Philobiblon: Tips for the Omnibus

Friday, September 30, 2005

Tips for the Omnibus

One of my favourite themes is how there is no such thing as the "good old days" - senior members of society have been complaining about the manners of youth not being up to their standards ever since the first Homo sapiens sapiens thought she could turn a strip of leather into a neat little bikini.

So some suggestions on behaviour on a bus:

"* Sit with your limbs straight, and do not with your legs describe an angle of 45, thereby occupying the room of two persons.

* Do not spit on the straw. You are not in a hogsty but in an omnibus travelling in a country which boasts of its refinement.

* Behave respectfully to females and put not an upprotected lass to the blush, because she cannot escape from your brutality.

* If you bring a dog, let him be small and be confined by a string."

Want to guess the date?

From The Times of January 30 1826, via Time Out magazine.

I find the class issues of this interesting, given the source. Did readers of The Times, or at least those assumed to read The Times travel on omnibuses at all? And wouldn't they have been assumed to know how to behave? Was this perhaps meant for the servants? Not having the original context there's no way of knowing.


Anonymous Sharon said...

I'll speculate that this advice wasn't really intended for the hoi-polloi who would actually use omnibuses so much as to make the readers of the Times (Us) feel superior to these vulgar and antisocial omnibus users (Them). Or alternatively, making the readers smugly thankful for not needing to use omnibuses and condescendingly pitying towards the unfortunates who do.

I love this sort of literature. (Now, what did I do with those excerpts from late-medieval banquet etiquette books telling people to stop spitting on the table, wiping their noses on the tablecloths, putting half-finished food they didn't like back into the communal dish, etc...)

10/01/2005 12:53:00 pm  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

I think you're right - love to see the medieval version some time. I once had a medieaval-style dining experience in the Wild West of China. Spitting on the floorboards, throwing bones on the floor, all ruled by women in pseudo-army uniforms. Curious experience.

10/01/2005 01:09:00 pm  
Anonymous Sharon said...

There are lots of extracts, from the middle ages to the late 18th century I think, in Norbert Elias's _Civilizing Process_. (I might see if I can find any online...)

10/01/2005 03:32:00 pm  
Anonymous Sharon said...

Here's a nice English 15th-century example (they're often addressed to children like this one):

Little children's book

10/01/2005 03:49:00 pm  

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