MANUAL OF ETIQUETTE
POLITENESS AND GOOD BREEDING
“There’s nothing in the world like etiquette,
In kingly chambers or imperial halls,
As also at the race and county balls.”
DAVID McKAY, PUBLISHER
1022 MARKET STREET.
MEN often speak of good manners as an accomplishment. I speak of them as a duty. What, then, are good manners? Such manners as the usages of society have recognized as being agreeable to men. Such manners as take away rudeness, and remit to the brute creation all coarseness. There are a great many who feel that good manners are effeminate. They have a feeling that rude bluntness is a great deal more manly than good manners. It is a great deal more beastly. But when men are crowded in communities, the art of living together is no small art. How to diminish friction; how to promote ease of intercourse; how to make every part of a man’s life contribute to the welfare and satisfaction of those around him; how to keep down offensive pride; how to banish the rasping of selfishness from the intercourse of men; how to move among men inspired by various and conflictive motives, and yet not have collisions — this is the function of good manners.
Not only is the violation of good manners inexcusable on ordinary grounds, but it is sinful. When, therefore, parents and guardians and teachers would inspire the young with a desire for the manners of good society, it is not to be thought that they are accomplishments which may be accepted or rejected. Every man is bound to observe the laws of politeness. It is the expression of good-will and kindness. It promotes both beauty in the man who possesses it, and happiness in those who are about him. It is a religious duty, and should be a part of religious training.
There is a great deal of contempt expressed for what is called etiquette in society. Now and then there are elements of etiquette which perhaps might well be ridiculed; but in the main there is a just reason for all those customs which come under the head of etiquette. There is a reason which as regard to facility of intercourse. There is a reason in the avoidance of offense. There is a reason in comfort and happiness. And no man can afford to violate these unwritten customs of etiquette who wishes to act as a Christian gentleman.
THE NATURE AND PURPOSE OF THE BOOK
ETIQUETTE IN THE HOME CIRCLE.
Special Advice to Boys and Girls 1
RECEPTION AND ENTERTAINMENT OF VISITORS. — DUTIES OF GUESTS.
Visits of Ceremony 26
Visits of Friendship 30
Visits of Congratulations 30
Visits of Condolence 31
Social Visits 31
SALUTATIONS. — LEAVE-TAKING. — INTRODUCTIONS. — BEHAVIOR IN TRAVELLING. — LETTERS OF INTRODUCTION.
Behavior in Travelling 39
Letters of Introduction 42
TABLE ETIQUETTE. — FLOWERS FOR THE TABLE. — DOING THE HONORS OF THE TABLE. — GENERAL CUSTOMS. — STORY OF A FRENCHMAN.
Flowers for the Breakfast-Table 49
Doing the Honors of the Table 50
General of the Customs 51
Story of the Abbé Cosson 53
DINNER-PARTIES. — INVITATIONS. — NUMBER OF GUESTS. — TABLE ARRANGEMENTS. — CUSTOMS.
Invitations. — Acceptances and Regrets 59
Number of Guests. — Thirteen a Fatal Number 61
Arrangements of the Table 62
Drinking Wine 69
The Dessert. — Servants 70
Trifling Affairs of Some Importance 71
EVENING ENTERTAINMENTS. — PARTIES AND BALLS.
The Arrival of Guests 74
The Supper-Table 76
Suppression of Intemperance 77
Leave-Taking. — Call Within a Few Days 78
Persons no being Invited. — A Dancing Party 79
THE PROPER FORMS OF ADDRESS. — HOW TO WRITE AND ADDRESS LETTERS. — THE GIVING OF NAMES.
Love of Titles in America 82
The Etiquette of Address 83
How to Write and Address Letters 86
The Perils of Letters 87
Answering Letters 87
The Giving of Names 89
SOCIAL INTERCOURSE. — CONVERSATION IN SOCIETY. — SLANG PHRASES. – EXAGGERATION. — SCANDAL. — THE INFLUENCE OF WHAT PEOPLE SAY. — INQUISITIVE PEOPLE. — SIR RICHARD STEELE’S RULE FOR CONVERSATIONS.
Slang Phrases 98
What People Say 104
Inquisitive Persons 106
DRESS. — PERSONAL APPEARANCE AND MANNERS. — BEAUTY
A Recipe for a Bonnet. — Beauty 119
MARRIAGE. — OFFERS OF MARRIAGE. — LOVERS’ LOVE-LETTERS. — ETIQUETTE OF MARRIAGE. — ORIGIN OF THE WEDDING-CAKE. — WEDDING-CARDS. — ORIGIN OF WEDDING RINGS. — WEDDING-GIFTS.
Offers of Marriage 126
The Etiquette of Marriage 130
Origin of Betrothal and Wedding Rings 135
HUSBANDS. — WIVES. — BACHELORS. — OLD MAIDS.
Old Bachelors 153
Old Maids 155
POLITENESS AND PLEASING MANNERS IN CHILDREN AND YOUNG PERSONS. — PROPER INFLUENCES. — CITY AND COUNTRY MANNERS. — MANNERS OF YOUNG LADIES ABROAD OR AT WATERING PLACES. — THE NEED OF PATIENCE.
Proper Influences 162
City and Country Manners 164
Manners of Young Ladies Abroad or at Watering Places 166
Good Advice to Everybody 170
A MANUAL OF ETIQUETTE.
THE NATURE AND PURPOSE OF THE BOOK.
THESE pages have been prepared for those who are striving to improve themselves in exterior polish, and to add to their stock of information concerning the subjects upon which it treats. It has not been written for those who have been trained in the best usages of society from their infancy; nor for those who learned politeness at the same time that they mastered the alphabet; but for the less favored of both sexes in our land, who are desirous of obtaining a knowledge of the etiquette which governs social intercourse, and are desirous of cultivating both politeness and good-breeding.
Its instructions are perfectly plain, practical and simple — so simple that many persons may incline to ridicule them. But only in this way can we convey information to the many who are desirous of receiving it.
Etiquette has been define as a code of laws which binds society together — viewless as the wind — and yet exercising a vast influence upon the well-being of mankind.
These laws were instituted during the days ancient chivalry, but as years have flown they have been modified in a great degree, many of them being quite obsolete and others entirely changed. Some, however, have been but slightly varied, to suit the times, being governed by the laws of good taste and common sense, and these not only facilitate the intercourse of persons in society, but are also essential to their ease and composure of manner.
“And manners,” said the eloquent Edmund Burke, “are of more importance than laws, for upon them in a great measure the laws depend. The law can touch us here and there, now and then. Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine, by a constant, steady, uniform and insensible operation, like that of the air we breathe in. They give their whole form and color to our lives. According to their quality they aid morals, they supply them, or they totally destroy them.”
It is often said that “such a man’s pleasant, affable manners made his fortune.” And it is a truth that politeness and good-breeding go far towards forming both a man and a woman’s reputation, and stamp upon them, as it were, their current value, in the circles wherein they move.
Agreeable manners are very frequently the fruits of a good heart, and then they will surely please, even though they may lack somewhat of graceful, courtly polish. There is hardly any thing of greater importance to children of either sex than good-breeding; and if parents and teachers would perform their duties faithfully, there would not be so much complaint concerning the manners of the American child of the period.
“BE COURTEOUS,” it is an apostolical injunction which we should ever bear in mind.
Let us train up our children to behave at home as we would have them act abroad; for we may be certain that, while they are children, they will conduct themselves abroad as they have been in the habit of doing, under similar circumstances at home.
The new version of Solomon’s proverb is said to run thus: —
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will go on training.” But it is open to several definitions.
Enter a home where the parents are civil and courteous towards all within the family circle — whether guests or constant inmates — and you will see that their children are the same; that good manners are learned quite as much by imitation as by fixed rules or principles.
Go into a family where the parents are rude, ill-bred and indulge in disputations and unkind remarks, and you will find the children are rough, uncouth and bearish.
Good manners are not merely conventional rules, but are founded upon reason and good sense and are, therefore, most worthy of the consideration of all; and there are many points of good-breeding which neither time nor place will ever change, because they are founded upon a just regard of man for man.
We frequently hear these questions asked: “Who is a lady? and who is a gentleman?”
The answers may be difficult to supply on account of the great difference of opinion in various classes of society, upon this subject.
Some would declare that position, advantageous surroundings, great riches, high birth, or superior intelligence and education, gave the requisites; but all of our readers know of persons who possess some one or more of these advantages, and yet they cannot lay true claims to this desirable and distinctive appellation.
Hence we frequently hear these words —
“Ah! she is no lady!” or, “Indeed, he is no gentleman!” applied to those whose standing is high; who possess much wealth; or are endowed with genius; but have neglected to add to their other advantages the touchstone of politeness and good-breeding.
Our reply to the question is that a well-bred lady is one who to true modesty and refinement, adds a scrupulous attention to the rights and feelings of those with whom she associates, whether they are rich or poor, and who is the same both in the kitchen or parlor. We recall the praise given by an Irishman to a friend of ours, when he said: —
“Troth an’ indade ma’am, jist as ye see her in the parlor, we sees her in the kitchen. Niver a cross word passes her lips, be it to rich or poor, servant or friend.” This is a high meed of praise — and when a courtly address and ease of manner are added to it, we behold a true lady.
Can we answer the other question? We will try.
Whoever is true, loyal and sincere; whoever is of a humane and affable demeanor, and courteous to all; whoever is honorable in himself, and in his judgment of others, and requires no law but his word to hold him to his engagements; — such a man is a gentleman, — whether he be dressed in broadcloth and in fine linen or be clad in a blue homespun frock; — whether his hands are white and soft, or hardened and stained with drudgery and toil.
In a recent address made by the Bishop of Manchester, England, before the Y.M.C.S. of Leeds, he said “Some people think a gentleman means a man of independent fortune — a man who fares sumptuously every day; a man who need not labor for his daily bread. None of these make a gentleman — not one of them — nor all of them together. I have known men when I was brought closer in contact with working men than I am brought now; I have known men of the roughest exterior, who had been used all their lives to follow the plough and to look after horses, as thorough gentlemen in heart as any nobleman who ever wore a ducal coronet. I mean I have known them as unselfish, I have known them as truthful, I have known them as sympathizing; and all these qualities go to make what I understand by the term ‘a gentleman.’
“It is a noble privilege which has been sadly prostituted; and what I want to tell you is, that the humblest man in Leeds, who has the coarsest work to do, yet, if his heart be tender, and pure, and true, can be, in the most emphatic sense of the word, ‘a gentleman.'”
We all know that there are those in our midst who object to politeness, or polite phrases, because, as they say, the language is false and unmeaning. And “company manners” is a scornful term frequently applied to the courteous demeanor, and many polite sentences which are often uttered, and are so very desirable, in well-bred society.
In the common compliments of civilized life, there is no falsehood uttered, because there is no intention to deceive. And polite language is always agreeable to the ear, and lends a soothing influence to the heart, while unkind and rough words, harshly uttered, are just the reverse.
Children and animals recognize this truth quite as readily as adults. A baby will cry at the sound of harsh language; and your horse, cow, dog, or cat, are all most amenable to kind words and caressing motions. And although: —
“‘Tis only man can words create,
And cut the air to sounds articulate
By Nature’s special charter,”
yet kindness is a language which the dumb can speak and the deaf can understand.
We can convey the plainest of truths in a civil speech; and the most malignant of lies can be also wrapped in specious words. But we cannot consider a love of truth any apology for rude and uncouth manners; truth need not be made harsh, unlovely and morose; but should appear kind and gentle, attractive and pleasing. Roughness and honesty are, however, often met with in the same person; but we are not competent judges of human nature; if we take ill-manners to be a guarantee of probity of heart, or think a stranger must be a knave because he possesses the outward seeming of a gentleman. Doubtless there are many wolves in sheep’s clothing in our land, but that does not decrease the value of gentleness and courtesy in the least.
Good manners and a good conscience are very often twin-sisters, and are always more attractive for the companionship.
Bad manners are frequently a species of bad morals; and Goethe tells us, “there is no outward sign of courtesy that does not rest on a deep, moral foundation.”
Good manners are a very essential characteristic of religion also, as well as a fundamental part of civilization; and we are all in duty bound to treat those with whom we come in contact, with consideration, respect and deference.
In the Epistle of St. James, we read the first “Code of Etiquette and Good manners” which was ever given to man from high authority.
The Greeks and Romans, to be sure, were strictly devoted to etiquette — but it was not the kind which springs from “a conscience void of offence against God and man.”
The Chinese are the most minute of all nations in their forms of etiquette, etc.; and they have hundreds of books which treat upon politeness and good-breeding. One of their treatises upon these subjects is said to contain over three thousand articles.
The custom of salutations, of visiting, of eating, of making presents, of introductions, writing letters, and the like, are all strictly defined, and they are enforced like our laws — no one being permitted to transgress them. We have been inclined to consider the Chinese as barbarians, while in fact they are a far more polite nation than our own. La Bruyère, a famous French writer, thus defines politeness:
“We may define politeness, though we cannot tell where to fix it in practice. It observes received usages and customs, is bound to times and places, and is not the same thing in the two sexes or in different conditions. Wit alone cannot obtain it; it is acquired and brought to perfection by emulation. Some dispositions alone are susceptible of politeness, as others are only capable of great talents or solid virtues.”
“It is true, politeness puts merit forward, and renders it agreeable, and a man must have eminent qualifications to support himself without it.”
Politeness may also be said to be the embodiment of the golden rule; and without its aid, without the amenities of society, life is an arid waste, a barren plain.
Gold will not supply the deficiencies of a pleasing deportment; and we can assure our readers that they will find courtesy in all times and at all places the cheapest and most available of commodities.
In Europe, good manners are most highly esteemed, and most assiduously inculcated both in the highest and the lowest classes; and the children are taught that it is very essential for them to show respect to their superiors and elders, and to be always kind and courteous to their inferiors.
In America, politeness and etiquette are well taught in those families who possess culture and refinement; but among the masses rarely taught at all. Our district schools were nurseries of good manners thirty or forty years ago, compared to what they are at the present day.
Then the country children were taught to bow to strangers passing by; now they would be more likely to salute them with profanity or vulgarity.
Good manners are surely at a discount in the United States. We cannot disguise this fact — it is seen by all who travel through the country, who frequent the city, who sail upon our rivers and our lakes, or whirl rapidly along our railways.
The lower officials are often cross and surly — the higher sometimes extremely discourteous; and the want of good-breeding is everywhere noted.
Surely we should ask ourselves the question —
“Whence has this condition of affairs arisen?”
Our democratic principles should not be allowed to lead us to indulge in discourtesy, and thus throw a shadow of disgrace upon our institutions. And those who consider the rules which regulate society needless and absurd, would, if they were laid aside, soon desire their restoration, as they are a needful barrier against rudeness and vulgarity.
There are, doubtless, many eccentricities of fashion, yet they soon pass away; but some prescribed regulations for conduct are essential for the preservation of order and dignity. Etiquette is intended to guard us from some of the inconveniences of a large acquaintance, and by settling certain points, it permits us to maintain a ceremonious acquaintance with a circle much too large for social visiting.
Therefore let us: —
“Study with care, politeness that must teach
The modest forms of gesture and of speech;
In vain formality, with matron mien,
And pertness apes with her familiar grin;
They against nature for applauses strain,
Distort themselves, and give all others pain.”
ETIQUETTE IN THE HOME CIRCLE.
“Nor need we power or splendor, —
Wide hall or lordly dome;
The good, the true, the tender, —
These form the wealth of home.”
ETIQUETTE is a comprehensive term, for it embraces not only all observances connected with social intercourse, but such as belong particularly to the home circle.
To obtain fireside comforts and home-born enjoyments and happiness, something more is required than a handsome house, a beautiful lawn, shade-trees, and a garden filled with flowers and arranged in the most artistic order.
Family bickerings and strife; a lack of politeness, good-breeding and etiquette, would turn the loveliest Eden into a barren waste.
It will avail us little to furnish our houses with all the elegancies which the upholsterer’s art can afford, and to cultivate the grounds with the utmost skill, if our hearts and minds are uncultivated, rough, uncouth and uncivil.
The members of one family must unceasingly interchange kind offices; must rejoice and mourn, hope and fear smile and weep in unison; and must exchange sympathetic emotions, with a due regard to each other’s feelings, or the charming delights of the domestic circle will lose much of their relish, or will be broken up and become totally devoid of interest.
And it cannot be too strongly impressed upon the mind, that mutual respect is the basis of true affection; and, although it may seem a trifling matter in the family whether this or that mode of speech is adopted, in reality it is a very important thing.
Children and servants are greatly influenced by the demeanor of master and mistress of the house; and the husband who addresses his wife, in their presence, in a derogatory manner, does both himself and her a decided injury. While the wife, on her part, is equally bound to show all due respect to her husband.
Every human being possesses an innate perception of what is right. Children and servants are not exceptions to this general rule; and those of us who indulge in unkind expressions towards each other, lower ourselves more than we can, perhaps, understand in the opinions of those about us.
In many cases, a feeling of dislike is engendered, which no after circumstances can obliterate — a feeling near akin to contempt, also; for who can cherish respect for individuals who cannot govern themselves?
A generous-minded boy will never forget the unkind and taunting words which he has heard an irritable and ill-governed father address to his dearly loved mother; nor will either girls or boys forget similar breaches of politeness and good-breeding exhibited by their mother towards the father.
Truly, we have need of patience! and in the family circle it is one of the brightest virtues.
“Can’t you both have patience?” murmured a little gentle boy once in our hearing, while his parents were indulging in unseemly bickerings, and there was a whole volume of reproof in that one sentence.
Chesterfield, a pattern of good-breeding, tells his son, that —
“The most familiar and intimate habitudes, connections and friendships, require a degree of good-breeding both to preserve and cement them. The best of us have our bad sides; and it is as imprudent as it is ill-bred to exhibit them. I shall not use ceremony with you, it would be misplaced between us; but I shall certainly observe that degree of good-breeding which, I am sure, is absolutely necessary to make us like one another’s company long.”
This is the best advice which can be given to husbands and wives, parents and children, and also to relatives and friends.
The habit of bantering, which is so often adopted by married people before children and servants, is very undesirable, and frequently leads to serious consequences.
The husband will give a ridiculous appellation to the wife, which will raise a laugh at her expense; but in the end, it may lower him far more than the mother in the opinion of the children; and in their turn, they will often feel more respect and affection for the mother than for the father.
Nothing can be more injurious, or inconsistent with true politeness and good-breeding, than the constant habit of fault-finding concerning little petty trifles, when indulged in by either husband or wife, in the presence of others or by themselves.
There are men who never come to the table but they will find fault with the dishes served upon it. If roast beef is the chief dish, they will say: —
“Beef! beef! why didn’t you have chicken or turkey? I am tired of this everlasting beef!”
Or vice versa. No matter what the wife may have provided, such a man will always evince a desire for something else.
Now, were the gentleman accused of fault-finding, he would indignantly deny it; and he may be a kind and good and true husband and father, and only have inadvertently fallen into this habit of not being satisfied with what has been provided.
A good way to cure him, would be for the wife to hand him a pencil and a card every morning as he leaves the house, and request him to put down what he desires for dinner; so that the daily fault-finding can be, in a measure, averted. This would convince him of his practice of picking flaws in the ménage; and go far towards effecting a reformation in it.
Half of us find fault from habit; but some of us, we fear, do so from an inborn ugliness of disposition.
Of the latter class we have little hopes; but the former can cure themselves — “‘an it pleases them.”
Bad habits are very easily acquired; therefore, young persons must take special pains to avoid them.
We are always disgusted with sons and daughters who do not show a marked respect to their parents, elders, and superiors; and who do not scruple to contradict them, and set up their own opinions, with the utmost pertinacity, against those of their parents.
And why should our young men put aside the honored name of “Father,” and substitute for it the objectionable words “Governor” or “Old Man?”
Some persons may reply: —
“What signifies a name?”
A great deal; and Father is a holy name, given to us directly from God, the Father of all mankind; and he who attains to that rank and stands as a father of the family, occupies a high position, and his children should recognize his sacred office and give him the name assigned to it.
No one thinks of calling his mother “Governess” or “Mrs. Governor.”
If a daughter should attempt it, it would be esteemed highly irreverent and ridiculous; yet it is not in reality any more absurd a practice.
Young persons often fall into erroneous habits from want of thought; therefore, it is needful to remind our young friends of certain little discrepancies regarding good-breeding, which they should carefully endeavor to avoid.
Good manners are taught in the home, by “line upon line and precept upon precept.” Few of us are born well-bred; although we do occasionally meet with those who are styled so. And, undoubtedly, a well-bred father and mother will not have as much difficulty in rearing polite and well-mannered children, as those who are the reverse — not because they are born so, perhaps; but because, as we have said before, good manners are learned by imitation more readily than by precept and rule.
Let brothers and sisters be taught to respect each other’s rights; be as thoughtful to please, and as watchful to avoid anything which will perplex and annoy each other, as they would be to a young guest whom they desired to honor; and they will then learn a due observance of home etiquette and politeness.
Rude and rough boys are often allowed to treat their sisters in a very disagreeable, overbearing manner, and annoy them on every occasion, by breaking up their baby houses and destroying their playthings, and speaking very slightingly of “the girls.”
We consider such behavior as exceedingly reprehensible, and entirely at variance with all rules of good-breeding.
Such boys will also make unkind and rude husbands; for by being permitted to exhibit and indulge such traits of character in their youth, they will be likely to indulge in them in their manhood, and pursue the same pleasing pastimes in their own families.
A sister is the best judge of a brother’s abilities in playing the rôle of a good husband.
And a brother can estimate very fairly the position which a sister would hold in a husband’ home.
We delight in the freedom of childhood; in its merry —
“Quips and cranks and wanton wiles;”
and in the cheerfulness of youth, and its many delights and pleasures; but still more charming is the gentlemanly demeanor of brothers toward their sisters.
Boastful persons, and such as disregard truth in their statements, are usually to be avoided; these sins, in the lowest point of view, are decidedly against the etiquette of good society.
No woman can either respect or love a man who is in the habit of deceiving her; nor can a man esteem or love a woman whose statements do not possess the virtue of truth.
Men will sometimes conceal from women the realities of their lives on the plea that they are too narrow minded weak or simple to understand them; while women, in their turn, conceal the details of their daily life on the score that they do not wish to be interfered with; or for fear lest their hidden pleasures be denied them.
Hence arises the theory that wives must be kept in the dark concerning their husbands’ pursuits; and that men must be “managed” so that they shall not forbid this, that or the other desired pleasure.
And this is styled “diplomacy in the home circle.”
Of course this state of affairs is very uncertain and slippery; and an exposé will be threatened daily.
Both husband and wife feel that they are deceived, yet cannot tell exactly how, when or where; cannot place their hand on the very spot — cannot prove what they suspect.
Men always know that they are “managed” even when they cannot see the way; and women understand they are deceived; — are sure that the excuses given for uncalled-for absences are not the right ones — even though they cannot discover the truth. Such things go in the air, and consciousness is evolved even if the senses reveal naught. Such homes, however, are but the stepping-stones to a deeper abyss of woe.
A love of truth, a high sense of honor, delicacy of manner, and strict adherence to correct principles, are the chief essentials of home etiquette.
Be careful to avoid the habit of sauntering into a room without attending to any thing that passes there; — thinking, it may be, of a trifling affair that need not occupy the attention, or very likely not thinking at all.
In this way some persons trespass upon the rules of politeness which enjoin that each one should do his part in society.
Make it a rule wherever you are, to take an interest in all that passes, observe the characteristics of the persons you meet, and listen to and take part in the subjects of their conversation.
Habitual inattention is sometimes attributed to great genius, but we cannot endorse that idea.
Such a peculiarity of manner is subversive of all politeness, and tends to shut a man within himself, and make him of little importance in life. There are some young persons, however, who delight to pass for geniuses or originals, and they think it very interesting to appear as if in a “brown study” while in the company of others. They like to seem entirely absorbed, and are delighted if any one observes their eccentricities.
Such manners are entirely at variance with good-breeding. If a person speak to you ever so foolishly or frivolously, it is the height of ill manners not to heed what he says; and if he ever forces conversation upon you, it is unkind, to say the least, to assume a perfectly indifferent demeanor.
Besides, you cannot offer any one more flattering attention than by that pleasing deference which, though it may involve somewhat of a sacrifice, yet, is worth making.
It is a good rule to endeavor to please every one as far as is possible for us to do without too great a breach of sincerity.
In this country free and easy manners are too prevalent; but space would fail us to particularize all the little trifles in which even well-bred persons sometimes fall short. We will, however, briefly remark, that nothing can be more adverse to good manners than the habit of sitting with the hat on in the house — be it in the parlor, dining-room, kitchen, store or office; or than yawning and whispering in company, lounging upon the chairs, by tipping them back upon two legs; taking the best seats in the room, and keeping them when your elders enter; or standing with the back to an open fire, when other persons are near it; and last, but not least, spitting into the fire, etc. These practices are deemed almost peculiar to our country, and have been severely animadverted upon by European travellers in our midst.
A man may have virtue, capacity and good habits, and yet his lack of good-breeding may made him unendurable to those who are well-bred.
The style and manner which we neglect as too trifling for us to heed, are often the things by which the world judges us. There are many little matters of personal bearing and conduct which must be attended to, if we desire to be agreeable to society.
It is useless to say that such a man, whose attire is neglected, whose whole appearance bespeaks the sloven, is a good and able man and therefore must be agreeable and pleasing. His ability and goodness are, doubtless, desirable qualities, but the personal juxtaposition of the man is insupportable to those who are accustomed to cleanliness and refinement.
