Emily Post, at home

Elizabeth Kolbert in The New Yorker:


“Etiquette,” revised and edited by her great-granddaughter-in-law, a former flight attendant, is now in its seventeenth edition. (Thumb tabs have been added for ease of reference.) Various Post relations write deportment columns for, among other publications, Good Housekeeping, Parents, and the Boston Globe. On its Web site, the Emily Post Institute provides guidance on subjects ranging from holiday tipping (for a pet groomer, one session’s fee is appropriate) to exercising at the gym (“Wipe up your sweat, please!”). There is even a feature called “What Would Emily Do?,” which each week takes up a new, post-Post question, such as whether it’s permissible to text-message from a luncheon party and “How do you tell a co-worker that she has an odor?”

“Emily Post: Daughter of the Gilded Age, Mistress of American Manners” (Random House; $30), by Laura Claridge, is the first full-length biography of the author to appear. (Post’s son, Ned, published an affectionate, ghostwritten memoir, “Truly Emily Post,” back in 1961.) Claridge, a former English professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, has written previous biographies of Norman Rockwell and the Art Deco painter Tamara de Lempicka. In turning her attention to Post, she takes up two mysteries. One has to do with etiquette: why, in a supposedly classless society like America, do so many people fret about table manners? And the other has to do with “Etiquette”: how did Post convert social disgrace into such a triumph?

More here.