|Victorian Picnic Etiquettes
Picnics were popular with the Victorians, perhaps because it
supplied them the opportunity to escape from formal dining
rituals. But as etiquette manuals pronounced that, the picnic
has its etiquette as well as the dinner party and society
demands that one should be loyal to these rules whether dining
under the tree or under the chandelier.
For the Victorians, picnics were the happy occasions when
they would try to forget how highly civilized they were on a
day-to-day basis. Often the food for the picnic would be
delivered by servants in a separate carriage ahead of the
guests. Picnics were to be of a more casual affair and not to be
crowded with more than two or three servants.
According to etiquette manuals gentlemen were instructed to
forgo their own needs and consent to become the waiters, guides
and servants to the ladies and must perform any feats to suit a
ladies fancy even if she desired a lovely flower at an
impossible to get at place.
Etiquette manuals reminded a gentleman that women have more
tender nerves and more rapid imaginations and that consideration
should be taken when chosing a picnic site, and so a site set
above a cliff selected for its splendor view may alarm the
female diners. Care must also be taken to see that the guests
are not seated upon an ant hill. There should also be certainty
of shade as it is quite impossible for a lady to hold her
parasol during lunch and nothing is more uncomfortable for a
lady than to be exposed to a merciless sun.
Each gentleman should endeavor to do his utmost to be amusing
and entertaining. Once the last bite of pie or cake was eaten
should a gentleman have musical talent and have with him an
instrument, such as a cornet, which is barely tolerated in the
enclosed walls of the drawing room, should be perfect to perform
Usually games were played such as; croquet, blind man's
bluff, or even tag and afterward the guests would break into
separate groups, and, perhaps, into pairs. Some would explore
the general area collecting flowers to hang and dry, or into the
woods to search for wild mushrooms or moss. Others may wander
off to sketch, or explore a nearby castle or ruins.
If a woman chooses to seat herself upon the ground, a
gentleman is not at liberty to follow her example unless he has
been invited to do so. The lady must not have occasion to think
of the possibility of any improprity on a gentleman's part. As
much as a couple may enjoy their explorations they must not
loiter too long away from the crowd. A young lady who strolls
away for a couple of hours with a young man among the ruins or
in the wood, should scarcely be asked to join a second picnic.
And before the end of a fine day, one etiquette manual suggests,
that it is pleasant to have a five o'clock tea before starting