HAND-BOOKS FOR HOME IMPROVEMENT—No. III
HOW TO BEHAVE
A POCKET MANUAL
GUIDE TO CORRECT PERSONAL HABITS,
AN EXPOSITION OF THE PRINCIPLES OF GOOD MANNERS; USEFUL HINTS ON THE CARE OF THE PERSON, EATING, DRINKING, EXERCISE, HABITS, DRESS, SELF-CULTURE, AND BEHAVIOR AT HOME; THE ETIQUETTE OF SALUTATIONS, INTRODUCTIONS, RECEPTIONS, VISITS, DINNERS, EVENING PARTIES, CONVERSATION, LETTERS, PRESENTS, WEDDINGS, FUNERALS, THE STREET, THE CHURCH, PLACES OF AMUSEMENT, TRAVELING, ETC.,
Illustrative Anecdotes, a Chapter on Love and Courtship, and Rules of Order for Debating Societies.
[Signature: Samuel R. (Roberts) Wells]
The air and manner which we neglect, as little things, are frequently what the world judges us by, and makes them decide for or against us.—La Bruyere. Order my steps in thy word.—Bible.
NEW YORK: FOWLER & WELLS CO., PUBLISHERS, 753 BROADWAY. 1887.
ENTERED, ACCORDING TO ACT OF CONGRESS IN THE YEAR 1857 BY
FOWLER AND WELLS
IN THE CLERK'S OFFICE OF THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
Politeness Defined—The Foundation of Good Manners—The Civil Code and the Code of Civility—The Instinct of Courtesy— Chesterfield's Method—The Golden Rule—American Politeness— Utility of Good Manners Illustrated. Page ix
Where to Commence—Care of the Person a Social Duty—Cleanliness— The Daily Bath—Soap and Water—The Feet—Change of Linen—The Nails—The Head—The Teeth—The Breath—Eating and Drinking—What to Eat—When to Eat—How much to Eat—What to Drink—Breathing— Exercise—The Complexion—Tobacco—Spitting—Gin and Gentility— Onions, etc.—Little Things 15
The Meaning of Dress—The Uses of Dress—Fitness the First Essential—The Art of Dress—The Short Dress for Ladies— Working-Dress for Gentlemen—Ornaments—Materials for Dress—Mrs. Manners on Dress—The Hair and Beard—Art vs. Fashion—Signs of the Good Time Coming 31
Moral and Social Training—Cultivation of Language—Position and Movement—The Ease and Grace of Childhood—Standing—Sitting— Walking—Hints to the Ladies—Self-Command—Observation—Practical Lesson 42
Manners and Morals—Human Rights—Duties—The Rights of the Senses—The Faculties and their Claims—Expression of Opinions—The Sacredness of Privacy—Conformity—Singing out of Tune—Doing as the Romans Do—Courtesy vs. Etiquette—An Anecdote—Harmony—Equality—A Remark to be Remembered—General Principles more Important than Particular Observances 48
A Test of Good Manners—Good Behavior at Home—American Children—Teaching Children to be Polite—Behavior to Parents—Brothers and Sisters—Husband and Wife—Married Lovers—Entertaining Guests—Letting your Guests Alone—Making one "at Home"—Making Apologies—Duties of Guests—Treatment of Servants—Rights of Servants—"Thank You" 56
VI.—THE OBSERVANCES OF EVERY-DAY LIFE.
Introductions—Letters of Introduction—Speaking without an Introduction—Salutations—Receptions—Visits and Calls—Table Manners—Conversations—Chesterfield on Conversation—Music— Letters and Notes—Up and Down Stairs—Which Goes First?—An American Habit—Gloved or Ungloved?—Equality—False Shame— Pulling out one's Watch—Husband and Wife—Bowing vs. Curtseying—Presents—Snobbery—Children 64
VII.—ETIQUETTE OF OCCASIONS.
Dinner Parties—Invitations—Dress—Punctuality—Going to the Table—Arrangement of Guests—Duties of the Host—Duties of the Guests—The "Grace"—Eating Soup—Fish—The Third Course—What to do with your Knife and Fork—Declining Wine—Finger Glasses— Carving—Evening Parties and their Observances—French Leave— Sports and Games—Promiscuous Kissing—Dancing—Christmas—The New Year—Thanksgiving—Birthdays—Excursions and Picnics— Weddings—Funerals 83
VIII.—THE ETIQUETTE OF PLACES.
How to Behave on the Street—Stopping Business Men on the Street— Walking with Ladies—Shopping—At Church—At Places of Amusement— In a Picture Gallery—The Presence—Traveling—The Rush for Places—The Rights of Fellow-Travelers—Giving up Seats to the Ladies—A Hint to the Ladies on Politeness—Paying Fares 100
IX.—LOVE AND COURTSHIP.
Boyish Loves—The Proper Age to Marry—Waiting for a Fortune— Importance of Understanding Physiological Laws—Earnestness and Sincerity in Love—Particular Attentions—Presents—Confidants— Declarations—Asking "Pa"—Refusals—Engagement—Breaking Off— Marriage 110
Courtesy in Debate—Origin of the Parliamentary Code—Rules of Order—Motions—Speaking—Submitting a Question—Voting—A Quorum The Democratic Principle—Privileged Questions—Order of Business—Order of Debate 116
Republican Distinctions—Natural Inequalities—American Toad Eaters—General Lack of Reverence for Real Nobility—City and Country—Imported Manners—Fictitious Titles—A Mirror for Certain Men—Washington's Code of Manners—Our Social Uniform—A Hint to the Ladies—An Obliging Disposition—Securing a Home—Taste vs. Fashion—Special Claims—Propriety of Deportment—False Pride—Awkwardness of being Dressed 124
XII.—MAXIMS FROM CHESTERFIELD.
Cheerfulness and Good Humor—The Art of Pleasing—Adaptation of Manners—Bad Habits—Do what you are About—People who Never Learn—Local Manners—How to Confer Favors—How to Refuse— Spirit—Civility to Women 135
Elder Blunt and Sister Scrub Taking off the Hat, or John and his Employer—A Learned Man at Table—English Women in High Life— "Say so, if you Please" 139
This is an honest and earnest little book, if it has no other merit; and has been prepared expressly for the use of the young people of our great Republic, whom it is designed to aid in becoming, what we are convinced they all desire to be, true American ladies and gentlemen.
Desiring to make our readers something better than mere imitators of foreign manners, often based on social conditions radically different from our own—something better than imitators of any manners, in fact, we have dwelt at greater length and with far more emphasis upon general principles, than upon special observances, though the latter have their place in our work. It has been our first object to impress upon their minds the fact, that good manners and good morals rest upon the same basis, and that justice and benevolence can no more be satisfied without the one than without the other.
As in the other numbers of this series of Hand-Books, so in this, we have aimed at usefulness rather than originality; but our plan being radically different from that of most other manuals of etiquette, we have been able to avail ourself to only a very limited extent of the labors of others, except in the matter of mere conventional forms.
Sensible of the imperfections of our work, but hoping that it will do some acceptable service in the cause of good manners, and aid, in a humble way, in the building up of a truly American and republican school of politeness, we now submit it, with great deference, to a discerning public.
Some one has defined politeness as "only an elegant form of justice;" but it is something more. It is the result of the combined action of all the moral and social feelings, guided by judgment and refined by taste. It requires the exercise of benevolence, veneration (in its human aspect), adhesiveness, and ideality, as well as of conscientiousness. It is the spontaneous recognition of human solidarity—the flowering of philanthropy—the fine art of the social passions. It is to the heart what music is to the ear, and painting and sculpture to the eye.
One can not commit a greater mistake than to make politeness a mere matter of arbitrary forms. It has as real and permanent a foundation in the nature and relations of men and women, as have government and the common law. The civil code is not more binding upon us than is the code of civility. Portions of the former become, from time to time, inoperative—mere dead letters on the statute-book, on account of the conditions on which they were founded ceasing to exist; and many of the enactments of the latter lose their significance and binding force from the same cause. Many of the forms now in vogue, in what is called fashionable society, are of this character. Under the circumstances which called them into existence they were appropriate and beautiful; under changed circumstances they are simply absurd. There are other forms of observances over which time and place have no influence—which are always and everywhere binding.
Politeness itself is always the same. The rules of etiquette, which are merely the forms in which it finds expression, vary with time and place. A sincere regard for the rights of others, in the smallest matters as well as the largest, genuine kindness of heart; good taste, and self-command, which are the foundations of good manners, are never out of fashion; and a person who possesses them can hardly be rude or discourteous, however far he may transgress conventional usages: lacking these qualities, the most perfect knowledge of the rules of etiquette and the strictest observance of them will not suffice to make one truly polite.
"Politeness," says La Bruyere, "seems to be a certain care, by the manner of our words and actions, to make others pleased with us and themselves." This definition refers the matter directly to those qualities of mind and heart already enumerated as the foundations of good manners. To the same effect is the remark of Madame Celnart, that "the grand secret of never-failing propriety of deportment is to have an intention of always doing right."
