Books on social etiquette have always proved popular. People are naturally curious about the manners of other ages. Such books also produce good talking points at parties or other social events. Don’t, a copy of which was recently discovered at Jot HQ, purports to deal ‘ frankly with mistakes and improprieties more or less common to all ‘, is no exception. Although undated, the dust jacket illustration and general design places it firmly in the early fifties, and an AA leaflet dated August 1953, which has been tucked into it, confirms this guess.
‘Censor’, the pseudonymous author of Don’tmakes no apologies for the book’s distinctly proscriptive tone. ‘ Manners maketh man ‘, he/she quotes, adding rather severely that if the rules appear ‘ over-nice’, ‘ everyone has the right to determine for himself at what point below the highest point he is content to let his social culture drop’. Ouch!
Reading certain parts of this book will make most people cry out in protest at an unreasonable ‘don’t’. For instance, why shouldn’t people wear jewellery that is ‘ solely ornamental’. What’s the point of jewellery unless it is ornamental ? Then there’s the request not to drink outside of meal times. Does this mean that one shouldn’t drink in pubs, hotels or at parties? Obviously absurd. ‘Censor’ is equally unreasonable concerning the shaking of hands: ‘Don’t …offer to shake hands with a lady. The initiative must always come from her. By the same principle DON’T offer your hands to a person older than yourself, or to anyone whose rank may be supposed to be higher than your own, unless he has extended his.’ Totally irrational. Then there is the faux gallantry: ‘Don’t forget that the lady sitting at your side has the first claim upon your attention. A lady at your side should not be neglected, whether you have been introduced to her or not.’ Even in 1953, this must have appeared preposterous, although another ‘don’t’—that men must not remaining sitting when a lady leaves the table —was still observed in some circles. Continue reading
An extract from the ever fascinating A Thousand Ways to Earn a Living (1888)
‘This is undoubtably one of the most promising occupations for women of which we are able to speak. The type-writer, we may mention for the benefit of those who may not have had the opportunity of seeing it in work, is a small machine for the rapid writing of letters or other documents operated by a keyboard. In the United States there are between sixty and seventy thousand type-writers. In London, the machines are being brought into use in all kinds of offices, and there can be little doubt but that they will speedily become universal. Authors dictate their books to type-writers, legal papers are copied by them, and business correspondence of every description transacted with them. It is an employment particularly well suited to well educated girls. To acquire a really useful knowledge of type-writing would take from six to eight months. The largest school in London is that of Madame Monchablon, 26, Austin Friars E.C. who charges 2 guineas until perfect. The machine usually adopted is the No. 2 “ Standard” Remington . In about 6 months a speed of 50 words a minute is attained, and this can be increased to 80, and in phenomenal cases to 100. We are informed on the best authority that appointments can always be obtained for skilled operators. ‘
Apparently, according to the Shorter Oxford Dictionary the word typist in relation to someone who operated a typewriter, was coined in 1885, which begs the question as to why it was not used in A Thousand Ways .
I wonder who the first author was to produce a book in typescript. Any ideas out there in Jotland ? [R.M.Healey]
This is from an uncommon self improvement work from circa 1930 The 100% Office (Efficiency Magazine, London) by the prolific Herbert N.
Casson. He had obviously been taking his own medicine as he appears to have written over 60 books on these lines, as well as producing a monthly magazine on efficiency, not to be confused with Health and Efficiency.
Among his works are 52 Ways to be Rich, The Meaning of Life, The 12 Worst Mistakes in Business, The Romance of Steel, 12 Tips on Window Display, Will Power in Business etc., He was at the beginning of a business that is still going strong. Below is a sample of his advice to the 1930's office worker. The office appears to have a machine for addressing letters but otherwise no technology as we know it...
The 100% Office
How to use the present moment as it flits past – that is the eternal problem, for all ambitious workers want to make the best use of their lives. There is in reality no time but NOW.