Category Archives: Manners

Item of the Day: Chesterfield to his Son (1774)

Full title: Letters Written by the Late Right Honourable Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield, to His Son, Philip Stanhope, Esq; Late Envoy Extraordinary at the Court of Dresden. Together with Several Other Pieces on Various subjects. Published by Mrs. Eugenia Stanhope, From the Originals Now in Her Possession. In Two Volumes. Vol. II. Dublin: Printed by G. Faulkner, in Parliament-street, M.DCC.LXXIV.

TO HIS SON.

LETTER LI.

London, February the 14th, O.S. 1752

My Dear Friend,

In a month’s time, I believe, I shall have the pleasure of sending you, and you will have the pleasure of reading, a work of Lord Bolingbroke, in two volumes octavo, upon the use of History; in several letters to Lord Hyde, then Lord Cornbury. It is now put into the press. It is hard to determine, whether this work will instruct or please most: the most material historical facts, from the great aera of the treaty of Munster, are touched upon, accompanied by the most solid reflections, and adorned by all that elegancy of style, which was peculiar to himself, and in which, if Cicero equals, he certainly does not exceed him; but every other writer falls short of him. I would advise you almost to get this book by heart. I think you have a turn to history; you love it, and have a memory to retain it; this book will teach you the proper use of it. Some people load their memories, indiscriminately, with historical facts, as others do their stomachs with food; and bring out the one, and bring up the other, entirely crude and undigested. You will find, in Lord Bolingbroke’s book, an infallible specific against that epidemical complaint*.

I remember a gentleman, who had read history in this thoughtless and undistinguishing manner, and who, having travelled, had gone through the Valteline. He told me that it was a miserable poor country, and therefore it was, surely, a great error in Cardinal Richelieu, to make such a rout, and put France to so much expence about it. Had my friend read history as he ought to have done, he would have known, that the great object of that Minister was to reduce the power of the house of Austria; and, in order to do that, to cut off, as much as he could, the communication between several parts of their then extensive dominions; which reflections would have justified the Cardinal to him, in the affairs of the Valteline. But it was easier to him to remember the facts, than to combine and reflect.

On observation, I hope, you will make in reading history; for it is an obvious and a true one. It is, that more people have made great fortunes in courts, by their exterior accomplishments, than by their interior qualifications. Their engaging address, the politeness of their manners, their air, their turn, hath almost always paved the way for their superior abilities, if they have such, to exert themselves. They have been Favourites, before they have been Ministers. In courts, an universal gentleness and douceur dans les maniéres is most absolutely necessary: an offended fool, or slighted valet de chambre, may, very possibly, do you more hurt at court, then ten men of merit can do you good. Fools, and low people, are always jealous of their dignity; and never forget nor forgive when they reckon a slight. On the other hand, they take civility, and a little attention, as a favor; remember, and acknowledge it: this, in my mind, is buying them cheap; and therefore they are worth buying. The Prince himself, who is rarely the shining genius of his court, esteems you only by hearsay, but likes you by his senses; that is from your air, your politeness, and your manner of addressing him; of which alone he is a judge. There is a court garment, as well as a wedding garment, without which you will not be received. That garment is the volto sciolto; an imposing air, an elegant politeness, easy and engaging manners, universal attention, an insinuating gentleness, and all those je ne sçais quoi that compose the Graces.

I am this moment disagreeably interrupted by a letter; not from you, as I expected, but from a friend of yours at Paris, who informs me, that you have a fever, which confines you at home. Since you have a fever, I am glad you have prudence enough, with it, to stay at home, and take care of yourself; a little more prudence might probably have prevented it. Your blood is young, and consequently hot; and you naturally make a great deal, by your good stomach, and good digestion; you should therefore, necessarily, attenuate and cool it, from time to time, by gentle purges, or by a very low diet, for two or three days together, if you would avoid fevers. Lord Bacon, who was a very great physician, in both senses of the word, hath this aphorism in his Essay upon Health, Nihil magis as sanitatem tribuit quam crebrae et domesticae purgationes. By domesticae, he means those simple uncompounding purgatives, which everybody can administer to themselves; such as senna-tea, stewed prunes and senna, chewing a little rhubarb, or dissolving an ounce and a half of manna in fair water, with the juice of half a lemon to make it palatable. Such gentle and unconfining evacuations would certainly prevent those feverish attacks, to which every body at your age is subject.

