By Ramona Flightner/ @ramonaflightner
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a function at the Gibson House with the goal of learning more about Victorian etiquette. I had previously visited this house, a wonderfully maintained Victorian Era brownstone in Boston’s Back Bay. The visit had provided me with little details for my writing and enabled me to more fully visualize the world my characters lived in. I continued to visit their website periodically for any upcoming events and couldn’t believe my good fortune to see the talk: “Good Manners at the Gibson House with Etiquetteer, presented by Robert B. Dimmick” on the events page.
I love research and had already completed extensive research about the time period. In fact, the more I researched, the more thankful I became to be a woman in this time period rather than the late 1800’s/ early 1900’s. Their roles were evolving, yet very restrictive. Therefore, most of what I heard that evening was more of a refresher than new information. I continued to marvel at the complexity of the old “calling” system where genteel ladies called on each other in the afternoon. I couldn’t imagine having the time or inclination to want to attend so many events. I laughed as he described how women were supposed to try to have cupid bow mouths. In an attempt to achieve this ideal, they would recite the phrase “prunes and prisms” over and over.
The Etiquetteer was witty and charming, providing numerous stories about the Gibson family and the time period. He had done considerable research in the Gibson archives to bring the Gibson family and the time period to life in the beautiful backdrop of the Gibson House. As the talk continued we moved from the ornate, Japanese wallpapered front hall, to the dining room filled with glorious pieces made from black walnut. We then moved upstairs to the music room and the study. In each room, he provided different stories pertaining to each room. If you would like to visit his blog, it is filled with etiquette information that helps us understand the quagmire of modern day etiquette, and his wit and common sense shines through. You can even email him etiquette questions. It is http://etiquetteer.com
If you have not yet visited the Gibson House, I would highly recommend a visit. If you live far from Boston, their website (http://www.thegibsonhouse.org) provides wonderful pictures and a floorplan that gives a good sense of the house.
Next up- my first writer’s conference! I’ll blog what I learn, which may be overwhelming. Thanks for visiting!