Not that it is essential that every man should be externally elegant, or an adept in the rules which constitute good-breeding; but no one can hope to be admired and sought after, who is addicted to conspicuous uncleanliness, the special tendency of which is to inspire painful feelings in those around him.
SPECIAL ADVICE TO BOYS AND GIRLS.
Never by monkeyish or clownish — attempting to introduce the manners of the “circus” into the home. Some rude boys seem to pride themselves upon their exhibitions of low, vulgar tricks, antic gestures, foolish jests and odd, slangy expressions.
Such low, shameful vulgarity may excite the laughter of foolish persons, “for the mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness;” but no one possessing common sense can see such behavior without disgust and abhorrence. And every boy that acts the buffoon puts himself on a level with a clown, and lowers himself in the estimation of the good and the wise.
Be polite, respectful and modest to all, and especially to your elders and superiors. There is nothing more disgusting than a youth who assumes an air of disrespect and self-importance towards his superiors, equals, or inferiors.
Never stare people in the face. It is exceedingly impolite, and a certain mark of ill-breeding to stare idly at strangers or any one, as though you were entirely unused to seeing visitors. In conversing with any one, however, it is right to look him in the face, with cheerful, dignified and respectful assurance.
“Never jerk, twitch or slam doors or window blinds; but endeavor to be cautious and gentle in all your motions. No well-bred child will ever slam a door in anger, or even give it a strong twitch.
Never enter a house or parlor with your boots all mud and slush, or sit down with your hat or cap on.
Never go up and down stairs, or about the house, with the speed of a trotting horse and the tread of an elephant; step lightly, quickly, and orderly.
Never be rude and boisterous with your young friends. You can share in all kinds of sports, and yet never lose the command of yourself so as to become hoydenish and bold. Avoid loud screaming and rude merriment. Remember what Lear says of Cordelia:
“Her voice was ever sweet, gentle and low; an excellent thing in woman.”
If we will study to introduce HOME ETIQUETTE into our families; to learn to be always courteous — always conciliatory — always well-bred — we should find that we had gained an immeasurable amount of happiness.
Negligence and carelessness with regard to the little amenities of life, are the fruitful source of much domestic unhappiness. “Good manners are to the family, what good morals are to society, their cement and their security.”
“Alas! we think not that we daily see
About our hearths — angels that are to be,
Or may be if they will, and we prepare
Their souls and ours to meet in happy air —
A child, a friend, a wife whose soft heart sings
In unison with ours, breeding its future wings.”
RECEPTION AND ENTERTAINMENT OF VISITORS, ETC.
“Man, in society, is like a flower
Blown in its native bud — ‘Tis there alone
His faculties expanded in full bloom
Shine out, there only reach their proper use.”
BEHAVIOR at home is one of the best touchstones of good manners; for many persons will appear well abroad, and yet cannot exhibit any degree of ease at their own fireside and table. But to entertain company without embarrassment or excitement, is an art which it requires some usage to perfect.
“Company, various company,” says Chesterfield, “is the only school for this knowledge. Nothing forms a young person so much as being used to keep respectable and superior company, where a constant regard and attention is necessary. It is true, this is at first a disagreeable state of restraint; but it soon grows habitual, and consequently easy; and you are amply paid for it by the improvement you make, and the credit it gives you.”
Hospitality is also a Christian duty, and all housekeepers should exercise it to some extent. We were not designed to live alone, to shut ourselves up in our houses, and enjoy the blessings which have been given us in a spirit of exclusiveness.
Nature teaches us a lesson in this direction. She keeps open house for innumerable winged and creeping insects, and their banquets are always spread among the beautiful, fragrant flowers, whose hospitable abodes are ever filled with guests, from the bees and the butterflies to the tiniest winged gnat. Elegant hospitality can be exercised at a moderate expense; and those of use who cannot afford to give costly dinner or evening parties, can surely entertain a few friends at tea, or of an evening, and thus promote a social feeling among neighbors and acquaintances. It is not well for young persons to entertain too much company when they first commence housekeeping, but neither is it well to pay no heed to hospitality.
The Duke of Sully advised young people “to live frugally that you may live happily; shut not your doors or hearts against those who have a claim upon your hospitality; — but remember, that if they really esteem and love you, they will come not to look at your table or your furniture, but to enjoy your society.”
The chief art of pleasing is to make every one feel at home; that is, at his ease.
And if anything has occurred in your ménage to ruffle your temper, do not annoy your guests by telling your grievances. Of course they cannot be interested in such petty details; and the relation may tend to mar their pleasure.
There are those who are born with the faculty of rendering every one happy who comes in contact with them, and they seem endowed with great discernment of character, and can encourage the timid, repress the encroaching, and call forth the peculiar talents and perfections of all. Such persons can always make themselves agreeable; while there are others who, strive as they may, can never attain to the same position.
Yet a desire to please — a desire to entertain one’s guests, will usually prove successful; and if you are cheerful, animated and pleasant yourself, you cannot fail to shed a halo of pleasure upon those around you.
If your friends become your guests for awhile, it is well to give them some insight into your mode of life. Then they will readily comprehend your duties, and will often think it advisable not to encroach too much upon your morning hours, which may be required for some domestic occupations.
After luncheon, or early dinner, your time, however, should be given up to them; either to drive out, walk, shop, or in some entertainment in the house. Of course you will always attend to the arrangement of their sleeping-rooms, and provide everything that is essential for their comfort before they arrive, unless you are blessed with a most superior housekeeper. It is merciless to invite friends to visit you in cold weather, without providing a fire in their bedroom or dressing-room. Neither is it courteous to wait until they arrive, and then inquire — “Would you like a fire?”
Therefore, if you cannot afford to make your friends comfortable, do not invite them; at least in the wintry season.
Let your guests see, by your manner, that their presence is a decided pleasure to you; and make it also an incentive to recreations and amusements which do not belong to the common routine of your life.
You should try to make their visit as agreeable as possible, but without any apparent effort; so that they may not think that you are putting yourself out of the way to afford them pleasures in which you do not often indulge. It is your duty to endeavor to make the time pass pleasantly, but if your visitors perceive that you are altering the daily tenor of your life on their account, it will detract greatly from their happiness.
It is a good plan, when inviting guests to visit you, to state a given period for their visit. Mention the day when you would by happy to receive them, and the length of time of their visit. Perhaps a young lady is invited to make a visit in the country, or in the city, and no mention is made of days, weeks, or months, for its limit, and, therefore, she is utterly at a loss to know what amount of clothing, etc., she may require.
Thus, her pleasure is marred through the embarrassment of not knowing when to depart; while if a time had been given, all needful arrangements would have been made concerning it.
When your guests intimate their intention of leaving you, if you really desire them to remain longer, say so frankly, and urge them to prolong the visit; but if you do not care for their society any longer, do not be so insincere as to urge it; or, on the other hand, if they cannot prolong their visit, do not worry them by your pertinacity in urging them to do so — but, while you invite them to renew their visit at their earliest convenience, facilitate their departure by every means in your power, and give them all needful information as to routes, time tables, etc.
Of course, no guest will leave a friend’s house without some expression of regret and good-will. A good warm heart will, however, dictate the forms of speech requisite upon such occasions.
And when you are at home, be sure and inform your friends of your safe arrival, and express the gratification you have received from your visit, and gracefully allude to different members of the family, while you thank them for their kindly hospitality.
No well-bred person will ever fail to make this acknowledgement; and a failure to do so, is a decided mark of ignorance of both etiquette and politeness. Guests will never take the part of either host or hostess in any trifling disagreement of opinion. As visitors, they can express their ideas upon various matters, of course; but shun any partisanship. And they will also scrupulously respect the rights of their entertainers, and never criticise their surroundings and manners to other persons.
The Arab never speaks ill of those whose salt he has tasted; and well-bred persons will never repeat what a Mrs. A. said, nor tell what Mr. A. did, when they were visiting at their house.
Such discrepancies of good manners are perfectly unendurable, and no respectable person will excuse them.
Visitors should always give the servants who have waited upon them some little presents, either in money or its equivalent. They have had extra work in waiting upon them, and, therefore, deserve extra compensation.
The chain which binds society together is composed of innumerable links, and it should be the part of hosts and guests to keep them uniformly bright; and to let neither moth nor rust corrupt them.
VISITS OF CEREMONY.
There are various kinds of visits: visits of ceremony, visits of condolence, visits of congratulation, and visits of friendship, and each has its different custom or etiquette.
These visits, however, are all essential, in order to maintain good feeling between the members of society; and, therefore, they should be carefully attended to, even if they do occupy a large portion of your time.
Visits of ceremony, are those which are paid after receiving attentions at the hands of your acquaintances; after dining, or supping at a friend’s house; after attending an evening party; etc.; and they should invariably be of short duration; and one should never take either children or dogs when making them. Hand your card to the servant at the door, and ask if the lady or ladies are in.
When other visitors are announced, it is better to wait until they are seated, and then rise from your seat and take leave of your hostess, and bow politely to the guests; but never leave while others are entering the room, as it produces a needless confusion.
Many well-bred persons do not introduce their visitors to each other; but if you are left in the parlor with strangers, while the servant summons his mistress, it is not impolite to entire into conversation with them, and when the lady enters, the conversation would be mutual. You should always call at an hour when you would expect to find ladies prepared to receive visitors, and not at lunch, or dinner-time. In most cities, regular reception days are à la mode, and are engraved upon the visiting cards, thus — “At home Mondays, from 12 o’clock till 4.” And then it is needful to call upon that day, and between the hours prescribed. Only very intimate friends would call at any other time.
After attending a dinner-party, or a ball, you should call within the week upon your hostess. When you are going to be absent from your home for months, or years, you should call upon all your friends and acquaintances, or send your card, enclosed in an envelope, with the letters, T.T.L. (“to take leave”) or P.P.C. (“Pour prendre congé”), written at the right hand lower corner. In taking leave of a family, you send or leave as many cards as there are members; but if the call is upon intimate friends, you need only turn down the left hand edge.
If, previous to a long voyage, or absence, or on the occasion of your marriage, you omit to call or send a card to your friends, it is understood that the acquaintance ceases. When you return home, those to whom you have sent cards, or paid visits, will pay the first visit to you.
When a lady intends to give a large party or ball, she calls or leaves cards at the houses of those whom she intends to invite, from ten days to a week before the invitations are issued.
A slip of thin card-board with the name, and the number of residence and street engraved upon it, is accepted as a substitute for a ceremonious visit, and its shape and lettering varying with the fashion.
It is usual, however, to prefix the titles of Mr., Mrs., and Miss, to the name, but young gentlemen omit the Mr., and ;the professional ones, such as Right Rev., Rev., and Dr., are also given, but we omit the prefix of Hon. and Excellency, as ours is a democratic country. Military and naval titles are added to the cards of those in the service of the United States.
A card can be left or sent by a servant, in lieu of a formal visit; but it is not well-bred to send it through the post. In leaving your card for a stranger, always add your address, if it is not printed upon it.
Keep an account of your ceremonial visits. A visiting-list, or book, is indispensable if one possesses a large circle of acquaintances. This is needful, because time passes so rapidly; and then you note down at what time your visits were returned. And you can graduate your visits by it; yet there may be circumstances, such as ill-health, or age, which would render it desirable for you to call again without reference to the return of your visits. The courtesies of society should ever be respected among the nearest friends, and even in the domestic circle; but among relations and intimate friends, visits of ceremony are not needed. Yet one should endeavor to pay even social visits at suitable hours, and never make one’s self a bore by staying too long.
To continue working with the needle when visits of ceremony are paid, would be extremely uncourteous; but when intimate friends are present, it is not always necessary to lay aside any light kind of work which does not interfere with your conversation.
It is decidedly inconsistent, however, with good-breeding to have your eyes fixed upon a crochet, or worsted pattern, and attempt to count its stitches while receiving a call from the most intimate friend.
If your visitors come from a distance, be sure and offer them some refreshments, or urge them to remain to lunch; and if those call who are in ill health, offer a glass of wine, with a biscuit or cracker.
We once heard a lady say: —
“I never attempt now to pay visits in the suburbs of this city, because it entails upon me a long drive, and perhaps something of a walk into the bargain, and as few ladies ever think of offering their friends either a glass of wine or a cup of tea, with a biscuit or a bit of cake, I should return home half famished, and a severe headache would be the result. I am always glad to see my friends, but I cannot return their visits.”
On the other hand, the dweller in the suburbs of a large city is forced to take the same drive or walk to visit a city friend, and a slight lunch would be always agreeable after the exertion.
In the same town or village, of course, such an attention is needless; yet, if aged persons call, it is a pleasing courtesy to them.
VISITS OF FRIENDSHIP.
Formal visits are usually paid between the hours of twelve and three — informal visits at those hours when you know your friends are at leisure to receive you. It is well, in making social visits, however not to acquire the title of a day goblin, viz: one who, having no occupation, and delighting in the sound of his or her own voice, makes constant inroads into their friends’ houses, and runs in at the most unseasonable hours, saying, “Oh! it is only I, nobody minds me; let me come right up stairs.”
Now most families have their occupations and rules, which they do not care to have set aside in this manner, and it is past endurance to have your pursuits broken in upon by a friend who, having gained an entrance to your sanctum, will remain for hours, and then depart, saying —
“There! I have made you a long visit, and I hope you will return it.”
VISITS OF CONGRATULATION.
Visits of congratulation are paid after the birth of an infant; when it is also customary to send tasteful and elegant baskets or bouquets of flowers.
Also, upon friends who have received an appointment to any office or dignity in the community, state, or government. If a friend has published a book, you call to congratulate him upon its success; or if he has delivered a lecture, sermon, or oration, which has elicited your applause, you call and express your high estimation of the discourse.
And you pay visits of congratulation when you hear that your friends are intending to marry, and take upon themselves new responsibilities.
VISITS OF CONDOLENCE.
In this world of sickness, sorrow, and bereavement, visits of condolence must occasionally be made; and, if possible, they should be paid within a week after death has entered the family circle. If your acquaintance is ceremonious, it is the custom, however, to wait until the family have appeared at church.
You should send up your card, and ask if your friends will receive you; and it is in good taste for ladies to be attired in quiet apparel, rather than in bright, gaudy colors. In formal visiting a card can be left in lieu of a call. In many places it is customary to send invitations to friends to attend a funeral, and only those receiving cards are expected to attend. Notes are also usually sent to those who are requested to serve as pall-bearers. One should always leave it to those who are in affliction to make the first allusions to their bereavement.
When calling upon friends at hotels, or boarding houses, always send up by a servant, a request to see them; and never enter a room until you have received an invitation to do so.
When a gentleman calls upon a lady, and finds a lady friend also visiting her, he should rise when she takes her leave, and accompany her to the hall door; and if she has a carriage, should hand her into it.
Gentlemen should always carry their hats in their hands when paying morning or evening calls, but should not place them on the chairs or parlor table.
Every well-bred man knows that a hat can be made a very graceful part of his attire, especially if he knows how to hold it.
Ladies, in our country, are allowed considerable freedom in receiving and paying visits, and can appear, in the daytime, in all public places unattended by their brothers, husbands, or friends of either sex. They can also attend public exhibitions, libraries, etc., and appear on the promenades alone, but this is not the case either in Paris or London.
If you attempt such proceedings in those cities, you may expose yourself to indignities which would annoy you sadly. But in the United States, ladies who behave with discretion, can go wherever they please without molestation; but in the evening, an escort is always desirable. It is not considered comme il faut for the lady of the house to accompany ceremonial visitors to the door; she merely rises from her seat, bows, or shakes hands, according to her intimacy with the persons, and if her ménage supplies a parlor servant, she rings the bell to summon him to open the outer door.
With intimate friends she does as she pleases, either accompanying them to the door, or leaving them to find their way out of the house alone, or calling the servant to escort them.
It should be the desire of us all to be well-bred, but it is not a veneering that can be applied, or laid aside at pleasure. We should carry our good manners everywhere; and unless we cultivate them constantly, and exercise them upon all occasions, and towards all persons, they can never become a part of ourselves; and when we try to assume them, they will often fail us at our greatest need.
If you are impolite to your washerwoman, or to your maid, you are in great danger of being so to those whose good opinion you desire to possess.
The charm which true politeness sheds over its possessor, is not easily described; yet it is felt by every one, and invariably responded to by the best feelings of their nature.
“It is the secret sympathy,
The silver link, the silken tie,
Which heart to heart, and mind to mind,
In body and in soul can bind.”
SALUTATIONS, LEAVE-TAKING, INTRODUCTIONS, BEHAVIOR IN TRAVELLING AND LETTERS OF INTRODUCTION
“It was withal a highly polished age,
And scrupulous in ceremonious rite,
When stranger stranger met upon the way,
First each to other bowed respectfully,
And large profession made of humble service.”
WE have always admired the Oriental modes of salutation and leave-taking, and wished that our language possessed more graceful forms of speech than the plain “How d’ye do?” “How are you?” or “Hope you are well!” which constitute our abrupt salutations.
We do not object to the “Good morning” and “Good evening” handed down to us from our ancestors; these expressions are not unpleasant to the ear — but the others grate against the sensibilities. In all nations the forms of salutations differ. The Bedouin greets you with : — “May God grant you a happy morning,” or “May God grant you His favors,” or “If God wills it, you are well.” And placing his right hand upon his bosom, he bows low; but if he addresses a person of very high rank, he bows nearly to the ground and kisses the hem of his garment. The Egyptian, according to Herodotus, salutes you with “How do you perspire?” and lets his hand fall to the knee. The Chinese bows low, and inquires “Have you eaten?” The German asks, “Wie gehts?” “How are you?” “How goes it with you?” and in bidding adieu, says, “Leben sie wohl.” “Live well.” The Spaniard, in bidding you good morning, says, “God be with you, sir,” while the Neapolitan devoutly remarks “Grow in holiness.” The Pole kisses the shoulder, and in farewell says, “Be ever well.” In Hungary, they say, “May you remain well,” or “God keep you well.” A Frenchman may forgive you a pecuniary obligation, but he would hardly forgive you a nod in lieu of a bow in salutation; and for a gentleman to enter the presence of a lady without removing his hat, is sufficient cause for a duel. The French do not, however, shake hands as frequently as we do, and never upon being first introduced; and in leave-taking they say “au revoir,” to meet again, or “adieu,” which word has become decidedly anglicized. In Turkey, great attention is paid to salutations, and the arms are folded upon the breast, while the head is bent very low; while the Hindoos bend the head nearly to the ground.
The Moors of Morocco have a custom wholly their own; they ride at a gallop towards a stranger as though they would unhorse him, and when close at hand, draw in their fiery steed and fire a pistol over the person’s head. When they would salute the Great Mogul, however, they first touch the earth with their right hand, then lay it upon their breast, then lift it to the sky; and these gestures are repeated three times in rapid succession. “How are you?” is a salutation which is not admissible in a slight acquaintance; and the reply “Very well, thank you,” is only returned amongst intimate friends. But “Good morning” and “good-evening” are appropriate in any society. A bow, either on the street or in the parlor, should always accompany a salutation, and it should be both respectful and deferential, and not a mere nod of the head. A gentleman always removes his hat in the street instead of touching its brim, when bowing either to ladies or aged persons of his own sex; and he inclines the whole body, instead of simply jerking his neck. Ladies recognize their gentlemen friends with a bow of graceful inclination; and it is their place to bow first to those with whom their acquaintance is but slight, while with very intimate friends the recognition is frequently simultaneous.
A gentleman walking with a lady lifts his hat to every person, gentleman or lady, to whom the lady bows, as a mark of respect to her. A well-bred man will remove his cigar from his lips whenever he bows to a lady, or even if he passes a strange lady in a hotel or in the street.
If a gentleman should see a lady approaching a narrow crossing, or going up or down a staircase, he should lift his hat, and stand aside for her to pass.
A young lady should also show an equal degree of deference and attention to an elderly one, or to a lady in a higher position of society.
If a person of the lowest rank lifts his hat to you, always acknowledge it as courteously as if he were your equal. “A bow,” says La Fontaine, “is a note drawn at sight; and if you acknowledge it, you must pay the full amount.”
And it should be either respectful, cordial, familiar, civil, or affectionate, according to circumstances connected with the acquaintance. Avoid condescending bows, however, for they are always objectionable and offensive.
If you desire to converse with any one you meet, especially if a lady, do not stop them on the sidewalk, to the annoyance of others passing by, but turn round, and accompany them a few blocks or take leave at the next corner. It is never well to cut any one in the streets. A slight acquaintance should receive a passing notice; and it is absurd, because you have a trifling difference with a person, to avoid looking at them. Unless your quarrel is for life, always recognize one, even if it is done with cold civility.
Such slights are deeply felt; and men will sooner forget an injury than a cut.
A lady should always thank a gentleman for a friendly escort — be it to a party, opera, theatre, or church.
Gratitude for services received should on all occasions be expressed in a few well-chosen words.
True etiquette requires the exercise of rational behavior at all times and in all places; and its rules are subject to all moral laws.
A church is a place to which, as a general rule, however, the etiquette of society is not applied; for though you would recognize your friends there, you would not often make introductions, nor give invitations to dinner parties, etc., nor enter into long conversations.
It is a holy place, wherein the arbitrary rules of society are not expected to enter; but politeness is always supposed to be present there.
It is strictly kind and polite to offer a stranger a seat in church, and also to proffer a prayer or hymn book; and, if the person is a lady, you should find the places for her in both.
If books are not plentiful, it is also an act of politeness for the stranger to offer you half of his book, and for you to accept the partial use of it.
Gentlemen always precede a lady in entering a church, concert-room, opera, or theatre, etc.; and by so doing they can more easily find a seat for the lady.
In introducing a lady to a gentleman, always mention the lady’s name first, whether she be married or single, young or old.
Thus: “Mrs. A., permit me to present to you Mr. B.;” or “Mrs. A., allow me to introduce to you Mr. B.”
Either form is appropriate; yet some persons will assure you that the words introduction and introduce are not as comme il faut as the terms presentation and present.
But whichever form you may use, be sure and repeat the names distinctly; yet, if you do not catch the name, you can bow, and say pleasantly, “I beg pardon;” or, “Excuse me, I did not hear the name.”
When introduced to a gentleman it is not customary for a lady to offer her hand, but simply to bow politely and gracefully; and if she has heard much honorable mention of the gentleman she can say, “I have heard so much of you, that it gives me pleasure to meet you.”
When gentlemen are introduced, however, less form is observed, and one can say merely, “Mr. A., Mr. B.;” and they frequently shake hands. But if one or both parties are of high rank, the same form should be observed as with ladies.
A gentleman should never be introduced to a young or old lady without her permission being obtained.
There are some exceptions to this general rule, however: at an evening-party or at a dinner-party, the lady of the house deems it her prerogative to present her guests to each other; and a mother can introduce her son to her friends without requesting their permission to do so.
But no introductions should ever be given without one is certain of the desirability of the acquaintance about to be made.
Introductions are rarely given in the street, unless one of the parties requests it; and the request should come from the lady, in most cases.
If upon entering a parlor, you are not immediately recognized by the lady of the house, mention your name directly; but it is customary to send up your card in all cases, where you do not possess the most intimate acquaintance.
BEHAVIOR IN TRAVELLING.
It has been said, that when two Americans meet in any public place or conveyance, they will stare at each other by the hour, but will not enter into conversation; thereby imitating our English cousins. This is a decided slander upon our national sociability, and we must denounce it as such. As a race, we are far more social than the English; and most Americans are very ready to carry on a civil and easy conversation with persons whose appearance warrants such a courtesy.
Yet appearances are proverbially deceitful, and we cannot think it desirable for young ladies while travelling alone, in cars or steamboats, to permit gentlemen of even the most respectable outward seeming to enter into social conversation with them. White hairs and old age may be allowed such favors sometimes, but we must council a reticent demeanor in young lady travellers.
Elderly ladies can suit themselves about such matters. They are presumed to have some knowledge of human nature, and can tell a gentleman by his eyes, lips, and the general contour of his face and figure, while they can also, by their subtle intuitions, detect the villain under the finest of broadcloth and white linen.
But we do especially dislike to see a young lady receive the overtures of an acquaintance in the cars — from stranger young men, whose lips breathe dissipation and its attendant vices. If young men offer you their cards while travelling alone, do not receive them, but politely decline the civility.
Travelling once with an attractive young girl, some gentlemen in front of us endeavored to enter into conversation, which we politely declined by answering in monosyllables all questions offered.
After a few hours they left the cars, and then our little friend said:
“Why wouldn’t you talk with them? They were handsome and well dressed, and papa always speaks to gentlemen in the cars, and lets me talk with them also.”
There comes in the difference. A gentleman can talk with other gentlemen while travelling, and allow his daughter to do the same, and feel assured that no harm could result from her so doing, for he is her protector, and usually an all-sufficient guardian. A well-bred courtesy, or the lack of it, is always discernible while travelling, and one often sees that neither costly trappings, nor high position, nor even education constitutes an agreeable travelling companion; but he must possess a kindly heart, native politeness, and an unselfish spirit, joined to a quick recognition of the needs of others, and also of equal rights in the public conveniences of both cars and steamboats.
Mr. Pullman, of “Palace Sleeping Car” fame, was asked, “why he did not provide more private toilette arrangements for ladies on the most frequented Western routes of travel? and why there were not locks or bolts upon the ladies’ dressing rooms?” He replied that were he to furnish these, but two or three ladies (?) in a sleeping car would be able to avail themselves of the conveniences, for they would lock themselves in, and prevent all others from sharing them.”
Does this reproof fit the shoulders of the ladies who constitute the travelling public upon our great thoroughfares?