By the way, I do desire, and insist, that whenever, from any indisposition, you are not able to write to me upon the fixed days, that Christian shall; and give me a true account how you are. I do not expect from him the Ciceronian epistolary style; but I will content myself with the Swiss simplicity and truth.

I hope you extend your acquaintance at Paris, and frequent variety of companies; the only way of knowing the world: every set of company differs in some particulars from another, and a man of business must, in the course of his life, have to do with all sorts. It is a very great advantage to know the languages of the several countries one travels in; and different companies may, in some degree, be considered as different countries: each hath its distinctive language, customs, and manners: know them all, and you will wonder at none. Adieu, child. Take care of your health; there are no pleasures without it.

*We cannot but observe with pleasure, that at this time Lord Bolingbroke’s Philosophical works had not appeared; which accounts for Lord Chesterfield’s recommending to his son, in this as well as in some foregoing passages, the study of Lord Bolingbroke’s writings.

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Filed under 1770's, Family, History, Letters, Manners, Medicine, Posted by Matthew Williams

Item of the Day: Swift’s Rules for Servants (1753)

Full Title:  Miscellanies.  By Dr. Swift.  The Eleventh Volume.  London:  Printed for C. Hitch, C. Davis, C. Bathurst, R. Dodsley, and W. Bowyer.  MDCCLIII.

RULES that concern All Servants in general.

 When your Master or Lady calls a Servant by Name, if that Servant be not in the Way, none of you are to answer, for then there will be no end of your Drudgery:  And Masters themselves allow, that, if a Servant comes when he is called, it is sufficient.

When you have done a Fault, be always pert and insolent, and behave yourself as if you were the injured Person; this will immediately put your Master or Lady off their Mettle.

If you see your Master wronged by any of your Fellow-Servants, be sure to conceal it, for fear of being called a Tell-tale:  However there is one Exception, in case of a favourite Servant, who is justly hated by the whole Family; who therefore are bound in Prudence to lay all the Faults you can upon the Favourite.

The Cook, the Butler, the Groom, the Market-man, and every other Servant who is concerned in the Expences of the Family, should act as if his Master’s whole Estate ought to be applied to that Servant’s particular Business.  For instance, if the Cook computes his Master’s Estate to be a Thousand Pounds a Year will afford Meat enough, and therefore he need not be sparing; the Butler makes the same Judgment, so may the Groom and the Coachman, and thus every Branch of Expence will be filled to your Master’s Honour.

When you are chid before Company (which with Submission to our Masters and Ladies is an unmannerly Practice) it often happens that some Stranger will have the Good-nature to drop a Word in your Excuse; in such a Case, you will have a good Title to Justify yourself, and may rightly conclude, that, whenever he chides you afterwards on other occasions, he may be in the wrong; in which opinion you will be the better confirmed by stating the Case to your Fellow-servants in your own Way, who will certainly decide in your Favour:  therefore, as I have said before, whenever you are chidden, complain as if you were injured.

