Monday, April 17, 2023

Victorian Ettiquette Part 4: Table Manners


The last few month’s I’ve been talking about Victorian manners. Here is the link to March’s post and you can find the links to January and February there as well.

Many of these manners went by the wayside with western expansion in the US. There were minimal eating untensils as well as food choices. But many of these manners carried through to modern time.

Photo by Cindy Huff


Don’t be late

The first rule of table manners is never be late. If you’re an invited guest arrive five to ten minutes early rather than ten minutes late, forcing the host to hold the meal for you.

Good posture

Sit up straight in your chair, neither too close or too far away from the table edge. Lay a napkin on your lap or tuck it in your collar. If there is no napkin, use a handkerchief. Use of a napkin has changed a bit. Paper napkins don’t cover your lap very well. But the need for one is essential when we eat. How far from the table is no longer an issue. The closer a child is to the table the less food ends up on the floor—just sayin’.

courtesy of


Eat slowly and talk about…

I loved this next part. It is recommended to not be in a hurry to eat. Wait patiently, focusing on putting your mind in a pleasant place and purpose to eat slowly.

Keep your hands off the table until food is served. The diner is exhorted not to drum on the table or make any eccentric noises while waiting to be served.

Everyone is to sit quietly while grace is said. The host may ask a guest of high import to say the prayer or they may say it themselves. And no matter how long the prayer, everyone is to remain still until it is finished.

Small talk

While waiting to be served, practice small talk. Chitchat about light things to those sitting near you. More serious conversation is discouraged as it ruins digestion. Combining the chitchat with eating your meal should last between thirty minutes to an hour.

Create by Cindy Huff from Canva

No, I thank you and potatoe skins

If soup is served and you don’t care for any, say to the server, “No, I thank you.” Or take it and eat as little as you like. Soup should be eaten with a medium sized spoon so slowly and carefully that none spills on the tablecloth.

If you have potatos served in a separate dish deposit the skins there. Place other refuse from the meal there as well. If there is no small dish available, place potato skins on the tablecloth and bones on the side of the plate.

Don’t be rude

It is impolite to make a show of smelling or examining a dish before eating it. That would be an insult to those who invited you. And the host or hostess should not apologize for the cooking.

Each guest should remain at least an hour after the meal ends, leaving right away is considered rude.


photos from

Do not spit, sneeze or cough at the table. If you find the need to sneeze place your finger on your upper lip to stop it. Otherwise excuse yourself from the table to sneeze, cough or goodness-spit.

Never spit out bones, cherry pits or grape seeds on your plate. Quietly  remove them from your mouth with your fork and place them on the side of your  plate.


Definitely out of fashion

Here is a part of table etiquette that has definitely gone by the wayside. Any gentlemen must see to the food needs of the woman they escorted to the table. Asking what she wants and telling the waiter, being sure to serve her first before taking food passed his way. Frankly, I would feel like a child if my husband served me in a public setting.. And let’s not talk about him ordering for me. Times they have changed for sure.

The never evers

Never allow butter, soup or other food to remain in your whiskers.

Never wears gloves at the table unless there is a reason your hands are unfit to be seen.

Never overload a guest’s plate or force them to take something they’ve already declined.

Never make a display of removing insects, hair or other disagreeable things from your food. Quietly hide it under the edge of the plate.


Do any of these rules resonate with you? Any you grew up with or still practice today?

Be sure to go directly to the HHH blog to comment.

Cindy Ervin Huff is an Award-winning author of Historical and Contemporary Romance. She loves infusing hope into her stories of broken people. She is addicted to reading and chocolate. Her idea of a vacation is visiting historical sites and an ideal date with her hubby of almost fifty years would be live theater.

Visit her website and sign up for her newsletter and receive some free short stories as a thank you.


Angelina’s Resolve: Book 1 of Village of Women

Proving her skills are equal to a man’s may cost her more than she ever imagined.

Modern-thinking Angelina DuBois is determined to prove her cousin Hiram wrong. He fired her from the architect firm she helped grow when her father’s will left the business to Hiram. Using her large inheritance and architectural degree, she sets out to create a village run by women—Resolve, Kansas.

Carpenter and Civil War veteran Edward Pritchard’s dream of building homes for Chicago’s elite must be put on hold until he gains references. Serving as a contractor under Angelina’s well-known DuBois name provides that opportunity. But can Angelina trust her handsome new carpenter to respect her as his boss? Will the project take Edward one step closer to his goals, or will it make him a laughingstock? Can these two strong-willed people find love amid such an unconventional experiment?








  1. Thank you for your post today! "Don't make any eccentric noises!" That struck me as funny...why would you do that anyways?! I can't say I grew up with these specific rules, but many of them stem from just having manners.

  2. So many interesting little formalities. Some common sense, but maybe not to everyone. Haha!