The Project Gutenberg EBook of How To Behave: A Pocket Manual Of
Republican Etiquette, And Guide To Correct Personal Habits, by Samuel R Wells
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Title: How To Behave: A Pocket Manual Of Republican Etiquette, And Guide To Correct Personal Habits
Embracing An Exposition Of The Principles Of Good Manners;
Useful Hints On The Care Of The Person, Eating, Drinking,
Exercise, Habits, Dress, Self-Culture, And Behavior At
Home; The Etiquette Of Salutations, Introductions,
Receptions, Visits, Dinners, Evening Parties, Conversation,
Letters, Presents, Weddings, Funerals, The Street, The
Church, Places Of Amusement, Traveling, Etc., With
Illustrative Anecdotes, a Chapter on Love and Courtship,
and Rules of Order for Debating Societies
Author: Samuel R Wells
Release Date: September 12, 2008 [EBook #26597]
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HOW TO BEHAVE
A POCKET MANUAL
GUIDE TO CORRECT PERSONAL HABITS,
AN EXPOSITION OF THE PRINCIPLES OF GOOD MANNERS; USEFUL HINTS ON THE CARE
OF THE PERSON, EATING, DRINKING, EXERCISE, HABITS, DRESS, SELF-CULTURE, AND
BEHAVIOR AT HOME; THE ETIQUETTE OF SALUTATIONS, INTRODUCTIONS,
RECEPTIONS, VISITS, DINNERS, EVENING PARTIES, CONVERSATION,
LETTERS, PRESENTS, WEDDINGS, FUNERALS, THE STREET, THE
CHURCH, PLACES OF AMUSEMENT, TRAVELING, ETC.,
Illustrative Anecdotes, a Chapter on Love and Courtship, and Rules of Order for Debating Societies.
The air and manner which we neglect, as little things, are frequently what the world judges us by, and makes them decide for or against us.—La Bruyère. Order my steps in thy word.—Bible.
FOWLER & WELLS CO., PUBLISHERS,
ENTERED, ACCORDING TO ACT OF CONGRESS IN THE YEAR 1857 BY
FOWLER AND WELLS
IN THE CLERK'S OFFICE OF THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED
STATES FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
his is an honest and earnest little book, if it has no other merit; and has been prepared expressly for the use of the young people of our great Republic, whom it is designed to aid in becoming, what we are convinced they all desire to be, true American ladies and gentlemen.
Desiring to make our readers something better than mere imitators of foreign manners, often based on social conditions radically different from our own—something better than imitators of any manners, in fact, we have dwelt at greater length and with far more emphasis upon general principles, than upon special observances, though the latter have their place in our work. It has been our first object to impress upon their minds the fact, that good manners and good morals rest upon the same basis, and that justice and benevolence can no more be satisfied without the one than without the other.
As in the other numbers of this series of Hand-Books, so in this, we have aimed at usefulness rather than originality; but our plan being radically different from that of most other manuals of etiquette, we have been able to avail ourself to only a very limited extent of the labors of others, except in the matter of mere conventional forms.
Sensible of the imperfections of our work, but hoping that it will do some acceptable service in the cause of good manners, and aid, in a humble way, in the building up of a truly American and republican school of politeness, we now submit it, with great deference, to a discerning public.
ome one has defined politeness as "only an elegant form of justice;" but it is something more. It is the result of the combined action of all the moral and social feelings, guided by judgment and refined by taste. It requires the exercise of benevolence, veneration (in its human aspect), adhesiveness, and ideality, as well as of conscientiousness. It is the spontaneous recognition of human solidarity—the flowering of philanthropy—the fine art of the social passions. It is to the heart what music is to the ear, and painting and sculpture to the eye.
One can not commit a greater mistake than to make politeness a mere matter of arbitrary forms. It has as real and permanent a foundation in the nature and relations of men and women, as have government and the common law. The civil code is not more binding upon us than is the code of civility. Portions of the former become, from time to time, inoperative—mere dead letters on the statute-book, on account of the conditions on which they were founded ceasing to exist; and many of the enactments of the latter lose their significance and binding force from the same cause. Many of the forms now in vogue, in what is called fashionable society, are of this character. Under the circumstances which called them into existence they were appropriate and beautiful; under changed circumstances they are simply absurd. There are other forms of observances over which time and place have no influence—which are always and everywhere binding.
Politeness itself is always the same. The rules of etiquette, which are merely the forms in which it finds expression, vary with time and place. A sincere regard for the rights of others, in the smallest matters as well as the largest, genuine kindness of heart; good taste, and self-command, which are the foundations of good manners, are never out of fashion; and a person who possesses them can hardly be rude or discourteous, however far he may transgress conventional usages: lacking these qualities, the most perfect knowledge of the rules of etiquette and the strictest observance of them will not suffice to make one truly polite.
"Politeness," says La Bruyère, "seems to be a certain care, by the manner of our words and actions, to make others pleased with us and themselves." This definition refers the matter directly to those qualities of mind and heart already enumerated as the foundations of good manners. To the same effect is the remark of Madame Celnart, that "the grand secret of never-failing propriety of deportment is to have an intention of always doing right."
Some persons have the "instinct of courtesy" so largely developed that they seem hardly to need culture at all. They are equal to any occasion, however novel. They never commit blunders, or if they do commit them, they seem not to be blunders in them. So there are those who sing, speak, or draw intuitively—by inspiration. The great majority of us, however, must be content to acquire these arts by study and practice. In the same way we must acquire the art of behavior, so far as behavior is an art. We must possess, in the first place, a sense of equity, good-will toward our fellow-men, kind feelings, magnanimity and self-control. Cultivation will do the rest. But we most never forget that manners as well as morals are founded on certain eternal principles, and that while "the letter killeth," "the spirit giveth life."
The account which Lord Chesterfield gives of the method by which he acquired the reputation of being the most polished man in England, is a strong example of the efficacy of practice, in view of which no one need despair. He was naturally singularly deficient in that grace which afterward so distinguished him. "I had a strong desire," he says, "to please, and was sensible that I had nothing but the desire. I therefore resolved, if possible, to acquire the means too. I studied attentively and minutely the dress, the air, the manner, the address, and the turn of conversation of all those whom I found to be the people in fashion, and most generally allowed to please. I imitated them as well as I could: if I heard that one man was reckoned remarkably genteel, I carefully watched his dress, motions, and attitudes, and formed my own upon them. When I heard of another whose conversation was agreeable and engaging I listened and attended to the turn of it. I addressed myself, though de très mauvaise grâce [with a very bad grace], to all the most fashionable fine ladies; confessed and laughed with them at my own awkwardness and rawness, recommending