Fireplace Etiquette and a Give Away!

I know I’ve talked about the duties of servants, maids, odd beauty secrets and old West etiquette in Petticoats and Pistols before, but let’s face it, it never gets old. Especially since much of the advice given back then was so outlandish it bears looking at (and laughing at) again now and then. I have an extensive research library and have collected some fun “field-guides” on these subjects ranging from the late 1700’s to the early 1900s.

It’s interesting to note that not all of them were written by women. Did you know there was a Mr. Walsh who wrote a manual of domestic economy in 1856? The book was then updated in 1873. He wrote extensively about household management.

One tip I found from his book was this advice for women whose clothes have caught fire. Usually from standing too close to a fireplace, something a lady should never do. According to Mr. Walsh you should first:

1. Call for help by ringing the bell. A servant should come. (If one doesn’t than you better start praying your socks off. My thought, not Mr. Walsh’s.)
2. Rip off the clothes that are aflame and pour water on the clothing. The servant should have water in your room for this reason.
3. If this doesn’t stop the flames sit down on the floor in an upright position.
4. Roll oneself in a rug. Every room should have a rug in case of flaming females.
5. Stop wearing fine muslin.

Easy for Mr. Walsh to say, and where are the instructions for flaming males? That’s what I want to know. Maybe men never caught fire. And why would they when there was an etiquette rule that dictated gentlemen should never put their backs to the fire while conversing with others. And if one does put their back to a fire, it was considered extremely impolite to warm one’s derriere by raising the coat flaps at an angle of 45°, while the rest of the company in the room was freezing.

The queen of these tomes on cooking and domesticity was, of course, Isabella Beeton. Mrs. Beeton lived from 1836 to 1865. She was the original domestic goddess and published her famous Book of Household Management in 1861. It sold 60,000 copies in the first year, and 2 million copies by 1868. What’s interesting is that her commentary on servants, household management, and cooking are still used as primary sources today. Unfortunately, Mrs. Beeton died in 1865 from an infection during childbirth. Her husband, Samuel Beeton who was also her publisher, kept up the idea that she lived on, since her name was a large source of income. Spinoffs and abridged versions of her book were published to keep up the image that a matronly Mrs. Beaton was still alive and well. To my knowledge, she didn’t include anything about flaming skirts in her her book.

I have a maid, Betsy, who works for Mayor Vander and his wife Mercy. Characters from my town of Independence which is featured in my holiday mail order bride series. She’s the kind of servant that would throw a bucket of water on you if your skirts caught fire or roll you up in a rug herself. Mayor Vander wouldn’t care if he conversed with his back to the fireplace or not. That’s the thing about manners and some of the other things the experts of the day wrote about. Out West folks didn’t pay as much attention to such things. Unless of course they were from back east and brought their manners and etiquette with them.


Have you ever read or seen a book on manners, etiquette, or household tips from the 1800s? They’re hilarious to read! I’ll pick a random person from the comments below to receive a free e-book copy of Love in Independence which introduces the town and its quirky characters along with Betsy the maid.

Book Blurb: They say love covers a multitude of sins, and for matchmakers Mercy, Martha, and Maude, it’s a good thing! Fearing the town’s new pastor is lonely, they decide to take matters into their own hands, and order him a mail order bride! Imagine his surprise when he finds out? Only he doesn’t! Mercy, Martha, and Maude see to that!

Winnie Longfellow has spent years caring for her sick mother, and now that she’s passed, has nowhere to go but her Aunt Eugina’s. But her aunt has other things on her mind, other problems to deal with, and so Winnie accepts a proposal from a pastor out west looking for a mail order bride. Little did she know, he was looking for so much more, anything more! He had no idea he’d sent for one! Now Winnie finds herself at the mercy of three madcap matrons, determined that love will find a way. Despite multiple misunderstandings, a horrid bully/gossip, and a woman she’s sure her intended will marry instead of her, Winnie discovers some things about herself, and finds that love really does find its way …

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Kit Morgan is the author of over 100 books of historical and contemporary western romance! Her stories are fun, sweet stories full of love, laughter, and just a little bit of mayhem! Kit creates her stories in her little log cabin in the woods in the Pacific Northwest. An avid reader and knitter, when not writing, she can be found with either a book or a pair of knitting needles in her hands! Oh, and the occasional smidge of chocolate!

31 thoughts on “Fireplace Etiquette and a Give Away!”

  1. I have a reprint of HOUSEKEEPING IN OLD VIRGINIA (1879) by Marion Cabell Tyler. I find the 1800’s most interesting.

    • Laura, there was a maid (I can’t think of her name off the top of my head) who kept an extensive daily diary. Probably to write out her frustrations. It’s one of the best sources of “downstairs” life there is. Those poor folks were worked to the bone.

  2. I’ve not read any of the old books on manners or housekeeping, I’ll have to keep my eyes open while shopping the used book stores.

  3. I haven’t seen any books on manners, etiquette, or household tips. But I can’t get the term flaming females out of my head. It’s a great way to describe those of us who are having hot flashes.

  4. No I have not read any books on manners from the 1800’s but they sound to be quite funny. Then again I am sure some of the young people today could use some of the manners form back then.

  5. I did an old book my Mom had on things like this, but I can’t remember the name of the book, and we don’t have it anymore. Mom was 96 when she passed back in December, so who knows how old the book was, but it did have things like this in it.

    • Well doggone, Trudy. Too bad you don’t still have it. They are so much fun to read! But they’re also easy enough to find in old books stores and even online in google books.

  6. I would love to read one of these types of books. Oh but this cover is fantastic. It sounds like a fun story. Count me in.

    • They are, Venetia. I have an antique book collection of these along with cookery books and some other things. They are so much fun to go through on a rainy afternoon.

  7. The flaming females passage is hilarious! I’ve never read one of these old books but it sounds quite entertaining.

    • Denise, I have some from the twenties, thirties and forties that are fun to read. Only one or two from the fifties. All of them are fun. Makes you wonder what people will think about current etiquette books out now. Will they think they’re funny?

  8. I love old books. They are such an interesting insight to the time in which they were written. I have a book from the 1860’s on how to be a good wife, mother, and housekeeper. Let’s just say there are quite a few instructions that women today would definitely not follow. Sadly, many of my old books are boxed up and I can’t find them at the moment. I have another one written at the turn of the century which evidently was a guide for the English that were being sent to India as diplomats or with the trading companies. It is a most fascinating guide on what costs should be, hiring servants, social interaction, medical care, etc. I have several books by a religious group on the expected and proper behavior of young men and women. Again, it would not go over well in this day and time. I have a delightful book on children’s games, with pictures, from about the same time period. Interesting and some of the pictures are too funny.
    We are much less restricted by social norms today, which is both bad and good. The return of good manners by more people would be appreciated. Casual is good as is the use of common sense, which sometimes is missing in the older books. Ringing for a maid to bring water when you are on fire is a bit counterintuitive. Socially acceptable or not, screaming works just fine.

  9. I love old books and collect them! I just acquired an old etiquette book that was so interesting to read!

  10. I have read stories that mention it, but I have not read one. Thank you for the opportunity. God bless you.

    • Some of the stuff in them Debra is way out there, but also for entertaining for us to read. I mentioned in one of my earlier replies on this post that some of the beauty secrets were down right scary!

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