Friday, January 4, 2013

Delicate Etiquette: Can Manners of the 1880s Help Us in 2013?

A few years ago I came across a post on The Art of Manliness that listed etiquette from a book called "Hill’s Manual of Social and Business Forms" published in 1880. (Read AoM's full post here.)

The article lists examples of things a gentleman in 1880 was to do or not to do. Below I have listed a few of my favorites with personal commentary in italics where possible:

  • Never exaggerate. Oops. I always exaggerate about everything.
  • Never laugh at the misfortunes of others. What am I supposed to do when I have lunch with friends?
  • Never send a present, hoping for one in return. This is why I don't send presents.
  • Never speak much of your own performances. Instead, ask people how you did.
  • Never make yourself the hero of your own story. It's more fun to be the anti-hero.
  • Never question a child about family matters. Especially my children. They know too much.
  • Never present a gift saying that it is of no use to yourself. "Happy birthday! I couldn't use it but here's a healthy self-image."
  • Never call attention to the features or form of anyone present. True, have you read "Wonder"?
  • Never associate with bad company. Have good company, or none. Poison or Warrant is, however, just fine.
  • Never look over the shoulder of another who is reading or writing. Seriously makes me want to murder.
  • Never appear to notice a scar, deformity, or defect of anyone present. Aka, don't take your kids anywhere in public.
  • Never punish your child for a fault to which you are addicted yourself. How am I supposed to know what they're addicted to ... hang on, Josh just tagged me on Instagram.
  • Never, when traveling abroad, be over boastful in praise of your own country. U-S-A, U-S-A!
  • Never attempt to draw the attention of the company constantly upon yourself. Have you ever been in a room full of actors?
  • Never enter a room noisily; never fail to close the door after you, and never slam it. That rules out French farce.
  • Never will a gentleman allude to conquests which he may have made with ladies. Fine. I'll stop talking about that time Amelia and I climbed Mt. Everest while fighting a gang of snow leopards.
  • Never fail to offer the easiest and best seat in the room to an invalid, an elderly person, or a lady. It's still a problem ... watch.
  • Never give all your pleasant words and smile to strangers. The kindest words and the sweetest smiles should be reserved for home. Home should be our heaven. Amen.
In all seriousness, it's a new year. Maybe we can resolve to try a few of these and see what happens? Which old-timey customs, etiquette and rules would you like to see more abundantly revived in 2013? What are you guilty of? Let us know in the comments.

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