The gentleman or lady who deposits his or her luggage upon three seats in a car, and then takes possession of the fourth, and persistently reads either book or newspaper while others look in vain for a seat, is far more ill-bred than those who laugh and talk noisily, and scatter shells of nuts and rinds of fruit upon the floor, utterly indifferent to those around them.
They are guilty only of a solecism in good manners; the others take what does not belong to them, and are, in truth, guilty of robbery.
Decent politeness demands that seats be given up to those who enter the cars, and passengers should never be forced to relinquish their rights to them. A due sense of courtesy should prompt every one to offer a vacant seat, however desirable it may be to have it to yourself.
Summer and winter, travel in cars and boats is an excellent test of politeness, patience and inborn refinement and delicacy. It has been often remarked that there would not be nearly as many unhappy marriages in the United States, if lovers would journey together before the all-important vows are made. Then they would know each other without disguise; would, if they possessed the least particle of observation, detect the flaws in heart and education; and could then judge whether their love would overbalance them.
There are many little nameless courtesies which are offered instinctively to fellow-travellers by well-bred and refined strangers, and also by those possessing native politeness and tact without the refining influences of society, which greatly enhance the comfort and pleasure of either a long or short journey.
An English writer in a late London Magazine says: —
“One is apt to hear in this country unfavorable comments upon American manners, and it is true that they may often be found not altogether consonant with the highest grace or finish; but a stranger may travel from Maine to California, or from the great lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, with very tolerable certainty that he will never encounter the slightest wilful impoliteness unless he himself gives occasion for it.”
This is a high meed of praise, and comes from a source not apt or inclined to bestow it upon us.
LETTERS OF INTRODUCTION.
If a friend asks you for a letter of introduction, be sure to give it unsealed, because he might desire to know what are its contents; and he should be at liberty to ascertain them.
Always write such a letter upon the best of note paper, and use an envelope to correspond, and of a fashionable size and shape. An attention to these trifles is not only desirable but also respectable. If the letters relate to business, you should deliver them without delay. If they are intended to introduce you as a friend, it is well to either deliver them in person, as soon as possible, or send them in an envelope with your card and address.
The last method is more desirable, however, because you might call at an inopportune season, or not find the family or person at home; at any rate it gives you less embarrassment.
The person to whom you were introduced should call in the course of two or three days, and it is your place to return it within three or four days and certainly within the week.
If an invitation to dinner or supper is given, be sure to accept it, and make a ceremonious or social call in two or three days afterwards. Circumstances will control the nature of your call. Strict attention to these little punctilios is all important, and their non-observance is always a subject of comment, and frequently determines your position in society.
You may receive a letter of introduction through the post, stating that a family, much esteemed by the writer, are coming to reside near you, and requesting your kindly attentions to them.
Now it is your place to answer this letter directly, and express your desire to attend to the wishes of your friend. And then you should call immediately upon the family thus presented to your notice. For a neglect to do this would stigmatize you as an ill-bred person, and no subsequent civilities would efface the impression.
When you are requested to call upon strangers, politeness should inspire you to do so without delay. You may not desire an intimate acquaintance, and if so, you need not invite them to dinner or tea; it is not absolutely essential; but yet it is considered an act of hospitality and good-will.
But if you invite them, do not give the invitation as if it were a matter of duty, rather than of inclination and pleasure.
We cannot tell how mind acts upon mind, but it is one of the mysteries of our being that it does so, and your disinclination may be perceived, if not defined. Therefore it is your duty to make strangers feel at home by a cordial manner, which diffuses animation and ease, and by kindly looks, which drive timidity away, and makes one feel confident and happy.
If this manner is wanting, there is an undefinable restraint cast over the whole party, and however correct may be your demeanor, however elegant and graceful your gestures and attitude, its chilling influence will be visible upon your guests.
Do not judge, my friends, that these little forms and observances are too trifling for your regard.
It may appear of no consequence whether your letter of introduction is written on fine note-paper, and in your best style, or the reverse; whether you call directly upon those who bring you letters of introduction, or wait a week or ten days; or whether you are in the parlor, ready to receive expected guests; or out walking, driving, or sauntering in the garden. Such trifles, however, are not immateria, and upon your attention to them will, frequently, depend your reputation for politeness or impoliteness, in the circle in which you move.
TABLE ETIQUETTE. — FLOWERS FOR THE TABLE. — DOING THE HONORS OF THE TABLE. — GENERAL CUSTOMS. — THE STORY OF A FRENCHMAN.
“The turnpike road to people’s hearts I find
Lies through their mouths, or I mistake mankind.”
THERE are those among us who seem to think that if one has enough food to satisfy the cravings of his appetite, it matters little how it is served; and they are inclined to treat all suggestions in regard to table etiquette, and other dietetic refinements, as mere frivolous affectations, by which those who are rich and stylish endeavor to place themselves above those who are poor and lowly.
When Charles Wesley advocated the adaptation of the music of the opera to the sacred songs and music of the church, he said: —
“I do not know why the devil should have all the best tunes.”
Neither do we know by what reason the rich should claim all the refinements and elegancies of the table.
They are not always costly, and they do not require much expenditure of time. A table can be set with grace and elegance as expeditiously, and with no more expense, than if the dishes are thrown on, as it were, without any regard to symmetry or form. The chief dish can be placed in front of the head of the house, and the side dishes well arranged at the right and left; the butter dish ornamented with parsley, placed at the right hand, with small plates to hold the butter, and flanked by the wooden bread-platter with its light, wheaten loaf.
Moreover, it is no more expensive to have a dish served at the left hand of your guest, so that he can help himself with his right hand, than to have it brought most awkwardly to his right side. there may be, however, an immediate gain of time in hurrying through your daily repasts; but the haste will surely be repaid to you by dyspepsia and its hundred attendant ills.
A great deal of information can be given and received at the table; and each dish should be prolonged with cheerful interludes of pleasant and social talk and conversation. “Chatted food is half digested,” is an old proverb which contains much good advice.
Our business men, as a general thing, bolt their food as though it were a duty rather than a pleasure for them to eat. The city man swallows his breakfast in the greatest haste, often, however, reading the newspaper as he eats, and allowing his brain no rest. At noon he drops his pen and rushes out to a restaurant and appeases his appetite in the shortest time possible, with a confused mass of soup, meat, vegetables, and the inevitable pies of such places. Then hastens back to his counting-room, and finishes the business he has on hand. Never thinking that such a manner of eating is slowly digging his grave.
At five or six he closes his desk, and leaves his office or counting-room, and betakes himself home; and it is to be hoped that then at least he enjoys his dinner in quietness and peace.
The dweller in the country takes his food in a similar style, thinking that he requires only time enough to satisfy his hunger at every meal; and often finishes his enormous plateful of meat, etc., pie or pudding, before his wife and daughters who have been engaged in supplying his wants have half finished their repast.
We believe that sociability is an essential element of both a pleasant and a digestible meal; and we protest emphatically against the habits which we, as a nation, have contracted.
These habits are also one cause of the great increase of sudden deaths which startle us so sadly, and which are far more prevalent among men than among women, who usually indulge in more time and more conversation while eating.
The sudden announcement of bad news, or the occurrence of anything to annoy or distress the mind, will take away one’s appetite entirely.
Now this fact shows us that the mind should be in a quiet, gentle, and cheerful condition when one is satisfying the cravings of nature, and also that enjoyment is highly conducive to a good appetite and digestion.
“A man’s body and his mind are like a jerkin, and a jerkin’s lining; rumple the one, you rumple the other.” So both the brain and the stomach must be at ease to enable the latter to perform is functions perfectly.
Therefore let us beg of you, never to swallow your food in silence, nor to brood over your business affairs while eating; but lead the conversation to genial, kind and cheering topics.
Don’t find fault with this, that and the other dish; don’t bring disagreeable subjects into your conversation; but make these daily meetings of the family a delight and pleasure to all, and let each one take a part in the conversation.
Ill nature is the parent of ill manners, and nowhere does it exhibit its repulsiveness more hideously than at the table. We should encourage conversation among our children; and it is a good plan to let each child relate at the dinner-table something which he has done or seen since breakfast.
And this is a pastime which could be made of advantage to the whole family; yet all scandalous remarks and observations concerning the neighbors’ affairs should be forbidden.
The demeanor at the table betokens the lady or gentleman; and the conduct of children also exemplifies with unerring certainty the character of their home training.
There should always be perfect neatness and cleanliness in the persons and attire of those sitting at table, and waiting upon the table, as well as in the arrangements.
There is, however, a great dissimilarity of the behavior and of the tables of families who frequent the same social circle.
At one house you will meet with a faultlessly laid table, surrounded with all the courtesy and elegance that education and refinement can bestow; while at another, the table has no decent appointments, as if the viands are good and well served, the spirit of evil will turn them to bitterness; fully proving Solomon’s proverb, that “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.” The more good company you invite to your table, the better it is for your children; for every intelligent conversation held there is an educator for them; and one can often judge of the hospitality of a family by the refinement, intelligence, and appropriate demeanor of the children to whom well-bred guests and their conversation have imparted much information.
“The stomach,” Sir Astley Cooper informs us, “is not a wedgewood mortar, but a living organism which can withstand a great deal of use, but does not willingly endure abuse.”
FLOWERS FOR THE BREAKFAST-TABLE.
We like to have our breakfast-tables bright and attractive, glittering with silver or plated ware, and snowy white with napery; and we must have some flowers or leaves, if only a small spray, a bit of ivy, holly, or evergreen, for it will serve as an appetizer.
A cluster of fragrant roses, a bunch of lillies, etc., greatly enhances our breakfast comfort; and we think if wives would but try the influence of them, they would not so often have reason to complain of the crustiness of their husbands and sons.
A crusty roll, fresh from the oven, has its merits, possesses attractions — but a crusty husband!
Alas! words fail to portray him. The genial Essayist, Leigh Hunt, says: —
“Set flowers on your table, a whole nosegay if you can get it, or but two or three, or a single flower, a rose, a pink, a daisy.
“Bring a few daisies or buttercups from your last field work, and keep them alive in a little water; preserve but a bunch of clover, or a handful of flowering grass — one of the most elegant of nature’s productions — and you have something on your table that reminds you of God’s creation, and gives you a link with the poets that have done it most honor.
“Put a rose, or a lily, or a violet upon your table, and you and Lord Bacon have a custom in common; for this wise man was in the habit of having the flowers in season set upon his table, we believe, morning, noon, and night, that is to say, at all his meals, seeing that they were growing all day.
“Now here is a fashion that will last you forever, if you please, and never change with silks, and velvets, and silver forks, nor be dependent upon the caprice of some fine gentleman or lady who have nothing but caprices and changes to give them importance and a sensation.
“Flowers on the morning table are especially suitable. They look like the happy wakening of the creation; they bring the perfume of the breath of nature into your room; they seem the very representative and embodiment of the very smile of your home, the graces of good-morrow; proofs that some intellectual beauties are in ourselves, or those about us; some Aurora (if we are so lucky as to have such a companion) helping to strew our life with sweetness, or in ourselves some masculine qualities not unworthy of possess such a companion not unlikely to gain her.”
DOING THE HONORS OF THE TABLE.
This is one of the pleasing duties of the housekeeper; and the manner which she performs it increases or diminishes much of the comfort attending a well-furnished table.
Some persons will urge every dish upon their guests with an annoying importunity, while others will neglect even the ordinary civilities, and complacently declare that they never learned how to wait upon people, and, if they can’t help themselves, they may fare badly.
Others, again, will help you without any reference to your peculiar tastes. For instance, there are those who will deluge your plate with gravy, when you may particularly object to it; or will give you well done meat, cut in thick slices, when your palate delights in very thin slices of delicious rare meat, and vice versa.
And still others will help you so abundantly that the overflowing condition of your plate destroys your appetite, while a small quantity would have increased it.
A certain amount of tact and quiet attention to your guests and children is greatly essential to the successful performance of the rôle of mistress or master of table ceremonies.
One should attend to the needs and comforts of each person, and exercise some care and judgment in supplying their wants. These are the first requisites of table etiquette, and they should be accomplished without bustle, or leaving the table; for there is nothing more detrimental to table etiquette than to see two or three children, or the host or hostess, start up from the table to obtain this or that article.
The greatest care should be taken to see that everything that is required for the repast is placed upon the table before sitting down; but if anything is needed, or dishes are to be removed for the dessert at dinner (which is always essential for a well-ordered table), if a servant is not in attendance, ask one of the family to obtain it for you, but never allow two children to run after it, or leave the table yourself.
There are other things, however, which are equally disagreeable; such as reaching across your neighbor for a dish or condiment, instead of asking him to pass it to you, and putting your knife into the butter-plate, or your fork into the shaved beef, or the potatoes, and taking the salt from the salt-cellar at your plate with your fingers.
When you send your plate to be replenished, place your knife and fork upon one side of it, or cross them upon it, or put them upon your piece of bread.
Never take a bit of sugar from the bowl with your fingers; but use them when you take a piece of bread, cake, and the like, also an olive, unless an olive-fork is provided.
Avoid the old-fashioned habit of never taking the last piece of anything which remains upon a dish, not doing this would indicate that you feared the vacancy could not be supplied.
If a plate be handed you at table, you should always keep it, and not offer it to your neighbor as was considered polite in “ye olden tymes.”
Your host knows whom he desires to wait upon first, and it is a poor compliment to him to seem to reprove his selection.
When served, do not wait until all the others are helped, but as soon as your plate is placed before you, take up your knife and fork, help yourself to salt, first arranging your napkin to shield your attire, but not wearing it like a bib about your neck. And, of course, you will never commit the solecism of putting your knife into your mouth.
This last is a rule which should never be deviated from, and the almost universal custom of using four-tined forks, makes it quite as easy to eat with a fork as a knife.
We have heard this custom denounced as “absurd and ridiculous” — as “similar to eating soup with a knitting-needle,” or “sipping tea with a hair-pin” — but still must mention that the taste of a steel knife is very obnoxious, no matter how high its polish, and even a silver knife is better for dividing the food into portions, than for carrying it to the mouth.
Most of us, unless accustomed to the niceties of good-breeding, until they have become as of second nature to us, are liable to commit some errors through ignorance of table etiquette, and the following story from the French illustrates the point:
The Abbé Cosson, a professor in the College Mazarin, was an accomplished literateur, saturated with Greek and Latin, and considered himself a perfect well-spring of science; and had no conception that a man who could recite pages of Persius and Horace by heart, could possibly be ignorant of table etiquette.
He dined one day at Versailles, with the Abbé de Radonvilliers, in company with several courtiers and marshals of France; and after dinner, when the talk ran upon the etiquette and customs of the table, he boasted of his intimate acquaintance with the best dining-out usages of society.
The Abbé Delille listened to his account of his own good manners for a while, but then interrupted his harangue, and offered to wager that at the dinner just served, he had committed at least a hundred errors or improprieties.
“Comment est-il possible?” demanded the Abbé. “I did exactly like the rest of the company.”
“Quelle absurdité!” exclaimed the other. “You did a hundred things which no one else did.”
“First, when you sat down at the table, what did you do with your napkin?”
“My napkin? Why, just what everybody else did. I unfolded it and fastened it to my button-hole.”
“Ah! my dear friend,” said Delille, “you were the only one of the party who did that. No one hangs his napkin up in that style; they content themselves with placing it across their knees.”
“And what did you do when you were served to soup?”
“Like the others, surely. I took my spoon in my right hand and my fork in the left –“
“Your fork! who ever saw any one eat bread out of their soup-plate with a fork, before?”
“After your soup, what did you eat?”
“A fresh egg.”
“And what did you do with the shell?”
“Handed it to the servant.”
“Without breaking it?”
“Yes, without breaking it up, of course.”
“Ah! my dear Abbé, nobody ever eats an egg without breaking the shell afterwards,” exclaimed Abbé Delille.
“And after your egg — ?”
“I asked the Abbé Radonvilliers to send me a piece of the hen near him.”
“Bless my soul! a piece of the hen? One should never speak of hens out of the hennery. You should have asked for a piece of fowl or chicken. But you say nothing about your manner of asking for wine?”
“Like the others, I asked for claret and champagne.”
“Let me inform you that one should always ask for claret wine, and champagne wine. But how did you eat your bread?”
“Surely I did that comme il faut. I cut it with my knife into small mouthfuls, and ate it with my fingers.”
“Bread should never be cut, but always broken with the fingers. But the coffee, how did you manage that?”
“It was rather too hot, so I poured a little of it into my saucer, and drank it.”
“Well, there you committed the greatest error. You should never pour either coffee or tea into your saucer, but always let it cool, and drink it from the cup.”
The Abbé was decidedly convicted of ignorance of the usages of polite society, and was deeply mortified. But he had been taught that one might be master of the seven sciences, yet there was another science which, if less dignified, was no less important, and that was the etiquette of table.
This little incident occurred over forty years ago, but with one or two exceptions its advice can apply at the present time.
DINNER-PARTIES. — INVITATIONS. — NUMBER OF GUESTS. — TABLE ARRANGEMENTS. — CUSTOMS.
“Of all appeals — although I grant the power of pathos, and of gold,
Of beauty, flattery, threats, a shilling — no
Method’s more sure at moments to take hold,
Of the best feelings of mankind, which grow
More tender, as we every day behold,
Than that all-softening, overpowering knell,
The tocsin of the soul — the dinner bell!”
THE modern dinner-table is thought, by many persons, to approach as nearly to its ancient Greek prototype as is possible, with the widely different character of the two periods.
To be sure our personal preparations for the repast are not quite equal to those of the Athenian standard; for although our belles, and ladies in general, may consume a great deal of time and money in arraying their toilettes for such festivities, yet those of the sterner sex do not adorn their heads with garlands of flowers, and anoint their bodies with fragrant unguents; nor carry doves, bedewed with perfume, in the folds of their robes; nor loll upon golden and pearl and ivory couches amid soft silken pillows; and there are no slaves to fan us with peacocks’ feathers, nor to swing censers redolent with the sweets of Araby the Blest, over our heads.
Neither do we summon our own lute-players, or flutists, to soothe us with the sweet strains of their instruments; nor are ballet-dancers introduced to charm us with their grace and beauty; yet we have learned the art of elegance and repose, and comprehend also the art of ease and quiet, quite as much as did the ancient Greeks and Romans; and although we cannot vie with the munificence of Nero, who, it is said, expended the incredible sum of $120,000 for the flowers for one entertainment, still our fashionable ladies do purchase a very large amount of flowers for their dinner-parties, and make the air of their apartments odorous with the mingled perfumes of roses and lilies, myrtles and mignonette, etc.
But Cleopatra, at a feast given to Mark Antony, ordered the banquet-hall to be strewn knee-deep with roses; and fabulous sums were often lavished upon perfumes and flowers at all the ancient entertainments of both Greeks and Romans.
Our modern dinners are a great improvement, however, upon the hospitality of our forefathers, who, in lieu of our dainty dishes, hot-house fruits, and bright, sweet flowers, rejoiced in immense tureens of soup, and huge platters of fish served with their heads on, and with widely gaping mouths and large, round white eyes; and they were followed by the crispy brown roasted pig, placed upon the platter so as to resemble life, while in its open mouth appeared an ear of corn or a lemon; and also their smoking saddles of venison and mutton, and steaming juicy sirloins of beef, differed generally from our fine roasts and toothsome ragoûts and broils.
The host, then too, arose in his might, sharpened his knife, and proceeded to cut and slice the beef, or to carve the haunch of venison, etc.; and the conversation frequently ran upon the deliciousness of “the alderman’s walk,” or “the pope’s nose;” and, if fowls were served, upon the dexterity with which the carver could articulate the side bones.
And each guest was urged to eat to repletion,; and again and again the plates were filled to overflowing with luscious slices of rarely-done meats, and their crispy, succulent bones and fat. And you must drink whether it pleased you to do so or not; and the glasses were often refilled while you drank to the health of this person or that, while to refuse to do so was considered an insult. Such feasts are within the memory of many men now living, but let us hope that our children may never return to them. Yet we know that there are some admirers of these old customs, who may regret that demonstratively hospitable period, for the obsolete always finds some faithful followers to sing its praises; and there are many who delight in grumbling at the fashions of the day, and love to deride our diners à la Russe, where all the solid dishes are handed around by servants, after being carved at a side table, and only the dessert, and lovely dishes of silver and crystal, filled with fruits and flowers, are to be seen upon the dinner-table.
Such dinners they may pronounce as mere flummery and “kickshaws,” but the partakers of them will not often endorse their opinion, nor desire to return to the antique fashions of 1773.
It has been stated that the social progress of a community is in direct proportion to the number of its dinner-parties; and in all ages they have doubtless been productions of a friendly relationship betwixt nations, and the more intimate friendship of the cultivated and refined.
Napoleon recognized this truth, and willingly paid for the expensive dinners given by Cambaceres, one of the most distinguished statesmen as well as gourmands of France.
When the Duke of Wellington commanded the allied armies at Paris, Cambaceres invited him to dinner, and helping him to some especially delicious dish, said he trusted he would find it to his taste.
“Very good, very good,” replied the Duke; “but really I care little what I eat.”
“Bon Dieu!” exclaimed Cambaceres, startled out of the proprieties of the occasion at such an announcement, “Don’t care what you eat! What did you come here for, then?”
ACCEPTANCES AND REGRETS.
Assuming that you are invited to a dinner or evening-party, one of the most reasonable rules of etiquette demands that you should return a prompt reply. And this rule does not admit of questioning, because at a dinner-party, the invitations are naturally limited, and the hostess will desire to fill your place if you decline; while at an evening-party, an exact list of the number of guests is desirable, so that suitable provision can be made for their entertainment.
Where any doubt exists in reference to your ability to accept an invitation to dinner, it is usually better to decline it at once, unless peculiar circumstances exist; but for an evening-party, it is as well to accept it, and if circumstances arise to prevent your attendance, you should send a polite note of explanation and regrets, as soon as possible. If your dinner-party is a very ceremonious one, the invitations should be sent out at least a week before the appointed day; if an evening-party ten days or a fortnight previous is quite en régle.
The usual formula, which can be either written or printed, runs thus: “Mr. and Mrs. _______ request the pleasure of Mr. and Mrs. _______’s company at ___ o’clock on ______.
“R. S. V. P.
“Reply if you please.”
A formal acceptance should read thus: —
“Mr. and Mrs. _______ accept with pleasure Mr. and Mrs. _______’s invitation to dinner at ___ o’clock on ______.”
If you have accepted the invitation, and illness or some mischance makes it impossible for you to be present, be sure to inform your hostess of the fact as soon as it is possible to do so.
A few words will make every difference between a polite regret or its reverse.
Thus, if you write: —
“Mr. and Mrs. _______ regret that they cannot accept Mr. and Mrs. _______’s invitation for _____ evening,” it would sound abrupt and curt; but if you write: —
“Mr. and Mrs. _______ regret extremely that they cannot accept Mr. and Mrs. _______’s kind invitation for _____ evening,” it is all that is required.
All replies to invitations are addressed in the name of both lady and gentleman in the note; but the envelope should be addressed to the lady alone.
If invitations are sent out ten days in advance, they should be answered within two or three days, so that if regrets are sent, the hostess can invite others to fill their places, and if you do not attend to this promptly, you place yourself in a position to be styled ill-bred; for no private house in this country is of such proportions that it has not a limit to the number of guests it can entertain with comfort; and it is impolite to your hostess not to allow her to have an accurate knowledge of the number of guests she may hope to receive.
NUMBER OF GUESTS, ETC.
It is an old saying that the number of guests at a dinner-party should never be “more than that of the Muses (9), or less than the Graces (3).”
Brillat Savarin, a French writer of distinction, says:
“Let not the number of your guests exceed twelve.”
And other authorities tell us that eight is the happy number, and still others, that “ten friends is the largest number that should ever assemble around one table.”
Now we have sat at a table with twenty, and even thirty, and found the dinner most enjoyable, and “the feast of reason and flow of soul” were not interrupted by the large number.
The ominous number of thirteen, however, is eschewed by many diners-out, not only this country, but in every land in Christendom; and it is quite impossible to persuade some persons to sit at table when thirteen are present, on account of the prevalent belief that one of the number will surely die before the year is out.
We have no faith in this idea, but think it arises from the number being unusually large, and the likelihood that out of so many one may be called to exchange worlds before a twelvemonth can pass by.
On the European continent, this fatal number is attributed to the occasion of the Last Supper, when Jesus sat at meat with his twelve disciples, and declared unto them, “This night one of you shall betray me.” And ever since that time it has been considered unlucky for thirteen to sit down together at any meal.
Such prejudices are beyond our comprehension; yet we all know very sensible people who adopt them as their own, and will not be persuaded that there can be no more fatality attending the sitting at dinner with thirteen than for thirty.
ARRANGEMENTS OF THE TABLE.
“It has been well said that if you ask a man to dinner, you are responsible for his happiness during the time he remains under your roof;” and that “he who asks his friends to dinner, and gives no personal attention to the arrangements of the dinner, is unworthy to have any friends.”
The decoration and adornment of the dinner-table is also a very essential part of the dinner, and it can seldom be left to the care of the servants, unless they are particularly well-trained; therefore if a caterer does not provide the dinner with its ornaments and flowers, it should be the especial care of the hostess to attend to them.
In the arrangement of the centre-piece care must be taken that it does not occupy too much space, to the exclusion of the dishes of the dessert, and also that it is not so high as to prevent those opposite from being seen.
One does not enjoy dining behind a broad, thick shrubbery of leaves and flowers, which completely conceals the opposite guests.
