Sunday, May 10, 2015

Etiquette Lacking in American Women of the 1800s

A beautiful woman without good manners is a flower without fragrance.

Good Manners — 
This is the grace of which I think American women are becoming very careless. They are so beautiful as a race, so accustomed to conquest, that perhaps they are getting to believe that Pope's line, "Look in her face and you forget them all," applies to manners; but a beautiful woman without good manners is a flower without fragrance. She is worse—she becomes a positive nuisance, presuming on her beauty and abusing one of God's greatest gifts. You must look at her, but you look to regret, to disapprove, instead of being charmed for life to "sweet looks married to graceful action," you grow to despise and hate her. 
In a country like ours we must expect to find a frequent coupling of ignorance with wealth, of official station with awkwardness, high social position with bad manners— combinations more rarely remarked in the older and more settled states of the world. Kings and queens must be decently well bred and well educated. They cannot help knowing the proper way to eat a dinner, they cannot help observing the properties of dress and etiquette, and the people immediately about them must follow their example. No such necessity exists here. 
We may have a Governor or Mayor who is entirely untrammeled by the laws of grammar and spelling, who uses his own sweet will in regard to his knife and fork, and who is still the proper person to receive the representative of a foreign Power. In our cities how sickening it is to see the potentiality of some vulgar rich man who can "buy the crowd" in more senses than one!—How mournful to note the absence of good manners in some of our prominent literary and religious celebrities!— men whom you hesitate to ask to your house, although their talents are exercising so much influence on the world, and their names are on everybody's lips. 
The trouble lies in a deficiency of respect, a lack of training, an absence of something to look up to. The best bred men in America are the officers of the regular Army and Navy. They've been taught to look up, to reverence authority and to be respectful. It never leaves them: they become the most dignified and the most simple men in the community. 
When women reach a larger grasp of the subject, and observe this great rule, that "the position of power is better than the show of it," they will have advanced far beyond their present status. The end and aim of the week and the uncertain is to appear strong and well posed at whatever cost. It has apparently struck some women in the society of our new country, which must be on a shifting scale, that they appear to stand well by being disagreeable-that an air of hauteur and rudeness is becoming aristocratic. It is the mistake of ignorance, and would soon be cured by a careful study of the best models in Europe. — 
Lippincott's Magazine, 1871 ~ Lippincott's Magazine was a monthly magazine of literature and science, published in Philadelphia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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