic tastes. While a woman who seeks to find happiness in a married life will never consent to be wedded to an idler or a pleasure-seeker, so a man of intelligence will wed none but a woman of intelligence and good sense. Neither beauty, physical characteristics nor other external qualifications will compensate for the absence of intellectual thought and clear and quick comprehensions. An absurd idea is held by some that intelligence and domestic virtues cannot go together; that an intellectual woman will never be content to stay at home to look after the interests of her household and children. A more unreasonable idea has never been suggested, for as the intellect is strengthened and cultured, it has a greater capacity of affection, of domesticity and of self-sacrifice for others.

Mutual trust and confidence are other requisites for happiness in married life. There can be no true love without trust. The responsibility of a man's life is in a woman's keeping from the moment he puts his heart into her hands. Without mutual trust there can be no real happiness.

Another requisite for conjugal happiness is moral and religious sympathy, that each may walk side by side in the same path of moral purpose and social usefulness, with joint hope of immortality.

Rules in regard to proposals of marriage cannot be laid down, for they are and should be as different as people. The best way is to apply to the lady in person, and receive the answer from her own lips. If courage should fail a man in this, he can resort to writing, by which he can clearly and boldly express his feelings. A spoken declaration should be bold, manly and earnest, and so plain in its meaning that there can be no misunderstanding. As to the exact words to be used, there can be no set formula; each proposer must be governed by his own ideas and sense of propriety in the matter.

A gentleman should evince a sincere and unselfish affection for his beloved, and he will show as well as feel that her happiness must be considered before his own. Consequently he should not press an unwelcome suit upon a young lady. If she has no affection for him, and does not conceive it possible even to entertain any, it is cruel to urge her to give her person without her love. The eager lover may believe, for the time being, that such possession would satisfy him, but the day will surely come when he will reproach his wife that she had no love for him, and he will possibly make that an excuse for all manner of unkindness.

It is not always necessary to take a lady's first refusal as absolute. Diffidence or uncertainty as to her own feelings may sometimes influence a lady to reply in the negative, and after-consideration cause her to regret that reply.

Though a gentleman may repeat his suit with propriety after having been once repulsed, still it should not be repeated too often nor too long, lest it should degenerate into importuning.

No lady worthy any gentleman's regard will say "no" twice to a suit which she intends ultimately to receive with favor. A lady should be allowed all the time she requires before making up her mind; and if the gentleman grows impatient at the delay, he is always at liberty to insist on an immediate answer and abide by the consequences of his impatience.

A lady who really means "no" should be able to so say it as to make her meaning unmistakable. For her own sake and that of her suitor, if she really desires the suit ended her denial should be positive, yet kind and dignified, and of a character to let no doubt remain of its being final.

A man should never make a declaration in a jesting manner. It is most unfair to a lady. He has no right to trifle with her feelings for mere sport, nor has he a right to hide his own meaning under the guise of a jest.

Nothing can be more unfair or more unjustifiable than a doubtful answer given under the plea of sparing the suitor's feelings. It raises false hopes. It renders a man restless and unsettled. It may cause him to express himself or to shape his conduct in such a manner as he would not dream of doing were his suit utterly hopeless.

As a woman is not bound to accept the first offer that is made to her, so no sensible man will think the worse of her, nor feel himself personally injured by a refusal. That it will give him pain is most probable. A scornful "no" or a simpering promise to "think about it" is the reverse of generous.

In refusing, the lady ought to convey her full sense of the high honor intended her by the gentleman, and to add, seriously but not offensively, that it is not in accordance with her inclination, or that circumstances compel her to give an unfavorable answer.

It is only the contemptible flirt that keeps an honorable man in suspense for the purpose of glorifying herself by his attentions in the eyes of friends. Nor would any but a frivolous or vicious girl boast of the offer she had received and rejected. Such an offer is a privileged communication. The secret of it should be held sacred. No true lady will ever divulge to anyone, unless it may be to her mother, the fact of such an offer. It is the severest breach of honor to do so. A lady who has once been guilty of boasting of an offer should never have a second opportunity for thus boasting.

No true-hearted woman can entertain any other feeling than that of commiseration for the man over whose happiness she has been compelled to throw a cloud, while the idea of triumphing in his distress, or abusing his confidence, must be inexpressibly painful to her.

