Manners and Social Usages
Mrs. John M. E. W. Sherwood
Part 6 out of 7
Where there are children, the nurse is, of course, a most important
part of the household, and often gives more trouble than any of the
other servants, for she is usually an elderly person, impatient of
control, and "set in her ways." The mistress must make her obey at
once. Nurses are only human, and can be made to conform to the rules
by which humanity is governed.
Ladies have adopted for their nurses the French style of dress--dark
stuff gowns, white aprons, and caps. French nurses are, indeed, very
much the fashion, as it is deemed all-important that children should
learn to speak French as soon as they can articulate. But it is so
difficult to find a French nurse who will speak the truth that many
mothers have renounced the accomplished Gaul and hired the Anglo-
Saxon, who is often not more veracious.
No doubt there was better service when servants were fewer, and when
the mistress looked well after the ways of her household, and
performed certain domestic duties herself. In those early days it
was she who made the best pastry and sweetmeats. It was she who
wrought at the quilting-frame and netted the best bed-curtains. It
was she who darned the table-cloth, with a neatness and exactness
that made the very imperfection a beauty. It was she who made the
currant wine and the blackberry cordial. She knew all the secrets of
clear starching, and taught the ignorant how to do their work
through her educated intelligence. She had, however, native
Americans to teach, and not Irish, Germans, or Swedes. Now, few
native-born Americans will become servants, and the difficulties of
the mistress are thereby increased.
A servant cannot be too carefully taught her duty to visitors.
Having first ascertained whether her mistress is at home or not, in
order to save a lady the trouble of alighting from her carriage, she
should answer the ring of the door-bell without loss of time. She
should treat all callers with respect and civility, but at the same
time she should be able to discriminate between friend and foe, and
not unwarily admit those innumerable cheats, frauds, and beggars
who, in a respectable garb, force an entrance to one's house for the
purpose of theft, or perhaps to sell a cement for broken crockery,
or the last thing in hair-dye.
Conscientious servants who comprehend their duties, and who try to
perform them, should, after a certain course of discipline, be
allowed to follow their own methods of working. Interference and
fault-finding injure the temper of an inferior; while suspicion is
bad for anybody, and especially operates against the making of a
To assure your servants that you believe them to be honest is to fix
in them the habit of honesty. To respect their rights, their hours
of recreation, their religion, their feelings, to wish them good-
night and good-morning (after the pretty German fashion), to assist
them in the writing of their letters and in the proper investment of
their earnings, to teach them to read and write and to make their
clothes, so that they may be useful to themselves when they leave
servitude--all this is the pleasurable duty of a good mistress, and
such a course makes good servants.
All ignorant natures seek a leader; all servants like to be
commanded by a strong, honest, fair, judicious mistress. They seek
her praise; they fear her censure, not as slaves dread the whip of
the tyrant, but as soldiers respect their superior officer. Bad
temper, injustice, and tyranny make eye-service, but not heart-
Irresolute persons who do not know their own minds, and cannot
remember their own orders, make very poor masters and mistresses. It
is better that they should give up the business of house-keeping,
and betake themselves to the living in hotels or boarding-houses
with which our English cousins taunt us, little knowing that the
nomadic life they condemn is the outcome of their own failure to
make good citizens of those offscourings of jail and poorhouse and
Irish shanty which they send to us under the guise of domestic
Familiarity with servants always arouses their contempt; a mistress
can be kind without being familiar. She must remember that the
servant looks up to her over the great gulf of a different condition
of life and habit--over the great gulf of ignorance, and that, in
the order of nature, she should respect not only the person in
authority, but the being, as superior to herself. This salutary
influence is thrown away if the mistress descend to familiarity and
intimacy. Certain weak mistresses vary their attitude towards their
servants, first assuming a familiarity of manner which is
disgusting, and which the servant does not mistake for kindness, and
then a tyrannical severity which is as unreasonable as the
familiarity, and, like it, is only a spasm of an ill-regulated mind.
Servants should wear thin shoes in the house, and be told to step
lightly, not to slam doors, or drop china, or to rattle forks and
spoons. A quiet servant is the most certain of domestic blessings.
Neatness, good manners, and faithfulness have often insured a stupid
servant of no great efficiency a permanent home with a family. If to
these qualities be added a clear head, an active body, and a
respectful manner, we have that rare article--a perfect servant.
CHAPTER XLVI. THE HOUSE WITH ONE SERVANT.
Many large families in this country employ but one servant. Although
when life was simpler it was somewhat easier than it is now to
conduct a house with such assistance as may be offered by a maid-of-
all-work, it was necessary even then for the ladies of the house to
do some portion of the lighter domestic work.
It is a very good plan, when there are several daughters in the
family, to take turns each to test her talent as a house-keeper and
organizer. If, however, the mistress keep the reins in her own
hands, she can detail one of these young ladies to sweep and dust
the parlors, another to attend to the breakfast dishes, another to
make sure that the maid has not neglected any necessary cleansing of
A mother with young children must have a thoroughly defined and
understood system for the daily work to render it possible for one
servant to perform it all.
The maid must rise very early on Monday morning, and do some part of
the laundry work before breakfast. Many old American servants (when
there were such) put the clothes in water to soak, and sometimes to
boil, on Sunday night, that night not having the religious
significance in New England that Saturday night had.
Nowadays, however, Irish girls expect to have a holiday every other
Sunday afternoon and evening, and it would probably be vain to
expect this service of them. But at least they should rise by five
o'clock, and do two hours' good work before it is time to prepare
the breakfast and lay the table.
A neat-handed Phyllis will have a clean gown, cap, and apron hanging
in the kitchen closet, and slip them on before she carries in the
breakfast, which she has cooked and must serve. Some girls show
great tact in this matter of appearing neat at the right time, but
many of them have to be taught by the mistress to have a clean cap
and apron in readiness. The mistress usually furnishes these items
of her maid's attire, and they should be the property of the
mistress, and remain in the family through all changes of servants.
They can be bought at almost any repository conducted in the
interest of charity for less than they can be made at home, and a
dozen of them in a house greatly improves the appearance of the
The cook, having prepared the breakfast and waited at table, places
in front of her mistress a neat, wooden tub, with a little cotton-
yarn mop and two clean towels, and then retreats to the kitchen with
the heavy dishes and knives and forks. The lady proceeds to wash the
glass, silver, and china, draining the things on a waiter, and
wiping them on her dainty linen towels. It is not a disagreeable
operation, and all gentlemen say they like to eat and drink from
utensils which have been washed by a lady.
Having put away the glass and china, the lady shakes the table-
cloth, folds it, and puts it away. She then takes a light brush
broom and sweeps the dining-room, and dusts it carefully, opening a
window to air the apartment. When this is done she sets the parlor
in order. The maid-of-all-work should, in the mean time, make a
visit to the bedrooms, and do the heavy work of turning mattresses
and making beds. When this is accomplished she must return to the
kitchen, and after carefully cleaning the pots and kettles that have
been in use for the morning meal, devote an undivided attention to
her arduous duties as laundress. A plain dinner for washing-day--a
beefsteak and some boiled potatoes, a salad, and a pie or pudding
made on the preceding Saturday--is all that should be required of a
maid-of-all-work on Monday.
The afternoon must be spent in finishing the washing, hanging out
the clothes, and preparing the tea--an easy and informal meal, which
should consist of something easy to cook; for, after all that she
has done during the day, this hard-worked girl must "tidy up" her
kitchen before she can enjoy a well-earned repose. It is so annoying
to a maid-of-all-work to be obliged to open the door for visitors
that ladies often have a little girl or boy for this purpose. In the
country it can be more easily managed.
Tuesday is ironing-day all over the world, and the maid must be
assisted in this time of emergency by her mistress. Most ladies
understand the process of clear starching and the best method of
ironing fine clothing; if they do not, they should. In fact, a good
house-keeper should know everything; and when a lady gives her
attention to this class of household duties she is invariably more
successful in performing them than a person of less education and
On Wednesday the maid must bake a part of the bread, cake, and pies
that will be required during the week. In this the mistress helps,
making the light pastry, stoning the raisins, washing the currants,
and beating the eggs. Very often a lady fond of cookery makes all
her dainty dishes, her desserts, and her cakes and pies. She should
help herself with all sorts of mechanical appliances. She should
have the best of egg-beaters, sugar-sifters, bowls in plenty, and
towels and aprons _ad libitum_. She has, if she be a systematic
house-keeper, a store closet, which is her pride, with its neat,
labelled spice-boxes, and its pots of pickles and preserves which
she has made herself, and which, therefore, must be nice.
The cooking of meat is a thing which so affects the health of people
that every lady should study it thoroughly. No roasts should be
baked. The formulary sounds like a contradiction; but it is the
custom in houses where the necessity of saving labor is an important
consideration, to put the meat that should be roasted in the oven
and bake it. This is very improper, as it dries up all the juice,
which is the life-giving, life-sustaining property of the meat.
Let every young house-keeper buy a Dutch oven, and either roast the
meat before the coals of a good wood fire, or before the grating of
a range, in which coals take the place of wood. By this method she
saves those properties of a piece of roast beef which are the most
valuable. Otherwise her roast meat will be a chip, a tasteless and a
dry morsel, unpalatable and indigestible.
The cooking of vegetables is also to be studied; potatoes should not
be over-boiled or underdone, as they are exceedingly unhealthy if
not properly cooked. Bread must be well kneaded and delicately
baked; a woman who understands the uses of fire--and every
householder should--has stolen the secret of Prometheus.
On Thursday the maid must sweep the house thoroughly, if there are
heavy carpets, as this is work for the strong-armed and the strong-
handed. The mistress can follow with the dusting-brush and the
cloth, and, again, the maid may come in her footstep with step-
ladder, and wipe off mirrors and windows.
Many ladies have a different calendar from this, and prefer to have
their work done on different days; but whatever may be the system
for the management of a house, it should be strictly carried out,
and all the help that may accrue from punctuality and order rendered
to a maid in the discharge of her arduous and multifarious duties.
Most families have a sort of general house-cleaning on Friday:
floors are scrubbed and brasses cleaned, the silver given a better
cleansing, and the closets examined, the knives are scoured more
thoroughly, and the lady puts her linen-closet in order, throwing
sweet lavender between the sheets. On Saturday more bread and cake
are baked, the Sunday's dinner prepared, that the maid may have her
Sunday afternoon out, and the busy week is ended with a clean
kitchen, a well-swept and garnished house, and all the cooking done
except the Sunday meat and vegetables.
To conduct the business of a house through the week, with three
meals each day, and all the work well done; by one maid, is a very
creditable thing to the mistress. The "order which is Heaven's first
law" must be her chief help in this difficult matter; she must be
willing to do much of the light work herself, and she must have a
young, strong, willing maid.
CHAPTER XLVII. THE HOUSE WITH TWO SERVANTS.
The great problem of the young or middle-aged house-keeper in large
cities is how to form a neat, happy, comfortable home, and so to
order the house that two servants can accomplish all its work.
These two servants we call the cook and the waiter, and they must do
all that there is to do, including the washing.
When life was simpler, this was done without murmuring; but now it
is difficult to find good and trained servants, particularly in New
York, who will fill such places. For to perform the work of a
family--to black the boots, sweep and wash the sidewalk, attend the
door and lay the table, help with the washing and ironing, and make
the fires, as well as sweep and dust, and take care of the silver--
would seem to require the hands of Briareus.
It is better to hire a girl "for general house-work," and train her
for her work as waitress, than to take one who has clone nothing
else but wait at table. Be particular, when engaging a girl, to tell
her what she has to do, as many of the lofty kind object
particularly to blacking boots; and as it must be done, it is better
to define it at once.