Some persons have the "instinct of courtesy" so largely developed that they seem hardly to need culture at all. They are equal to any occasion, however novel. They never commit blunders, or if they do commit them, they seem not to be blunders in them. So there are those who sing, speak, or draw intuitively—by inspiration. The great majority of us, however, must be content to acquire these arts by study and practice. In the same way we must acquire the art of behavior, so far as behavior is an art. We must possess, in the first place, a sense of equity, good-will toward our fellow-men, kind feelings, magnanimity and self-control. Cultivation will do the rest. But we most never forget that manners as well as morals are founded on certain eternal principles, and that while "the letter killeth," "the spirit giveth life."
The account which Lord Chesterfield gives of the method by which he acquired the reputation of being the most polished man in England, is a strong example of the efficacy of practice, in view of which no one need despair. He was naturally singularly deficient in that grace which afterward so distinguished him. "I had a strong desire," he says, "to please, and was sensible that I had nothing but the desire. I therefore resolved, if possible, to acquire the means too. I studied attentively and minutely the dress, the air, the manner, the address, and the turn of conversation of all those whom I found to be the people in fashion, and most generally allowed to please. I imitated them as well as I could: if I heard that one man was reckoned remarkably genteel, I carefully watched his dress, motions, and attitudes, and formed my own upon them. When I heard of another whose conversation was agreeable and engaging I listened and attended to the turn of it. I addressed myself, though de tres mauvaise grace [with a very bad grace], to all the most fashionable fine ladies; confessed and laughed with them at my own awkwardness and rawness, recommending myself as an object for them to try their skill in forming."
Lord Bacon says: "To attain good manners it almost sufficeth not to despise them, and that if a man labor too much to express them, he shall lose their grace, which is to be natural and unaffected."
To these testimonies we may add the observation of La Rochefoucauld, that "in manners there are no good copies, for besides that the copy is almost always clumsy or exaggerated, the air which is suited to one person sits ill upon another."
The greater must have been the genius of Chesterfield which enabled him to make the graces of others his own, appropriating them only so far as they fitted him, instead of blindly and servilely imitating his models.
C. P. Bronson truly says: "In politeness, as in every thing else connected with the formation of character, we are too apt to begin on the outside, instead of the inside; instead of beginning with the heart, and trusting to that to form the manners, many begin with the manners, and leave the heart to chance and influences. The golden rule contains the very life and soul of politeness: 'Do unto others as you would they should do unto you.' Unless children and youth are taught, by precept and example, to abhor what is selfish, and prefer another's pleasure and comfort to their own, their politeness will be entirely artificial, and used only when interest and policy dictate. True politeness is perfect freedom and ease, treating others just as you love to be treated. Nature is always graceful: affectation, with all her art, can never produce any thing half so pleasing. The very perfection of elegance is to imitate nature; how much better to have the reality than the imitation! Anxiety about the opinions of others fetters the freedom of nature and tends to awkwardness; all would appear well if they never tried to assume what they do not possess."
A writer in Life Illustrated, to whose excellent observations on etiquette we shall have further occasion to refer, contends that the instinct of courtesy is peculiarly strong in the American people. "It is shown," he says, "in the civility which marks our intercourse with one another. It is shown in the deference which is universally paid to the presence of the gentler sex. It is shown in the excessive fear which prevails among us of offending public opinion. It is shown in the very extravagances of our costume and decoration, in our lavish expenditures upon house and equipage. It is shown in the avidity with which every new work is bought and read which pretends to lay down the laws that govern the behavior of circles supposed to be, par excellence, polite. It is shown in the fact, that, next to calling a man a liar, the most offensive and stinging of all possible expressions is, 'You are no gentleman!'"
He claims that this is a national trait, and expresses the belief that every uncorrupt American man desires to be, and to be thought, a gentleman; that every uncorrupt American woman desires to be, and to be thought, a lady.
"But," he adds, "the instinct of courtesy is not enough, nor is opportunity equivalent to possession. The truth is palpable, that our men are not all gentlemen, nor our women all ladies, nor our children all docile and obliging. In that small and insignificant circle which is called 'Society,' which, small and insignificant as it is, gives the tone to the manners of the nation, the chief efforts seem to be, to cleanse the outside of the platter, to conceal defects by gloss and glitter. Its theory of politeness and its maxims of behavior are drawn from a state of things so different from that which here prevails, that they produce in us little besides an exaggerated ungracefulness, a painful constraint, a complete artificiality of conduct and character. We are trying to shine in borrowed plumes. We would glisten with foreign varnish. To produce an effect is our endeavor. We prefer to act, rather than live. The politeness which is based on sincerity, good-will, self-conquest, and a minute, habitual regard for the rights of others, is not, we fear, the politeness which finds favor in the saloons upon which the upholsterer has exhausted the resources of his craft. Yet without possessing, in a certain degree, the qualities we have named, no man ever did, and no man ever will, become a gentleman. Where they do not bear sway, society may be brilliant in garniture, high in pretension, but it is intrinsically and incurably vulgar!"
The utility of good manners is universally acknowledged perhaps, but the extent to which genuine courtesy may be made to contribute to our success as well as our happiness is hardly realized. We can not more satisfactorily illustrate this point than by quoting the following lesson of experience from the Autobiography of the late Dr. Caldwell, the celebrated physician and phrenologist:
"In the year 1825 I made, in London, in a spirit of wager, a decisive and satisfactory experiment as to the effect of civil and courteous manners on people of various ranks and descriptions.
"There were in a place a number of young Americans, who often complained to me of the neglect and rudeness experienced by them from citizens to whom they spoke in the streets. They asserted, in particular, that as often as they requested directions to any point in the city toward which they were proceeding, they either received an uncivil and evasive answer, or none at all. I told them that my experience on the same subject had been exceedingly different: that I had never failed to receive a civil reply to my questions—often communicating the information requested: and that I could not help suspecting that their failure to receive similar answers arose, in part at least, if not entirely, to the plainness, not to say the bluntness, of their manner in making their inquiries. The correctness of this charge, however, they sturdily denied, asserting that their manner of asking for information was good enough for those to whom they addressed themselves. Unable to convince them by words of the truth of my suspicions, I proposed to them the following simple and conclusive experiment:
"'Let us take together a walk of two or three hours in some of the public streets of the city. You shall yourselves designate the persons to whom I shall propose questions, and the subjects also to which the question shall relate; and the only restriction imposed is, that no question shall be proposed to any one who shall appear to be greatly hurried, agitated, distressed, or any other way deeply preoccupied, in mind or body, and no one shall speak to the person questioned but myself.'
"My proposition being accepted, out we sallied, and to work we went; and I continued my experiment until my young friends surrendered at discretion, frankly acknowledging that my opinion was right, and theirs, of course was wrong; and that, in our passage through life, courtesy of address and deportment may be made both a pleasant and powerful means to attain our ends and gratify our wishes.
"I put questions to more than twenty persons of every rank, from the high-bred gentleman to the servant in livery, and received in every instance a satisfactory reply. If the information asked for was not imparted, the individual addressed gave an assurance of his at being unable to communicate it.
"What seemed to surprise my friends was, that the individuals accosted by me almost uniformly imitated my own manner. If I uncovered my head, as I did in speaking to a gentleman, or even to a man of ordinary appearance and breeding, he did the same in his reply; and when I touched my hat to a liveried coachman or waiting man, his hat was immediately under his arm. So much may be done, and such advantages gained, by simply avoiding coarseness and vulgarity, and being well bred and agreeable. Nor can the case be otherwise. For the foundation of good breeding is good nature and good sense—two of the most useful and indispensable attributes of a well-constituted mind. Let it not be forgotten, however, that good breeding is not to be regarded as identical with politeness—a mistake which is too frequently, if not generally, committed. A person may be exceedingly polite without the much higher and more valuable accomplishment of good breeding."
Believing that the natural qualities essential to the character of the gentleman or the lady exist in a high degree among our countrymen and countrywomen, and that they universally desire to develop these qualities, and to add to them the necessary knowledge of all the truly significant and living forms and usages of good society, we have written the work now before you. We have not the vanity to believe that the mere reading of it will, of itself, convert an essentially vulgar person into a lady or a gentleman; but we do hope that we have furnished those who most need it with available and efficient aid; and in this hope we dedicate this little "Manual of Republican Etiquette" to all who are, or would be, in the highest sense of these terms,
TRUE REPUBLICAN LADIES OR GENTLEMEN
HOW TO BEHAVE.
Attention to the person is the first necessity of good manners.—Anon.
I.—WHERE TO COMMENCE.
If you wish to commence aright the study of manners, you must make your own person the first lesson. If you neglect this you will apply yourself to those which follow with very little profit. Omit, therefore, any other chapter in the book rather than this.
