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- The Laws of Etiquette - 2/14 -

did you manage it?" "It was rather too hot, and I poured a little of it into my saucer." "Well, you committed here the greatest fault of all. You should never pour your coffee into the saucer, but always drink it from the cup." The poor Abb, was confounded. He felt that though one might be master of the seven sciences, yet that there was another species of knowledge which, if less dignified, was equally important.

This occurred many years ago, but there is not one of the observances neglected by the Abb, Cosson, which is not enforced with equal rigidness in the present day.


The formalities of refined society were at first established for the purpose of facilitating the intercourse of persons of the same standing, and increasing the happiness of all to whom they apply. They are now kept up, both to assist the convenience of intercourse and to prevent too great familiarity. If they are carried too far, and escape from the control of good sense, they become impediments to enjoyment. Among the Chinese they serve only the purpose of annoying to an incalculable degree. "The government," says De Marcy, in writing of China, "constantly applies itself to preserve, not only in the court and among the great, but among the people themselves, a constant habit of civility and courtesy. The Chinese have an infinity of books upon such subjects; one of these treatises contains more than three thousand articles.-- Everything is pointed out with the most minute detail; the manner of saluting, of visiting, of making presents, of writing letters, of eating, etc.: and these customs have the force of laws--no one can dispense with them. There is a special tribunal at Peking, of which it is one of the chief duties, to ensure the observance of these civil ordinances?"

One would think that one was here reading an account of the capital of France. It depends, then, upon the spirit in which these forms are observed, whether their result shall be beneficial or not. The French and the Chinese are the most formal of all the nations. Yet the one is the stiffest and most distant; the other, the easiest and most social.

"We may define politeness," says La Bruy,re, "though we cannot tell where to fix it in practice. It observes received usages and customs, is bound to times and places, and is not the same thing in the two sexes or in different conditions. Wit alone cannot obtain it: it is acquired and brought to perfection by emulation. Some dispositions alone are susceptible of politeness, as others are only capable of great talents or solid virtues. It is true politeness puts merit forward, and renders it agreeable, and a man must have eminent qualifications to support himself without it." Perhaps even the greatest merit cannot successfully straggle against unfortunate and disagreeable manners. Lord Chesterfield says that the Duke of Marlborough owed his first promotions to the suavity of his manners, and that without it he could not have risen.

La Bruy,re has elsewhere given this happy definition of politeness, the other passage being rather a description of it. "Politeness seems to be a certain care, by the manner of our words and actions, to make others pleased with us and themselves."

We must here stop to point out an error which is often committed both in practice and opinion, and which consists in confounding together the gentleman and the man of fashion. No two characters can be more distinct than these. Good sense and self-respect are the foundations of the one--notoriety and influence the objects of the other. Men of fashion are to be seen everywhere: a pure and mere gentleman is the rarest thing alive. Brummel was a man of fashion; but it would be a perversion of terms to apply to him "a very expressive word in our language,--a word, denoting an assemblage of many real virtues and of many qualities approaching to virtues, and an union of manners at once pleasing and commanding respect,-- the word gentleman."* The requisites to compose this last character are natural ease of manner, and an acquaintance with the "outward habit of encounter"--dignity and self- possession--a respect for all the decencies of life, and perfect freedom from all affectation. Dr. Johnson's bearing during his interview with the king showed him to be a thorough gentleman, and demonstrates how rare and elevated that character is. When his majesty expressed in the language of compliment his high opinion of Johnson's merits, the latter bowed in silence. If Chesterfield could have retained sufficient presence of mind to have done the same on such an occasion, he would have applauded himself to the end of his days. So delicate is the nature of those qualities that constitute a gentleman, that there is but one exhibition of this description of persons in all the literary and dramatic fictions from Shakespeare downward. Scott has not attempted it. Bulwer, in "Pelham," has shot wide of the mark. It was reserved for the author of two very singular productions, "Sydenham" and its continuation "Alice Paulet"--works of extraordinary merits and extraordinary faults--to portray this character completely, in the person of Mr. Paulet

* Charles Butler's Reminiscences


First impressions are apt to be permanent; it is therefore of importance that they should be favourable. The dress of an individual is that circumstance from which you first form your opinion of him. It is even more prominent than manner, It is indeed the only thing which is remarked in a casual encounter, or during the first interview. It, therefore, should be the first care.

