Friday, November 6, 2015

Etiquette and an American Monarch

Another unsolicited opinion from"Rita," the Brit who doesn't care for American women marrying into Britain's titled families... "Can America be induced to have a reigning monarch I should like to see King Theodore on the throne!" – Rita, 1910

"The happiest marriages I was fortunate enough to discover in America were the marriages of a professional man; the happiest homes of their wives and families. Possibly the brutalizing force of money-making was less an element of existence in these instances.

Commerce and speculation get into the business man's blood and vitiato his tastes and habits. The perpetual excitement of "deals," the perpetual chink of gold, are always more vital interest than his wife's companionship, or his children's dawning intelligence. To the professional man such things are welcome relief.  To the mere "wealth accumulator" they are of secondary importance. Hence the very small amount of family life seen in the United States is in any way to the professional man such things are welcome relief.

I could not discover if there was a "middle class" in America. I believe not.  Every one is enormously rich, or insignificantly poor. If they are not rich, they try to pretend they are by taking expensive houses or apartments, and keeping automobiles, and attending every possible millionaire function that gives out "names of the guests" to the reporters. 

Was "Rita's" disdain of American women marrying into Britain's titled families, due to envy? A broken-off love affair of her own? An over zealous feeling of British patriotism? We'll never know. But we do know that jealousy and envy are not conducive to maintaining a civil and polite relationship with others.  "Excessive gaiety, extravagant joy, great depression, anger, love, jealousy, avarice, and generally all the passions, are too often dangerous shoals to propriety of deportment. Moderation in everything is so essential, that it is even a violation of propriety itself to affect too much the observance of it. It is to propriety, its justice and attractions, that we owe all the charm, I might almost say, the being able to live in society. At once the effect and cause of civilization, it avails itself of the grand spring of the human mind, self-love, in order to purify and ennoble it; to substitute for pride and all those egotistical or offensive feelings which it generates, benevolence, with all the amiable and generous sentiments, which it inspires. In an assembly of truly polite people, all evil seems to be unknown; what is just, estimable, and good, or what we call fit or suitable, is felt on all sides; and actions, manners and language alike indicate it. Now if we place in this select assembly, a person who is a stranger to the advantages of a polite education, he will at once be made sensible of the value of it, and will immediately desire to display the same urbanity by which he has himself been pleased.” –From Elisabeth Celnart's, “The Gentleman and Lady's Book of Politeness and Propriety of Deportment, Dedicated to the Youth of Both Sexes"
The word "Equality " has more than one interpretation.

I have spoken about the conspicuous absence of a maternal instinct as a feature of American marriages. The American woman does not desire a large family or indeed any family at all. When she has a child she proceeds to bring it up on the most free and enlightened principles. It's nourishment is a series of experiments in patent foods; it's clothing a compromise between French, German, Russian, and English "styles." 

When it is three or four years old it is called a "kid" and goes everywhere with its parents, and becomes a general nuisance to everybody in hotels, or on steamer, car, or train. It is never rebuked or kept in its place like an English child, because that would be acting against true American principles. 

It has nerves; it looks pasty and unhealthy; it is allowed to eat any sort of food at any time of day or night and it would never grow up a healthy or intelligent human being if it were not for school life and college training. They do some good in that respect, and the American youth and the American-maiden are the result. 

Whether the training explains that no one –even an American citizen– was ever born "free," or could possibly be the equal in brains, character, or social position, of every other American citizen I cannot say.  But it does turn out men and women of whom their country may be proud. 

One need not go further than Col. Roosevelt as an example. He speedily discarded the false for the real; feeble things for the strong things. No one has read his countries limitations more accurately, its possibilities more proudly, than this much beloved and much-abused ex-President. Can America be induced to have a reigning monarch I should like to see King Theodore on the throne!

What Napoleon was to France, what Wilhem II is to Germany, what Edward the Peacemaker was to Great Britain, so might Roosevelt be to the United States could they but see into their own future and throw aside their greed, brutality, and narrow-mindedness in one effort, to achieve greatness." –"Rita" for the New York Times, 1910

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

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