The proper care and adornment of the person is a social as well as an individual duty. You have a right to go about with unwashed hands and face, and to wear soiled and untidy garments, perhaps, but you have no right to offend the senses of others by displaying such hands, face, and garments in society. Other people have rights as well as yourself, and no right of yours can extend so far as to infringe theirs.
But we may safely assume that no reader of these pages wishes to render himself disgusting or even disagreeable or to cut himself off from the society of his fellow-men. We address those who seek social intercourse and desire to please. They will not think our words amiss, even though they may seem rather "personal;" since we have their highest good in view, and speak in the most friendly spirit. Those who do not need our hints and suggestions under this head, and to whom none of our remarks may apply, will certainly have the courtesy to excuse them for the sake of those to whom they will be useful.
"Cleanliness is akin to godliness," it is said. It is not less closely related to gentility. First of all, then, keep yourself scrupulously clean—not your hands and face merely, but your whole person, from the crown of your head to the sole of your foot. Silk stockings may hide dirty feet and ankles from the eye, but they often reveal themselves to another sense, when the possessor little dreams of such an exposure. It is far better to dress coarsely and out of fashion and be strictly clean, than to cover a dirty skin with the finest and richest clothing. A coarse shirt or a calico dress is not necessarily vulgar, but dirt is essentially so. We do not here refer, of course, to one's condition while engaged in his or her industrial occupation. Soiled hands and even a begrimed face are badges of honor in the field, the workshop, or the kitchen, but in a country in which soap and water abound, there is no excuse for carrying them into the parlor or the dining-room.
A clean skin is as essential to health, beauty, and personal comfort as it is to decency; and without health and that perfect freedom from physical disquiet which comes only from the normal action of all the functions of the bodily organs, your behavior can never be satisfactory to yourself or agreeable to others. Let us urge you, then, to give this matter your first attention.
1. The Daily Bath.
To keep clean you must bathe frequently. In the first place you should wash the whole body with pure soft water every morning on rising from your bed, rubbing it till dry with a coarse towel, and afterward using friction with the hands. If you have not been at all accustomed to cold bathing, commence with tepid water, lowering the temperature by degrees till that which is perfectly cold becomes agreeable. In warm weather, comfort and cleanliness alike require still more frequent bathing. Mohammed made frequent ablutions a religious duty; and in that he was right. The rank and fetid odors which exhale from a foul skin can hardly be neutralized by the sweetest incense of devotion.
2. Soap and Water.
But the daily bath of which we have spoken is not sufficient. In addition to the pores from which exudes the watery fluid called perspiration, the skin is furnished with innumerable minute openings, known as the sebaceous follicles, which pour over its surface a thin limpid oil anointing it and rendering it soft and supple; but also causing the dust as well as the effete matter thrown out by the pores to adhere, and, if allowed to accumulate, finally obstructing its functions and causing disease. It also, especially in warm weather, emits an exceedingly disagreeable odor. Pure cold water will not wholly remove these oily accumulations. The occasional use of soap and warm or tepid water is therefore necessary; but all washings with soapy or warm water should be followed by a thorough rinsing with pure cold water. Use good, fine soap. The common coarser kinds are generally too strongly alkaline and have an unpleasant effect upon the skin.
3. The Feet.
The feet are particularly liable to become offensively odoriferous, especially when the perspiration is profuse. Frequent washings with cold water, with the occasional use of warm water and soap, are absolutely necessary to cleanliness.
4. Change of Linen.
A frequent change of linen is another essential of cleanliness. It avails little to wash the body if we inclose it the next minute in soiled garments. It is not in the power of every one to wear fine and elegant clothes, but we can all, under ordinary circumstances, afford clean shirts, drawers, and stockings. Never sleep in any garment worn during the day; and your night-dress should be well aired every morning.
5. The Nails.
You will not, of course, go into company, or sit down to the table, with soiled hands, but unless you habituate yourself to a special care of them, more or less dirt will be found lodged under the nails. Clean them carefully every time you wash your hands, and keep them smoothly and evenly cut. If you allow them to get too long they are liable to be broken off, and become uneven and ragged, and if you pare them too closely they fail to protect the ends of the fingers.
6. The Head.
The head is more neglected, perhaps, than any other part of the body. The results are not less disastrous here than elsewhere. Dandruff forms, dust accumulates, the scalp becomes diseased, the hair grows dry, and falls off and if the evil be not remedied, premature baldness ensues. The head should be thoroughly washed as often as cleanliness demands. This will not injure the hair, as many suppose, but, on the contrary, will promote its growth and add to its beauty. If soap is used, however, it should be carefully rinsed off. If the hair is carefully and thoroughly brushed every morning, it will not require very frequent washings. If the scalp be kept in a healthy condition the hair will be moist, glossy, and luxuriant, and no oil or hair wash will be required; and these preparations generally do more harm than good. Night-caps are most unwholesome and uncleanly contrivances, and should be discarded altogether. They keep the head unnaturally warm, shut out the fresh air, and shut in those natural exhalations which should be allowed to pass off, and thus weaken the hair and render it more liable to fall off. Ladies may keep their hair properly together during repose by wearing a net over it.
7. The Teeth.
Do not forget the teeth. Cleanliness, health, a pure breath, and the integrity and durability of those organs require that they be thoroughly and effectually scoured with the tooth-brush dipped in soft water, with the addition of a little soap, if necessary, every morning. Brush them outside and inside, and in every possible direction. You can not be too careful in this matter. After brushing rinse your mouth with cold water. A slighter brushing should be given them after each meal. Use an ivory tooth-pick or a quill to remove any particles of food that may be lodged between the teeth.
There are, no doubt, original differences in teeth, as in other parts of the human system, some being more liable to decay than others; but the simple means we have pointed out, if adopted in season and perseveringly applied, will preserve almost any teeth, in all their usefulness and reality, till old age. If yours have been neglected, and some of them are already decayed, hasten to preserve the remainder. While you have any teeth left, it is never too late to begin to take care of them; and if you have children, do not, we entreat you, neglect their teeth. If the first or temporary teeth are cared for and preserved, they will be mainly absorbed by the second or permanent ones, and will drop out of themselves. The others, in that case, will come out regular and even.
Beware of the teeth-powders, teeth-washes, and the like, advertised in the papers. They are often even more destructive to the teeth than the substances they are intended to remove. If any teeth-powder is required, pure powdered charcoal is the best thing you can procure; but if the teeth are kept clean, in the way we have directed, there will be little occasion for any other dentrifices than pure water and a little soap. Your tooth-brushes should be rather soft; those which are too hard injuring both the teeth and the gums.
8. The Breath.
A bad breath arises more frequently than otherwise from neglected and decayed teeth. If it is occasioned by a foul stomach, a pure diet, bathing, water injections, and a general attention to the laws of health are required for its removal.
III.—EATING AND DRINKING.
Whatever has a bearing upon health has at least an indirect connection with manners; the reader will therefore excuse us for introducing here a few remarks which may seem, at the first glance, rather irrelevant. Sound lungs, a healthy liver, and a good digestion are as essential to the right performance of our social duties as they are to our own personal comfort; therefore a few words on eating and drinking, as affecting these, will not be out of place.
1. What to Eat.
An unperverted appetite is the highest authority in matters of diet. In fact, its decisions should be considered final, and without the privilege of appeal. Nature makes no mistakes.
The plant selects from the soil which its roots permeate, the chemical elements necessary to its growth and perfect development, rejecting with unerring certainty every particle which would prove harmful or useless. The wild animal chooses with equal certainty the various kinds of food adapted to the wants of its nature, never poisoning itself by eating or drinking any thing inimical to its life and health. The sense of taste and the wants of the system act in perfect harmony. So it should be with man. That which most perfectly gratifies the appetite should be the best adapted to promote health, strength, and beauty.
But appetite, like all the other instincts or feelings of our nature, is liable to become perverted, and to lead us astray. We acquire a relish for substances which are highly hurtful, such as tobacco, ardent spirits, malt liquors, and the like. We have "sought out many inventions," to pander to false and fatal tastes, and too often eat, not to sustain life and promote the harmonious development of the system, but to poison the very fountains of our being and implant in our blood the seeds of disease.
Attend to the demands of appetite, but use all your judgment in determining whether it is a natural, undepraved craving of the system which speaks, or an acquired and vicious taste, and give or withhold accordingly; and, above all, never eat when you have no appetite. Want of appetite is equivalent to the most authoritative command to eat nothing, and we disregard it at our peril. Food, no matter how wholesome, taken into our stomachs under such circumstances, instead of being digested and appropriated, becomes rank poison. Eating without appetite is one of the most fatal of common errors.
We have no room, even if we had the ability and the desire, to discuss the comparative merits of the two opposing systems of diet—the vegetarian and the mixed. We shall consider the question of flesh-eating an open one.