A girl filling this position should have, first, the advantage of
system, and the family must keep regular hours. She must rise at
six, or earlier, if necessary, open the front-door and parlor-
blinds, and the dining-room windows, and then proceed to cleanse the
front steps and sidewalk, polish the bell-pull, and make all tidy
about the mats. She must next make the fires, if fires are used in
the house, and carry down the ashes, carefully depositing them where
they will not communicate fire. She must then gather the boots and
shoes from the doors of the sleeping-rooms, and take them to the
laundry, where she should brush them, having a closet there for her
brushes and blacking. Having replaced the boots beside the
respective doors to which they belong, she should make herself neat
and clean, put on her cap and apron, and then prepare for laying the
table for breakfast. This she does not do until she has brushed up
the floor, caused the fire to burn brightly, and in all respects
made the dining-room respectable.
The laying of the table must be a careful and neat operation; a
clean cloth should be put on, with the fold regularly running down
the middle of the table, the silver and glass and china placed
neatly and in order, the urn-lamp lighted, and the water put to
boil, the napkins fresh and well-folded, and the chairs drawn up in
order on either side. It is well worth a mistress's while to preside
at this work for two or three mornings, to see that her maid
understands her wishes.
All being in order, the maid may ring a bell, or knock at the doors,
or rouse the family as they may wish. When breakfast is over she
removes the dishes, and washes the silver and china in the pantry.
After putting everything away, and opening a window in the dining-
room, she proceeds to the bedrooms.
Every one should, before leaving his bedroom, open a window and turn
back the clothes, to air the room and the bed thoroughly. If this
has been neglected, it is the servant's business to do it, and to
make the beds, wash the basins, and leave everything very clean. She
must also dust the bureaus and tables and chairs, hang up the
dresses, put away the shoes, and set everything in order.
She then descends to the parlor floor, and makes it neat, and thence
to the kitchen, where, if she has time, she does a little washing;
but if there is to be luncheon or early dinner, she cannot do much
until that is prepared, particularly if it is her duty to answer a
bell. In a doctor's house, or in a house where there are many calls,
some one to attend exclusively at the door is almost indispensable.
After the early dinner or lunch, the maid has a few hours' washing
and ironing before getting ready for the late dinner or tea, which
is the important meal of the day. If she is systematic, and the
family are punctual, a girl can do a great deal of washing and
ironing on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, even if she has to answer
the bell; but if she is not systematic, and the meals are not at
regular hours, she cannot do much.
On Thursday, which we have already designated as sweeping day, she
must sweep the whole house, all the carpets, shake the rugs in the
back yard, shake and sweep down the heavy curtains, and dust the
mirror-frames with a long feather-duster. The mistress can help her
by insisting that her family shall leave their rooms early, and by
herself refusing to see visitors on sweeping day.
On Friday, in addition to the usual daily work, the silver must be
polished, the brass rubbed, and the closets (which, in the hurry of
the week's work, may have been neglected), carefully cleaned and
ventilated, On Friday afternoon the napkins and towels should be
On Saturday these should be ironed, and everything, so far as
possible, made ready for Sunday.
The cook, meantime, should rise even earlier than the waiter; should
descend in time to receive the milkman, the iceman, and the
breadman; should unlock the basement-door, sweep out the hall, and
take in the barrels which have been left out with the ashes and
A cook should be instructed never to give away the beef-dripping,
as, if clarified in cold water, it is excellent for frying oysters,
etc., and saves butter. The cook should air the kitchen and laundry,
build the fire in the range, and sweep carefully before she begins
A careful house-keeper takes care that her cook shall make her
toilet in her room, _not_ in the kitchen. Particularly should she be
made to arrange her hair upstairs, as some cooks have an exceedingly
nasty habit of combing their hair in the kitchen. It will repay a
house-keeper to make several visits to the kitchen at unexpected
Cooks vary so decidedly in their way of preparing meals that no
general directions can be given; but the best should be made to
follow certain rules, and the worst should be watched and guarded. A
great cleanliness as to pots and kettles, particularly the
teakettle, should be insisted upon, and the closets, pails, barrels,
etc., be carefully watched. Many a case of typhoid fever can be
traced to the cook's slop-pail, or closets, or sink, and no lady
should be careless of looking into all these places.
A cook, properly trained, can get up a good breakfast out of remains
of the dinner of the preceding day, or some picked-up cod-fish,
toast, potatoes sliced and fried, or mashed, boiled, stewed, or
baked. The making of good clear coffee is not often understood by
the green Irish cook. The mistress must teach her this useful art,
and also how to make good tea, although the latter is generally made
on the table.
With the sending up of the breakfast comes the first chance of a
collision between cook and waiter; and disagreeable, bad-tempered
servants make much of this opportunity. The cook in city houses puts
the dinner on the dumb-waiter and sends it up to the waiter, who
takes it off. All the heavy meat-dishes and the greasy plates are
sent down to the cook to wash, and herein lies many a grievance
which the mistress can anticipate and prevent by forbidding the use
of the dumb-waiter if it leads to quarrelling, and by making the
maids carry all the plates and dishes up and down. This course of
treatment will soon cure them of their little tempers.
In plain households the cook has much less to do than the waiter;
she should therefore undertake the greater part of the washing and
ironing. Many very good cooks will do all the washing and ironing
except the table linen and the towels used by the waiter; and if
this arrangement is made at first, no trouble ensues. The great
trouble in most households comes from the fact that the work is not
definitely divided, and that one servant declares that the other is
imposing upon her.
If a mistress is fair, honorable, strict, and attentive, she can
thus carry on a large household (if there are no young children)
with two energetic servants. She cannot, of course, have elegant
house-keeping; it is a very arduous undertaking to conduct a city
house with the assistance of only two people. Many young house-
keepers become discouraged, and many old ones do so as well, and
send the washing and ironing to a public laundry. But as small
incomes are the rule, and as most people must economize, it has been
done, and it can be done. The mistress will find it to her advantage
to have a very great profusion of towels and dusters, and also to
supply the kitchen with every requisite utensil for cooking a good
dinner, or for the execution of the ordinary daily work--such tools
as an ice-hammer, a can-opener, plenty of corkscrews, a knife-
sharpener and several large, strong knives, a meat-chopper and
bread-baskets, stone pots and jars. The modern refrigerator has
simplified kitchen-work very much, and no one who has lived long
enough to remember when it was not used can fail to bless its airy
and cool closets and its orderly arrangements.
