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Debrett's (//) is a professional coaching company, publisher and authority on etiquette and behaviour, founded in 1769 with the publication of the first edition of The New Peerage. The title is named after John Debrett.
Debrett's Academy was established in 2012 to provide coaching in interpersonal skills to individuals and corporations. Its courses for businesses cover topics such as public speaking, networking, sales pitches, relationship management, personal presentation and dress codes. Its private client courses focus on confidence-building and social competence, as well as personal presentation and impact, career progression and digital networking.
A non-profit arm, Debrett's Foundation, provides coaching through the Debrett's Academy to sixth form students from UK schools in business skills, as well as access to internships, work experience and mentoring opportunities.
Debrett's has published a range of guides on traditional British etiquette, dating from the mid 1900s. Those currently in print include Debrett's A – Z of Modern Manners, Debrett's Guide for the Modern Gentleman and "Debrett's Handbook" , a revised and updated version of its Correct Form. Debrett's Wedding Guide (first published in 2007) was revised in 2017 and published as Debrett's Wedding Handbook.
Debrett's Peerage & Baronetage, a book which includes a short history of the family of each titleholder, is now published every four years. The current editor is Charles Kidd.
Debrett's People of Today, an annual publication, contains biographical details of approximately 20,000 notable people from the entire spectrum of British society. The selection of entrants is made by the editorial staff of Debrett's and entries are reviewed annually to ensure accuracy and relevance. Entries include details of career, education, family, recreations and membership of clubs as well as contact addresses. An additional feature is the correct style of address to be used when addressing correspondence to an entrant.
Like its rival publication Who's Who, selection of entrants is at the Editorial Team's discretion and there is no payment or obligation to purchase. However, unlike Who's Who, entrants are removed if they are no longer deemed to be suitable for inclusion.
Debrett's website contains information on British tradition, etiquette, dress codes and style, and the biographical profiles of those featured in People of Today and the Debrett’s 500.
Appearances in popular culture
In William Makepeace Thackeray's classic novel Vanity Fair (1847), the elderly aristocrat Sir Pitt Crawley is described as "a selfish boor [...] unworthy of his title" despite his name being in Debrett's. Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence (1920) makes a glancing reference to one's "standing in Debrett." Debrett's is mentioned in The Picture of Dorian Gray and Lord Arthur Savile's Crime, both by Oscar Wilde, and is referred to satirically as a sacred book in the short story "Reginald at the Theatre" by Saki. In George Orwell's Burmese Days, Mrs. Lackersteen is described as reading the Civil List, "the Debrett of Burma". An out-of-date Debrett's is a key plot element in an Elizabeth Mapp story (1920–1939) by E. F. Benson. Debrett's Peerage is mentioned in P. G. Wodehouse novels, especially the Blandings stories, in which it is often referred to by Lord Emsworth. In Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited (1945), Charles Ryder mentions Sebastian's family, to which Sebastian replies "There are lots of us. Look them up in Debrett".
More recently, Debrett's was mentioned in John le Carré's spy novel The Tailor of Panama. Debrett's New Guide to Etiquette and Modern Manners was a guest publication on Have I Got News for You in 1999. In the fashion sitcom Absolutely Fabulous, the character of Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley) calls Debrett's the "Who's Who in what's left of the British aristocracy". Debrett's Correct Form is mentioned by the cartoonist Giles. In the adult comic Viz, a strip called Billy Connolly has the title character, who wishes to win the favour of the Queen, perusing a copy of Debrett's. In the Sky TV Show So You Think You're Royal, families who successfully proved heritage to the royal family were entered into Debrett's. The original peerage guide is mentioned in Connie Willis' novel To Say Nothing of the Dog, as a plot device to change one character's attitude toward another when she discovers he is listed in it. In the third season of Downton Abbey, the Countess of Grantham dryly comments to her husband that "not everyone chooses their religion to satisfy Debrett's".
John Debrett (1753 – 15 November 1822) was the London-born son of Jean Louys de Bret, a French cook of Huguenot extraction. As a boy of thirteen, John Debrett was apprenticed to a Piccadilly bookseller and publisher, Robert Davis. He remained there until 1780, when he moved to John Almon, bookseller and stationer. John Almon edited and published his first edition of The New Peerage in 1769, and went on to produce at least three further editions. By 1790 he had passed the editorship on to John Debrett who, in 1802, put his name to the two small volumes that made up The Correct Peerage of England, Scotland and Ireland. Despite twice being declared bankrupt, Debrett continued as a bookseller, and retired in 1814. He was found dead at his lodgings on 15 November 1822, and was buried at St James's, Piccadilly.
- Hankinson, Cyril Francis James. My Forty Years with Debrett. London: R. Hale, 1963.
- "British pronunciation of Debrett's". Macmillan Dictionary. Retrieved 2013-07-25.
- "Debretts People of Today 2009". Archived from the original on 18 December 2008.
- "David Beckham enjoys wine tasting, says celebrity hobby guide". The Telegraph. 2009-07-23. Retrieved 2013-07-25.
- "About Debrett's". Debrett's. Archived from the original on 4 August 2008.