Sorry! The English and Their Manners

Henry Hitchings

Sorry! The English and Their Manners

Most of us know a bit about what passes for good manners - holding doors open, sending thank-you notes, no elbows on the table. We certainly know bad manners when we see them. But where has this patchwork of beliefs and behaviours come from? How did manners develop? How do they change? And why do they matter so much to us? In examining our manners, Henry Hitchings delves into the English character and investigates our notions of Englishness. Sorry! presents an amusing, illuminating and quirky audit of English manners. From basic table manners to appropriate sexual conduct, via hospitality, chivalry, faux pas and online etiquette, Hitchings traces the history of our country's customs and courtesies. Putting under the microscope some of our most astute observers of humanity, including Jane Austen and Samuel Pepys, he uses their lives and writings to pry open the often downright peculiar secrets of the English character. Hitchings' blend of history, anthropology and personal journey helps us understand our bizarre and contested cultural baggage - and ourselves. 3.9 out of 5 based on 9 reviews
Sorry! The English and Their Manners

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Society, Politics & Philosophy
Format
Pages 400
RRP
Date of Publication January 2013
ISBN 978-1848546646
Publisher John Murray
 

Most of us know a bit about what passes for good manners - holding doors open, sending thank-you notes, no elbows on the table. We certainly know bad manners when we see them. But where has this patchwork of beliefs and behaviours come from? How did manners develop? How do they change? And why do they matter so much to us? In examining our manners, Henry Hitchings delves into the English character and investigates our notions of Englishness. Sorry! presents an amusing, illuminating and quirky audit of English manners. From basic table manners to appropriate sexual conduct, via hospitality, chivalry, faux pas and online etiquette, Hitchings traces the history of our country's customs and courtesies. Putting under the microscope some of our most astute observers of humanity, including Jane Austen and Samuel Pepys, he uses their lives and writings to pry open the often downright peculiar secrets of the English character. Hitchings' blend of history, anthropology and personal journey helps us understand our bizarre and contested cultural baggage - and ourselves.

The Language Wars by Henry Hitchings

Who's Afraid of Jane Austen by Henry Hitchings

Reviews

The Guardian

Ian Sansom

Diverting and wide-ranging ... the footnotes and bibliography alone would put the average PhD student to shame ... [His] surprisingly firm, high-toned conclusion, proceeded as it is by page‑on-page of learned meanderings and musings, reveals finally the kind of writer Hitchings really is: an overseer, guardian, wise man, guide. The Right Reverend Henry Hitchings: scholar bishop.

19/01/2013

Read Full Review


The Daily Mail

Marcus Berkmann

He is a lovely writer, full of interesting ideas and neat turns of phrase, and just occasionally I wished he had read slightly fewer books and put in a few more thoughts of his own. But perhaps you do have to read that much to master the nuances of this vast and sprawling subject.

16/01/2013

Read Full Review


The Mail on Sunday

Craig Brown

Manners is a fascinating subject, and Hitchings handles it with all his customary wit, knowledge and elegance.

26/01/2013

Read Full Review


The Observer

Robert McCrum

Reconciling a long history of disruptive, sometimes thrilling, social expression with a scholarly appetite for themes will always be problematic for the historian. Hitchings has made a bold, entertaining, and often imaginative, assault on a fundamentally impossible subject.

27/01/2013

Read Full Review


The Sunday Telegraph

Sinclair McKay

Highly entertaining and absorbing … Since Hitchings excludes Wales and Scotland from his study, the reader can’t help wondering whether all the regions of England can really all be lumped together … It’s a small quibble, for the real delight of this book is its lightly worn scholarliness. Hitchings is especially strong on the historical derivation of words, such as the evolving use of “gentleman’’ (a term which the 17th-century Puritans hated because it suggested false flattery and “wiley-beguiley’’); acute anecdote — such as the extraordinary rudeness the author encountered in a five-star Mayfair hotel; and gossipy social history — Harold Nicolson and his horror, at school, of being addressed by his first name rather than surname.

15/01/2013

Read Full Review


The Times

John O'Connell

Pin-sharp … Sorry! swoops high and low, from Pepys to Locke and from Seinfeld to Jilly Cooper. Hitchings is an able anthropologist, and quite right that while every country has its own manners — Japan’s are especially exacting — nowhere is as obsessed with them as England, even if that obsession expresses itself in odd ways such as apologising for things we haven’t done.

31/12/2012

Read Full Review


The Sunday Times

Christopher Hart

Sorry! is full of diverting nuggets and anecdotes, although it doesn’t settle merely for a colourful regurgitation of amusing facts about how people used to blow their noses or wipe their bottoms. Hitchings is also fascinated by the meaning of manners, the philosophy of etiquette, and these more abstract and analytical digressions, elegantly written, may not suit those interested only in the Horrible Histories school of historiography.

06/01/2013

Read Full Review


The Evening Standard

A.N. Wilson

… a scatter-gun of a book … Although Nancy Mitford is quoted on a couple of pages, there is not enough in this book about class. Much of what the English used to call manners were class indicators and disappeared along with deference. But something remained — and it is that “something” which Hitchings so interestingly makes his subject.

17/01/2013

Read Full Review


The Spectator

Thomas W. Hodgkinson

Despite its perky title, it turns out to be a study not of good manners exactly, or not in any concentrated way; rather, it’s a pleasant, if laboriously chronological survey of various aspects of English social life since the Norman Conquest. As such, it is itself an impeccably well-mannered and deeply English product. Amusing but not funny, well-informed without being brilliant, softly spoken and rather vague, it shies away from big ideas as if they were errors of taste, like the plum-coloured loafers to which the author endearingly confesses.

19/01/2013

Read Full Review


©2013 The Omnivore