Published online by Cambridge University Press: 27 March 2020
The eighteenth century has been described as the age of politeness. Politeness became an ideology that distinguished the higher social classes from the rising middle classes. Educational handbooks and books of etiquette proliferated as a response to middle-class aspirations to social enhancement. Against this background, this chapter investigates two polite speech acts, compliments and thanks. They express the speaker’s appreciation and gratitude towards the addressee and can, therefore, be described as inherently polite, even if, on occasion, they may have entirely different values. Their functional profiles differ from their present-day counterparts. Compliments, in particular, have a much wider application including ceremonious compliments, such as, for instance, compliments of introduction. The investigation in this chapter is based on a combination of careful readings and corpus searches of selected handbooks, newspapers and novels.