The Mentor: A little book for the guidance of such men and boys as would appear to advantage in the society of persons of the better sort


Obvious typographical errors and punctuation errors have been corrected after careful comparison with other occurrences within the text and consultation of external sources.

More detail can be found at the end of the book.


Some Ill-used Words.

A Manual for the use of those who desire to Write and Speak Correctly. 18mo. Cloth, $1.00.

The Orthoëpist.

A Pronouncing Manual, containing about Four Thousand Five Hundred Words, including a considerable number of the Names of Foreign Authors, Artists, etc., that are often mispronounced. Revised and enlarged. 18mo. Cloth, $1.25.

The Verbalist.

A Manual devoted to Brief Discussions of the Right and the Wrong Use of Words, and to some Other Matters of Interest to those who would Speak and Write with Propriety. 18mo. Cloth, $1.25.

The Mentor.

A Little Book for the Guidance of such Men and Boys as would Appear to Advantage in the Society of Persons of the Better Sort. 18mo. Cloth, $1.00.

Acting and Actors;

Elocution and Elocutionists. With Preface by Harrison Grey Fiske; Introduction by Edgar S. Werner; Prologue by James A. Waldron.

Grammar without a Master.

The English Grammar

of William Cobbett. Carefully Revised and Annotated. 18mo. Cloth, $1.00,

New York: D. APPLETON & CO., 72 Fifth Avenue.







Virtue itself offends when coupled with
forbidding manners.—Middleton.

Well dressed, well bred, well carriaged,
Is ticket good enough to pass us readily
Through every door.—Cowper.

A good manner is the best thing in the
world, either to get one a good name or to
supply the want of it.—Anonymous.


Copyright, 1884,

Copyright, 1894,

[Pg 3]


To select well among old things is almost equal to inventing new ones.—Trublet.

To be welcome in the society of persons of the better sort, who are always persons of culture and refinement, we must ourselves be persons of culture and refinement, i.e., we must know and practise the usages that obtain in refined society, and have some acquaintance with letters and art.

In this world it is only like that seeks like. Those that have nothing in common, whose culture and breeding are unlike, whose thoughts are on different things, never seek the society of one another. What points of sympathy are there between the town gallant and the country spark, between the city belle and the dairymaid? If one would be received in the better social circles, one’s culture must be of the kind found there, and, above all, one’s manners must be marked by the observ[4]ance of those usages that are to refined social commerce what the oil is to the engine.

It is often said that wealth is the surest passport to the better circles of society. Nothing could be further from the truth. The surest passport to the better circles of society is moral worth, supplemented with education, a thing that is made up of two other things—instruction and breeding. True, a little money is necessary to make one’s self presentable, but this little will always suffice. Wealth, we know, contributes greatly to men’s social success, and for good and obvious reasons; but it does not contribute more to social success than does distinction in intellectual pursuits. Laudable achievements will ever have quite as large a following as plethoric purses. Lands and goods are not the things we set the highest value on, many as there are that seem to think so.

This little book will be, I trust, of some service to those men that would better their acquaintance with the usages that govern in the polite world; and I am sure that he that learns half as much by reading it as I have learned in making it will feel well repaid for the time he gives to it.

A. A.


Manners are the ornament of action.—Smiles.

Manners are the lesser morals of life.—Aristotle.

Little minds are vexed with trifles.—La Rochefoucauld.

It is always easy to say a rude thing, but never wise.—Stacy.

Marriage is the true road to Paradise.—De La Ferrière.

Guard the manners if you would protect the morals.—Davidson.

Anger blows out the lamp of the mind.—Robert G. Ingersoll.

Good temper is the essence of good manners.—Anonymous.

Politeness is the expression or imitation of social virtues.—Duclos.

Some people get into the bad habit of being unhappy.—George Eliot.[6]

He that has no character is not a man: he is only a thing.—Chamfort.

Contempt should be the best concealed of our sentiments.—Anonymous.

Sow good services; sweet remembrances will grow from them.—Mme. de Staël.

Good manners are the shadows of virtues, if not virtues themselves.—Anonymous.

Consideration for woman is the measure of a nation’s progress in social life.—Grégoire.

In all professions and occupations, good manners are necessary to success.—Mrs. Ward.

Self-love is a balloon filled with wind, from which tempests emerge when pricked.—Voltaire.

Manners are the hypocrisies of nations; the hypocrisies are more or less perfected.—Balzac.

An earthly father who cannot govern by affection is not fit to be a father.—Robert G. Ingersoll.

It is generally allowed that the forming and the perfecting of the character is difficult.—Anonymous.[7]

Respect your wife. Heap earth around that flower, but never drop any in the chalice.—A. de Musset.

Good manners is the art of making easy the persons with whom we are brought into contact.—Anonymous.

One should choose for a wife only such a woman as one would choose for a friend, were she a man.—Joubert.

It is a great misfortune not to have enough wit to speak well, or not enough judgment to keep silent.—La Bruyère.

Experience and observation in society are the chief means by which one acquires the polish that society demands.—Anonymous.

Let what you say be to the purpose, and let it be so said that if we forget the speech we may recollect the manner of it.—Anonymous.

The art of conversation consists less in showing one’s own wit than in giving opportunity for the display of the wit of others.—La Bruyère.

There is no surer proof of low origin, or of an innate meanness of disposition, than to be always talking and thinking of being genteel.—Hazlitt.[8]

Were we as eloquent as angels, we should please some men, some women, and some children, much more by listening than by talking.—Lacon.

If you speak the sense of an angel in bad words, and with a disagreeable utterance, nobody will hear you twice who can help it.—Chesterfield.

One of the most effectual ways of pleasing and of making one’s self loved is to be cheerful; joy softens more hearts than tears.—Mme. de Sartory.

To live with our enemies as if they may some time become our friends, and to live with our friends as if they may some time become our enemies, is not a moral but a political maxim.—Anonymous.

There is no flattery so exquisite as the flattery of listening. It may be doubted whether the greatest mind is ever proof against it. Socrates may have loved Plato best of all his disciples because he listened best.—Anonymous.

Though conversation in its better part

May be esteemed a gift, and not an art,

Yet much depends, as in the tiller’s toil,

On culture and the sowing of the soil.




Personal Appearance,page 11
Dress, p. 12. Jewelry, watches, etc., p. 18. The hair, p. 21. The beard, p. 22. The nails, p. 24. The teeth, p. 24. Canes, p. 27. Full dress, p. 28. Dress at informal gatherings, p. 29, etc., etc., etc.
At the Dinner-table,page 31
Invitations and answers, p. 32. Punctuality, p. 33. How to enter the drawing-room, p. 34. When dinner is announced, p. 36. Bearing at the table, p. 37. Soup, p. 39. Fish, p. 40. The knife and fork, p. 40. Asparagus, p. 43. The spoon controversy, p. 45. Boiled eggs, p. 47. Wine-drinking, p. 53. Finger-bowls and doilies, p. 55. When to fold your napkin, and when not to, p. 56, etc., etc., etc.
In Public,page 58
How to walk, p. 59. To stand, p. 60. To sit, p. 61. Salutations, p. 61. The lady—which side in the street, p. 67. In public conveyances, p. 67. In a carriage, p. 68. How to carry umbrella or cane, p. 68. Hand-shaking, p. 70. Street introductions, p. 71. Street recognitions, p. 72. Smoking, p. 73. Humming and whistling, p. 76. The ball-room, p. 77. Party calls, p. 98. Card-playing, p. 98. Places of amusement, p. 100. Applause, p. 105. Remain to the end, p. 106. Bar-rooms, p. 108, etc., etc.
Conversation,page 109
Calls and Cards,“    156
Odds and Ends,“    169
What is a Gentleman?“    199


   Simple nature, however defective, is better than the least objectionable affectation; and, defects for defects, those that are natural are more bearable than affected virtues.Saint-Evremond.



Dress changes the manners.—Voltaire.

Whose garments wither shall receive faded smiles.—Sheridan Knowles.

Men of sense follow fashion so far that they are neither conspicuous for their excess nor peculiar by their opposition to it.—Anonymous.

The famous French painter, Girard, when quite young, was the bearer of a letter of introduction to a high officer at the court of Napoleon I. Girard was poorly dressed, and his reception was cold; but the courtier discovered in him such evidences of talent and good sense that on Girard’s rising to take leave, he arose also, and accompanied him to the antechamber.

The change in the courtier’s manner was so marked that Girard could not suppress an expression of surprise.


“My young friend,” said the courtier, “we receive strangers according to their dress; we take leave of them according to their merits.”

Good clothes are far from being sufficient to gain one admittance to the better circles of society, but without them admittance is impossible. When we go out into the world, it is not sufficient to do as others do, we must also dress as others dress.

He is best dressed whose dress attracts least attention; and in order not to attract attention, one’s dress must be seasonable, appropriate, conform to the prevailing fashion, without going in the least beyond it, and appear to be comfortable.

It requires something more than a full purse to enable one to dress well: it requires sense, taste, refinement. Indeed, dress may be considered in the light of a fine art. It is a pretty sure index of character, and few dress really well that would not be considered persons of culture.

In dress, as in all things else, the golden rule is to avoid extremes. The man of sense and taste never wears anything that is “loud,” flashy, or peculiar; he yields always to fashion, but never is a slave to it.


The first thing to be considered in the replenishing of one’s wardrobe is the material. This should always be good. Low priced stuffs are rarely, if ever, cheap, and they are certainly not cheap unless, though low-priced, they are of good quality. As a rule, one suit of clothes that costs fifty dollars does more service than two suits that cost the same sum. And then the low-priced suit never looks well, while the high-priced suit looks well to the last, if it is kept clean and care is taken to have it occasionally pressed into shape—a fact that few men properly appreciate.

“Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,

But not expressed in fancy; rich, not gaudy,

For the apparel oft proclaims the man.”

There is but one way to get a good fitting shirt, and that is to have it made. Nor is this all. You must try one on and have it “fitted,” and then have the others made exactly like the pattern shirt. Nearly every man has one shoulder lower than the other, and if this peculiarity is not considered, the bosom of a shirt will never sit smoothly. It will bulge on the low-shoulder side. For several rea[14]sons it is better to have shirts made open in the back. Yet open-backed shirts are less worn now than they were; indeed, the fastidious nowadays wear only shirts open in front. They fit better around the neck. It is better to have the collar separate and for some reasons the cuffs also—dress shirts excepted, perhaps. Let your collars always be in and strictly within the fashion, unless you would look like a rowdy, in which case you are at liberty to go to any extreme you please and to gratify any vulgar caprice you may chance to have. Your cuffs should be no larger than is necessary to admit of your slipping your hand through them when they are buttoned. Why should a man wear a cuff so large that one may see up to his elbow? A cuff so large that it slips down over the hand has an unæsthetic, slouchy look, besides being in the way and being very uncomfortable in warm weather. Colored shirts may be worn travelling, in the country, and, some say, in the morning in town; but most men of taste prefer white. The pattern of colored shirts should always be small and the color quiet.

If the coat, trousers, and vest of business and[15] morning suits are not made of the same cloth, the coat and vest should be of the same, and be darker than the trousers. Men that cannot or do not choose to spend much money with their tailor, should always select dark stuffs. A dark morning suit may be worn on many occasions where the wearing of a light suit would be in singularly bad taste. The fashion should be followed, but beware of going to extremes, if you would not be taken for one of those vulgar, empty-headed fops that, if spring-bottomed trousers, for example, are the mode, insist on theirs being made to bell out at the bottom till their legs look as though they had been put on bottom up. The wrinkles and “knees” should be pressed out of trousers about every two weeks. The more closely woven the cloth the longer a garment keeps its shape. The vest should be kept buttoned from bottom to top, and the buttons on both coat and vest should be renewed as soon as they begin to show the effects of wear. There is always something “Jakey” in the appearance of a man that goes about with his vest half buttoned. Both coat and vest should be made snug around the waist and loose over the[16] chest. A garment that is tight around the waist tends to make the wearer stand straight, while one that is tight over the chest tends to make him stoop. The carriage of men that do not wear suspenders is generally better than that of men that do wear them. If a single-breasted garment is too tight over the chest, the trouble is generally beyond remedy, as the tailor cannot add to the front; in a double-breasted garment, the moving of the buttons generally suffices.

Single-breasted overcoats, made with a “fly,” are most worn, and are, from every point of view, the most desirable. A short-waisted, double-breasted overcoat has been a good deal worn by quite young men of late. It is fashionable, and would, perhaps, become generally popular, if it did not tend to make the wearer look like a footman. The man of taste always selects for his overcoats dark, quiet colors.

There is nothing a man wears in which he shows his sense or his want of it more than in his boots and shoes. The man of sense and taste has his shoes made long, broad in the sole and in the shank, and with a big and only moderately high[17] heel. No matter what the fashion chances to be, if you see a man that pinches his toes, you may be sure it would take a very small hat to pinch his head. The shoe that does not look comfortable never looks well. There are many of the New York women that wear shoes that distort the feet and are most uncomfortable; such shoes, however, are rarely, if ever, seen on the feet of the New York ladies. Many persons have one foot longer than the other. In such cases, the shoe for the longer foot must be made longer than the other, otherwise the longer foot will look to be the shorter when clothed. This, is something that few shoemakers know. The cloth of the tops of gaiters should always be dark. Fancy shoe leather is, if possible, more offensive than flashy neckties. Short, narrow-toed, high-heeled shoes often cause the big-toe nails to grow into the flesh. If taken in time, the trouble is easily remedied by scraping the nail on the top, cutting it in a semilunar form, with the concavity looking forward, and raising the corners and putting a bit of cork or cotton under them. The nails of the big toes should always be thus cut, care being taken to leave the corners long.


In nothing that a man wears is it less desirable—in New York, at least—to be among the first to adopt a new fashion than in the hat, especially the silk hat. Here, the new styles in silk hats are first seen, as a rule, on the heads of the ward politicians, the keepers of the drinking saloons, and the gamblers. The least desirable hat for city wear is the soft felt. Besides having a slouchy look, it is not easy to get it off one’s head gracefully in saluting an acquaintance in the street. They are little worn by any but a few long-haired men, who affect the picturesque.

A man’s jewelry should be good and simple. False jewelry, like every other form of falsehood, is vulgar. Unlike a woman’s jewelry, a man’s should always seem to serve a purpose. To this rule there is, as we shall see, but one exception.

A man’s watch, to be in thoroughly good taste, should never be very large, nor very thick, nor elaborately chased, nor should it have a hunting-case, unless his business or pleasure renders him liable to break a crystal, when he is out of the easy reach of a jeweller to replace it. Very large, fancifully chased watches always have a common, cheap[19] look; no man of any taste ever chooses one. As a rule, the more valuable the watch the plainer the case. The hunting-cased watch is carried largely by men that, in a measure at least, want a watch for the same reason that a peacock wants a tail. Probably as desirable a watch, in appearance at least, as could be found anywhere, is a plain-cased open-faced watch, sold by Tiffany & Co. It has what they call their extra thin movement. Nothing in the way of a watch could be more tasteful.

The watch-chain should always be small and the pattern plain. If the links are chased, the chasing must not be elaborate. Nothing does more toward vulgarizing a man’s appearance than a big, elaborately chased watch-chain. Indeed, the young man that wears such a chain and attaches it in one of the lower button-holes of his vest has taken a long stride toward making himself look like a barber’s apprentice. Watch-chains that go around the neck are no longer worn. The vest-chain should be attached nearly as high up as it will reach, in a button-hole, and not in a hole specially made for the purpose.

If a locket or seal is worn, it should be very[20] plain. If a man wears a ring, it should be on the third finger of the left hand. This is the only piece of jewelry a man is allowed to wear that does not seem to serve a purpose. Some Englishmen of culture and high social position wear nowadays more than one ring, and wear rings on the little finger as well as on the third; but this is an example that neither taste nor discretion would counsel an American to follow. All kinds of rings are worn by men except cluster rings; they are worn by women only. Scarf-rings and collar-buttons with settings are in very bad taste. Diamond studs are not worn by men of the better sort, even when in evening dress; they are considered vulgar and ostentatious. Three studs in a dress shirt are to be preferred to one. Indeed, the single stud is as unartistic as anything well could be. Fashion changes in jewelry, as in everything else; but if a man follows the rule: “Plain, good, and seem to serve a purpose,” he will never go far wrong.

It should not be necessary to add that the wearing of imitation diamonds is the very extreme of vulgarity. A man of taste would as soon be seen with rings in his ears as with an imitation diamond[21] pin or stud in his shirt bosom. The genuine diamond or none, and that never in a breastpin, unless you do not object to being taken for a horse-jockey; and never in a stud, unless you are in full evening dress, and, even then, plain gold or white enamelled studs are to be preferred. Scarf-pins should, in strictness, be worn only in Claudent, Ascot, and puff scarfs; permissible, however, in four-in-hands.

Nowadays, with few exceptions, men wear the hair very short, and the exceptions are not found among men of taste. The most artistic and becoming cut is that that trims the hair very short on the sides and back of the head, and leaves it comparatively long on the top, for the reason that a high head is always more pleasing than a low, broad one. The “part” should be high up—in the middle, if one chooses to put it there. Parting the hair down the back of the head, as some men do, is only a little less objectionable than the plastering of a lock down on the forehead—a fashion much affected by bartenders and waiters in oyster saloons. The head should be frequently washed, especially in warm weather; otherwise, the hair will have a disagreeable odor. Brushing with a brush that[22] reaches the skin tends to keep the hair from falling out. Pomatums and other inventions of the barbers are no longer used.

Most men look best with a full beard, if it is kept properly trimmed and is otherwise properly cared for. A man with a beard that reaches down over his chest or with a moustache that is so long as to be in the way is a disgusting object to look on. Men that wear such beards are generally men that are not happy unless they make donkeys of themselves in some way—if not in one, then in another. If a man shaves a part of the face only, he should shave that part that is most prominent. A man with a prominent chin and thin cheeks should shave his chin and let his beard grow on the sides of his face; on the contrary, a man with a retreating or a light chin and full cheeks should shave his cheeks and let his beard grow on his chin. In short, the beard should be so trimmed, if worn full, or so cut, if only a part is worn, as to give regularity to the outline of the face. The eccentricities some men indulge in in cutting their beards is in very bad taste; so also is the training of the moustache to the right and the left à la[23] grenadier. This practice gives a man the appearance of having nothing else to do or to think of; and then it is pretty sure to get him into the habit of continually tugging at his moustache—a habit that is not quite so bad as would be that of sucking his fingers, but the difference is not great. The color nature has given to a man’s beard is always the one best suited to his complexion. He that changes that color, no matter what the color is, only vulgarizes his appearance.

Every man, no matter who he is, should be able to shave himself quickly and well. If he has difficulty in learning to use the razor, he should persevere in his endeavors to learn, allowing nothing short of the loss of at least one ear to discourage him. The man that shaves at all should shave every day; no man looks presentable with a two days’ growth of beard on his face. Shaving should be as much a part of the regular morning toilet as the brushing of the hair. Several razors are necessary, as all razors “tire” by continual use. The microscope has shown that this tiring is due to the disarranging of the particles of the steel, and that when a razor is allowed to rest for a sufficient length[24] of time, the particles readjust themselves, restoring the razor to its original usefulness. Much depends on having a good strap and knowing how to use it.

The nails should be kept moderately long—very short nails have a plebeian look—and be so cut that they are a little more pointed than the upper ends of the nails are. They should not be scraped, and in cutting care should be taken not to encroach too much on the angles. Either practice, in time, results in serious injury. They cannot be kept in good shape without using a file. Of course the nails should be kept scrupulously clean.

The teeth of most persons, if properly cared for from childhood, will not only never ache, but will also last a lifetime. But how few sets of teeth are properly cared for from childhood! The condition of their children’s teeth is a matter that comparatively few parents pay any attention to until the children complain of having the toothache, whereas they should see that their children’s teeth are kept scrupulously clean, that the cavities in them are filled before they get large enough to do any serious[25] harm, and that a dentist’s aid is called in, if necessary, to secure regularity. Art can do more—much more—than most people think to make a child’s teeth grow in regular. It has been often said that the chief reason so many Americans have bad teeth is that they eat so much candy and other sweetmeats. This is an error. This is not the chief reason. The chief reason is that we, in common with many persons of other nations, do not use our teeth sufficiently; we live almost exclusively on food that requires very little masticating; and as for the front teeth, we scarcely use them at all. The child that is fed on hard-tack is likely to have much better teeth than the child that is fed on porridge. Next to disuse, acids—pickles, lemons, and the like—probably do the teeth most harm. Then come the practices that tend to disarrange the stomach—eating between meals and the eating of unwholesome food—and the habit of breathing with the mouth open.

There are many foolish persons that think that dentists do more harm than good, and that some of them do not hesitate to bore holes in their patients’ teeth and then fill them in order to in[26]crease the amount of their bills. They do nothing of the sort. Not that there are no dentists that would be sufficiently dishonest to do such a thing, but they would not get paid for their labor, it would be so great. The chief harm dentists do is in extracting aching teeth, in compliance with the wishes of their patients, when the teeth should be treated and preserved by filling. A tooth must be in a sorry condition when a dentist will extract it for one of his own family. Let any one that would keep his teeth go to a good dentist, and submit to his discretion, and not presume to dictate in a matter he knows nothing about. No man that does not keep his teeth clean looks like a gentleman, if he shows them. If one’s teeth have been neglected until they have become discolored and have accumulated a covering of tartar, one must first go to a dentist and have the discoloration and tartar removed, after which it is not a difficult matter to keep them in good condition. A toothbrush should not be too wide, and should be used on one row of teeth at a time. A very wide brush, used on both rows at a time, never reaches the edges of the gum—the points where the tartar[27] always begins to accumulate. The tooth-powder used must be soluble; if it is not, it gets between the gums and the neck of the tooth, remains there, and tends to inflame the periosteum. For this reason, neither pulverized charcoal nor cigar-ashes should be used. As a brush does not reach between the teeth, a sharpened stick should occasionally be used with a powder. At long intervals a little pumice-stone, if necessary, may also be used with a stick, but great care should be taken not to let it get under the edge of the gums. Dentists generally use orange wood.

Men that do not have their hair frequently cut, keep their faces clean shaven, and their teeth clean are never welcome in the society of ladies, should they chance to know any. They may be well received by women of the lower orders, but women that are ladies are never drawn toward men that do not have the appearance of being neat in their persons. Ladies may and often do tolerate such men; in fact, they are often compelled to tolerate them, but they generally do it with ill-concealed reluctance.

Men of taste that carry canes select those that are[28] strong, plain, stiff, light, and small. Very large canes are in very bad taste, especially for young men.

A few hints concerning the wearing of a man’s clothes should suffice.

A full-dress suit consists of a swallow-tailed coat, a low white or black single-breasted vest, black trousers, a white necktie, a stand-up collar, (?) a high black hat, and, properly, of a pair of very light kid gloves.

This dress should never be worn until evening, i.e., never previously to the dinner hour, no matter what the occasion. There are a few men, in the large cities, where they dine late—at six or seven o’clock—that put on their dress suits regularly every day before dinner and wear them for the rest of the day.

A white necktie should never be worn except with a full-dress suit, save by clergymen and a few elderly men that never wear any other color.

Black trousers should never be worn except with a dress coat, save at funerals.

A high hat should not be worn with a sack coat, especially if the color is light.


A low hat should not be worn with a long coat—a double-breasted frock, for example.

Straw hats should be worn only with light summer suits.

Dark suits are to be preferred for Sundays, especially in town, and light suits should never be worn to church anywhere.

Double-breasted frock coats should always be of black or gray material.

At small, informal gatherings most men consider themselves sufficiently dressed when they wear black frock coats and dark trousers. Indeed, there is no good reason why men should appear in full dress on any occasion where the ladies do not wear full dress. At public entertainments, for example, where the ladies wear their bonnets, the man that wears a black frock coat, dark trousers, and light kid gloves is better dressed—because more appropriately—than he that wears a full-dress suit. True, the practice of wearing such a suit on such occasions entails additional expense, as otherwise a business or walking suit and a dress suit may be made to serve for all occasions.

At home, the first consideration with pretty nearly[30] every man will always be comfort. No man, however, that has any regard for the proprieties will ever appear at the table, whether there are any strangers present or not, or will show himself to any one with whom he is not on a familiar footing, in his shirt-sleeves.