It often happens, that Servants sent on Messages are apt to stay out somewhat longer than the Message requires, perhaps, two, four, six, or eight Hours, or some such Trifle, for the Temptation to be sure was great, and Flesh and Blood cannot always resist:  When you return, the Master storms, the Lady scolds; stripping, cudgelling, and turning off, is the Word.  But here you ought to be provided with a Set of Excuses, enough to serve on all occasions:  For instance, your Uncle came Fourscore Miles to Town this Morning, on purpose to see you, and goes back by Break of Day To-morrow:  A Brother-servant, that borrowed Money of you when he was out of Place, was running away to Ireland:  You were taking Leave of an old Fellow-Servant, who was shipping for Barbados:  Your Father sent a Cow to you to sell, and you could not get a Chapman till Nine at Night:  You were taking leave of a dear Cousin, who is to be hanged next Saturday:  You wrencht your Foot against a Stone, and were forced to stay three Hours in a Shop, before you could Stir a Step:  Some Nastiness was thrown on you out of a Garret-Window, and you were ashamed to come Home before you were cleaned, and the Smell went off:  You were pressed for the Sea-service, and carried before a Justice of Peace, who kept you three Hours before he examined you, and you got off with much a-do:  A Bailiff by mistake seized you for a Debtor, and kept you the whole Evening in a Spunging-house:  You were told your Master had gone to a Tavern, and came to some Mischance, and your Grief was so great that you enquired for his Honour in a hundred Taverns between Pall-mall and Temple-bar.

Take all Tradesmen Parts against your Master, and when you are sent to buy any Thing, never offer to cheapen it, but generously pay the full Demand.  This is highly to your Master’s Honour ; and may be some Shillings in your Pocket; and you are to consider, if your Master hath paid too much, he can better afford the Loss than a poor Tradesman.

Never submit to stir a Finger in any Business but that for which you were particularly hired.  For Example, if the Groom be drunk, or absent, and the Butler be ordered to shut the Stable Door, the Answer is ready, An please your Honour, I don’t understand Horses:  If a Corner of the Hanging wants a single Nail to flatten it, and the Footman be directed to tack it up, he may say, he doth not understand that sort of Work, but his Honour may send for the Upholsterer.

Masters and Ladies are usually quarrelling with the Servants for not shutting the Doors after them:  But neither Masters nor Ladies consider, that those Doors mus be open before they can be shut, and that the Labour is double to open and shut the Doors; therefore the best, and shortest, and easiest Way is to do neither.  But if you are so often teized to shut the Door, that you cannot easily forget it, then give the Door such a Clap as you go out, as will shake the whole Room, and make every Thing rattle in it, to put your Master and Lady in Mind that you observe their Directions.

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Filed under 1750's, Culture, Jonathan Swift, Manners, Posted by Rebecca Dresser, Satire

Item of the Day: The Enquirer (1797)

Full Title:  THE ENQUIRER.  Reflections on Education, Manners, and Literature, In a Series of Essays by William Godwin.  Philadelphia:  Printed for Robert Campbell & Co. by John Bioren. 1797.  http://www.britannica.com/eb/art/print?id=11129&articleTypeId=1

ESSAY X.

Of Politeness.

SECT. I.

It has been no unfrequent profession among men of a bold temper, and who are smitten with a love for the sublimer virtues, that they are enemies to politeness.

One of the greatest misfortunes incident to morality, as well as to a majority of sciences, flows from the ambiguity of words.

By politeness many persons understand artificial manners, the very purpose of which is to stand between the feelings of the heart and the external behaviour.  The word immediately conjures up to their mind a corrupt and vicious mode of society, and they conceive it to mean a set of rules, founded in no just reason, and ostentatiously practiced by those who, are familiar with them, for no purpose more expressly, than to confound and keep at a distance those who, by the accident of their birth or fortune, are ignorant of them.

In this sense no doubt politeness is worthy of our decisive disapprobation, and in this sense it is to be regretted that there is vastly too much politeness in the world.

Urbanity is a term that has met with a better fortune among our contemporaries, than politeness.  Yet, if we have recourse to their etymology, politeness is certainly not less appropriate and laudable.  As it descends to us from the Greek, its nature is precisely coincident; as it comes to us through the medium of the Latin word, which signifies to polish, to make smooth, agreeable to the eye, and pleasant to the touch, it is sufficiently adapted to that circumstance in morals which may admit of a substantial vindication.

Morality, or the exercise of beneficence, consists of two principal parts, which may be denominated the greater morality, and the less.  Those actions of a man’s life, adapted to purposes of beneficence, which are fraught with energy, and cannot be practiced but in an exalted temper of mind, belong to the greater morality, such as saving a fellow being from death, raising him from deep distress, conferring on him a memorable advantage, or exerting one’s self for the service of multitudes.  There are other actions, in which a man may consult the transitory feelings of his neighbours, and to which we can seldom be prompted by a lofty spirit of ambition; actions which the heart can record, but which the tongue is rarely competent to relate.  These belong to the lesser morality.

