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LETTERS ON ETIQUETTE.
WE beg leave to warn our readers that in these letters
on etiquette we do not intend to confine ourselves to the simple rules of conduct. We aim higher. We wish, if possible, to make a journey into the region from whence these rules spring. We want to teach our readers not only how to enter a ball-room, but what they must be if they want to enter any room with success. Instead of bringing conduct down to a dull uniformity, we should like to have them set it upon principles that, instead of making all uniform, would make each harmonious-a much more difficult work.
To begin with, what is Etiquette ? As we take it, it is the grammar of politeness. Of course the next question is, what is Politeness? To that there are a variety of answers, of which we know none better than the gospel maxim :-“Do unto others as ye would they should do unto you.”
But it is worth while to examine the different definitions that have been given to that which is called politeness by great men and small, in order that we may form cur own opinion. The other day we were standing on the Paris quai, opposite the Louvre, turning over the old books that are exposed for sale there. We opened one, and the first words we saw were, “ What is politeness?”. A friend called our attention at the moment, and we read no further ; but the words rung in our ears and made us think of them in spite of ourselves. "At last, to get rid of their din, we resolved to issue invitations to some great men we dare to call our friends, to answer the question for us. Accordingly, we made a bright fire to welcome them, lighted our lamp, and, in imagination, sent the following letter of invitation :—"M. N. presents his compliments, and begs you to do him the honour of coming to pass a few hours with him this evening." And we addressed the letters to-Mr. Geoffrey Chaucer, sometime yeoman to King Edward III. ; to M. Françoise Rabelais, sometime curé of Meudon ; to Mr. Burns, sometime ploughman ; to Lord Chesterfield; to M. Michael de Montaigne ; to Madame la Marquise de Lambert; to M. Luc de Clapiers, Marquis de Vauvenargues; to M. Jean de la Bruyère; to Mr. Ruskin; to Mr. Addison ; to M. Blaise Pascal; to M. le Duc de la Rochefoucauld; to M. Jean Jacques Rousseau, citizen of Geneva; to Madame Ducrist de Saint-Aubin, Marquise de Sillery, Comtesse de Genlis ; to George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham; to Mr. Alexander Pope ; to M. Charles Duclos; to M. Sebastian-Roch-Nicholas Chamfort; to M. François-Marie Arouet de Voltaire ; to M. Joseph Joubert ; to Julius Cæsar ; to Mr. Ralph Waldo Emerson; and to a host of others, for we wanted the question settled once and for all. They heard the question in silence, and answered in their turn as follows :
Chaucer. “ Whoso is vertuous,
And in his path not outrageous,
As longeth to a gentil man. And again, to have pride of gentrie is right gret folie, for oft time the gentrie of the bodie bemireth the gentrie of the soule; and we ben al of a fader and of a moder.”
Rabelais.-"My friends, I don't understand your language (polite apologies). I believe it is the language of the antipodes." Burns.-" The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
A man's the gowd for a' that." Montaigne.—“I have been brought up carefully enough in my childhood, and have lived in good company enough not to ignore the laws of French civility. I like to follow them, but not so blindly as to make my life uncomfortable. I have often seen men unpolite from too much politeness and importunate courtesy. After all, the science of etiquette is very useful. Like grace and beauty, it softens the first steps of intercourse and familiarity.”
Marquise de Lamlert.-“ Politeness is one of the greatest ties by which society is held together, since it contributes the most to peace. It is a preparation to charity, and an imitation of humility. Politeness is the art of conciliating with comeliness what we owe to others and to ourselves."
Lord Chesterfield.—"The gay and easy politeness of the French covers a multitude of sins. A good number of them are wanting in common sense, many more who fail in ordinary learning, yet, in general, they make up for these defects by their manners; so that they almost always pass unperceived. I have often said, and I think really, that a Frenchman who joins to a foundation of virtue, erudition, and good sense, the manners and politeness of his country, has attained the perfection of human nature. If you are not polite, your qualities, virtues, and talents will be of no use to you. Politeness is the result of much good sense, a certain dose of good nature, a little renunciation of self for the sake of others, in order to obtain the same indulgence.”