The duty of the rejected suitor is quite clear. Etiquette demands that he shall accept the lady's decision as final and retire from the field. He has no right to demand the reason of her refusal. If she assign it, he is bound to respect her secret, if it is one, and to hold it inviolable. To persist in urging his suit or to follow up the lady with marked attentions would be in the worst possible taste. The proper course is to withdraw as much as possible, from the circles in which she moves, so that she may be spared reminiscences which cannot be otherwise than painful.

When a couple become engaged, the gentleman presents the lady with a ring, which is worn on the ring-finger of the right hand. He may also make her other small presents from time to time, until they are married, but if she has any scruples about accepting them, he can send her flowers, which are at all times acceptable.

The conduct of the fiancee should be tender, assiduous and unobtrusive. He will be kind and polite to the sisters of his betrothed and friendly with her brothers. Yet he must not be in any way unduly familiar or force himself into family confidences on the ground that he is to be regarded as a member of the family. Let the advance come rather from them to him, and let him show a due appreciation of any confidences which they may be pleased to bestow upon him. The family of the young man should make the first advances toward an acquaintance with his future wife. They should call upon her or write to her, and they may with perfect propriety invite her to visit them in order that they may become acquainted.

An engaged woman should eschew all flirtations, though it does not follow that she is to cut herself off from all association with the other sex because she has chosen her future husband. She may still have friends and acquaintances, she may still receive visits and calls, but she must try to conduct herself in such a manner as to give no offense.


The same rules may be laid down in regard to the other party to the contract, only that he pays visits instead of receiving them. Neither should assume a masterful or jealous altitude toward the other. They are neither of them to be shut up away from the rest of the world, but must mingle in society after marriage nearly the same as before, and take the same delight in friendship. The fact that they have confessed their love for each other, ought to be deemed a sufficient guarantee of faithfulness; for the rest let there be trust and confidence.

A young man has no right to put a slight upon his future bride by appearing in public with other ladies while she remains neglected at home. He is in future her legitimate escort. He should attend no other lady when she needs his services; she should accept no other escort when he is at liberty to attend her. A lady should not be too demonstrative of her affection during the days of her engagement. There is always the chance of "a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip;" and over-demonstrations of love are not pleasant to be remembered by a young lady, if the man to whom they are given by any chance fails to become her husband. An honorable man will never tempt his future bride to any such demonstration. He will always maintain a respectful and decorous demeanor toward her.

No young man who would shrink from being guilty of a great impropriety, should ever prolong his visits beyond ten o'clock, unless it be the common custom of the family to remain up and to entertain visitors to a later hour, and the visit paid is a family one and not a tete-a-tete. Two hours is quite long enough for a call; and the young man will give evidence of his affection no less than his consideration, by making his visits short, and, if need be, making them often, rather than by prolonging to unreasonable hours.

Sometimes it is necessary to break off an engagement. Many circumstances will justify this. Indeed anything which may occur or be discovered which shall promise to render the marriage an unsuitable or unhappy one is, and should be accepted as, justification for such rupture. Still, breaking an engagement is always a serious and distressing thing, and ought not to be contemplated without absolute and just reasons. It is generally best to break an engagement by letter. By this means one can express himself or herself more clearly, and give the true reason for his or her course much better than in a personal interview. The letter breaking the engagement should be accompanied by everything, in the way of portraits, letters or gifts, that has been received during the engagement. Such letters should be acknowledged in a dignified manner, and no efforts should be made or measures be taken to change the decision of the writer, unless it is manifest that he or she is greatly mistaken in his or her premises. A similar return of letters, portraits and gifts should be made.

Further Reading:
Our Deportment by John H. Young

Book Reviews: The Death Of Caesar, Secrets Of The Tower, & Six Men

Hello everyone,

what have you read recently? Here are my picks:

The Death of Caesar: The Story of History’s Most Famous Assassination by Barry Strauss
August 45 BC. Julius Caesar is heading towards Rome in triumph, to declare the end of the Civil War. Three men are riding with him: Decimus, Mark Antony and Octavian. Seven months later, one of these men will betray him. But wait, wasn't the betrayer Brutus? While he (and Cassius) certainly played a key role in the assassination, his betrayal wasn't as deep and shocking as Decimus', a man who had always served Caesar faithfully, had been amply rewarded by him, and had become a close friend. When Caesar had refused to go to the Senate on that fateful day, it was Decimus who convinced him to change his mind and led him to the slaughter by the hand.
To allows us to understand why he, and so many others, betrayed Caesar, Strauss begins his story several months before the Ides of March. He illustrates the complex political situation of the time, the jostling for power, the thwarted ambitions of politicians, and the fear that Caesar would soon proclaim itself king, thus dealing the last blow to the tenuous Roman Republic. The second part of the book deals with the assassination itself. The plotting, the assassins, and the events of that fateful day. But the story doesn't end with his assassination. Caesar's assassins, supporters, and relatives all fight for power and revenge afterwards. But there can be only one winner.
The book is well-documented and relies mostly on primary sources. We're lucky that, thanks to Cicero, this is one of the most documented times in Roman history. But, even so, the sources are few, often conflicting, and lack important details. Strauss has done a wonderful job with the limited material at his disposal, piecing together the pieces of the puzzle that have survived to tell an engaging and thrilling story. I highly recommend it to all those interested in Julius Caesar and his death.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

