Monday, September 1, 2014

Erasmus of Rotterdam ~ The Father of Children's Etiquette Instructors

The bronze statue of Erasmus, in Rotterdam. Created by Hendrick de Keyser in 1622, it replaced a stone statue from 1557.

A Christian philosopher and educator, Erasmus of Rotterdam, was considered the greatest classical scholar of the northern Humanist of Renaissance, determined that manners were best if instilled in children at an early age. His book, "On Civility in Children" (c.1530), considered to be the first treatise in Western Europe on the moral and practical education of children, was a bestseller for over three centuries. The following are from his teachings:

  1. "Turn away when spitting lest your saliva fall on someone. If anything purulent falls on the ground, it should be trodden upon, lest it nauseate someone." 
  2. "To lick greasy fingers or to wipe them on your coat is impolite. It is better to use the table cloth or the serviette." 
  3. "Some people put their hands in the dishes the moment they have sat down. Wolves do that." 
  4. "You should not offer your handkerchief to anyone unless it has been freshly washed. Nor is it seemly, after wiping your nose, to spread out your handkerchief and peer into it as if pearl and rubies might have fallen out of your head." 
  5. "If you cannot swallow a piece of food, turn around discreetly and throw it somewhere." 
  6. "Retain the wind by compressing the belly." 
  7. "Do not be afraid of vomiting if you must; for it is not vomiting but holding the vomit in your throat that is foul." 
  8. "Do not move back and forth on your chair. Whoever does that gives the impression of constantly breaking or trying to break wind."       
This popular etiquette book by Erasmus, ultimately became a standard textbook used in schools.