Who is Miss Abigail?

Abigail Grotke
Silver Spring, MD
email: missabigail at missabigail dot com
twitter: @DearMissAbigail

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Miss Abigail has a collection of over 1,000 classic advice books, spanning from 1822 to 1978 and covering a variety of topics, from love and romance to etiquette and charm. The collection sparked the idea for this site, then a book, Miss Abigail's Guide to Dating, Mating, and Marriage, which has inspired an Off-Broadway production of the same name!


Archive for September, 2006

1926: Hotel Etiquette

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

The recent trip had a few memorable hotel-related incidents: room mixups due to a reservation booked by one of our party for the wrong night (and subsequent cancellation by the hotel), accusations by an angry Spanish hotel clerk of possible orgies (long, long story there, and JUST NOT TRUE!), and extra fees for air conditioning (much needed by day two of the Spanish heat). So, upon my return I decided to look up some advice for the traveler on hotel etiquette. Probably should have done that before we left, eh?

Here are a few items from Lady Troubridge’s The Book of Etiquette (Suffolk, Great Britain: Richard Clay and Company, 1926), that seemed particularly useful (and yes, the original text reads “an hotel”):

At the Hotel
There is a distinct code by which the lady and gentleman must be governed when stopping at an hotel. It is a mistaken idea that one may act as one pleases merely because the hotel is public. It is as important to remember one’s social obligations in an hotel as it is in the house of a friend.

Indeed, the hotel is the one place where men and women are most likely to make embarrassing blunders and commit humiliating mistakes. Only by knowing thoroughly the laws of good conduct, as adapted to hotel life, can one expect to move smoothly and with ease through its often puzzling intricacies.

At home, or even when visiting a friend’s house, a boor may remain undetected. But the truth appears very quickly in an hotel…

Engaging Rooms in Advance
A wise plan, if time permits, is to engage a room beforehand either by letter, telephone, or telegram. This prevents any possibility of having to leave the hotel because there is no room, always an unpleasant experience for a woman travelling alone, and particularly difficult if she arrives late at night. Forethought in engaging a room beforehand obviates the tiresome possibility of having to go on to another hotel.

Receiving Gentlemen in Hotels
A gentleman calling upon a lady staying in a hotel makes the same inquiry as if he were calling at a private house. “Is Miss So-and-so in?” He then gives his name to the clerk, who will either telephone to the lady’s room, or send a servant to inquire if she is in, should there be no installation of bedroom-telephones in the hotel.

The lady should not refuse to see a visitor without offering some excuse. If she is expecting the visitor, she should be waiting in the drawing-room or lounge, having left word at the office where she may be found when her visitor arrives. It is quite permissible for the lady to send a message to the gentleman asking him to wait if she is not ready to see visitors. But if the visit is expected, it is a greater courtesy on the lady’s part to be downstairs and ready to receive the gentleman.

For a woman to receive a man in her bedroom at a hotel is to break an important convention, and should never be done. It places both in a false position and is a serious blunder in hotel etiquette.

If a gentleman calls upon a lady at any hotel, whether it is a social or business call, and finds that she is not in, he leaves his card for her with the clerk in the office. He should, however, write her name at the top of the card, as without this indication the card may go to the wrong guest, it being impossible for reception clerks to remember the names of all the guests upon whom cards are left.

In the Public Rooms
It is bad manners to laugh and talk loudly in the public rooms, or to talk loudly in one’s bedroom, and equally bad manners to bang doors late at night or make any noise that may disturb other people staying in the hotel.

Now that that’s all cleared up, I’m sure the next trip will go much more smoothly!


Tuesday, September 26th, 2006

I arrived home tonight with suitcases in hand (woohoo!). After the conference, spent a few days in Barcelona and one night in Madrid. Had much fun but happy to be back home with my dog and friends.

More when I’ve recovered from jet lag and all the wine, beer, ham, cheese, bread, and olives consumed… vegetables? What are vegetables?

Suitcase-less in Spain

Tuesday, September 19th, 2006

So far the trip to Spain has, well, less than ideal. I know, I know, it´s SPAIN! But US Airways was two hours delayed in Philadelphia due to a “security issue” – they had to screen a bag that they´d missed or something, and THEN they lost my bag which delayed us further so it took about 24 hrs to get here total. So I had to wear the same clothes for days. Thankfully there is an outlet mall near the University where we are so I could buy some unmentionables. Do you think the etiquette gods will forgive me for being a bit stinky? I hope so.

Update¨: My bag finally arrived! I have my clothes. I am happy again.

We did get to have drinks and tapas at the top of the Santa Barbara castle Monday night, that was pretty cool…

Off to Spain

Friday, September 15th, 2006

I’m heading to Spain tomorrow to attend the European Conference on Digital Libraries and associated Web Archiving Workshop (hey, it pays the bills). I am not bringing the laptop — too nervous about losing it — so will be checking the ‘net randomly when I can find access. I may try to post mid-trip but if you don’t hear from me, I’ll be back here soon.

