It was with unexpected pleasure that the much anticipated Bluffer’s Guide to Etiquette fell gracefully through my letter box on 11 January, as it was not due to be released until almost a week later. A good half hour later, after getting over the excitement with copious amounts of smelling salts and makeshift fans I then proceeded to spend the morning learning how to bluff my way through many a society affair from a Royal Garden Party to a low-key Baby Shower (the latter is far more needed than the former – I’m due to attend my very first Baby Shower in a few weeks so it is very timely advice indeed).
There are two main reasons why I had been looking forward to this latest etiquette handbook to add to my already overflowing bookshelf. The first reason is that it is a British handbook on etiquette and sadly, such offerings from the Mother Country are hard to come by these days. Unless you want to read a book on Edwardian etiquette (which I love by the way, but it is important to keep with the times).
I love the very first sentence of The Bluffers Guide to Etiquette when debut author William Hanson states, “Etiquette is a product of France, which comes as a great annoyance to the British who would like to be able to claim its invention as their own.” I can’t think of a truer statement. Many people think using the French terms for things is fancier and therefore more “Upper Class” but this is not always the case. The British Upper Classes, being aware of their worldly superiority as it were, have not felt the need to adopt from other nations in order to impress; for instance “toilet” and “serviette” are not entertained in privileged society at all, and a true bluffer is best off expelling such words from his vocabulary at once.
In times gone by the British have led, or believe they have led (the Swiss may have something to say about that), the way in terms of manners, etiquette and good taste. With the advent of modern technology Britain is largely influenced by America, and as modern etiquette guides today are outnumbered by Americans, it is sad that the small details of British etiquette (such as the dessert course really being the fruit course, or laying the pudding cutlery at the sides of the place setting) are being forgotten. Even the leader in British class and sophistication, Debrett’s, often falls victim to the odd Americanism, and it is for this reason why I was so very excited to hear about Mr Hanson’s new book.
The second reason for my anticipation is that it is the debut book of Etiquette Expert William Hanson. Having had the pleasure of being tutored by Mr Hanson in 2012 I was very excited to hear that he was to release his first book. Mr Hanson is the protector and ambassador of true British etiquette; with his sharp wit and dry sense of humour he brings great life to what can otherwise be a dull and dreary subject. What I find so refreshing about the way he teaches and the way he writes is that he doesn’t make any apologies for what he thinks, he speaks his mind and he has conviction, such as when comparing body art to a public lavatory wall, but yet he manages to do it all the while remaining in good humour and a perfect gentleman.
If you want to know how to throw a dinner party, set the table, pass the port, meet the Queen, reply to a wedding invitation, eat fish or whether or not you should wear brown in town, I highly recommend The Bluffer’s Guide to Etiquette, where you’ll find answers to all these questions and more. My only disappointments with the book are that it is very short (although being pocket-sized means that you can carry it in your handbag so that is pretty cool), that it is fairly basic (although it is a Bluffer’s guide so you can’t really ask for more) and that The Bluffer’s Etiquette Quiz advertised at the back isn’t currently available (EDIT: The quiz is now live. You can view it here: http://bluffers.com/quiz-corner/etiquette-quiz/).