La Bruyère.-" It seems to me that the true spirit of politeness is to take pains that by our words and manners other people may be pleased with us and with themselves. Politeness does not always inspire goodness, equity, kindness, and gratitude, but it gives the appearance of these virtues, and makes men appear on the outside what they ought to be within. . . . It is true that agreeable manners enhance merit and make it more agreeable, and we must have a great many eminent qualities to be able to do without politeness."
La Rochefoucauld.--"Politeness is only the wish to receive it, and to be esteemed polite."
Rousseau.—"All that is hypocrisy. Your politeness is more vicious than virtuous; if you have a kind heart, you will be always polite enough; if you have not, you have only one means of being useful to your fellowcreatures, it is to let them see it, so that they may guard against it."
Joseph Joubert.-"Politeness is the flower of humanity. He who is not polite is not human enough. Politeness is a sort of blunting instrument that envelopes the asperities of our character, and prevents them from wounding others.
“Politeness is to kindness what words are to thoughts.”
Julius Cæsar.-“ I can say with certainty that in my most arduous struggles, I owed a great part of my success to qualities of a secondary order--leniores virtutes—such as civility, good nature, and the desire to please other people.”
Madame de Genlis.-" Politeness is not a trifling thing; in all times it has contributed to the celebrity of those people who have brought it to perfection. The urbanity of the Athenians, after so many centuries, still seems to us one of their titles to glory, and alticism will always be a flattering epithet.”
Duclos.-"Politeness is the expression of social virtues; social virtues are those which make us useful or agreeable to the people with whom we have to live. A man who could possess them all would be necessarily polite in the highest degree."
Chamfort.-“When we read the memoirs of the time of Louis XIV., we find even in the worst company of those days, something that we miss in the best company now."
Pascal.-"All men naturally hate each other; society has been obliged to invent politeness to make itself possible.”
Voltaire.- Politeness is to the mind what grace is to the face : it is the sweet image of a kind heart."
Vauvenargues.-Men, born enemies of one another, have imagined politeness in order to give laws to their incessant wars. If men did not flatter one another, there would be very little society possible."
Pope.—“ Virtue in rude and uncultivated men is like a precious stone badly set ; it loses part of its brilliancy."
Diderot.-"I knew a man who knew everything except how to say good-morning, and to bow. He lived and died poor and despised."
Buckingham.-“If I have raised myself to the summit of favour and power, I do not owe it so much (we acknowledge these things when we are dead) on account of my merit, but because of my polite and gracious manners; and I never appeared so great a minister to my master, James, as the first time I finished a letter to him, “Your slave and your dog.'”
Alphonse Karr.-After laws for security, men were obliged to invent laws of politeness for the pleasures of life. Politeness is divided into two parts: the first is comprehended in few words, 'Do unto others as ye would they should do unto you; do not unto others that which ye would not they should do unto you.' Ask your reason what to avoid, and your heart what to do. The other part is less important. People with leisure and education, those, above all, who have dubbed themselves exclusively 'good society,' wish to recognize one another by peculiar signs, and they have invented particular grimaces and a particular slang. We may, without harm, ignore these things; but it is more convenient to know them. You may generally wager that a thing accepted by everyone is a stupidity, or at least a vulgarity; but go against certain established customs is to declare oneself wiser than other people, and brings down on one's head much unnecessary ill-will. If it is puerile to submit to some customs, it is ridiculous to submit to none."
" There are certain tyrannies of custom against which it is a good thing to protest. It is the custom, is not, whatever people may say, a peremptory answer to everything. In little, or rather indifferent, things, it is easier to submit to custom than to take the time to reflect, discuss, or combat; but in momentous things we must reserve ourselves the right of examination, and not submit blindly to the judgment, so often without appeal : it is the custom.
" Ask a cannibal why he eats his enemies, he will answer you: 'It is the custom.'
Without politeness, men would never meet together except to fight. We must therefore either live alone or be polite.
“We are three at table, two men and one woman. A fowl is served ; naturally, we all three want to eat a wing. Without politeness, the man who carves would begin by taking one of the two wings; the other man would seize the second. If the third guest was a man, there would be a fight.
“But, thanks to politeness, we begin by giving one wing to the woman; each of us has diminished by half his chance of eating a wing ; but he is recompensed for this doubtful sacrifice by the vanity of passing for a polite and cultivated man. I offer you the second wing ; you insist that I shall keep it. If I give way, it is to obey you ; you are deprived of a small pleasure, but you are not humiliated, and you have an advantage over me, which makes you forgive the small privation of which I am the cause. Besides that, I did not take the wing; you gave it me, and I offered it to you. What I have said of a fowl's wing may be applied to all human relations."
