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- The Laws of Etiquette - 10/14 -
Never allow a female servant to enter a parlour. If all the male domestics are gone out, it is better that there should be no attendance at all.
Some ladies are in the habit of amusing their friends with accounts of the difficulty of getting good servants, etc. This denotes decided ill breeding. Such subjects should never be made topics of conversation.
If a servant offends you by any grossness of conduct, never rebuke the offence upon the spot, nor indeed notice it at all at the time; for you cannot do it without anger, and without giving rise to a _scene._ Prince Puckler Muskaw was, very properly, turned out of the Travellers' Club for throwing a fork at one of the waiters.
In the house of another, or when there is any company present in your own, never converse with the servants. This most vulgar, but not uncommon, habit, is judiciously censured in that best of novels,--the Zeluco of Dr. Moore.
CHAPTER XIV. FASHION.
Fashion is a tyranny founded only on assumption. The principle upon which its influence rests, is one deeply based in the human heart, and one which has long been observed and long practised upon in every department of life. In the literary, the religious, and the political world, it has been an assured and very profitable conclusion, that the public,
"Like women, born to be controlled, Stoops to the forward and the bold."
"Qui sibi fidit, dux regit examen," is a maxim of universal truth. Pococurante, in Candide, was admired for despising Homer and Michel Angelo; he would have gained little distinction by praising them. The judicious application of this rule to society, is the origin of fashion. In despair of attaining greatness of quality, it founds its distinction only on peculiarity.
We have spoken elsewhere of those complex and very rare accomplishments, whose union is requisite to constitute a gentleman. We know of but one quality which is demanded for a man of fashion,--impudence. An impudence (self-confidence "the wise it call") as impenetrable as the gates of Pandemonium--a coolness and imperturbability of self- admiration, which the boaster in Spencer might envy--a contempt of every decency, as such, and an utter imperviousness to ridicule,--these are the amiable and dignified qualities which serve to rear an empire over the weakness and cowardice of men.
To define the character of that which is changing even while we survey it, is a task of no small difficulty. We imagine that there is only one means by which it may be always described, viz., that it consists in an entire avoidance of all that is natural and rational. Its essence is affectation; effeminacy takes the place of manliness; drawling stupidity, of wit; stiffness and hauteur, of ease and civility; and self-illustration, of a decent and respectful regard to others.
A man of fashion must never allow himself to be pleased. Nothing is more decidedly _de mauvais ton_ than any expression of delight. He must never laugh, nor, unless his penetration is very great, must he even smile; for he might by ignorance smile at the wrong place or time. All real emotion is to be avoided; all sympathy with the great or the beautiful is to be shunned; yet the liveliest feeling may be exhibited upon the death of a poodle-dog.
At the house of an acquaintance, he must never praise, nor even look, at the pictures, the carpets, the curtains, or the ottomans, because if he did, it might be supposed that he was not accustomed to such things.
About two years ago, it began to be considered improper to pay compliments to women, because if they are not paid gracefully they are awkward, and to pay them gracefully is difficult. At the present time it is considered dangerous to a man's pretensions to fashion, in England, to speak to women at all. Women are voted bores, and are to be treated with refined rudeness.
There is no possible system of manners that will serve to exhibit at once the uncivility and the high refinement which should characterize the man of fashion. He must therefore have no manners at all. He must behave with tame and passive insolence, never breaking into active effrontery excepting towards unprotected women and clergymen. Persons of no importance he does not see, and is not conscious of their existence; those who have the same standing, he treats with easy scorn, and he acknowledges the distinction of superiors only by patronizing and protecting them. A man of fashion does not despise wealth; he cannot but think _that_ valuable which procures to others the honour of paying for his suppers.
Fashion is so completely distinguished from good breeding, that it is even opposed to it. It is in fact a system of refined vulgarity. What, for example can be more vulgar than incessantly _talkin_g about forms and customs? About silver forks and French soup? A gentleman follows these conventional habits; but he follows them as matters of course. He looks upon them as the ordinary and essential customs of refined society. French forks are to him things as indispensable as a table-cloth; and he thinks it as unnecessary to insist upon the one as upon the other. If he sees a person who eats with his knife, he concludes that that person is ignorant of the usages of the world, but he does not shriek and faint away like a Bond-street dandy. If he dines at a table where there are no silver forks, he eats his dinner in perfect propriety with steel, and exhibits, neither by manner nor by speech, that he perceives any error. To be sure, he forms his own opinion about the rank of his entertainer, but he leaves it to such new-made gentry as Mr. Theodore Hook, in his vulgar fashionable novels, to harangue about such delinquencies. The vulgarity of insisting upon these matters is scarcely less offensive than the vulgarity of neglecting them. Lady Frances Pelham is but one remove better than a Brancton.
A man of fashion never goes to the theatre; he is waiting for the opera.
He, of course, goes out of town in the summer; or, if he cannot afford to do so, he merely closes his window-shutters, and appears to be gone.
Fashion makes all great things little, and all little things great.
It is commonly said, that it requires more wit to perform the part of the fool in a farce than that of the master. Without intending any offence to the fool by the comparison, we may remark, that qualities of an elevated character are required for the support of the _rol_e of a man of fashion in the solemn farce of life. He must have invention, to vary his absurdities when they cease to be striking; he must have wit enough to obtain the reputation of a great deal more; and he must possess tact to know when and where to crouch, and where and when to insult.
Brummel, whose career is one of the most extraordinary on record, must have exercised, during the period of his social reign, many qualities of conduct which rank among the highest endowments of our race. For an obscure individual, without fortune or rank, to have conceived the idea of placing himself at the head of society in a country the most thoroughly aristocratic in Europe, relying too upon no other weapon than well-directed insolence; for the same individual to have triumphed splendidly over the highest and the mightiest--to have maintained a contest with royalty itself, and to have come off victorious even in that struggle--for such an one no ordinary faculties must have been demanded. Of the sayings of Brummel which have been preserved, it is difficult to distinguish whether they contain real wit, or are only so sublimely and so absurdly impudent that they look like witty.
We add here a few anecdotes of Brummel, which will serve to show, better than any precepts, the style of conduct which a man of fashion may pursue.
When Brummel was at the height of his power, he was once, in the company of some gentlemen, speaking of the Prince of Wales as a very good sort of man, who behaved himself very decently, _considering circumstances_; some one present offered a wager that he would not dare to give a direction to this very good sort of man. Brummel looked astonished at the remark, and declined accepting a wager upon such point. They happened to be dining with the regent the next-day, and after being pretty well fortified. with wine, Brummel interrupted a remark of the prince's, by exclaiming very mildly and naturally, "Wales, ring the bell!" His royal highness immediately obeyed the command, and when the servant entered, said to him, with the utmost coolness and firmness, "Show Mr. Brummel to his carriage." The dandy was not in the least dejected by his expulsion; but meeting the prince regent, walking with a gentleman, the next day in the street, he did not bow to him, but stopping the other, drew him aside and said, in a loud whisper, "Who is that FAT FRIEND of ours?" It must be remembered that the object of this sarcasm was at that time exceedingly annoyed by his increasing corpulency; so manifestly so, that Sheridan remarked, that "though the regent professed himself a Whig, he believed that in his heart he was no friend to _new measures._"
Shortly after this occurrence at Carlton-House, Brummel remarked to one of his friends, that "he had half a mind to cut the young one, and bring old George into fashion."
In describing a short visit which he had paid to a nobleman in the country, he said, that he had only carried with him a night-cap and a silver basin to spit in, "Because, you know, it is utterly impossible to spit in clay."
Brummel was once present at a party to which he had not been invited. After he had been some time in the room, the
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