Good humor makes one dish a feast.—Washington.

Animals feed, men eat; but only men of intelligence know how to eat.—Brillat-Savarin.

Some philosopher has very truthfully said that he must be a very great man that can afford to ignore social observances. He might have added that of all places—in English-speaking countries at least—the one where a man can least afford to ignore social observances is the dinner-table. It is there that the well-bred man and the ill-bred man are the most strongly contrasted; and the man that does not there conform to those usages that constitute what is called manners is likely soon to find the doors of the better houses closed against him. Indeed, such men are not likely ever to find their way within them.

“Dinner-parties rank first among all entertain[32]ments, being of more frequent occurrence, and having more social significance than any other form of entertainment. An invitation to dinner conveys a greater mark of esteem, or friendship and cordiality toward the guest invited, than is conveyed with an invitation to any other social gathering, it being the highest social compliment that is offered by one person to another. It is also a civility that can be easily interchanged, which in itself gives it an advantage over all other civilities.”

An invitation to dine should be promptly replied to, whether you accept or decline. It may run thus:

Mr. and Mrs. —— request the favor [or pleasure] of Mr. ——’s company at dinner on ——day, the ——, at —— o’clock.

The reply, if an acceptance, may be worded thus:

Mr. —— has the pleasure to accept Mr. and Mrs. ——’s kind invitation to dinner on the ——.

If the invitation be declined, some good reason should be stated:

Mr. —— regrets that, owing to a previous engagement [or in consequence of leaving town, etc.] he cannot[33] have the pleasure of accepting Mr. and Mrs. ——’s kind invitation for the ——.

The answer, whether affirmative or negative, should be addressed to the mistress of the house, and despatched within twenty-four hours, if possible, of the receipt of the invitation.

Having accepted an invitation, be punctual. “To be too late is a crime, and to be too early a blunder.” You should not fail to arrive within a very few minutes after the time named, say within five, or ten at most. “Dinner,” somebody has said, “is the hope of the hungry, the occupation of the idle, the rest of the weary, and the consolation of the miserable!” It is certainly the event of the day that should be honored with punctuality. In general, well-bred people and people that dine out frequently, make a point of arriving in good time. It is not well to arrive before the hour named, as you might find no one in the drawing-room to receive you.

“It is said that Beau Brummell had, among other follies, that of choosing to be always too late for dinner. Whenever he was invited he liked to be waited for. He considered it a proof of his fash[34]ion and consequence; and the higher the rank of his entertainer, the later was the arrival of this impudent parvenu. The Marquis of Abercorn had on several occasions submitted silently to this trial of his patience, but at length he resolved to bear it no longer. Accordingly, one day, when he had invited Brummell to dine, he desired to have the dinner on the table punctually at the appointed time. The servants obeyed, and Brummell and the cheese arrived together. The wondering Beau was desired by the master of the house to sit down. He vouchsafed no apology for what had happened, but coolly said, ‘I hope, Mr. Brummell, cheese is not disagreeable to you.’ The story runs that Brummell was never again late at that house.”

On entering the drawing-room, without looking to the right or the left, you will go and pay your respects to the hostess, then to the other members of the family, and finally to any acquaintances you may recognize.

Should you be stopped, on your way to the hostess, by an acquaintance ignorant of the proprieties, you will not refuse to respond to his greet[35]ing, but will make the response as brief as civility will permit.

Take good care that you do not offer your hand either to hostess, host, or to any other member of the family. For obvious reasons, any offer to shake hands should come from them.

On leaving, you may offer your hand to those of your entertainers that offered their hands to you when you arrived. But if the family is large, it is as well to confine your formal leave-taking to the hostess and the host. It is better not to go about the drawing-room to hunt up and take leave of all the members of the family, as some men do, especially if you are among the first to take leave. Of course it is still worse to go the rounds and take leave of the whole company individually. In such a proceeding there is always something egotistic and patronizing. In a word, never make more ado in leave-taking, whatever the occasion, than is really necessary.

If there is a lady with you, you will not enter the drawing-room arm in arm nor side by side. The lady, or the ladies—if more than one—will enter the room in advance of you.

Gentlemen do not wear gloves at dinner-parties.


When dinner is announced, the hostess will give the signal to leave the drawing-room. A gentleman does not choose the lady he will take in to dinner. The choice is made for him either by his host or his hostess. Offer whichever arm you please. On this point the authorities differ. Most men prefer to have a lady take the right arm. In some countries this is a matter of real importance, the right side being the place of honor. In passing through doors you will take the lead, until you reach the dining-room, when you may let the lady pass first. Should there be a flight of steps to descend that are so narrow that it is necessary to proceed single file, you may allow the lady to pass first, or—better perhaps—go a step or two in advance of her. If you go down side by side, give her the side toward the wall.

Arrived at the dining-room, you will assist your lady to be seated, and wait till all the other ladies are in their places before you take your seat. The host remains standing in his place until all his guests are seated.

Abroad, the question of precedency is a very important one. In this country it is perhaps suffi[37]cient for the younger persons to yield the pas to the older in passing from the drawing-room to the dining-room.

A man’s bearing at the table depends very much upon the distance he sits from it. He should sit rather close; indeed, it is rare that we see any one sit too near the table, while we often see people sit too far from it. This is a fault that is wellnigh universal with the Germans—a people whose table manners I would not counsel any one to copy. Sit close to the table, and sit erect.

If no grace is said, you will immediately proceed to unfold your napkin and spread it over your lap. There are those that would tell you partly to unfold it and throw it over one knee; others would tell you to throw it over both knees; but when it is simply thrown over your knees, it cannot serve the purpose for which it is supplied—that of protecting your clothing. In fact, the clothing of no man that has a heavy moustache is out of danger, unless he virtually makes a bib of his napkin, a thing that from time immemorial has been considered a sin against good usage. Men that are not slaves to fickle fashion, to the dicta of nobody knows whom,[38] will use their napkins so as to accomplish the object for which they are provided. A man of sense, however, will consider the occasion, and be governed somewhat by it.

Previously to being served and during the waits that occur between the courses, do not play with the knives, the forks, the spoons, or with anything that is before you. Leave everything as you find it, unless you should find a piece of bread on your right hand, in which case you may remove it to your left.

As soon as you are helped, begin to eat, or at least begin to occupy yourself with what you have before you. Do not wait till your neighbors are served—a custom that was long ago abandoned.

Never offer to pass to another a plate to which you have been helped. What your host or hostess sends you you should retain.

The second course, at all formal dinners, however served, is usually a soup, which, if its consistency and the beard on your upper lip will admit of it, you will take from the side of the spoon, being careful the while to make no noise. Better far to put your spoon into your mouth, handle and[39] all, than to make a noise in sipping your soup, as some people do, that can be heard all over the dining-room; better also put your spoon into your mouth than to slobber or to bespatter yourself. The writer would have to materially shorten his moustache, or to go without his daily dish of soup, if he had to take it from the side of the spoon. He is not willing to do either. Soup, when practicable, should be sipped from the side of the spoon, not, as most people suppose, because there is any objection to putting a spoon in the mouth, but because to put the spoon in the mouth the elbow must be extended, whereas, when we sip from the side of the spoon, the elbow remains almost stationary at the side, the spoon being manipulated wholly with the forearm—a much more graceful movement, because simpler than that that the putting of the spoon in the mouth renders necessary. Not only soup, but everything else eaten with a spoon should be sipped from its side when practicable, but then only. For any one to attempt to sip from the side of the spoon certain soups that are usually served nearly as thick as porridge—pea, bean, and tomato with rice, for example—is[40] absurd. Nothing has a more vulgar look than an obvious endeavor to be fine. The spoon should be filled by an outward rather than an inward movement, and the plate should never be tilted to get the last teaspoonful. If your soup is too hot, do not blow it, but wait till it cools. In eating it sit upright, and do not rest your forearms on the table.

Silver fish-knives are now found on most tables. Where there are none, fish should be eaten with a bit of bread in the left hand and a fork in the right. Neither soup nor fish, where there is any ceremony, is ever offered, much less accepted, twice.

At the table, the most difficult and the most important thing to learn is to use the knife and fork thoroughly well. To do this both must be so held that the ends of the handles are directly in the palms of the hand, i.e., when the point of the knife is used.

At all tables where four-tined forks are provided, the knife should be used only to divide the food, never to convey it to the mouth. For this purpose, we use either the fork, a spoon, or the fingers.


As the fork is now used almost exclusively to convey all kinds of food that have any consistency to the mouth, it is very desirable that one should know how to use it properly. There is a right and a wrong way, a skilful and an awkward way to use it, as well as to use any other implement.

The fork must not be used in the left hand with the tines pointing upward, i.e., spoon fashion. Persons that so use it, though they may and generally do think they are doing quite the proper thing, are really doing as awkward a thing as it would be possible for them to do at the table. They have—they will doubtless be surprised to hear—their lesson but half learned.

Food that is conveyed to the mouth with the fork held in the left hand should be taken up either on the point of the tines, or on their convex side. In the right hand, the fork may be used with the tines pointing upward or downward, as one will.

Previously to the advent of the four-tined silver fork, which was introduced into England from the Continent about the year 1814 or 1815, everybody ate with the knife—the Chesterfields, the Brummels, the Blessingtons, the Savarins, and all. The[42] fastidious were very careful, however, not to put the knife into the mouth edge first. That was avoided by the well bred then as much as the putting the knife into the mouth at all is avoided by the well bred now.

Eating with the knife is not, in itself, a grievous offence; it does not, as some pretend, endanger the lips, even though the knife is used edge first. It is simply a matter of prejudice. Yet your lady hostess would rather you would speak ill of her friends and make bad puns than eat with your knife at her table. Why? Because your eating with your knife at her table would argue, nowadays, that she associated with low-bred, uncultured people.

Should you, however, find yourself at a table where they have the old-fashioned steel forks, eat with your knife, as the others do, and do not let it be seen that you have any objection to doing so, nor let it be known that you ever do otherwise. He that advised us “to do in Rome as the Romans do” was a true gentleman.

The fork is used in eating such vegetables as can be easily managed with it; those that cannot be[43] easily managed with it are eaten with a dessert-spoon—peas, stewed tomatoes, and succotash, for example, especially when they are served in small dishes. A high English authority says: “Eat peas with a dessert-spoon, and curry also.”

Asparagus may be handled with the fingers of the left hand. So may Saratoga potatoes and olives. On this subject we recently clipped the following paragraph from one of our periodicals: “That there is a variety of ways to eat asparagus, one may convince one’s self by a single visit to the dining-room of any of our fashionable summer hotels. There one will see all the methods of carrying the stalk to the mouth. But the Paris Figaro, in one of its ‘Conseils par Jour,’ on ‘How is Asparagus Eaten in Good Society?’ says: ‘One must carefully abstain from taking the stalk in the fingers to dip it in the sauce and afterward put it in the mouth, as a great many people do. The tip should be cut off and eaten by means of the fork, the rest of the stalk being laid aside on the plate, of course without being touched by the fingers. Those that proceed in any other way are barbarians.’ We may observe, in reply to ‘Pau de Paris,’ that many[44] persons belonging to the best society do not hesitate to eat asparagus à la bonne franquette, and yet are by no means ‘barbarians.’ We do not agree with our confrère for two reasons. In the first place, the exquisite vegetable cannot be properly appreciated unless eaten in the way that excites the ire of our contemporary. Our second reason is that, from an art point of view, there cannot be a more charming sight than to see a pretty woman ‘caressing’ a piece of asparagus.”

Green corn should be cut from the cob and then eaten with a fork. First run your knife through the middle of each row of kernels and then cut them off. A dull knife is the best, because it does not really cut the kernels off, but forces them out of the hulls.

Cheese is eaten with a fork, or is placed, with a knife, on bits of bread and carried to the mouth with the thumb and finger, care being taken not to touch the cheese.

Pies and pâtés, as a rule, are eaten with a fork only. Sometimes, however, it is necessary to use a knife to divide the crust, but not often.

“Jellies, blanc-mange, iced puddings, and the[45] like are eaten,” says an English authority, “with a fork, as are all sweets sufficiently substantial to admit of it.” This may be very sensible, but it will seem to many persons, as it does to the writer, to be very senseless. By and by the fork mania will banish the spoon altogether.

In a late number of the London Queen this fork-and-spoon question is discussed as follows: “But to go back to the debatable lands of our own compatriots, and the odd things that some do, and the undecided cases that still give rise to controversy. There is that battlefield of the fork and the spoon, and whether the former ought to be used for all sweets whatsoever, with the exception of custard and gooseberry food, which answer the question for themselves; or whether it is not better to use a spoon where slipperiness is an element, and ‘the solution of continuity’ a condition. Some people hunt their ice, for example, with a fork, which lets the melting margin drop through the prongs; and some stick their small trident into jelly, at the risk of seeing the whole thing slip off like an amorphous, translucent, gold-colored snake. The same with such compounds as custard pudding, crème renversée,[46] and the like, where it is a feat of skill to skewer the separate morsels deftly, and where a small sea of unutilized juice is left on the plate. This monotonous use of the fork and craven fear of the vulgarity lying in the spoon seems to us mere table snobbery. It is a well-known English axiom that the fork is to be used in preference to the spoon when possible and convenient. But the people who use it always—when scarcely possible and decidedly inconvenient—are people so desperately afraid of not doing the right thing, that they do the wrong out of very flunkeyism and of fear of Mrs. Grundy in the corner. It is the same with the law of eating all soft meats with the fork only, abjuring the knife. On the one hand, you will see people courageously hewing with their knives at sweetbread, suprême de volaille, and the like; on the other, the snobbish fine work themselves into a fever with their forks against a cutlet, and would not for the lives of them use a knife to cut with ease that which by main force and at great discomfort they can tear asunder with a fork.”

If you have occasion to help yourself from a[47] dish, or if any one else helps you, move your plate quite close to the dish.

At a dinner served in courses, it is better, as a rule, not to take a second supply of anything. It might delay the dinner.

The English eat boiled eggs from the shell, a custom that is followed to some extent in this country; but most Americans prefer to break them, or to have them broken, into a glass, a mode that certainly has its advantages, and that will commend itself to those that have not time to dawdle over their breakfast. In noticing a little book on manners that recently appeared, the New York Sun feelingly inveighs in this wise against eating boiled eggs from a glass:

“We are glad to think that the time has gone by when Americans with any pretensions to refinement needed to be informed that an egg beaten up in a glass is an unsightly mess that has often turned the stomach of the squeamish looker-on. Those who cannot learn to eat boiled eggs from the shell will do well to avoid them altogether. If the author of this hand-book had watched American experiments with exhaustive attention, he might[48] have deemed it well to add that no part of the contents of the egg should be allowed to drip down the outside of the shell, and that the eggshell, when depleted, should be broken before being deposited on the plate.”

It would seem to be as unpleasant to the writer of this paragraph to see an egg eaten from a glass as it is to a Bavarian to see a man wait till he gets over the threshold of a lager-beer saloon before he takes his hat off. A matter of mere prejudice in both cases. If an egg broken into a glass is really “an unsightly mess,” then let us have some opaque egg-glasses.

Bread should be broken. To butter a large piece of bread and then bite it, as children do, is something the knowing never do.

In eating game or poultry do not touch the bones with your fingers. To take a bone in the fingers for the purpose of picking it is looked upon as being a very inelegant proceeding.

Never gesticulate with your knife or fork in your hand, nor hold them pointing upward when you are not using them; keep them down on your plate.


Never load up your fork with food until you are ready to convey it to your mouth, unless you are famishing and you think your life depends on your not losing a second.

Never put your own knife into the butter or the salt if there is a butter-knife and a salt-spoon. If you are compelled to use your own knife, first wipe it as clean as possible on your bread.

Never use your own knife or fork to help another. Use rather the knife or fork of the person you help.

Never send your knife and fork, or either of them, on your plate when you send for a second supply. There are several good reasons for not doing so, and not one good reason for doing so. Never hold your knife and fork meanwhile in your hand, either, but lay them down, and that, too, with something under them—a piece of bread, for example—to protect the table-cloth. Never carry your food to your mouth with any curves or flourishes, unless you want to look as though you were airing your company manners. Better a pound of awkwardness at any time than an ounce of self-consciousness.


Never use a steel knife to cut fruit if there is a silver one.

Never stick your elbows out when you use your knife and fork. Keep them close to your sides.

Having finished using your knife and fork, lay them on your plate, side by side, with the handles pointing a little to your right. This will be taken by an experienced waiter as an intimation that you are ready to have your plate removed.

Whenever you use the fingers to convey anything to the mouth or to remove anything from the mouth, let it be the fingers of the left hand.

When you eat a fruit that has a pit or a skin that is not swallowed, the pit or skin must be removed from the mouth with the fingers of the left hand, or with a spoon or fork in the right. Any other mode is most offensive.

Tea, coffee, chocolate and the like are drunk from the cup and never from the saucer. Put your spoon in the saucer should you send your cup to be refilled; otherwise, it may be left in the cup. Never blow your tea or coffee; if it is too hot to be drunk, wait till it cools.

In handling glasses, keep your fingers a goodly[51] distance from the top, but do not go to the other extreme; and if you handle a goblet or a wine-glass, take hold of the stem only. Take hold of the bowl just above the stem.

In helping yourself to butter, take at once as much as you think you shall require, and try to leave the roll in as good shape as you find it. In returning the knife, do not stick it into the roll, but lay it on the side of the plate.

In masticating your food, keep your mouth shut; otherwise you will make a noise that will be very offensive to those around you.

Don’t eat in a mincing, dainty manner, as though you had no appetite, nor devour your food as though you were famishing. Eat as though you relished your food, but not as though you were afraid you would not get enough.

Don’t attempt to talk with a full mouth. One thing at a time is as much as any man can do well.

Few men talk well when they do nothing else, and few men chew their food well when they have nothing else to do.

Partake sparingly of delicacies, which are gen[52]erally served in small quantities, and decline them if offered a second time.

Should you find a worm or an insect in your salad or in a plate of fruit, hand your plate to a waiter, without comment, and he will bring you another.

See that the lady that you escorted to the table is well helped. Anticipate her wants, if possible.

Never tip your chair, nor lounge back in it, nor put your thumbs in the arm holes of your waistcoat.

Never hitch up your sleeves, as some men have the habit of doing, as though you were going to make mud pies.

If the conversation tends to be general—and it should tend to be general at a small dinner-party—take good heed that you, at least, listen, which is the only sure way I know of for every man to appear to advantage.

Never, under any circumstances, no matter where you are, cry out “Waiter!” No man of any breeding ever does it. Wait till you can catch the attendant’s eye, and by a nod bring him to you.

Unless you are asked to do so, never select any[53] particular part of a dish; but if you are asked choose promptly, though you may have no preference.

If a dish is distasteful to you decline it, and without comment.

Never put bones or the pits of fruit on the table-cloth. Put them on the side of your plate.

Always wipe your mouth before drinking, in order that you may not grease the brim of your glass with your lips.

Taking wine with people and the drinking of toasts at private dinners are no longer the fashion. Every one drinks much or little or none at all as he chooses, without attracting attention.

If, however, you should find yourself at a table where the old custom is observed, you will not invite your host to take wine with you; it is his privilege to invite you.

If you are invited to drink with an acquaintance, and you do not drink wine, bow, raise your glass of water, and drink with him. If you do drink wine, take the same sort as that selected by the person you drink with.

It is considered ill bred to empty your glass on[54] these occasions or to drink a full glass of wine at a draught on any occasion.

While on the subject of wine-drinking, it may not be amiss to observe that in England it is considered inelegant to say “port wine” or “sherry wine.” In England they always say “port” or “sherry.” On the other hand, no well-bred Frenchman ever speaks of wines in any other way than as “Vin de Champagne,” “Vin de Bordeaux,” and so on. Thus we see that what is the wrong thing to do in one country is the right thing to do in another.

Do not offer a lady wine till she has finished her soup.

Do not hesitate to take the last piece on a dish or the last glass of wine in a decanter simply because it is the last. To do so is to indirectly express the fear that you would exhaust the supply.

Avoid picking your teeth at the table if possible; but if pick them you must, do it, if you can, when you are not observed. “There is one continental custom,” says the London Queen, “which the true-born Briton holds in holy horror—that is, the use of those convenient little lengths of wood[55] which to every foreigner are as necessary to his comfort as a napkin for his mouth or water for his fingers. We English regard the use of the toothpick as a barbarism, a horror, an indecency, and would not take one of those clean wooden spills between our lips for all the world. Nevertheless, a great many of us who would shudder at the iniquity of a toothpick, thrust our fingers into our mouths and free our back teeth with these natural ‘cure-dents,’ which gives a singularly wolfish and awful appearance to the operator, and makes the onlooker regret the insular prejudice which will not rather use the universal continental toothpick, wherein, at least, if properly and delicately done, is no kind of indecency or disgust.”

The procedure with finger-bowls and doilies differs somewhat on different occasions, the difference depending upon the time the bowl is brought, and whether a little white napkin comes with it. If the bowl, with a doily only, comes on your dessert-plate, you will remove it to your left, placing the doily under it. When you come to use the bowl, you will wet your fingers in the perfumed water it contains, and then dry them on your nap[56]kin. But if a little white napkin is brought with the bowl and doily, you will use that to wipe your fingers on. It is entirely permissible to wet the corner of your table-napkin, or of the little white napkin that comes with the bowl, and pass it over your lips. Of course, you would do this before putting your fingers in the water. If there are any fruit-stains on your fingers, you will use the bit of lemon that comes in the water to remove them.

If an accident of any kind soever should occur during dinner, the cause being who or what it may, you should not seem to note it.

Should you be so unfortunate as to overturn or to break anything, you would make no apology. You might let your regret appear in your face, but it would not be proper to put it in words.

Never fold your napkin where you are invited for one meal only, nor at a hotel or restaurant, but lay it loosely on the table. By folding it you would intimate that you thought some one else might use it before it had been sent to the laundry. But if you are at a friend’s house for a day or two or longer, then you will do with your napkin as you see the members of the family do with theirs. At the last meal,[57] however, you should lay your napkin on the table unfolded.

If the ladies withdraw after dinner, leaving the gentlemen, rise when they leave the table and remain standing until they have left the room.

The gentleman that is seated nearest the door or that is quickest of movement should open the door for the ladies to pass out and close it after them.

It is no longer the custom for the gentlemen to remain at the table for more than fifteen or twenty minutes, instead of from three quarters of an hour to an hour, as formerly. Indeed, there are those that look upon the custom of remaining at all as a relic of barbarism.

One should remain in the drawing-room from half an hour to an hour after dinner. To leave sooner would betray a lack of good breeding.

If you would be what you would like to be—abroad, take care that you are what you would like to be—at home.



Politeness is as natural to delicate natures as perfume is to flowers.—De Finod.

Politeness is a curb that holds our worser selves in check.—Mme. de Bassanville.

The surest way to please is to forget one’s self, and to think only of others.—Moncrief.

To be polite, it is sufficient to consider the comfort, the feelings, and the rights of others.—Anonymous.

What if the manners imitated are frippery; better frippery than brutality; and, after all, there is little danger that the intrinsic value of the sturdiest iron will be impaired by a coating of even the most diaphanous gilt.—Edgar Allan Poe.

We all judge one another, and very properly, too, by externals. Most men appear like what they are, and there are those that are so experienced in judging their fellows by their appearance and bearing,[59] that they rarely err. It is quite as true that the surest way to appear like a gentleman is to be one, as it is that the surest way to appear like an honest man is to be one. Life is made up of little things, and attention to them is evidence of a great rather than of a little mind. To a large understanding everything is important, and he that most readily descends to little things is also the most competent to compass great ones. In another chapter the subject of appearance is treated of; in this I purpose to treat more especially of bearing.

If a man would appear like a gentleman, he must walk, stand, and sit like one. In walking he should, above all, avoid everything that is unnatural or that smacks of self-consciousness. How often do we see men in the street whose every movement tells us their minds are chiefly on themselves! One throws his chest out à la dindon, while another walks with an abnormal stoop; but both delight in a kind of rolling, swaggering gait and an unnatural swing of the arms. We all know, when we see such a man, no matter what his appearance in other respects may be, that he is a person of low breeding. Not only is a man’s[60] walk an index of his character and of the grade of his culture, but it is also an index of the frame of mind he is in. There is the thoughtful walk and the thoughtless walk, the responsible walk and the careless walk, the worker’s walk and the idler’s walk, the ingenuous walk and the insidious walk, and so on. In a word, what there is in us we all carry in essentially the same way; hence the surest way to have the carriage of gentility is to have gentility to carry.