Portalis.—“True philosophy respects forms, as much as pride despises them ; but we require a discipline for our conduct, just as we require an order for our ideas.”
Ruskin.—"A gentleman's first characteristic is that fineness of structure in the body which renders it capable of the most delicate sensation, and of that structure of the mind which renders it capable of the most delicate sympathies, or, as one may simply say, fineness of nature.
“This is, of course, compatible with heroic bodily strength and mental firmness; in fact, heroic bodily strength is not conceivable without such delicacy. Elephantine strength may drive its way through a forest and feel no touch of its boughs, but the white skin of Homer's Atrides would have felt a bent rose-leaf, yet subdue its feelings in the glow of battle, and behave itself like iron.
"I do not mean to call the elephant a vulgar animal ; but if you think about him carefully, you will find that his non-vulgarity consists in such gentleness as is possible to elephantine nature; not in his insensitive hide, nor in his clumsy foot, but in the way he will lift his foot if a child lies in his way, and in his sensitive trunk, and his still more sensitive mind and capability of pique in points of honour. Hence, it will follow that one of the probable signs of high breeding in men generally will be their kindness and mercifulness; these always indicate more or less firmness of make in the mind."
Even when they do no harm, they do no good, and they are always a useless expense.
Montaigne affirms, that if we want to smell nice, we must smell nothing. Perfumes are quite gone out of fashion in good society. A lady may make an exception in favour of a few very delicate and expensive scents, such as Parma violet and cedar, but she should use them very sparingly. A gentleman never uses them at all.
The simplicity of masculine garments admits very little difference between those of old and young men. Old gentlemen will not choose garments too tight or too short; their end in dressing must be cleanliness and
The very fact that politeness has been written about by so many and by so great men is a proof of its importance; we will therefore pass at once to its rules, beginning with that care of oneself that we owe to ourselves and to others.
To be truly polite, or, what is better, well cultivated, we owe as much care to our bodies as to our minds; a dandy whose highest ambition rests in the cut of a coat or the bow of a cravat, is nothing but an object of ridicule; but a man who neglects the proper care of his outside appearance is just as blameable, be he never so learned.
The first thing exacted by the laws of politeness is personal cleanliness.
Cleanliness consists in the certain attentions that we pay to our bodies, our garments, the places we inhabit, and even to the air we breathe.
We ought to accustom children to these attentions from their earliest infancy. Many ancient nations made a virtue of what they called the cultivation of oneself. It was a kind of secret instinct of the high 'dignity of man which religion has revealed to us since.
To keep in good health and to appear in public, we ought to wash, clean our teeth, our ears, and our nails, and brush our hair every morning. It is a good thing to give the least possible time to all these operations; it is a thing so necessary that the necessary time must be given to it, but we must not let it descend into minutiæ, or an end in itself. The early morning hour, when we first get up, is the best for head-work, and it is not right to waste it. Plenty of cold water, and good soap to soften it, are all that are required.
Do not have anything to do with essences, vinegars, powders, and all the rest of the charlatan's materials.
No precise laws on toilet can be given to women ; the form of her dresses, the quality of their materials, changes from season to season ; we can only remind our readers that simplicity is always in season even in the richest toilet, and that there ought always to be harmony between that simplicity and the age of the woman. Nothing is more ridiculous than, as the people say, “an old ewe dressed lamb fashion," one of those popular sayings that are more forcible and true than anything we could invent to gild the pill.
As to fashions, we advise ladies neither to adopt them too soon nor to follow them too late. However advantageous a fashion may be to feminine charms, it only ought to be worn if it be compatible with good health and with the position of the wearer.
Much has been written lately, by doctors and others, . about the wearing of stays; the doctors condemn them altogether they are wrong. There are stays and staysthe French corset, elastic and easy, is advantageous both to look and health; it prevents that tendency to lean forward which is so pernicious to women, and it gives a decent and graceful shape to a dress.
There are mysteries in dressing of which the women of the upper ten keep the secret. One must have been intimate with a très grande dame before understanding all the charms of simplicity; she varies her toilet according to circumstances; her morning dress is the simplest, even for calls; her evening dress richer ; her ball dress the most elegant.
