Monday, December 14, 2015

Etiquette and the Tragic Decline

Are 'phones' at the bottom of the matter? One has an uneasy suspicion that the telephone has much to answer for in destroying the conversational ideal. 

Decline of Good Manners Is the Tragedy of Modern Life

"'The decay of good manners is the tragedy of modern life—and what is the reason? Whence comes this falling off of those exterior graces which are the salt of society, whether it he spelled with a big 'S' or a small? For after all, what is society without manners and why have we not preserved this precious heritage in our midst?

Why are good manners pratically extinct?’ To all such questions there must be an answer—and it is surely worth time seeking. 'ls it the motor craze that leaves us no time to be polite? 'The very wind is like a bell' to toll us back to early Victorian days, when our grandmothers learned etiquette out of prim manuals, and the making of a gentleman was voted 'the most important part of a liberal education,' remarks a despondent writer in the London Daily News. 

For our forebears believed that, as old William of Wyckham had it, 'Manners makyth man'; how much more do they make woman? We know that these ideas once prevailed, because we recognize a few such happy individuals possessed of manners even yet, though they strike us as prehistoric survivals, not without their pathos.

Are 'phones' at the bottom of the matter? One has an uneasy suspicion that the telephone has much to answer for in destroying the conversational ideal. No one can pretend that this is gained by improved methods of communication. 'A voice soft, gentle and low is,' the poet assures us, 'an excellent thing in woman.' but when that same voice cries 'Hello! Are you there?' it does not sound her ideal greeting.

To come down to 'terra firma' — for there must we ultimately alight — is it possible that women's clubs have anything to do with the disappearance of polite ideals? Has the subtle influence of the smoking room, with its 'laissez-faire' atmosphere and abrogation of once reverenced etiquette tended to minimize the little courtesies which were once the hallmark of high breeding, and are now respected like old coins, valued for their antiquarian interest — but not current?

For there is a distinct feeling abroad that it is a waste of time to stand on ceremony with one's neighbors and a democratic age scoffs what it deems the airs and graces of a courtlier era. It associates fine manners with insincerity and superficiality, yet the profounder student of human nature will tell you that manners are matter of the heart when all is said." — Los Angeles Herald, 1911

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Moderator and Editor for Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia