17 January 1856
"WHAT IS A LADY?"
I will tell you negatively. She never overdresses. She attires herself with regard to the weather and the occasion, and at no hour of the day, whatever may be her occupation, is untidy. She is civil and obliging to all persons in public, whom chance throws in her way, without distinction of garb or class, and is reasonable and humane with her servants. She never, under shelter of her sex, is conversationally overbearing towards the other, to whom the rules of courtesy forbid a reply in kind. She never omits by a smile or word, gracefully to acknowledge slight favors they render her. She never solicits gifts from them, by going into ecstacies in their presence about "love of rings," or bracelets, which she saw at Show & Co's. She never encourages matrimonial offers, which she has no idea of accepting, (N.B. male flirts excepted!) She makes a distinction in her reception of gentlemen, between those who at heart respect our sex, and those who only make a pretence of doing so. She never betrays, from a mean vanity, the honorable love which she cannot reciprocate. She never talks or laughs loudly in public, or has the bad taste, and bad manners, to disturb her neighbors in this way, at concert, or opera. She is reverential at church, or, at least, respects the feelings of those around her, who desire to be so. She knows when to be silent—when to speak—and how; in a word she has tact—I repeat it, Tact, my hearers, without which the most beautiful woman is but a tasteless fruit, a song-less bird, a scentless flower, or, in other words, a blundering numskull!
Fanny Fern, "'What Is a Lady?'" The New-York Ledger (17 January 1856): 4
To cite this project:
Fanny Fern, "'What Is a Lady?'" Fanny Fern in The New York Ledger, Ed. Kevin McMullen (2018) http://fannyfern.org.