It is also necessary that a man should pay attention to the manner in which he stands, when he is in the presence of others, and especially when he is in conversation with any one toward whom he would be at all respectful. Dropping in the hip, spreading the feet wide apart, putting the hands behind the back, putting the thumbs into the arm-holes of the vest—in short, standing in a nonchalant, take-it-easy manner is not permissible. One should stand still and erect—somewhat à la militaire—and the best place for the hands is where the attraction of gravitation takes them, when the muscles of the arms are relaxed. This position, to the tyro, seems unnatural, stiff, and ungraceful,[61] while, in fact, it is natural, graceful, and respectful. This is one of the first things a dancing master should teach his pupils, and it always is one of the first things taught the learner for the stage.

Nor is the manner in which a man sits of less importance than the manner in which he walks or stands. The well-bred man does not loll and lounge in his chair, unless he is in the society of familiars, where one’s society strait-jacket may, according to circumstances, be more or less loosened. In short, that kind of comfort that is found in lolling and lounging and rocking and tipping back one’s chair is incompatible with a respectful bearing. Among thoroughly well-bred people the world over, usage herein is very exacting.

In public, the bow is the proper mode of salutation, also under certain circumstances in private; and, according to circumstances, it should be familiar, cordial, respectful, or formal. An inclination of the head or a gesture with the hand or cane suffices between men, except when one would be specially deferential to age or position; but in saluting a lady, the hat should be removed. A[62] very common mode of doing this in New York, at present, particularly by the younger men, is to jerk the hat off and sling it on as hastily as possible. As haste is incompatible with grace, and as there is an old pantomimic law that “every picture must be held” for a longer or shorter time, the jerk-and-sling manner of removing the hat, in salutation, is not to be commended. The empressement a man puts into his salutations is graduated by circumstances, the most deferential manner being to carry the hat down the full length of the arm, keeping it there until the person saluted has passed. If a man stops to speak to a lady in the street he should remain uncovered, unless the conversation should be protracted, which it is sure not to be, if either of the parties knows and cares to observe the proprieties.

A well-bred man, meeting a lady in a public place, though she is a near relative—wife, mother, or sister—and though he may have parted from her but half an hour before, will salute her as deferentially as he would salute a mere acquaintance. The passers-by are ignorant of the relationship, and to them his deferential manner says: “She is a lady.”


Well-bred men often remove their hats when ill-bred men keep them on; for example, in second-class restaurants and especially in oyster saloons. Again, the ill-bred man, though he may perhaps remove his hat in such places, will wear it the entire length of the room on entering and leaving, whereas the well-bred man carries his hat as he passes the other guests. So, too, the ill-bred man often wears his hat until he reaches his seat at a place of amusement, though his seat is one of those that are farthest from the entrance.

The well-bred man raises his hat if he passes a lady, though a stranger, in the hall of a hotel, on the stairs, if he does her any little service, as the restoring of her fan, her glove, or anything, or if she makes an inquiry of him or he of her. He will not, however, as some would have us do, raise his hat if he passes a lady’s fare in a street car or an omnibus. A lady’s fare sometimes passes through the hands of several men before it reaches the cash-box. Should they all raise their hats, or only the first one, or only the last one, or should no one?

The following defence of my lovely countrywomen will not be wholly out of place here. It is[64] from “Social Etiquette,” and I fully agree with the writer—cash-box excepted. She says: “A gentleman lifts his hat when offering a service to a strange lady. It may be the restoration of her kerchief or fan, the receiving of her change to pass it to the cash-box of a stage, the opening of her umbrella as she descends from a carriage—all the same; he lifts it before he offers his service, or during the courtesy, if possible. She bows, and, if she choose, she also smiles her acknowledgment; but she does the latter faintly, and she does not speak. To say ‘Thank you!’ is not an excess of acknowledgment, but it has ceased to be etiquette. A bow may convey more gratitude than speech.”

“This last information is more especially furnished to foreigners, who consider our ladies ungracious in some of these customs, and indelicately forward in others. In the matter of thanks to strangers for any little attentions they bestow upon ladies, we beg leave to establish our own methods, and no one finds it necessary to imitate the German, the French, the English, or the Spanish in these delicate matters.”

The best usage demands that the hat be removed[65] in entering offices where the occupants are found uncovered.

It is the custom to remove the hats in hotel elevators, when there are ladies in them; but it is so inconvenient to do so when the elevator is full, that it would be well if the custom were abandoned. It is a surplusage de politesse, at the best.

Good usage does not demand that a man shall remove his hat when he has both hands occupied. It is better, however, for a man to remove his hat, when the occasion demands it, if he can do so at all easily, as the lady that he salutes may not be aware that, having both hands occupied, he should not be expected to do so. If a man is driving, he salutes with a flourish of the whip, if he is carrying it; if not, the right hand being free, he removes his hat.

A gentleman walking with an acquaintance, lady or gentleman, raises his hat to those persons that his acquaintance salutes; he does not, however, do more than simply raise it.

“There may be circumstances,” says the author of “Social Etiquette,” “when a gentleman may lift his hat to a passing lady, even though he can[66]not bow to her. She may be offended with him, and yet he may respect and feel kindly toward her. He may deserve her disregard, and it is permitted him to express his continued reverence by uncovering his head in her presence; but he has no right to look at her as she passes him. He must drop his eyes.”

If a man meets a lady with whom he is but slightly acquainted, he should wait for a look of recognition from her before he salutes her.

“A great deal of nonsense,” says Louise Chandler Moulton, “has been talked about the question of whose place it is to bow first when a lady and gentleman meet in the street or in any public assembly. It is very absurd to say that a man should always wait until a lady has recognized him. In this, as in most other matters, common-sense and mutual convenience are the only guides. Many ladies are near-sighted, many others find great difficulty in remembering faces. Are they, because of these drawbacks, to be always debarred of the pleasure of a chance meeting with some agreeable man? The important thing of course is that a man should not presume.”


“When two people meet who are really acquainted, it is not the man who should necessarily bow first, or the lady—it is simply whichever of them is the first to perceive and recognize the other. If a lady is walking and meets a man whom she knows well, and who desires to speak with her, he will of course not commit the awkwardness of keeping her standing in the street, but if he has time will beg permission to join her for a few moments, and walk beside her long enough for a brief chat.”

In our wide streets, the custom of giving the lady the wall-side of the pavement is not rigidly observed, but it should be in the narrow ones, unless the street is one very much frequented, like some of our down-town streets, when it is better for the lady to be always on the gentleman’s right, where she will be less jostled by the passers-by. When two men walk together, it is usual for the shorter one to take the upper side of the pavement, which renders the difference in height less observable.

In public conveyances the well-bred, considerate man offers his seat to any one that seems to need it[68] more than he does—to the aged and infirm, for example, no matter what social stratum they may appear to belong to, to women with bundles or babies in their arms. Such as these should always take precedence over youth, beauty, or social position.

In a carriage a gentleman always gives the back seat to ladies accompanying him. If a gentleman drives out with one lady, he always places her on his right, which is the seat of honor; unless, of course, it is a one-seated vehicle, when he drives.

Neither in a carriage nor anywhere else should a man put his arm over the back of the lady’s seat. If a man were to do so, many ladies would request him to withdraw it.

If men stop in the street to converse, they should be careful not to stop where they will be in the way of the passers-by. We often see the thoughtless and inconsiderate stop directly opposite a crossing.

In carrying an umbrella or a cane under your arm, do not publish your awkwardness by carrying it in such a way as to make a cross of yourself, with the lance end sticking out behind you, endangering the eyes of others. Place the handle end under[69] your arm, and let the lance end point forward and downward.

Unless you have something of importance to communicate, do not stop an acquaintance in the street during business hours, or, perhaps, it would be better to say at any time.

If an acquaintance should stop you in the street when your time is limited, you may with perfect propriety courteously excuse yourself and hasten forward.

When walking with an acquaintance, do not leave him to speak to another acquaintance without a word of apology. Should you be walking with a lady, do not leave her alone if you can well avoid it.

If you see an acquaintance to whom you have something to say in conversation with some one else, do not go up and take possession of him after the fashion of the unbred. Let him know that you would speak with him and wait his leisure. If he is a man of any breeding, he will not keep you waiting long.

One salutation to a person passing on a promenade or drive is all that usage requires.


Good usage does not allow a man to smoke when driving or walking with ladies.

As a rule, a man should not offer to shake hands with a lady when they meet on neutral ground. In his own house, yes; in hers, certainly not. “There is a right and a wrong way to shake hands,” says an English writer. “It is horrible when your unoffending digits are seized in the sharp compass of a kind of vise, and wrung and squeezed until you feel as if they were reduced to a jelly. It is not less horrible when you find them lying in a limp, nerveless clasp that makes no response to your hearty greeting, but chills you like a lump of ice. Shake hands as if you meant it—swiftly, strenuously, and courteously, neither using an undue pressure nor falling wholly supine. You may judge of the character of a man from the way in which he shakes hands. As for the cold-blooded creatures who austerely offer you one or two fingers, I recommend you to ignore them; look loftily over them, as if unconscious of their existence and—their fingers. But if a lady does you the honor to offer you her hand, take it with an air of grateful deference that will show how you appreciate the honor;[71] do not drop it instantly as if the touch scared you, nor hold it so long as to cause her a feeling of uneasiness.”

Tight-fitting gloves—kid and dogskin, for example—should never be removed to shake hands with any one, nor should a man ever say, “Excuse my glove.” There is less handshaking done now than formerly.

If you meet an acquaintance in the street when you are walking with a friend, do not introduce them; nor should you ever introduce people in public places, unless you have good reason to believe that the introduction will be agreeable—nay more, is desired by both parties. The universal introducer is a very unpleasant person to associate with. In introducing persons, it is the lower that is introduced to the higher, and, as a rule, the younger to the older, the gentleman to the lady. No one would think of introducing an octogenarian to a girl of sixteen.

“The introduction that entitles to recognition having been once made,” says Mrs. Ward, “it is the duty of the younger person to recall himself or herself to the recollection of the older person, if[72] there is much difference in age, by bowing each time of meeting, until the recognition becomes mutual. As persons advance in life they look for these attentions on the part of the young, and it may be, in some instances, that it is the only way the young have of showing their appreciation of courtesies extended to them by the old or middle-aged.”

The author of “Social Etiquette” says: “Ladies who entertain hospitably and possess hosts of friends are likely to invite many young gentlemen with whose families they are familiar; but as they seldom have an opportunity of seeing their young friends except for a moment or two during an evening party, it would be strange if sometimes these ladies should not fail to recognize a recent guest when they meet on the promenade. Young gentlemen are over-sensitive about these matters, and imagine that there must be a reason for the apparent indifference. That the lady invites him to her house is an evidence of her regard, but she cannot charge her memory with the features of her multitude of young acquaintances, much as she would like to show this courtesy to them all.”


“Should any one,” says an authority in such matters, “wish to avoid a bowing acquaintance with a person who has once been properly introduced, he may do so by looking aside, or dropping the eyes as the person approaches; for if the eyes meet there is no alternative, bow he must.”

If a gentleman meets a lady acquaintance in the street, it is optional with her whether she will stop or not. If the gentleman has anything to say to her, he should turn and walk with her until he has said what he has to say. When he takes leave of her he will bow and raise his hat.

There is no one thing, perhaps, in which the difference between the well-bred man and the ill-bred man more appears than in the manner in which, the place where, and the time when they smoke. The well-bred man does not smoke, nor does he seem to smoke, to show off, whereas the ill-bred man very often smokes in a self-conscious manner that seems to say: “Look at me! see how skilfully my lips hold this cigar; how I can shift it from one side of my mouth to the other without touching it with my fingers, and how well I can articulate with it in my mouth; in short, look you what[74] perfect control I have over my labial muscles, and, having seen, admire!” In short, there are many low-bred young men—very many—that appear to smoke only to display their—imagined—grace and skill, when, in fact, in smoking as they do, where they do, and when they do, they but publish their vulgarity. Such men are certainly not of the sort that Shakespeare accuses of having a “vaulting ambition.” As they smoke chiefly for show, a poor cigar answers their purpose as well as a good one; consequently, they usually buy of the kind that are sold at the rate of two for a cent.

The well-bred man, on the contrary, the gentleman, the man that smokes only for the love of it, puts but as much of his cigar in his mouth as is necessary in order to draw it, keeps it in his mouth no longer than is necessary, and never fails to remove it when he talks, or passes any one toward whom he would be respectful, especially a lady. Further, our best-bred men never smoke in any street at an hour when it is much frequented, nor in any public place where smoking is likely to be offensive to others.

Fortunately, neither “young America” nor[75] “old” is much given to smoking a pipe outside of his own domicile. When we see a pipe in our streets or in public places it is generally in the mouth of either an Englishman, a Canadian, or an Irish hodcarrier.

“Give up to ‘cads’ and ‘snobs’ the practice of smoking in the streets or in a theatre,” says the author of “The Glass of Fashion.”

“Gentlemen never smoke in the streets, except at night,” says another.

“A well-bred man will never pass a lady with a cigar in his mouth, whether he knows her or not, not even in a desert,” says yet another.

From another writer we have: “In the eyes of persons of the best culture, a cigar or a cigarette in a man’s mouth, in public places, vulgarizes his appearance; hence men of the best fashion never smoke in the street, except at night.”

“In England,” says Mrs. Duffey, “a well-bred man never smokes in the street. Are we obliged to say that this rule does not hold in this country, or shall we repeat it with an emphasis on the well bred? At all events, no gentleman will ever insult a lady by smoking in the streets in her company;[76] and in meeting and saluting a lady he will always remove his cigar from his mouth.”

Spitting is one of those things that no man should do, if he can avoid it. If in the street, common decency, it would seem, should prompt a man to go to the gutter if he finds it necessary to spit; and if anywhere else, it should prompt him not to spit on the floor, be the floor carpeted or not. We often see men spit on a carpet, especially in our theatres, but we never see any man spit on a carpet of his own.

Another disagreeable habit is that of going about singing, humming, or whistling. The man that habitually does any one of these things, either in the street—no matter what the hour—in the halls of hotels, as he goes up and down stairs, or in his own apartments, when there is any one within hearing, has the manners of a boor, and deserves the calaboose for disorderly conduct.

Pointing, too, as a habit should be avoided, especially pointing with the thumb over the shoulder, which is a very inelegant action.

Another vulgar habit to be avoided is that of going about with a toothpick in the mouth.


“The ball is the paradise of love,” says an English writer. “In the happy spring-time of life, when the brain is fertile in pleasant fancies, and the heart throbs with unexpressed hopes—when every day brings with it a new pleasure, and every night a new reason for looking forward with joyous anticipation to the morrow—when our energies are as exhaustless as our spirits, and no sense of fatigue or weariness can oppress us, the ball-room becomes an enchanted world of light and music and perfume, into which that ubiquitous ‘black care’ of the Roman poet durst not intrude, where sorrow is never seen, and past and future are forgotten in the innocent intoxications of the present.

“To the young ear, what so delightful as merry music? To the youthful eye, what so attractive as the spectacle of fair forms gracefully revolving in the soft, sweet mazes of the mystic dance? And if we know that ‘at the ball’ we shall meet that ‘other half’ of one’s self—Romeo or Juliet, as the case may be, but Romeo without his melancholy, and Juliet without her tragedy—can it be wondered at that it draws us thither with an irresistible attraction?


“Ah, when the noontide comes, and already the shadows of evening gather over our downward path, how will remembrance bring back to us the days when it was bliss to touch one beloved hand, to take one trusting form in our reverent embrace—when it was joy untold for Romeo and Juliet to tread the painted floor together, and, side by side, to circle round and round to the strains of Strauss or Gung’l! And then, in the pauses of the dance, the brief whisper on the cool balcony or beneath the broad palms of the conservatory! And last of all, the privilege of draping those graceful shoulders with the protecting shawl, and the last sweet pressure of clinging fingers as Juliet passed into the carriage that was to bear her from our wistful gaze!”

If a young man would go into society—and every young man should go into society—and if he learn to dance, as most young men do, he should learn to dance properly. To compass this end, it is of the first importance that he select a good teacher. There are not a few of the dancing-masters nowadays—some of the more fashionable ones, too—that are quite ignorant of the art they pretend to teach. As[79] a natural consequence, their pupils dance badly, if they can be really said to dance at all. They are ungraceful, and do not mark the time, nor make any perceptible distinction between the different round dances, whereas each round dance properly has a distinctive step and movement. In dancing the round dances, in order to dance gracefully, never bend forward, but carry yourself erect, and do not bend in the knees; never put your arm around your partner’s waist farther than is necessary to hold her securely; never extend your left arm à la pump-handle, but keep your left hand, firmly holding the lady’s right, opposite and a little below your left shoulder, and put it nowhere else; never pass around the hall more rapidly than the measure compels you to pass—rapidity is incompatible with grace—and always point with the toe to the floor when the foot is raised. Take short steps, and take them with as little evident muscular exertion as possible. Grace and ease, or seeming ease, are inseparable.

The most popular of the round dances nowadays is a dance that is called a waltz, though it is no more like what we called a waltz twenty-five years[80] ago, nor any more like the only dance the Europeans call a waltz now, than a minuet is like a country break-down. Its popularity is largely, if not wholly, due to the comparative ease with which it is learned. The dancing-masters say that the “old-fashioned” waltz, as it is now called, is too hard to learn; that there are few that can learn to dance it well; that the dancers nowadays care little for grace of movement; that if they are amused they are content, and so on. If the waltz—the genuine waltz—is the most difficult of all the round dances to learn, it is also the most fascinating of them all for the accomplished dancer, and the most pleasing to the looker-on, because of all the round dances its movements are made with the most grace, dignity, precision, and bienséance.

If for no other reason, the waltz—so called—of to-day cannot be danced gracefully on account of the backward movement it demands. He that has never had any æsthetic training in the movements of the body, and especially he that has no innate sense of the graceful may think differently, but this is true nevertheless. Another reason, and a very important one too, that the movements of this[81] dance cannot be made gracefully is because they compel the dancer to carry himself with his shoulders thrown somewhat forward and with the knees a good deal bent—two things that are incompatible with graceful physical action. But perhaps the most serious objection to the waltz of nowadays is the habit of “reversing” that is indulged in by those that dance it. Reversing is simply a barbarism, as those that indulge in it do not and cannot avoid bumping against the other dancers. A man that dances the round dances well, and does not reverse, never runs against anybody; he goes just where he wants to go, and goes nowhere else, and he always wants to go straight around the sides of the hall. The plea of the reverser is that if he turns one way all the time, he gets dizzy. Nonsense! In the days when there was no reversing done, nobody complained of dizziness. If, at first, there is a tendency that way, it soon wears off. There is surely no pleasure in dancing, if one is continually jostled, and as long as reversing is practised, dancers will continue to jostle one another.

No man, of course, can dance the round dances well and gracefully, unless he has a good partner.[82] If he makes the attempt with a lady that does not know the steps, or that seems desirous to rest her head on his shoulder, he will be quite certain not to succeed. Dancers of the round dances should always keep as far apart as the length of the gentleman’s arm will permit, and both should stand erect, with the shoulders well back. To dance otherwise is vulgar in the extreme.

In the round dances, good usage demands that you make frequent pauses, and that you do not race round and round until the music ceases. If you would exhibit your powers of endurance, enter the field as a champion runner.

“I could rave,” says a high English authority, “through three pages about the innocent enjoyment of a good waltz, its grace and beauty, but I will be practical instead, and give you a few hints on the subject.

“The position is the most important point. The lady and gentleman before starting should stand exactly opposite each other, quite upright, and not, as is so common in England, painfully close to each other. If the man’s hand be placed where it should be, at the centre of the lady’s waist,[83] and not all round it, he will have as firm a hold and not be obliged to stoop, or bend to his right. The lady’s head should then be turned a little toward her left shoulder, and her partner’s somewhat less toward his left, in order to preserve the balance. Nothing can be more atrocious than to see a lady lay her head on her partner’s shoulder; she should throw her head and shoulders a little back.

“Russian men undertake to perform in waltzing the same feat as the Austrians in riding, and will dance round the room with a glass of wine in the left hand without spilling a drop. This evenness in waltzing is certainly very graceful, but it can only be obtained by a sliding step that is little practised in England. The pace, again, should not be so rapid as to endanger other couples. The knees should be very little bent in dancing, and the body still less so. I do not know whether it is worse to see a man ‘sit down’ in a waltz, or to find him with his head poked forward over your young wife’s shoulder, hot, red, wild, and in far too close proximity to the partner of your bosom, whom he makes literally the partner of his own.

“The remarks as to the position in waltzing[84] apply to all round dances. The calm ease that marks the man of good taste makes even the swiftest dances graceful and agreeable. Vehemence may be excused at an election but not in a ball-room.

“Dancing, if it is a mere trifle, is one to which great minds have not been ashamed to stoop. Locke, for instance, speaks of it as manly, Plato recommended it, and Socrates learned the Athenian polka of the day, when he was quite an old man, and liked it very much. Some one has even gone so far as to call it ‘the logic of the body;’ and Addison defends himself for making it the subject of a disquisition.”

“Nothing,” says Mr. Cecil B. Hartley, “will give ease of manner and a graceful carriage to a man more surely than the knowledge of dancing. He will, in its practice, acquire easy motion, a light step, and learn to use both hands and feet well. Some people being bashful and afraid of attracting attention in a ball-room or evening party, do not take lessons in dancing, overlooking the fact that it is those who do not take part in the amusement on such occasions, not those who do,[85] that attract attention. To all such men I would say, Learn to dance! You will find dancing one of the very best means for correcting bashfulness.”

This is all very well and very sensible, but the most weighty reason why a man should learn to dance lies in the fact that every man that goes into society should be qualified to take part in society amusements—in short, to do what others do, and to do it well.

Here are some injunctions I find in “The Glass of Fashion:”

“Bear yourself with moderation in the liveliest measure. Some couples go through a waltz as if they were dancing dervishes, and indulge in an abandon that, to say the least, is indecorous.

“Lead your partner through a quadrille; do not haul her. A lady’s waist should be sacred, and there can be no excuse for clasping it as if you wanted to steady yourself by it.

“Dance quietly. Do not go through your steps as if you were a dancing-master; nor move your limbs wildly, as if you were executing an Indian war-dance.

“I am not sure that a man in a dress-coat and[86] black trousers, going through a quadrille or cotillon, can be considered either a noble or a beautiful sight; but I am sure that it is better he should dance as if he knew something about it, than like a country clown who mistakes muscular activity for grace.

“Above all, do not be prone to quarrel in a ball-room; it disturbs the harmony of the company, and should be avoided, if possible. Recollect that a thousand little derelictions from strict propriety may occur through the ignorance or stupidity of the aggressor, and not from any intention to annoy; remember, also, that really well-bred women will not thank you for making them conspicuous by over-officiousness in their defence, unless, indeed, there is a serious violation of decorum. In small matters, ladies are both able and willing to take care of themselves, and would prefer being allowed to overwhelm the unlucky offender in their own way.

“You go to a ball to dance, and not to stand against the wall, or by the door, with the smirk of priggishness on your foolish face, as if the whole thing were a baw, and everybody in the room un[87]worthy of your august notice. If Heaven only ‘gave you to see yourself as others see you,’ rest assured you would adopt no such idiotic conduct.”

“A man who can dance, and will not dance,” says Mrs. Ward, “ought to stay away from a ball. Who has not encountered that especial type of ill-bred man who lounges around doorways or strolls through a suite of rooms, looking as if there were not a creature present worth dancing with!”

“A gentleman of genuine politeness,” says Mrs. Duffey, “will not give all his time and attention to the belles of the evening, but will at least devote a little thought to the wall-flowers who sit forlorn and unattended, and who but for him might have no opportunity to dance.” The wall-flower is a plant found in every ball-room, yet no young lady, no matter how plain and uninteresting she may be, need ever be one. Let her learn to dance well and she will always have partners.

At balls, the right of introducing rests mainly with the ladies and gentlemen of the house, but a chaperone may introduce a gentleman to her charge, and if a man is intimate with a young lady he may ask her permission to introduce a friend.