What style is to our thoughts, dress is to our persons. It may supply the place of more solid qualities, and without it the most solid are of little avail. Numbers have owed their elevation to their attention to the toilet. Place, fortune, marriage have all been lost by neglecting it. A man need not mingle long with the world to find occasion to exclaim with Sedaine, "Ah! mon habit, que je vous remercie!" In spite of the proverb, the dress often _does_ make the monk.

Your dress should always be consistent with your age and your natural exterior. That which looks outr, on one man, will be agreeable on another. As success in this respect depends almost entirely upon particular circumstances and personal peculiarities, it is impossible to give general directions of much importance. We can only point out the field for study and research; it belongs to each one's own genius and industry to deduce the results. However ugly you may be, rest assured that there is some style of habiliment which will make you passable.

If, for example, you have a stain upon your cheek which rivals in brilliancy the best Chateau-Margout; or, are afflicted with a nose whose lustre dims the ruby, you may employ such hues of dress, that the eye, instead of being shocked by the strangeness of the defect, will be charmed by the graceful harmony of the colours. Every one cannot indeed be an Adonis, but it is his own fault if he is an Esop.

If you have bad, squinting eyes, which have lost their lashes and are bordered with red, you should wear spectacles. If the defect be great, your glasses should be coloured. In such cases emulate the sky rather than the sea: green spectacles are an abomination, fitted only for students in divinity,-- blue ones are respectable and even _distingue._

Almost every defect of face may be concealed by a judicious use and arrangement of hair. Take care, however, that your hair be not of one colour and your whiskers of another; and let your wig be large enough to cover the _whole_ of your red or white hair.

It is evident, therefore, that though a man may be ugly, there is no necessity for his being shocking. Would that all men were convinced of this! I verily believe that if Mr. -- in his walking-dress, and Mr. -- in his evening costume were to meet alone, in some solitary place, where there was nothing to divert their attention from one another, they would expire of mutual hideousness.

If you have any defect, so striking and so ridiculous as to procure you a _nickname_ then indeed there is but one remedy,--renounce society.

In the morning, before eleven o'clock even if you go out, you should not be dressed. You would be stamped a _parvenu_ if you were seen in anything better than a reputable old frock coat. If you remain at home, and are a bachelor, it is permitted to receive visitors in a morning gown. In summer, calico; in winter, figured cloth, faced with fur. At dinner, a coat, of course, is indispensable.

The effect of a frock coat is to conceal the height. If, therefore, you are beneath the ordinary statue, or much above it, you should affect frock coats on all occasions that etiquette permits.

Before going to a ball or party it is not sufficient that you consult your mirror twenty times. You must be personally inspected by your servant or a friend. Through defect of this, I once saw a gentleman enter a ball-room, attired with scrupulous elegance, but with one of his suspenders curling in graceful festoons about his feet. His glass could not show what was behind.

If you are about to present yourself in a company composed only of men, you may wear boots. If there be but one lady present, pumps and silk-stockings are indispensable.

There is a common proverb which says, that if a man be well dressed as to head and feet, he may present himself everywhere. The assertion is as false as Mr. Kemble's voice. Happy indeed if it were necessary to perfect only the extremities. The coat, the waistcoat, the gloves, and, above all, the cravat, must be alike ignorant of blemish.

Upon the subject of the cravat--(for heaven's sake and Brummel's, never appear in a stock after twelve o'clock)--We cannot at present say anything. If we were to say anything, we could not be content without saying all, and to say all would require a folio. A book has been published upon the

The Laws of Etiquette - 2/14

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