The code of conduct for gentlemen these days is nothing compared to what obtained in former times. The acceptable standards for chivalrous men in medieval times are comparatively high if present day standards are brought into consideration.
If you think otherwise, try these on for size:
- A gentleman will assist a lady over a bad crossing, or from an omnibus or carriage, without waiting for the formality of an introduction. When the service is performed, he will raise his hat, bow and pass on- Hill’s Forms, 1873.
- In passing through a door, the gentleman holds it open for the lady, even though he never saw her before- Polite Society At Home and Abroad, 1891.
- Do not press before a lady at a theatre or at a concert. Always yield to her, if practicable, your seat and place. Do not seat when she is standing, without offering her your place. Consult not only your own ease, but also the comfort of those around you- Martine’s handbook, 1866.
- It is not deemed polite and respectful to smoke in the presence of ladies, even though they are amiable enough to permit it- Martine’s handbook, 1866.
- If you meet a lady of your acquaintance in the street, it is her part to notice you first, unless, indeed you are very intimate. The reason is, if you bow to a lady first, she may not choose to acknowledge you, and there is no remedy; but if she bows to you- you as a gentleman cannot cut her– Hints on Etiquette, 1836.
- A gentleman removes his hat when entering a room where there are ladies. When he meets a lady friend, he should raise his hat gracefully- Polite Society At Home and Abroad, 1891.
- Awkwardness of attitude betrays a want of good home training and physical culture. A man should not lounge in a chair, nurse his leg, caress his foot crossed over his knee or bite his nails.
- Never scratch your head pick your teeth, clean your nails, or worse of all, pick your nose in company; all these things are disgusting. Spit as little as possible and never upon the floor.
- If you are going into the presence of ladies, beware of onions, spirits and tobacco- The Art of Good Behaviour, 1845.
The former society clearly took no liberties with chivalry and social grace. Even though this standard may be hard to reach in present day society (mainly because it has diminished in terms of exceptional manners and developed an insensitive side to good manners) it could be interesting, and perhaps comforting to resurrect and display such extent of civility.