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 mnage; 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?”
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 rle 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 expos 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.