Regency Advice

Regency Advice for Living

1820s Tips for Living In 1820, English writer Sydney Smith wrote a letter to an unhappy friend, Lady Morpeth, in which he offered her tips for cheering up. His suggestions are as sound now as they were almost 200 years ago.

1st. Live as well as you dare.
2nd. Go into the shower-bath with a small quantity of water at a temperature low enough to give you a slight sensation of cold, 75 or 80 degrees.
3rd. Amusing books.
4th. Short views of human life—not further than dinner or tea.
5th. Be as busy as you can.
6th. See as much as you can of those friends who respect and like you.
7th. And of those acquaintances who amuse you.
8th. Make no secret of low spirits to you friends, but talk of them freely—they are always worse for dignified concealment.
9th. Attend to the effects tea and coffee produce upon you.
10th. Compare your lot with that of other people.
11th. Don’t expect too much from human life—a sorry business at the best.
12th. Avoid poetry, dramatic representations (except comedy), music, serious novels, melancholy, sentimental people, and everything likely to excite feeling or emotion, not ending in active benevolence.
13th. Do good, and endeavour to please everybody of every degree.
14th Be as much as you can in the open air without fatigue.
15th. Make the room where you commonly sit gay and pleasant.
16th. Struggle by little and little against idleness.
17th. Don’t be too severe upon yourself, or underrate yourself, but do yourself justice.
18th. Keep good blazing fires.
19th. Be firm and constant in the exercise of rational religion.
20th. Believe me, dear Lady Georgiana.

Tips for pleasing in society from 1774

Lord Chesterfield, a British statesman and man of letters, was very preoccupied with worldly success. In his Letters, he bombards his son with advice about how to succeed in society. Samuel Johnson remarked that these letters “teach the morals of a whore, and the manners of a dancing master.” Not exactly a rousing endorsement. Nevertheless, I think Lord Chesterfield has some provocative insights. Here’s an assortment of his advice:

“Pleasing in company is the only way of being pleased in it yourself.”

“The very same thing may become either pleasing or offensive, by the manner of saying or doing it.”

“Even where you are sure, seem rather doubtful; represent, but do not pronounce, and if you would convince others, seem open to conviction yourself.”

“You will easily discover every man’s prevailing vanity, by observing his favourite topic of conversation; for every man talks most of what he has most a mind to be thought to excel in.”

“The sure way to excel in anything, is only to have a close and undissipated attention while you are about it; and then you need not be half the time that otherwise you must…"

“Dress is a very foolish thing, and yet it is a very foolish thing for a man not to be well dressed.”

“Whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well.”

Ben Franklin's Tips for living a virtuous life

Temperance. Eat not to Dulness. Drink not to Elevation.

Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling Conversation.

Order. Let all your Things have their Places. Let each Part of your Business have its Time.

Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.

Frugality. Make no Expense but to do good to others or yourself: i.e., Waste nothing.

Industry. Lose no time. Be always employ'd in something useful. Cut off all unnecessary Actions.

Sincerity. Use no hurtful Deceit. Think innocently and justly; and if you speak, speak accordingly.

Justice. Wrong none, by doing Injuries or omitting the Benefits that are your Duty.

Moderation. Avoid Extreams. Forbear resenting Injuries so much as you think they deserve.

Cleanliness. Tolerate no Uncleanness in Body, Cloaths, or Habitation.

Tranquility. Be not disturbed at Trifles, or at Accidents common or unavoidable.

Chastity. Rarely use Venery but for Health or Offspring; Never to Dullness, Weakness, or the Injury of your own or another’s Peace or Reputation.

Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.