Gracefully shaped épergnes, composed to crystal and silver, are very stylish, and when arranged with low plates, or branches and shallow dishes, to hold bon bons, fruits, flowers, and ferns, artistically mingled, the effect is always pleasing to the eye.
A block of ice, one foot square (or 12 inches by 18 inches), placed upon a silver salver, or even upon a common waiter, but so imbedded in moss, trailing vines, and bright flowers, that its pedestal does not appear, is a very desirable centre ornament for the dinner-table, because, as it melts away, its cooling vapors produce a pleasant influence upon the atmosphere, which frequently becomes overheated with the mingling of hot viands, and the blazing of gas-light; but the trickling of the water should be confined to the base of the ice.
The china and silvershops offer many lovely devices for the adornment of the dinner-table, and with the aid of the florist, it can be made rarely beautiful and attractive. Small bouquets are often placed upon the napkin of each guest; and many of the dishes can be decorated with tastefully arranged leaves and flowers.
Each guest should have ample space at table, so as to eat his dinner without being crowded; and it is an important point to dispose of them properly. In this country there is less distinction of rank and position than in England or France; but yet there is a Brahminical caste which makes itself felt.
At stylish dinner-parties, an ornamented card, tastefully designed with flowers in water-colors, or a wreath of green ferns, is often laid upon each plate with the gentleman’s or lady’s name written upon it; and the host asks each gentleman to take the lady he designates down to dinner. When the servant announces that “dinner is served,” the host gives his right arm to the lady whose rank, age, or position as a stranger guest, entitles her to the precedence, and leads the way to the dining-room; and the hostess often invites the most distinguished gentleman, or the greatest stranger present, to escort her to the table, and frequently begs her guests to precede her.
She seats herself, and motions her escort to the seat upon her right, and the gentleman and ladies are duly informed of their positions at the table.
A gentleman is placed on each side of the hostess, while the host seats a lady at his right and left hand, and the remainder of the guests are so disposed that if possible a gentleman and lady alternate on each side of the table. Two, three, or four servants are often seen at a stylish dinner-party of from nine to twelve guests.
Raw oysters or clams on the shells are usually the first course. Then follows soup, of which every one partakes. At large dinners there will often be two kinds of soup; one should be dark-colored, the other white, and you can take your choice; also two kinds of fish, and then roast beef, or mutton, or both are served, while fowls and wild game and entremets follow, sometimes through innumerable courses. And the dessert is often ended with crackers, or bread and cheese, served after every other dainty dish has been offered.
It was formerly the custom for ladies to retire after the dessert, so as to permit the gentlemen to drink deeply, and indulge in coarse jokes and conversation; but we take our table manners now from the Parisians rather than from the Londoners, and gentlemen and ladies resort to the drawing-room en compagnie, and both the ceremonious and social dinners have lost somewhat of the distinctive feature which pandered to the brutal instincts of the one, while it rasped the more delicate sentiments of the other.
The custom of ladies retiring after the various courses were served, was a relic of a barbarous age; but now it is not considered a social virtue to drink deeply; and the more refined portion of the community adopt the practice of all rising together from the dinner-table; if desirable, some of the gentlemen resort to the smoking room or library to indulge in a cigar, while coffee is served to the rest in the drawing-room.
The constant presence of ladies on the European Continent has been productive of a greater refinement of manner than the United States can as yet lay claim to; and a more intimate association of the two sexes would doubtless prove a mutual benefit.
If women shared more closely in the business and thoughts of practical men, it would tend to make them more matter-of-fact; while men, by a nearer contact with refined women, would become more refined.
The Club cannot be supported in France, Germany, and Italy, because in those countries men prefer the company of their wives and daughters when they indulge in social amusements. Therefore the cafés, and the parks, and gardens are preferred to an institution which only admits of male members. And we think that this preference is well-founded; for nothing can be more injurious to the purity of character of our young men than this habit of seeking diversions in resorts of pleasure where it would not be proper to introduce a wife or a sister.
Thackery tells us —
“One of the greatest benefits a young man may derive from women’s society is that he is bound to be respectful to them. The habit is of great good to your moral man, depend upon it. Our education makes us the most eminently selfish men in the world. We fight for ourselves; we push for ourselves; we cut the best slices out of the joint at the club dinners for ourselves; we yawn for ourselves; and light our pipes, and say we won’t go out; we prefer ourselves and our ease; and the greatest good that comes to a man from woman’s society is, that he has to think of somebody besides himself — somebody to whom he is bound to be constantly attentive and respectful.
“Certainly I don’t want my dear Bob to associate with those of the other sex whom he doesn’t and can’t respect; that is worse than billiards, worse than tavern brandy and water, worse than smoking selfishness at home. But I vow I would rather see you turning over the leaves of Miss Fiddlecombe’s music book all night than at billiards, or smoking, or brandy and water, or all three.”
But, revenons à nos moutons, and excuse us for wandering so far from the subject under discussion, although we have introduced one which still may lay claim to a little of one’s attention and thoughts.
After returning from the dining-room, the company entertain themselves with conversation, music, cards, etc., often until a late hour of retiring.
Supposing that you are keeping house, and are desirous of inviting a few friends to dinner, a few more general rules may not prove unacceptable.
In selecting your guests you should endeavor to invite those whose society would be agreeable to each other.
Savarin gives good advice on this point; he says “The guests invited to a dinner should be so selected that their occupations shall be varied, their tastes analogous, and with such points of contact that there shal be no necessity for the odious formality of presentations.
“The young and the old, the lively and the reserved, should be so mingled as to form an agreeable whole — the one amusing, the other being amused.”
Were a social dinner-party to be composed entirely of one profession, the conversation could not be of such diversity as when lawyers, doctors, ministers, and merchants, are met together.
The size of your dining-room and the limit of your table will determine, in a measure, the number of your guests; and, if possible, you should invite an equal number of gentlemen and ladies — unless the party is given wholly to gentlemen, when the lady of the house does not appear, but the nearest gentleman friend of the family takes her place.
In many families the master and mistress sit opposite, at the middle of the table, so that they can attend more especially to all of their guests; and either one of the daughters or the sons of the family occupy the end seats. At a large dinner, this is by far the best arrangement.
White kid gloves are always worn at large dinner-parties, but are taken off before the knife and fork are brought into requisition; some ladies, however, prefer black net mitts, which need not be removed.
When the guests are seated, the soup is served by the servants; or, if the dinner is an informal one, the tureen is placed in front of the hostess, and she sends the plates by the servants, first to the right and then to the left, until all at the table are served.
No one asks for soup or fish twice; and the hostess does not offer to replenish your plate, because by so doing, part of the company are usually kept waiting for the next course.
Sometimes the plates of soup are put upon the table before the guests are seated; and, when only one servant is employed, this is a very good plan to adopt.
Oysters and clams in the shells are served before the soup, if at all, and they can also be put in place before the guests are summoned.
At stylish dinners a handsomely printed or written bill of fare is laid upon each napkin.
Beside the napkin should be placed a tiny braided roll, or a square of three inches of bread, a tumbler, and three glasses — one for claret wine, one for madeira or sherry, and one for champagne. Two large knives and forks are needed, knives at the right and forks at the left of the plate, also a soup spoon; and when the dessert is served, a silver knife, fork and spoon are placed upon the dessert plate, with a glass finger-bowl and doily. On taking this, the guest places the knife and spoon at the right side, and the fork at the left, and spreads the doily at the left, placing the finger-bowl upon it, and when the repast is finished, he dips his fingers quietly into the bowl and dries them upon his napkin.
In serving a dinner in the Russian style, which is quite à la mode in the United States, the meats, etc., are not handed around until they have been carved, then the servants pass them to the left hand of each person. Vegetables are served in a similar manner, and then the various sauces and pickles follow.
It is usually considered a mark of good-breeding to take the same wine as that which is selected by the person who pays you the compliment of asking to drink a glass with him. Should, however, the wine not be desired by you, you are at liberty to courteously decline it.
One of the greatest privileges of the present age is liberty of opinion, and if you are disinclined to drink wine you can avail yourself of it.
It is not so customary now, as it was in former times, to drink healths; but the servant passes the wine, and you accept or decline it at your pleasure. If you do not drink it, quietly cover the top of your glass with your fingers, and say, “Please, excuse me.”
A gentleman once responded thus when his health was drank: —
“Gentlemen, — You have been pleased to drink my health with wine; for the former I thank you, to the latter you are welcome. Your drinking me will me no harm; drinking it will do you no good. I do not take wine, because I am determined wine shall not take me. You are most daring, but I am most secure. You have courage to tamper with and flatter a dangerous enemy I have courage to let him alone. We are both very brave, but our valor hath opposite qualities. I do not drink your healths; my doing so would be no more generous than giving change for a shilling.
“I would rather drink your diseases; would rather root out from you whatever is wrong and prejudicial to your happiness. Suppose when I lift bread or water to my lips I exclaim, ‘Here’s luck to you!’ all the luck attending the action would come to me, in the mouthful of bread or drink I should take. But if in the partial adoption of society’s customs, I take opportunity to scatter a few good ideas which may govern your lives hereafter, then there is luck to you, and to all of us. In that way I thank you for your cordiality.”
The table cloth is rarely removed for dessert now, because large napkins are placed under any dishes which would be liable to soil the cloth, and are easily removed with the last course; while the tasteful adornments of flowers, fruits, and bon-bons, are not so easily displaced as formerly.
Your demeanor at the dinner-table, and indeed everywhere else in life, should be easy and perfectly composed.
Speak in low tones and quietly, and endeavor to show that you were “to the manner born.”
Wear a pleasant face, but do not laugh continually; yet even that is better than a sour and forbidding aspect. Avoid being “fussy” either with your guests or your servants, for fussiness originates quite as much in selfishness, as from an ignorance of the laws of politeness and good-breeding.
It is a very important point to have well-trained waiters, for, if they do not understand their duties, a good share of your comfort at table is destroyed.
Teach them yourself, when there is no company present, to hand the dishes and plates, and turn out the water at the left side of each person; train them to fill the tumblers without being asked for water, and to watch the needs of every one. Do not dispense with any of the little ceremonies of the table when you dine en famille, and then your servants, being trained to do good service every day, will not disappoint you when company is present.
Teach your girl to remove the soiled silver upon a small waiter by itself; to take the soiled knives upon a plate by themselves; and to take the plates, and afterwards the platters and dishes; and to do it all without any bustle or noise, but to move about quietly and silently.
Make it a point that she shall always wear a clean apron, and arrange her hair and dress tidily, and then when friends come in unexpectedly, you will not be mortified at your domestic arrangements.
TRIFLING AFFAIRS OF SOME IMPORTANCE.
These are trifles, you may think, but —
“Trifles, light as air, make up the sum
Of woman’s happiness.”
And domestic comfort and happiness depends upon these things, far more than a young housekeeper often comprehends.
Give your husband, when you dine alone, a well ordered table, well furnished and garnished; and perhaps you may find that it will not detract from the gentleness of his disposition, nor the general peace of the household.
Who can deny the potency of a dinner! which frequently will not only satisfy hunger, but soothe the mind, assuage the daily raspings which men and women are subjected to; and frequently prove the truth of these lines from Peter Pindar:
“Ven’son’s a Cæsar in the fiercest fray;
Turtle! an Alexander in its way;
And then in quarrels of a slighter nature,
Mutton’s a most successful mediator!
So much superior is the stomach’s smart
to all the vaunted horrors of the heart;
E’en love, who often triumphs in his grief,
Hath ceased to feed on sighs, to pant on beef.”
EVENING ENTERTAINMENTS, PARTIES, AND BALLS.
“Without good company, all dainties
Lose their true relish, and, like painted grapes,
Are only seen, not tasted.”
AN evening-party is a scene redolent with beauty and fashion; the air is sweet with the mingled perfumes of thousands of lovely flowers, arranged in baskets, vases, flat dishes, festoons, wreaths, and also in beds of mosses and ferns.
Indeed it seems like a scene of fairy enchantment, and each one appears to vie with the other to render it a most pleasing and enjoyable occasion. We read in Cowper’s Task that —
“She, who invites
Her dear five hundred friends, contemns them all,
And dreads their coming; they, — what can they less!
With shrug and grimace hide their hate of her.”
But we cannot subscribe to such cynical opinions and full believe that “she who invites her five hundred friends” bestows a pleasure upon many, and contributes greatly to their enjoyment.
The wisest of men has said “there is a time to make merry, and there is a time to dance;” and Jesus did not consider it beneath his dignity and holiness to attend the entertainments of his day.
If the party is simply an evening entertainment, an intimation to that effect should be given upon the card of invitation; but if it is a ball or dance it should also be specified; and in writing notes for a party, or having them printed, it is well to give an idea of its size — whether it is a small party or a general one; so that your guests can come dressed accordingly. We well remember an anecdote to this point:
A bride had recently moved into the street, and a neighbor gave a small party in her honor, but in the note of invitation omitted to state that it was such; therefore the lady arrayed herself in costly wedding attire to meet other ladies clad in black and colored high-neck, and long-sleeved silk dresses.
Of course her pleasure and that of her husband’s was much disturbed.
The hour for evening-parties varies according to the caprices of fashion, and now it is quite late before the guests assemble.
The lady of the house should provide two or more dressing-rooms, with separate attendants for gentlemen and ladies, who can assist in removing their outside wraps, etc. When the company is very numerous, it is well to provide numbered tickets, and as the articles are taken by the servants, one ticket is affixed to them, and one given to the owner.
Yet it is only at large public assemblies that the guests would be sufficient for this practice. However, it is a very desirable thing for each lady to carry a large chintz bag, or a travelling bag, with the name written upon it, to contain her wraps, overshoes, etc., and this she can readily find when she desires to return home.
It is now the custom to provide a separate room for coffee, chocolate, sandwiches, cakes, and the like, up stairs near the dressing-rooms, or down stairs near the dancing-room, and attendants are ready to serve you at any time.
When the guests descend into the parlors, their first duty is to seek their hostess and host, who usually stand near the entrance, and are ready to welcome their friends with a bow and a smile, or a cordial shake of the hand, according to their intimacy; and after a few words of greeting are exchanged, the guests move on to make room for other visitors. If a gentleman accompanies a lady to a party or dance, he should always wait at the head of the stairs for her to come from the dressing-room, and, descending the stairs first, he will be ready to offer his arm in the hall, to escort the lady to the mistress of the house.
When she has met with other acquaintances, it is then proper to leave her for awhile, but politeness makes it imperative upon him to attend to her needs, to see that she is entertained, and has an escort to the supper-table; but if she is not either mother, wife, or sister, it is proper for you to wait upon her yourself to the supper-room, and provide whatever she may fancy.
It is not considered strictly decorous for a husband and wife to seek other’s society in company; and we learn from high authority that: — “A gentleman never dances with his wife unless every one else in the quadrille does the same.”
Yet we must confess that we can see no reason why a gentleman should be debarred from dancing and waltzing with his wife, if to do so is a pleasure to one or both parties.
Of course he need not dance with her constantly, nor be her partner at the euchre or whist table; but he should not neglect any attentions that add to her comfort, merely because she is his wife or relation.
In small private parties, where people meet for the pleasure of conversation, one must move about the room, and converse with various persons, and not remain in one place as though they were fixed stars.
A polite hostess will ask her guests to change places with her, in order to sit by others, and also see that each person has a chance to converse with others, and attend to the entertainment and amusement of all present.
Meanwhile, she must not seek her own pleasure, but only that of her visitors; and must endeavor to arrange matters so that they shall appear in their best condition as well as in their best attire; while she should wear a quiet toilette, which will not outshine that of any of her guests; and she should be particular to show the same attention to all her guests, unless strangers are present, when she should give them a little more than she bestows upon others.
In these times, the mistress of the house has but little to do with the furnishing of the supper-table, because it can be done so much more easily by a caterer.
Yet in the country such a person is not always readily obtained, and then the lady will be forced to supply the needed refreshments of salads, meats, ices, jellies, cakes, rolls, coffee and lemonade, or wine. But as a usual thing, let us beg of you to forget to supply the wine.
It is very undesirable to put temptation in the way of the weak; and young persons require no other stimulants than those of the society of others, the flowers, music, and lights.
“Look not upon the wine when it is red,” is good advice from the lips of one who knew its deceitful allurements and devices.
“Nor need we tell what anxious cares attend
The turbulent mirth of wine; nor all the kinds
Of maladies, that lead to death’s grim cave,
Wrought by intemperance; joint-racking gout;
Intestine stone; and pining atrophy,
Chill even when the sun with July heats
Fries the scorch’d soil; and dropsy all afloat,
Yet craving liquids.”
When the Queens of Society will abolish the drinking of wine at their evening-parties, and will banish from their supper-rooms the wine glasses and the decanters, the champagne glasses and the “green seal” bottles, a long step will have been taken towards the suppression of drunkenness.
Women can do more in this matter than the lawgivers, because the traffic in liquor can only be suppressed when those who consume it have learned the errors of their ways, and turn aside from the glass. And not until its hideousness is made apparent to the world at large by women’s dictum, will men cease to drink both in public and private. Legislation can never abolish this wretched vice, but PUBLIC OPINION can do it.
And not until wives and mothers refrain entirely from offering wine at their entertainments — not until sisters and friends cease from sharing the wine glass with brothers and lovers — will the first steps towards a reform be taken.
Every gentleman will offer his arm to a lady when the supper is served, and escort her to the table, and see that she is duly supplied with all the delicacies of the season before he attends to the demands of his own palate. After supper he will escort the lady back to the reception or ball-room, and two or three dances often follow.
It is never desirable to remain until the last at an evening-party, but is more comme il faut to be among the earliest to bid adieu to the hostess; yet, it is not well to go too early, and be the means of breaking up the party. But if your carriage is announced early, or circumstances make it necessary for you to leave in advance of others, do so without exciting observation, and make your adieus to your hostess or host, or both, in a low voice; but if they cannot easily be found, retire quietly without bidding them good-night.
To act otherwise denotes an inattention to the observances of society, and would seem to intimate to the company that the party had lasted long enough.
If a general leave-taking takes place, be sure to take the right hand in ascending or descending the staircase, and you will thus avoid confusion.
This rule hold good in all public places and exhibitions.
CALL WITHIN A FEW DAYS.
It is a mark of good-breeding to call, if possible, during the course of the week, or at least within a few days, and express to your host and hostess the pleasure you have received from the entertainment, and in a few well-chosen words compliment them upon the beauty of the arrangement of the rooms, the flowers, and the supper, and also upon their selection of the company. There are those who complain that they are never invited to parties, and say that the world neglects them, and they despise it, etc., etc.
Now would it not be well for them to take both an internal and exterior view of themselves, and see where the fault lies, and judge whether they have endeavored to make themselves agreeable, have been well-bred, polite, and exhibited a courtliness of manner which made their presence desirable on such occasions, and then let them decide candidly whether they have not brought upon themselves the neglect which angers them.
A ceremonious ball or dancing-party does not often assemble before half-past nine or ten o’clock, and written or printed notes of invitation are always sent out, often three weeks before the specified time. Verbal invitations are considered discourteous, unless in cases of near relationship, or of great intimacy. And the answers should be sent within two, three, or four days at the longest.
At private dances a lady must not decline the invitation of a gentleman to dance, unless she is previously engaged, or does not intend to dance any more during the evening. To do otherwise would be a tacit reflection upon the master and mistress of the house.
At a public ball, however, the master of ceremonies or the floor managers regulate the dancing, and they make many introductions, but should always remember to request the lady’s permission to do so, before introducing any gentleman to her.
Introductions at such places, one must remember, can, if desired, cease with the occasion, and a lady is free to pass her partner of the previous evening, the next morning without the slightest recognition, and he has no right to feel injured or annoyed.
Courtesy is always to be cultivated, however, and a lady who knows her own dignity, and possesses self-respect, will not accept an introduction to a gentleman and dance with him, unless she is willing to also accept him as an acquaintance on the street. Young ladies should always preserve a modest demeanor in dancing, for it throws around them a halo of light and purity, and it does not beseem them to display the science or grace of an artiste.
If they dance with an ease and grace, without careless indifference, nor yet with an affectation of manner, nor offensive hilarity, they can never make themselves too conspicuous.
Yet do not dance with a sullen mien, let your face wear a pleasant appearance, not a simpering smile, but as it were enlivened with the music and the exercise.
The lady or the daughters of the house, usually open the ball at a private party; and the host or his sons also lead off the dance with the greatest stranger, or the lady whose position entitles her to the most attention.
Should the guests be very numerous, and the space hardly sufficient for the dancers, it would be ill-bred for the ladies of the house to dance often, but the gentlemen should dance with those who are the least popular among the lady dancers, and thus contribute to the general pleasure of their guests.
When the dance is finished the gentleman offers his arm to his partner, and leads her to a seat beside her friends, or promenades through the room until the music for the next dance sounds, and her partner comes for her.
It is well to avoid such dances as are offensive to refinement and good taste.
Sweet strains of entrancing music, brilliant lights, and beautiful flowers throw a glamour over the ball-room, and the gliding waltz, or fascinating polka, or varsuvienne, are considered en régle.
Yet many wise papas and mamas object to their pretty daughters partaking of these pleasures; and one often sees that when the best waltzer of the day marries, his wife is no allowed to join the gay circle of the waltz.
We, however, are among those who —
“Love to go and mingle with the young
In the gay, festal room, when every heart
Is beating faster than the merry tune,
And their bright eyes are restless, and their lips
Parted with eager joy, and their round cheeks
Flush’d with the beautiful motion of the dance.”
Yet still are so old-fashioned that we prefer to see, or join in the quadrille rather than the so-called round dances.
THE PROPER FORMS OF ADDRESS. — HOW TO WRITE AND ADDRESS LETTERS. — THE GIVING OF NAMES.
“What’s in a name! That which we call a rose,
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
ALTHOUGH we are a democratic nation, yet we cannot deny that there is a great fondness for aristocratic titles in our midst.
But the only ones recognized by American law belong to the Chief Magistrate of the United States; to the Judges of the Supreme Court; to the Members of the Cabinet and to those of the Senate and House of Representatives, and also to the chief officers of the State Governments, executive, legislative, and judicial – and to those who belong to the army and navy — such as Major-Generals, Generals, Brigadier-Generals, Colonels, Majors, Captains, and Lieutenants. The last being the lowest grade, however, is not often mentioned in address.
The President of the United States and the Ambassadors to foreign countries are all addressed as “Your Excellency.”
And in addressing a letter to President Grant you would write: —
“His Excellency, Gen. U. S. Grant, President of the United States of America.”
And the abbreviation Hon. should precede the name of the Supreme Court Judge, Members of the Cabinet and of Congress, Governors of States, Judges, Mayors, Aldermen, and Common-Councilmen.
The titles of Colonel, Major, and Captain are usually given to those who have seen actual service in the field, with the exception of Governors’ aids (sic), who have a right to the title of Colonel for life.
But these and other titles are rather too profusely scattered in our country to render their possession of much value; and we are of the same opinion as that which was expressed by a pompous young man, who, having just graduated at a college with the honors of valedictorian, was chosen Governor’s aid (sic), and when given the title by a friend, said, with an expressive gesture of the hand — “Plain Mr. Smith, if you please; I do not desire to be confounded with the common run of Militia Colonels.” The point of the story lies, however in the fact that two of the most influential and respected citizens of his town bore the despised militia title.
The title of “Judge” has also been greatly depreciated by its indiscriminate use and continual application in this country, while in England it is rarely uttered in social conversation.
When in office the title may be appropriate, but when that is laid aside, there surely is no need of retaining it.
THE ETIQUETTE OF ADDRESS.
The professional title of “Doctor” of Medicine should never be omitted, for its professor desire to have it as widely known as possible, to bring them patients. Yet Doctors of Divinity claim the same prefix, and are usually spoken of and to, by their titles; still, it is better not to repeat them too frequently while conversing with them; but they should always be written in addressing a letter to them.
“Right Reverend” is the proper address of a Bishop of whatever denomination, and “Reverend,” the distinction belonging to every clergyman.
The collegiate honor of Doctor of Divinity, and the like, should always be written in addressing a letter to the recipients of them, thus: —
“Rev. Clarence Creamcheese, D.D.”
“The Right Rev. Ignatius Loyala, G.T.D.,” and “Jeremiah Grabbem, Esq., LL.D.”
The collegiate titles, “A.B.” and “A.M.,” however, are never added to the address of letters or engraved upon cards. The title of “Esq.” has been so indiscriminately used among us that it has nearly lost its claim to rank. Lawyers and Justices of the Peace have a rightful claim to it; but it has been appropriated wrongfully by all classes; and our Norahs and Dinahs would think they were depriving their Patricks and Sambos of their due respect, did they not address their letters with both the “Mr.” and the “Esq.”
The word “Esquire” had its origin in the feudal period of England when the sons of gentlemen were educated at the castles of the superior lords, and it was esteemed a great advantage to the poorer nobility to have their children obtain this distinction, and at fourteen years of age they took the name of “Esquire.”
Long after the decline of chivalry the term was only applied to the sons of peers and knights, or to those who obtained the title by creation, or some other legal method.
Blackstone defines “Esquires” to be those who bear office or trust under the crown, and are so styled in their appointments and commissions by the king, and being once honored by the title, they have a claim to the distinction while they live.
Thus we see how inappropriate it is when otherwise applied.
As to the titles of “Sir” and “Ma’am,” they are not often used between equals in age and position.
We desire to teach our children to say “Yes, ma’am,” and “No, ma’am,” “Yes, sir” and “No, sir,” and also our dependents and servants; but when ladies and gentlemen are conversing together, the “Yes, ma’am,” “Yes, sir” and “No, sir,” etc., does not sound well if frequently repeated.