Your food should be adapted to the climate, season, and your occupation. In the winter and in northern climates a larger proportion of the fatty or carboniferous elements are required than in summer and in southern latitudes. The Esquimaux, in his snow-built hut, swallows immense quantities of train-oil, without getting the dyspepsia; still, we do not recommend train-oil as an article of diet; neither can we indorse the eating of pork in any form; but these things are far less hurtful in winter than in summer, and to those who labor in the open air than to the sedentary.
Live well. A generous diet promotes vitality and capability for action. "Good cheer is friendly to health." But do not confound a generous diet with what is usually called "rich" food. Let all your dishes be nutritious, but plain, simple, and wholesome. Avoid highly seasoned viands and very greasy food at all times, but particularly in warm weather, also too much nutriment in the highly condensed forms of sugar, syrup, honey, and the like.
If you eat flesh, partake sparingly of it especially in summer. We Americans are the greatest flesh-eaters in the world, and it is not unreasonable to believe that there may be some connection between this fact and the equally notorious one that we are the most unhealthy people in the world. An untold amount of disease results from the too free use of flesh during the hot months. Heat promotes putrefaction; and as this change in meat is very rapid in warm weather, we can not be too careful not to eat that which is in the slightest degree tainted. Even when it goes into the stomach in a normal condition, there is danger; for if too much is eaten, or the digestive organs are not sufficiently strong and active, the process of putrefaction may commence in the stomach and diffuse a subtle poison through the whole system.
Hot biscuits; hot griddle cakes, saturated with butter and Stuart's syrup; and hot coffee, scarcely modified at all by the small quantity of milk usually added, are among the most deleterious articles ever put upon a table. While these continue to be the staples of our breakfasts, healthy stomachs and clear complexions will be rare among us. Never eat or drink any thing HOT.
Good bread is an unexceptionable article of diet. The best is made of unbolted wheat flour. A mixture of wheat and rye flour, or of corn meal with either, makes excellent bread. The meal and flour should be freshly ground; they deteriorate by being kept long. If raised or fermented bread is required, hop yeast is the best ferment that can be used. [For complete directions for bread-making, see Dr. Trall's "Hydropathic Cook-Book."]
The exclusive use of fine or bolted flour for bread, biscuits, and cakes of all kinds, is exceedingly injurious to health. The lignin or woody fiber which forms the bran of grains is just as essential to a perfect and healthful nutrition as are starch, sugar, gum, and fibrin, and the rejection of this element is one of the most mischievous errors of modern cookery.
Johnny-cake, or corn bread, is an excellent article, which is not yet fully appreciated. It is palatable and wholesome. Hominy, samp, cracked wheat, oatmeal mush, and boiled rice should have a high place on your list of edibles. Beans and peas should be more generally eaten than they are. They are exceedingly nutritious, and very palatable. In New England, "pork and beans" hold the place of honor, but elsewhere in this country they are almost unknown. Leaving out the pork (which, personally, we hold in more than Jewish abhorrence), nothing can be better, provided they are eaten in moderation and with a proper proportion of less nutritious food. They should be well baked in pure, soft water. A sufficient quantity of salt to season them, with the addition of a little sweet milk, cream, or butter while baking, leaves nothing to be desired. If meat is wanted, however, a slice of beefsteak, laid upon the surface, will serve a better purpose than pork. Potatoes, beets, turnips, carrots, parsneps, and cabbages are good in their place.
But Nature indicates very plainly that fruits and berries, in their season, should have a prominent place in our dietary. They are produced in abundance, and every healthy stomach instinctively craves them. Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, whortleberries, cherries, plums, grapes, figs, apples, pears, peaches, and melons are "food fit for gods." We pity those whose perverted taste or digestion leads to their rejection. But some are afraid to eat fruits and berries, particularly in midsummer, just the time when nature and common sense say they should be eaten most freely. They have the fear of cholera, dysentery, and similar diseases before their eyes, and have adopted the popular but absurd idea that fruit eating predisposes to disorders of the stomach and bowels. Exactly the reverse is the fact. There are no better preventives of such diseases than ripe fruits and berries, eaten in proper quantities and at proper times Unripe fruits should be scrupulously avoided, and that which is in any measure decayed as scarcely less objectionable. Fruit and berries should make a part of every meal in summer. In winter they are less necessary, but may be eaten with advantage, if within our reach; and they are easily preserved in various ways.
We might write a volume on the subject of food, but these general hints must suffice. If you would pursue the inquiry, read O. S. Fowler's "Physiology, Animal and Mental," and the "Hydropathic Cook-Book," already referred to.
2. When to Eat.
Eat when the stomach, through the instinct of appetite, demands a new supply of food. If all your habits are regular, this will be at about the same hours each day; and regularity in the time of taking our meals is very important. Want of attention to this point is a frequent cause of derangement of the digestive organs. We can not stop to discuss the question how many meals per day we should eat; but whether you eat one, two, or three, never, under ordinary circumstances, take lunches. The habit of eating between meals is a most pernicious one. Not even your children must be indulged in it, as you value their health, comfort, and good behavior.
3. How Much to Eat.
We can not tell you, by weight or measure, how much to eat, the right quantity depending much upon age, sex, occupation, season, and climate, but the quantity is quite as important as the quality. Appetite would be a sure guide in both respects were it not so often perverted and diseased. As a general rule, we eat too much. It is better to err in the other direction. An uncomfortable feeling of fullness, or of dullness and stupor after a meal is a sure sign of over-eating, so whatever and whenever you eat, eat slowly, masticate your food well, and DO NOT EAT TOO MUCH.
If we eat proper food, and in proper quantity, we are seldom thirsty. Inordinate thirst indicates a feverish state of either the stomach or the general system. It is pretty sure to follow a too hearty meal.
Water is the proper drink for everybody and for every thing that lives or grows. It should be pure and soft. Many diseases arise wholly from the use of unwholesome water. If you drink tea (which we do not recommend), let it be the best of black tea, and not strong. Coffee, if drunk at all, should be diluted with twice its quantity of boiled milk, and well sweetened with white sugar.
Breathing is as necessary as eating. If we cease to breathe, our bodies cease to live. If we only half breathe, as is often the case, we only half live. The human system requires a constant supply of oxygen to keep up the vital processes which closely resemble combustion, of which oxygen is the prime supporter. If the supply is insufficient, the fire of life wanes. The healthy condition of the lungs also requires that they be completely expanded by the air inhaled. The imperfect breathing of many persons fails to accomplish the required inflation, and the lungs become diseased for want of their natural action. Full, deep breathing and pure air are as essential to health, happiness, and the right performance of our duties, whether individual, political, or social, as pure food and temperate habits of eating and drinking are. Attend, then, to the lungs as well as the stomach. Breathe good air. Have all your rooms, and especially your sleeping apartment well ventilated. The air which has been vitiated by breathing or by the action of fire, which abstracts the oxygen and supplies its place with carbonic acid gas, is a subtle poison.
The amount of physical exercise required varies with age, sex, and temperament; but no person can enjoy vigorous health without a considerable degree of active bodily exertion. Four or five hours per day spent in the open air, in some labor or amusement which calls for the exercise of the muscles of the body, is probably no more than a proper average. We can live with less—that is, for a short time; but Nature's laws are inexorable, and we can not escape the penalty affixed to their violation. Those whose occupations are sedentary should seek amusements which require the exertion of the physical powers, and should spend as much as possible of their leisure time in the open air. We must, however, use good judgment in this matter as well as in eating. Too much exercise at once, or that which is fitful and violent, is often exceedingly injurious to those whose occupations have accustomed them to little physical exertion of any kind.
The women of our country are suffering incalculably for want of proper exercise. No other single cause perhaps is doing so much to destroy health and beauty, and deteriorate the race, as this. "Your women are very handsome," Frederika Bremer said, one day, "but they are too white; they look as if they grew in the shade." A sad truth. Ladies, if you would be healthy, beautiful, and attractive—if you would fit yourselves to be good wives, and the mothers of strong and noble men, you must take an adequate amount of exercise in the open air. This should be an every-day duty.
Every person, and especially every lady, desires a clear complexion. To secure this, follow the foregoing directions in reference to cleanliness, eating, drinking, breathing, and exercise. The same recipe serves for ruby lips and rosy cheeks. These come and go with health, and health depends upon obedience to the laws of our constitution.
Few of us are free from disagreeable habits of which we are hardly conscious, so seemingly natural have they become to us. It is the office of friendship, though not always a pleasant one, to point them out. It is our business to assume that office here, finding our excuse in the necessity of the case. Our bad habits not only injure ourselves, but they give offense to others, and indirectly injure them also.
Ladies, in this country, do not use tobacco, so they may skip this section. A large and increasing number of gentlemen may do the same; but if you use tobacco, in any forth, allow us to whisper a useful hint or two in your ear.
Smoking, snuff-taking, and especially chewing, are bad habits at best, and in their coarser forms highly disgusting to pure and refined people, and especially to ladies. You have the same right to smoke, take snuff, and chew that you have to indulge in the luxuries of a filthy skin and soiled garments, but you have no right, in either case, to do violence to the senses and sensibilities of other people by their exhibition in society. Smoke if you will, chew, take snuff (against our earnest advice, however), make yourself generally and particularly disagreeable, but you must suffer the consequences—the social outlawry which must result. Shall we convert our parlors into tobacco shops, risk the ruin of our carpets and furniture from the random shots of your disgusting saliva, and fill the whole atmosphere of our house with a pungent stench, to the discomfort and disgust of everybody else, merely for the pleasure of your company? We have rights as well as you, one of which is to exclude from our circle all persons whose manners or habits are distasteful to us. You talk of rights. You can not blame others for exercising theirs.
There are degrees here as everywhere else. One may chew a little, smoke an occasional cigar, and take a pinch of snuff now and then, and if he never indulges in these habits in the presence of others, and is very careful to purify his person before going into company, he may confine the bad effects, which he can not escape, mostly to his own person. But he must not smoke in any parlor, or sitting-room, or dining-room, or sleeping chamber, or in the street, and particularly not in the presence of ladies, anywhere.
"The use of tobacco has made us a nation of spitters," as some one has truly remarked. Spitting is a private act, and tobacco users are not alone in violating good taste and good manners by hawking and spitting in company. You should never be seen to spit. Use your handkerchief carefully and so as not to be noticed, or, in case of necessity, leave the room.
3. Gin and Gentility.
The spirit and tenor of our remarks on tobacco will apply to the use of ardent spirits. The fumes of gin, whisky, and rum are, if possible, worse than the scent of tobacco. They must on no account be brought into company. If a man (this is another section which women may skip) will make a beast of himself, and fill his blood with liquid poison, he must, if he desires admission into good company, do it either privately or with companions whose senses and appetites are as depraved as his own.
4. Onions, etc.
All foods or drinks which taint the breath or cause disagreeable eructations should be avoided by persons going into company. Onions emit so very disagreeable an odor that no truly polite person will eat them when liable to inflict their fumes upon others. Particular care should be taken to guard against a bad breath from any cause.
5. Several Items.
Never pare or scrape your nails, pick your teeth, comb your hair, or perform any of the necessary operations of the toilet in company. All these things should be carefully attended to in the privacy of your own room. To pick the nose, dig the ears, or scratch the head or any part of the person in company is still worse. Watch yourself carefully, and if you have any such habits, break them up at once. These may seem little things, but they have their weight, and go far in determining the character of the impression we make upon those around us.
From little matters let us pass to less, And lightly touch the mysteries of dress; The outward forms the inner man reveal; We guess the pulp before we eat the peel.—O. W. Holmes.
I.—THE LANGUAGE OF DRESS.
Dress has its language, which is, or may be, read and understood by all. It is one of the forms in which we naturally give expression to our tastes, our constructive faculties, our reason, our feelings, our habits—in a word, to our character, as a whole. This expression is often greatly modified by the arbitrary laws of Fashion, and by circumstances of time, place, and condition, which we can not wholly control; but can hardly be entirely falsified. Even that arch tyrant, the reigning Mode, whatever it may be, leaves us little room for choice in materials, forms, and colors, and the choice we make indicates our prominent traits of character.
II.—THE USES OF DRESS.
"Dress," that admirable Art Journal the Crayon says, "has two functions—to clothe and to ornament; and while we can not lose sight of either point, we must not attribute to the one a power which belongs to the other. The essential requirement of dress is to cover and make comfortable the body, and of two forms of dress which fulfill this function equally well, that is the better which is most accordant with the laws of beauty. But fitness must in nowise be interfered with; and the garb which infringes on this law gives us pain rather than pleasure. We believe that it will be found that fitness and beauty, so far from requiring any sacrifice for combination, are found each in the highest degree where both are most fully obtained—that the fittest, most comfortable dress is that which is most graceful or becoming. Fitness is the primary demand; and the dress that appears uncomfortable is untasteful.
"But in the secondary function of dress, ornamentation, there are several diverse objects to be attained—dignity, grace, vivacity, brilliancy, are qualities distinguishing different individuals, and indicating the impression they wish to make on society, and are expressed by different combinations of the elements of beauty, line, or form, and color. When the appareling of the outer being is in most complete harmony with the mental constitution, the taste is fullest."
III.—THE ART OF DRESS.
True art adapts dress to its uses, as indicated in the foregoing extract. It is based on universal principles fundamental to all art.
The art-writer already quoted says, very truly, that "Dress is always to be considered as secondary to the person." This is a fundamental maxim in the art of costume, but is often lost sight of, and dress made obtrusive at the expense of the individuality of the wearer. A man's vest or cravat must not seem a too important part of him. Dress may heighten beauty, but it can not create it. If you are not better and more beautiful than your clothes you are, indeed, a man or a woman of straw.
The next principle to be regarded is the fitness of your costume, in its forms materials, and colors, to your person and circumstances, and to the conditions of the time, place and occasion on which it is to be worn. Fashion often compels us to violate this principle, and dress in the most absurd, incongruous, unbecoming, and uncomfortable style. A little more self-respect and independence, however, would enable us to resist many of her most preposterous enactments. But Fashion is not responsible for all the incongruities in dress with which we meet. They are often the result of bad taste and affectation.
The first demand of this law of fitness is, that your costume shall accord with your person. The young and the old, we all instinctively know, should not dress alike. Neither should the tall and the short, the dark and the light, the pale and the rosy, the grave and the gay, the tranquil and the vivacious. Each variety of form, color, and character has its appropriate style; but our space here is too limited to allow us to do more than drop a hint toward what each requires, to produce the most harmonious and effective combination. In another work,[A] now in the course of preparation, this important subject will be treated in detail.
"In form, simplicity and long, unbroken lines give dignity, while complicated and short lines express vivacity. Curves, particularly if long and sweeping, give grace while straight lines and angles indicate power and strength. In color, unity of tint gives repose—if somber, gravity but if light and clear, then a joyous serenity—variety of tint giving vivacity, and if contrasted, brilliancy."
Longitudinal stripes in a lady's dress make her appear taller than she really is, and are therefore appropriate for persons of short stature. Tall women, for this reason, should never wear them. Flounces are becoming to tall persons, but not to short ones. The colors worn should be determined by the complexion, and should harmonize with it. "Ladies with delicate rosy complexions bear white and blue better than dark colors, while sallow hues of complexion will not bear these colors near them, and require dark, quiet, or grave colors to improve their appearance. Yellow is the most trying and dangerous of all, and can only be worn by the rich-toned, healthy-looking brunette."
In the second place, there should be harmony between your dress and your circumstances. It should accord with your means, your house, your furniture, the place in which you reside, and the society in which you move.
Thirdly, your costume should be suited to the time, place, and occasion on which it is to be worn. That summer clothes should not be worn in winter, or winter clothes in summer, every one sees clearly enough. The law of fitness as imperatively demands that you should have one dress for the kitchen, the field, or the workshop, and another, and quite a different one, for the parlor; one for the street and another for the carriage, one for a ride on horseback and another for a ramble in the country. Long, flowing, and even trailing skirts are beautiful and appropriate in the parlor, but in the muddy streets, draggling in the filth, and embarrassing every movement of the wearer, or in the country among the bushes and briers, they lose all their beauty and grace, because no longer fitting. The prettiest costume we have ever seen for a shopping excursion or a walk in the city, and especially for a ramble in the country, is a short dress or frock reaching to the knee, and trowsers of the common pantaloon form, but somewhat wider. Full Turkish trowsers might be worn with this dress, but are less convenient. The waist or body of the dress is made with a yoke and belt, and pretty full. The sleeves should be gathered into a band and buttoned at the wrist. A saque or a basque of a different color from the waist has a fine effect as a part of this costume. Add to it a gipsy hat and good substantial shoes or boots, and you may walk with ease, grace, and pleasure. This was the working and walking costume of the women of the North American Phalanx, and is still worn on the domain which once belonged to that Association, though the institution which gave it its origin has ceased to exist. If you reside in a place where you can adopt this as your industrial and walking costume, without too much notoriety and odium, try it. You must judge of this for yourself. We are telling you what is fitting, comfortable, and healthful, and therefore, in its place, beautiful, and not what it is expedient for you to wear. The time is coming when such a costume may be worn anywhere. Rational independence, good taste, and the study of art are preparing the way for the complete overthrow of arbitrary fashion. Help us to hasten the time when both women and men shall be permitted to dress as the eternal principles, harmony, and beauty dictate, and be no longer the slaves of the tailor and the dressmaker.
But without adopting any innovations liable to shock staid conservatism or puritanic prudery, you may still, in a good measure, avoid the incongruities which we are now compelled to witness, and make your costume accord with place and occupation.
In the field, garden, and workshop, gentlemen can wear nothing more comfortable and graceful than the blouse. It may be worn loose or confined by a belt. If your occupation is a very dusty one, wear overalls. In the counting-room and office, gentlemen wear frock-coats or sack coats. They need not be of very fine material, and should not be of any garish pattern. In your study or library, and about the house generally, on ordinary occasions, a handsome dressing-gown is comfortable and elegant.
