Pupils in the School of Society
THE school of society is reckoned as, perhaps, the best place for learning all the little courtesies and etiquette that make up the well-bred man or woman. Ease, tact and charm are gained in the constant gilt-edged intercourse with the refinements of life, and the companionship of accomplished members of society. A cultured, gracious woman diffuses an atmosphere of refinement around her that is unconsciously absorbed by others less gifted in her arts of entertainment. Self-possession is developed in the drawing room, at the banquet board and in the mazes of the cotillon.
Conversational powers increase by constant association with brilliant talkers. In proportion as “evil communications corrupt good manners” does the mingling with genuine “ladies” and “gentlemen” in the accepted terms of the words refine and polish even the most-crude and boorish climbers in the social realm. Timidity, that awful bane of youths and maidens just entering upon their social careers, is quickly and effectively cured in the merry company of tactful associates. When Belinda's blushes are pronounced lovely they cease to pain her, and when John's faltering speeches meet with sympathetic appreciation and encouraging smiles, he no longer hesitates, but forgets himself in the eyes of his charming companion.
Undoubtedly this training school for manners is a wholesome and beneficial institution, which should receive justice for its advantages to the human family. But it should always be the care and desire of its members and followers to keep a high standard of politeness; not forgetting, as is ofttimes the temptation, the simple but comprehensive Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” The mother of one of the most popular belles who has ever reigned in this city, says the San Antonio Express, was asked what was her method employed in investing her daughter with the gracious and engaging personality for which she was noted. “My precept to my daughter was that to move in society one must, first of all, be absolutely unselfish and forgetful of self,” replied the mother, who had practiced as well as preached this beautiful theory. And indeed her counsel may well be taken to heart by each and everyone.
Society is meant to be enjoyed, forsooth, not made a business of, and taken too seriously, but never to be enjoyed at the expense of another's feelings. “Laugh and the world laughs with you,” if the joke is a kindly and jovial one. Then, too, one should not grow careless in the points of courtesy that require punctilious attention, as is sometimes the case, even with the most careful. Perhaps the most frequent, and at the same time most annoying breach of etiquette to the hostess, is the failure to reply promptly to invitations extended. The receiver seems to think that if the acceptance reaches the house the day of the entertainment that is sufficient, and yet a little reflection should convince the most thoughtless of the inconvenience of such replies to a hostess.
Especially is this true in regard to dinners, luncheons and card parties, where an exact number is to be accommodated and the desired number filled in if the regrets and acceptances come soon enough for an accurate estimate. With receptions and dances, the answer is almost as imperative, as 200 invited guests must be provided for, unless informed to the contrary. How often has a man’s slowness in response caused an anxious heartache to a girl whose chance of going is dependent on his acceptance. A struggle against thoughtless selfishness should be the aim of every well-bred man and woman. – Los Angeles Herald, 1909
Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia Etiquette Encyclopedia