Wednesday, February 19, 2014

18th and 19th C. Children’s Etiquette

Books containing rules of courtesy and behavior were plentiful among early printed English books. These books conveyed the ideal manners and morals of children in Colonial America.

One of the earliest books, "The School of Manners," had been published in London in 1701. The directions in this book of etiquette were copied from a famous book entitled, "Youth's Behavior, Or Decency in Conversation Amongst Men," a popular 17th century publication.

Originally written in 1577, rewritten in 1908
The "Youth's Behavior" contained many rules and instructions worded from still older books on courtesy, such as "The Babees Book" and "The Boke of Nurture." According to all of these publications, it was certainly natural the children should be affected by the regard for etiquette and the distinctions of social position which they saw all around them. 

In those days all children were considered to be young adults and expected to obey the same rules of etiquette as adults. Etiquette was taught as the primary lesson to transform boys into young gentleman and girls into ladies.

19th Century Shaker Advice to Children on Table Manners

"Cut your meat both neat and square,
And take of both an equal share.
Also, of bones you'll take your due,
For bones and meat together grew.

Don't pick your teeth, or ears, or nose,
Nor scratch your head, nor tonk your toes;
Nor belch nor sniff, nor jest nor pun,
Nor have the least of play or fun."

In Colonial America, the Puritans were opposed to girls and boys or men and women dancing together.

They were also opposed to May Day celebrations and dances around a maypole. In the southern colonies, however, dancing was regarded as a pleasant social activity. Many dance manuals were published, with diagrammed instructions.

The parlour piano or keyboard was a household staples. Girls were taught to play. One writer said it made them "sit up straight and pay attention to details."
Sewing and embroidery were favorite pastimes in early America. Scrapbooks were another favorite pastime, and both children and adults would spend hours carefully pasting illustrations into albums with flour and water glue. They also made their own cards and pressed flowers.

The parlour piano or keyboard was a household staples. Girls were taught to play. One writer said it made them "sit up straight and pay attention to details."

Etiquette was taught as the primary lesson to transform boys into young gentleman and girls into ladies.

In the early days of America, children were ordered never to seat themselves at the table until after the blessing had been asked, and their parents told them to be seated. They were never to ask for anything on the table; never to speak unless spoken to; always to break the bread, not bite into a whole slice; never to take salt except with a clean knife; not to throw bones under the table.

One rule reads, "Hold not thy knife upright, but sloping; lay it down at the right hand of the plate, with the end of the blade on the plate."

Another rule stated, "Look not earnestly at any other person that is eating."

When children had eaten all that had been given them, if they were "moderately satisfied", they were told to leave at once the table and room.

Ask for nothing; tarry till it be offered thee.                                Never sit down at the table till asked, and after the blessing.  

Speak not.  
Bite not thy bread but break it.  
Take salt only with a clean knife.  
Dip not the meat in the same.  
Hold not thy knife upright but sloping, 
and lay it down at right hand of plate with blade on plate.  
Look not earnestly at any other that is eating.  
When moderately satisfied leave the table.  
Sing not, hum not, wriggle not.  
Spit no where in the room but in the corner"

The School of Manners

The School of Manners, 1701 

From "Of Behaviour at the Table"

Come not to the Table unwash’d or not comb’d.

Sit not down till thou art bidden by thy parents or superiors.

Be sure thou never sit till Grace be said, and then in thy due place.

Offer not to carve for thy self, or to take any thing, though it be what thou ever so much desireth.

Ask not for any thing, but tarry till it be offered thee.

Find not fault with any thing that is given thee.

When thou haft meat given thee, be not first to begin to eat.

Feed thy self with thy two Fingers, and the Thumb of the left hand.

Speak not at the Table; if thy superiors be discoursing, meddle not with the matter.

If thou want any thing from the Servants, call to them softly.

Eat not too fast, or greedily.

Eat not too much, but moderately.

Eat not so slow as to make others wait for thee.

Make not a noise with thy tongue, mouth, lips, or breath, either in eating or drinking.

Stare not in the face of any one (especially thy superior) at the Table.

Graese not thy Fingers or Napkin, more than necessity requires.

Dip not thy Meat in the Sawce.

Take not salt with a greazy Knife.

Stuff not thy mouth so as to fill thy Cheeks; be content with smaller Mouthfuls.

Smell not to thy Meat, nor move it to thy Nose; turn it not the other side upward to view it upon the Plate.

Spit not forth any thing that is not convenient to be swallowed, as the Stones of Plums, Cherries or such like; but with thy left hand neatly move them to the side of thy plate or trencher.

Bend thy Body a little downwards to thy plate, when thou moveth any thing that is sauced to thy mouth.

Before and after thou drinkest, wipe thy lips with thy Napkin.

When thanks are to be returned after eating, return to thy place, and stand reverently till it be done, then with a bow withdraw out of the Room, leaving thy superiors to themselves, unless thou be bidden to stay.

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