A lady, while performing the morning duties of her household may wear a plain loose dress, made high in the neck, and with long sleeves fastened at the wrist. It must not look slatternly, and may be exceedingly beautiful and becoming.
In reference to ornament, "the law of dress," to quote our artist-friend again, "is, that where you want the eye of a spectator to rest (for we all dress for show), you should concentrate your decoration, leaving the parts of the apparel to which you do not want attention called, as plain and negative as possible—not ugly, as some people, in an affectation of plainness, do (for you have no right to offend the eye of your fellow-man with any thing which is ugly), but simply negative."
The materials of which your clothes are made should be the best that your means will allow. One generally exercises a very bad economy and worse taste in wearing low-priced and coarse materials. For your working costume, the materials should of course correspond with the usage to which they are to be subjected. They should be strong and durable, but need not therefore be either very coarse or at all ugly. As a general rule, it costs no more to dress well than ill.
A gentleman's shirts should always be fine, clean, and well-fitted. It is better to wear a coarse or threadbare coat than a disreputable shirt. The better taste and finer instincts of the ladies will require no hint in reference to their "most intimate appareling." True taste, delicacy, and refinement regards the under clothing as scrupulously as that which is exposed to view.
The coverings of the head and the feet are important and should by no means be inferior to the rest of your apparel. Shoes are better than boots, except in cases where the latter are required for the protection of the feet and ankles against water, snow, or injury from briers, brambles, and the like. Ladies' shoes for walking should be substantial enough to keep the feet dry and warm. If neatly made, and well-fitting, they need not be clumsy. Thin shoes, worn on the damp ground or pavement, have carried many a beautiful woman to her grave. If you wish to have corns and unshapely feet, wear tight shoes; they never fail to produce those results.
The fashionable fur hat, in its innumerable but always ugly forms, is, in the eye of taste, an absurd and unsightly covering for the head; and it is hardly less uncomfortable and unhealthful than ugly. The fine, soft, and more picturesque felt hats now, we are glad to say, coming more and more into vogue, are far more comfortable and healthful. A light, fine straw hat is the best for summer.
The bonnets of the ladies, in their fashionable forms, are only a little less ugly and unbecoming than the fur hats of the gentlemen. A broad-brimmed or gipsy hat is far more becoming to most women than the common bonnet. We hope to live to see both "stove-pipe hats" and "sugar-scoop bonnets" abolished; but, in the mean time let those wear them who must.
V.—MRS. MANNERS ON DRESS.
Mrs. Manners, the highest authority we can possibly quote in such matters, has the following hints to girls, which we can not deny ourselves the pleasure of copying, though they may seem, in part, a repetition of remarks already made:
"Good taste is indispensable in dress, but that, united to neatness, is all that is necessary—that is the fabled cestus of Venus which gave beauty to its wearer. Good taste involves suitable fabrics—a neat and becoming 'fitting' to her figure—colors suited to her complexion, and a simple and unaffected manner of wearing one's clothes. A worsted dress in a warm day, or a white one in a cold day, or a light, thin one in a windy day, are all in bad taste. Very fine or very delicate dresses worn in the street, or very highly ornamented clothes worn to church or to shop in, are in bad taste. Very long dresses worn in muddy or dusty weather, even if long dresses are the fashion, are still in bad taste.
"Deep and bright-colored gloves are always in bad taste; very few persons are careful enough in selecting gloves. Light shoes and dark dresses, white stockings and dark dresses, dark stockings and light dresses, are not indicative of good taste. A girl with neatly and properly dressed feet, with neat, well-fitting gloves, smoothly arranged hair, and a clean, well-made dress, who walks well, and speaks well, and, above all, acts politely and kindly, is a lady, and no wealth is required here. Fine clothes and fine airs are abashed before such propriety and good taste. Thus the poorest may be so attired as to appear as lady-like as the wealthiest; nothing is more vulgar than the idea that money makes a lady, or that fine clothes can do it."
VI.—WEARING THE HAIR AND BEARD.
The hair and beard, in one of their aspects, belong to the dress. In reference to the style of wearing them, consult the general principles of taste. A man to whom nature has given a handsome beard, deforms himself sadly by shaving—at least, that is our opinion; and on this point fashion and good taste agree. The full beard is now more common than the shaven face in all our large cities.
In the dressing of the hair there is room for the display of a great deal of taste and judgment. The style should vary with the different forms of face. Lardner's "Young Ladies' Manual" has the following hints to the gentler sex. Gentlemen can modify them to suit their case:
"After a few experiments, a lady may very easily decide what mode of dressing her hair, and what head-dress renders her face most attractive.
"Ringlets hanging about the forehead suit almost every one. On the other hand, the fashion of putting the hair smoothly, and drawing it back on either side, is becoming to few; it has a look of vanity instead of simplicity: the face must do every thing for it, which is asking too much, especially as hair, in its pure state, is the ornament intended for it by nature. Hair is to the human aspect what foliage is to the landscape.
"Light hair is generally most becoming when curled. For a round face, the curls should be made in short, half ringlets, reaching a little below the ears. For an oval face, long and thick ringlets are suitable; but if the face be thin and sharp, the ringlets should be light, and not too long, nor too many in number.
"When dark hair is curled, the ringlets should never fall in heavy masses upon the shoulders. Open braids are very beautiful when made of dark hair; they are also becoming to light-haired persons. A simple and graceful mode of arranging the hair is to fold the front locks behind the ears, permitting the ends to fall in a couple of ringlets on either side behind.
"Another beautiful mode of dressing the hair, and one very appropriate in damp weather, when it will keep in curl, is to loop up the ringlets with small hair-pins on either side of the face and behind the ears, and pass a light band of braided hair over them.
"Persons with very long, narrow heads may wear the hair knotted very low at the back of the neck. If the head be long, but not very narrow, the back hair may be drawn to one side, braided in a thick braid, and wound around the head. When the head is round, the hair should be formed in a braid in the middle of the back of the head. If the braid be made to resemble a basket, and a few curls permitted to fall from within it, the shape of the head is much improved."
VII.—ART VS. FASHION.
Observe that we have been laying down some of the maxims deduced from the principles of art and taste, in their application to dress, and not promulgating the edicts of Fashion. If there is a lack of harmony on some points, between the two, it is not our fault. We have endeavored to give you some useful hints in reference to the beautiful and the fitting in costume, based on a higher law than the enactments of the fashion-makers. You must judge for yourself how far you can make the latter bend to the former. We have been talking of dress as an individual matter. In future chapters we shall have occasion to refer to it in its relation to the usages of society.
VIII.—SIGNS OF "THE GOOD TIME COMING."
N. P. Willis, in the Home Journal, writing on the dress-reform agitation, thus closes his disquisition:
"We repeat, that we see signs which look to us as if the present excitement as to one fashion were turning into a universal inquiry as to the sense or propriety of any fashion at all. When the subject shall have been fully discussed, and public attention fully awakened, common sense will probably take the direction of the matter, and opinion will settle in some shape which, at least, may reject former excesses and absurdities. Some moderate similarity of dress is doubtless necessary, and there are proper times and places for long dresses and short dresses. These and other points the ladies are likely to come to new decisions about. While they consult health, cleanliness, and convenience, however, we venture to express a hope that they will get rid of the present slavish uniformity—that what is becoming to each may be worn without fear of unfashionableness, and that in this way we may see every woman dressed somewhat differently and to her own best advantage, and the proportion of beauty largely increased, as it would, thereby, most assuredly be."
[A] "Hints toward Physical Perfection; or, How to Acquire and Retain Beauty, Grace, and Strength, and Secure Long Life and Perpetual Youth."
There is no man who can so easily and so naturally become in all points a Gentleman Knight, without fear and without reproach, as a true American Republican.—James Parton.
I.-MORAL AND SOCIAL TRAINING.
Having given due attention to your personal habits and dress, consider what special errors still remain to be corrected, or what deficiencies to be supplied, and carefully and perseveringly apply yourself to the required self-training.
If you are sensible of an inadequate development of any of those faculties or feelings on which good manners are based, set yourself at once about the work of cultivation, remembering that the legitimate exercise of any organ or function necessarily tends to its development. Look first to conscientiousness. It is hardly possible for you to acquire genuine good manners without an acute sense of equity. Accustom yourself to a sacred regard for the rights of others, even in the minutest matters, and in the most familiar intercourse of the family or social circle. In a similar manner cultivate Benevolence, Veneration, Adhesiveness, Agreeableness, Ideality, and the moral, social, and esthetic faculties in general. Go out of your way, if necessary, to perform acts of kindness and friendship; never omit the "thank you" which is due for the slightest possible favor, whether rendered by the highest or the lowest; be always bland and genial; respect times, places, observances, and especially persons; and put yourself in the way of all possible elevating and refining influences. Manners have their origin in the mind and the heart. Manners do not make the man, as is sometimes asserted; but the man makes the manners. It is true, however, that the manners react upon mind and heart, continually developing and improving the qualities out of which they spring.