An invitation to a private ball, like other invitations, should be answered immediately.

The ball demands the fullest of toilets: dress suit, white necktie, stand-up collar, and straw-colored gloves, which look white at night. The gloves should be worn the whole evening, except at supper, after which men that can afford it often put on a fresh pair.

If alone, go from the dressing-room to the ball-room and pay your respects to the host and hostess. If there are young ladies in the family, take the earliest opportunity to speak to them and to ask one of them to dance the first set with you. If she is engaged, you may ask her to dance with you later in the evening, and then you are at liberty to look for a partner among the guests.

In asking a lady to dance with you, if you know her but slightly, or if you have but just been introduced to her, it is sufficient to say: “Shall I, or may I, have the honor, or the pleasure, of dancing the next set with you?” or “Will you honor me with your hand for the next set?” “An applicant for this honor is always careful to recognize the office and authority of the chaperone when making[89] his request. This is considered no more respect than is due to the lady who has kindly undertaken the care of the young lady at a ball.”

At the end of every dance, says an authority, a gentleman should offer his right arm to his partner, and at least take her once around the room before consigning her to her chaperone. Another authority says that a gentleman should return the lady directly to her chaperone as soon as the dance is finished. He may linger here to converse with her, but not elsewhere.

At a ball a gentleman is introduced to a lady only that he may ask her to dance with him—the acquaintance, therefore, rarely goes any farther. Whether it shall or not is entirely optional with the lady. Should they meet afterward, the gentleman will wait for a recognition before he speaks.

Nor should a gentleman that is introduced to a young lady at a ball ask her for more than two dances the same evening. Indeed, the showing of marked preferences in society is always in questionable taste. It is certain that it is in the best circles that we see least of it.

A gentleman taking a lady in to supper should[90] reconduct her to the ball-room; the fact of friends joining her, in the supper-room, would not relieve him of the duty. “While the lady is supping you must stand by and talk to her,” says “The Man in the Club-Window,” “attending to every want, and the most you can take yourself is a glass of champagne when you help her. You then lead her up-stairs again, and if you are not wanted there any more, you may steal down and do a little quiet refreshment on your own account. As long, however, as there are many ladies at the table, you have no right to begin. Nothing marks a man here so much as gorging at supper. Balls are meant for dancing, not for eating.”

In an English work of high authority, entitled “Mixing in Good Society,” I find the following admonitions:

“Never enter a ball-room in other than full evening dress, and white or light kid gloves.

“A gentleman cannot be too careful not to injure a lady’s dress. This he is sure to do if he dances a round dance with her without gloves.”

“The young women of the country,” says Col. Donan, “send forth a huge, universal wail of in[91]dignant protest against the ungloved men who persist in leaving their finger-marks on the backs of delicately tinted dresses at fashionable germans, hops and balls. From Cape Cod to Corpus Christi, no dancing party ever takes place that is not followed by a day of lamentation and execration on the part of the unhappy girls who wake from dreams of waltz and galop and quadrille, to find their dainty costumes ruined by the bare-paw prints of men for whose ruthless crime against decency there is no excuse. The fashion of going without gloves originated in the vilest foreign flunkeyism. The Prince of Wales forgot his gloves one evening when he went to the opera, and consequently was compelled to appear with his hands uncovered. The next evening every asinine toady and swell in the theatre showed his hands in native nakedness, and the vulgar apery was promptly caught up on this side of the ocean. Let gentlemen remember that no ungloved man can pretend to be fully dressed.

“It is an affront to a lady to hold her hand behind you, or on your hip, when dancing a round dance.

“Never forget a ball-room engagement. It is the[92] greatest neglect and slight that a gentleman can offer a lady.

“If a lady happens to forget a previous engagement, and stand up with another partner, the gentleman whom she has thus slighted is bound to believe that she has acted from inadvertence, and should by no means suffer his pride to master his good temper. To cause a disagreeable scene in a private ball-room is to affront your host and hostess, and to make yourself absurd. In a public room it is not less reprehensible.

“Always remember that good breeding and good temper—or the appearance of good temper—are inseparably connected.

“However much pleasure a man may take in a lady’s society, he must not ask her to dance too frequently. Engaged persons would do well to bear this in mind. A ball is too formal a place for any one to indulge in personal preferences of any kind.

“Lastly, a gentleman should not go to a ball unless he has previously made up his mind to be agreeable; that is, to dance with the plainest as well as with the most beautiful; to take down an[93] elderly chaperone to supper, instead of her lovely charge, with a good grace; to enter into the spirit of the dance, instead of hanging about the doorway; to abstain from immoderate eating, drinking, or talking; to submit to trifling annoyances with cheerfulness; in fact, to forget himself, and contribute as much as possible to the amusement of others.”

If a gentleman that is invited to a house on the occasion of an entertainment is not acquainted with all the members of the family, his first duty, after speaking to the host and hostess, is to ask some common friend to introduce him to those members that he does not know.

“Though not customary for married persons to dance together in society, those men who wish to show their wives the compliment of such an unusual attention, if they possess any independence, will not be deterred,” says Mrs. Ward, “from doing so by their fear of any comments from Mrs. Grundy.”

“The sooner we recover from the effects of the Puritanical idea that clergymen ought never to be seen at balls, the better for all who attend them,”[94] says Mrs. Ward. “Where it is wrong for a clergyman to go, it is wrong for any member of his church to be seen.”

The sons of a house where an entertainment is given must for that evening refrain from engaging in any flirtations, or from showing in any way their preferences. Nothing is more at variance with good breeding than for them to do otherwise. It is their imperative duty to see that no one is neglected.

A gentleman should not take a vacant seat next to a lady that is a stranger to him, nor next to an acquaintance without first asking her permission.

Always give your partner your undivided attention. To let your eyes wander about the room, or to betray an interest in others, is the reverse of flattering to her.

When you conduct your partner back to her seat, do not remain too long in conversation with her. We go into society to take part in a general interchange of civilities, and not to engage in prolonged tête-à-têtes.

There is a very old injunction that says that you should never wait till the music begins to engage your partner.


Though a gentleman would naturally give special attention to a lady he escorted to a ball, he should leave her every opportunity to accept the attentions of others. Any attempt to monopolize her society, though she were his betrothed, would be thoroughly plebeian. He should call for her punctually, taking a bouquet for her if he chooses, or, better, if the spirit moves him, sending one in the afternoon with his card. Arrived, he leaves her at the door of the ladies’ dressing-room, and himself goes to the gentlemen’s. Having arranged his dress and put on his white kid gloves, he goes and waits at the ladies’ room till his companion appears, when he escorts her to the ball-room. Having exchanged salutations with the hostess, he leads her to a seat. He will dance the first set with her and also another set in the course of the evening. On no account will he dance two sets with her in succession. During the rest of the evening, it is his duty to see that she is not neglected, that she is provided with partners, and with an escort to supper. Finally, he will be ready to conduct her home when she expresses a wish to go, and will personally inquire after her health the next day.


The author of “Social Etiquette of New York” settles a question of some moment, quite to her satisfaction, and also, I am willing to believe, to the satisfaction of the ladies generally, in this wise: “Now, just at this point arises a question that has long been in dispute, and it may as well be settled at once: ‘Which side of the stairway, the rail or the wall, should be accorded to a lady?’

“It has been discussed by gentlemen, as if it were a matter for them to decide, which it is not, by any means. Such ladies as have been given their choice have invariably said: ‘Permit me to take your left arm with my right hand, and it does not matter whether it is wall or rail that I am nearest in going up or down stairs. I can better care for myself than you can care for me.’

“Sometimes the turning or curving of the staircase so narrows the steps on the rail side as to make them dangerous to heedless feet. In such a case a lady must cling to the arm of her escort, or else clasp the rail with her fresh and tightly-fitting gloves, which last she is never willing to do if she can avoid it.

“Of course a gentleman cannot always wait to[97] examine the architectural peculiarities of a staircase before he decides which arm will best satisfy the lady whom he desires to benefit. He is safe in offering her his left. If she declines assistance, she will choose which part of the stairs she likes best to ascend, and the gentleman will precede her by two or three steps. On going down, he is always slightly in advance of her. This arrangement settles the question satisfactorily to the ladies, and gentlemen have really no right to a choice in this matter.”

“Oftener than otherwise,” says “Social Etiquette,” “the lady of to-day does not lean upon the arm of her escort, but advances into the salon unassisted. Indeed, the ancient custom is falling into disuse in our fashionable society.

“The lady precedes the gentleman by a step or two, when entering or passing out from an apartment, provided she does not retain his arm. In the highest circles of France, the lady enters several steps in advance of the gentleman at a formal reception. Our custom of precedence is not quite so pronounced as that.”

If you leave a ball, or party of any kind, before the music ceases, do it as quietly as possible, in[98] order that your going may not be observed by others and so break up the party. If you meet the hostess on your way out take leave of her in such a manner that other guests may not observe you. As for looking for her it is quite unnecessary.

Party calls, as they are termed—i.e., calls to recognize the obligation for having been honored with an invitation—are made on the hostess on her first regular reception day after the entertainment, whether you were at it or not. If she has no regular reception day, then a call should be made, or cards left, within, at the farthest, ten days.

Though a man may take no great pleasure in card-playing, it is very desirable that he should be able to play those games that are most played in society—in this country, whist and euchre for example. A man should go into society as much to make himself useful as in search of amusement. If a fourth hand is wanted at a rubber, he should be able not only to take it, but to acquit himself fairly well.

In general society, the card-table is generally reserved for elderly people, who always take precedence over the young.


Husband and wife should not play in the same table, except where the company is so small that it cannot be avoided. The supposition is that they are so well acquainted with each other’s mode of playing that they would have an unfair advantage. Then again, married people go into society to exchange civilities with others and not with themselves.

Never, under any circumstances, cheat or wilfully violate the rules of the game. To do either is to be guilty of a species of buffoonery.

Never lose your temper at the card-table. You should not play unless you can bear ill-luck with composure, and can pass over any blunders your partner may make with serenity.

Unless you are playing with familiars, do not urge any one to play faster. The patient man is never uncivil.

Some ungallant monster has said that women have only two passions, love and avarice, and that, though the latter ill-becomes them, yet it is so strong that they can rarely conceal it at the card-table. For this reason, he adds, it is always painful to see them play when there is any stake.


As a rule in good society, in this country, no stake is played for, and when there is—here as elsewhere—it is understood that though one does play with money one does not play for money.

When the cards are being dealt by another, keep your hands out of the way, and do not touch your cards until all have been dealt.

In playing, throw your cards down quietly, and not violently, after the fashion of the card-players one sees in lager-beer saloons.

“The new etiquette regarding costume at places of amusement began only lately to shape itself into formality in New York. It is now considered quite proper for a gentleman to attend an opera in a matinée suit, provided seats have been taken elsewhere than in a box, but he is limited in his visits between the acts to such of his acquaintances as are also in demi-toilet, unless he goes to the foyer to chat with promenaders.

“If a gentleman is in full dress, he may visit everywhere in the house, but he will not seat himself in the orchestra or in the dress circle, because his toilet will appear out of harmony with the soberer garments about him.”


Thus wrote the author of “Social Etiquette of New York,” in 1878, and yet the fact is that there are many men in New York that are in the habit of wearing full dress at all our better theatres on all “first nights,” no matter where their seats may be, and always when they go to the theatre accompanied by ladies. Thus we see that opinions in this matter differ materially. To the writer it seems that a morning suit—black frock coat and dark trousers—is fully as appropriate as full dress on all occasions where the ladies are not expected to be in full dress, which they are not in any of our parquets or dress circles. There is something sorely incongruous in the picture presented by a lady in a sober, high-necked gown and an extensive hat seated beside a man in a swallow-tailed coat, a low-cut waistcoat and a white necktie. And then does it not look very much as though he had no demi-toilet suit with which to make his appearance correspond with that of the lady?

“Social Etiquette” says further: “He may properly wear gloves when he is not in full dress, as this slight formality of attire is in keeping with the style of his costume. If he wears a dress coat and[102] an evening necktie, it is permissible for him to appear without gloves.”

For several years gloves were little worn by men, especially with full dress, even at dancing-parties and balls, but of late the wearing of gloves, particularly at parties and balls, is the rule rather than the exception. An ungloved man certainly never looks dressed. From present indications gloves will soon be as generally worn as they ever have been.

A gentleman inviting a lady to go with him to an entertainment, theatrical, musical, or whatever it may be, should take care to do so betimes, and also in case full dress will be necessary to let her know it. This is a consideration that often has great weight with a lady in deciding whether she shall accept or not.

Unless a lady is in full dress, or the weather is bad, it is not generally deemed necessary, in the cities at least, to provide a carriage. Women of the best sort do not like to see men put themselves to any expense that is not really demanded when they offer them a civility, no matter what their circumstances may be. It is economy and not lavishness that commands respect, among sensible peo[103]ple, the world over. The vulgar synonym for ostentation, remember, is splurge.

You should always try to be in your seat before an entertainment begins, and if, unavoidably, you are late, you should await a fitting time to go to it. There are many thoughtless, inconsiderate, stupid people that if they chance to arrive during the progress of the best scene in a play, or during the singing of the finest aria in an opera, will immediately go to their seats, though in doing so they disturb the whole house, artists and all. If you arrive late and there are any back seats unoccupied take them temporarily, and if there are none unoccupied remain standing until you can go to your seats without disturbing any one. You have no more right to disturb others at a place of amusement than you have to pick their pockets, for when you disturb them you rob them of a part of that for which they have paid their money.

In finding the way to seats, the gentleman should precede the lady, if there is no usher; if there is an usher, the lady should precede the gentleman. The lady always takes the inner seat.

If it is necessary to pass others to reach your[104] seats, turn the face and not the back to those you pass.

If your seats are easy of access and your companion has gentlemen acquaintances in the audience, you need not fear that she will upbraid you for leaving her two or three times in the course of the evening, during the pauses, in order to give them an opportunity to visit her. Nothing delights the female heart more than to have a bevy of gentlemanly-looking men gather about her in public. If she has no acquaintances to visit her, she should not be left alone more than once during the evening, and then not for more than a few minutes.

At a place of amusement you should never relinquish your seat in favor of a lady, unless she is a friend of your companion, or is aged or infirm, and not then without first getting your companion’s consent.

Considerate persons never talk so loud at a place of amusement as to disturb others, and none but snobs ever make remarks about a performance in a tone that can be heard by those in their neighborhood. We sometimes encounter a kind of snobbishness in play-houses and concert-halls that is[105] much given to talking to its companions and at those sitting near. It often belongs to persons that have “done” many lands, glancing at the outside of many houses and seeing the inside of a few.

If you would eat candy, oranges, apples, or nuts or anything else at the theatre, you would do well to go to the gallery. There the eating of fruit and sweetmeats is much less likely to attract attention than in other parts of the house, where you would generally find yourself surrounded by persons that are strongly opposed to munching at places of amusement.

There are many men in this country—but not in Europe—that seem to think it beneath their dignity to applaud at a place of amusement. It is never beneath any man’s dignity to recognize the obligation when another exerts himself to please him. Applause is the only way the auditor has of testifying his appreciation of a performer’s efforts and skill. Nor is this all. There is a selfish reason why the auditor should applaud: without this kind of encouragement no performer, no matter how great his experience, can do his best. Intelligent applause is no small part of the return an actor or[106] singer gets for his exertions. Gratitude and recognition are two of the sweetest things in life, and the lack of them makes more misanthropes than everything else put together.

Finally, if you remain to the end of a performance, remain indeed to the end—remain in your seat and remain quiet until the last word has been spoken, or the last note has been sung. Be not one of those unbred persons that when the end approaches begin to make ready to go, or perhaps get up and push past others, disturbing everybody in the house, players as well as auditors, in their selfish haste to reach the door. I repeat: You have no more right to disturb others at a place of amusement than you have to pick their pockets, for when you disturb others you rob them of a part of that for which they have paid their money.

If you pass through a door that is closed, leave it closed.

If you pass through a door that has a spring on it, see that it does not slam.

If your feet are muddy, find some means of cleaning them before you pass through anybody’s door.

If you pretend to wash your hands, wash them;[107] do not simply wet them, and then wipe the dirt off on the towel.

If you visit beer-saloons or oyster-saloons, do not copy the phraseology of the waiters; the men that do it are never men of refined instincts. Never cry out “eins,” after the fashion of the waiters in beer-saloons, nor “one,” or “a stew,” or “a fry,” as the waiters do in oyster-saloons.

If you would be worthy to live among well-bred, right-thinking people you will always consider the interest, respect the rights, and study the comfort of others. For example, if you visit a reading-room where the aim is so to keep the newspapers that any particular one can be easily found, you will always be careful to put those you read back in their proper places; you will never scratch a match on anybody’s wall or woodwork; you will never spit on anybody’s floor, whether carpeted or not; you will never walk over the upholstered seats of a place of amusement, and so on. The doing or the leaving undone of little things is a sure index of a man’s breeding or of his lack of it.

If you would preserve your health, never drink anything but water between meals.


If you would preserve your good name, keep away from bar-rooms.

If you would preserve your self-respect, keep away from bar-rooms.

If you would preserve your good manners, keep away from bar-rooms.

If you would preserve your good looks, keep away from bar-rooms.

If you would keep out of the clutches of the devil, keep away from bar-rooms.



The first rule of speaking well is to think well.—Mme. de Lambert.

Attention is a tacit and continual compliment.—Mme. Swetchine.

Gravity is a stratagem invented to conceal the poverty of the mind.—La Rochefoucauld.

To discuss an opinion with a fool is like carrying a lantern before a blind man.—De Gaston.

To use many circumstances ere you come to matter is wearisome; and to use none at all is blunt.—Bacon.

That is the happiest conversation where there is no competition, no vanity, but only a calm, quiet interchange of sentiment.—Johnson.

If you your lips

Would keep from slips,

Five things observe with care:

Of whom you speak,

To whom you speak,

And how, and when, and where.


If you your ears

Would save from jeers,

These things keep meekly hid:

Myself and I,

And mine and my,

And how I do or did.

Though there are not many persons that seem to think so, still it is true that the value of no other accomplishment can be compared with that of a thorough knowledge of one’s mother tongue, be that tongue what it may. The most of us do more or less talking in the course of every one of our waking hours, and we impress those that hear us, favorably or unfavorably—as far as our culture is concerned—according to the manner in which we express ourselves. The tones of the voice, the construction of our sentences, the choice of our words, and the manner in which we pronounce and articulate them—all have their influence in impressing, either favorably or unfavorably, even the most unlettered. How desirable then it is that we should cultivate the graces of speech, which are first among the rudiments of the Art of Conversation!

“There is a part of our education,” says a clever[111] English writer, “so important and so neglected in our schools and colleges, that it cannot be too highly impressed on the young man that proposes to enter society. I mean the part that we learn first of all things, yet often have not learned well when death eases us of the necessity—the art of speaking our own language. In every-day life the value of Greek and Latin, French and German is small, when compared with that of English. We are often encouraged to raise a laugh at Doctor Syntax and the tyranny of grammar, but we may be certain that many misunderstandings arise from a want of grammatical precision.

“There is no society without interchange of thought, and since the best society is that in which the best thoughts are interchanged in the best and most comprehensible manner, it follows that A PROPER MODE OF EXPRESSING OURSELVES IS INDISPENSABLE IN GOOD SOCIETY.”

“The commonest thought well put,” says another English writer, “is more useful, in a social point of view, than the most brilliant idea jumbled out. What is well expressed is easily seized, and therefore readily responded to; the most poetic[112] fancy may be lost to the hearer if the language that conveys it is obscure. Speech is the gift that distinguishes man from the lower animals and makes society possible. He has but a poor appreciation of his privilege as a human being who neglects to cultivate ‘God’s great gift of speech.’”

“The manner in which things are said,” says a French philosopher, “is almost as important as the things themselves. For one man that judges you by your thought there are twenty that judge you by the manner in which your thought is presented. Not only should your words be well chosen, but your bearing should be self-possessed and the tones of your voice agreeable.”

M. L. H., in Lippincott’s Magazine for February, 1883, writes very instructively on the art of conversation as follows: “How seldom it is that one enjoys the pleasure of a real conversation, taking the word to mean something more than the casual chat of calling acquaintances, and something different from the confidential intercourse of familiar friends!

“There is no pastime more delightful in its way than the leisurely talk of a company of congenial[113] persons met for the simple enjoyment of one another’s society, the agreeable interchange of ideas and sentiments, and it would seem that this pleasure should be an easily attainable one. As a matter of fact, however, the entertainment is not so cheap and easy to be had as might be supposed.

“It is a privilege restricted mostly to the dwellers in our larger cities, where, although social life may have a tendency to form itself into separate circles, yet each of these has a circumference great enough to include a sufficient number of persons disposed to draw together by natural affinities. In our smaller provincial cities and towns there is, generally speaking, nothing that can be called society, and conversation is not a lost art, but an art unknown. In such places as these the hostess who should offer her guests no other entertainment than the conversation of their equals would, I fear, be thought to provide for them but badly. If this be true, it certainly is a reflection upon those who compose this provincial society so called: it seems to argue a lack of brains, culture, and social tact, when the result of their gathering together is only a common boredom.


“Yet, on second thoughts, this inability to make conversation a mutually agreeable thing has its partial explanation in the circumstances of the case. Each unit of the small provincial whole lives in a narrow round of his own; his occupations and interests are necessarily much the same as those of his neighbor, and it is not possible for either of them to bring anything very novel or amusing by way of contribution to the social repast. The daily life of the resident of a large city is, by comparison, infinitely varied and full of incident; he dines to-day with B. and meets C. and D., but to-day is not the simple repetition of yesterday, for then it was A. that entertained him, and the guests were E. and F.

“Doubtless there is an ideal of conversation that is not commonly realized. It implies the gathering together of a certain—not too large—number of men and women, each of whom is both able and willing to play his individual part. It does not need the possession of brilliant gifts in every member, nor even in any one member of the company; it needs only a fair amount of intelligence and culture, and of that ready perception of the drift and[115] meaning of the words of others, which may be called a sort of intellectual tact. ‘The whole force of conversation,’ it has been said, ‘depends upon how much you can take for granted. Vulgar chess-players have to play the game out.’

“More than anything else, conversation implies individual self-abnegation, the putting out of sight of large egotisms and small vanities, and contentment with one’s due share of attention only. There need not be agreement of opinion, but there must be mutual tolerance.

“It also implies individual responsibility and the obligation of every one to give of his best. Intellectual sloth has no place at the feast of reason.

“One need not shine in the talk, but one must at least be able to listen intelligently.

“How much of the charm of words lies in the manner in which they are spoken! Our thoughts and sentiments have not one mode of expression, but a hundred; the tone of the voice interprets the meaning of the word, the glance and the smile soften or intensify it.

“Conversation is seldom so agreeable as around a dinner-table of the right size, where the talk is[116] general and lively without confusion. At a large gathering, where the company inevitably breaks up into groups, conversation may flourish more or less brightly, but never quite so well as where the guests are few and congenial and form but a single circle.

“I often wonder why it is that there is such difficulty in getting people to unite in making the talk general. Some perverse instinct seems to drive them to split apart; the force of repulsion is stronger than that of attraction; six or eight persons are engaged in four duets, and, if the talk begins to flag between numbers one and two, nothing better occurs to them than to exchange partners with three and four and raise a distracting cross-fire. If I want to see a friend alone, it is usually easy to accomplish it; but if I try to hold a pleasant conversation with three or four other friends at the same time, they too often appear to conspire together to defeat my wish.”

If one would have an agreeable manner in conversation, there are certain things that must be attended to:

1. One must cultivate repose. The man that fidgets, tugs at his beard, runs his fingers through[117] his hair, rubs his hands, cracks his finger-joints, grates his teeth, or indulges in much gesticulation, while very likely he sits cross-legged and swings one foot, is never an agreeable person to talk with. This restlessness is always an evidence of weakness. That kind of strength that brings with it a feeling that one is equal to the situation is always accompanied with that quiet self-possession that we call repose.

2. One must avoid interrupting. Always let your interlocutor finish what he has to say. Note the points that you would reply to, and wait patiently till it is your turn to speak. The world is full of ill-bred persons that have the habit of breaking in on the speaker as soon as he says anything they would reply to, or that suggests a thought. Wait, I repeat, and wait patiently and respectfully, as the American Indian always does, till your interlocutor has finished. Men that continually interrupt are always men whose early training was very faulty. With such men conversation is impossible.

