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#Bookreview WHAT WOULD MRS. ASTOR DO?: THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO THE MANNERS AND MORES OF THE GILDED AGE by Cecelia Tichi (@NYUpress) A solid reference book, easy to read, full of amusing information #socialhistory

Today I bring you a non-fiction book where, as they say, reality can be stranger (or more extreme) than fiction.

What Would Mrs. Astor Do?: The Essential Guide to the Manners and Mores of the Gilded Age by Cecelia Tichi.
What Would Mrs. Astor Do?: The Essential Guide to the Manners and Mores of the Gilded Age by Cecelia Tichi

What Would Mrs. Astor Do?: The Essential Guide to the Manners and Mores of the Gilded Age by Cecelia Tichi.

A richly illustrated romp with America’s Gilded Age leisure class—and those angling to join it 

Mark Twain called it the Gilded Age. Between 1870 and 1900, the United States’ population doubled, accompanied by an unparalleled industrial expansion, and an explosion of wealth unlike any the world had ever seen. America was the foremost nation of the world, and New York City was its beating heart. There, the richest and most influential—Thomas Edison, J. P. Morgan, Edith Wharton, the Vanderbilts, Andrew Carnegie, and more—became icons, whose comings and goings were breathlessly reported in the papers of Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst. It was a time of abundance, but also bitter rivalries, in work and play. The Old Money titans found themselves besieged by a vanguard of New Money interlopers eager to gain entrée into their world of formal balls, debutante parties, opera boxes, sailing regattas, and summer gatherings at Newport. Into this morass of money and desire stepped Caroline Astor.

Mrs. Astor, an Old Money heiress of the first order, became convinced that she was uniquely qualified to uphold the manners and mores of Gilded Age America. Wherever she went, Mrs. Astor made her judgments, dictating proper behavior and demeanor, men’s and women’s codes of dress, acceptable patterns of speech and movements of the body, and what and when to eat and drink. The ladies and gentlemen of high society took note. “What would Mrs. Astor do?” became the question every social climber sought to answer. And an invitation to her annual ball was a golden ticket into the ranks of New York’s upper crust. This work serves as a guide to manners as well as an insight to Mrs. Astor’s personal diary and address book, showing everything from the perfect table setting to the array of outfits the elite wore at the time. Channeling the queen of the Gilded Age herself, Cecelia Tichi paints a portrait of New York’s social elite, from the schools to which they sent their children, to their lavish mansions and even their reactions to the political and personal scandals of the day.

Ceceilia Tichi invites us on a beautifully illustrated tour of the Gilded Age, transporting readers to New York at its most fashionable. A colorful tapestry of fun facts and true tales, What Would Mrs. Astor Do?presents a vivid portrait of this remarkable time of social metamorphosis, starring Caroline Astor, the ultimate gatekeeper.

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/What-Would-Mrs-Astor-Essential-ebook/dp/B07CG2TD3H/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/What-Would-Mrs-Astor-Essential-ebook/dp/B07CG2TD3H/

Editorial Reviews

“A new etiquette guide…has just turned up, offering further proof that sliding around the naughty edges of society can be as informative as it is entertaining.”-Alida Becker, The New York Times Books Review

“Tichi delivers a crisp survey of New York’s upper-class world in the late 19th century, using society maven Caroline Astor as the guide… Presented with a breezy authority that keeps the pages turning, Tichi’s book will captivate those interested in a light look at America’s fashionable gentry of eras past.”-Publishers Weekly

Author and Professor Cecelia Tichi
Author and Professor Cecelia Tichi

About the Author

Cecelia Tichi is William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of English and American Studies at Vanderbilt University. She is the author of several novels and books, including Exposés and Excess: Muckraking in America, 1900-2000 (2004), Embodiment of a Nation: Human Form in American Spaces (2001), High Lonesome: The American Culture of Country Music (1994), and Civic Passions: Seven Who Launched Progressive America (And What They Can Teach Us) (2009).

https://as.vanderbilt.edu/english/bio/cecelia-tichi

My review:

Many thanks to NYU Press and Edelweiss for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

I picked up this book because I was interested in the era, late XVIII and early XIX century, personally and also for research purposes, and although I had read fiction set in the period, I lacked a reference book that would provide me the data I needed and written in such a way that it could be read from cover to cover. I’m happy to say this book provides both, facts and amusing anecdotes, and it is easy to read.

Despite the title, the book does not focus excessively on Caroline Astor, although it is organised around her figure, and it follows her life, from birth to death. Caroline Astor was the glamorous centre of New York society in the Gilded Era, and there is much talk in the book about the four hundred, as that was supposed to be the number of select guests who were truly the movers and shakers of the time. But this is not an in-depth biography, far from it, and the true focus of the book is the social history of the period, as it pertains to the upper crust. Those were changing times, and new money was starting to push out the old but not-so-wealthy-any longer families, but money was not enough to gain Mrs Astor’s favour. Class, good breeding and good manners were fundamental.

The book is divided into a number of topics: millionaires’ row (about their houses and their servants), convenience or contraption  (about new inventions, such as elevators or the telephone), competitive consumption (shopping), best dressed (clothing), well behaved (etiquette), dinner is served (food and restaurants), the social set (with quite a few subdivisions, mostly about leisure time, including theatre, opera, riding and promenades, summer houses…), the sporting life (sports), getting there (transport), money talks (including popular and unpopular advice, Wall Street, schools and newspapers), the whiff of a scandal (you’ll easily guess this one: from divorce to famous scandals of the era), on the scene (about theatre figures of the era), muckrakers (investigative journalism of the time), and funerals. There are also illustrations (quite a few, although as mine was an ARC copy and not the final version, I am sure there will be even more available to readers of the published book), and a lengthy bibliography that will be helpful for those interesting in checking out the original sources.

The author often relies on sources of the period, including articles, books on etiquette and general advice, and also fiction writers of the era (Edith Wharton, who was related to Mrs Astor figures prominently), and uses their words to illustrate the topics, and that contributes to making us feel as we were there, experiencing the fabulous and incredibly excessive world of those people.

As I said before, the book is divided into topics, and I am sure everybody will be able to find something they are interested in. I was fascinated by many of the anecdotes and by the way this set of very powerful and wealthy individuals affected the world around them. Rich women went shopping but due to etiquette rules could not go to a restaurant unaccompanied by a man, and therefore the new department stores started having their own restaurants (soda fountains to begin with) catering to women, and that spread. As they liked to travel in luxurious surroundings, yachts and train compartments would be built to their standards, no matter the price. Their parties would cost the equivalent of millions of dollars today, and they could result in having a full hunting party inside of a restaurant, horses and all.

I was also surprised to learn about things like the importance of Elisha Graves Otis’s invention of a “safety hoister” that allowed for the creation of safe elevators, and with them, skyscrapers (and know I know who the Otis I see in the elevators was), about the newspaper wars in New York, about the different electricity companies and how they helped shape today’s world, the history of the Panama hat (which comes from Ecuador), and although I knew about the fashion for using bird feathers (and sometimes whole birds) to adorn women’s hats, I was horrified to learn that some five million birds were estimated to have been killed just for that purpose. Oh, and the fact that electric cars were recommended for women drivers, as they were easier to start (no crank) and more reliable. What happened there? (I guess oil companies’ interests have a lot to respond for).  There is also mention of philanthropic endeavours, although they all came with strings attached.

In sum, this is a solid reference book, easy to read and full of amusing information and anecdotes. I’m not sure it will break new ground for those already familiar with the topic, but it works well as a reference book for the era, and as a good starting point for further research.  A glimpse into a fascinating and at the same time horrifying era of excessive consumption, glamour, and the cult of influence. Although there are lessons to be learned, the book is not intended as a criticism or a warning tale, and that’s left to the readers’ own opinion.

Thanks to NYU Press, Edelweiss and the author for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep smiling!

Categories
Book review Book reviews Writing

#Bookreview THE LITTLE BLUE BOOK FOR AUTHORS: ESSENTIAL MANNERS FOR THE MODERN AUTHOR by Gisela Hausmann (@Naked_Determina) Short and packed with useful advice. Because being polite has never hurt anyone #amwriting

Hi all:

This book is recommended for the many authors among my readers. I have read and reviewed some books in this series before, and as this one was free, I could not resist. I’m not sure if it was a temporary offer, but do check it out, just in case!

Book review. The Little Blue Book for Authors: Essential Manners for the Modern Author by Gisela Hausmann
The Little Blue Book for Authors: Essential Manners for the Modern Author by Gisela Hausmann

The Little Blue Book for Authors: Essential Manners for the Modern Author by Gisela Hausmann

Hundreds of thousands of authors try to wow readers, reviewers, and book bloggers. No reader can handle the volume of books they are offered.
Etiquette matters.

Learn from one of Amazon’s top reviewers what to do and what to avoid.
This book includes three different examples of how to turn a “maybe” into a “yes.”

Content:
Be Kind to Yourself
Ban the Word “Automatization” from Your Book Marketing Vocabulary
Put Yourself in Others’ Shoes
Don’t Brag or Lie
Facebook
Blogging
Don’t Just Mention Your Book, Create a “Dating Profile”
It Takes Creativity to Open Doors (Practical Examples)
Lastly – Listen! Listen to Your Friends

Link:

https://www.amazon.com/Little-Blue-Book-Authors-Essential-ebook/dp/B07BBSZWDY/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Little-Blue-Book-Authors-Essential-ebook/dp/B07BBSZWDY/

Author Gisela Hausman
Author Gisela Hausman

About the author:

Gisela Hausmann is a 29 yr. self-publishing industry veteran, an email evangelist, and a top reviewer.