You are placed in a particular community, or you are invited or wish to gain admittance into a certain circle. Different communities and circles require, to some extent, different qualifications. Ascertain what you lack and acquire it as speedily as possible; but remember that good sense and good nature are out of place in no company.
Conversation plays an important part in the intercourse of society. It is a great and valuable accomplishment to be able to talk well. Cultivate language and the voice. Learn to express yourself with correctness, ease, and elegance. This subject is worthy of all the time and study you can give to it. "How to Talk: a Pocket Manual of Conversation and Debate," which forms one of this series of "Hand-Books for Home Improvement," will give you all necessary aid in this department.
III.—POSITION AND MOVEMENT.
Study also the graces of manner, motion, and position. Grace is natural, no doubt, but most of us have nearly lost sight of nature. It is often with the greatest difficulty that we find our way back to her paths. It seems a simple and easy thing to walk, and a still easier and simpler thing to stand or sit, but not one in twenty perform either of these acts with ease and grace. There are a hundred little things connected with attitude, movement, the carriage of the arms, the position of the feet and the like, which, though seemingly unimportant are really essential to elegance and ease. Never despise these little things, or be ashamed to acquire the smallest grace by study and practice.
You desire to be a person of "good standing" in society. How do you stand? We refer now to the artistic or esthetic point of view. If you are awkward, you are more likely to manifest your awkwardness in standing than in walking. Do you know where to put your feet and what to do with your hands? In the absence of any better rule or example, try to forget your limbs, and let them take care of themselves. But observe the attitudes which sculptors give to their statues; and study also those of children, which are almost always graceful, because natural. Avoid, on the one hand, the stiffness of the soldier, and, on the other, the ape-like suppleness of the dancing-master; and let there be no straining, no fidgeting, no uneasy shifting of position. You should stand on both feet, bearing a little more heavily on one than the other. The same general principles apply to the sitting posture. This may be either graceful, dignified, and elegant, or awkward, abject, and uncouth. The latter class of qualities may be got rid of and the former acquired, and depend upon it, it is a matter of some consequence which of them characterizes your position and movements. Walking is not so difficult an accomplishment as standing and sitting, but should receive due attention. It has a very close connection with character, and either of them may be improved or deteriorated through the other. A close observer and a sensible and trustworthy monitor of their own sex thus enumerates some of the common faults of women in their "carriage," or manner of walking:
"Slovenliness in walking characterizes some. They go shuffling along, precisely as if their shoes were down at the heel—"slipshod"—and they could not lift up their feet in consequence. If it is dusty or sandy, they kick up the dust before them and fill their skirts with it. This is exceedingly ungraceful. If I were a gentleman, I really do not think I could marry a lady who walked like this; she would appear so very undignified, and I could not be proud of her.
"Some have another awkwardness. They lift up their feet so high that their knees are sent out before them showing the movement through the dress. They always seem to be leaving their skirts behind them, instead of carrying them gracefully about them. Some saunter along so loosely they seem to be hung on wires; others are as stiff as if they supposed only straight lines were agreeable to the eye; and others, again, run the chin forward considerably in advance of the breast, looking very silly and deficient in self-respect.
"Sometimes a lady walks so as to turn up her dress behind every time she puts her foot back, and I have seen a well-dressed woman made to look very awkward by elevating her shoulders slightly and pushing her elbows too far behind her. Some hold their hands up to the waist, and press their arms against themselves as tightly as if they were glued there; others swing them backward and forward, as a business man walks along the street. Too short steps detract from dignity very much, forming a mincing pace; too long steps are masculine.
"Some walk upon the ball of the foot very flatly and clumsily; others come down upon the heel as though a young elephant was moving; and others, again, ruin their shoes and their appearance by walking upon the side of the foot. Many practice a stoop called the Grecian bend, and when they are thirty, will pass well, unless the face be seen, for fifty years' old."
Gymnastics, dancing, and the military drill are excellent auxiliaries in the work of physical training, though all of them may be, and constantly are, abused. We can not illustrate their application here. They will receive the attention they deserve in "Hints toward Physical Perfection," already referred to as in preparation.
Without perfect self-control you are constantly liable to do something amiss, and your other social qualifications will avail little. You must not only be fully conscious who you are, what you are, where you are, and what you are about, but you must also have an easy and complete control of all your words and actions, and feel at home wherever you are. You are liable to lose this self-command either through bashfulness or excitement. The former is one of the greatest obstacles with which a majority of young people have to contend. It can be overcome by resolute effort and the cultivation of self-respect and self-reliance. Do not allow it to keep you out of society. You will not conquer it by such a course. You might as reasonably expect to learn to swim without going into the water.
One of the best means of improvement in manners is observation. In company, where you are in doubt in reference to any rule or form, be quiet and observe what others do, and govern your conduct by theirs; but except in mere external forms, beware of a servile imitation. Seek to understand the principles which underlie the observances you witness, and to become imbued with the spirit of the society (if good) in which you move, rather than to copy particulars in the manners of any one.
But the most important instrumentality for the promotion of the externals of good manners is constant practice in the actual every-day intercourse of society; and without this our instructions and your study will both be thrown away. Begin now, to-day, with the next person you meet or address.
Courtesy is the beautiful part of morality, justice carried to the utmost, rectitude refined, magnanimity in trifles.—Life Illustrated.
I.—MANNERS AND MORALS.
Good manners and good morals are founded on the same eternal principles of right, and are only different expressions of the same great truths. Both grow out of the necessities of our existence and relations. We have individual rights based on the fact of our individual being; and we have social duties resulting from our connection, in the bonds of society, with other individuals who have similar rights. Morals and manners alike, while they justify us in asserting and maintaining our own rights, require us scrupulously to respect, in word and act, the rights of others. It is true that the former, in the common comprehension of the term, is satisfied with simple justice in all our relations, while the latter often requires something more than the strictest conscientiousness can demand—a yielding of more than half the road—an exercise of the sentiment of benevolence, as well as of equity; but the highest morality really makes the same requisition, for it includes politeness, and recognizes deeds of kindness as a duty.
In this country we need no incitements to the assertion and maintenance of our rights, whether individual or national. We are ready at all times to do battle for them either with the tongue, the pen, or the sword, as the case may require. Even women have discovered that they have rights, and he must be a bold man indeed who dares call them in question. Yes, we all, men, women, and children, have rights, and are forward enough in claiming then. Are we equally ready to respect the rights of others?
Out of rights grow duties; the first of which is to live an honest, truthful, self-loyal life, acting and speaking always and everywhere in accordance with the laws of our being, as revealed in our own physical and mental organization. It is by the light of this fact that we must look upon all social requirements, whether in dress, manners, or morals. All that is fundamental and genuine in these will be found to harmonize with universal principles, and consequently with our primary duty in reference to ourselves.
1. The Senses.
Whenever and wherever we come in contact with our fellow-men, there arises a question of rights, and consequently of duties. We have alluded incidentally to some of them, in speaking of habits and dress. The senses of each individual have their rights, and it is your duty to respect them. The eye has a claim upon you for so much of beauty in form, color, arrangement, position, and movement as you are able to present to it. A French author has written a book, the aim of which is to show that it is the duty of a pretty woman to look pretty. It is the duty of all women, and all men too, to look and behave just as well as they can, and whoever fails in this, fails in good manners and in duty. The ear demands agreeable tones and harmonious combinations of tones—pleasant words and sweet songs. If you indulge in loud talking, in boisterous and untimely laughter, or in profane or vulgar language, or sing out of tune, you violate its rights and offend good manners. The sense of smell requires pleasant odors for its enjoyment. Fragrance is its proper element. To bring the fetid odor of unwashed feet or filthy garments, or the stench of bad tobacco or worse whisky, or the offensive scent of onions or garlics within its sphere, is an act of impoliteness. The sense of taste asks for agreeable flavors, and has a right to the best we can give in the way of palatable foods and drinks. The sense of feeling, though less cultivated and not so sensitive as the others, has its rights too, and is offended by too great coarseness, roughness, and hardness. It has a claim on us for a higher culture.
2. The Faculties.
And if the senses have their rights, we must admit that the higher faculties and feelings of our nature are at least equally dowered in this respect. You can not trespass upon one of them without a violation of good manners. We can not go into a complete exposition of the "bill of rights" of each. You can analyze them for yourself, and learn the nature of their claims upon you. In the mean time, we will touch upon a point or two here and there.
