Good Manners at Home
I know a woman who is always harping about “culture” and “refinement” and “etiquette,” and who does not this minute know the meaning of that old fashioned term, “good manners.” She is always regretting the lack of culture among her neighbors, and there is not one of them who is more polite than she is. I have heard her actually yell at her servants, and storm at her children, and I do not think her husband is the happiest man in the world. In society, she is a charming woman. She knows always just what to say and how to say it. I never saw a woman who could excel her in gliding across a room and sinking gracefully into a chair.
Her little boys can tip their hats so prettily to ladies on the street; her little girls can enter a room with toes properly turned out and with the grace of little queens; and, alas! both the little boys and the little girls can be as impertinent and display the worst manners of any children I ever saw. And they literally fight among themselves. They are not taught to be polite to each other. Their mother seldom favors them with her own properly chosen words and graceful manners when they are alone with her. Discord reigns until the door bell rings and then the entire household must put on good manners. “If we don’t,” one of the children said, “we catch it when the company’s gone!”
This is an extreme case, but do we not all have our “company manners?” Do we speak just as gently and sweetly to our children, to our husbands and wives, when we are alone with them as when in the presence of the chance caller? Do we say to a transgressing Johnnie or Katie, “Don’t do that, dear,” or, “Stop that this minute, I tell you!” Which is it? Do we say “please” and “thank you” to each other and to our servants at all times, or are these pleasing little words held in reserve with the rest of our “company manners?” Is it only in the presence of strangers that we smilingly overlook or gently chide the trifling faults of our children?
Oh, these “company manners!” They are the ruination of a household. They cannot always be put on and off at will. Traces of the every day discord and lack of harmony will manifest themselves through the affectation of all the mere “company manners” one can assume. Habitual politeness and kindness and gentleness should be the unwavering rule in every house, even on “Blue Mondays.” — -Zenas Dane in Good Housekeeping, 1888
Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia