Traveling Etiquette in the Victorian Era

Traveling Etiquette in the Victorian Era

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In this segment from LADIES’ BOOK OF ETIQUETTE by Florence Hartley, Chapter Three, traveling etiquette with grace and poise is explored. Hartley’s timeless advice reveals that a lady’s deportment during her travels can command respect and admiration. She emphasizes practical tips for packing essentials, punctuality, modest dress, and maintaining dignity, whether traveling with companions or alone. Discover how to handle various situations, from sleeping arrangements on steamboats to engaging with fellow travelers and gracefully repelling impertinence. Florence Hartley’s guidance ensures that women can journey with elegance and charm, leaving a lasting impression.

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 Chapter Three – Traveling

THERE is no situation in which a lady is more exposed than when she travels, and there is no position where a dignified, lady- like deportment is more indispensable and more certain to command respect. If you travel under the escort of a gentleman, give him as little trouble as possible ; at the same time, do not interfere with the arrangements he may make for your comfort. It is best, when starting upon your journey, to hand your escort a sufficient sum of money to cover all your expenses, retaining your pocket book in case you should wish to use it. Have a strong pocket made in your upper petticoat, and in that carry your money, only reserving in your dress pocket a small sum for incidental expenses. In your traveling satchel carry an oil skin bag, containing your sponge, tooth and nail brushes, and some soap ; have also a calico bag, with hair brush and comb, some pins, hair pins, a small mirror, and some towels. In this satchel carry also some crackers, or sandwiches, if you will be long enough upon the road to need a luncheon.

In your carpet bag, carry a large shawl, and if you will travel by night, or stop where it will be inconvenient to open your trunks, carry your night clothes, and what clean linen you may require, in the carpet bag. It is best to have your name and address engraved upon the plate of your carpet bag, and to sew a white card, with your name and the address to which you are traveling, in clear, plain letters upon it. If you carry a novel or any other reading, it is best to carry the book in your satchel, and not open the carpet bag until you are ready for the night. If you are to pass the night in the cars, carry a warm woolen or silk hood, that you may take off your bonnet at night. No one can sleep comfortably in a bonnet. Carry also, in this case, a large shawl to wrap round your feet.

One rule to be always observed in traveling is punctuality. Rise early enough to have ample time for arranging everything needful for the day’s journey. If you sleep upon the boat, or at a hotel, always give directions to the servant to waken you at an hour sufficiently early to allow ample time for preparation. It is better to be all ready twenty minutes too soon, than five minutes late, or even late enough to be annoyed and heated by hurrying at the last moment.

A lady will always dress plainly when traveling. A gay dress, or finery of any sort, when in a boat, stage, or car, lays a woman open to the most severe misconstruction. Wear always neutral tints, and have the material made up plainly and substantially, but avoid carefully any article of dress that is glaring or conspicuous. Above all, never wear jewelry, unless it be your watch, or flowers ; they are both in excessively bad taste. A quiet, unpretending dress, and dignified demeanor, will insure for a lady respect, though she travel alone from Maine to Florida.

If you are obliged to pass the night upon a steamboat, secure, if possible, a stateroom. You will find the luxury of being alone, able to retire and rise without witnesses, fully compensates for the extra charge. Be fore you retire, find out the position and number of the stateroom occupied by your escort, in case you wish to find him during the night. In times of terror, from accident or danger, such care will be found invaluable.

You may not be able to obtain a stateroom upon all occasions when traveling, and must then sleep in the ladies’ cabin. It is best, in this case, to take off the dress only, merely loosening the stays and skirts, and, unless you are sick, you may sit up to read until quite a late hour. Never allow your escort to accompany you into the cabin. The saloon is open always to both ladies and gentlemen, and the cabin is for ladies alone. Many ladies are sufficiently ill-bred to ask a husband or brother into the cabin, and keep him there talking for an hour or two, totally overlooking the fact that by so doing she may be keeping others, suffering, perhaps, with sickness, from removing their dresses to lie down. Such conduct is not only excessively ill-bred, but intensely selfish.

There is scarcely any situation in which a lady can be placed, more admirably adapted to test her good breeding, than in the sleeping cabin of a steam-boat. If you are so unfortunate as to suffer from sea-sickness, your chances for usefulness are limited, and patient suffering your only resource. In this case, never leave home without a straw-covered bottle of brandy, and another of camphor, in your carpet-bag. If you are not sick, be very careful not to keep the chambermaid from those who are suffering ; should you require her services, dismiss her as soon as possible. As acquaintances, formed during a journey, are not recognized afterwards, unless mutually agreeable, do not refuse either a pleasant word or any little offer of service from your companions ; and, on the other hand, be ready to aid them, if in your power. In every case, selfishness is the root of all ill breeding, and it is never more conspicuously displayed than in traveling. A courteous manner, and graceful offer of service are valued highly when offered, and the giver loses nothing by her civility.

When in the car if you find the exertion of talking painful, say so frankly ; your escort cannot be offended . Do not continually pester either your companion or the conductor with questions, such as ” Where are we now?” “When shall we arrive ?” If you are wearied, this impatience will only make the journey still more tedious. Try to occupy yourself with looking at the country through which you are passing, or with a book.

If you are traveling without any escort, speak to the conductor before you start, requesting him to attend to you whilst in the car or boat under his control. Sit quietly in the cars when they reach the depot until the first bustle is over, and then engage a porter to procure for you a hack, and get your baggage. If upon a boat, let one of the servants perform this office, being careful to fee him for it. Make an engagement with the hackman, to take you only in his hack, and enquire his charge before starting. In this way you avoid unpleasant company during your drive, and overcharge at the end of it.

If you expect a friend to meet you at the end of your journey, sit near the door of the steam-boat saloon, or in the ladies’ room at the car depot, that he may find you easily.

There are many little civilities which a true gentleman will offer to a lady traveling alone, which she may accept, even from an entire stranger, with perfect propriety ; but, while careful to thank him courteously, whether you accept or decline his attentions, avoid any advance towards acquaintanceship. If he sits near you and seems disposed to be impertinent, or obtrusive in his attentions or conversation, lower your veil and turn from him, either looking from the window or reading. A dignified, modest reserve is the surest way to repel impertinence. If you find yourself, during your journey, in any awkward or embarrassing situation, you may, without impropriety, request the assistance of a gentleman, even a stranger, and he will, probably, perform the service requested, receive your thanks, and then relieve you of his presence. Never, upon any account, or under any provocation, return rudeness by rudeness. Nothing will rebuke incivility in another so surely as perfect courtesy in your own manner. Many will be shamed into apology, who would annoy you for hours, if you encouraged them by acts of rudeness on your own part.

In traveling alone, choose, if possible, a seat next to another lady, or near an elderly gentleman. If your neighbor seems disposed to shorten the time by conversing, do not be too hasty in checking him. Such acquaintances end with the journey, and a lady can always so deport herself that she may beguile the time pleasantly, without, in the least, compromising her dignity. Any slight attention, or an apology made for crushing or incommoding you, is best acknowledged by a courteous bow, in silence.

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