3. One must learn to listen. It is not sufficient to keep silent. You should be attentive, seem to be interested and not wear the expression of a martyr.[118] There are those whose mien when they listen seems to say: “Will he ever get through and let me give breath to the words of wisdom!” or, “Poor me, how long will this torture last!” or, “When you get through, I’ll show you in a word or two what nonsense you talk!” Such listeners are generally persons that think their utterances much more heavily freighted with wisdom than other people think them.

4. One must learn not to speak too long at a time. The social monologist is one of the most disagreeable characters one ever meets with. There are two species of them. To the one belong those egotistic, patronizing creatures that seem to take pity on you and do all the talking in order to put you at ease in their august presence. To the other belong those men that talk much and say little; that go over a deal of surface and never get below it; that go round and round, and up and down in search of some way to get at the pith of the matter, until they finally give up the chase in despair. Of the two species, the first is the least tiresome—and the least numerous—as there is always something ludicrous, and consequently amusing, in their coxcombry.


5. One must learn—if one can—to stick to the subject under consideration. Pausing to remark upon the irrelevant that may be suggested in the course of a conversation is a characteristic of the female mind. Many men, however, are as great sinners in this direction as are women generally. This is a fault peculiar to persons of hazy mental vision, and is very trying to those of clearer perceptions.

6. One must learn not to laugh at one’s own wit, nor to chuckle at one’s own remarks. There are men that cannot take part in a conversation without falling into a broad grin, which frequently develops into a chuckle that renders their articulation indistinct. This is a habit that is among the easiest to correct.

7. One must learn to control one’s temper. There are those that habitually—and involuntarily, perhaps—take refuge in indignation the moment they are opposed, and especially if they are opposed with reasons that are too weighty for their logic. Then there are others that have so exalted an opinion of their own opinions that they think it presumption on the part of another to question their correctness and resent any opposition as an indignity. It is[120] not the wise that are least respectful to those that venture to differ from them.

8. One must be careful to avoid a certain labial gesticulation, and a certain “Jakey” toss of the head that some unbred people indulge in, when they talk. Of all the vulgar habits that vulgar people indulge in in conversation, this is one of the most vulgar.

9. Never, anywhere or under any circumstances, talk with a toothpick, a cigar, or a cigarette in your mouth. Anything more disrespectful or more thoroughly low we rarely have to complain of. And yet we sometimes see men standing in the street talking to women—not ladies, for a lady does not allow herself to be treated with such disrespect—with cigars in their mouths.

The author of “Mixing in Good Society” says: “We must not bring our gloomy moods or irritable temper with us into society. To look pleasant is a duty we owe to others. One is bound to listen with the appearance of interest even to the most inveterate proser who fastens upon us in society; to smile at a twice-told tale; and, in short, to make such minor sacrifices of sincerity as good manners and good feeling demand.


“In conversation the face should wear something that is akin to a smile; a smile, as it were, below the surface.

“We should always look at the person who addresses us, and listen deferentially to whatever he says. When we make answer, we should endeavor to express our best thoughts in our best manner. A loose manner of expression injures ourselves more than our interlocutor; since, if we talk carelessly to those whom we will not take the trouble to please, we shall feel at a loss for apt words and correct elocution when we need them.

“Always think before you speak; as thus only can you acquire the habit of speaking to the purpose.”

Good talkers are generally deliberate talkers.

“Polite vulgarisms must be scrupulously guarded against. A well-educated person proclaims himself by the simplicity and terseness of his language. It is only the half-educated who indulge in fine language, and think that long words and high-sounding phrases are distingué.

“Everything approaching to extravagance in conversation is objectionable. We should endeavor[122] to ascertain the precise meaning of the words we employ, and employ them at the right time only. Such phrases as ‘awfully hot,’ ‘immensely jolly,’ ‘abominably dull,’ ‘disgustingly mean,’ etc. etc., are used in the most reckless manner. This hyperbolical way of speaking is mere flippancy, without wit or novelty to recommend it.”

The late Dr. George Ripley was wont to say that the secret of being agreeable in conversation was to be hospitable to the ideas of others. He affirmed that some people only half listened to you, because they were considering, even while you spoke, with what fine words, what wealth of wit, they should reply, and they began to speak almost before your sentence had died from your lips. Those people, he said, might be brilliant, witty, dazzling, but never could they be agreeable. You do not love to talk to them. You feel that they are impatient for their turn to come, and that they have no hospitality toward your thoughts—none of that gentle friendliness that asks your idea in and makes much of it.

“Dean Swift,” says an English writer, “with his keen eye for the foibles of his fellows, has put on record some faults in conversation that every[123] one that wishes to be an agreeable talker should make it his business to avoid.

“He justly condemns the habit of talking too much. No man in a company has a right to predominate in length and frequency of speech, any more than a player in an orchestra has a right to convert the performance into a solo. Even if a man can talk as well as a Macaulay, he has no right to prevent others from talking. They have come not to hear a lecture, but to converse; to talk as well as to listen; to contribute as well as to receive. Even the listeners and admirers that gathered around Macaulay sometimes longed for a ‘flash of silence.’ Oh, the misery of it, when some inordinate gossip gets you by the buttonhole and drums away at your aching tympanum with an incessant crash of prattle!

“Still more wearisome is the talk of those who will talk only of themselves; whose everlasting ‘I’ recurs in their speech as certainly as the head of Charles the First turned up in the speech of Mr. Dick. They deluge their hearers with the milk-and-water history of their sayings and doings from childhood upward; and relate the annals of their[124] diseases with all the symptoms and attendant circumstances. To a talker of this sort to have the measles is a delight—the small-pox a boon. A gentleman will never admit that his constitution is anything but sound—in conversation. Of all bores the greatest is he that carries his pills, powders, and plasters into the society of his friends; that bids the world listen when he sneezes, and thinks his rheumatism a matter of national concern.

“Others, as the Dean remarks, are more dexterous, and with great art will lie on the watch to hook in their own praise: ‘They will call a witness to remember they always foretold what would happen in such a case, but none would believe them; they advised such a man from the beginning, and told him the consequences just as they happened, but he would have his own way. Others make a vanity of telling their own faults; they are the strangest men in the world; they cannot dissemble; they own it is a folly; they have lost abundance of advantages by it; but if you should give them the world they could not help it; there is something in their nature that abhors insincerity and constraint—with many other insufferable topics of the same altitude.’


“The most successful talker is the man that has most to say that is sensible and entertaining on the greatest number of subjects. A specialist can never make a good conversationist; his mind runs always in one groove.

“Swift comments upon two faults in conversation that appear very different, yet spring from the same root and are equally blamable; the first, an impatience to interrupt others; the second, a great uneasiness when we are ourselves interrupted. The chief objects of all conversation, whether conversation proper or small talk, are to entertain and improve our companions, and in our own persons to be improved and entertained. If we steadily aim at these objects, we shall certainly escape the two faults indicated by the dean. If any man speak in company, we may suppose he does it for his hearers’ sake, and not for his own; so that common discretion will teach him not to force their attention if they are unwilling to lend it, nor, on the other hand, to interrupt him who is in possession, because that is the grossest manner to indicate his conviction of his own superiority.

“There are some people,” says Swift, “whose[126] good manners will not suffer them to interrupt you; but, what is almost as bad, they will discover abundance of impatience, and be upon the watch until you have done, because they have started something in their own thoughts that they long to be delivered of. Meantime, they are so far from regarding what passes that their imaginations are wholly turned upon what they have in reserve, for fear it should slip out of their memory; and thus they confine their invention, which might otherwise range over a hundred things fully as good and that might be much more naturally introduced.

“I think that wit must be introduced into conversation with great reserve. Such a caution seems, however, little called for, considering the limited number of persons to whom it applies; but there is a cheap form of wit that most ill-natured persons can plagiarize, and in a mixed company its effects are not seldom disagreeable; that is, the repartee, or smart answer, which assuredly does not turn away wrath; the epigrammatic impertinence that young speakers suppose to be wit. ‘It now passes for raillery,’ says Swift, ‘to run a man down in discourse, to put him out of countenance and make[127] him ridiculous; sometimes to expose the defects of his person or understanding; on all which occasions he is obliged not to be angry, to avoid the imputation of not being able to take a jest. It is admirable to observe one who is dexterous at this art singling out a weak adversary, getting the laugh on his side, and then carrying all before him. The French, whence we borrow the word ‘raillery,’ have a quite different idea of the thing, and so had we in the politer ages of our fathers. Raillery was to say something that at first appeared a reproach or reflection, but by some turn of wit, unexpected and surprising, ended always in a compliment, and to the advantage of the person it was addressed to. And, surely, one of the best rules in conversation is, never to say a thing that any of the company can reasonably wish we had left unsaid; nor can there well be anything more contrary to the ends for which people meet together than to part dissatisfied with one another or with themselves.

“This fatal kind of smartness, which all may master who have no regard for the feelings of others, is very much more common now, I imagine, than in Swift’s time, when people could hardly be per[128]suaded that wit and rudeness were synonymous. It has found its way into the House of Commons, where it is assiduously practised by men that have little hope by more worthy means of achieving a reputation; and on the stage, where, in ‘drawing-rooms richly upholstered,’ the characters pass their time in saying impertinent things to one another. That such flippancy should pass muster as wit cannot, however, be wondered at in a generation that mistakes sensuousness for poetry, æstheticism for art, and charlatanism for statesmanship!

“I have already made a distinction between conversation and small talk; but after all, the cautions that apply to the one have a distinct reference to the other. I presume that a good conversationist is also a good small-talker; though, of course, the reverse does not follow; a man may shine in small talk, and prove very dull in conversation. It is not my object or desire to depreciate small talk, which, in the present condition of society, is a substitute for conversation, and in any condition would be a necessary complement of it. We cannot always be passing our five-pound notes; we must sometimes descend to inferior currency, and not only sov[129]ereigns, but crowns and two-shilling pieces have their value. Besides, we cannot afford to carry on an exchange by which we always lose. We cannot give our five-pound notes when others stake but shillings and sixpences. Barter is fair and profitable only when we get as much as we give. Our pockets may be full of sovereigns, and yet we shall hesitate to give one for a penny roll; but to a man that has nothing but counters in his pocket, it does not matter whether the roll cost a penny or a shilling. The moral of this is, that we must put pence into our purse as well as pounds. For want of such a precaution, the meditative scholar is often, in society, at a loss to find topics of conversation; he has nothing small enough to give, and his companions have nothing with which to conduct an exchange. It is wisdom, therefore, to pay close attention to this matter of small talk, and endeavor to arrive at a certain command of and proficiency in it. Men of the highest gifts cannot dispense with it if they wish to be at no disadvantage in their ordinary intercourse with mankind.

“There are many spheres in which, I grant, the small-talker would be out of place. He would[130] make a sorry figure in an assembly of scholars and thinkers, engaged in the discussion of subjects as momentous and as profound as those with which Goethe overwhelmed the hapless Excelmann. His true arena is the dinner-table. It is there he can make the best use of the old, familiar weapons. He does not shun the traditional allusions to the weather or the crops; and, indeed, it is clear that he must begin on some topic that he and his companions have in common. That once found, others will naturally spring out of it; but in passing to and from them, much dexterity is required. If the small-talker shows any doubt of his own powers, or puts himself forward too obtrusively, he will come to grief, as we all instinctively rebel against an attempt to drag us into conversation. The string that leads us must be invisible. The exchange of small talk is like a game of battledoor in which an accomplished player will sometimes designedly drop his shuttlecock, partly to flatter and propitiate his partner, and partly for the sake of a prospective advantage. When once he has full command of the game, he will quietly take the lead, and guide it surely but gently into the direction best adapted[131] for the display of his powers. The attractiveness of skilfully managed talk of this kind is felt by everybody; and we remember with pleasure the evening when, unwittingly, we were taken captive by some man or woman whose intellectual superiority, perhaps, we should not be willing to admit, but who, we readily own, enabled us to pass some very pleasant hours.

“But this small talk that so agreeably flavors conversation is different indeed from that very small talk in which society nowadays indulges so unblushingly, go where you will—not necessarily, as Mr. Hale remarks, into the society of the suburban ‘Row’ or ‘Terrace’ of semi-detached villas, nor into that of the small provincial town, or the colonial garrison; but into that found in the homes and among the families of English gentlemen. Mr. Hale does not, I think, exaggerate when he says it is painful to listen to the general conversation; the name of a common friend is mentioned, and something that he or she has said or done is commented upon with a freedom that, to be in any way justifiable, presupposes a thorough knowledge of all sides of the case; and the minor[132] worries of life, servants, babies, and the like, furnish the theme for a multifarious and protracted discussion. If there is talk that should disgust all refined tastes and ordinarily intelligent minds, it is the farrago of trivialities that makes the daily staple of conversation in some of our English homes. As a proof that I do not exaggerate, let any one refrain for four-and-twenty hours from dealing with such ‘small beer,’ and observe how great a difficulty he will experience in discovering subjects for conversation. This shows how injurious the habit is. We feed so long on infant’s food that we can digest nothing more substantial. Our small talk resembles a hand-organ, which is set to a certain number of airs, and grinds through these with monotonous regularity.

“I have dwelt at some length on this subject, because it seems to me of great importance. The whole tone of society would be raised if we could raise its conversational standard; if we could lift it from very small talk to small talk and thence to conversation. Women especially may help toward a satisfactory result, for at present women are the great manufacturers of very small talk. Let them[133] rise to the measure of their duties; men will soon follow their example, and we shall live to see the end of the very small-talk era.

“In certain ‘Hints upon Etiquette,’ by Αγωγος, published nearly half a century ago, but characterized by a good sense that must always render them valuable, I find a wise caution in reference to ‘talking shop,’ which I may add to my own emphatic warning against this particularly disagreeable custom. ‘There are few things,’ he says, ‘that display worse taste than the introduction of professional topics in general conversation, especially if there be ladies present; the minds of those men must be miserably ill-stored who cannot find other subjects for conversation than their own professions. Who has not felt this on having been compelled to listen to “clerical slang,” musty college jokes, and anecdotes divested of all interest beyond the atmosphere of a university; or “law-jokes,” with “good stories” of “learned counsel;” “long yarns,” or the equally tiresome muster-roll of “our regiment”—colonels dead, maimed majors retired on pensions, subs lost or “exchanged,” gravitating between Boulogne and the “Bankruptcy Court”?


“‘All such exclusive topics are signs either of a limited intellect or the most lamentable ignorance.’ They are signs, too, of exceedingly bad breeding; for the introduction of a topic on which no one can discourse but the speaker necessarily chokes out the life of a conversation, and for the lively talk of the many substitutes a dreary monologue. They imply an almost supernatural egotism, as if the speaker believed that all the world must perforce be interested in whatever concerns him. Needless to say that these remarks do not apply to the case of an acknowledged ‘expert’ whose opinion has been invited on the questions that of right fall within his special province. Now, as a rule, society cares nothing for the individual; and there can be no greater error than for a man to put forward in conversation his individual tastes, opinions, views, unless he has attained to a position that entitles him to speak as one having authority. And even then what he says should be general in tone and application, with as little allusion as possible to himself. Nor should he suffer his remarks to assume the form and proportions of an oration, lest his hearers, in spite of themselves, betray their weari[135]ness. A St. Paul may preach, and yet Eutychus fall asleep! In spite of his reputation as the Aristarchus of his day, Samuel Johnson could irritate his hearers into administering a rebuke to his verbosity.

“The colloquial inferiority of the present generation is attributed by Mr. Hannay purely to the action of the press. Newspapers, novels, magazines, reviews, he says, gather up the intellectual elements of our life like so many electric machines, drawing electricity from the atmosphere into themselves. Everything, he adds, is recorded and discussed in print, and subjects have lost their freshness long before friends have assembled for the evening. And he concludes: ‘Where there is talk of a superior character, it appears to affect the epigrammatic form; and this is an unhealthy sign. If there were no other objection, how rarely can it avoid that appearance of self-consciousness and effort that is fatal to all elegance and ease.’

“Topics of conversation are not far to seek in these active days of ours, when the thoughts of men are widened by the process of the suns. The current history of the time—the last drama or[136] opera or newest book, the scene of war—and there is always war somewhere—the last device of some scrupulously great or greatly unscrupulous statesman, the latest exploit of swimmer or mountain-climber, the last invention—these, and similar themes, will call forth and maintain an agreeable discussion.

“You must learn to express yourself with conciseness and accuracy, and, if possible, with a happy turn of expression that, though it will not be wit, will sound witty. Your talk should not be in epigrams, yet should it be epigrammatic. Around the dinner-table, elaborate criticism or argument, pathos or profundity would be out of place. You are not to soliloquize like Hamlet, but to bandy light speeches and sharp sayings like Mercutio. Of course you will avoid bitterness; there must be no vinegar, but a touch of lemon-juice will flavor the mixture.

“The epigrammatic is a valuable element, but should never predominate, since good conversation flows from a happy union of all the powers. To approximate to this, a certain amount of painstaking is necessary; and, though artifice is detestable,[137] we must submit, that talk may be as legitimately made a subject of care and thought as any other part of a man’s humanity, and that it is ridiculous to send your mind abroad in a state of slovenliness while you bestow on your body the most refined care.

“I would establish but one great rule in conversation,” said Richard Steele, “which is this, that men should not talk to please themselves, but to please those that hear them. This would make them consider whether what they speak be worth hearing; whether there be either wit or sense in what they are about to say, and whether it be adapted to the time when, the place where, and the person to whom it is spoken.

“Conversation is a reflex of character. The envious, the pretentious, the impatient, the illiterate, will as surely betray their idiosyncrasies in conversation as the modest, the even-tempered, and the generous. Strive as we may, we cannot always be acting.

“Let us, therefore, cultivate a tone of mind and a habit of life, the betrayal of which need not put us to shame in any company; the rest will be easy.


“If we make ourselves worthy of refined and intelligent society, we shall not be rejected from it; and in such society we shall acquire by example all that we have failed to learn by precept.

“There is a certain distinct but subdued tone of voice that is peculiar to persons of the best breeding. It is better to err by the use of too low than of too loud a tone.

“A half opened mouth, a smile ready to overflow at any moment into a laugh, a vacant stare, a wandering eye, are all evidences of ill-breeding.

“Next to unexceptional diction, correct pronunciation, distinct enunciation, and a frank, self-controlled bearing, it is necessary to be genial. Do not go into society unless you can make up your mind to be cheerful, sympathetic, animating as well as animated.”

Of the late George Eliot, who was one of the most agreeable talkers of her time, some one has said: “She had one rare characteristic that gave a peculiar charm to her conversation. She had no petty egotism, no spirit of contradiction; she never talked for effect. A happy thought, well expressed, filled her with delight; in a moment she would[139] seize the thought and improve upon it, so that common people felt themselves wise in her presence, and perhaps years after she would remind them, to their pride and surprise, of the good things they had said.”

Avoid slang as you would the plague. It is a great mistake to suppose that slang is in any way a substitute for wit. It is always low, generally coarse, and not unfrequently foolish. With the exception of cant, there is nothing that is more to be shunned. We sometimes meet with persons of considerable culture that interlard their talk with slang expressions, but it is safe to assert that they are always persons of coarse natures.

“Eschew everything that savors of the irreverent, and, as you love me, let not your tongue give way to slang! The slang of the æsthetic disciple of sweetness and light—the slang of the new school of erotic poets—the slang of the art-critic—the slang of the studios—the slang of the green room—the slang of Mayfair—and the slang of the Haymarket; shun each and all as you would flee from the shield of Medusa! Plain English and pure, from the well undefiled of the best writers and speakers—let[140] that be the vehicle in which your opinions are conveyed, and the plainer and purer the better.”

Profanity is absolutely incompatible with genuine refinement; it is always ungentlemanly, and, therefore, to be avoided. If those men that habitually interlard their talk with oaths could be made to see how offensive to decency their profanity is, they would, perhaps, be less profane. Really well-bred men are very careful to avoid the use of improper language of every description.

“Immodest words admit of no defence,

For want of decency is want of sense.”

“It is not easy to perceive,” says Lamont, “what honor or credit is connected with swearing. It is a low and paltry habit, picked up by low and paltry spirits who have no sense of honor, no regard for decency, but are forced to substitute some rhapsody of nonsense to supply the vacancy of good sense. The vulgarity of the practice can be equalled only by the vulgarity of those who indulge in it.”

The extent to which some men habitually interlard their talk with oaths is disgusting even to[141] many that, on occasion, do not themselves hesitate to give expression to their feelings in oaths portly and unctuous.

Among the things that are studiously avoided in conversation by persons of taste is the use of old, threadbare quotations. He that can’t do better than to repeat such old, threadbare lines as “Variety is the spice of life,” “Distance lends enchantment to the view,” “A thing of beauty is a joy forever,” “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” and the like, would appear to better advantage by remaining silent.

“Sir” and “madam,” or “ma’am,” are far too much used by some persons in this country, especially in the South. In England neither “sir” nor “madam” is considered proper, under ordinary circumstances, except on the lips of inferiors. A man having occasion to address a lady that is a stranger to him should always address her as “madam,” never as “miss,” if she has reached the age of womanhood, in which case courtesy supposes that she has entered that state that all women should enter as soon as they are fitted for it.

One of the things that we should be most careful[142] to guard against in conversation, if we would appear to advantage in the eyes of persons of the better sort, is undue familiarity. The man of native refinement, as well as the man of culture, is always careful to observe—in a greater or less degree, according to circumstances—the conventionalities that obtain in refined social intercourse. Perhaps the most repulsive character to be met with is the youth that seems to think it makes him appear vastly more manly to Jack, Jim, or Joe his acquaintances, in addressing them, and to speak of persons that he may, or may not, know in a familiar, disrespectful manner. To him Mr. Sheridan Short, if he has occasion to speak of him, is simply “Shed;” Mr. Lester Bullock is simply “Lester;” Mr. John Guthbert is simply “old John,” and so on. If this vulgar specimen of “Young America” has a father, he speaks of him as his “old man,” and middle-aged and elderly men, if they have grown-up sons, he designates as “old man Burt,” “old man Harrison,” etc. This kind of youth is always one of those loud-mouthed, guffaw fellows that think themselves, as the Kentuckian would say, “simply mountaneous.”


Story-telling in society is something that even those that tell stories well should indulge in but sparingly. All stories, unless well told, are tiresome; and then there is always the danger that to some of those that are compelled to listen they will be a “twice-told tale.” A serious fault of many story-tellers is that they themselves cannot refrain from laughing at the humor of their own anecdotes. All stories should be told clearly and tersely, and be so managed as to have a marked climax; and if the teller must laugh at them, he should be sure not to laugh until the climax is reached. The skilful do not think it incumbent on them to tell stories just as they hear them. Modifications that they think will render them more effective they do not hesitate to make.

He that never will confess his ignorance nor admit that he has erred in judgment publishes his weakness when he thinks he is concealing it. There are no surer indications of strength than candor and frankness. Men of sense do not expect to be looked upon as being all-wise and infallible, and they know that a frank confession that they are ignorant or have erred, always works to their advan[144]tage; and further, they feel that they are so wise and are so often right that they can afford to be frank in confessing their ignorance when they are ignorant and their errors when they have erred. “A man should never blush in confessing his errors,” says Rousseau, “for he proves by the avowal that he is wiser to-day than he was yesterday.”

Relatives and intimate friends should be careful, in their associations with others, not to make an indiscreet or ungenerous use of the knowledge they have gained of one another. The wise man is silent in regard to the weaknesses of those with whom he stands in close relations. Indeed, there is something generous and noble in the endeavor to make men think as well of one another as a regard for truth will permit. The habitual depreciator is one of the weakest and most unlovable of men.

One of the things we should be most studious to avoid in conversation is perversity. There are men that seem to think it their special mission in this world to set others right. Say what you may, and say it as you may, they will immediately proceed to show you that you are at least partly, if not wholly, wrong. As for agreeing with you, they never do,[145] unless, in disagreeing with a third person, they agree with you accidentally. It is hardly necessary to say that this perverseness is not a characteristic of persons of a generous nature or a large understanding. It is the product of a feeling closely allied to envy, and is peculiar to men of overweening conceit and inordinate love of adulation. Quite unconsciously they oftentimes do little else than assail whatever is advanced by others, solely because they cannot brook the thought that the attention of the company be diverted from themselves.