Her work has been featured in regional, national, and international publications including Success magazine (print) and Entrepreneur, on Bloomberg, The Innovation Show – a show for Square Pegs in Round Holes, “The Brutal Truth about Sales & Selling”-podcast, and Austria’s Der Standard and Das Wirtschaftsblatt. Gisela is a graduate of the University of Vienna, Austria.

A unique mixture of wild risk-taker and careful planner, she globe-trotted almost 100,000 kilometers on three continents, including to the locations of her favorite books: Doctor Zhivago’s Russia, Heinrich Harrer’s Tibet, and Genghis Khan’s Mongolia.

Her motto:
“Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.”-Napoleon Hill

For more information about the author please visit her website at www.GiselaHausmann.com

She tweets at @Naked_Determina

https://www.amazon.com/Gisela-Hausmann/e/B000APN192/

My review:

I have read and reviewed two of Gisela Hausmann’s books from her little books collection before (you can read the reviews here) and enjoyed enormously her no-nonsense attitude and the easy-to-use format. These are books that, as the author explains, should take a short time to read (she aims for less than 90 minutes, and I don’t think I’ve gone over 30 minutes for any of them), and the advice offered should be easy to implement, so that anybody who’ve just read one of them could apply what they’ve learned, rather than having to go through a lengthy process, take a course, or make a huge investment. (With regards to this last issue, that does not mean there is no cost involved at all, as in this book she emphasises the importance of finding an editor and states that is much more useful investing your hard-earned cash on that than spending money on things like tools to automatize marketing or on exchanging reviews with other authors).

This book will be appreciated by authors and reviewers alike. I had to smile at her examples of some of the e-mails she has received asking for book reviews. As a book reviewer, I’ve had similar experiences (authors sending an unsolicited copy of the book, without even bothering to find your name, and stating they read your blog, although you’ve never seen them there and from the content of the letter is evident they haven’t) and I can’t but agree with her recommendations to authors. (Although I am an author, other than in my own books and the blog, I rarely approach reviewers directly, but I’ll try and make sure I remember her advice in the future). I really liked her suggestion that we should try to introduce our book as if we were preparing the book for a date, making sure to try and choose the right partner and find the points of connection between our book and the possible date (reviewer). As she puts it:

A creative, exciting, funny, and unique “dating profile” will attract “matching” readers to start a relationship made in “book heaven.”

The author covers etiquette as pertains to various social media as well (Facebook and Twitter) and the etiquette of blogging. Her advice might not suit everybody and I suspect some of her tips might be more or less useful depending on the readership and genre of the author, but I have personally concluded that we must remain true to ourselves, and not just adopt passing fashions because they seem to work for somebody else, and I am with her on the importance of adhering to proper etiquette. (It might seem unnecessary to some people, but I can’t imagine many people will take offence to being treated politely).

This is another solid offering in a series of books for authors that has become one of my favourites, and I recommend it to authors with little time to waste (all of them, I guess) who prefer realistic advice to pie-in-the-sky promises, and who don’t mind some straight-talking (or writing). If you check the sample of the book and like what you read, it is worth following the author as she runs regular promotions and offers of her back catalogue.

Thanks to the author for all her advice, thanks to all of you for reading and please (I’m applying her advice, here), feel free to like, share, comment, click, review, and be happy!

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog ELEGANT ETIQUETTE IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY by Mallory James A fascinating look into the past and a great source for writers and social history researchers

Hi all:

I bring you another one of my reviews of a non-fiction book that I found delightful. I must confess I am pleased I don’t have to live by these rules as I am sure I would have been totally useless and would have done all the wrong things. But reading about it is great fun!

Elegant Etiquette in the Nineteenth Century by Mallory James. Book review
Elegant Etiquette in the Nineteenth Century by Mallory James

Elegant Etiquette in the Nineteenth Century by Mallory James

Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to live in the nineteenth century? How would you have got a partner in a ballroom? What would you have done with a letter of introduction? And where would you have sat in a carriage? Covering all these nineteenth-century dilemmas and more, this book is your must-have guide to the etiquette of our well-heeled forebears. As it takes you through the intricacies of rank, the niceties of the street, the good conduct that was desired in the ballroom and the awkward blunders that a lady or gentleman would, of course, have wanted to avoid, you will discover an abundance of etiquette advice from across the century. Elegant Etiquette is a lively, occasionally tongue-in-cheek and thoroughly detailed history of nineteenth century manners and conduct. Drawing upon research into contemporary advice and guidance, Elegant Etiquette is both fun and compelling reading for anyone with an interest in this period. In exploring the expectations of behaviour and etiquette, it seeks to bring the world of the nineteenth century back to life.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1526705206/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B078KBBLBC/