All the art of dressing for a man lies in his cravat, which must be irreproachably new and well tied.
Both men and women ought to wear irreproachable gloves and boots; they are even more important than the fit of a dress or the cut of a coat.
Men ought not to wear jewels, or only very simple ones; a watch and chain, a cravat-pin, and a ring are all that may
be tolerated. The chain must be a gentleman's chain, not a jeweller's, and the ring is almost too much ; the large seal or diamond chevaliere are both vulgar and parvenu.
. Women's toilet is scarcely complete without jewels, but there is nothing in which it is easier to show vulgarity. Heavy, inartistic, and dear jewels are worn by women whose only riches lie in their purse. A lady consults and
shows her taste by the simplicity of her parures by the way they match her toilet and suit her beauty.
“There is no one,” says Horace Raisson,“ who has not derceived the advantage of being always well dressed ; many men have owed their fortune to their coat. A negligence in dress may cost us much. There are very few men who, at least once in their life, have not had occasion to say with Sedaine, Ah! mon habit, que je vous remercie."
Lastly, in dressing, as in everything else, affectation is mortal. Its art consists in uniting good taste and elegance.
We have mentioned the upper ten,” and no letters on etiquette would be complete without giving the different ranks and titles of honour of the best English society.
The titles of emperor, king, and prince denominate the highest rank ; then come the five orders of nobility, namely-duke, marquis, earl, viscount, and baron. All these titles are hereditary, and the wives and children of peers are entitled to appropriate titles. Next comes baronets, and their title is hereditary. Below the baronet comes the knight, but his title is not hereditary; it expires with its owner, and does not descend to his heir.
There are also ecclesiastical, academical, legal, and municipal distinctions, which have their titles of honour that are not hereditary.
The title of esquire, so usurped in this generation only legally belongs to the eldest sons of knights, and the eldest sons of younger sons of the nobility, by virtue of birth, justices of the peace, officers of the Queen's Court and household, and of the army and navy, from the rank of Captain upwards, by virtue of office. Doctors of law, barristers, and physicians are esquires.
A few words on heraldry are necessary now when
every parvenu makes bimself an object of ridicule by buying his arms and crest.
Heraldry began and grew with the feudal system, but may be said to have developed into a science with the Crusades; the leaders in the wars of the Middle Ages assumed an outward distinctive sign by which they might be known to their friends; the closed armour of that day covered the faces of friend and fue.
Devices were then placed on the shield, which was always conspicuous in a battle-field as well as on the surcoat and banner. The crest was originally the ornament worn upon the helmet. Mottoes were originally the war-cries of the different knights. Supporters, as the figures of men and animals, which are sometimes seen, one on either side of a shield, are seldom borne by any
In marriages the wife's paternal arms are impaled with the husband's, or placed upright on the left side of the husband's in the same escutcheon. If the lady be an heiress, her husband places her arms in an escutcheon over his own. The children bear the armorial bearings of father and mother, quarterly.
A widow bears her husband's and her father's arms impaled in a lozenge. A maiden lady her father's arms in a lozenge. Ladies bear no crests.
If the gentleman be a Knight of the Garter, or of any other order, the arms of the wife are placed in a separate shield.
No real gentleman or lady will use coats-of-arms, etc., unless they are perfectly convinced that they are descendants of the family that owns the arms; the same name alone does not prove this, and people are often at the mercy of charlatans uho sell them their titles to honour.
THE DAYS THAT ARE LONG.
“I'll sing you a song
Of the days that are long ;
Of the little dog
That burn't his tail,
And he shall be whipt to-morrow.” "HAT is the song the world sings
That is the song the world sings Of the long bright days:
To sin and sorrow : That is the way she evens things,
Over her limit her hard lash flings Portions and pays.
Into God's inorrow. The dog that let his tail burn,
Measures his dear divine grace Proving one pain,
In compass narrow : Shall he be whipt next day that he
Counts for nothing the infinite dars; Wisdom again.
Forgets the sparrow.
Leaves our hearts sore:
Will sing us more.