The old injunction, “If you cannot speak well of people, speak of them not at all,” has never yet been heeded by any one, nor should it be, for it is by exchanging opinions of our acquaintances and by discussing their faults and weaknesses that we add to our knowledge of human nature, than which few things are more desirable. “There are two kinds of gossip,” says an English writer—“the good-humored and the scandalous—the gossip that touches lightly on faults and foibles, and amusing incidents and curious contrasts, and the gossip that peers into the privacy of domestic life, and invents or misrepresents. The latter no right-thinking person[146] will indulge in or listen to; the former is the salt of ordinary conversation. We cannot help taking an interest in our fellows, and there is no reason why we should not, so long as that interest is not malignant.”

“Keep clear,” says Dr. John Hall, “of personalities in general conversation. Talk of things, objects, thoughts. The smallest minds occupy themselves with persons. Personalities must sometimes be talked, because we have to learn and find out men’s characteristics for legitimate objects; but it is to be with confidential persons. Poor Burns wrote and did many foolish things, but he was wise when he wrote to a young friend:

“‘Ay, tell your story free, off-hand,

When wi’ a bosom crony;

But still keep something to yoursel’

You’ll scarcely tell to ony.’

“Do not needlessly report ill of others. There are times when we are compelled to say, ‘I do not think Bouncer a true and honest man.’ But when there is no need to express an opinion, let poor Bouncer swagger away. Others will take his[147] measure, no doubt, and save you the trouble of analyzing him and instructing them. And as far as possible dwell on the good side of human beings. There are family-boards where a constant process of depreciating, assigning motives and cutting up character goes forward. They are not pleasant places. One who is healthy does not wish to dine at a dissecting-table. There is evil enough in men, God knows. But it is not the mission of every young man and woman to detail and report it all. Keep the atmosphere as pure as possible, and fragrant with gentleness and charity.”

Persons of kindly natures take pleasure in repeating the pleasant things they hear one acquaintance say of another; on the other hand, persons of an envious, jealous nature repeat the unpleasant thing they hear, or nothing. There is nothing that does more to promote kindly feeling than the repeating of pleasant things.

Never say, “It is my opinion,” or “I believe,” or “I think”—expressions that differ but little in meaning—when you are not thoroughly acquainted with the matter. In a matter of which a man has no knowledge he can have no opinion; he can, at[148] the most, have an impression. Say, therefore, when speaking of a matter of which you know little or nothing, if you would talk like a man of sense, “My impression is,” or “from the little I know of the matter, my impression is,” or “I know only enough of the matter to allow myself an impression, and that is,” or something of the sort. Men that are always ready with their “opinion” generally have no opinions of anything.

“There is a kind of pin-feather gentility,” says “The Verbalist,” “that seems to have a settled aversion to using the terms man and woman. Well-bred men, men of culture and refinement—gentlemen, in short—use the terms lady and gentleman comparatively little, and they are especially careful not to call themselves gentlemen when they can avoid it. A gentleman, for example, does not say, ‘I, with some other gentlemen, went,’ etc.; he is careful to leave out the word other. The men that use these terms most, and especially those that lose no opportunity to proclaim themselves gentlemen, belong to that class of men that cock their hats on one side of their heads, and often wear them when and where gentlemen would remove them; that[149] pride themselves on their familiarity with the latest slang; that proclaim their independence by showing the least possible consideration for others; that laugh long and loud at their own wit; that wear a profusion of cheap jewelry, use bad grammar, and interlard their talk with big oaths.”

“Socially, the term gentleman,” says the London periodical, All the Year Round, “has become almost vulgar. It is certainly less employed by gentlemen than by inferior persons. The one speaks of ‘a man I know,’ the other of ‘a gentleman I know.’ Again, as regards the term lady. It is quite in accordance with the usages of society to speak of your acquaintance the duchess as ‘a very nice person.’ People who say ‘a very nice lady’ are not generally of a social class that has much to do with duchesses.”

“The terms lady and gentleman,” says the London Queen, “become in themselves vulgar when misapplied, and the improper application of the wrong term at the wrong time makes all the difference in the world to ears polite.”

“Bashfulness,” says Bacon, “is a great hindrance to a man both of uttering his conceit and[150] understanding what is propounded unto him; wherefore it is good to press himself forward with discretion both in speech and company of the better sort.”

“Shyness,” says a modern writer, “cramps every motion, clogs every word. The only way to overcome the fault is to mix constantly in society, and the habitual intercourse with others will give you the ease of manner that shyness destroys.”

“In all kinds of speech,” says Bacon, “either pleasant, grave, severe, or ordinary, it is convenient to speak rather slowly than hastily; because hasty speech confounds the memory, and oftentimes drives a man either to a nonplus or unseemly stammering upon what should follow; whereas a slow speech confirmeth the memory, addeth a conceit of wisdom to the hearers, besides a seemliness of speech and countenance.”

The man of real dignity, of real intellectual strength, never hesitates to establish a sort of friendly relation with his servants and subordinates. If you see a man going about with a “ramrod down his back,” looking over the heads of his servants and subordinates, you may be sure[151] that he knows just enough to know that his dignity is a nurseling and needs his constant attention.

Be not in haste to take offence; be sure first that an indignity is intended. He that calls you hard names, if they are unmerited, is beneath your resentment; if merited, you have no right to complain. In either case, nine times in ten, the better course is to say little and go your way. A well-bred man seldom if ever feels justified in indulging in recrimination. Altercations are as much to be avoided as personal encounters.

It often requires more courage to avoid a quarrel than to engage in one, and then the courage that keeps one out of a quarrel is the courage of the philosopher, while the courage that leads one into a quarrel is the courage of the bully. He that boasts of his prowess is a blackguard.

Steer wide of the stupid habit many persons get into of repeating questions that are asked them, and of asking others to repeat what they have said. If you take the trouble to observe, you will find your experience with these people to be something like this: “Will this street take me into Chatham Square?” “Chatham Square, did you say?”[152] You go into a men’s furnishing store and ask: “Will you show me some sixteen-inch collars?” “Sixteen inch, did you say?” You ask an acquaintance: “How long have you been in New York?” “How long have I been in New York, did you say?” or, “Which do you think the prettier of the two?” “Which do I think the prettier?” or, “I think it will be warmer to-morrow.” “What did you say?” or, “Patti was ill and did not sing last evening.” “What do you say, Patti didn’t sing?” “When do you expect to break yourself of the habit of asking me to repeat everything I say, or of repeating everything over after me?” “When do I expect to break myself of the habit?” If you think you have been understood, all you have to do, as a rule, is to keep silent and look your interlocutor full in the face for a moment to be made sure of it.

There is a kind of comparatively harmless gossip that some men indulge in, that makes them appear very diminutive in the eyes of men of the world. I refer to the habit some men have of making what may chance to come to their knowledge of other people’s affairs and movements the subject of[153] conversation. Though there is generally nothing malicious in the gabble of these busybodies, it sometimes causes a deal of unpleasantness. Men whose ambition it is to appear knowing, know, if they did but know it, far less than their discreet-mouthed neighbors.

All writers on the amenities of conversation agree that the discussion of politics and religion should be excluded from general society, for the reason that such discussions are very liable to end unpleasantly. Yet this would never be the case, if we were sufficiently philosophic to reflect that we are all what circumstances have made us, and that we, with only now and then an exception, should be of the same opinions as our neighbors had we been reared under like influences. When we censure another for his way of thinking, if we did but know it, we find fault not with him, but with the surroundings amid which he has grown up. There are but very few men in the world that have opinions that are really their own, i.e., that are the product of their own, independent judgment. Most men simply echo the opinions that have chanced to fall to their lot, and had other opinions chanced to fall[154] to their lot—though directly opposed to those they now entertain—they would, in like manner, have echoed them—have fought for them, if occasion offered. But as there are very few of us that are not swayed by prejudice rather than guided by philosophy, politics and religion are, and are pretty sure to remain, dangerous topics to introduce into the social circle, and that, too, for the simple reason, as already intimated, that they are subjects upon which people generally feel so deeply that they cannot discuss them calmly, courteously, and rationally.

We sometimes meet with persons that lose no opportunity to say sharp things—things that wound. They are occasionally persons of some wit, but they are never persons of any wisdom, or they would not do what is sure to make them many enemies. Good manners without kindliness is impossible.

Persons of the best fashion avoid expressing themselves in the extravagant. They leave inflation to their inferiors, with many of whom nothing short of the superlative will suffice. From them we hear such expressions as “awfully nice,” “beastly ugly,” “horridly stuck up,” “frightfully cold,”[155] “simply magnificent,” and “just divine,” while persons of better culture, to express the same thoughts, content themselves with “very pretty,” “very plain,” “rather haughty,” “very cold,” “excellent,” and the like. Intemperance in the use of language, like intemperance in everything else, is vulgar.



Custom is a law

As high as heaven, as wide as seas or land.


An English authority tells us that the chief things to be considered in making calls are the occasions and the hours. Between friends there is little need of ceremony in the matter, as a friendly visit may be made at almost any time and on almost any occasion.

A man that can command his time may make ceremonious calls, in most of the large cities, at any hour between two and five in the afternoon, and the man that has not the leisure to call during the afternoon may make calls in the evening after half past eight. The careless, ignorant, or over-eager sometimes call earlier, for fear the lady may be out; but this is not considered good usage.


Calls may be divided into three classes:

1. Visits of ceremony.

2. Visits of congratulation or sympathy.

3. General calls.

Ceremonious calls are those made to present letters of introduction, or after dinners, parties, or balls.

In calling to present a letter of introduction, the caller does not go in, but simply leaves the letter, with his card and address.

In returning a call made with a letter of introduction, the caller must go in, if the person on whom he calls is at home.

If your letter of introduction is for a special purpose—which purpose should be mentioned in the letter—you will send it in with your card, and ask for an interview.

In giving letters of introduction, you take a great responsibility. You should, therefore, give them only to persons that have your entire confidence and for whom you are willing to be responsible. They should be left open, in order that their bearers may acquaint themselves with their contents.


A call should be made within a week after balls, dancing parties, or dinners to which you have been invited, whether you accepted or not. Such calls, some one has said, should resemble wit in their brevity, not exceeding the length of a reasonable sermon—say twenty or thirty minutes at the most.

If during your call another visitor should arrive, you should not appear to shun him, but should wait two or three minutes, and join in the conversation before you take leave. Persons that out-sit two or three callers, unless there is some special reason for their doing so, are in danger of being called bores, who are persons that have not sufficient tact to know when they should take leave.

It is often no easy matter either to know when to take leave or how to take leave gracefully. As a rule, avoid all such observations as, “Well, I think it is time for me to be going,” and do not look at your watch. The best way to make one’s exit, whether the conversation has begun to flag or not, is to say something effective, as Pelham was wont to do, and withdraw immediately thereafter. Above all, do not prolong your leave-taking. When[159] you start to go, go. Interminable leave-takers are very tiresome.

A man should never offer to shake hands with persons on whom he calls. If, however, those on whom a man calls offer him their hands when he arrives, he may offer them his hand when he takes leave; but this is by no means necessary.

A man, in making calls, should always carry his hat into the drawing-room. He may carry his cane also into the drawing-room, if he chooses to do so, but there is no special reason why he should. The carrying of one’s hat is sufficient intimation that one has not come to remain. Authorities differ with regard to what a man shall do with his hat when he gets into the drawing-room. One English authority says: “The hat should never be laid on a table, pianoforte, or any article of furniture, but must be held properly in the hand. If you are compelled to lay it aside, put it on the floor.” Another English authority says: “A gentleman holds his hat until he has seen the mistress of the house and shaken hands with her. He would then either place it on a chair or table near at hand, or hold it in his hand until he took leave.”[160] Men of sense and a little independence will do as they please. What objection can there be to a man’s putting his hat on a chair, a table, or a piano? In making short calls, a man should hold his hat, unless he should want to use both hands for some other purpose.

But whether it is permissible or not for a man to put his hat on some article of furniture, it is certain that if he carries hat and cane into the drawing-room, he should put them down somewhere, or hold them still, and not betray his gaucherie by flourishing the one or twirling the other.

A man should never say, “Excuse my glove,” nor, if he is neatly gloved, should he remove his glove to shake hands with any one.

Never take a seat on a sofa, unless invited to do so; nor in an arm-chair, uninvited, unless there are several in the room unoccupied; nor is it permissible to leave your chair to get nearer the fire.

A gentleman should, generally, rise when a lady enters the drawing-room, and remain standing till she is seated; and, though a stranger, he should place a chair for her, if there is not one convenient; but not his own, if there is another at hand.


A gentleman should also generally rise if a lady leaves the drawing-room, and remain standing until she has passed out.

Never take any one to call on ladies of your acquaintance before asking their permission to do so.

When going to spend the evening with a friend that you visit often, it is quite proper that you should leave your hat in the hall.

Never take a dog into a drawing-room when you make a call. For many reasons a visitor has no right to inflict the society of his dog on his acquaintance.

A gentleman that is invited by a lady to call cannot, without showing a want of courtesy, neglect to pay her a call within a week or ten days.

Visits of condolence are paid within a week, or ten days at most, after the event that occasions them. Personal visits of this kind are made only by relatives and intimate friends, who should be careful to make the conversation as little painful as possible.

In paying visits of congratulation, you should always go in, and be hearty in your congratulations.

“There are many great men,” says “The Man[162] in the Club-Window,” “who go unrewarded for the services they render humanity. Nay, even their names are lost, while we daily bless their inventions. One of these is he, if it was not a woman, who introduced the use of visiting-cards. In days of yore a slate or a book was kept, and you wrote your name on it. But then that could be done only when your acquaintance was ‘not at home.’ To the French is due the practice of making the delivery of a card serve the purpose of the appearance of the person, and with those who may have a large acquaintance this custom is becoming very common in large towns.”

The fashion of cards as to size, material, style of engraving, and the mode of using them, is very variable. Visiting-cards, at present, should be small, and printed on fine, thin bristol-board, in Italian script without any flourishes. The address in the right-hand corner, and if a member of a club, the name of the club in the left-hand corner. Glazed cards, fac-similes and ornamental styles of letters are entirely out of fashion.

The black borders of mourning cards vary in width according to circumstances, the maximum[163] width being three eighths of an inch, which is denominated “extra extra wide.”

Nearly all New York men have “Mr.” on their cards, and yet in England, where the custom originated, according to two authorities before me, the practice is going out of fashion. One of them says: “Some gentlemen and unmarried ladies have adopted the continental custom of omitting the ‘Mr.’ and ‘Miss’ upon their cards; as

Alfred John Majoribanks;


Lucy Carrington.

And the fashion is a good one.”

Another English writer says: “To have ‘Francis Smith’ printed on the card without the prefix ‘Mr.’ would be a glaring solecism, and in the worst possible taste.” The writers are both “members of the aristocracy.”

Military or professional titles take the place of the “Mr.,” as, “Captain John Smith,” “Colonel John Smith,” “Rev. John Smith,” “Dr. John Smith,” etc.

“Visiting-cards can under no circumstances be sent by post; to do so would betray the greatest igno[164]rance of what is done in society. Cards must be left in person,” says an English writer.

“It is for this ceremonious card-leaving that it is now proposed to send the cards by post, which sensible people in England are advocating, as well as sensible people here,” says an American writer.

The turning-down of the corner or the end of a card signifies that the owner left it in person. It is better usage, because more recent, to turn the end. In countries where great importance is attached to such little things, even those that send their cards by servants turn them across one end—usually the right end—as if they had left them in person.

Cards left on New Year’s Day, or on any other reception day, simply for the purpose of refreshing the memory of the hostess, are never turned down.

Usage in these matters varies not only in different countries, but often in the different large cities of the same country. Persons that are not sure that they are thoroughly informed should inquire.

On reception days the caller must go in; the simple leaving of his card on those days does not suffice.


P. P. C. cards are the only cards that it is universally considered permissible to send by post.

To return a call, made in person, with cards inclosed in an envelope is an intimation that the sender is not desirous to continue the acquaintance.

“As regards leaving cards upon new acquaintances,” says the English authority already quoted, “a gentleman may not leave a card upon a married lady, or the mistress of a house, to whom he has been introduced, however gracious or agreeable she may have been, unless she expressly asks him to call, or gives him to understand in an unmistakable manner that his doing so would be agreeable to her. This rule holds good, whether the introduction has taken place at a dinner-party, at a ball, at an ‘at home,’ at a country gathering, or elsewhere; he would not be authorized in leaving his card on her on such slight acquaintanceship; as, if she desired his further acquaintance, she would make some polite allusion to his calling at her house, such as, ‘I hope we shall see you when we are in town this season,’ or, ‘I am always at home at five o’clock, if you like to come to see us.’ If a woman of the world she would use some such[166] formula, but would not use a direct one, in which case he would leave his card on her as soon afterward as convenient, and he would also leave a card for the master of the house, the lady’s husband or father, as the case might be, even if he had not made his acquaintance when making that of the lady.

“A gentleman may not under any circumstances leave his card on a young lady to whom he has been introduced, unless her mother, chaperone, or the lady under whose care she is for the time, gives him the opportunity of furthering the acquaintance in the manner we have just indicated. The young lady must not take the initiative herself, but must leave it to her mother or chaperone to do so. It would be considered ‘ill-bred’ were a gentleman to ask, ‘if he might have the pleasure of calling,’ etc.”

But in America, according to the author of “Social Etiquette of New York,” a young man may proceed quite differently. She says: “After a gentleman has been introduced to a lady, he may be in doubt whether the acquaintance will prove agreeable to her. He may be too delicate to give[167] her the unpleasantness of refusing him permission to call on her, should he beg such an honor. Therefore, if he covet her acquaintance, he leaves his card at her residence, and her mother or chaperone will send an invitation to him to visit the family, or, perhaps, to be present at an entertainment, after which it is his duty to call and pay his respects. If the list of acquaintance be already too extensive, no notice need be taken of the card, and he will wait for a recognition from the ladies of the household when they meet again. If the acquaintance be really desirable, a prompt acknowledgment of his desire to become acquainted is admitted in some refined and acceptable form.

“A gentleman,” says the same writer, “will always promptly accept or decline an invitation to anything. It was once an unsettled question whether or not receptions, kettledrums, and the like gatherings, required the formality of a reply. That vague doubt is terminated. Every invitation should be answered, and then there can be no misunderstanding.”

Gentlemen, in making formal calls, ask if “the ladies are at home.” If they are not, some men[168] leave a card for each, while others leave one card only, which, it would seem, should suffice.

If a gentleman calls on a young lady that is the guest of a lady he does not know, he will, nevertheless, ask to see her hostess.

If a gentleman receives an invitation from a new acquaintance, he should leave his card on host and hostess the day after the entertainment, whether he was present or not.

Rules with regard to card-leaving have little or no significance among intimate friends.



Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform, insensible operation, like that of the air we breathe in.—Burke.

Desire and fear are the two great springs of human effort. Every fear supposes an evil; every desire a good. What are the real evils and the real goods? What are the means by which these may be obtained and those avoided? This research is the principal object of philosophy, which, without excluding any truth, has man for its study and wisdom for its object, and may be called the “Art of Living.” The other arts have but a momentary utility; the utility of this one is constant. It is of every country, of every age, of every condition. There is not a moment of our lives when it may not serve as a guide by pointing to the duties we should perform, the pleasures we may taste, the dangers we should shun.


Anger is the delirium of offended pride. It is rarely useful, and one of these brief paroxysms of folly may embitter one’s whole life. He that contends for his rights without losing his temper is not only more dignified, but is also more effective than he that loses it. To get angry with an inferior is degrading; with an equal, dangerous; with a superior, ridiculous, while toward all there is danger of being unjust. Few things are more impressive than to see calmness opposed to violence, refinement to vulgarity, or decorum to ruffianism.

The late Douglass Jerrold likened civility to an air-cushion—possessing no tangible substance, yet serving to ease the jolts we encounter in our journeying through life. To say that a person is civil does not imply that he is agreeable, yet civility is the next step to being agreeable. Some persons pride themselves on being brusque or boorish, and it is well to let such have a wide berth in which to exercise their peculiarities. While wonders may be accomplished in being civil and agreeable, nothing can be gained by incivility. It is the manners that make the man or the woman. The presence of an[171] agreeable person is like a ray of sunshine that warms and halos everything on which it falls, while a disagreeable fellow will chill the pleasantest company ever assembled; and it is one of those mysteries that can never be solved why they are permitted to flourish and have their venomous existence, unless they are to be considered as checks to prevent us from a surfeit of happiness in this world.”

Intellectual is more frequent than physical short-sightedness, and nothing is more frequent than for the important and the true to escape the vision of the vulgar. It is not a Socrates and his wisdom that are honored with a great following, but a Mahomet and his ignorance that establish a sect that numbers an eighth of the population of the globe. It is not the laws of the profound and magnanimous Lycurgus that have come down to us, but those of the pedant Theodosius and the cruel Justinian. If a truth comes down to us from heaven, it does wisely to first appear in the habiliments of folly in order to guard against being at first taken for an error.


Always suspect a man that affects great softness of manner, an unruffled evenness of temper, and an enunciation studied, low, and deliberate. These things are all unnatural, and bespeak a degree of mental discipline into which he that has no purposes of craft or design to answer cannot submit to drill himself. The most successful knaves are usually of this description, as smooth as razors dipped in oil and as sharp. They affect the innocence of the dove, which they have not, in order to hide the cunning of the serpent, which they have.”

To the vulgar, the most sublime truths are only prejudices because they accept them as they accept error—without examination. What is more humiliating to contemplate than the universality of opinion and of faith in the same community! We find a whole people, with few exceptions, of one way of thinking, and a little farther on, another people with directly opposite ideas, while each are equally convinced of the correctness of their views. There is not a ridiculous custom, an absurd opinion, or an inhuman atrocity that, in one century or another, has not had the sanction of the law and the[173] approbation of the public. If it is the custom to worship certain animals or plants, as among the ancient Egyptians, for example—among whom, however, this worship was only symbolic—the whole nation prostrate themselves before them, and pronounce those that differ from them heathen dogs or impious barbarians. This clearly demonstrates that he that follows the dictates of conscience—a thing always of cultivation—may follow one of the worst of guides. When among the Greeks and the Carthaginians, and among nearly all the people of the North, they sacrificed human victims to the gods Orus, Agrolos, Kronos, Molock, Thor and Woden; when their altars ran with the blood of innocence, a mother sacrificing her son, a son his father; or when, in nearer times, one neighbor butchered another, one brother another, it was the dictates of conscience that they followed. But we need not go to history for evidence of the insufficiency of conscience as a guide; we have only to look about us. Truth and justice are always the same, and are always within the reach of reason, while conscience varies to infinity. It is one in Vienna and another in Constantinople, one in New[174] York and another in the city of Mexico, one at Dover and another across the Channel at Calais. The highest intelligence examines before it accepts, and rejects all that is opposed to reason.

Never show that you feel a slight. This is worldly wise as well as Christian, for no one but a mean person will put a slight on another, and such a person always profoundly respects the one who is unconscious of his feeble spite. Never resent publicly a lack of courtesy; it is in the worst taste. What you do privately about dropping such an acquaintance must be left to yourself. To a person of a noble mind the contests of society must ever seem poor and frivolous as they think of these narrow enmities and low political manœuvres, but we know that they exist, and that we must meet them. Temper, detraction and small spite are as vulgar on a Turkey carpet and in a palace as they are in a tenement house; nay, worse, for the educated contestants know better. Never show a factious or peremptory irritability in small things. Be patient if a friend keeps you waiting. Bear, as long as you can, heat or a draught rather than make others[175] uncomfortable. Do not be fussy about your supposed rights; yield a disputed point of precedence. All society has to be made up of these concessions; they are your unnumbered friends in the long run. We are not always wrong when we quarrel; but if we meet our deadliest foe at a friend’s house we are bound to treat him with perfect civility. That is neutral ground. Burke said that manners were more important than laws.”

Modesty is an admirable thing for a man to have, in appearance; a questionable thing for him to have, in fact. That that most tends to make men modest is the recollection of the stupid things they have done and said.

As learning and honor,” says Chesterfield, “are necessary to gain you the esteem and admiration of mankind, so politeness and good breeding are necessary to make you welcome in society. Great talents are above the generality of the world, who neither possess them themselves nor judge of them rightly in others; but all are judges of civility and an obliging manner.”