In the meantime, how about some trip etiquette, previously posted on MissAbigail.com?

In Flight, from 1924, is a delightful read.

As is Enid Haupt’s The Best Travelers (1963).

I’ve got to go finish packing. Adiós!

Lulu Blooker Prize Entry

Sunday, September 10th, 2006

I’ve entered Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating, and Marriage: Classic Advice for Contemporary Dilemmas to be judged in the non-fiction category of the Lulu Blooker Prize. Blooks are books created from content originally found on a blog or Web site, so mine seemed like the perfect fit. The competition is tough (judging my the entries so far), but you never know. Perhaps one of the judges has an incredible fondness for advice from the 1880s or 1940s. A girl can dream!

Lynn Peril’s new book

Sunday, September 10th, 2006

My friend Lynn Peril has published her second book: College Girls: Bluestockings, Sex Kittens, and Co-Eds, Then and Now.

Lynn and I met in cyberspace many years ago and bonded over our collections of advice books. Drool over hers here. My copy of College Girls just arrived so I haven’t had time to read it yet, but if her first book, Pink Think: Becoming a Woman in Many Uneasy Lessons is any indication, I’m sure this will be wonderful. Go out and buy it! Now!

Much Delayed Book Signing Report

Monday, September 4th, 2006

I know that by taking the laptop on the road, and having wireless almost everywhere, I had no excuse for not giving you minute by minute updates about my whereabouts and goings-on while on my dual weddings tour and book tour, but hey, I was on vacation. What do you expect. So, continuing from where I left off with my Brattleboro Blogging post…

The Brattleboro book signing at Everyone’s Books went well, with 10 or so locals plus my brother and my lovely host Phayvahn. I read from the book, answered a lot of questions, discussing with the attendees all about advice throughout the ages. Phayvahn even brought snacks. At the end of the evening, I was presented (verbally and in a handwritten note, now in my possession) with some advice from an audience member, who suggested, based on some of my commentary:

1) Consider notching up a rung or two and take your subject more seriously. Your feet are on the edge of an important life pursuit if taken to a higher level.
2) Index your books. [I was having trouble finding something in my own book]
3) Start breaking past the 1970 barrier. [my latest is from 1979]
4) Start paying more than $10 for your books. [I mostly stay under $10, but if it’s really something I want I will get it for more $]

Thank you, kind sir! Miss Abigail certainly welcomes ALL advice. Even somewhat odd advice.

Oh, and the best part about the signing, was that right before, at the Brattleboro Selectboard meeting, a citizen complained about nude teenagers in the Harmony parking lot, which happened to be the lot we parked in to go to the book store. Alas we did not see any naked teens, only clothed ones, but this simple complaint to the Selectboard has turned into quite the national news. I feel special to have been there when it all began. Hmm… I’ll have to see if there’s any good advice about nudity in my books.

Moving on. From Brattleboro I took a train down to Springfield, Mass. to rent a car (long story) so I could drive on over to New Bedford, where I stayed with some friends. On Thursday before the signing, I was taken junk shopping where I found two pink things: a pink ice bucket to match my 1950s pink refrigerator, and my very own (pink, of course) Mark Eden Bust Developer (a previously much-coveted item owned in bulk by my tacky friend at Julie’s Tacky Treasures). Oh, and I got a special, special treat – a trip to the Barbie Garden!

The book signing at Baker Books on Thursday night had a good showing. A few mentions in the local papers and on my university’s alumni page were oh so nice. My dear, long-time friend Michelle did the honors of introducing me to the audience. Here she is, after the signing:

The crowd, particularly Miss Abigail’s World’s Biggest Fan Magoo (seen below, on right), really enjoyed book collection, and particularly the bust developer. A special thanks to Amber (on left), for her help in setting up the signing.

The following morning Michelle and I took a ride over to one of her favorite used book stores, and Mr. Brattleboro advice-giver will be happy to know that I spent more than $10 each on the books purchased there. These are still in my mom’s van so will need to report later on my scores. After that, I packed up my books, bust developer, and more, and drove on over to Mystic, Connecticut, for wedding #2 and to drop off the rental car (thank to Aunt Nancy and Heather’s brother for picking me up!). Cousin Tom and Heather’s shindig was a lovely event, right on the water in Groton, and it was fun to see the other side of the family (Buffalo wedding was dad’s side, Conn. was mom’s).

I hopped on another train home the next day, so I could make it back to work on Monday. So now you can understand why I didn’t have time to blog about this sooner. I’m still recovering!

Tag Cloud Fun

Saturday, September 2nd, 2006

I’m slowly making progress adding books to my LibraryThing account: 160 entered so far. What’s fun is seeing how the tag cloud is developing. Hmm… I seem to have a lot of books that I’ve tagged “sex” – really, I’m not a pervert!