Yet if a simple question is asked, which demands only an affirmative or negative, the affix is not undesirable.
In Germany, the wife divides the smaller honor with the husband; and there are those in the United States who adopt this custom and address letters to “Mrs. Gov. Brown,” “Mrs. Gen. Smith,” Mrs. Dr. White,” Mrs. Professor Black,” “Honorable Mrs. Green,” etc.; and it may be considered a matter of taste with the letter-writers, but these letters would not be deemed proper if engraved upon cards.
Yet those women who have earned a right to them — by obtaining through hard and patient study, diplomas of theology and medicine and science — can fairly claim the address of their respective titles, and should therefore be addressed as “Rev. Mrs. Celia Burleigh” and “Mrs. Dr. Blackwell.” It is not unusual in this country to address a married woman by her Christian name, thus: “Mrs. Mary Brown,” instead of “Mrs. John Brown;” but in England, a lady is always addressed by her husband’s name until she becomes a widow, and then she takes her Christian name, or its initial. If there are several married brothers in one family, the wife of the eldest can be addressed as “Mrs. Smith,” while the younger brothers’ wives are distinguished by their husbands’ Christian name, thus: “Mrs. John Smith,” “Mrs. Henry Smith,” etc. The eldest daughter of a family is addressed by her name with only the addition of “Miss,” as “Miss Smith.” The other daughters take their baptismal or Christian name, as “Miss Ellen Smith.”
HOW TO WRITE AND ADDRESS LETTERS.
In writing a letter, place the date within an inch or two of the top, at the right hand, and be sure to write the name of the Town, County, and State, with the date of the month and year; and if living in a city, give the street and number also.
When writing to strangers, superscribe the name thus:
and then commence the letter. “Dear Sir” can be written if preferred, but not “My Dear Sir,” or “My Dear Madam,” unless you are well acquainted with the person to whom the letter is addressed.
Always commence your letters on a line below the address.
Formerly, it was the custom to leave quite a space between the “Sir” and the first line of the letter when writing to those who were in a superior position. This was always particularly attended to among most European nations.
And it is related, that the Duke of Buckingham received a letter from the Spanish Minister, Olivez, while at the Court of Spain, wherein the address and commencement were only one line apart. In reply, the Duke placed the word “Senor” a little below the first line, to mark his displeasure of the neglect of the deference to his high rank.
In formal and ceremonious communications the third person should be employed. But after the word “Sir,” as an address, it is not often needed again, and it is a mark of ill-breeding to repeat it frequently.
In business letters one should state the point at issue, directly and plainly, and not force one to read two or three pages of introduction, before the all-important matter is approached. It is not a trifling matter for a young man to learn how to write a proper business letter, and to state his wants in a few direct and explicit sentences. A well written and composed letter, has been the stepping-stone to fortune for many a young man.
In writing letters to even the most intimate friends, one needs to exercise the utmost caution in expressing one’s sentiments and opinions.
A recent Magazine article contains the following sentences which will fully express our meaning: —
THE PERILS OF LETTERS.
Of all things on earth to make trouble, commend me to a letter! You write as you would say it, but it goes to your friend without the grace of a voice, the inflection, the gesture, the laugh, that would make a joke of it.
There are just the hard, cold words; he can only see what is said, and he is deeply grieved or angered; lost to you, perhaps, forever.
Then the thing you write in one mood finds your friend in another, may be in the very one which of all others is least hospitable to your message. I have seen a whole family cast down by some piece of written pleasantry on the part of an absent member of it.
Now if there is this danger when you know the writer’s ways and phrases so well, how much greater the peril in the case of mere acquaintances!
When a letter has been received relating to social, friendly, or family affairs, an answer should be returned within ten days or a fortnight at least. Of course there are circumstances which alter cases, and some letters are not expected to be answered within some weeks; and if you do reply too quickly, the recipient of the letter may think: —
“I do believe that woman or man will never stay answered.”
But family letters should receive a prompt reply; and it is a great mistake not to teach children the necessity of doing this.
Business letters also demand a prompt reply, and it is most annoying not to attend to them as soon as is possible. If you receive one at evening, reply the following morning; and if in the morn, answer by the next mail.
There are many persons in the United States who are shamefully negligent about answering letters, but in Europe it is regarded as the height of impoliteness to allow a letter which requires a reply to go unanswered and we should remember that it is as ill-bred not to answer a letter which needs attention as to hand a person a spoon by taking hold of its bowl.
The Duke of Wellington was a model in this matter, for in spite of the immense amount of correspondence which he attended to, he never omitted to reply to a letter no matter from whom it was received.
He once received a letter from a clergyman settled in a distant part of the kingdom, who had not a shadow of a claim upon him, yet who wrote to beg a subscription towards the building of a church edifice.
By return of mail the Duke sent a reply, stating that he could not see why he should have received such an application, and declined to subscribe to anything towards it.
The clergyman, however, nothing daunted, sold the letter as an autograph for $20, and put the Duke upon the list of the subscribers for that amount.
His politeness in replying furnished the money without his knowledge, towards the edifice.
If we have the habit of neglecting our correspondence, we should strive to overcome it in its youth, for —
“Habits are soon assumed; but when we strive
To strip them, ’tis being flayed alive.”
THE GIVING OF NAMES.
It has often been declared that the passion for giving high sounding names, or those which have belonged to distinguished persons, was decidedly American; and that there was not even a small hamlet amid our mountains, prairies, or rock-bound coast, that did not boast its George Washingtons, its Benjamin Franklins, its Patrick Henrys, Jeffersons, Monroes, and the like; while among our colored population are found hundreds of Cæsars, Pompeys, Ciceros, and Mark Antonys.
While among our religious communities in the provincial locations, Bible names are the most popular, and Hezekiahs, Ezekiels, Jereboams, and Benijahs abound. We must enter a protest towards disfiguring a family name with these many syllabled and ugly appellations. Children hate them, youths despise them, and are always ashamed of them; and we see no reason why they should be perpetuated in this 19th century. We once knew a man whose name was Kempton Kutesaw Vanalmond Black. He was of white parentage, and his parents thought the name decidedly original, and prided themselves upon it; but when it was diminished to “Kute” by his playmates, it did not meet their approbation so much.
Napoleon, Jackson, Tecumseh, were the distinguished names which were bestowed upon one infant by a fond mother of our acquaintance.
Now we know that parents claim the right to give their children whatever appellations strike them as pleasing or desirable; and we would not gainsay their power to do so, but only beg of them not to give them those which will make them blush when they are uttered.
The Saxon names of Ethel and Edwin, Edith and Alfred, Bertha and Bertram, Alfreda and Arthur, Bessie and Herbert, are descended to us from English ancestry and are always attractive and pleasing; while those of Amy, Cora, Beatrice, Florence, Howard, Stanley, Russell, Clarence, Harry, and many others, are mellifluous and desirable.
Do not disfigure your sweet little girls with the names of Hepsey, Betsey, Mehitable, Deborah, Jerusha, Arzina, Experience, Patience, Nancy, and Resignation; nor your bright boys with those of Obadiah, Jehiel, Zerubbabel, Zadel, Jedediah, Jeremiah, Abiram, Phinehas, Jehuran or Chedorlaomer, when you can substitute others which are so far preferable.
SOCIAL INTERCOURSE. — CONVERSATION IN SOCIETY. — SLANG PHRASES. — EXAGGERATIONS. — SCANDAL. — THE INFLUENCE OF “WHAT PEOPLE SAY.” — INQUISITIVIE PEOPLE. — SIR RICHARD STEELE’S RULE FOR CONVERSATION.
“For thinking, one; for converse, two, no more;
Three for an argument; for walking, four;
For social pleasure, five; for fun, a score.”
WHEN Socrates was asked why he had built for himself so small a house, he replied: —
“Small as it is, I wish I could fill it with friends.”
And friends, true friends, with whom we can hold social intercourse without reserve, are indeed to be desired. For crowds are not company, and faces are but a gallery of pictures, and talk but a tinkling cymbal, where there is little sympathy of heart and soul.
But social intercourse is a necessity of our natures —
“God setteth the solitary in families;”
and ever since the Creation, men and women have delighted in seeking acquaintances and friends in each other. To be sure there are some minds so constituted that they do not feel its need, yet many of them will seek it in books, or at the theatres, for they must have something besides the solitude of their own thoughts, and the greater part of mankind enjoy agreeable society, for it relieves them of their cares and sorrows, and sometimes makes them oblivious of their back-slidings, while it allays their annoyances, and tunes the discordant strings of their souls to harmony and peace.
The most agreeable persons one meets in society, however, are not always the most high-minded and virtuous — but we can laugh, jest, and chat with them for hours, and really know but little of their true characters.
This state of affairs has made many good people accuse society of being “a sham, a mere nothing, and a paltry cheat.”
Now, because some men and women are vain, false and treacherous, it does not become us to stigmatize all mankind and womankind as such.
If a man is liberal to the poor and subscribes to public charities, and attends church regularly, always lending a willing ear to the solicitations of his minister, men will pronounce him a Christian, yet they cannot know how his account stands between himself and his God — and you cannot judge of society by the demeanor of some few of its members.
“To tell a falsehood is like the cut of a sabre; for though the wound may heal, the scar will remain,” is an old Persian maxim, and the falsities of society leave deep scars upon its face, therefore it is especially needful for young persons to avoid them, and to study assiduously to cultivate a strict regard for truthfulness upon all occasions.
“Do not let us lie at all. Do not think of one falsity as harmless, and another as slight, and another as unintended.
“Cast them all aside; they may be light and accidental, but they are ugly soot from the smoke of the pit for all that, and it is better that our hearts should be swept clean of them without one care as to which is largest or blackest.”
Conversation is the chief employment in society, and it needs to be studied, because a good style in conversation is quite as essential, and as capable of culture, as a fine style in writing, and the art of saying pretty things is what gives to them their value. The flowers of rhetoric are as beautiful as the flowers of the field and garden, but they require the aid of a skilful gardener to bring them to their highest strain of perfection.
“Gentlemen are surprised,” said Margaret Fuller, “that I write no better, because I talk so well. But I have served a long apprenticeship to the one, and none at all to the other.”
One tires, however, of a stilted manner of conversation, of talk which is too ornate; but a really brilliant talker avoids this extreme, and also the polysyllabled words of our modern dictionaries, and his conversation abounds in monosyllables, and the pure old Saxon words of our forefathers, and therefore one does not tire of listening to him, but floats down the stream of his thoughts, charmed with its glitter, and adds here and there a few sentences which enhance the pleasure of both listener and talker, for one always wearies of a monologue out of the pulpit or the lecturer’s desk.
There is also great power in monosyllables, and some of the most sublime and intense passages in our language are almost wholly composed of them. In our Lord’s Prayer, out of sixty-six words there are forty-eight of one syllable; and out of the seventeen words in the Golden Rule all but two are monosyllables.
The following text illustrates this point:
“I love them that love me — and those that seek me early shall find me.”
It is nearly impossible to put down set rules whereby young persons can become brilliant conversationalists.
There is a subtile influence connected with the art which is not easily defined; we can all recognize it when we listen to them, and yet few of us could point out wherein the science lies, although we will say —
“That woman, or that man talks well, and understands the science, or the subject under discussion.”
It does not, however, always require a great depth of learning to talk well, for all of us know learned men who are most stupid in conversation; neither does it demand an ability at graphic descriptions, for that would gravitate into monologue, and, as observed before, no one enjoys that species of talk.
It does not demand great wit or humor, for one soon tires of being compelled to acknowledge the point or the joke, and inveterate punsters are often a great annoyance in society.
Neither does it delight in satire, for one can never take pleasure in the conversation of satirical persons, because they are proverbially ill-tempered, and only those of a similar temperament can find a charm in such conversation.
But it is the ability of feeding the fire of conversation; of enlarging upon the thoughts and illustrations of others, and of commenting upon all that is said, in short of giving quid pro quo to those with whom you are conversing, and of keeping up the interest of all in the subject. Samuel Johnson and Edmund Burke were considered the finest talkers of their age in England, and Talleyrand in France; while in our land each prominent city claims one, two, or three, who out rank their fellow men in this desirable accomplishment.
There are persons who cram themselves with a few threadbare anecdotes and puns, mingled with some trite quotations of poetry or prose familiar to the ear of many a schoolboy, and then make them do duty upon various festive occasions until they are often known by them.
Dr. Johnson said: —
“Quotation, sir, is a good thing; there is a community of mind in it; classical quotation is the parole of literary men all over the world.”
And we would not decry the power of an apt quotation, one which exactly caps your friends’ expression, but merely caution our young folks not to interlard them too freely in their conversation, but to use them like the pungent horseradish or mustard, wherewith we season our roast beef and salads.
We said that great learning would not make one a good talker; but yet if you do not read, reflect, and digest, you cannot talk well, but must be content to dawdle away your hours in society amid the small talk — the mere babble and chatter — which comprises one-half of the so-called conversation in society.
To talk well you must understand the subject upon which you converse, and this is the reason why so many ladies can talk animatedly concerning the silly, sensational, frothy novels of the day, and also upon the fashions as they rise and fall. Those subjects they understand, so they are mistresses of the occasion. It is very needful for one who desires to talk well, not only to be well acquainted with the current news, and modern and ancient literature of his language, but also with the historical events of the past and the present of all countries. He must not have a confused idea of dates and history, but be able to give a clear account, not only of the chief events of the recent Rebellion, but also of those of the Revolutions of the past century, and of the period of the Roman Empire, its rise and fall, and of the various important events which have occurred in England, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Turkey, and Russia.
In modern society the public affairs of all these countries are equally discussed with our own, and one would not like to be ignorant of them. Therefore it is desirable for young persons to read and study good histories, which give clear and succinct accounts of each country and its important events. Then one must have an acquaintance with the poets and prose writers of both modern and ancient times. Must know the chief and best productions of Chaucer, Spenser, Milton, Burns, and Sir Walter Scott, as well as those of Tennyson, Morris, “Owen Meredith,” Thackeray, Dickens, Hawthorne, Mrs. Stowe, Whittier, Longfellow, Lowell, Holland, etc.
It is not enough to run through their pages, but you should commit select passages to memory; and after reading several pages of histories, or essays, take pen and paper, and write down the facts or ideas contained in them, thereby giving yourself a lesson not only in memory, but also in composition, for you should try to express the ideas in your own words.
It is a most excellent study to write off sentences or whole pages which have pleased you, and then putting books and MS both aside, again write the ideas or facts, clothing them in your own words, and not referring either to the written or the printed page.
If this practice is persevered in for one year, the student will be surprised at the facility which he has attained in the expression of ideas, and in breadth of thought; and he will find it the best possible way to educate himself to become a fluent speaker, and will be ready to acknowledge that conversation is a science as well as a gift. Yet it takes years to perfect one in it, or even to make one’s self an attractive speaker or talker.
The wise man tells us that —
“Speech is silvern, but silence is golden.”
And daily we are forced to note the wisdom of this proverb.
And it is also said that “ten measures of garrulity were given to men, but women took nine of them;” and sometimes, when compelled to listen to the chatter and babble of young girls, we are forced to acknowledge its truth; and sadly wish that our young folks would study the art of making themselves agreeable, not only as it relates to outward adornment, to the pink and white of their complexions; the whiteness and softness of their hands; and the fit of their boots; but also to the honeyed accents of their tongues, and the beauty, and purity of their expressions.
Slang phrases seem to be à la mode in this 19th century; and they issue from rosy lips which appear almost incapable of such guile.
We will not repeat the fashionable slang, thereby, perhaps, spreading its serpent trail more widely, but merely allude tot he too frequent repetition of “See here,” “Hold on,” and “I say,” wherewith not only callow school girls, but even young ladies of so-called aristocratic tendencies, and “out in society,” delight to adorn their peculiar phraseology.
And it illustrate our point we will relate the following anecdote:
A young man who was in the custom of larding his conversation with the expression “I say,” was informed than an acquaintance had ridiculed the habit, and declared that he could not speak even a short sentence without bringing in those obnoxious words at least ten times. So the former took the opportunity of addressing him in this amusing style of reproof: —
I say, sir, I hear say you say I say “I say,” at every word I say. “Now, sir, although I know I say “I say” at every word I say, still I say, sir, it is not for you to say I say “I say” at every word I say.
We, as a people, are accused of being greatly given to exaggerations, but it seems as if many other nations possessed the same imaginative tendencies as our own. To be sure, we must confess that large stories are told in our midst concerning this, that, and the other; and that one often finds it difficult to obtain an exact estimate of anything. We read of the wondrous freaks of vegetation in California, and exclaim: —
“Ah! that is an enormously exaggerated account,” when it may be perfectly true, because the vegetation of that tropical soil is most wonderful — almost exceeding belief.
The newspapers of the day, however, add their quota to the exaggerated propensities of Americans, until some staid people begin to doubt everything they read unless it is something which their common sense pronounces as the genuine article. It is indeed a very bad habit, and one which we should carefully educate our children to avoid.
Our little boy may take great pleasure in recounting amazing impossibilities. At first the habit amuses us, but alas! it is one which will increase with great rapidity, until it will be said of him: —
“Oh, yes; that’s one of _______’s stories. No one believes a word he says.”
So we must kill “the little foxes which destroy the grapes” — in season; must educate our children to feel that exaggeration is but another form of lying — and impress upon their childish hearts the fact that truth is always consistent with itself, and needs nothing to help it out; it is always near at hand, and should sit upon our lips, and be ready to drop out before we are aware, whereas a lie is troublesome, and sets a man’s invention upon the rack; and one exaggerated account needs a great many more to make it right.
A quaint old Scotch minister was somewhat given to exaggerations in the pulpit. His clerk reminded him of its bad effects upon the congregation. He replied that he knew his fault, and desired to cure himself of it, and wished that when he began to exaggerate that the clerk would give a little cough as a reminder.
Soon after he was describing the way in which Samson tied the foxes’ tails together, and said: —
“Foxes in those days were enormously large — and some of them had tails nearly twenty feet long.”
“A-hem!” came from the clerk’s desk.
“Ah! my friends, that is according to their measurement, but by ours they would have been full fifteen feet long.” “A-hem!” louder than before.
“Ah! well perhaps that is a little extravagant, and we’ll just say they were about ten feet.”
“A-hem! A-hem!” sounded still more loudly. The parson leaned over the desk, and shaking his finger at the clerk, said: “You may cough there all night long, mon, I’ll nae take off fut more. Would ye hae me gie the foxes nae teels at a’?”
It is one of the greatest miseries of our life that scandal is a standing dish in society, and calumny stalks abroad with perfect boldness and impunity.
Few escape from their baneful influences, and the higher one’s position — the more powerful one’s standing — the more will some persons delight inflicting these torments upon you.
“A good finished scandal, however, fully barbed and equipped, is rarely the production of a single individual, or even of a single coterie.
It sees the light in one; is rocked and nurtured in another; is petted, developed and attains its growth in a third; and receives its finishing touches only after passing through a multitude of hands. It is a child that can count a host of fathers and mothers — but none of them will own it.
And one of the most humiliating things in life is the silly credulity with which both men and women will listen to evil reports against their friends, neighbors, or acquaintances.
Often the slander may be born in the very lowest depths of society, may arise from the malignity of a discharged servant, or from a low-born and jealous equal, indeed it matters not whence its source, nor whose reputation falls, but there will be hundreds of men and women who will give it credit, yea, more will repeat it to others, and add a little more foulness to intensify its blackness.
How can these things be allowed in an educated respectable society? This is a question that every right-minded man and woman should endeavor to answer; and they should also protest against such evil-disposed conversation in their own homes.
When Mrs. A. calls, and in a very mysterious and confidential way approaches some subject concerning Mrs. B. or Mr. C., or Miss D., the best plan is to refuse to receive her confidences entirely.
But if they will find speech; and you cannot repulse the tide of scandal, listen in silence, and then quietly declare that you do not believe one word of it; and are sure that Mrs. A. herself esteems it as a base fabrication — a tissue of falsehoods from beginning to end. This announcement Mrs. A. may not always receive as quietly as you make it; and then you can assure her that you intended to make no imputations upon her truth, but know that she could give such stories no credence, and that if society in general would but refuse to either hear or repeat such “hateful things” they would die out. Again declare that you are sure the reports are either utterly spurious, or else so wretchedly garbled that their author could not recognize them.
And Mrs. A. will not trouble you again with such confidences. To be sure, she may possess a liking for saying “hateful things,” and so her next listener may be treated to some ugly speech concerning you; but it will injure the utterer far more than any one else in the end.
Yet one is never safe with such persons, for they will always stab you in an underhanded manner; and your only safe course is to avoid all intimacy or even acquaintance with them.
Such “hateful things” sting keenly; are harder to endure than blows; and have caused untold agonies to thousands of kind and tender-hearted men and women.
They are sharp needles which can probe to the centre of one’s heart.
The following doggerel upon the “Origin of Scandal,” is exceedingly well phrased:
THE ORIGIN OF SCANDAL
“Said Mrs. A.
to Mrs. J.,
In quite a confidential way:
‘It seems to me,
that Mrs. B.,
Takes too much — of something — in her tea.'”
“And Mrs. J.,
To Mrs. K.
That night was overheard to say —
She grieved to touch
Upon it much,
But ‘Mrs. B. took — such and such!'”
“Then Mrs. K.
Went straight away,
And told a friend, the self-same day,
‘ ‘Twas sad to think’ —
Here comes a wink —
‘That Mrs. B. was fond of drink.'”
“The friend’s disgust
Was such she must,
Inform a lady, ‘which she nussed,’
‘That Mrs. B.
At half-past three,
Was that far gone she couldn’t see!'”
“This lady we
Have mentioned, she
Gave needle-work to Mrs. B.,
And at such news
Could hardly choose,
But further needle-work refuse.”
“Then Mrs. B.,
As you’ll agree,
Quite properly — she said, said she
That she would track
The scandal back
To those who made her look so black.”
“Through Mrs. K.
And Mrs. J.
She got at last to Mrs. A.,
And asked her why,
With cruel lie,
She painted her so deep a dye!”
“Said Mrs. A.,
In sore dismay,
‘I no such thing could ever say.
I said that you
But stouter grew,
On too much sugar — which you do!'”
WHAT PEOPLE SAY.
“What people say, or will say,” is the credited source of a great amount of ill-will and malevolence; and these supposed originators of many of the slanderous words and unseemly deeds elude our grasp like the ignis fatuus, and we strive in vain to catch them, or to silence their wagging tongues, and put an end to their mischievous doings and sayings.
At length we are forced to shut our ears, and close our eyes, and in despair endeavor to cease from either seeing or hearing; and thus we may find relief.
The “on dit” of the mischief-maker is often but a verbal cover for the ill-will he delights to utter, but is not bold enough to acknowledge; and it is very desirable to be on one’s guard against those persons who habitually preface their conversation by “they say;” because if they have not originated the maliciousness, they are at least the conveyers of it, and thereby bring it to our ears.
We make it a point to disbelieve most of the accusations or remarks against ourselves or our friends and neighbors when the relator merges his personal accountableness for an assertion in the vague generality of “what people say.”
Certainly, if the unkind remarks were made, the utterer of them did not intend that they should reach our ears; while the one who brings them to us, does it, although under a friendly guise, with a purpose of injuring our sensibility and wounding our feelings; and if the barbed dart rankles and quivers in the wound, the one who aimed it at our breast is pleased to witness the smart it inflicts.
Moreover, “what people will say” has an all-powerful influence over thousands of human hearts, and it is not only one of the most common reasons given for our actions, but often becomes an impelling cause. And yet, what motive can be more foolish?
Why should we care concerning the opinions of others, if we endeavor to walk justly, do mercifully, and follow, as far as is possible, the dictates of our own consciences?
Yet there are those who govern not only their own conduct, but those of their families by the all-important questions of “What will people say?” or “What will Mr. A. say?” or “What will Mrs. B. say?”
They are under the influence of public opinion to such a degree that they do not eat and drink, dress or behave, think or talk, and neither educate their children nor build nor furnish their houses, and govern their children and servants, without asking themselves and their friends, “What will people say?”
And this will o’ the wisp leads them into all manner of absurdities, and even eccentricities, and proves a most uncertain guide for either manners or morals. Therefore we beg of our young friends to eschew its acquaintance utterly; and to banish it from their thoughts and their lips, and to strive to become acquainted with the established laws of decorum, taste, and virtue, and cultivate a complete indifference for public opinion which expresses itself in “What people say.”
At the same time it is not well to run counter to public opinion as a general thing, because there are laws which govern it which cannot be set aside without an injury to ourselves. So although we should not heed the mere conjecture of the future opinion of humanity, vaguely styled people, yet we should so conduct ourselves that we shall not overstep any of the boundaries of propriety and the barriers of society.
Inquisitive persons are exceedingly annoying, both at home and abroad; for none of us like to be forced, as it were, by a series of cross-questionings to disclose our private affairs; or enter into the minutiæ of our daily life; or to have our hearts laid bare to prying eyes, and their recesses ransacked for relics of the past or the present. An innate sense of propriety would prevent a sensible or a sensitive person from ranking himself with the band of inquisitors who daily, or almost hourly, place some poor victim upon the rack, and subject him to terrible torture. But in some persons this trait of character appears to be inborn, and they are a species of private detective whose presence is most annoying in every family or society.
If one is so unlucky as to live next door to such a character, the annoyances he or she inflicts are numberless as the sands of the ocean. They can tell the number of your daily visitors; who pays attention to your daughter; to whom your son’s heart inclines; the amount of your yearly income; the expenses of your housekeeping; the wages you pay your servants; the cost of your house, or the rent you yearly pay. They know upon what terms you live with your wife or your husband, and indeed are frequently more conversant with your private affairs than are the members of your own family.