The "privileges" of these hard-worked servants should be respected.
"An evening a week, and every other Sunday afternoon," is a formula
not to be forgotten. Consider what it is to them! Perhaps a visit to
a sick sister or mother, a recreation much needed, a simple
pleasure, but one which is to them what a refreshing book, a visit
to the opera, or a drive in the park, is to their employers. Only a
very cruel mistress will ever fail to keep her promise to a faithful
servant on these too infrequent holidays.
The early Sunday dinner is an inconvenience, but it is due to the
girls who count on their "Sunday out" to have it always punctually
given to them.
Many devout Catholics make their church-going somewhat inconvenient,
but they should not be thwarted in it. It is to them something more
than it is to Protestants, and a devout Catholic is to be respected
and believed in. No doubt there are very bad-tempered and
disagreeable girls who make a pretence of religion, but the mistress
should be slow to condemn, lest she wrong one who is sincerely
In sickness, Irish girls are generally kind and accommodating, being
themselves unselfish, and are apt to show a better spirit in a time
of trouble than the Swedes, the Germans, or the Scotch, although the
latter are possessed of more intelligence, and are more readily
trained to habits of order and system. The warm heart and the
confused brain, the want of truth, of the average Irish servant will
perplex and annoy while it touches the sympathies of a woman of
The women who would make the best house-servants are New England
girls who have been brought up in poor but comfortable homes. But
they will not be servants. They have imbibed the foolish idea that
the position of a girl who does house-work is inferior in gentility
to that of one who works in a factory, or a printing-office, or a
milliner's shop. It is a great mistake, and one which fills the
country with incapable wives for the working-man; for a woman who
cannot make bread or cook a decent dinner is a fraud if she marry a
poor man who expects her to do it.
That would be a good and a great woman who would preach a crusade
against this false doctrine--who would say to the young women of her
neighborhood, "I will give a marriage portion to any of you who will
go into domestic service, become good cooks and waiters, and will
bring me your certificates of efficiency at the end of five years."
And if those who employ could have these clear brains and thrifty
hands, how much more would they be willing to give in dollars and
cents a month!
CHAPTER XLVIII. THE HOUSE WITH MANY SERVANTS.
A lady who assumes the control of an elegant house without previous
training had better, for a year at least, employ an English house-
keeper, who will teach her the system necessary to make so many
servants work properly together; for, unless she knows how to manage
them, each servant will be a trouble instead of a help, and there
will be no end to that exasperating complaint, "That is not _my_
The English house-keeper is given full power by her mistress to hire
and discharge servants, to arrange their meals, their hours, and
their duties, so as to make the domestic wheels run smoothly, and to
achieve that perfection of service which all who have stayed in an
English house can appreciate. She is a personage of much importance
in the house. She generally dresses in _moire antique_, and is lofty
in her manners. She alone, except the maid, approaches the mistress,
and receives such general orders as that lady may choose to give.
The house-keeper has her own room, where she takes her meals alone,
or invites those whom she wishes to eat with her. Thus we see in
English novels that the children sometimes take tea "in the house-
keeper's room." It is generally a comfortable and snug place.
But in this country very few such house-keepers can be found. The
best that can be done is to secure the services of an efficient
person content to be a servant herself, who will be a care-taker,
and will train the butler, the footmen, and the maid-servants in
their respective duties.
Twelve servants are not infrequently employed in large houses in
this country, and in New York and at Newport often a larger number.
These, with the staff of assistants required to cook and wash for
them, form a large force for a lady to control.
The house-keeper should hire the cook and scullery-maid, and be
responsible for them; she orders the dinner (if the lady chooses);
she gives out the stores; the house linen is under her charge, and
she must attend to mending and replenishing it; she must watch over
the china and silver, and every day visit all the bedrooms to see
that the chamber-maids have done their duty, and that writing-paper
and ink and pens are laid on the tables of invited guests, and that
candles, matches, and soap and towels are in their respective
A house-keeper should be able to make fine desserts, and to attend
to all the sewing of the family, with the assistance of a maid--that
is, the mending, and the hemming of the towels, etc. She should be
firm and methodical, with a natural habit of command, and impartial
in her dealings, but strict and exacting; she should compel each
servant to do his duty, as she represents the mistress, and should
be invested with her authority.
It is she who must receive the dessert when it comes from the
dining-room, watch the half-emptied bottles of wine, which men-
servants nearly always appropriate for their own use, and be, in all
respects, a watch-dog for her master, as in large families servants
are prone to steal all that may fall in their way.
Unfortunately a bad house-keeper is worse than none, and can steal
to her heart's content. Such a one, hired by a careless, pleasure-
loving lady in New York, stole in a twelvemonth enough to live on
for several years.
The house-keeper and the butler are seldom friends, and consequently
many people consider it wise to hire a married couple competent to
perform the duties of these two positions. If the two are honest,
this is an excellent arrangement.
The butler is answerable for the property put in his charge, and for
the proper performance of the duties of the footmen under his
control. He must be the judge of what men can and should do. He is
given the care of the wine, although every gentleman should keep the
keys, only giving just so much to the butler as he intends shall be
used each day. The plate is given to the butler, and he is made
responsible for any articles missing; he also sees to the pantry,
but has a maid or a footman to wash the dishes and cleanse the
silver. All the arrangements for dinner devolve upon him, and when
it is served he stands behind his mistress's chair. He looks after
the footman who answers the bell, and takes care that he shall be
properly dressed and at his post.
In houses where there are two or three footmen the butler serves
breakfast, luncheon, tea, and dinner, assisted by such of his
acolytes as he may choose. He should also wait upon his master, if
required, see that the library and smoking-room are aired and in
order, the newspaper brought in, the magazines cut, and the paper-
knife in its place. Many gentlemen in this country send their
butlers to market, and leave entirely to them the arrangement of the
If there is but one footman in a large house, the butler has a great
deal to do, particularly if the family be a hospitable one. When the
footman is out with the carriage the butler answers the front-door
bell, but in very elegant houses there are generally two footmen, as
this is not strictly the duty of a butler.
