10 Ridiculous Victorian Etiquette Rules

Calling Card Etiquette
A proper Victorian woman would leave calling cards with her friends when she planned a visit. She typically wouldn't struggle to get out of the carriage to drop them off herself, however. Museum of London/Heritage Images/Getty Images

If you arrived in town for an extended visit, it was customary to go around leaving your calling card. This was a way to announce your presence and arrange visits to keep up old acquaintances. The receiver customarily returned the favor in the form a card or visit within a week. (Intimate friends could call right away without waiting for a card.) One would also customarily leave cards for a household during certain events, such as illness or engagements, to express condolences or congratulations.

A very fine lady would go around in her carriage with a footman, who brought the cards into the house. And he would bring many. One married woman calling on another would bring one card with her name and two with her husband's name (for both mistress and master) in addition to cards for unmarried daughters or guests in the household. The names of the visitor's unmarried daughters could be written on the mother's card.

Fans of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens will recall how aspiring upper class citizens would sometimes pretentiously display on their mantle cards from high-ranking acquaintances who came to call.