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B078KBBLBC/

Author Mallory James
Author Mallory James

About the Author

Mallory James read History and German at University College London, before moving to postgraduate study at Queen Mary, University of London. She has long been interested in the nineteenth century, which led to the creation of Behind The Past as a place to explore (in a generally tongue-in cheek-manner) the social and cultural history of the Regency and Victorian periods. The blog aims to look at the way ladies and gentlemen ate, dressed, behaved and generally navigated the social landscapes (and minefields) in which they lived.

Her first book, Elegant Etiquette in the Nineteenth Century, was published by Pen and Sword Books in November 2017.

https://behindthepast.com/

@_behindthepast

My review:

Thanks to Alex and the rest of the team at Pen & Sword for providing me a paperback copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

I am a big fan of Pen & Sword books and I have learned a lot on a variety of subjects thanks to their great selection, but I must admit to having a soft spot for social history. Although I love history books and have recently become keen on historical fiction, I think that social history helps us get a better sense of what life was like in the past, not only for the kings, aristocrats, and powerful people but also for the rest of the population. The everyday life of going around one’s usual business, talking to people, working, rarely makes it into the big books, but it is what life is truly about. And those are the details that bring the past to life. As I have mentioned in previous reviews, these books are also great to provide background to writers, filmmakers, and, in general, artists looking to create works set in a particular time in history, as it helps them gain a better understanding of what it would have been like to live then.

This particular volume is a delight. I have read a number of novels set in the era and watched uncountable movies and television series that take place in the XIX century as well, and although I thought I was familiar with the customs, social rules and mores of the time, I was surprised by how truly complicated following proper etiquette was. As the author often explains, rules were not set in stone and they changed throughout the century. What was a must at the beginning of the XIX century would have been out of fashion by the end, and rules were open to interpretation, as sometimes different sources offered completely different advice. Should you eat fish with a fork and bread, two forks, or a fork and a fish knife (the answer depends on at what point of the XIX century we were eating it)? Would it have been proper for you to introduce people you knew, or even greet people you met in the streets even if you had been introduced? What was the best time to go for a walk or to visit your acquaintances? What did it truly mean if somebody was ‘not at home’?

Such topics and many more are discussed in this short volume, and it makes for fascinating reading. The author is skilled at summarising the rules from a large variety of sources (there is a detailed bibliography at the end and footnotes to check where each point can be expanded on), and also at providing practical examples that help clarify matters like how would you address somebody you are introduced to, or in which order would guest enter the dining room. Her turn of phrase is particularly apt, as her own explanations and the quotes and references to texts blend seamlessly, and she manages to write clearly and engagingly in beautiful prose.

The tone of the book is light and there are funny moments, but there are also reminders of how different things were for those who had more serious concerns than following the rules of etiquette. The book includes 11 chapters that deal in a variety of topics, from rank, precedence and title, to what was considered good company, paying calls, dining, ballroom behaviour, conversation, and correspondence, how to treat the service, courtship, and it also offers hints for ladies and gentlemen. The book (I had access to the paperback copy but I know the pictures are available in the digital version as well) contains a number of plates that help illustrate the proper dress etiquette throughout the century for different occasions and there are also pictures of some of the fashion accessories of the period.

I had to share a couple of examples from the book, so you can get a feeling for the writing style and the type of advice it contains:

If a lady or gentleman was plagued by a person saluting them in the street who they did not like, who they did not want to call upon, and who they thought was taking a gross impertinence continually bowing to them, it was still better for the afflicted lady or gentleman to return the recognition. (For some reason, this brought to my mind the nodding bulldogs that used to grace the back windows of cars).

Talking about men’s fashion, the book has this to say:

Similarly, a gentleman would have been restrained in his use of personal ornamentation. After all, a gentleman was a gentleman, not a magpie hankering after shiny trinkets.

Although some of the rules contained in this book might seem too fussy and silly nowadays, there are some about listening to people and being respectful towards others, no matter what their social circumstances (in fact, being more polite and generous the more difficult things are for them) that will make readers nostalgic for those more gentile and kinder times. There are always things we can learn from the past and it is important to learn and remember.

Another great little volume from Pen & Sword and one that I particularly recommend to anybody interested in XIX century history, novels, movies set in the period, and to writers and creators looking for inspiration or researching that era. It is also a fun read for people that study social history or are interested in the origins of some of our customs and on how these have changed. Unmissable.

Thanks to Pen & Sword and to the author, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW! And keep smiling!

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