A lady's-maid is indispensable to ladies who visit much, but this
class of servant is the most difficult to manage. Ladies'-maids must
be told, when hired, that they can have no such position in America
as they have in England: that they must make their own beds, wash
their own clothing, and eat with the other servants. They must be
first-rate hair-dressers, good packers of trunks, and understand
dress-making and fine starching, and be amiable, willing, and
pleasant. A woman who combines these qualifications commands very
high wages, and expects, as her perquisite, her mistress's cast-off
French maids are in great demand, as they have a natural taste in
all things pertaining to dress and the toilet, but they are apt to
be untruthful and treacherous. If a lady can get a peasant girl from
some rural district, she will find her a most useful and valuable
maid after she has been taught.
Many ladies educate some clever girl who has been maid for the
position of house-keeper, and such a person, who can be trusted to
hire an assistant, becomes invaluable. She often accomplishes all
the dress-making and sewing for the household, and her salary of
thirty dollars a month is well earned.
As the duties of a lady's-maid, where there are young ladies,
include attending them in the streets and to parties, she should be
a person of unquestioned respectability. The maid should bring up
the hot water for her ladies, and an early cup of tea, prepare their
bath, assist at their toilet, put their clothes away, be ready to
aid in every change of dress, put out their various dresses for
riding, dining, walking, and for afternoon tea, dress their hair for
dinner, and be ready to find for them their gloves, shoes, and other
A maid can be, and generally is, the most disagreeable of creatures;
but some ladies have the tact to make good servants out of most
The maid, if she does not accompany her mistress to a party and wait
for her in the dressing-room, should await her arrival at home,
assist her to undress, comb and brush her hair, and get ready the
bath. She should also have a cup of hot tea or chocolate in
readiness for her. She must keep her clothes in order, sew new
ruffles in her dresses, and do all the millinery and dress-making
required of her.
Very often the maid is required to attend to the bric-...-brac and
pretty ornaments of the mantel, to keep fresh flowers in the
drawing-room or bedroom, and, above all, to wash the pet dog. As
almost all women are fond of dogs, this is not a disagreeable duty
to a French maid, and she gives Fifine his bath without grumbling.
But if she be expected to speak French to the children, she
sometimes rebels, particularly if she and the nurse should not be
A lady, in hiring a maid, should specify the extra duties she will
be required to perform, and thus give her the option of refusing the
situation. If she accepts it, she must be made strictly to account
for any neglect or omission of her work. A maid with an indulgent
mistress is free in the evenings, after eight o'clock, and every
In families where there are many children, two nurses are frequently
required--a head nurse and an assistant.
The nursery governess is much oftener employed now in this country
than in former years. This position is often filled by well-mannered
and well-educated young women, who are the daughters of poor men,
and obliged to earn their own living. These young women, if they are
good and amiable, are invaluable to their mistresses. They perform
the duties of a nurse, wash and dress the children, eat with them
and teach them, the nursery-maid doing the coarse, rough work of the
nursery. If a good nursery governess can be found, she is worth her
weight in gold to her employer. She should not cat with the
servants; there should be a separate table for her and her charges.
This meal is prepared by the kitchen-maid, who is a very important
functionary, almost an under-cook, as the chief cook in such an
establishment as we are describing is absorbed in the composition of
the grand dishes and dinners.
The kitchen-maid should be a good plain-cook, and clever in making
the dishes suitable for children. Much of the elementary cooking for
the dining-room, such as the foundation for sauces and soups, and
the roasted and boiled joints, is required of her, and she also
cooks the servants' dinner, which should be an entirely different
meal from that served in the dining-room. Nine meals a day are
usually cooked in a family living in this manner--breakfast for
servants, children, and the master and mistress, three; children's
dinner, servants' dinner, and luncheon, another three; and the grand
dinner at seven, the children's tea, and the servants' supper, the
Where two footmen are in attendance, the head footman attends the
door, waits on his mistress when she drives out, carries notes,
assists the butler, lays the table and clears it, and washes glass,
china, and silver. The under-footman rises at six, makes fires,
cleans boots, trims and cleans the lamps, opens the shutters and the
front-door, sweeps down the steps, and, indeed, does the rougher
part of the work before the other servants begin their daily duties.
Each should be without mustache, clean shaven, and clad in neat
livery. His linen and white neck-tie should be, when he appears to
wait on the family at table or in any capacity, immaculate.
The servants' meals should be punctual and plenteous, although not
luxurious. It is a bad plan to feed servants on the luxuries of the
master's table, but a good cook will be able to compound dishes for
the kitchen that will be savory and palatable.
CHAPTER XLIX. MANNERS.--A STUDY FOR THE AWKWARD AND THE SHY.
It is a comfort to those of us who have felt the cold perspiration
start on the brow, at the prospect of entering an unaccustomed
sphere, to remember that the best men and women whom the world has
known have been, in their day, afflicted with shyness. Indeed, it is
to the past that we must refer when the terrible disease seizes us,
when the tongue becomes dry in the mouth, the hands tremble, and the
knees knock together.
Who does not pity the trembling boy when, on the evening of his
first party, he succumbs to this dreadful malady? The color comes in
spots on his face, and his hands are cold and clammy. He sits down
on the stairs and wishes he were dead. A strange sensation is
running down his back. "Come, Peter, cheer up," his mother says, not
daring to tell him how she sympathizes with him. He is afraid to be
afraid, he is ashamed to be ashamed. Nothing can equal this moment
of agony. The whole room looks black before him as some chipper
little girl, who knows not the meaning of the word "embarrassment,"
comes to greet him. He crawls off to the friendly shelter of a group
of boys, and sees the "craven of the playground, the dunce of the
school," with a wonderful self-possession, lead off in the german
with the prettiest girl. As he grows older, and becomes the young
man whose duty it is to go to dinners and afternoon parties, this
terrible weakness will again overcome him. He has done well at
college, can make a very good speech at the club suppers, but at the
door of a parlor he feels himself a drivelling idiot. He assumes a
courage, if he has it not, and dashes into a room (which is full of
people) as he would attack a forlorn hope. There is safety in
numbers, and he retires to a corner.
