Friday, May 13, 2016

Etiquette and American Ease

"Sprawling of all kinds is avoided by well-bred people, who shun excessive ease as much as excessive formality." Slouching, or sprawling, comes with the territory we guess, if you are spoiled and your mother is American.


With all the faults of manner of the American, no one would think of charging him with a want of ease. Generally feeling at home wherever he goes, he is as apt to be "hail fellow well met" with the King on his throne as with the lackey at the palace door. He is not likely to be taken to account for too much stiffness of body and formality of address. His facility of converse and flexibility of limb are proverbial, and few can equal him in expansiveness of sprawl, reach of boot, and readiness of "jaw." 

He is unapproachable as an acrobat, and his fine chair balance, or trick of heels up and head down, can not be surpassed by any performer on the social stage. When he presents himself, he is not unlike the clown of our early remembrance, who came with a run, a spring, a somersault, and the shout "Here I am !" We think that many of our countrymen and countrywomen might be improved by more reserve of manner and less flexibility of limb. 

Americans can dispense with much freedom of movement and looseness of posture, as indeed of ease of address, without any risk of incurring the imputation of being prigs. In society ordinarily termed good, it is not customary to sit upon more than one chair at a time, nor is the mantel-piece regarded as the proper place for the feet, however well turned the boot or delicately made the shoe. 

Sprawling of all kinds is avoided by well-bred people, who shun excessive ease as much as excessive formality. It may not be amiss to remind the heedless and the young that, on entering the room of the house of a stranger or that of a visiting acquaintance, it is not becoming to throw themselves at once on the sofa and stretch out their legs, or into the Voltaire or easy-chair, and sink into its luxurious depths. The common seat will be selected by the considerate, and all the exceptional provisions for extra ease and comfort left untouched until the invitation to enjoy them is given. –The Bazar Book of Decorum, 1870

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