Good sense must, in many cases, determine good breeding; because the same thing that would be civil at one time and to one person, may be quite otherwise at another time and to another person.”

There is no surer sign of vulgarity than the discourteous treatment of those below us in the social scale. Let your manner toward servants be gentle and courteous, but not unduly familiar. Ask rather than command. It is better to inspire love than fear. The master that is beloved is better served than the master that is feared. The world over, the members of the old aristocracy are more popular—because they are more affable—with the lower orders, than are the newly rich.

Avoid eccentricities. They are sure indications of weakness, of vanity, and of a badly balanced brain. Do as other people do, dress as other people dress, and in all things conform to established usages. Yet while we bear in mind that whatever is outré is vulgar, we should also bear in mind that blind obedience to the mandates of fashion is repulsive.


We occasionally meet with persons that pride themselves on their candor and their frankness. Upon a nearer acquaintance we generally discover that the candor of which they boast is but an exhibition of their egotism, and that their frankness is what considerate people call rudeness.

How often a bitter speech that has caused keen pain to the hearer has been followed by such words as these, as if in justification of the unkindness shown: ‘I’m a plain, blunt person, and I have to speak out just what I think. People must take me as the Lord made me.’ Anything meaner than such an attempt to throw the responsibility for one’s ugliness of temper off on the Lord it would be hard to imagine. Frankness of speech is one thing, but harshness is a very different thing. The Lord never endowed any man with such a disposition or put him in such circumstances that he was obliged to make stinging, cruel remarks. Some men have more difficulty than others in being sweet-tempered and kindly spoken, but when one fails it is his own fault. The very attempt to justify harshness in such words as we have quoted is[178] evidence of an uncomfortable consciousness of guilt, and proves that the speaker does not believe what he says. Let the repulsiveness of such utterances when we hear them teach us how they seem to others when we make them.”

As it is not possible always to avoid being either too ceremonious or too familiar, our greatest care should be not to err on the side of familiarity, which, the old proverb truthfully says, breeds contempt.

He that domineers over and insults those below him is sure to cringe and truckle to those above him.

In most things it is well to follow the fashion, but in all things it is ill to follow the fashion without discretion. The man that allows other people to think for him in small things is incapable of thinking for himself in great ones.

All ceremonies,” says Chesterfield, “are in themselves very silly things; yet a man of the world must know them. They are the outworks of manners, which would too often be broken in upon if it were not for that defence that keeps the[179] enemy at a proper distance. For that reason I always treat fools and coxcombs with great ceremony, true good breeding not being a sufficient barrier against them.”

The hearths of tyrannical, bullying fathers and of scolding, complaining mothers are always the scenes of continual bickerings. There, there is never union but ever disunion. If, in such families, there exists any affection among their members, there is no show of it.

If you are a father, be the companion of your children, not their drill-master. If their love for you does not suffice to induce them to do your bidding, the fault is yours, not theirs. Your wishes should be their law, and they will be, if it has been your habit to affectionately appeal to their reason, to their sense of right—in short, to their nobler instincts.

Not only right thinking men, but wrong thinking men that are sensible, are prompt in the keeping of their engagements, whether of business or of pleasure.


Be slow to make promises, but having made a promise do your uttermost to keep your word. Every time another breaks his word with you, resolve anew never to fail to keep yours. Bad examples tend either to demoralize or to elevate. They elevate those in whom the good naturally predominates.

Men of sense are often looked upon as being conceited for no other reason than that the fools know they look upon them as being so many donkeys.

There are many ignoble, foolish, unbred men in the world whose policy is so shortsighted that they continually bow to place rather than to worth. They forget that he that is up to-day may be down to-morrow, and that no man is so insignificant that he is powerless to do them good or harm. Such men have not even the politeness of enlightened selfishness.

Little men in authority, as a rule, are on the look-out for small occasions on which to show their importance, while in matters of any magnitude they readily yield the lead to others.


The man of sense never does anything simply for flourish, to show off, for “splurge.” He never makes presents to any one that he cannot abundantly afford to make. He never goes to any expense that his means do not justify. He assumes that those with whom he associates, that he entertains, that he extends civilities to are sensible people, and he remembers that sensible people always look upon every kind of ostentation as vulgar.

A recent writer on the amenities of social intercourse says: “Don’t say ‘Miss Susan’ or ‘Miss Mary.’ This strictly is permissible with servants only. Address young ladies by their surname, with prefix of Miss, except when in a family of sisters a distinction must be made, and then give the name in full.” On this injunction, the breezy little St. Louis Spectator comments, with as much sense as humor, essentially, thus: “I think that such a rule of etiquette as this is rather Utopian when one considers the impossibility of its practical enforcement. Suppose, for instance, that Mr. Blank is playing whist with three sisters of the Turtletack family, when suddenly Miss Sempronia Turtletack asks:


“‘What led the last time round?’

“‘Clubs, Miss Sempronia Turtletack,’ answers Mr. Blank.

“‘Are you sure?’

“‘Quite sure. I led a small club, Miss Theodosia Turtletack followed suit with a small card, Miss Elvira Turtletack played her king, and you, Miss Sempronia Turtletack, trumped.’”

It is hardly possible that any such custom as this exists in any circle of society in any country; but if such a custom does anywhere exist, it is in a circle so starched and stayed that it would be difficult for an every-day mortal to breathe in it, and so stilted and stupid that no sensible mortal would want to breathe in it.

I go out of my way to give the following extract wider publicity, but there is so much in it that many persons would do well to take to heart, that I cannot resist the temptation to reprint it. I find it in Our Continent, and it is from the facile pen of Mrs. Louise Chandler Moulton.

“Good breeding, like charity, should begin at home. The days are past when children used to[183] rise the moment their parents entered the room where they were and stand until they had received permission to sit. But the mistake is now made usually in the other direction of allowing to small boys and girls too much license to disturb the peace of the household. I think the best way to train children in courtesy would be to observe toward them a scrupulous politeness. I would go so far as to say that we should make it as much a point to listen to children without interrupting them and to answer them as sincerely and respectfully as if they were grown up. And indeed many of their wise, quaint sayings are far better worth listening to than the stereotyped commonplaces of most morning callers. Of course, to allow uninterrupted chatter would be to surrender the repose of the household, but it is very easy, if children are themselves scrupulously respected, to teach them in turn scrupulously to respect the convenience of others, and to know when to talk and when to be silent.

“If a child is brought up in the constant exercise of courtesy toward brothers and sisters and play-mates, as well as toward parents and uncles and[184] aunts, it will have little left to learn as it grows older. I know a bright and bewitching little girl who was well instructed in table etiquette, but who forgot her lessons sometimes, as even older people do now and then. The arrangement was made with her that for every solecism of this sort she was to pay a fine of five cents, while for every similar carelessness that she could discover in her elders she was to exact a fine of ten cents, their experience of life being longer than hers. You may be sure that Mistress Bright Eyes watched the proceedings of that table very carefully. No slightest disregard of the most conventional etiquette escaped her quick vision, and she was an inflexible creditor and a faithful debtor. It was the prettiest sight to see her, when conscious of some failure on her own part, go unhesitatingly to her money-box and pay cheerfully her little tribute to the outraged proprieties.

“The best brought-up family of children I ever knew were educated on the principle of always commending them when it was possible to do so, and letting silence be the reproof of any wrong-doing that was not really serious. I have heard[185] the children of this household, when their mother had failed to say any word of commendation after some social occasion, ask as anxiously as possible, ‘What was it, mamma? I know something was wrong. Didn’t we treat the other children well, or were we too noisy?’ In that house reproof was never bestowed unsought—only commendation, of whatever it was possible to commend, was gratuitous.

“I think this system would be as good for those grown-up children, the husbands and wives, as for those still in the nursery. I once asked the late Hepworth Dixon, with whom I happened to be talking on this subject, what he thought was the reason why some women held their husbands’ hearts securely and forever, while others were but the brief tenants of a few months or years. ‘What,’ I asked, ‘is the quality in a woman that her husband loves longest?’

“‘That she should be a pillow,’ answered Mr. Dixon, and then meeting the inquiry in my eyes, he went on, ‘Yes, that is what a man needs in his wife—something to rest his heart on. He has excitement and opposition enough in the world. He wants to feel that there is one place where he is[186] sure of sympathy, a place that will give him ease as a pillow gives it to a tired head. Do you think a man will be tempted to turn from the woman whose eyes are his flattering mirror—who heals where others wound?’

“And surely he was right. We are grateful for even a too flattering faith in us, and if there is any good in us at all, we try to deserve this faith. But tenderness in the conjugal heart is much more common than grace in the conjugal manner. Since, however, next to that supreme good of being satisfied in one’s own conscience is that second great good of being satisfied in one’s own home, surely no details of manner that tend to such a result are too slight to be observed. I believe in making as pretty a toilet to greet the returning husband as one put on to await the expected sweetheart; and, when the husband comes, he makes a mistake very fatal to his own interests if he fails to notice what he would have praised in other days. It is a trite saying that life is made up of trifles; but surely the sum of all these domestic trifles amounts to the difference between happiness and unhappiness.”


If you are the head of a family, be slow to assert your authority; remember that about the most disgusting creature on earth is the domestic tyrant. As we start so we are likely to continue; if a man starts as a domestic bully, as a domestic bully he is likely to continue to the end, making himself unhappy and those about him unhappy his life long. “Half of us find fault from habit; but some of us, we fear, do so from an inborn ugliness of disposition.”

The manner of others toward us is usually the reflex of our manner toward them. As men have howled into the wood so it has ever howled out.

Beneath the habitually gentlemanly demeanor of many men—yes, very many—there lurks a spirit of bullyism that seems to avail itself of every pretext to appear on the surface. Men that are thus afflicted are ever ready for an altercation, in order, it would seem, to show their familiarity with the ways and the peculiar phraseology of the braggart and brawler. Such men always say that they are gentlemen, and gentlemen always say that such men are blackguards.


Forwardness, especially in the youthful, is something to be carefully guarded against. The man, old or young, whose manner is forward and “loud” is never a welcome addition to a social circle. The forward and loud are generally as inane as they are noisy. If one observes them, one often finds that what they say is but an elaboration of thoughts already expressed by other members of the company.

If forwardness is a thing to be avoided, diffidence is not less a thing that should be cured. Each is alike proof of a lack of breeding. Diffidence can be thoroughly cured only by acquiring the polite accomplishments, of those in whose society one feels uncomfortable. The boor, unless he is a downright blockhead, never feels at ease in the society of the cultured.

Good manners go far toward supplying the want of good looks. They constitute the secret of that fascination that we often see exerted by persons that are not gifted with physical attractions.

Maxims of Stephen Allen, Mayor of New York City from 1821 to 1823:


“Never be idle.

“If your hands cannot be usefully employed, attend to the cultivation of your mind.

“Always speak the truth.

“Make few promises.

“Live up to your engagements.

“Keep your own secrets, if you have any.

“When you speak to a person, look him in the face.

“Good company and good conversation are the very sinews of virtue.

“Good character[A] is above all things else.

“Your character[A] cannot be essentially injured except by your own acts.

“If any one speaks evil of you, let your life be so that no one will believe him.

“Drink no kind of intoxicating liquors.

“Ever live, misfortune excepted, within your income.

“When you retire to bed, think over what you have done during the day.


“Make no haste to be rich.

“Small and steady gains give competency with tranquillity of mind.

“Never play at any game of chance.

“Avoid temptation through fear that you may not withstand it.

“Earn money before you spend it.

“Never run into debt unless you see a way to get out.

“Never borrow if you can possibly avoid it.

“Do not marry until you are able to support a wife.

“Never speak ill of any one.

“Be just before you are generous.

“Keep yourself innocent, if you would be happy.

“Save when you are young, to spend when you are old.

“Read over the above maxims at least once a week.”

If a man boasts that he could worst you in a set-to, answer that you think it very likely as you have no experience in fisticuffing; that you have[191] never struck any one and should hardly know how to go to work to do it.

If a man threaten to do you bodily harm, ask him if he is in earnest. If he says he is, run. There is more glory in avoiding a mêlée by running away than there is in remaining and coming off the victor.

But—if the devil be on the side of the blackguard and he corners you, teach him, to the best of your ability, that you are not really a poltroon, though you are quite willing that bullyism should think you one.

Mr. Sparks gives us a collection of directions that Washington called his “Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company.” They are as follows:

“1. Every action in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those present.

“2. In the presence of others sing not to yourself with a humming voice, nor drum with your fingers or feet.

“3. Speak not when others speak; sit not when others stand, and walk not when others stop.


“4. Turn not your back to others, especially in speaking; jog not the table or desk on which another writes or reads; lean not on any one.

“5. Be no flatterer, neither play with any one that delights not to be played with.

“6. Read no letters, books or papers in company; but when there is a necessity for doing it, ask leave. Come not near the books or writings of any one so as to read them unasked; also look not nigh when another is writing a letter.

“7. Let your countenance be pleasant, but in serious matters somewhat grave.

“8. Show not yourself glad at the misfortune of another, though he be your enemy.

“9. They that are in dignity or in office have in all places precedency; but while they are young, they ought to respect those that are their equals in birth or other qualities, though they have no public charge.

“10. It is good manners to prefer those to whom we speak before ourselves, especially if they be above us, with whom in no sort we ought to begin.

“11. Let your discourse with men of business be short and comprehensive.


“12. In visiting the sick do not presently play the physician if you be not knowing therein.

“13. In writing or speaking give to every person his due title according to his degree and the custom of the place.

“14. Strive not with your superiors in argument, but always submit your judgment to others with modesty.

“15. Undertake not to teach your equal in the art he himself possesses; it savors of arrogancy.

“16. When a man does all he can, though it succeeds not well, blame not him that did it.

“17. Being constrained to advise or to reprehend any one, consider whether it should be done in public or in private, presently or at some other time, also in what terms to do it; and in reproving show no signs of choler, but do it with sweetness and mildness.

“18. Mock not nor jest at anything of importance; break no jests that are sharp or biting; and if you deliver anything witty or pleasant, abstain from laughing thereat yourself.

“19. Wherein you reprove another be unblamable yourself, for example is ever better than precept.


“20. Use no reproachful language to any one, neither curses nor revilings.

“21. Be not hasty to believe flying reports to the disparagement of any one.

“22. In your apparel be modest, and endeavor to accommodate nature rather than to procure admiration. Keep to the fashion of your equals, such as are civil and orderly, with respect to time and place.

“23. Play not the peacock, looking everywhere about you to see if you are well decked, if your shoes fit well, if your stockings sit neatly and clothes handsomely.

“24. Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation, for it is better to be alone than in bad company.

“25. Let your conversation be without malice or envy, for it is a sign of a tractable and commendable nature; and in all causes of passion admit reason to govern.

“26. Be not immodest in urging your friend to discover a secret.

“27. Utter not base and frivolous things among grown and learned men, nor very difficult questions[195] or subjects among the ignorant, nor things hard to be believed.

“28. Speak not of doleful things in time of mirth nor at the table; speak not of melancholy things, as death and wounds; and if others mention them, change, if you can, the discourse. Tell not your dreams but to your intimate friends.

“29. Break not a jest when none take pleasure in mirth. Laugh not aloud, nor at all without occasion. Deride no man’s misfortunes, though there seem to be some cause.

“30. Speak not injurious words, neither in jest nor in earnest. Scoff at none, although they give occasion.

“31. Be not forward, but friendly and courteous, the first to salute, hear and answer, and be not pensive when it is time to converse.

“32. Detract not from others, but neither be excessive in commending.

“33. Go not thither where you know not whether you shall be welcome or not. Give not advice without being asked; and when asked, do it briefly.

“34. If two contend together, take not the part[196] of either unconstrained, and be not obstinate in your opinion; in things indifferent, be of the major side.

“35. Reprehend not the imperfections of others, for that belongs to masters, parents and superiors.

“36. Gaze not on the marks or blemishes of others, nor ask how they came. What you may speak in secret to your friend deliver not before others.

“37. Speak not in an unknown tongue in company, but in your own language; and that as those of quality do, and not as the vulgar. Sublime matters treat seriously.

“38. Think before you speak; pronounce not imperfectly, nor bring out your words too hastily, but orderly and distinctly.

“39. When another speaks, be attentive yourself, and disturb not the audience. If any hesitate in his words, help him not, nor answer him till his speech be ended.

“40. Treat with men at fit times about business, and whisper not in the company of others.

“41. Make no comparisons; and if any of the[197] company be commended for any brave act of virtue, commend not another for the same.

“42. Be not apt to relate news if you know not the truth thereof. In discoursing of things you have heard, name not your author always. A secret discover not.

“43. Be not curious to know the affairs of others, neither approach to those that speak in private.

“44. Undertake not what you cannot perform. Be careful to keep your promise.

“45. When you deliver a matter, do it without passion and indiscretion, however mean the person may be you do it to.

“46. When your superiors talk to anybody, hear them; neither speak nor laugh.

“47. In disputes be not so desirous to overcome as to give liberty to each one to deliver his opinion, and submit to the judgment of the major part, especially if they are judges of the dispute.

“48. Be not tedious in discourse, make not digressions, nor repeat often the same matter of discourse.

“49. Speak no evil of the absent, for it is unjust.


“50. Be not angry at table, whatever happens; and if you have reason to be so show it not; put on a cheerful countenance, especially if there be strangers, for good humor makes one dish a feast.

“51. Set not yourself at the upper end of the table; but if it be your due, or if the master of the house will have it so, contend not, lest you should trouble the company.

“52. When you speak of God or His attributes, let it be seriously, in reverence and honor, and obey your natural parents.

“53. Let your recreations be manful, not sinful.

“54. Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called Conscience.”


[A] Good name—reputation—is probably what is meant here. Calumny may injure one’s good name, but it cannot injure one’s character.



Education begins the gentleman; but reading, good company, and reflection must finish him.—Locke.

A man of polished and agreeable manners, as distinguished from the vulgar and clownish.—Worcester.

It would be hard to find two persons that fully agree with regard to what constitutes a gentleman. It is far easier to tell what a gentleman is not than what a gentleman is.

For example, we all agree that the man is not a gentleman that is ignorant of those usages that, by common consent, regulate refined social intercourse; that does not, in his dress, conform, within certain limits at least, to the prevailing modes; that is desirous to attract attention by affecting eccentricities; that bears himself as though he thought himself an object of special attention, i.e., is self-conscious; that has no thought for the comfort, the feelings, or the rights of others. In short, we all agree[200] that no man deserves to be called a gentleman that is not a man of education; i.e., that is not sufficiently acquainted with books and with the usages of refined social intercourse to acquit himself creditably in the society of cultivated people. Not moral worth, nor learning, nor wealth, nor all three combined, can, unaided, make a gentleman, for with all three a man might be coarse, unbred, unschooled in those things that no man can be ignorant of and be welcome in the society of the refined.

A modern English writer says that to formulate the definition of a gentleman in negatives would be easy. “As, for instance,” he says, “we may say that a true gentleman does not soil his conscience with falsehoods, does not waste his time on sensual indulgence, does not endeavor to make the worse appear the better reason, does not ridicule sacred things, does not wilfully give cause of offence to any, does not seek to overreach his neighbor, does not forget the respect due to womanhood, or old age, the feeble or the poor. But, to speak affirmatively,” he continues, “a gentleman is one whose aims are generous, whose trust is constant, whose word is never broken, whose honor is never stained,[201] who is as gentle as brave, and as honest as wise, who wrongs no one by word or deed, and dignifies and embellishes life by nobility of thought, depth of feeling, and grace of manner.”

Thackeray wrote of the gentleman thus: “What is it to be a gentleman? Is it not to be honest, to be gentle, to be generous, to be brave, to be wise, and, possessing all these qualities, to exercise them in the most graceful outward manner? Ought not a gentleman to be a loyal son, a true husband, an honest father? Ought not his life to be decent, his bills to be paid, his tastes to be high and elegant, his aims in life lofty and noble? In a word, ought not the biography of the First Gentleman in Europe to be of such a nature, that it might be read in young ladies’ schools with advantage, and studied with profit in the seminaries of young gentlemen?”

Another English writer says that the primary essentials of what constitutes the true gentleman are Goodness, Gentleness and Unselfishness. “Upon these qualities,” he says, “are based all those observances and customs that we class together under the head of Good Manners. And these good[202] manners, be it remembered, do not consist merely in the art of bowing gracefully, of entering a room properly, of talking eloquently, of being familiar with the minor habits of good society. A man may have all this, know all this, and yet, if he is selfish, or ill-natured, or untruthful, fail of being a gentleman. Good manners are far from being the evidence of good training only; they are also the evidence of a refined nature. They are the fruit of good seed sown on good soil. As a just and elevated thought clearly and gracefully expressed is evidence of a well-trained mind, so every act, however unimportant, and every gesture, however insignificant, is evidence of the kindly, considerate, modest, loyal nature of the true gentleman, or—of the reverse.”

In a story by Spielhagen, the distinguished German novelist, I find the following:

“What do you call a gentleman?” asked the Duke. “Will you give me a definition of the word?”

“That is not so easy, my lord; indeed, I am not sure that it is possible to define the word satisfactorily,” replied Lady De Vere. “By resorting[203] to metaphors, however, I may perhaps be able to outline what we all feel, but are unable fully to describe. A gentleman is one in whom the vigorous and the delicate are happily united. The soft, the refined—all that comes from frequenting the society of women of culture, lies in the ‘gentle;’ the strong, the firm, the stern—all that comes from battling with men, lies in the ‘man;’ ‘gentle’ implies the possession of all the social, ‘man’ of all the civil, virtues; ‘man’ is the fiery wine, ‘gentle’ the tasteful goblet; ‘man’ is the sharp, correct drawing, ‘gentle,’ the warm, soft coloring; ‘gentle’ might be the Sybarite, who is disturbed by the falling of a rose-leaf, ‘man’ is the Brutus, who as judge knows not even his own child. Pericles, the brave, magnanimous, amiable, refined Athenian, might be offered as an example of the true gentleman.”

In his essay in The Century, for October, 1883, on the “Characteristics of London,” W. J. Stillman contrasts the English gentleman with the best American type as follows:

“And it is in this very class that we find here and there that best type of humanity, as the world[204] knows it, the true English gentleman—a being whose exterior decorum may be counterfeited by his emulator, whose inmost gentleness and courtesy may be shadowed forth in peer or peasant—who loves his kind, and feels the common bond of divine birth, but whose most perfect union of noble demeanor and large-heartedness can only be found where the best type of mind has been permitted the largest and richest culture, and the completest freedom of hereditary development in the most favorable external circumstances. There are nobles and noblemen—men who seem to be conscious only that surrounding men are lower than they, and others whose illumination pervades every one near them and brings all up into the same world of light and sweetness. The prestige of nobility is founded on a true human instinct; occasionally one finds an English nobleman who justifies its existence, and makes us snobs in spite of our democracy.

“I could, I am certain, point to Americans who in every substantial trait of the gentleman will stand comparison with any aristocrat born—men in whom gentlehood has grown to hereditary ripeness; the third and fourth generations of men who have[205] cultivated on American soil the virtues of honesty, morality, sincerity, courtesy, self-abnegation, humanity, benevolence; men and women whose babyhood was cradled in those influences that make what we call ‘good breeding,’ and to whom the various vulgarities of our parvenu princes are as foreign as to the bluest-blooded heir of Normandy fortune; and this is to me a more grateful and sympathetic type of humanity than that of its English congener.”

In the writings of a Gallic philosopher, of a former generation, that I lately chanced upon, I find the homme comme il faut—a man that is pretty nearly the counterpart of our gentleman—described essentially as follows:

At the first glance we discover in him nothing that arrests the attention. He is simple, calm, ingenuous, manly rather than graceful, sedate rather than animated. His manner is neither reserved nor demonstrative, but attentive, respectful and guarded; neither obsequious nor imperious, but calm and self-possessed. His politeness appears in acts rather than in protestations. Though he does not despise convention, he is not its slave; he[206] does not allow himself to be hampered by the unimportant, nor does he ever see a heinous offence in a trifling breach of established usage.

His dress is an index of his character: simple, appropriate, harmonious. The man of the world pronounces it tasteful, the man of the people sees in it nothing that is unusual, and the man of sense recognizes in it a certain independence of the newest mode.