When he goes to a tea-party a battery of feminine eyes gazes at him
with a critical perception of his youth and rawness. Knowing that he
ought to be supremely graceful and serene, he stumbles over a
footstool, and hears a suppressed giggle. He reaches his hostess,
and wishes she were the "cannon's mouth," in order that his
sufferings might be ended; but she is not. His agony is to last the
whole evening. Tea-parties are eternal: they never end; they are
like the old-fashioned ideas of a future state of torment--they grow
hotter and more stifling. As the evening advances towards eternity
he upsets the cream-jug. He summons all his will-power, or he would
run away. No; retreat is impossible. One must die at the post of
duty. He thinks of all the formulas of courage--"None but the brave
deserve the fair," "He either fears his fate too much, or his
deserts are small," "There is no such coward as self-consciousness,"
etc. But these maxima are of no avail. His feet are feet of clay,
not good to stand on, only good to stumble with. His hands are cold,
tremulous, and useless. There is a very disagreeable feeling in the
back of his neck, and a spinning sensation about the brain. A queer
rumbling seizes his ears. He has heard that "conscience makes
cowards of us all." What mortal sin has he committed? His moral
sense answers back, "None. You are only that poor creature, a
bashful youth." And he bravely calls on all his nerves, muscles, and
brains to help him through this ordeal. He sees the pitying eyes of
the woman to whom he is talking turn away from his countenance (on
which he knows that all his miserable shyness has written itself in
legible characters). "And this humiliation, too?" he asks of
himself, as she brings him the usual refuge of the awkward--a
portfolio of photographs to look at. Women are seldom troubled, at
the age at which men suffer, with bashfulness or awkwardness. It is
as if Nature thus compensated the weaker vessel. Cruel are those
women, however, and most to be reprobated, who laugh at a bashful
The sufferings of a shy man would fill a volume. It is a nervous
seizure for which no part of his organization is to blame; he cannot
reason it away, he can only crush it by enduring it: "To bear is to
conquer our Fate." Some men, finding the play not worth the candle,
give up society and the world; others go on, suffer, and come out
cool veterans who fear no tea-party, however overwhelming it may be.
It is the proper province of parents to have their children taught
all the accomplishments of the body, that they, like the ancient
Greeks, may know that every muscle will obey the brain. A shy,
awkward boy should be trained in dancing, fencing, boxing; he should
be instructed in music, elocution, and public speaking; he should be
sent into society, whatever it may cost him at first, as certainly
as he should be sent to the dentist's. His present sufferings may
save him from lifelong annoyance.
To the very best men--the most learned, the most graceful, the most
eloquent, the most successful--has come at some one time or other
the dreadful agony of bashfulness. Indeed, it is the higher order of
man being that it most surely attacks; it is the precursor of many
excellences, and, like the knight's vigil, if patiently and bravely
borne, the knight is twice the hero. It is this recollection, which
can alone assuage the sufferer, that he should always carry with
him. He should remember that the compound which he calls himself is
of all things most mixed.
"The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together."
Two antagonistic races--it may be his Grandfather Brown and his
Grandmother Williams--are struggling in him for the mastery; and
their exceedingly opposite natures are pulling his arms and legs
asunder. He has to harmonize this antagonism before he becomes
himself, and it adds much to his confusion to see that poor little
pretender, Tom Titmouse, talking and laughing and making merry.
There are, however, no ancestral diversities fighting for the
possession of Tom Titmouse. The grandfathers and grandmothers of Tom
Titmouse were not people of strong character; they were a decorous
race on both sides, with no heavy intellectual burdens, good enough
people who wore well. But does our bashful man know this? No. He
simply remembers a passage in the "Odyssey" which Tom Titmouse could
not construe, but which the bashful man read, to the delight of the
"O gods! How beloved he is, and how honored by all men to whatsoever
land or city he comes! He brings much booty from Troy, but we,
having accomplished the same journey, are returning home having
empty hands!" And this messenger from Troy is Tom Titmouse!
Not that all poor scholars and inferior men have fine manners, nor
do all good scholars and superior men fail in the drawing-room. No
rule is without an exception. It is, however, a comfort to those who
are awkward and shy to remember that many of the great and good and
superior men who live in history have suffered, even as they suffer,
from the pin-pricks of bashfulness. The first refuge of the
inexperienced, bashful person is often to assume a manner of extreme
hauteur. This is, perhaps, a natural fence--or defence; it is,
indeed, a very convenient armor, and many a woman has fought her
battle behind it through life. No doubt it is the armor of the many
so-called frigid persons, male and female, who must either suffer
the pangs of bashfulness, or affect a coldness which they do not
feel. Some people are naturally encased in a column of ice which
they cannot break, but within is a fountain which would burst out at
the lips in words of kindliness if only the tongue could speak them.
These limitations of nature are very strange; we cannot explain
them. It is only by referring to Grandfather Brown and Grandmother
Williams again that we understand them at all. One person will be
furnished with very large feet and very small hands, with a head
disproportionately large for the body, or one as remarkably small.
Differences of race must account for these eccentricities of nature;
we cannot otherwise explain them, nor the mental antagonisms, But
the awkward and the shy do not always take refuge in a cold manner;
Sometimes they study manner as they would the small-sword exercise,
and exploit it-with equal fervor. Exaggeration of manner is quite as
common a refuge for these unfortunates as the other extreme of
calmness. They render themselves ridiculous by the lowness of their
bows and the vivid picturesqueness of their speech. They, as it
were, burst the bounds of the calyx, and the flower opens too wide.
Symmetry is lost, graceful outline is destroyed. Many a bashful man,
thinking of Tom Titmouse, has become an acrobat in his determination
to be lively and easy. He should remember the _juste milieu_,
recommended by Shakespeare when he says,
"They are as sick that surfeit with too much. As they that starve
The happy people who are born unconscious of their bodies, who grow
through life more and more graceful, easy, cordial, and agreeable;
the happy few Who were never bashful, never nervous, never had
clammy hands, they need not read these pages--they are not written
for such blessed eyes. It is for the well-meaning, but shy and
awkward, people that the manners of artificial society are most
For the benefit of such persons we must "improve a ceremonial nicety
into a substantial duty," else we shall see a cultivated scholar
confused before a set of giggling girls, and a man who is all
Wisdom, valor and learning, playing the donkey at an evening party.