Now the law gives you no redress in such cases; your only resource is absolute indifference to the inquisition thus established, or else to build a fence twenty feet high between your premises; and doubtless the private detective would find a loop-hole in the attic window, from whence, like Dr. Valentine’s “Inquisitive Female,” she would obtain a view of your back yard, and the announcement would be given: —
“Seven pairs of stockings hung out on that line! Only six in the family! I’ll find out ‘fore night comes who wore that seventh pair.”
It is very annoying to travel with such characters, especially when they are determined to know where you are going, and where you came from. A gentleman met such a person while travelling in a stage-coach “Down East,” and off from the line of railways and steamboats. He entered the stage at a way-station, after seeing his hair trunk safely placed upon the rack of the stage; and first, depositing his blue cotton umbrella at one side, he drew out a flaming yellow and red bandanna handkerchief, much the worse for wear, and spread it over his knees to protect his butternut trousers from the dust, and then, with a due regard to place aux dames, he turned to a bright-eyed, rosy-cheeked damsel who sat by his side, and in nasal tones laconically demanded: —
The girl gave as direct a reply.
Again she answered to the point.
A blush suffused her face as she gave the name of Mary Jones.
With perfect complacency the inquisitor turned to his opposite neighbor with the same interlocution. Then he turned to our friend, who to the question —
“I took the stage at Freeport.”
“Where I please.”
“None of your concern.”
Then the countryman surveyed his vis-à-vis from head to toe, looking as if he had surely met with a very strange animal — one who could not make a decent reply to a proper question.
And the gentleman really regretted he had not replied in the same manner as his stage companions, and felt that the rudeness was entirely upon his side, and the countryman had the best of it.
There are others who do not content themselves with merely finding out your whereabouts and destination, but desire to know your position in life and your family affairs.
Such an one attacked a fellow-traveller on a Western railway with the question: —
“Are you a bachelor?”
To which the other replied dryly: —
“No; I’m not.”
“You are a married man?”
“No; I’m not.”
“Then you must be a widower.”
“No; I’m not.”
Here a short pause ensued, but the indefatigable querist, nothing daunted by monosyllables, returned to the charge, and said: —
“If you are neither a bachelor, nor a married man, nor a widower, what in the world are you?”
“If you must know,” said the other, “I am a divorced man.”
Richard Steele gives in “The Rambler” an excellent rule for conversation. He says:
“I would establish but one great rule in conversation, which is this, that men should not talk to please themselves, but those that hear them. This would make them consider whether what they speak be worth hearing; whether there be either wit or sense in what they are about to say, and whether it be adapted to the time when, the place where, and the person to whom it is spoken.”
DRESS. — PERSONAL APPEARANCE AND MANNERS, BEAUTY.
“A few good clothes put on with small ado
Purchase your knowledge and your kindred too.”
GIRARD, the famous French painter, when very young, was the bearer of a letter of introduction to Lanjuinais, then of the Council of Napoleon. The young painter was shabbily attired, and his reception was extremely cold; but Lanjuinais discovered in him such striking proofs of talent, good sense, and amiability, that on Girard’s rising to leave, he arose too, and accompanied his visitor to the ante-chamber.
The change was so striking that Girard could not avoid an expression of surprise.
“My young friend,” said Lanjuinais, anticipating the inquiry, “we receive an unknown person according to his dress — we take leave of him according to his merits.”
And we are always forced to acknowledge the truth of the first part of this statement, if not of the latter.
Fine clothes are a passport into good society, if with them one possesses a knowledge of savoir faire. We would not believe, or state that an elegant suit of clothes would make a lady or gentleman of Patrick or Bridget, for there is something more required than the outer appearance; but we do know that a gentleman shabbily attired fails to make the same impression upon us, as one who is well-dressed. And also that the knowledge of being well-dressed — not necessarily in a very expensive attire, but becomingly and suitably dressed, does give one an ease of manner, and an unconsciousness of self, which can never be obtained, when one is conscious of looking badly, i.e., dressed in clothing which is out of date, or fits very badly, or does not blend harmoniously with one’s complexion, height, or figure.
Therefore our personal appearance is undoubtedly a subject for due consideration, and we should strive, in a degree, to make the best of ourselves — that is, should pay some heed to the niceties of dress, the little trifles which go so far towards producing a pleasing appearance.
Much taste is required in arranging the flowers in a bouquet or vase, so that their colors will blend harmoniously, and the larger flowers will not overpower those of smaller size.
This taste is also needful in laying out a garden, or in arranging the furniture of your rooms, and the same skill is essential in regard to your dress.
And it is well to consider before you purchase any additions to your wardrobe, whether the dresses or hats, or shawls, or ribbons, will set off your complexion, or are adapted to your size and figure; and do not adopt an unbecoming fashion, simply because it is the fashion; but endeavor to dress in such a manner that you will not make yourself conspicuous, nor distort your figure by unnatural addition.
If you are a brunette, do not dress yourself in silks, Thibets, or muslins of dark, subdued hues; black, however, is always excepted. Or if, on the contrary, your complexion is fair, do not overpower it with the rich, deep shades which are so becoming to a darker skin.
It is wise to avoid all styles which are disfiguring or unsuitable, and there is such a great variety in the prevailing fashions, that each one can select whatever most becomes their height and figure.
A short, stout person presents a most ridiculous appearance when she attires herself in flounces, puffs, and furbelows until she resembles a wine tun.
Flat trimmings, such as folds and plaits, are far more consonant with her style.
But a tall, thin, long-waisted person can revel in flounces and puffs, and bows, and if not too heavily ladened with them, looks far better than with flat straight trimmings.
Dress should always be simple, elegant and becoming, without being too expensive for the wearer’s pocket, and absurd fashions should never be worn by persons of sense.
There are few persons of either sex, in whom the desire to appear to the best advantage, and to dress in the most charming and becoming manner, is not innate.
A woman of eighty years, was asked in a court-room, by the judge, at what age a woman ceased to take thought concerning her personal appearance.
Her reply was: —
“Your honor must ask that question of some person older than myself.”
And this desire of appearing well, when kept within due bounds, is rather commendable than otherwise, and we should always strive to cultivate good taste, and do all in our power to contribute to that which is most pleasing to the eye.
Richter said: —
“A woman’s soul is by nature a beautiful fresco-painting, painted on rooms, clothes, and silver waiters, and upon the whole domestic establishment.”
And it is this inherent love of the Beautiful which the infant displays, as soon as it is able to distinguish colors, and their picturesque effects.
God has implanted the love of ornament and adornment in our hearts; and it is not our duty to undervalue a pleasing appearance, but to endeavor to associate with it, as a balance-wheel, a well-cultivated mind and truthful principles, and to strive not to foster vanity and a love of display, until the love of dress becomes not only an evil but a sin.
“Do you, my friend, endeavor to possess
An elegance of mind as well as dress;
Be that your ornament, and know to please
By graceful nature’s unaffected ease.”
The dangers which encompass a too great love of dress are innumerable, and many a fair name has been tarnished, and many, hitherto reputable persons, have been tossed into the whirlpool of vice and deathless misery by yielding to its demoralizing sway; while others have been induced by it to exceed the limits of their income, and impoverish their families; or prevent themselves from bestowing charities upon those deserving of them.
And if this love of dress once gains the ascendancy over us, it will exercise its power so imperceptibly that before we are aware, we unconsciously become its slaves; and even if we have sufficient strength to shake off its galling yoke, it will be the cause of much mischief, and bring upon us a large amount of unhappiness.
If we also foster an undue love for dress in our children, we are in danger of making them vain, conceited, and selfish women. Yet in our anxiety to stifle a love of fine clothes in our daughters, we must take heed not to fall into the other extreme and dress them too plainly, for this will increase rather than suppress their desire for them. Preaching against the follies of dress to our children, while we ourselves are attired in the height of the fashion, never produces the desired effect. Example is always more efficacious than precept; and if mothers do not estimate dress too highly, there is not much probability that their children will do so.
Those persons who are advanced in life too often forget that every age possesses its suitable costume, and that when their necks have ceased to look fresh and fair, they should be concealed under a pleated lace frill, or a muslin handkerchief; and that wrinkled, leathery faces should not be brought into juxtaposition with blooming, artificial roses and spring flowers, but should be contrasted with the tender lines of silver-grey lilac, and dead leaf browns.
The young ladies of our day are charged with great extravagancies; and are said to have diminished the number of marriages among the haut ton most perceptibly.
In the lower classes Cupid still reigns supreme; but in the middle strata, and among the uppertendom, the God of Love complains that his wings are clipped, his arrows pointless, and while both of his eyes are still blind, his hands and feet are also fettered.
Now this is a serious accusation, but we cannot plead guilty to the charge of extravagancies of dress so enormous and overwhelming, and allow the sterner sex to pass by scot free.
We must assert that where some of our young ladies expend from five dollars to eight hundred dollars, or one thousand dollars upon their wardrobe, many of our young men spend double that amount upon their dress, cigars, liquors, billiards, fast horses, betting, and all their attendant ills.
It does not become the young man of the period to imitate too closely his ancestral Father Adam, and cry out in piteous tones: —
“O, Lord, the woman which Thou gavest me is in fault! Hers is the wrong-doing — not mine!”
We have no patience with men who thus endeavor to throw off their responsibilities upon the shoulders of the weaker sex, and denounce their love for dress, and the extravagance of their fashions as an all-sufficient reason for their disobeying God’s behest, to take unto themselves wives from the daughters of men.
It is men, themselves, who cultivate this love of dress by always paying more attention to a well-dressed and fashionably-attired lady, than to one that is plain or shabby in appearance.
Women, it is often said, dress for the admiration of men. We cannot give our verdict in favor of such a wholesale declaration as this, yet candor compels us to admit that it is true in many cases.
Wives dress to please their husbands, mothers to please their sons, and daughters to please their lovers and brothers.
Yet there are women who dress tastefully from an innate sense of the fitness of things; and do not heed the praises of men, or strive for their admiration.
A gentlewoman need not be reminded that she should always be attired in a neat and becoming manner and that her dress ought to be adapted to the hours of the day.
Such a woman will never appear at breakfast in a shabby peignoir, and then dress in the most stylish manner in street costume, or for evening visits.
A simple, well-fitted morning dress of lawn, muslin, Thibet, or Tamise cloth is always suitable and becoming.
The hair should also be neatly arranged, and a simple muslin or lace cap, with pretty ribbons, is a pleasing addition to a lady’s morning toilette.
The Spectator, in olden times, directed its powerful raillery against ladies appearing at the breakfast-table with their hair en papillotes; and The Tatler repeated much that was said upon such a deforming custom. In these later days crimping pins are equally disfiguring, and they should be concealed under the braids of the hair, or the ever-present, black velvet bandeaux.
It is well to have some fixed hour for substituting the morning toilette for the dinner dress; and if this is done one need not be so rude as to keep visitors waiting while dresses are exchanged.
A few slight ornaments are admissible at the breakfast-table, such as ear-rings and brooches; but ornaments of a costlier kind, and set with brilliant stones, are utterly out of place. Diamonds in the morning always exhibit a trace of shoddyism. An elegant simplicity of dress, equally with unaffected manners, demands respect and will ever receive the admiration of persons of worth, taste, and culture.
St. Peter councils us thus concerning the apparel of women: —
“Whose adorning, let it not be that outward adornment of plaiting the hair and of wearing of gold, and of putting on of apparel. But let it be the hidden man of the heart (i.e., the inward frame and disposition of the mind), in that which is not corruptible; even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight God of great price.”
The dress of children should be simple but pleasing; and care should be taken to make their clothes extremely loose about the waist, so as not to impede their growth and the circulation of the blood. You should always be able to pass your hand freely between the clothes and body of your child; and this precaution is extremely essential to the health of all children, as tight clothes induce various diseases, and are a fruitful source of illness.
Moderately loose clothing is warmer than that which fits very tightly, because the quantity of air confined between our bodies, and clothing prevents the heat of the body from escaping, also the external air from coming in contact with them.
And if we will only wear our dresses sufficiently loose to admit of a free circulation of air, we should all feel much more comfortable, for a “tight fit” always impedes the circulation of the blood. “Wasp waists,” most fortunately for the growing generation, are out of fashion, and a waist of moderate proportions is now more comme il faut.
The only kind of dress that can afford the requisite protection for the changes of temperature to which our climate is liable, is made of woolen fabrics; and those who would receive the advantage which it is capable of affording, must wear it next to the skin, at all seasons.
The great advantages of woolen underclothing are these: the readiness with which it allows the escape of the matter of perspiration through its texture; its power of preserving the sensation of warmth to the skin under all circumstances; the difficulty there is in making it thoroughly wet; the slowness with which it conducts heat; and the softness, lightness, and pliancy of its texture.
The style of ladies’ dress which now prevails has been much ridiculed; and if some of our “mirrors of fashion” “could but see themsel’s as ithers see them,” it might be of service to them.
Yet among the hundred variations of costume which are in vogue, there are some exceedingly sensible ones, in which one can dress quickly, walk nimbly, stoop easily, and eat plentifully, and, in short, perform all the duties of life without annoyance or hindrance. The waist is in its proper region, the skirt does not act the part of street sweeper, and one finds comfort as well as ornament in it.
We allude to the short street costume and the belted polonaise, which can be altered into various guises at one’s one sweet will, and although ever changing, is ever healthful and becoming.
And what shall we say of a fashionable bonnet, which is now perched so high above the formidable structures of hair which cover the crowns of our heads? It is merely a conglomeration of silk, illusion, feathers, blonde lace, flowers and ribbons, which is very becoming, however, to some faces, while to others it is a perfect fright.
The following lines may picture it better than our words:
A RECIPE FOR A BONNET.
“On scraps of foundation, some fragments of lace,
A shower of French rosebuds to droop o’er the face,
Take ribbons and feathers, with crape and illusion,
And mix and derange them in graceful confusion;
Inveigle some fairy, out roaming for pleasure,
And beg the slight favor of taking her measure;
The length and breadth of her dear little pate —
And hasten a miniature frame to create;
Then pour, as above, the bright mixture upon it,
And lo! you possess “such a love of a bonnet!”
Socrates called beauty a short lived tyranny; Plato esteemed it as a privilege of nature; Theophrastus styled it a silent cheat; Theocritus, a delightful prejudice; and Aristotle affirmed that it was better than all the letters of recommendation in the world.
Beauty of some kind is so much the attribute of her sex, that a woman who has not at one time of her life felt herself to be fair, has been robbed of her birthright, and yet the most celebrated beauties of ancient and modern times have owed their highest charms to the refining influences of education rather than to the exquisite symmetry of form, face and feature.
It was the wisdom as well as the poetry of the age of chivalry that it supposed all women to be beautiful, and treated them as such.
And a woman has not fully comprehended life, if her heart has not sometimes throbbed at the thought of possessing some natural abilities in the fine art of pleasing, unfolding to her mind secrets of power which are intended doubtless to balance her muscular inferiority.
Men do not require such a knowledge; but if it does develop itself in them, it renders its possessor extremely absurd; while to a woman it is one of the strong weapons in her armory, and if she is deprived on it she becomes comparatively powerless.
Therefore, it is particularly cruel to force upon a girl the withering conviction of her own want of beauty, or pleasing exterior; and if parents do so as a preventive of vanity, or to shield their daughters against the supposed demoralizing consciousness of beauty, the verdict of the world will soon counteract that, and supply them with some idea of their charms.
But on the other hand, if girls possess but a scanty supply of good looks, it will not only give them an incalculable anguish of mind to have their poverty forced upon them, but will also tend to diminish them still farther by rendering them sullen and jealous, and giving to them a fretful aspect. We have met with girls who have felt that their faces were not agreeable to any one, not even to their own mothers; and have seemingly taken upon themselves vows of voluntary ugliness; and would not endeavor to keep their teeth white and their finger nails tidy, or shield their complexions from the baleful influence of the noonday sun, or even smile enough to render their faces sunshiny; and they will set aside as vanitas vanitatum all the little adjuncts of the toilette, such as bright sheeny ribbons and gauzy laces, and keep themselves closely to plain linen collars and cuffs, and black neckties; and even pride themselves, like Diogenes of old, upon the skinny parsimony of their attire, and deem that article of dress which is the most unbecoming to be the most respectable.
They are always tall, thin and angular, and seldom enjoy even decent health; and so they pass on to their graves unlovely and unloved — yet pleased with the vanity which apes humility, and rejoicing as it were in their own uncomeliness.
Now beauty should be cultivated by every woman. If you do not possess a clear complexion, regular features, bright beaming eyes, and beautiful hair, why cultivate the graces of the mind, and they will lend a brightness all their own to eyes and skin; will soften irregular features, and throw a hundred nameless charms over forehead, cheeks, and lips.
Youthful beauty is a transitory and precarious attraction; time will abstract the elegance of the figure and the brilliancy of the complexion; but a well-educated mind, joined to good sense and virtue, are lasting qualifications which will always insure to their possessor the love and esteem of the virtuous.
Wilkes was considered the homeliest man of his day — but his mind was of a high order — and he was learned in the art of conversation; he said, “Give me but half an hour in the society of ladies, and I will ask no favor of the handsomest man in society.”
Beauty of feature, form and expression, is not to be underrated; it bestows upon its possessor regal gifts, and is a powerful magnet to attract the admiration of men, but unless it is allied with good sense, virtue and good-humor, it is but an Apple of Sodom.
Yet men will listen to the conversation of a very beautiful woman, not because they hear, but because they see her — for there is a great amount of eloquence in a fine face and sparkling eyes.
It gives its possessor an advantage at first acquaintance; but if it prove merely a pictured beauty, of the flesh, and not of the spirit, we would none of it.
But wise women have sighed for its possession; and it is related of Frederika Bremer, that while making a tour through the United States, and greatly lionized by her friends, the one ungratified wish of her heart — personal beauty — was still bitterly regretted.
She possessed the power to charm all her readers — to kindle a love for her “Neighbors” and “Home” in thousands of hearts; and yet her little, brown, wizened face could not proclaim her abilities, until one had listened to her pleasant voice, and taken delight in her soft sweet manners.
And Madame de Sta`l, when her reputation was at its zenith, said that she would gladly exchange all the renown that her genius had won for her, for a share of that beauty whose possession she had envied so much in others of her sex.
Therefore, friends, let us not undervalue beauty, but value worth more.
“The beauty of a woman exceeds all other forms of beauty, as well in the sweetness of its suggestions, as in the fervor of the admiration it awakens; and we seem to catch glimpses of heaven in the innocent fact of a beautiful child or youthful maiden.”
And there is also another kind of beauty than that revealed in coral lips wreathed with smiles, and in beaming eyes. It is a beauty that is not wholly of the face, nor of the mind, but it clings to age, and is the beauty of a well-spent life. A halo of memory which surrounds the head of the aged, and gives a beauty all its own to the dim eyes, withered cheeks, and white hairs of the grandmother.
In this chapter upon Personal Appearance, little has been said about the “sterner sex.”
And yet a fine appearance is very essential to them. One delights in a well-built, well-clothed athletic man; and it is quite as important for them to attend to their persons, as for women.
To be sure, their attire is plain, but it should be spotless. Their hair requires less attention, but it should receive needful care. Their finger nails should be tidy; their collar faultless; their neck-tie à la mode, if they would attract the attention of the fair sex.
An untidy, ill-dressed, slovenly looking man is quite as bad looking as a woman of similar habits.
Men must give close heed to their personal appearance, if they in their turn would please.
“A shocking bad hat” is discerned by a woman quite as quickly as a becoming “love of a bonnet” is recognized by a man.
We would not make dandies of our boys, but a due regard for their personal appearance is almost as essential, as a due regard for the rights of others, to make them agreeable companions in the home circle.
Boys should cultivate good looks quite as much as girls; yet should shun vanity and its deceits; but desire to be as handsome as it is possible for them to be — i.e., as good-natured, as obliging and pleasant, as tidy and neat, as a strict attention to these proprieties will induce.
Gentleness of manners, a graceful carriage and a pleasing address, will make any young man attractive.
And we ask with the poet: —
“What is beauty? Not the show
Of shapely limbs and features. No:
These are but flowers
That have their dated hours,
To breathe their momentary sweets, then go.
‘Tis the stainless soul within,
That outshines the fairest skin.”
MARRIAGE. — OFFERS OF MARRIAGE. — LOVERS’ LOVE LETTERS. — ETIQUETTE OF MARRIAGE. — ORIGIN OF THE WEDDING-CAKE. — WEDDING-CARDS. — ORIGIN OF WEDDING-RINGS. — WEDDING-GIFTS.
“Love warms our fancy with eliv’ning fires,
Refines our genius, and our verse inspires;
From him Theocritus, on Enna’s plains,
Learnt the wild sweetness of his Doric strains;
Virgil by him was taught the moving art,
That charmed each ear and softened every heart.”
“MARRIAGE is the mother of the world, and preserves kingdoms and fills cities and churches, and heaven itself. The celibate, like the fly in the heart of an apple, dwells in a perpetual sweetness, but sits alone and its confined, and dies in singularity; but marriage, like the useful bee, builds a house, and gathers sweetness from every flower, and labors and unites into societies and republics, and sends out armies, and feeds the world with delicacies, and obeys its King, and keeps order, and exercises many virtues, and promotes the interests of mankind, and is that state of good things to which God has designed the present constitution of the world. Life or death, felicity or a lasting sorrow, are in the power of marriage. A woman, indeed, ventures most, for she hath no sanctuary to retire to from an evil husband, she must dwell upon her sorrow and hatch the eggs which her own folly infelicity hath produced. A woman may complain to God as do the subjects of tyrant princes, but otherwise, she hath no appeal in the causes of unkindness. And though the man can run from many hours of his sadness, yet he must return to it again, and when he sits among his neighbors he remembers the objection that is in his bosom, and sighs deeply.”
These words of Bishop Taylor’s upon marriage are pregnant with instruction, and we must beg of our young readers not to take upon themselves the duties and responsibilities of married life too rashly, and without due consideration of each other’s tastes and dispositions. A neglect to attend to these things is one of the chief causes of the thousands of unhappy marriages throughout our land; and of the disgrace of the Divorce Laws in some of the Western States of the Union.
There can be no happiness in the marriage state unless both the husband and the wife are worthy of respect, and if one loses this sentiment, there is little enjoyment in store for either. Therefore, do not marry a weak, unreasonable man, even if your heart speaks in his favor, and he counts his riches by hundreds of thousands.
For what are gold and lands to one who is wedded to an untractable, capricious, unreasonable, ill-tempered man, who will rarely listen to the voice of reason, and for whom one will often be forced to blush painfully, and feel uneasy whenever he opens his lips? Such a man also, uniformly, endeavors to uphold his consequence by contradicting his wife on all occasions, because he will not have persons think that she possesses any influence over him. And on the other hand, do not marry an ill-governed, uncontrolled, excitable, and nervous woman, even if her lips are formed like Cupid’s Bow, her eyes outshine the stars, and her complexion resemble milk and roses, while her features are as faultless as those of the Venus de Milo.
“Take thus much of my council, marry not
In haste, for she that takes the best of husbands,
Puts on a golden fetter; for husbands
Are like to painted fruit which promises much,
But still deceive us, when we come to touch them.”
OFFERS OF MARRIAGE.
Offers of marriage are made in a hundred or more various ways, but however tendered, they should be received courteously and with dignity.
If one is made by letter, answer it as would become a lady; and your own good sense should dictate what you should say.
Questions are often asked as regards the wording of such letters, but no set rules can possibly be given.
Whether it be answered in the first or third person, however, must depend in a great degree upon the intimacy which has previously existed.
If intending to refuse the suit, you should not commence the letter with “Dear Sir,” but rather with the gentleman’s name; and write “Sir” upon the next line.
Offers of marriage should never be accepted, or refused without consulting your parents, but if you are deprived of them, then it is better to consult some judicious maternal friend.
There are young ladies who pride themselves upon the conquests which they make; and who do not scruple to sacrifice the happiness of estimable young men, at the altar of their inordinate and contemptible vanity.
This practice cannot be too strongly rebuked, and any girl who will thus trifle with the affections of honorable men will surely reap, in bitter tears, the harvest whose seeds she has sown in silly pride and mockery.
The reputation of being a flirt is greatly to be dreaded by young ladies, for their company soon becomes annoying to men of sense; while those who possess similar tastes will, to be sure, laugh, dance and sing with them, to their hearts’ content, but will never ask them to be admitted to a nearer and dearer companionship.
And a gentleman flirt is one of the most despicable creatures in the whole creation!
If a lady perceives that she has become an object of especial regard to a gentleman, and does not incline to encourage his suit, she should not treat him rudely, but it is not well to let him linger, awhile in suspense, and then bring him to the point only to be repulsed.
Take an early opportunity to express your ideas upon the subject, in a way, which will permit him to discover your sentiments.
There are various ways of doing this, and young ladies of any ingenuity will soon perceive which is the kindest, and most humane of them. Yet if the man is so obtuse that he will not be satisfied, without a decisive answer, give him the opportunity he seeks, and return a polite “no;” and then, if he possesses delicate feelings, he will not trouble you more.
Make it a rule, however, never to receive particular attentions from honorable men, when you have no heart to bestow in return; and never trifle with the affections of any man.
The happiness and future well-being of many excellent men have been sacrificed by such unprincipled behavior. If a gentleman’s conversation interests you, and his attentions flatter you, and his preference gratifies you, make up your mind whether his habitual presence would be agreeable; and if it would not, then withdraw gradually from his society. A refined chilliness of manner will soon satisfy him, if he possesses the least discernment, that his addresses would not be acceptable. And always remember that if a gentleman makes you an offer of marriage, you should keep it a secret from all but your parents, or nearest relative or friend.