Secrets of the Tower by Debbie Rix
The Leaning Tower Of Pisa is one of the most beautiful, iconic, and famous buildings ever created. But who designed? Michael Campbell was working on the answer for his documentary on the Tower when he had a stroke. His wife, Sam, flies to Pisa to be by his side. But her mind, and heart, are in turmoil. Just a few days before, Sam had discovered Michael had cheated on her. Confused, bored, and hurt, Sam decides to pick up his research, and discovers the woman behind the creation of the Tower...
1171. Berta di Bernardo, the wife of a rich merchant, has two passions. Gerardo, the young master mason her young maid Aurelia is in love with. And architecture. As she embarks on her love affair, she is also determined to see the Tower built at all costs.
Based on a true story (Rix's husband really had a stroke while making a documentary about the Tower in the 1990s), Secrets Of The Tower is a story of mystery, intrigue, betrayal, and love. The love of a woman for a younger man. The love of a young girl for a man who can't be hers yet. The divided love of a man for two women. But, mostly, the love of a woman for her beautiful city.
Pisa, both ancient and modern, is a character in and of itself. Its inhabitants and customs, its architecture and landscape, its sights and sounds, are vividly evoked and brought back to life. You feel like you're there, next to the characters, as they go about their daily lives. The other, human, characters are equalling compelling. Particularly the women. They are strong and determined to leave their mark on the world, despite the limitations society and their menfolk impose upon them.
Although slow at the beginning, the story quickly picks up speed and hooks you in. My only gripe is that some of the Italian expressions used aren't 100% correct, even when uttered by Italian characters. Italians nouns and adjectives can be made masculine or feminine, singular or plural, by changing the last letter. This wasn't always done here. Sometimes the masculine form was used in place of the feminine form and vice versa. But I only received an advanced review copy, so these errors may have been fixed in the final copy. In any case, only Italian speakers would notice them.
Despite its shortcomings, Secrets Of The Tower is an enchanting, engaging tale that I recommend to anyone interested in Italian history and architecture, or just a good novel.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

Six Men by Alistair Cooke
Over the course of his 60 year career, broadcaster and reporter Alistair Cook met many, sometimes even became friends with, famous and influential men of the 20 century. Six of them he profiled in a book. They are an odd, but intriguing, bunch. Charlie Chaplin, the greatest movie star of all time; Edward VIII, whose love affair threatened the survival of the British monarchy; Humphrey Bogart, the first anti-hero on-screen and a sensitive gentleman at home; H. L. Mencken, one of the most influential American writers of the first half of the 20th century; Adlai Stevenson, a "failed saint" who ran for President twice, and was, both times, defeated; and Bertrand Russell, the British philosopher and political activist who managed to insult pretty much everyone (and could read a whodunnit in 15 minutes!).
Cooke didn't write their biographies. He wrote sketches, glimpses of their lives. Although he offers the background information needed to understand the world in which these men operated (finally I got why the constitutional crisis brought on by Edward VIII's love affair was such a big deal), Cooke shares with us his own personal experiences, those parts of the men's lives that he witnessed first hand. But his personal feelings for these men didn't skew his judgement. At least not much. Cooke skilfully captured their remarkable, but flawed, essence. By the end of each chapter, these giants are shown for what they always were: human beings.
Cooke's prose is as beautiful as it is intelligent. His style is now considered old-fashioned, but still feels fresh. In an age when many journalists are more interested in controversy than evidence, and pen shallow exposés in a too colloquial style, Cooke's engaging, insightful, and fair work makes you long for a time long gone. Highly recommended.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

What do you think of these books? Will you pick one (or two, or three) up?

Disclaimer: this book was sent by PR for consideration. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.