If he lack the inferior arts of polite behavior, who will take the
trouble to discover a Sir Walter Raleigh behind his cravat?
A man who is constrained, uneasy, and ungraceful, can spoil the
happiness of a dozen people. Therefore he is bound to create an
artificial manner, if a natural one does not come to him,
remembering always that "manners are shadows of virtues."
The manners of artificial society have this to commend them: they
meditate the greatest good to the greatest number. We do not like
the word "artificial," or to commend anything which is supposed to
be the antipodes of the word "sincere," but it is a recipe, a
doctor's prescription that we are recommending as a cure for a
disease. "Good manners are to special societies what good morals are
to society in general--their cement and their security. True
politeness creates perfect ease and freedom; it and its essence is
to treat others as you would have others treat you." Therefore, as
you know how embarrassing embarrassment is to everybody else, strive
not to be embarrassed.
CHAPTER L. HOW TO TREAT A GUEST.
No one possessed of his senses would invite a person to his country
house for the purpose of making him unhappy. At least so we should
say at first thought. But it is an obvious fact that very many
guests are invited to the country houses of their friends, and are
made extremely miserable while there. They have to rise at unusual
hours, eat when they are not hungry, drive or walk or play tennis
when they would prefer to do everything else, and they are obliged
to give up those hours which are precious to them for other duties
or pleasures; so that many people, after an experience of visiting,
are apt to say, "No more of the slavery of visiting for me, if you
Now the English in their vast country houses have reduced the custom
of visiting and receiving their friends to a system. They are said
to be in all respects the best hosts in the world, the masters of
the letting-alone system. A man who owns a splendid place near
London invites a guest for three days or more, and carefully
suggests when he shall come and when he shall go--a very great point
in hospitality. He is invited to come by the three o'clock train on
Monday, and to leave by the four o'clock train on Thursday. That
means that he shall arrive before dinner on Monday, and leave after
luncheon on Thursday. If a guest cannot accede to these hours, he
must write and say so. Once arrived, he rarely meets his host or
hostess until dinner-time. He is conducted to his room, a cup of tea
with some light refreshment is provided, and the well-bred servant
in attendance says at what hour before dinner he will be received in
the drawing-room. It is possible that some member of the family may
be disengaged and may propose a drive before dinner, but this is not
often done; the guest is left to himself or herself until dinner.
General and Mrs. Grant were shown to their rooms at Windsor Castle,
and locked up there, when they visited the Queen, until the steward
came to tell them that dinner would be served in half an hour; they
were then conducted to the grand salon, where the Queen presently
entered. In less stately residences very much the same ceremony is
observed. The hostess, after dinner and before the separation for
the night, tells her guests that horses will be at their disposal
the next morning, and also asks if they would like to play lawn-
tennis, if they wish to explore the park, at what hour they will
breakfast, or if they will breakfast in their rooms. "Luncheon is at
one; and she will be happy to see them at that informal meal."
Thus the guest has before him the enviable privilege of spending the
day as he pleases. He need not talk unless he choose; he may take a
book and wander off under the trees; he may take a horse and explore
the county, or he may drive in a victoria, phaeton, or any other
sort of carriage. To a lady who has her letters to write, her novel
to read, or her early headache to manage, this liberty is precious.
It must also be said that no one is allowed to feel neglected in an
English house. If a lady guest says, "I am a stranger; I should like
to see your fine house and your lovely park," some one is found to
accompany her. Seldom the hostess, for she has much else to do; but
there is often a single sister, a cousin, or a very intelligent
governess, who is summoned. In our country we cannot offer our
guests all these advantages; we can, however, offer them their
freedom, and give them, with our limited hospitality, their choice
of hours for breakfast and their freedom from our society.
But the questioner may ask, Why invite guests, unless we wish to see
them? We do wish to see them--a part of the day, not the whole day.
No one can sit and talk all day. The hostess should have her
privilege of retiring after the mid-day meal, with her novel, for a
nap, and so should the guest: Well-bred people understand all this,
and are glad to give up the pleasure of social intercourse for an
hour of solitude. There is nothing so sure to repay one in the long
run as these quiet hours.
If a lady invites another to visit her at Newport or Saratoga, she
should evince her thought for her guest's comfort by providing her
with horses and carriage to pay her own visits, to take her own
drives, or to do her shopping. Of course, the pleasure of two
friends is generally to be together, and to do the same things; but
sometimes it is quite the reverse.
The tastes and habits of two people staying in the same house may be
very different, and each should respect the peculiarities of the
other. It costs little time and no money for an opulent Newport
hostess to find out what her guest wishes to do with her day, and
she can easily, with a little tact, allow her to be happy in her own
Gentlemen understand this much better than ladies, and a gentleman
guest is allowed to do very much as he pleases at Newport. No one
asks anything about his plans for the day, except if he will dine at
home. His hostess may ask him to drive or ride with her, or to go to
the Casino, perhaps; but if she be a well-bred woman of the world
she will not be angry if he refuses. A lady guest has not, however,
such freedom; she is apt to be a slave, from the fact that as yet
the American hostess has not learned that the truest hospitality is
to let her guest alone, and to allow her to enjoy herself in her own
way. A thoroughly well-bred guest makes no trouble in a house; she
has the instinct of a lady, and is careful that no plan of her
hostess shall be disarranged by her presence. She mentions all her,
separate invitations, desires to know when her hostess wishes her
presence, if the carriage can take her hither and yon, or if she may
be allowed to hire a carriage.
There are hostesses, here and in England, who do not invite guests
to their houses for the purpose of making them happy, but to add to
their own importance. Such hostesses are not apt to consider the
individual rights of any one, and they use a guest merely to add to
the brilliancy of their parties, and to make the house more
fashionable and attractive. Some ill-bred women, in order to show
their power, even insult and ill treat the people who have accepted
their proffered hospitality. This class of hostess is, fortunately,
not common, but it is not unknown.