Being of those that make haste discreetly, he studies the characters of his acquaintances before giving them his confidence. In conversation, he is neither impatient, restless, nor hurried, and though he is careful in selecting his words, he attaches more importance to the matter of his discourse than to the manner. Made to give the tone, he is content to receive it: he is wont to take as much pains to remain unnoticed as many another takes to make himself seen.

If he appears in a circle where he is not known, the greater number see in him only a quiet, plain man that, despite his simplicity, however, has that about him to which they involuntarily yield their respect. The superficial, the presuming, and the[207] malicious, though ignorant of the cause, are embarrassed by his steady, searching glance; the loyal and the unfortunate, on the contrary, are drawn toward him, feeling that in him they shall find a friend.

He is guarded in speaking ill of others, a thing he never does but with right intentions—as, for example, to unmask a hypocrite, to punish the guilty, or to protect the weak. In speaking of his enemies, he never forgets to be just; he is not of those that are blind to the virtues of even the most unworthy, nor is he of those that are so ungenerous as to deny them.

He is temperate in sustaining his opinions, and opposes only to be better informed, or to enliven the conversation; and often he will suddenly acknowledge his defeat, and confess with generous sincerity that the reasons of his opponent are better than his own. His victories are not less noble. His aim is to enlighten, not to humiliate, much less to offend. If he finds that he is opposed by presumption, obstinacy or ignorance, it is his habit to yield. “You may be right,” he will say; “my way of seeing things is often erroneous, and this, quite likely, is the case now.”


He avoids what is likely to create discord, seeks to promote kindly feeling among his fellows, and never pleads the faults of others in extenuation of his own. He is slow to take offence, opposes incivility with urbanity, and passion with moderation. Wrong-doing he accounts a weakness, and he pleads weakness as its excuse; the wrong-doer excites his pity rather than his hate.

He possesses, in a high degree, the happy faculty of adapting himself to others, from whom he expects no more than they can give and from whom he obtains the best they have. “There are few,” he says, “in whom, if we study them, we do not find some estimable qualities. If each has his weaknesses, so each has his virtues, which it is for us to discover.” Herein he excels.

The same day may see him dogmatize with a pedant, reason with a sage, shine in a social circle, console the unfortunate, contend for the rights of humanity, and swear fidelity to the woman of his choice. He talks trade to the shopkeeper, politics to the ambitious, perspective to the painter, play-things to childhood, house affairs to the matron, and probity to all. All he says bears the impress of a[209] benign, humane philosophy that is now grave and now gay, as the time or the place may demand.

In nothing does his prudence more appear than in his pleasures, for be their character what it may, they never see him overstep the limit prescribed by decency and self-respect. That pleasure that injures no one seems to him innocent, and that recreation that follows labor seems to him reasonable.

Honesty with him has become a sort of instinct, which he exercises without reflection. The possibility that he could take an ignoble advantage, be wilfully unjust, or betray a trust, material or confidential, has never crossed his thought.

In the management of his material concerns, he is a model. In large expenditures he is guarded, in order that he may be the better able to be liberal in small ones. He never is guilty of that parsimony in little things that disgraces more than display in great ones ever exalts. It is his special care to be discriminating in his bounties, moderate in his expenditures and punctual in his payments. He often denies himself the pleasures of luxury to indulge in those of benevolence. If misfortune[210] lessens his income, he is prompt to retrench; he knows that the friends and acquaintances he will lose should not be accounted veritable losses. He is modest in prosperity, resigned in adversity, and dignified always.

If he speaks of religion, he chooses carefully the time and the place. Whatever the prevailing belief in the community in which he lives, he considers it as forming a part of the laws, and he respects whatever contributes to stability and order. He attacks abuses only and seeks to destroy only what he can replace. He takes nothing on trust, but examines well before giving his assent; and that religion finds most favor with him that attaches most importance to the doing of good deeds. The man that in his eyes is the most truly religious is he that does most for his fellows. He rejoices that beneficence is held in like esteem by all creeds, however widely may differ their dogmas, and that the various religions of the world repose on the belief in the existence of a Supreme Being that punishes vice and rewards virtue. He has the modesty to think and the honesty to confess that as so many millions are in error, he also may err. Nor has he the[211] presumption, like so many of his fellows, to set himself up as an infallible judge of others. But he pities those presuming motes that live but an instant, come they know not whence, and go they know not where, and yet would judge the whole by a part, and eternity by a span, conclude that all is but the product of chance, assert that what passes their reason is not reasonable, and deny the existence of Him to whom millions of years are but a moment, and millions of miles but a point.



Some Ill-used Words. A Manual for the Use of those who Desire to Write and Speak correctly. 18mo. Cloth, $1.00.

The book is leveled specially at some half dozen errors that are made by well-nigh every one who uses the English language.

The Orthoëpist. A Pronouncing Manual, containing about Four Thousand Five Hundred Words, including a considerable number of the names of Foreign Authors, Artists, etc., that are often mispronounced. Revised and enlarged edition. 18mo. Cloth, $1.25.

“It is sufficient commendation of the work to say that for fourteen years this little volume has had no successful rival in its particular field.”—San Francisco Call.

The Verbalist. A Manual devoted to Brief Discussions of the Right and the Wrong Use of Words, and to some other Matters of Interest to those who would Speak and Write with Propriety. Revised and enlarged edition. 18mo. Cloth, $1.25.

“A great deal that is worth knowing, and of which not even all educated people are aware, is to be learned from this well-digested little book.”—Philadelphia North American.

The Mentor. A Little Book for the Guidance of such Men and Boys as would Appear to Advantage in the Society of Persons of the Better Sort. New and revised edition. 18mo. Cloth, $1.00.

“In every respect one of the most admirable books on manners and manner. It possesses high literary merit.”—Chicago Evening Journal.

Acting and Actors; Elocution and Elocutionists. A Book about Theater Folk and Theater Art. With Preface by Harrison Grey Fiske; Introduction by Edgar S. Werner; Prologue by James A. Waldron. 16mo. Cloth, $1.25.

“A book which has exceeding interest. The author talks in a very agreeable and instructive way about the art of acting, and while his book has a peculiar charm for those who sit in the orchestra chairs, it has a special value for the ladies and gentlemen of the stage.”—New York Herald.

The English Grammar of William Cobbett. Carefully revised and annotated by Alfred Ayres. With Index. 18mo. Cloth, $1.00.

“It is grammar without a master and without tears, unless they are tears of laughter.”—New York Churchman.


THE COMPLETE BACHELOR. Manners for Men. By the author of “As Seen by Him” Papers. 18mo. Cloth, with Index, $1.25.

This book is by a well-known New York clubman, an acknowledged authority on all questions of etiquette. There are chapters on the etiquette of club life, the etiquette of various pastimes, on men’s dress, and on clothes, their care, and the cost of replenishing a wardrobe, as well as others giving suggestions for all kinds of bachelor entertainments and stag parties.

SOCIAL ETIQUETTE OF NEW YORK. Rewritten and enlarged. 18mo. Cloth, gilt, $1.00.

Special pains have been taken to make this work represent accurately existing customs in New York society.

DON’T; or, Directions for avoiding Improprieties in Conduct and Common Errors of Speech. By Censor. Parchment-Paper Edition, square 18mo, 30 cents. Vest-Pocket Edition, cloth, flexible, gilt edges, red lines, 30 cents. Boudoir Edition (with a new chapter designed for young people), cloth, gilt, 30 cents. 138th thousand.

“Don’t” deals with manners at the table, in the drawing-room, and in public, with taste in dress, with personal habits, with common mistakes in various situations in life, and with ordinary errors of speech.

WHAT TO DO. A Companion to “Don’t.” By Mrs. Oliver Bell Bunce. Small 18mo, cloth, gilt, uniform with Boudoir Edition of “Don’t,” 30 cents.

A dainty little book, containing helpful and practical explanations of social usages and rules.

HINTS ABOUT MEN’S DRESS: Right Principles Economically Applied. By a New York Clubman. 18mo. Parchment-paper, 30 cents.

A useful manual, especially for young men desirous of dressing economically and yet according to the canons of good taste.

“GOOD FORM” IN ENGLAND. By An American, resident in the United Kingdom. 12mo. Cloth, $1.50.

NEW EDITION OF ENGLISH ODES. Selected by Edmund W. Gosse. With Frontispiece on India paper from a design by Hamo Thornycroft, A. R. A. Forty-two Head and Tail Pieces from Original Drawings by Louis Rhead. 16mo. Cloth, special design in gold, $1.50. Same, in parchment, $1.75.

NEW EDITION OF ENGLISH LYRICS. Uniform with “English Odes.” With nearly Eighty Head and Tail Pieces from Original Drawings by Louis Rhead. 16mo. Cloth, special design in gold, $1.50. Same, in parchment, $1.75.

THE MUSIC SERIES. Consisting of Biographical and Anecdotical Sketches of the Great German Composers; The Great Italian and French Composers; Great Singers; Great Violinists and Pianists. Five volumes, 18mo. Bound in half white and red sides, $3.50 per set; half calf, $8.00.

THE HOUSEHOLD BOOK OF POETRY. By Charles A. Dana. Entirely new edition, from new stereotype plates, enlarged and brought down to the present time. With nearly Two Hundred additional Poems. Illustrated with Steel Engravings. Royal 8vo. Cloth, gilt extra, $5.00; half calf, $8.00; morocco, antique, $10.00; tree calf, $12.00.

FIFTY PERFECT POEMS. A Collection of Fifty acknowledged Masterpieces, by English and American Poets, selected and edited by Charles A. Dana and Rossiter Johnson. With 72 Illustrations, printed on Japanese silk paper, and mounted on the page. Large 8vo. Bound in white silk, $10.00; morocco, $15.00.

POEMS OF NATURE. By William Cullen Bryant. Profusely illustrated by Paul de Longpré. 8vo. Cloth, gilt, $4.00.

PUNCTUATION. With Chapters on Hyphenization, Capitalization, Spelling, etc. By F. Horace Teall, author of “English Compound Words and Phrases,” etc. 16mo. Cloth, $1.00.

“The rules and directions for the use of the various marks of punctuation are brief, clear, and founded on common sense. They are calculated to assist, and there seems no danger that they will contuse.”—Boston Herald.

“It seems to be one of the most sensible and practical works on the subject that has come under notice.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer.

FRENCH STUMBLING-BLOCKS AND ENGLISH STEPPING-STONES. By Francis Tarver, M. A., late Senior French Master at Eton College. 12mo. Cloth, $1.00.

“A most valuable book for advanced students of French as well as beginners.... The book is one of the most useful of the many good books that appear on this subject.”—San Francisco Bulletin.

“One can hardly commend it too highly.”—Boston Herald.

“A work which will be of great help to the reader and student of French, and which fully meets the promise of its title.”—Chicago Evening Post.

DON’T; or, Directions for avoiding Improprieties in Conduct and Common Errors of Speech. By Censor. Parchment-Paper Edition, square i8mo, 30 cents. Vest-Pocket Edition, cloth, flexible, gilt edges, red lines, 30 cents. Boudoir Edition (with a new chapter designed for young people), cloth, gilt, 30 cents. 138th thousand.

“Don’t” deals with manners at the table, in the drawing-room, and in public, with taste in dress, with personal habits, with common mistakes in various situations in life, and with ordinary errors of speech.

WHAT TO DO. A Companion to “Don’t.” By Mrs. Oliver Bell Bunce. Small 18mo, cloth, gilt, uniform with Boudoir Edition of “Don’t,” 30 cents.

A dainty little book, containing helpful and practical explanations of social usages and rules.

ERRORS IN THE USE OF ENGLISH. By the late William B. Hodgson, LL. D., Fellow of the College of Preceptors, and Professor of Political Economy in the University of Edinburgh. 12mo. Cloth, $1.50.

New Volumes in the International Education Series.

BIBLIOGRAPHY OF EDUCATION. By Will S. Monroe, A. B., Department of Pedagogy and Psychology, State Normal School, Westfield, Mass. $2.00.

This book will prove of great use to normal schools, training schools for teachers, and to educational lecturers and all special students seeking to acquaint themselves with the literature of any particular department. It will be of especial value to librarians in the way of assisting them to answer two questions: (a) What books has this library on any special educational theme? (b) What books ought it to obtain to complete its collection in that theme?

FROEBEL’S EDUCATIONAL LAWS FOR ALL TEACHERS. By James L. Hughes, Inspector of Schools, Toronto. $1.50.

The aim of this book is to give a simple exposition of the most important principles of Froebel’s educational philosophy, and to make suggestions regarding the application of these principles to the work of the schoolroom in teaching and training. It will answer the question often propounded, How far beyond the kindergarten can Froebel’s principles be successfully applied?

SCHOOL MANAGEMENT AND SCHOOL METHODS. By Dr. J. Baldwin, Professor of Pedagogy in the University of Texas; Author of “Elementary Psychology and Education” and “Psychology applied to the Art of Teaching.” $1.50.

This is eminently an everyday working book for teachers; practical, suggestive, inspiring. It presents clearly the best things achieved, and points the way to better things. School organization, school control, and school methods are studies anew from the standpoint of pupil betterment. The teacher is led to create the ideal school, embodying all that is best in school work, and stimulated to endeavor earnestly to realize the ideal.

PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICE OF TEACHING. By James Johonnot. Revised by Sarah Evans Johonnot. $1.50.

This book embodies in a compact form the results of the wide experience and careful reflection of an enthusiastic teacher and school supervisor. Mr. Johonnot as an educational reformer helped thousands of struggling teachers who had brought over the rural school methods into village school work. He made life worth living to them. His help, through the pages of this book, will aid other thousands in the same struggle to adopt the better methods that are possible in the graded school. The teacher who aspires to better his instruction will read this book with profit.


THE GARDEN’S STORY; or, Pleasures and Trials of an Amateur Gardener. With Head and Tail Pieces by Rhead. 16mo. Cloth, extra, $1.50.

“This dainty nugget of horticultural lore treats of the pleasures and trials of an amateur gardener. From the time when daffodils begin to peer and the ‘secret of the year’ comes in to mid October, Mr. Ellwanger provides an outline of hardy flower-gardening that can be carried on and worked upon by amateurs....”—Philadelphia Public Ledger.

“One of the most charming books of the season.... It is in no sense a text book, but it combines a vast deal of information with a great deal of out-of-door observation, and exceedingly pleasant and sympathetic writing about flowers and plants.”—Christian Union.

“A dainty, learned, charming, and delightful book.”—New York Sun.

THE STORY OF MY HOUSE. With an Etched Frontispiece by Sidney L. Smith, and numerous Head and Tail Pieces by W. C. Greenough. 16mo. Cloth, extra, $1.50.

“An essay on the building of a house, with all its kaleidoscopic possibilities in the way of reform, and its tantalizing successes before the fact, is always interesting; and the author is not niggardly in the good points he means to secure.... The book aims only to be agreeable; its literary flavor is pervasive, its sentiment kept well in hand.”—New York Evening Post.

“When the really perfect book of its class comes to a critic’s hands, all the words he has used to describe fairly satisfactory ones are inadequate for his new purpose, and he feels inclined, as in this case, to stand aside and let the book speak for itself. In its own way, it would be hardly possible for this daintily printed volume to do better.”—Art Amateur.

IN GOLD AND SILVER. With Illustrations by W. Hamilton Gibson, A. B. Wenzell, and W. C. Greenough. 16mo. Cloth, $2.00. Also, limited édition de luxe, on Japanese vellum, $5.00.

Contents: The Golden Rug of Kermanshâh; Warders of the Woods; A Shadow upon the Pool; The Silver Fox of Hunt’s Hollow.

“After spending a half-hour with ‘In Gold and Silver,’ one recalls the old saying, ‘Precious things come in small parcels.’”—Christian Intelligencer.

“One of the handsomest gift books of the year.”—Philadelphia Inquirer.

“The whole book is eminently interesting, and emphatically deserving of the very handsome and artistic setting it has received.”—New York Tribune.

OUTINGS AT ODD TIMES. By Charles C. Abbott, author of “Days out of Doors” and “A Naturalist’s Rambles about Home.” 16mo. Cloth, gilt top, $1.25.

“A charming little volume, literally alone with Nature, for it discusses seasons and the fields, birds, etc., with the loving freedom of a naturalist born. Every page reads like a sylvan poem; and for the lovers of the beautiful in quiet outdoor and out-of-town life, this beautifully bound and attractively printed little volume will prove a companion and friend.”—Rochester Union and Advertiser.

A  NATURALIST’S RAMBLES ABOUT HOME. By Charles C. Abbott. 12mo. Cloth, $1.50.

“The home about which Dr. Abbott rambles is clearly the haunt of fowl and fish, of animal and insect life; and it is of the habits and nature of these that he discourses pleasantly in this book. Summer and winter, morning and evening, he has been in the open air all the time on the alert for some new revelation of instinct, or feeling, or character on the part of his neighbor creatures. Most that he sees and hears he reports agreeably to us, as it was no doubt delightful to himself. Books like this, which are free from all the technicalities of science, but yet lack little that has scientific value, are well suited to the reading of the young. Their atmosphere is a healthy one for boys in particular to breathe.”—Boston Transcript.

DAYS OUT OF DOORS. By Charles C. Abbott. 12mo. Cloth, $1.50.

“‘Days out of Doors’ is a series of sketches of animal life by Charles C. Abbott, a naturalist whose graceful writings have entertained and instructed the public before now. The essays and narratives in this book are grouped in twelve chapters, named after the months of the year. Under ‘January’ the author talks of squirrels, muskrats, water-snakes, and the predatory animals that withstand the rigor of winter; under ‘February,’ of frogs and herons, crows and blackbirds; under ‘March,’ of gulls and fishes and foxy sparrows; and so on appropriately, instructively, and divertingly through the whole twelve.”—New York Sun.

THE PLAYTIME NATURALIST. By Dr. J. E. Taylor, F. L. S., editor of “Science Gossip.” With 366 Illustrations. 12mo. Cloth, $1.50.

“The work contains abundant evidence of the author’s knowledge and enthusiasm, and any boy who may read it carefully is sure to find something to attract him. The style is clear and lively, and there are many good illustrations.”—Nature.

THE ORIGIN OF FLORAL STRUCTURES through Insects and other Agencies. By the Rev. George Henslow, Professor of Botany, Queen’s College. With numerous Illustrations. 12mo. Cloth, $1.75.


Bird Studies with a Camera.

With Introductory Chapters on the Outfit and Methods of the Bird Photographer. By Frank M. Chapman, Associate Curator of Vertebrate Mammalogy and Ornithology in the American Museum of Natural History; Author of “Handbook of Birds of Eastern North America” and “Bird-Life.” Illustrated with over 100 Photographs from Nature by the Author. 12mo. Cloth, $1.75.


A Guide to the Study of our Common Birds. With 75 full-page uncolored plates and 25 drawings in the text, by Ernest Seton-Thompson. Library Edition. 12mo. Cloth, $1.75.

Two Editions in Colors, with 75 lithographic plates, representing 100 birds in their natural colors. 8vo. Cloth, $5.00. 12mo. Cloth, $2.00 net; postage, 18 cents additional.

Teachers’ Edition. Same as Library Edition, but containing an Appendix with new matter designed for the use of teachers, and including lists of birds for each month of the year. 12mo. Cloth, $2.00.

Teachers’ Manual. To accompany Portfolios of Colored Plates of “Bird-Life.” Contains the same text as the Teachers’ Edition of “Bird-Life,” but is without the 75 uncolored plates. Sold only with the Portfolios, as follows:

Portfolio No. I.—Permanent Residents and Winter Visitants. 32 plates.

Portfolio No. II.—March and April Migrants. 34 plates.

Portfolio No. III.—May Migrants, Types of Birds’ Eggs, Types of Birds’ Nests from Photographs from Nature. 34 plates.

Price of Portfolios, each, $1.25; with Manual, $2.00. The three Portfolios with Manual, $4.00.

Handbook of Birds of Eastern North America.

With 200 Illustrations. 12mo. Library Edition. Cloth, $3.00. Pocket Edition, flexible morocco, $3.50.


Familiar Flowers of Field and Garden.

New edition. With 12 orthochromatic photographs of characteristic flowers by L. W. Brownell, and over 200 drawings by the Author. 12mo. Cloth, $1.40 net; postage, 18 cents additional.

    The new photography’s revelations of nature have found perfect expression in Mr. Brownell’s remarkable pictures. The beautiful series included in this new edition will be appreciated by every one, and prized by students and nature-lovers.

Familiar Trees and their Leaves.

New edition. With pictures of representative trees in colors, and over 200 drawings from nature by the Author. With the botanical name and habitat of each tree and a record of the precise character and color of its leafage. 8vo. Cloth, $1.75 net; postage, 18 cents additional.

    Mr. Mathews has executed careful and truthful paintings of characteristic trees, which have been admirably reproduced in colors. The great popularity of his finely illustrated and useful book is familiar to nature-lovers. The new edition in colors forms a beautiful and indispensable guide to a knowledge of foliage and of trees.

Familiar Life in Field and Forest.

With many Illustrations. 12mo. Cloth, $1.75.

    “The book is one that is apt to please the young naturalist, as it is not overcrowded with scientific words of such dimensions as are usually a bugbear to the young student. The information is given in a pleasant way that is attractive as well as instructive.”—Minneapolis Tribune.

Familiar Features of the Roadside.

With 130 Illustrations by the Author. 12mo. Cloth, $1.75.

    “Which one of us, whether afoot, awheel, on horseback, or in comfortable carriage, has not whiled away the time by glancing about? How many of us, however, have taken in the details of what charms us? We see the flowering fields and budding woods, listen to the notes of birds and frogs, the hum of some big bumblebee, but how much do we know of what we sense? These questions, these doubts have occurred to all of us, and it is to answer them that Mr. Mathews sets forth. It is to his credit that he succeeds so well. He puts before us in chronological order the flowers, birds, and beasts we meet on our highway and byway travels, tells us how to recognize them, what they are really like, and gives us at once charming drawings in words and lines, for Mr. Mathews is his own illustrator.”—Boston Journal.



Hon. M. A. of Trinity College, Cambridge.

A series of attractive volumes dealing with the history of literature in each country. Each volume will contain about three hundred and fifty 12mo pages, and will treat an entire literature, giving a uniform impression of its development, history, and character, and of its relation to previous and to contemporary work.

Each, 12mo, cloth, $1.50.


Chinese Literature. By Herbert A. Giles, A. M., LL. D. (Aberd.), Professor of Chinese in the University of Cambridge.

Sanskrit Literature. By A. A. Macdonell, M. A., Deputy Boden Professor of Sanskrit at the University of Oxford.

Russian Literature. By K. Waliszewski.

Bohemian Literature. By Francis, Count Lützow, author of “Bohemia: An Historical Sketch.”

Japanese Literature. By W. G. Aston, C. M. G., M. A., late Acting Secretary at the British Legation, Tokio.

Spanish Literature. By J. Fitzmaurice Kelly, Member of the Spanish Academy.

Italian Literature. By Richard Garnett, C. B., LL. D., Keeper of Printed Books in the British Museum.

Ancient Greek Literature. By Gilbert Murray, M. A., Professor of Greek in the University of Glasgow.

French Literature. By Edward Dowden, D. C. L., LL. D., Professor of English Literature at the University of Dublin.

Modern English Literature. By the Editor.


American Literature. By Prof. W. B. Trent, of Columbia University.

German Literature.

Hungarian Literature. By Dr. Zoltán Beöthy, Professor of Hungarian Literature at the University of Budapest.

Latin Literature. By Dr. Arthur Woolgar-Verrall, Fellow and Senior Tutor of Trinity College, Cambridge.

Modern Scandinavian Literature. By Dr. Georg Brandes, of Copenhagen.



Obvious typographical errors and punctuation errors have been corrected after careful comparison with other occurrences within the text and consultation of external sources.

Footnote [A], the only footnote, is referenced twice from page 189.

Except for those changes noted below, all misspellings in the text, and inconsistent or archaic usage, have been retained. For example, button-hole, buttonhole; well bred, well-bred; inclosed; bespatter; bullyism; coxcombry.

Pg 19, ‘watch, in apppearance’ replaced by ‘watch, in appearance’.
Pg 132, ‘small deer’ replaced by ‘small beer’.
Pg 136, ‘light speches’ replaced by ‘light speeches’.