It is mortifying and painful enough, to have one’s suit discarded, without being known as a rejected lover; therefore, if you possess either a decent generosity, or the least good-breeding, you will not divulge a secret which should be sacred between you.
And if you have accepted the addresses of a deserving man, do behave sensibly and honorably, and not lead him about as if in triumphal chains, nor take advantage of his love by playing with his feelings. Do not affect indifference to his presence, and comfort, nor yet display too much affection for him, while in the society of others.
And above all, do not endeavor to make him jealous, to prove the strength of his love for you; and do not tease him in various ways, that you may try his temper; nor provoke lovers’ quarrels for the foolish delight of a reconciliation.
On your behavior to your lover during your engagement, will greatly depend the estimation in which you will be held by your husband in your married life.
Many a wife has been made to feel the galling chains of matrimony, by the husband who, when a lover, was forced to acknowledge his fair fianceé’s powers of torture. And on the other hand, the lover should not strive to annoy his lady-love, in order to discover whether she possesses a large share of good humor; but he should ever hold her as the queen of his heart, the only lady to whom his attentions are due; while in society he should make her pleasure, and her amusement his first charge, although he need not keep close to her side as though held there by an invisible wire; yet he should manifest to her a desire to please in all reasonable things; and if he seeks the society of others, should first see that she is with those who are friendly and agreeable to herself. A mutual desire to please, a mutual forbearance, a mutual recognition of each other’s rights, are very needful attributes during an engagement; and it behooves young persons, thus circumstanced, to have no secrets from each other, to incline their ears to listen to no evil reports connected with a lover, or a fianceé; and to be judicious, wise, and discreet in all things. For oftentimes: —
“The gnawing envy, the heart-fretting fear,
The vain surmise, the distrustful shows,
The false reports that flying tales do bear,
The doubts, the dangers, the delays, the woes,
The feigned friends, the unassured foes,
With thousands more than any tongue can tell,
Do make a lover’s life a witch’s hell.”
The God of Love is always represented with blindfolded eyes, yet we believe that the Lord gives: —
“A precocious seeing to the eye,”
and quickens all the sympathies of both heart and soul.
And frequently, it can make a few weeks so rich, so precious, that all the rest of our lives may seem poor in comparison.
It is said that men more frequently fall in love unconsciously than women, because the latter regard all single men whom they meet as possible candidates for their hand.
This appears to us to be a base calumny.
Love-letters are ever a mixture of bitter and sweet, and frequently fail to satisfy either party.
But a profusion of curious conceits and quotations are not suited to their character, as true sentiment is usually direct and to the point; and does not stray into the by-ways of literature to gather the flowers of rhetoric.
Lady Mary Wortley Montague’s Love-Letters are considered models in their way; and they contain hardly a quotation, or a figure of speech, although she possessed a great reputation for wit and brilliancy of language. She writes like a most unaffected, natural person, while she was exceedingly artificial.
We would recommend these Letters for the perusal of all young ladies who desire to write most sensible love-letters.
To be sure, their style is now quaint, but yet much can be gathered from it.
THE ETIQUETTE OF MARRIAGE.
Marriage has its peculiar etiquette; and, as it is a religious ceremony, we will assume that it will be solemnized in church.
Assuming that the important day has been appointed, and the all-important trousseau prepared, the bride is expected to pay visits to all of her acquaintances whom she desires to retain, after her marriage.
This is done usually, in person; but in large cities a card is often made to do duty for a call, and the letters P. P. C., Pour prendre congé (to take leave), are engraved at the right-hand corner.
These visits are made from four to two weeks before the marriage-day, and also before the wedding-cards are sent out.
The wedding-cards are inscribed with the names of the lady and gentleman, one of each, and a large card also contains the name of the bride’s parents, the hour and date of the wedding ceremony at the church, and of the reception at the house. Fashion varies yearly, in the wording of these cards of invitation, and also in the style of the cards and envelopes. The parents of the bride are expected to furnish the invitations, and their daughter’s card, while the gentleman furnishes his own, and several packs of visiting- cards containing his wife’s name.
Nowadays the cards are printed in script rather than in printed letters, and two cards of invitation are sent. The one with the invitation to the ceremony at the church may read thus: —
CHURCH OF THE REDEEMER,
ST LOUIS, MISSOURI,
Tuesday evening, February nineteenth, at eight o’clock.
The invitation to the reception at the parents’ home thus: —
MR. AND MRS. JOHN. H. SMITH,
From half-past eight until twelve o’clock,
77 Washington Avenue.
Should the bride remain at her old home, a wedding-card is sent to all her acquaintances with her husband’s name and also her own; and the day of the weekly reception of wedding-calls is placed at the right hand, thus: —
MR. AND MRS. JOHN JONES.
AT HOME, THURSDAYS,
From twelve until two o’clock.
These cards are also sent to the husband’s friends at the bride’s new home, and no one, for whom a wedding-card has not been sent, is expected to call. The bride always goes to church in a carriage with her parents, or with those who stand in their place, as an elder brother or an uncle and aunt.
The bridegroom find his way to the church in company with his nearest relatives, and endeavors to precede the bride so that he can hand her from the carriage.
The bridesmaids and groomsmen come in carriages also, and all the invited guests.
The bridegroom always sends a carriage, at his expense, for the officiating clergyman and his family. He is not expected to pay for the carriage of the parents of the bride, nor for those of bridesmaids and groomsmen. The latter furnish the carriages for the ladies. When arrived at the vestibule of the church, the last bridesmaid and groomsman walk in first, the others following in the order in which they stand at the altar. The father walks next with the bride, and the groom follows with the bride’s mother upon his arm, and at the altar the father and mother step back and the bride takes the groom’s left arm.
In many cases, however, the bride and groom walk arm in arm behind the first bridesmaid and groomsman, and the former turns to the left, the latter to the right, and leave a space directly in front of the minister for the groom and bride. The near relatives of both parties follow the bride and groom closely, and form a circle around the altar, or else come into church, in advance of the bridal procession, and sit in the pews in the body of the church reserved especially for their use. This is done by tying broad white ribbon, in graceful bows, on the pew above which the friends will sit.
Ushers are always selected from the near relatives, and friends of both bride and groom, and are usually young men in society.
Their duty is to wait upon the invited guests into the church, and assign them their places.
After the guests are all present, a white ribbon about two inches in width is passed along the outer edge of the pews, on each side of the front aisle, by the ushers (there are usually three of them — but sometimes five or even more). This ribbon is to notify the guests that they are expected to remain in the pews until the wedding cortége, and their near relatives have left the church, and entered their carriages. The ushers then remove the silken barriers and inform each family, in turn, when their carriage awaits them. By this method, all crowding and confusion are avoided; and as the carriages drive up in order, their owners are ready for them without any disarray of their costumes.
The ushers are always distinguished by white favors worn upon one side of the coat lappels — usually the left side.
On returning to the house, it is their place, after the guests have laid aside their wraps, to await them at the doors of the reception rooms, and escort them to congratulate the bride and groom, and introduce those who are not acquainted with both parties.
The guests offer their congratulations in a few simple but well-chosen words. Taking care, however, not to wish the grooms many returns of the joyful occasion, as was once done by an absent-minded man to his friend.
About ten o’clock the supper is served, which should be provided with all the delicacies of the season which are within the limits of the entertainer’s means; for it is exceedingly foolish in them, to make a grand display at a daughter’s wedding, and run in debt for it, or else scrimp themselves for the rest of the year.
The wedding-cake is always a conspicuous part of the entertainment; boxes or sheets of white paper are usually provided, and slices of cake cut for the guests to take home.
Wedding or Bride’s cake is used at weddings, because of its origin in confarreation, or a token of the most firm conjection betwixt man and wife, with a cake of wheat or barley; for far (Latin), meaning bread or corn.
Dr. Moffat tells us that the “English, when the bride comes from church, were wont to cast wheat upon her head.”
And Herrick alludes to this custom, thus speaking to the bride: —
“While some repeat
Your praise, and bless you, sprinkling you with wheat.”
In some circles it is customary to send cards almost immediately after the wedding, to friends and relatives, mentioning the time and hour when the newly-marriedcouple will expect to receive visitors.
But as young people may desire to extend their tour beyond the time first mentioned, or as delays in their return may prove unavoidable, it is better to postpone sending the cards, or having them engraved, for some little time at least.
When the days for receiving company arrive, it is well to call as soon as possible, but neither before nor after the appointed hours.
Wedding-cake and wine are usually served at these receptions.
Should the husband’s occupations be such that it is impossible for him to remain at home to receive visitors, an apology must be made for him, and some intimate friend of the family take his place. If this is not practicable, some lady friends will doubtless attend, and not leave the bride alone to entertain her friends.
Wedding-calls should be returned within two or three weeks, if possible.
ORIGIN OF BETROTHAL AND WEDDING-RINGS.
The peculiar practice of wearing engagement rings, appears to have commenced with the Romans. Before the celebration of their nuptials, there was a gathering of friends at the house of the lady’s parents, to settle the articles of the marriage contract, when it was agreed that the dowry should be paid down on the wedding-day, or soon after.
On these occasions, a luxurious entertainment was given; and at its conclusion, the man placed a ring upon the fourth finger of the lady’s left hand, because it was thought that a nerve reached thence to the heart.
This ring was considered a pledge of betrothal, and a day was then named for the nuptials.
In the ancient ritual of marriage, the ring was placed by the husband on the top of the thumb of the left hand while repeating the words: “In the name of the Father;” he then removed it to the second finger, saying, “and of the Son,” then to the middle finger, adding, “and of the Holy Ghost;” and finally placed it on the fourth finger, next to the little one, with the closing word, “Amen.”
The origin of the custom of wearing the wedding-ring upon the fourth finger of the left hand, has been much disputed. The most reasonable inference, however, as it its origin, appears to be its convenience.
Macrobius, a Latin author of the fifth century, says:
“At first it was both free and usual to wear rings on either hand; but after having luxury increased, and precious gems and rich insculptures added, the custom of wearing them on the right hand was translated unto the left; for that hand being employed less, thereby they were best preserved.”
And for the same reason they wore them on the fourth finger, for the thumb is too active a finger, and is too commonly employed with either of the rest.
A chapter upon “marriage” would be utterly incomplete without alluding to the all important subject of Wedding-Gifts, which at the present time are such an all-important part of the ceremony, or etiquette of marriage. Their origin is not however of recent date, but can be traced back to the Athenians, for the practice of offering presents to those who are about entering into an agreement “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, for sickness or for health,” dates back to the period when men no longer bartered their wives for their horses; and when mutual friends offered articles that would go far, toward making the housekeeping of the newly-wedded more comfortable, than it could have otherwise been. The Grecian historians tell us that even in their day it had become an occasion for gorgeous display, and that friends vied with each other in the costly munificence and elegance of their gifts; and we read of vessels of gold and silver, precious jewels, vases, articles of ornament, ointment boxes of pure gold, magnificent wearing apparel, etc., being offered, as well as couches, tables and other household appurtenances.
And our customs do not differ essentially from theirs, for it was usual to display all these gifts upon tables at the new home; and their intrinsic value was discussed as it now is, while the costly elegance of one present served to exhibit the mean ugliness of another.
Doubtless, Aristides the Just lamented the degeneracy of his age, and would have counselled better things; but Grecian human nature did not materially differ from that of the nineteenth century.
Thirty or forty years ago, however, one heard comparatively little concerning wedding-presents, and the Books of Etiquette of that day scarcely allude to them, and there was no parade in the newspapers about them, as Jenkinses were not then born; and one’s dear five hundred friends were not obliged to present a handsome piece of silver, or a costly jewel-case, upon the occasion of a friend’s marriage. Fond friends would gladly offer some little memento which would serve as a pleasant reminder of the past; while youthful companions would rejoice to present the bride, with specimens of their own handiwork, which would adorn her parlor, sitting-room, or chamber.
Now, such trifling gifts are hardly considered respectable by fashionable people; yet we are sure that there are still those in our midst who treasure up an embroidered sofa-cushion, toilette set, or tidy, the work of loved hands, with quite as much delight as the costly silver urn or salver. We should appreciate the sentiment which enshrines the gift, and makes it costly, rather than its value in mere dollars and cents.
As long as wedding-gifts are the spontaneous offering of the heart they are to be highly praised; but when it is considered a great bore to be, as it were, forced to offer them; when the expense of silver, pictures, jewelry, etc., can be ill-afforded, then they are only a nuisance; and we gladly hail the new fashion, which is rapidly gaining ground among the aristocratic circles of society in the United States.
The words “No presents received” are engraved upon the cards of invitation; and those who receive them are therefore relieved from the necessity of presenting them. This new fashion will, undoubtedly, find many followers, and ere long only those will offer wedding-gifts to bride and groom, who are bound to them by ties of relationship, or the warm sentiment of affection; while mere acquaintances will content themselves with sending flowers, which are always sweet, and lovely, and acceptable.
There really is no sense in young people expecting that their friends should furnish their house for them, with various luxurious appurtenances; that they should brighten their table with silver and glass; hang pictures upon their walls; place bronzes upon their mantlepieces; or fill their book-cases, and portfolios with costly books, and engravings.
And these expectations have attained to such a height in our day, that they have set decency at naught; and friends have been told what articles they were expected to present. Doubtless, there is much pleasure given, both to the expectant bride, and her family, by the reception of the wedding-gifts; and their arrival produces a great excitement, from the parlor to the kitchen; and all the intimate friends participate in the enjoyment of receiving and unpacking the boxes. But let us ask: —
“Is it a healthy excitement, and are all the feelings it creates sensible, and profitable?”
Our young friends must also remember that a day of reckoning is in the future, when some, at least, of these rich and expensive gifts must be returned in a similar form.
It is undeniably, very charming to receive a costly set of jewels from the first groomsman, but in a few months he will marry, and then a present equally elegant must be procured.
Many a husband has been forced to deeply regret the reception of the very wedding-gifts he had deemed so very delightful to receive; and in his secret heart has bitterly condemned the custom.
And truth to tell, the practice of giving wedding-presents has become an imposition; because not to give them implies meanness or poverty, and few of us are willing to subject ourselves to such implications.
HUSBANDS. — WIVES. — BACHELORS. — OLD MAIDS.
“To all married men be this caution,
Which they should duly tender as their life,
Neither to doat too much, nor doubt a wife.”
WHEN a young man has assumed the character and position of a husband, it is well understood that his previous connections are dissolved; if he should wish to retain his former associates, he must send them his card, and that of his wife, with the hour, and time of their reception days engraved upon it; and if he omits to do this, it would be very intrusive in them to call, unless the words, “No cards,” are appended to the notice of his marriage in the newspapers.
And no persons have any reason to be highly offended by being thus passed over; because the newly-wedded couple have incurred additional responsibilities; and motives of economy alone may force them to curtail the number of their acquaintances.
And many young men who have, after marriage retained all their bachelor friends, have found too late that they have burdened themselves, with an extensive and ill-sorted society; and have often had reason to rue, all their lives, their own need of foresight, and firmness, at the right time.
There is an ancient proverb which runs thus:
“Life may be compared to a trumpet, small at one end and large at another.
“Those who enter at the large end find their mistake when too late, and the further they advance the more they must compress themselves, until they are forced to squeeze out at the narrow opening; while, on the contrary, those who go in at the small end find their way grow wider as they journey on; and, lastly, emerge into the light of day with perfect ease and satisfaction.”
A married man holds a very different station in society from a single man; and it is his duty to render his home, as attractive and pleasant, as is possible for it to be; not only to his wife, but to all of her relations and visitors.
If a dispute upon some subject arises, trifling no doubt, and the wife does not possess sufficient good sense to yield her opinion, and exhibits a determination to have her own way, and that, tenaciously, do not grow angry in your turn, but either waive the subject, or keep silent, and thus let the discussion die out.
Doubtless an opportunity may soon occur when you can return to the matter, if desirable, and speak kindly, yet decidedly, upon it. Then the wife, if she is worthy of your choice, will express her sorrow at the unseemliness of her demeanor; and you will never have cause to regret that you mastered your own temper, and by so doing avoided a quarrel. It is well to remember the old maxim that “a quarrel can never walk upon one leg, without a crutch.”
If you will endeavor to study your wife’s happiness, without yielding to her caprices, you will not be likely to gain the reputation of quarrelsomeness.
Much perplexity, and even annoyance, in the marriage state, arises from a want of candor.
Men conceal their business affairs, and then expect their wives to conduct the household arrangements with great economy, without assigning any reason why such should be the case.
The husband should at the commencement of his married life tell his wife, as nearly as possible, the expected amount of his income; and together they should plan for its disbursement, in the most satisfactory manner to both.
A certain sum should be set aside for home expenses; rent, fuel, taxes, insurance, and all the minor details should be specified. The husband may take so much for his personal expenses, and allow the wife a similar sum; also, setting aside a fund for contingent expenses.
When the items are all arranged with an eye to exactness (and accuracy is a cardinal virtue), the sum should be divided into monthly or weekly portions, and given regularly into the wife’s hands; and the husband should not interfere with her department unless asked to do so.
The internal movements of the house belong entirely to the wife, and no good ever resulted from unnecessary interference.
Let a man keep to his own province, and assist his wife to do the same, and the wheels of the household will move in harmony without any jarring or rumbling.
To be sure, there are wives in this country, who are very young and inexperienced; and who, knowing little of domestic concerns, are most sadly to be pitied when they assume the rôle of housekeeper. But you must try to be kind, and patient, and no become pettish, or ill-humored at their mistakes; and soon they will learn to perform their new duties, which alacrity and forethought, and perhaps even excel older, and wiser housekeepers in the details of their appointments.
If a man has married a decided simpleton, or a spendthrift, he must make the best of his position; but if a woman of common discernment is thrown upon her own resources, and given the purse, as well as the charge of household affairs, she rarely fails to develop good executive powers. The root of evil is, in the failure on the part of husbands to trust them, rather than upon the part of the wives to execute their trust.
Much sorrow and heartache would be avoided if men would conduct themselves judiciously in the commencement of these new duties; and repose all confidence in those, to whom they have entrusted their happiness; and they should not either suspect, or accuse them of a desire to waste their income.
And when a disposition to do right, and an endeavor to please is exhibited, do express your approbation; be pleased even with trifles, and commend your wife’s efforts to perform her duties well. Avoid seeing small mistakes, or at least the mention of them; and nothing can be more unreasonable nor unkind than, to add to the embarrassments of her new position, by ridiculing her deficiencies and shortcomings.
And praise her! praise your wife, man! For just in proportion as you render her happy do you increase your own happiness. Your feelings towards her many be kind and good enough, but unless you give them expression, how can she judge of them?
You may reply that your acts show them, but words are also needed to fill her heart with sunshine, and happiness.
So praise her; but do it in a delicate way, and let her not be forced to believe, that there are many other men more refined in heart that her husband.
Show her by your words, and your demeanor that you fully appreciate her excellencies, and her attempts to make the home pleasant.
And if you will always give her due meed of praise, respect her rights, and regard her feelings; and give her the attentions she ought to receive from you, which you covenanted and vowed to give her, at the altar, in the sight of God, doubt not that your children will always render her loving obedience, and be ready to anticipate her wishes. Do not let your attentions to her cease with the “honeymoon,” but retain its sweet flavor “until death do us part.” The word “honeymoon” is traceable to a Teutonic origin. Among the Teutons metheglin was a favorite beverage; and this honeyed drink was especially used at the marriage festivals, which were continued, among the nobility for one lunar month. Thus “Honah Moon” signified the moon or moonath of the marriage festival. Alaric the Goth is said to have died upon his wedding night, from a too free indulgence in this honeyed drink. But wives have rarely been brought to the grave by an overdose of praise, or kindness mingled with the daily food of their existence. Do not be continually extolling the housekeeping of our mother, or your sisters; many a wife has been alienated from her husband’s family by this, exceedingly, injudicious course; and many kind and warm hearts have been deeply wounded by the practice.
A woman of common sense, and politeness will always desire to pay especial attention to her husband’s family; and he should also be always ready to receive her relations cordially and show them every attention in his power.
Custom entitles you to be considered the “lord and master” over your home. But don’t assume the master and forget the lord. And bear in mind that forbearance, kindness, generosity, and integrity belong to the lordly attributes of man.
Therefore, endeavor as a husband, to exhibit the true nobility of man; and try to govern your household by practice rather than theory.
An overruling spirit, a fault-finding petulance, an impatience at trifling delays, and the exhibition of an ill-temper at the least provocation, can add no laurel to your own “lordly” brow; impart no happiness to your home; and exact no respect from either your subordinates or equals.
It is one thing to be a master, and quite another thing to be a man. Every husband should consider his wife as the sun of his domestic circle, and endeavor to permit no clouds, however minute, to obscure the region in which she presides.
Women, as a general rule, are complying, gentle, kind and amiable; and if a wife becomes perverse, cross, and indifferent to the comforts of her home, it is usually the fault of the husband; he has trifled with her happiness, has ridiculed or scorned her efforts to please; and she has, unwisely, returned his behavior in kind, and has aided in producing the bitterness which saddens their existence. Then the fault is mutual. And —
“He’s a fool who thinks by force, or skill,
To turn the current of a woman’s will.”
She has left the home of her childhood, the watchful care and tender companionship of her parents and family, has yielded up all for you, and it is your duty to do all in your power to make her happy, and to strengthen that union of thought, and feeling upon which your temporal happiness chiefly depends; and to fully comprehend, that in the solemn relationship of HUSBAND is to be found the best guarantee for your honor and welfare.
Consult your wife also in your business affairs. A woman’s intuitions often exceed a man’s reasoning powers, and enable her to come to conclusions which, if followed, will often lead the way to fortune.
One of the richest merchants of New York acknowledges the advantages he has received from consulting his wife in all his operations, and taking her advice; and most business men will find, in their own homes, a powerful aid to their success in life.
It is common saying with some men when they desire to escape a bad bargain, that they must consult their wives; and we do believe that fewer bad bargains would be made were husbands more generally to follow this practice.
We know of ministers who always read their sermons to their wives for their approval, or to receive suggestions and alterations; and there are many political and literary editors, also authors, who rely upon their wives’ advice and judgment concerning their articles or books. And most of us have heard of the story related of Dean Swift, who, having no other persons to whom he could read his MSS., was in the habit of calling in his woman-servant, and carefully watching her face as he read them to her.
Sir Samuel Romily says: —
“There is nothing by which I have through life more profited than by the just observation, the good opinion, and sincere, and gentle encouragement of amiable, and sensible women.”
And when men will exercise as much caution, and discretion, and good judgment in selecting their wives, as in choosing a business partner, or even a horse, marriage will become a different state; and society in general be much improved.
“The man who has a wife and children has given hostages to fortune.” He has then some objects to toil for besides himself, and has a motive to sweeten and dignify labor; for every man needs kindness, sympathy, and the endearing tenderness of loving ones to constitute a home.
To make home happy is one of the chief offices of women; and it is the centre of all that is sweet in the sympathies, and dear in the affections of the soul, for there all should be sincere, cordial, and candid.
The faults and failings of fallen humanity should be covered by the mantle of charity; and the sentiment of the whole family should be, “With all they faults I love thee still.”
“And oh, if those who cluster round
The altar and the hearth,
Have gentle words and loving smiles,
How beautiful is earth!”
A sensible wife will strive to render her home as attractive as possible; for the power of association is very great, and light, air and elegance are quite important in their effects.
What matters it where the table or sofa stand? or where that picture is hung, or how the bijouterie are displayed?
Learn to gracefully give up a favorite opinion, and yield to the obstinate will of another; and you will not be the loser either in this life, or in the future. The largest river finds its source in a tiny stream; and the bitterest domestic misery has sometimes arisen from some little, trifling difference of opinion; and remember that the old proverb says:
“A pleasant, cheerful wife is as a rainbow, set in the sky, when her husband’s mind is beset with storms and tempests; but a dissatisfied and fretful wife, in the hour of trouble, is like one of those fiends who are appointed to torture the lost spirits.”
And don’t think that when you have obtained a husband your attention to personal neatness, and deportment should be relaxed. Now, in truth, is the important time for you to exhibit superior taste, and excellence in the cultivation of your address, and the becoming elegance of your appearance.
If it required some care to retain the admiration of your lover, be sure that much more is desired to keep yourself lovely in the eyes of your husband.
Don’t prove the truth of the trite proverb that “Familiarity breeds contempt.” If it were due to your lover to always maintain a neat and ladylike aspect, how much more is he entitled to a similar mark of respect who has linked all his hopes of future happiness with yours?
And if you can manage these matters without the appearance of studying them, so much the more attractive will you become.
For there are husbands who grow impatient of the daily routine of the toilette, especially, if the wife is very slow and dilatory about it; and it is better to be ready dressed to meet them, when they return to dinner or supper, and all prepared to give them a smiling and cordial welcome. A husband dislikes to return to his home after a hard day’s work, and find his wife en dishabille, and the house in confusion.
So make yourself sweet, and lovely; and your surroundings the same; and let him find the household ready to receive him; and dinner or supper promptly, and toothsomely prepared. It has been said that the surest way to a man’s heart was through the diaphragm; and we must agree with Peter Pindar that: —
“The turnpike road to people’s hearts I find
Lies through their mouths, or I mistake mankind.”
And we remember hearing a husband say, that he could gauge his wife’s temper by the quality of her cooking; good temper even influenced the seasoning of her soup, and the lightness, and delicacy of her pastry; while ill-temper dashed in the pepper in a cloud, and the salt in lumps; and there was nothing fit to eat while it lasted.