Each person has a right to his or her opinions, and to the expression of them on proper occasions, and there is no duty more binding upon us all than the most complete and respectful toleration. The author of "The Illustrated Manners Book" truly says:
"Every denial of, or interference with, the personal freedom or absolute rights of another, is a violation of good manners. He who presumes to censure me for my religious belief, or want of belief; who makes it a matter of criticism or reproach that I am a Theist or Atheist, Trinitarian or Unitarian, Catholic or Protestant, Pagan or Christian, Jew, Mohammedan, or Mormon, is guilty of rudeness and insult. If any of these modes of belief make me intolerant or intrusive, he may resent such intolerance or repel such intrusion; but the basis of all true politeness and social enjoyment is the mutual tolerance of personal rights."
4. The Sacredness of Privacy.
Here is another passage from the author just quoted which is so much to the point that we can not forbear to copy it:
"One of the rights most commonly trespassed upon constituting a violent breach of good manners, is the right of privacy, or of the control of one's own person and affairs. There are places in this country where there exists scarcely the slightest recognition of this right. A man or woman bolts into your house without knocking. No room is sacred unless you lock the door, and an exclusion would be an insult. Parents intrude upon children, and children upon parents. The husband thinks he has a right to enter his wife's room, and the wife would feel injured if excluded, by night or day, from her husband's. It is said that they even open each other's letters, and claim, as a right, that neither should have any secrets from the other.
"It in difficult to conceive of such a state of intense barbarism in a civilized country, such a denial of the simplest and most primitive rights, such an utter absence of delicacy and good manners; and had we not been assured on good authority that such things existed, we should consider any suggestions respecting them needless and impertinent.
"Each person in a dwelling should, if possible, have a room as sacred from intrusion as the house is to the family. No child, grown to years of discretion, should be outraged by intrusion. No relation, however intimate, can justify it. So the trunks, boxes, packets, papers, and letters of every individual, locked or unlocked, sealed or unsealed, are sacred. It is ill manners even to open a book-case, or to read a written paper lying open, without permission expressed or implied. Books in an open case or on a center-table, cards in a card-case, and newspapers, are presumed to be open for examination. Be careful where you go, what you read, and what you handle, particularly in private apartments."
This right to privacy extends to one's business, his personal relations, his thoughts, and his feelings. Don't intrude; and always "mind your own business," which means, by implication, that you must let other people's business alone.
You must conform, to such an extent as not to annoy and give offense, to the customs, whether in dress or other matters, of the circle in which you move. This conformity is an implied condition in the social compact. It is a practical recognition of the right of others, and shows merely a proper regard for their opinions and feelings. If you can not sing in tune with the rest, or on the same key, remain silent. You may be right and the others wrong but that does not alter the case. Convince them, if you can, and bring them to your pitch, but never mar even a low accord. So if you can not adapt your dress and manners to the company in which you find yourself, the sooner you take your leave the better. You may and should endeavor, in a proper way, to change such customs and fashions as you may deem wrong, or injurious in their tendency, but, in the mean time, you have no right to violate them. You may choose your company, but, having chosen it, you must conform to its rules til you can change them. You are not compelled to reside in Rome; but if you choose to live there, you must "do as the Romans do."
The rules which should govern your conduct, as an isolated individual, were such a thing as isolation possible in the midst of society, are modified by your relations to those around you. This life of ours is a complex affair, and our greatest errors arise from our one-side views of it. We are sovereign individuals, and are born with certain "inalienable rights;" but we are also members of that larger individual society, and our rights can not conflict with the duties which grow out of that relation. If by means of our non-conformity we cause ourselves to be cut off, like an offending hand, or plucked out, like an offending eye, our usefulness is at once destroyed.
It is related of a certain king that on a particular occasion he turned his tea into his saucer, contrary to his custom and to the etiquette of society, because two country ladies, whose hospitalities he was enjoying, did so. That king was a gentleman; and this anecdote serves to illustrate an important principle; namely, that true politeness and genuine good manners often not only permit, but absolutely demand, a violation of some of the arbitrary rules of etiquette.
The highest law demands complete HARMONY in all spheres and in all relations.
In the qualified sense which no doubt Mr. Jefferson affixed to the term in his own mind, "all men are created free and equal." The "noble Oracle" himself had long before as explicitly asserted the natural equality of man. In 1739, thirty-seven years before the Declaration of Independence was penned, Lord Chesterfield wrote: "We are of the same species, and no distinction whatever is between us, except that which arises from fortune. For example, your footman and Lizette would be your equals were they as rich as you. Being poor, they are obliged to serve you. Therefore you must not add to their misfortune by insulting or ill-treating them. A good heart never reminds people of their misfortune, but endeavors to alleviate, or, if possible, to make them forget it."
The writer in Life Illustrated, quoted in a previous chapter, states the case very clearly as follows:
"It is in the sacredness of their rights that men are equal. The smallest injustice done to the smallest man on earth is an offense against all men; an offense which all men have a personal and equal interest in avenging. If John Smith picks my pocket, the cause in court is correctly entitled, 'The PEOPLE versus John Smith.' The whole State of New York has taken up my quarrel with John, and arrays itself against John in awful majesty; because the pockets, the interests, the rights of a man are infinitely, and therefore equally, sacred.
"The conviction of this truth is the beginning and basis of the science of republican etiquette, which acknowledges no artificial distinctions. Its leading principle is, that courtesy is due to all men from all men; from the servant to the served; from the served to the servant; and from both for precisely the same reason, namely, because both are human beings and fellow-citizens!"
V.—A REMARK OR TWO TO BE REMEMBERED.
We purpose, in succeeding chapters, to set forth briefly but clearly, what the actual requirements of good society are in reference to behavior. You must look at these in the light of the general principles we have already laid down. It is not for us to say how far you ought or can conform to any particular custom, usage, or rule of etiquette. We believe that even the most arbitrary and capricious of them either have or have had a reason and a meaning. In many cases, however, the reason may no longer exist, and the form be meaningless; or while it embodies what is a living truth to others, you may have outgrown it or advanced beyond it. You have an undoubted right, politely but firmly, to decline to do what seems to you, looking upon the matter from your highest stand-point, to be clearly wrong, and it is no breach of good manners to do so; but at the same time you should avoid, as far as possible, putting yourself in positions which call for the exercise of this right. If you can not conscientiously wear a dress coat, or a stove-pipe hat, or cut your hair, or eat flesh-meat, or drink wine, you will naturally avoid, under ordinary circumstances, the circles in which non-conformity in these matters would be deemed a breach of good manners. When it is necessary that you should mingle with people whose customs you can not follow in all points without a violation of principle, you will courteously, and with proper respect for what they probably think entirely right, fall back upon the "higher law;" but if it is a mere matter of gloved or ungloved hands, cup or saucer, fork or knife, you will certainly have the courtesy and good sense to conform to usage.
Home is a little world of itself, and furnishes a sphere for the exercise of every virtue and for the experience of every pleasure or pain. If one profit not by its opportunities, he will be likely to pay dearly for less agreeable lessons in another school.—Harrison.
I.—A TEST OF GOOD MANNERS.
Good manners are not to be put on and off with one's best clothes. Politeness is an article for every-day wear. If you don it only on special and rare occasions, it will be sure to sit awkwardly upon you. If you are not well behaved in your own family circle, you will hardly be truly so anywhere, however strictly you may conform to the observances of good breeding, when in society. The true gentleman or lady is a gentleman or lady at all times and in all places—at home as well as abroad—in the field, or workshop, or in the kitchen, as well as in the parlor. A snob is—a snob always and everywhere.
If you see a man behave in a rude and uncivil manner to his father or mother, his brothers or sisters, his wife or children; or fail to exercise the common courtesies of life at his own table and around his own fireside, you may at once set him down as a boor, whatever pretensions he may make to gentility.
Dc not fall into the absurd error of supposing that you may do as you please at home—that is, unless you please to behave in a perfectly gentlemanly or ladylike manner. The same rights exist there as elsewhere, and the same duties grow out of them, while the natural respect and affection which should be felt by each member of the family for all the other members, add infinitely to their sacredness. Let your good manners, then, begin at home.
II.—PARENTS AND CHILDREN.
American children (we are sorry to be obliged to say it) are not, as a general rule, well behaved. They are rude and disrespectful, if not disobedient. They inspire terror rather than love in the breasts of strangers and all persons who seek quiet and like order. In our drawing-rooms, on board our steamers, in our railway cars and stage coaches, they usually contrive to make themselves generally and particularly disagreeable by their familiarity, forwardness, and pertness. "Young America" can not brook restraint, has no conception of superiority, and reverences nothing. His ideas of equality admit neither limitation nor qualification. He is born with a full comprehension of his own individual rights, but is slow in learning his social duties. Through whose fault comes this state of things? American boys and girls have naturally as much good sense and good-nature as those of any other nation, and, when well trained, no children are more courteous and agreeable. The fault lies in their education. In the days of our grandfathers, children were taught manners at school—a rather rude, backwoods sort of manners, it is true, but better than the no manners at all of the present day. We must blame parents in this matter rather than their children. If you would have your children grow up beloved and respected by their elders as well as their contemporaries, teach them good manners in their childhood. The young sovereign should first learn to obey, that he may be the better fitted to command in his turn.