YOUNG girl lay upon a lounge in the recess of an
oriel window. If disease held her there, it had not altered the contour of the smooth cheek, or made shallow the dimples in wrist and elbow of the arm supporting her head; had not unbent the spirited bow of the mouth, or dimmed the glad light of the grey eyes. Most people called these black, deceived by the shadow of the jetty lashes. They were wide open, now, and the light of a sunny, mid-day streamed in upon her face through the window, yet the upper part of the irid was darkened by the heavy fringe that matched in line the well-defined brows. Her hair, also black, with purple reflections glancing from every coil and fold, was braided into a coronal, and about the heavy plait knotted at the back of the head was twisted a half-wreath of yellow jessamine. Her skin was dark and clear, but she had usually little colour; her forehead was not remarkable for breadth or beight; the nose was a nondescript, and the mouth rather piquant than pretty, with suggestions of wilfulness in the fall, lower lip, and the slight, downward lines at the corners. Her dress was white muslin, with no ornament beyond the gold clasp of her girdle, and a spray of jessamine at her throat.
The casement was canopied with the vine from which this last had been plucked. Hundreds of bright bells were swinging lazily in the warm breeze, and were tossed into livelier motion and perfume by the kisses of brown-coated bees and vivid humming-birds. Heightening the glow of the tropical creeper, while they relieved the eye of the spectator, drooped still, lilac clusters of wistaria, and these the girl put aside with impatient fingers when she raised herself upon her elbow to obtain a better view of the outer scene. A flower.garden, lively with Spring blossoms, opened through a wicket in the white fence into a churchyard-green and level on the roadside-green likewise, but swelling into long ranks of unequal and motionless billows behind the building. This was an ancient structure, as was shown by the latticed windows with rounded tops, and the quaint base of the steeple that yet tapered gracefully into a shimmering point against the pale noon of the sky. But loving eges had watched it, and reverent hands guarded it against decay. The brick walls were sound, the masonry of grey stone about windows and doors smooth and solid with cement made bard as the stone by years and weather. The sward was shaven evenly, and the two great elms at the entrance to the rural sanctuary were the pride of the region. A double row of these trees bordered the road for a hundred yards in either direction, and now offered shade and coolness to an orderly herd
of horses tethered beneath them. A few handsome equipages were there, two or three stately family carriages and several jaunty buggies, but most of the vehicles to which the animals were attached, bore the stamp of rusticity, hard usage, and infrequent ablutions, while the preponderance of roadsters and ponderous draught horses over blooded stock, betokened that in this, as in other agricultural districts, the beautiful was held in subordination to the useful. The little church, thanks to the taste of the present pastor and the economical proclivities of past generations, had escaped the vulgarizing influence of “a good coat of paint." Slow circles of lichens, hoary and russet, had toned down the original rudeness of the bricks, and green mosses dotted the slated roof. It stood on the edge of a cup-like valley, surrounded by mountains. So near was the lofty-chain on the north-east, that the rising sun sent the shadow of the Anak of the range—“Old Windbeam,” across the graveyard to the foot of the sacred walls; so remote on the west that the Day-god looked his last upon the fertile pastures, winding streams, and peaceful homesteads, over hills round and blue with distance.
The watcher in the oriel window saw neither flowers nor elms; noticed the throng of patient dumb horses and motley collection of carriages as little as she did the mountains, near and far. Every feature was stirred with exultant wistfulness, and her eyes never moved from a certain window of the church from which the inner shutters had been folded back. The house was densely packed with living beings-she could see through this, galleries and aisles, as well as pews, and dimly, in the dusky interior, she discerned an upright and animated figure—the orator of the occasion. Into the heat and hush of high noon-heat fragrant with waves of odour from resinous woods, and clover-fields, and gardenborders—a hush to which the tinkling bells of browsing kine in the meadows, and the hum of bird and bee close by, brought a deeper lull instead of interruption-flowed a voice sonorous and sweet; now calm in argument or narrative—now breaking into short, abrupt bursts of impassioned declamation; anon, rising with earnest, majestic measures, most musical of all, that brought words with the varied inflections, to the rapt listener. Smiles and tears came to her with the hearing; light that was glory to the eyes ; softness that was tenderness, not sorrow, to the sensitive mouth.
When the speaker's tones were drowned by the storm of applause that shook the church, and the mass of human heads swayed to and fro as did the cedars in Old Windbeam's crown on gusty winter nights, the girl