“Never, though you are handsome, strut before ladies like a Turkey-Cock”

By Amy Batchelor

Do you ever strut before ladies like a Turkey-Cock? Well don’t!

While researching daily 19th century life in Adelaide, I stumbled across an article in the Southern Australian, Friday 27 May 1842, titled “Rough Every-Day Maxims”. According to the article, strutting before ladies like a Turkey-Cock is one of the forty-six things you should “Never” do!

turkey

Some of these maxims still make perfect sense in the 21st century. For example, ‘Never contradict a lady – it is rude;’ one can hardly argue with that, and I’m sure everyone would agree that we should ‘Never get intoxicated, and “put an enemy into your mouth to steal away your brains”.’

Some provide curious insights into the fashion of the times, such as ‘Never, although you sport imposing whiskers, twist them every five minutes,’ while some may leave you scratching your head: ‘Never show “the lions” to your “country cousins,” unless you are sure they “will pay the piper.” Wait, what?

maxims

For maximum maxim enjoyment, I have listed the forty-six pearls of wisdom in an easy to read format below. Take note, because while 172 years may have passed, much of this advice stands the test of time; especially if you wear a wig, and you intend to jerk off your hat, to a lady…

  1. NEVER borrow money from a friend, if you wish to retain his friendship
  2. Never wear a shabby coat, even although the tailor’s bill should be unpaid, for the world regards the outer garb more than the inner man
  3. Never go to law – it is expensive and harassing, and you have often the supreme satisfaction of “gaining a loss”
  4. Never, if your wife is a vixen, ask a friend to dinner, unless it is one of her sunny days and, above all, avoid a “washing day”
  5. Never run upon the street, unless you are chased by a mad bull or the police
  6. Never, if you are given to after-dinner oratory, speak above ten minutes – conciseness in such cases is a cardinal virtue; and avoid expressions as “proudest day of my life,” “inadequate to respond,” “overpowering gratitude,” “never-to-be-forgotten honor,” “cherish till latest day of my life,” &c., &c. If you are given to action, you need not sweep the crystal from the table
  7. Never marry a young lady who depreciates her female friends – it is envy and strife; and ten to one she will turn out a shrew
  8. Never be witty at the expense of others – it may provoke laughter, but it will infallibly raise enemies
  9. Never, if you intend to sing, pretend you have caught a cold, but “strike the lyre at once”
  10. Never aim at being king of the company – it is an unamiable and usurped exaltation, at which the feelings revolt; and rather be a listener than a speaker
  11. Never lose your temper in argument – it is a sure sign that you have taken the wrong side, or got the worst of the debate
  12. Never speak disparingly [sic] of absent friends – “walls have ears,” and a “little bird will carry the tale”
  13. Never read a book on the streets – it is a silly piece of affectation
  14. Never praise yourself; and if honors are thrust upon you, carry them with meekness
  15. Never leap from a railway coach when it is flying at the rate of thirty miles an hour – it is safer to sit still at all hazards
  16. Never, when you are shaking hands with a young lady, squeeze her fingers till she is obliged, in self-defense, to call out “O, fye!”
  17. Never be surprised that your letters to your friends remain unanswered – correspondence costs trouble
  18. Never ape singularity in dress – it is arrant puppyism, excessively vulgar, and worthy only of tailors’ apprentices, who, on the Sundays, play the part of “imitation Highlanders”
  19. Never rejoice in the misfortunes of others – the clouds may be rising which will overshadow your own prospects
  20. Never oppress your dependents – it is the act of an unfeeling coward: “the merciful man is merciful to his beast”
  21. Never get into debt – it is the devil, and you are at the mercy of you know not whom
  22. Never, if you can help it, employ an attorney – the six-and-eight pennies quickly accumulate
  23. Never show “the lions” to your “country cousins,” unless you are sure they “will pay the piper”
  24. Never, though you are short-sighted, use an eye-glass, and stare ladies out of countenance – it is rude and vulgar
  25. Never fight with a bully – “it is better to flatter a fool than fight him”
  26. Never marry a widow with a small family, else you will not have your sorrows to seek
  27. Never associate with those below you in station – the world is censorious, and “a man is known by the company he keeps”
  28. Never wear your hat in a room – it is excessively vulgar, or excessively impudent
  29. Never, though you are handsome, strut before ladies like a turkey-cock
  30. Never, although you sport imposing whiskers, twist them every five minutes – as for moustaches, they should be put down by act of parliament
  31. Never play off a practical joke – it is characteristic of a weak, puerile, and vulgar mind
  32. Never listen to the tittle-tattle of “busy-bodies” – it is poison
  33. Never contradict a lady – it is rude
  34. Never despair, whatever betide – “it is a long wynd [sic] which has no turning
  35. Never pretend to knowledge which you do not possess – detection may be sudden and humiliating
  36. Never, if you are humorous, descend to buffoonery
  37. Never chuck your landlady under the chin – it may originate surmises
  38. Never live beyond your income – thus only will you maintain independence
  39. Never plead poverty – it is the most henious [sic] of crimes, and you will be shunned as if you had the plague-spot
  40. Never violate truth – veracity is the chief of virtues
  41. Never pay court to a jilt-maid, or wife, she cannot be depended upon
  42. Never do a dishonorable act, because it may escape the observation of the world – for when you lose self-respect, you lose peace of mind
  43. Never play the sycophant – he is a crawling reptile; despised by all good men
  44. Never get intoxicated, and “put an enemy into your mouth to steal away your brains”
  45. Never boast of your courage – the truly brave never boast
  46. Never, if you wear a wig, jerk off your hat in bowing to a lady, else you may cut a very ludicrous figure, to the great amusement of the good-natured public

 

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