A sweet temper carries its password in the face — a sweet and cheerful countenance; and such a disposition is like a jar of honey, which turns all that drops into it to candied sugar, and honeyed sweetness.
It is the high ambition of most women to become wives; and they count not the cost as to whether it will end in weal or woe; but they venture themselves, and their future “for better or worse.”
There may be breakers ahead, and there may be hidden rocks upon which their lives will be stranded; or there may be smooth water, and a fair harbor, into which they will come in perfect happiness.
Strife is a hidden rock, and a good pilot will endeavor to steer clear of it; and wives will avoid discussions, and all unseemliness of speech, and exclaim, with Mrs. Mildmay, in “Still waters run deep” — “Discussions fly right to my head!”
Although they need not imitate her love of command, and great dislike to be contradicted or thwarted. The desire to have the last word is also a most dangerous obstacle to domestic peace. “Husband and wife should no more strive for its possession than they would for a lighted bomb-shell. Married people must study each other’s weak points, as skaters look out for thin ice, and learn to avoid them; and should always remember that the union of angels with women has been forbidden since the Flood.”
Don’t trust too much to your good-temper when you get into an argument, but let it drop; one cannot argue alone! So learn to keep silence even when you know that your husband is wrong; and if he is a man of decent common-sense, he will recognize your discretion and wisdom.
Gentleness and sweetness of manner steal over the spirit like the music of David’s harp over the passion of Saul. They soften and subdue the inner man, and manifest themselves in a thousand nameless forms. They are a crown of glory on the head of youth or age.
“Cheerfully to bear the cross in patient strength is duty.”
“And the stoutest armor of defence is that which is worn within the breast; and the weapon which no enemy can parry is a bold and cheerful spirit.”
Women are a blessing to every circle in which they move, if they will but cultivate a cheerful, happy, blithesome disposition.
Domestic troubles will arise, and domestic storms may sweep over the home, but the cheerful wife will possess the power to rise above them all; and a quiet, meek, submissive spirit, will bring her to a safe harbor.
A good temper can be cultivated, although it is a hard task to do so; yet a strong will can curb the fiery passion which surges through the heart; and can keep in hand the prancing, racing, leaping coursers of anger and fury.
There are wives, doubtless, who possess peppered tempers, spiced with cayenne; are fiery furnaces, and when fuel is given to them they wax hotter and hotter, until the fire scorches, and burns with fury. But there are no more fiery-tempered wives than there are husbands, and a good-tempered husband can control a fiery-tempered wife with ease. Being let alone, left to oneself until the fire is reduced to ashy paleness, is the best remedy for this disease, when it shows itself in either sex. A good wife, however, is wisdom, courage, strength, and endurance to a man; while a bad one is confusion, discomfiture, weakness, and despair.
If by chance you marry a man of a hasty temper, you will need great wisdom and discretion to guide you aright, and give you strength to rule your own spirit.
But if you can learn to possess complete command over your own temper, you will be able to decrease the strength of your husband’s temper. Govern yourself, and then you will learn how to govern others. Let your conduct be refined, honorable, and free from duplicity; and beware of intrusting to persons outside of your home, the small annoyances and misunderstandings between yourself and your husband.
Confidants are dangerous persons, in every home circle, and many a happy home has been rendered desolate by their agencies.
In all money matters act openly, and honorably. Keep your household accounts with the greatest exactness, and let your husband see that you take a decided pride and pleasure in judiciously expending the money he intrusts to your care. Be careful not to expend more than is really needful, however, upon your own wardrobe, unless your husband’s resources are such that he gives you a large allowance for that purpose; and even then it is desirable to save from it, to give to those whom the Saviour said —
“Ye have always with you.”
Be content with such things as you can honorably afford, and such as your husband approves of, and never endeavor to deceive him in thought, word, or deed.
Avoid all bickerings upon trifles, and endeavor to “keep yourself void of offence towards God and man.”
One great source of wretchedness between married people is their foolish jealousy of each other’s liberty. They cannot brook the least idea of independence of thought or action, and each in turn becomes a jailer or state-prisoner.
Then the happiness of life is squandered in altercations about the merest trifles. One of the quaint old English poets thus remarks upon a wife’s worth, and we hope our young lady readers will try to sit for the portrait:
“Oh, what a treasure is a virtuous wife,
Discreet and loving! Not one gift on earth
Makes a man’s life so nighly bound to Heaven.
She gives him double forces to endure,
And to enjoy, by being one with him,
Feeling his joys and griefs with equal sense.
Gold is right precious, but its price affects
With pride and avarice.
But a true wife both sense and soul delights,
And mixeth not her good with any ill.
Her virtues, ruling hearts, all powers command;
All store without her leaves a man but poor,
And with her, poverty is exceeding store;
No time is tedious with her, her true worth
Makes a true husband think his arms enfold,
(With her alone,) a complete world of gold.”
It has been well said that a bachelor suffers from nothing so much as the want of good advice, or from not acting upon it when given.
He needs, more than anything else, some considerate friend with discretion enough to advise him to marry; and with influence enough to induce him to comply with it; and thus learn that a man’s happiness is never so secure as when it is judiciously intrusted to a wife’s keeping.
Men and women were especially created for each other; and no man possesses the right to defeat the intentions of nature; or to indulge his own caprice at the expense of another’s happiness; or to live unloved, and die unlamented.
And this idea was put into practice in ancient times; for the Roman censors imposed fines on unmarried men, and men of full age were forced to marry. In Sparta, the women, on certain feast days, laid hold of the old bachelors, and dragged them round their altars, and inflicted upon them various marks of infamy and disgrace. In England, in 1695, a tax was laid upon all bachelors over twenty-five years of age; and even as late as 1785 they were subjected to a double tax for both their men and women servants.
Thus they were made to feel in some degree the obloquy of their position in society.
And if we of these later days would but impose some social tax upon them, it would not be to their injury.
Surely an old bachelor is a fellow who cuts himself off from a great blessing, for fear of a trifling annoyance; and he rivals the wiseacre who secured himself against corns by having his legs amputated.
In his selfish anxiety to live unencumbered, he only subjects himself to a heavier burden; for the passions that apportion to each person the load he is to bear through life, generally say to the calculating bachelor — “As you are a single man, you can carry the heaviest one.”
And although he is ever ready to boast of his liberty, doubtless he often sighs for the very slavery he condemns; and becomes the victim of selfishness, punished for his folly on the solitary system; and is like a desolate island in the sea of self.
Washington Irving, although he lived a bachelor’s life from his constancy to the lady of his early love, who died in her youthful loveliness, says: — “I have observed that a married man falling into misfortune is more apt to retrieve his situation in the world than a single one; partly, because he is more stimulated to exertion by the necessities of those who depend upon him for subsistence, but chiefly, because his spirits are soothed and refreshed by domestic endearments, and his self-respect kept alive by finding, that although all abroad is darkness and trouble, yet there is still a little world of which he is the monarch. Whereas, a single man is apt to run to waste and self-neglect; to fancy himself lonely and abandoned; and his heart to fall to ruin, like some deserted mansion for want of inhabitants.”
We might employ the milder term of “maiden ladies,” but we wish to take up the cudgels in behalf of a race who have long been stigmatized under this name.
Now old implies years, and years imply wisdom, and neither one nor the other are to be contemned; and we never could conceive why this term should be given to unmarried women.
Words are but signs of ideas, however, and if we conjure up by the phrase “old maid,” a vinegar-faced, shrivelled atom of humanity —
“Who looks like a prude, and thinks everything rude,
And would even the sparrows from mating exclude;
She finds so much to vex in the opposite sex,
That e’en a male’s shadow her heart will perplex;
And make her declare with a dignified air,
That man is as surly, and rough as a bear –“
it will undoubtedly appear very odious and disagreeable.
But to us very different associations cluster about it, and the name seems almost sacred; for it brings to our mind an image of patient endurance, and a continuance in well-doing — a picture of the kind maiden aunt who is ever ready to assist in the care of sick children, or adults in a sister’s or brother’s family — ever constant in good deeds, and ever present when there is work for her kindly hands to do. Now caring for the sick; now compounding some dainty delicacy for the failing appetite; and now ready with needle, thread, and thimble, to assist in preparing the spring, and winter wardrobes. In short, always ready to offer her services when they are required; and always a gentle, pleading, loving associate, and friend.
If the histories of many maiden ladies could be written, we should read of wonderful instances of woman’s heroism, self-sacrifice, and devotion.
In most cases their celibacy is not to be attributed to a dearth of personal and mental attractions, nor of want of love; but for the need of love from the right person, and love such as was worthy of their acceptance; and rather than be bound for life to those who were not entirely sympathetic and congenial, they had the fortitude to bear the undefinable stigma which society, often most unkindly, thrusts upon them.
The wise man tells us that —
“He that ruleth his spirit is greater than he that taketh a city.”
Truly, she that beareth this stigma, and ruleth her heart is greater than she that taketh a husband not wisely.
And who can estimate the unuttered agonies, and the protracted heart-sicknesses, from which they may have come forth conquerors of self?
The Apostle tells us that —
“The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in mind and in spirit.”
But nowhere in the Bible do we read such praise concerning bachelors.
We trust our readers will excuse this little episode from the true purpose of our book, and feel assured that they will do so, if they have been blessed with an Aunt Elsie, Aunt Amelia, Aunt Delia, or Aunt Caroline, who ministered to them in their hours of childish sickness, and was ever ready to listen to their griefs, wipe away their tears, and share their joys.
Writing upon “Husbands and Wives” brought to our mind the lonely “Old Bachelors” and the ministering “Old Maids” of our acquaintance, and so the spirit moved us to write concerning their merits and demerits.
And when we read Miss Edgeworth’s, Miss Martineau’s, Hannah Moore’s, Joanna Baillie’s, Miss Ingelow’s, and Miss Nightingale’s works, not to mention those of Miss Beecher, Miss Abigail Dodge, Miss Phelps, and Miss Brittain, of our own land, we cannot but think that had they been married the world might have been a decided loser, for we are all indebted to them for many wise and pleasant thoughts, and the agreeable occupation of many leisure hours. And therefore we say, that we not only esteem, but venerate the term “Old Maid,” and all of its sisterhood.
POLITENESS AND PLEASING MANNERS IN CHILDREN AND YOUNG PERSONS. — PROPER INFLUENCES. — CITY AND COUNTRY MANNERS. — MANNERS OF YOUNG LADIES ABROAD OR AT WATERING PLACES. — THE NEED OF PATIENCE.
“Be affable and courteous is youth, that you may be honored in age. Roses that lose their colors, keep their savors; and plucked from the stalk, are put to the still. Cotones, because it boweth when the sun riseth, is sweetest when it is oldest; and children, who in their tender years sow courtesy, shall in their declining states, reap love.”
NOTHING can justify the want of respect so prevalent in our midst, in the manners of children to parents; of the young to the aged; and of pupils to teachers; and there is nothing in the whole circle of domestic relations so pure, so honorable, and so lovely, as an affectionate, and confidential intercourse between parents and children.
And the best kind of good manners are those which are obtained by early training. As soon as a child can walk and speak, this species of education should commence; and when they are taught to say “Yes, ma’am” and “No ma’am,” “Yes Sir” and “No Sir,” as soon as their lisping tongues can form the words, they will always be sure to possess a respectful address; and if they are also taught all the niceties of good-breeding at the commencement of their lives, they will become, as it were, of a second nature to them; and need not be put on with their fine clothes upon state occasions.
“Company manners” are unknown to such children; and it is this early training which produces the charm of manner peculiar to high-bred persons; but the absolute perfection of manner is to be seen, only when the nature is as noble as the breeding; and politeness has been inculcated from the earliest commencement of life. Many children as they grow up to manhood, and womanhood are forced to learn the rules of politeness as they would a lesson; and consequently they cannot appear at ease in society, but are always awkward, and blundering.
Those, on the contrary, who have been accustomed to politeness and good-breeding at home, are at their ease in the most polished circles; and do not suffer from the confusion, and embarrassment which are almost sure to follow any lapse of the rules of etiquette.
There are some things which well-behaved children will never do, and we will ennumerate them: —
They will never go to the table with soiled faces, and hands, and unkempt locks, or muddy shoes, or clothes that require brushing or mending.
They will not eat with their knives; or leave the table without saying to their parents, “Please excuse me.”
Will never enter a private room, or the room of a guest, without knocking, or any room without removing their hat or cap.
Will never interrupt persons when they are talking; or overlook any one when reading or writing; or talk, or read aloud while others are reading.
Will always offer their own chair, or a seat, to a person who enters the room; and never keep a seat when an older person is standing.
Will never push themselves forward in a crowd, and jostle against ladies.
Never sit with their feet higher than their heads; nor elevate them upon tables, chairs, or cushions.
Never indulge in the use of slang phrases; or think it manly to be rough, rude, or unkind to their sisters.
There are boys who would jump quickly from the easiest chair in the room, to offer it to some young lady of their acquaintance; but will keep it for hours in the presence of an elder sister, or even, perhaps, a mother or aunt.
There is great need of politeness between brothers and sisters; and its lack I s the cause of much ill-feeling and quarrelsomeness in the family circle.
They will never throw their hat, coat, or boots about the room; have a place for everything, and everything in its place.
Will never tell a falsehood, or take what is not their own — always respecting the laws of meum and tuum.
Never ridicule or mock any deformity in their young companions, or laugh at their patched clothing, or their poverty; for such breaches of politeness are real sins in the sight of the Lord.
Sarcasm and ridicule are often made to pass current for wit, but they are a spurious coin whose false ring soon betrays its alloy; and arrows that are tipped with such metal, often return to the marksman, and fester in his own flesh.
An early turn for sarcastic retort should be nipped in the bud; for it will not endow its possessor with the gift of pleasing, or of keeping friends; and it often becomes only a well-spring of bitterness and dissension.
They will never refuse to do anything that is asked, or hesitate, and contest the point, making the service an unwilling one, and therefore not acceptable or pleasant to the receiver.
For willing service, rendered without hesitation, is always delightsome and agreeable, to both old and young.
They will never pick their teeth, or clean their fingernails, or blow their noses loudly, or spit, hawk, yawn, or do any other disgusting act, in the presence of others, or anywhere but in the privacy of their own apartments.
Will always say, “Excuse me, I did not mean to,” if they have injured any one, or broken any article. Also when receiving any favor will say, “Thank you,” or declining it, “No, thank you.”
Will always bid every one a kind “Good-night,” and meet everyone with a cheerful “Good-morning,” and endeavor under all circumstances to behave in a polite, gentlemanly, or lady-like manner.
And will also be sure never to neglect their lessons; because it is considered a disgrace in these days for boys and girls not to know how to read, write, and spell correctly, and to be conversant with arithmetic, history, etc., and to be able to tell about the wonders of the ocean and the land; and in short, to be well-read upon all subjects connected with the world in which they live.
And there are also four good habits which a wise and good man earnestly recommended to the young, and they are — punctuality, accuracy, steadiness, and dispatch. For without the first, you will surely waste not only your own time but that of others; without the second, you will make mistakes which will be injurious to your own credit and interest, and that of others committed to your charge; without the third, you cannot perform anything correctly; and without the fourth, you will lose many opportunities for advancement which can never be regained.
Children must be taught to resist silly fears, and to be strong in times of danger; and to feel that those of either sex should never be a coward. There is considerable affectation in the ill-founded fears of girls; and it should be carefully repressed, and not increased by tender and loving mammas.
The wise Vicar of Wakefield, in Goldsmith’s inimitable story, says: —
“After we had saluted each other with proper ceremony — for I always thought fit to keep up some mechanical forms of good-breeding — without which, freedom ever destroys friendship — we all bent in gratitude to that Being who gave us another day.”
And we wish that this example could be followed in every family; for it is not conducive of happiness to omit the courtesies of society, even in the most trivial affairs; and who can hope to receive blessings from the Most High, when His protection is unsought, and the voice of Thanksgiving is never heard in their houses?
If we desire to make our children good, and respectable members of society, we must see that their associates are among those who are good, refined, and intelligent.
If a mother allows her children to associate chiefly, with those of low origin and manners, she cannot think that they will not be influenced by them.
Many a boy has been ruined, for both here and hereafter, from being allowed to associate with the vulgar, unrefined, and vicious men employed about his father’s premises or warehouses.
Before his parents are aware of the fact, he has learned all that is vile and degrading in life. Can sear, smoke, chew, and often even drink with the lowest of a low class; and has learned to pollute his manhood, and degrade, and prostitute his native talents. In a word, he has become a rowdy, to the heart’s core, while his doating parents are utterly oblivious of the surroundings in which he wallows like a beast.
Now who is the most to blame for this condition of affairs?
Surely, the parents. A pure soul was intrusted to their care to train it for its fitting work on earth, and for a nobler work above; but they have proved recreant to their trust; have forgotten their holy duties; or have sacrificed their son upon the altar of the desire for riches, or the pursuits of fashion. At any rate, at their door lies the sin. What has caused such a terrible epidemic of crime in our midst of late? What? but the neglect of parents to train and nurture their children in the fear of the Lord! They have left them to hirelings; have permitted them to soil their souls and bodies; to make them like whitewashed sepulchres where are naught but dead men’s bones. They are rotten to the core, false, deceitful, treacherous; and when occasion offers, the pistol or the bowie knife does its deadly work upon friend or foe alike. There is indeed a strong need of reform in the home circle; of the introduction of a new regime of love, politeness, and good-breeding. Surely, if we cannot induce parents as well as children to attempt this work of reformation, this fair land of ours is in danger of becoming a howling wilderness.
We must keep our girls from contact with all that is coarse and debasing; must teach them to behave properly at home and abroad; and not to sit and lounge about or stand in ungainly attitudes; and read books which serve only to inflame the passions, and not to improve either mind or manners.
We must not leave them to the lowering influences of either French, Milesian or African servants, but keep them with ourselves; and attend personally, to both their manners and morals.
City girls will frequently sneer at the uncouth manners of country girls; and yet at heart, perhaps, the latter may possess the most innate refinement and delicacy.
Rub off the bloom of the grape, or the blush of the peach, and there is nothing in art which can replace it. So if you deprive a girl of the inborn modesty and grace of her nature, all the refinements of art will fail to restore them.
CITY AND COUNTRY MANNERS.
Country manners are a fruitful source of ridicule among the denizens of the city. Yet if they would compare the manners they incline to ridicule, with those of the same caste in the city, the country would most probably come off with flying color.
“The Brahminical caste,” as Dr. O. W. Holmes defines it, is easily recognized in our country; and a similar grade of city and country manners will not be found to differ so materially.
The “rural districts,” are proverbial for cases of rudeness and ill-breeding to be sure; but “city girls,” when they come to the country, are not always introduced into the best society to be found there, unless they are guests at the hospitable homes of field and forest, rather than boarders at hotels, etc.; and it is often remarked that young ladies, who, perhaps, will behave with the strictest propriety in the city, will do things in the country at which they ought to blush deeply.
And although they have been taught to cultivate the elegancies of society at home, when abroad they will commit many acts of rudeness and impoliteness of which a country girl, educated as well as they have been, could not possibly be guilty.
They will say, “Oh! we’re in the country, there is nobody here to care for; who minds what these rustics say?” and then deport themselves, in the streets, in a most rude and unseemly manner. Will go into the streets bareheaded, and talk and laugh loudly; seemingly desirous of attracting all the attention of the aforesaid “rustics” whom whey profess to despise. And they apparently, have no other object for the summer months, than to eat, sleep, and dress; and to go to the railway stations to exhibit their charms to the travelling public in general. Such exhibitions of city manners are not inclined to teach “country folks” to respect its etiquette; but rather make them wonder if the days of politeness and good-breeding, are utterly of the past. “Country greeny” and “city cockney” are terms that are frequently bandied about; and one set will usually exhibit quite as much knowledge of good-breeding as the other.
While educated, refined, well-bred young ladies and gentlemen, whether of country or city rearing, will find that they have many tastes in common, and that their ideas of society and its demands are not at variance; and either at home or abroad, will show to the looker-on that they are what they seem to be — courteous, kindly, and polite to all.
MANNERS OF YOUNG LADIES ABROAD, OR AT WATERING-PLACES.
As a nation, we have always been accused of a lack of good manners; and we are forced to acknowledge the accusation is true, in a great degree; and also to admit that our young ladies, in politeness to each other, are, as a general rule, far more deficient than young gentlemen.
It may be on account of their being so much more accustomed to receive than to give ordinary courtesies, that they neglect to be decently civil to those they meet while travelling abroad, or sojourning at various places of summer resort, unless they are perfectly aware of their high position in society, or of the wealth of their papas.
And no one who has travelled from the Atlantic shore to the Pacific slope; or who has sojourned where ladies most do congregate, viz., at summer hotels, can deny this statement.
The strict etiquette of society and the restraints of conventional life should be set aside when summering at hotels, etc., so far as to allow ladies to form chance acquaintanceship with each other. To be sure, they need not be under the necessity of continuing them when at home, unless it should be their pleasure to do so. But when ladies are thrown together in this manner, it surely savors of impoliteness, and an insular reserve, which is anything but agreeable, if they hold themselves aloof from others, excepting those of their own peculiar set.
An innate kindness of heart, and true delicacy of sentiment would prompt a lady who possessed numerous acquaintances at a hotel, to speak to those who had none; and yet, how often we see at Saratoga, Newport, Cape May, and the White Mountains, sets of ladies and gentlemen who keep themselves entirely secluded from the company of other visitors. They eat at the same table, sail in the same boats, drive in the same carriages, and dance in the same quadrilles, yet make no acquaintances among the ladies, unless there are those present whose claims upon society transcend their own; but gathering into their nucleus all the promising young men who enter their names upon the register of the hotel. The exclusiveness of these “sets” does not add to the general pleasure of any watering-place; and frequently, when they consider themselves “the cynosure of neighboring eyes” they are only the target for ridicule, scorn, and caricature.
“I have determined,” said a lady, “when I am at a watering-place, to speak to every respectable looking lady who comes there. I have never felt so lonely, so depressed, and so unhappy, as when first staying for days at _____ for my health, without being spoken to by one lady in the house. Now, it is my usual summer resort, and I look at the register every day, and if I see the name of some woman or women without gentlemen escort, I always make the first advances towards an acquaintance; for I know there is no solitude like being alone in a crowd.”
Any pleasant remark upon the surroundings will serve to commence a conversation; and often you will discover, that while seeming to be kindly courteous to others, you have procured for yourself very warm friends or desirable acquaintances.
Let us all endeavor to be courteous to our own sex in little trifles; and strive to offer them service, if it is in our power to do so.
Do not stare at strange faces, and make either audible or inaudible remarks about ladies who seem to be alone, and suffering from timidity, or a lack of ease in society; and instead of spreading out your dresses to exclude strangers from a seat, as we have seen so-called ladies (save the mark) deport themselves, let us offer the seat cheerfully, and gracefully, and commence a conversation with the new-comer. Young ladies should always remember that their demeanor in public places gives the stamp of their level in society; and take care not to stare at young men or women — or to talk and laugh loudly in the street or rail cars, upon the piazzas, or in the parlors of hotels to attract the attention of others.
It is allowable for young ladies to wear hats at a public table, but it does not seem comme il faut for them to walk bareheaded in the streets. And neither does it add to their charms, in young men’s eyes, to have them treat their mammas with disrespect, and, perhaps, say: “Don’t mind mamma; oh dear! she knows nothing about our society.”
Deference to parents is a very becoming grace, and also a most desirable virtue; and no young lady can be clad in a more beautiful and attractive garment.
THE NEED OF PATIENCE IN ALL THINGS.
Parents and teachers of the young have need of great patience.
Line upon line and precept upon precept are needful to form the young, wayward minds, and mould the hearts of children and young persons.
We are told that “the heart is deceitful above all things,” but we can read the hearts of our children, if we but strive to do so, patiently and continuously. “Truly, we have need of patience,” which is so important in every phase of life. Hillel, the wise Rabbi of ancient times, had been talking to his disciples upon the virtue of patience.
Then said they: “Master give us now, as thou art wont, an image, and similitude whereunto we may compare it.”
Hillel answered: “I will liken it unto the most costly treasure which this earth begets within her bosom — the precious stone! Pressed down by rocks and sand it rests within the dark lap of earth. Although no beam of light can approach the precious jewel, yet it shineth still in unfading beauty — a child of the heavenly light, which it faithfully treasures up within its own bosom!
“Thus doth it retain its splendor even in the deepest darkness. But when it is freed from its gloomy prison-house, and brought forth into the clear light of day, then, enchased in gold, doth it form the badge and the ornament of sovereignty — the ring — the sceptre –and the crown!”
“Is it with the chiefest ornament of earthly splendor that thou comparest the stillest and most hidden of all heavenly virtues?” asked the disciples. “Even so,” replied Hillel, “for its end is a crown of life!”
Thus we must possess ourselves of “Patience, heaven-eyed maid!” and endeavor to conform all our actions to the laws of good-breeding and politeness, and strive to procure the good will of all men, and provoke no man’s wrath; for any man’s love may be useful, while every man’s hatred is dangerous.
Many a man born in poverty and obscurity has raised himself to wealth and honor by attending to this advice. Civility will always beget itself; and the man or woman who endeavors to exercise politeness towards, and to feel a good will for, others, will always receive as much as he gives, before the end comes.
“No man,” said Lord Bacon, “will be deficient in respect towards others who knows the value of respect to himself.”
GOOD ADVICE TO EVERYBODY.
“If wisdom’s ways you wisely seek,
Five things observe with care: —
Of whom you speak — to whom you speak,
And how — and when — and where.”