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Simple Social Graces: Recapturing the Lost Art of Gracious Victorian Living Hardcover – May 6, 1998


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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This unique work compares and contrasts the etiquette and daily life of Americans during the Victorian period with that of our current society. Sociologist Lichter describes in great detail socializing, parenting, homemaking, and courting, dispelling some of our widely held misconceptions about the Victorians. Well researched and well balanced, her book includes many supporting examples from the writings of the Victorian era as well as numerous examples gleaned from 20th-century media, popular culture, and politics. More than a history of the social customs of the Victorians, this is also a searing social commentary on this century's decline of gracious living and social amenities despite our many advances and high standard of living. Recommended for academic and public libraries where demand for social history and commentary warrants.ABonnie Poquette, Appleton P.L., WI
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"[Simple Social Graces is] a lovely reminder of the Victorian sensibility that focused on gentle living." -- San Antonio Express-News

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1st edition (May 6, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060391707
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060391706
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,619,519 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Connie Torrisi on November 18, 2002
It's a shame that this book is out of print. It is well worth the hunt to locate a copy if you are interested in learning just about all there is to know about the Victorian era. The Victorian era was a time when the "culture of character" was the national goal. Victorians followed widely accepted moral codes and sought to create a self that was worthy of esteem. Ms. Lichter compares the consistent beliefs and cultural values of the Victorians against today's high levels of self indulgence, narcissism as well as the recent culture of victims. The Victorians shared ideals of character. Today, we satisfy our impulses rather than overcome them. Ms.Lichter also sheds new light on so called repressed Victorian sexuality. They were neither repressed nor prudish according to the author. Ms. Lichter shows that the major difference between modern day Americans and the Voctorians is that the Victorians simply believed that sexual matters were private. This is in sharp contrast to today's public and highly impersonal open book attitudes.
This is a highly informative book, and I loved it.
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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A. E. Wilkes on September 10, 2008
Despite its title, "Simple Social Graces" is not a descriptive catalogue of Victorian manners and mores, nor is it in any way a how-to manual. It is a vitriolic, misleading, and ultimately useless book. Part of the author's premise is sound: our society largely misunderstands the Victorians and could benefit from raising our standards of civility. Her methods of arguing this point, however, are ridiculous.

The main problem is that her definition of "Victorian" is elastic, expanding to encompass Jane Austen or the early Edwardians, or retracting to exclude, say, Europeans whenever Lichter needs to make a point that would be best served using a specific segment of the population. Mostly, her "Victorians" are limited to upper to middle class American WASPS (her term) and do not include actual subjects of Queen Victoria. Furthermore, her selection of historical supporting evidence is lean. She mostly draws on texts written by a handful of reformers who are hardly representative of the entirety of Victorian society, or even her definition of it. The conclusion she draws from these texts are equally limited, and often contradictory, especially in her claim that Victorian manners prevented violence towards women (repeated several times) at the same time that she lauds these reformers for their work in combatting wife-beating by drunken husbands. She praises Victorian women for their painstaking devotion to home and their skill in domestic arts while taking potshots at Martha Stewart (and even accusing her fans of being perverts based on the off-hand remarks of one of the magazine's editors). She slams Americans for scientific studies of sex which reduce lovemaking to hormones, while praising the Victorians for having studied sex first. Which is it?
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 24, 1999
It is the best decline of civility etiquette book that I have read. Written by a female who boldly knocks the women's liberation movement. It is very pithy and articulate. It has shown me how to serve others by simply being civil.
I don't agree that she should follow her own advice. She obviously was being blunt for the effect (i.e., making a point). The book does contain strong language.
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The title and subtitle of the book are misleading. I fluffed my pillows, got comfortable and started reading this book hoping to read sweet words and sentiments which would elevate my soul; not so. Even though the author says that she is not taking political sides she does, and her position is quite clear. She bashes conservatives, Bashes the Reagan era calling it a "period of greed". She bashes bible believers. The introduction and the first chapter have quotes from the Clintons as if they are the paragons of virtue, who is she trying to kid? She gives liberals a tap on the hand while giving conservatives and bible believers a punch in the face. She is not much of a historian, the Victorian era existed because of a solid moral foundation that came from Godliness.

The entire tone of the book is harsh and angry. God in Christ Jesus is a wonderful loving God that brings peace and properity to all who obey him as the Victorians did. It is when the likes of Woodrow Wilson and other communist infiltrations in the US and England that the polite society came to an end. The only people who will like this book are angry feminist. I'm sorry I bought this book and I'm throwing in the trash bin.

I would give it zero stars if I could.
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