Modern Post Scholarship

Emily Post’s book Etiquette, published in 1920, is a 900-page index to the behaviour and social worries of Americans. The index within the book is itself an object overstuffed with wonders. Scholars of indexing – even those who publish studies in the journal The Indexer – have yet to analyse its depth. Here are some of the gems that await their scrutiny. These appear in the index of the 1942 edition.

That index is wide-ranging. It covers four of the five universal subjects (shoes and ships and sealing-wax, cabbages and kings) mentioned in Lewis Carroll’s poem The Walrus and the Carpenter:

  • Royalty, addressing
  • Sealing wax, use of Shipboard, social life on
  • Shoes, use of shoe trees

There are, of course, the etiquette basics of the time, not so very different from those of today:

  • Chic, limits of Experiments, when not to try
  • Frankness, modern, between young people
  • Horn blowing, unnecessary
  • Ill breeding, an example of…

So begins this week’s Improbable Research column in The Guardian.