It should seem as if our temper and the permanent character of our minds, should be derived from the greater morality; but that the ordinary and established career of our conduct, should have reference to the less.

No doubt a man of eminent endowments and fortunate situation may do no more good by the practice of the greater morality, than he can do mischief by the neglect of the less.  But, even in him, the lesser moralities, as they are practiced or neglected, will produce important effects.  The neglect of them, however illustrious may be the tenour of his life, and however eminent his public services, will reflect a shade of ambiguity upon his character.  Thus authors, whose writings have been fraught with the seeds of general happiness, but whose conduct towards their relatives or acquaintance has been attended with any glaring defect, have seldom obtained much credit for purity of principle.  With the ordinary rate of mankind it is worse:  when they have parted with the lesser moralities they have nearly parted with every thing.

The great line of distinction between these two branches of morality, is that the less is of incomparably more frequent demand.  We may rise up and lie down for weeks and months together, without being once called upon for the practice of any grand and emphatical duty.  But it will be strange if a day pass over our heads, without affording scope for the lesser moralities.  They furnish therefore the most obvious test  as to the habitual temper of our lives.

Another important remark which flows from this consideration, is that the lesser moralities, however minute in their constituent particles, and however they may be passed over by the supercilious as unworthy regard, are of great importance in the estimate of human happiness.  It is rarely that the opportunity occurs for a man to confer on me a striking benefit.  But, ever time that I meet him, he may demonstrate his kindness, his sympathy, and, by attentions almost too minute for calculation, add new vigour to the stream of complacence and philanthropy that circulates in my veins.

Hence it appears that the lesser moralities are of most importance, where politeness is commonly least thought of, in the bosom of family intercourse, and where people have occasion most constantly to associate together.  If I see the father of a family perpetually exerting himself for what he deems to be their welfare, if he give the most unequivocal proofs of his attachment, if he cannot hear of any mischance happening to them without agony, at the same time that he is their despot and their terror, bursting out into all the fury of passion, or preserving a sour and painful moroseness that checks all the kindly effusions of their soul, I shall regard this man as an abortion, and I may reasonably doubt whether, by his mode of proceeding, he does not traverse their welfare in more respects than he promotes it. . . .

Politeness is not precisely that scheme and system of behaviour which can be learned in the fashionable world.  There are many things in the system of the fashionable world, that are practiced, not to encourage but depress, not to produce happiness but mortification.  These, by whatever name they are called, are the reserve of genuine politeness; and are accordingly commonly known by the denomination of rudeness, a word of exactly opposite application.  Much true politeness may often be found in a cottage.  It cannot however conspicuously exists, but in a mind itself unembarrassed, and at liberty to attend to the feelings of others; and it is distinguished by an open ingenuousness of countenance, and an easy and flowing manner.  It is therefore necessarily graceful.  It may undoubtedly best be learned in the society of the unembarrassed, the easy and the graceful.  It is most likely to exist among those persons who, delivered from the importunate pressure of the first wants of our nature, have leisure to attend to the delicate and evanescent touches of the soul.

Politeness has been said to be the growth of courts, and a manner frank, abrupt and austere, to be congenial to a republic.  If this assertion be true, it is a matter worthy of regret, and it will behove us to put it in the scale as a defect, to be weighed against the advantages that will result from a more equal and independent condition of mankind.  It is however probably founded in mistake.  It does not seem reasonable to suppose the the abolition of servility should be the diminution of kindness; and it has already been observed that, where the powers of intellect are strenuously cultivated, sensibility will be their attendant.  But, in proportion to the acuteness of any man’s feelings, will be, in a majority of cases, his attention and deference to the feelings of others.

 

 

 

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Filed under 1790's, England, Manners, Political Philosophy, Posted by Rebecca Dresser, Uncategorized