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17 Proper Ways To Treat A 'Literary Lady,' According To 'Miss Leslie's Behaviour Book'

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Yesterday on Twitter, Paul Collins (@TheLitDetective) tweeted a link to this 1859 book on proper feminine etiquette, Miss Leslie's Behaviour Book. The book has a whole section on behavior when it comes to female authors, or "literary ladies" (looks like Miss Leslie really had her bases covered, since she has such specific sections).

Miss Leslie was, obviously, a female author, so this section of her book reads quite like an extremely passive aggressive note to all of her very rude friends who acted tactlessly in their treatment of her.

That, however, is what makes it so great. Now you will know EXACTLY how to behave when dealing with all the female writers you know. Are they writing on a deadline? DON'T just stop by for a chat without calling first! How could you be so rude?!

And how dare you suggest that she's not good at sewing?! As Miss Leslie points out, "A large number of literary females are excellent needle-women, and good housewives; and there is no reason why they should not be."

You don't need to worry about how to treat those authoresses in your life any more. We've pulled out the best tidbits and pieces of advice on how to act around the literary ladies:

  1. "On being introduced to a female writer, it is rude to say that 'you have long had a great curiosity to see her.' Curiosity is not the right word."
  2. "Trust in her, and believe that she has painted from life."
  3. "Ignorant people always suppose that writers are wonderfully well-paid --and must be making rapid fortunes-- because they neither starve in garrets, nor wear rags--at least in America." (DON'T ASK YOUR LADY AUTHOR FRIEND HOW MUCH MONEY SHE MAKES ON HER BOOKS).
  4. "When in company with literary women, make no allusion to 'learned ladies,' or 'blue stockings,' or express surprise that they should have any knowledge of housewifery, or needle-work, or dress; or that they are able to talk on 'common things.' It is rude and foolish, and shows that you really know nothing about them, as a class or as individuals."
  5. "Never tell an authoress that 'you are afraid of her'--or entreat her 'not to put you in her book.' Be assured there is no danger."
  6. "An authoress has seldom leisure to entertain morning visitors...to tell her that you were just 'passing by,' or 'just in the neigbourhood,' and 'just thought you would stop in,' is a very selfish, or at least a very inconsiderate excuse."
  7. "Recollect that to a woman who gets her living by her pen, 'time is money,' as it is to an artist."
  8. "If, when admitted into her study, you should find her writing-table in what appears to you like great confusion, recollect that there really is no wit in a remark too common on such occasions,--'Why, you look quite littery,'-- a poor play on the words literary and litter."
  9. "If you chance to find an authoress occupied with her needle, express no astonishment, and refrain from exclaiming, 'What! can you sew?' or "I never supposed a literary lady could even hem a handkerchief!'"
  10. "If you find your literary friend in deshabille [poorly dressed], and she apologizes for it --(she had best not apologize)--tell her not that 'authoresses are privileged persons, and are never expected to pay any attention to dress.'"
  11. "It is ill-manners to refer in any way to the profession of the person to whom you are talking, unless that person is an intimate friend, and you are alone with her; and unless she herself begins the subject."
  12. "When in company with a literary lady with whom you are not on very confidential terms, it is bad taste to talk to her exclusively of books, and to endeavour to draw out her opinion of authors with whom she is personally acquainted."
  13. "'Any thing new in the literary world?' is a question by which some people always commence conversation with an author. Why should it be supposed that they always 'carry the shop along with them,' or that they take no interest or pleasure in things not connected with books."
  14. "We have witnessed, when two distinguished ladywriters chanced to be at the same party, an unmannerly disposition to 'pit them against each other'...This is rude and foolish."
  15. "It is not treating a talented woman with due consideration, to be active in introducing to her the silliest and fiattest people in the room, because the said flats have been worked up into a desire of seeing, face to face, 'a live authoress'—though in all probability they have not read one of her works."
  16. "When directing a letter to 'a woman of letters,' it is not considered polite to insert the word 'Authoress' after her name."
  17. "In desiring the autograph of a literary lady, do not expect her to write in your album 'a piece of poetry.' Be satisfied with her signature only."

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