Pleasures and Pastimes of the Bourgeoisie


The Bourgeoisie at Dinner
~ Pre -revolution

~Fashion in Les Mis

~Rise in Popularity
~Economic and Social Symbolism
~Representation in Les Mis

Gardens ~17th Century ~18th Century ~19th Century ~Versailles

Gambling ~Pre-Revolutionary ~Cafés & Cercles

Opéra & Theatre
~The Revolution
~Social Status
~Les Misérables

Etiquette ~Promenade ~Dances ~Dinner ~Casinos and Salons

Bibliography ~Fashion ~Etiquette ~Restaurants ~Opéra ~Picture Bibliography


"Never forget that at a dinner, as on all occasions of hospitality, it is your chief duty to relieve the hostess from every annoyance or care. It must not be imagined that the dinner is simply given for the purpose of giving a gross and purely material pleasure. It puts you in company with persons of consideration, and giver you an opportunity to display your intelligence, or to cause your good qualities to be appreciated." - Baron De Mortemat Boisse from Ward


The images below are used to reinforce the main point of the social climbing bourgeoisie - that they studied and adhered too every nuance of etiquette in order to fully assume that certain noble air - because differences in etiquette transcend time. That fact that these images are from different time periods, different countries even, does not matter because what is being compared is not etiquette through time but general differences in behavior.


(click on pictures for source information)

Uncivilized Table
Civilized Table
  • At first glance one notices the chaos in this picture. People are standing, siting, laying on the floor. Everything is in motion and unruly.
  • The table is in the middle and it is covered, which implies refinement. However, there is one huge bowl that everyone is eating from and that is the sole source of nourishment. Because there are no utensils, napkins, candles, or glasses guests are not regulated.
  • The guests appear to be disheveled and intoxicated; wigs are askew, coats are unbuttoned. The man in front is on the floor. This implies a careless attitude toward decorum but not a protest against it because they are dressed richly - it is more like they are behaving this way because they can.
  • Table is small this might indicate more of an emphasis on conversation that food - typical of the time.
  • The dog in the front is eating off a plate which implies excess and civility for even the dog eats on a plate.
  • The man and woman seated are siting up straight and use napkins. The man is eating with his hands but very delicately, and indication of refinement
  • The servants are on hand to attend to the needs of the eaters which is a symbol of wealth and domination -even at repose these people still command.


"As soon as seated, remove your gloves, place your table-napkin partly open across your lap, your gloves under it, and your roll on the left hand side of your plate" ~ 156.
"Ladies seldom take cheese at dinner parties, or wine at dessert. Cheese is eaten with a fork, and not with a knife" ~163.
"Never play with food, nor mince with your bread, no handle the glass and silver near you unnecessarily" ~ 163.

"The mouth should always be kept closed in eating, both eating and drinking should be noiseless" ~162

"A soup-plate should never be tilted for the last spoonful" ~162

"Vegetables are eaten with a fork" ~162

"Bread is broken at dinner" ~162

(click on picture for source)

"No one can refuse when asked to drink to another's health - fasten your eye upon the eye of the honored, bow the head slightly, touch the wine to you lips, and again bow before setting down the glass. The mouth should always be wiped with the napkin both before and after drinking" ~163.
"Fish and fruit are eaten with silver knives and forks. If silver fish-knives are not provided, a piece of bread in the left and answers the purpose as well, with a fork in the right" ~162.
All quotes taken from Ward
"Asparagus can be taken up with the fingers, is so preferred. Olives and artichokes are always so eaten" ~162


For some specific information concerning menus and restaurants go to Restaurants and the French Revolution