A hostess should remember that, when she asks people to visit her,
she has two very important duties to perform--one, not to neglect
her guests; the other, not to weary them by too much attention.
Never give a guest the impression that he is "being entertained,"
that he is on your mind; follow the daily life of your household and
of your duties as you desire, taking care that your guest is never
in an unpleasant position or neglected. If you have a tiresome guest
who insists upon following you around and weighing heavily on your
hands, be firm, go to your own room, and lock the door. If you have
a sulky guest who looks bored, throw open the library-door, order
the carriage, and make your own escape. But if you have a very
agreeable guest who shows every desire to please and be pleased,
give that model guest the privilege of choosing her own hours and
her own retirement.
The charm of an American country-house is, generally, that it is a
home, and sacred to home duties. A model guest never infringes for
one moment on the rights of the master of the house. She never
spoils his dinner or his drive by being late; she never sends him
back to bring her parasol; she never abuses his friends or the
family dog; she is careful to abstain from disagreeable topics; she
joins his whist-table if she knows how to play; but she ought never
to be obliged to rise an hour earlier than her wont because he
wishes to take an early train for town. These early-morning,
perfunctory breakfasts are not times for conversation, and they ruin
the day for many bad sleepers.
In a country neighborhood a hostess has sometimes to ask her guests
to go to church to hear a stupid preacher, and to go to her country
neighbors, to become acquainted with what may be the slavery of
country parties. The guest should always be allowed to refuse these
hospitalities; and, if he be a tired townsman, he will prefer the
garden, the woodland, the retirement of the country, to any church
or tea-party in the world. He cannot enter into his host's interests
or his neighbor's. Leave him to his solitude if in that is his
At Newport guest and hostess have often different friends and
different invitations. When this is understood, no trouble ensues if
the host and hostess go out to dinner and leave the guest at home.
It often happens that this is done, and no lady of good-breeding
takes offence. Of course a nice dinner is prepared for her, and she
is often asked to invite a friend to share it.
On the other hand, the guest often has invitations which do not
include the hostess. These should be spoken of in good season, so
that none of the hostess's plans may be disarranged, that the
carriage may be ordered in time, and the guest sent for at the
proper hour. Well-bred people always accept these contingencies as a
matter of course, and are never disconcerted by them.
There is no office in the world which should be filled with such
punctilious' devotion, propriety, and self-respect as that of
hostess. If a lady ever allows her guest to feel that she is a cause
of inconvenience, she violates the first rule of hospitality. If she
fail in any way in her obligations as hostess to a guest whom she
has invited, she shows herself to be ill-bred and ignorant of the
first principles of politeness. She might better invite twelve
people to dinner and then ask them to dine on the pavement than
ignore or withdraw from a written and accepted invitation, unless
sickness or death afford the excuse; and yet hostesses have been
known to do this from mere caprice. But they were necessarily ill-
CHAPTER LI. LADY AND GENTLEMAN.
The number of questions asked by correspondents on the subject of
the proper use of the familiar words _lady_ and _woman_, and of the
titles of married women, induces the reflection that the "woman"
question is one which rivals in universal interest those of
Nihilism, Irish rebellion, and the future presidency. It is not,
however, of ultimate importance to a woman what she is called, as
arose by any other name would smell as sweet, but it _is_ of
importance to those who speak _of_ her, because by their speech
"shall ye know them," whether fashionable or unfashionable, whether
old or young, whether welt-bred or ill-bred, whether stylish or
Nothing, for instance, Can be in worse taste than to say "she is a
beautiful lady," or "a clever lady." One should always say
"beautiful _woman_," "clever _woman_." The would-be genteel make
this mistake constantly, and in the Rosa-Matilda style of novel the
gentleman always kneels to the lady, and the fair ladies are
scattered broadcast through the book, while the fine old Saxon word
"woman" is left out, or not properly used.
Now it would be easy enough to correct this if we could only tell
our correspondents always to use the word "woman." But unfortunately
we are here constrained to say that would be equally "bad form." No
gentleman would say, "I am travelling with women." He would say, "I
am travelling with ladies." He would not say, "When I want to take
my women to the theatre." He would say, "When I want to take my
ladies." He would speak of his daughters as "young ladies," etc.,
etc. But if he were writing a novel about these same young ladies,
he would avoid the word "lady" as feeble, and in speaking of
emotions, looks, qualities, etc., he would use the word "woman."
Therefore, as a grand generic distinction, we can say that "woman"
should be used when the realities of life and character are treated
of. "Lady" should be used to express the outside characteristics,
the conditions of cultivated society, and the respectful, distant,
and chivalric etiquette which society claims for women when members
Then, our querist may ask, Why is the term, "she is a beautiful
_lady_," so hopelessly out of style? Why does it betray that the
speaker has not lived in a fashionable set? Why must we say "nice
woman," "clever woman," "beautiful woman," etc.
The only answer to this is that the latter phraseology is a caprice
of fashion into which plain-spoken people were driven by the
affectations of the shabby-genteel and half-instructed persons who
have ruined two good words for us by misapplication. One is
"genteel," which means gentle, and the other is "lady," which means
everything which is refined, cultivated, elegant, and aristocratic.
Then as to the term "woman," this nomenclature has been much
affected by the universal _sans-culottism_ of the French Revolution,
when the queen was called _citoyenne_. Much, again, from a different
cause, comes from our own absurd want of self-respect, which has
accrued in this confusion of etiquette in a republic, as for
instance, "I am a lady--as much a lady as anybody--and I want to be
called a lady," remarked a nurse who came for a situation to the
wife of one of our presidents. "I have just engaged a colored _lady_
as a cook," remarked a _nouveau riche_. No wonder that when the word
came to be thus misapplied the lover of good English undefiled began
to associate the word "lady" with pretension, ignorance, and bad
Still, no "real lady" would say to her nurse, "A woman is coming to
stay with me." To servants the term "lady," as applied to a coming
guest, is indispensable. So of a gentleman she would say to her
servant, "A gentleman is coming to stay here for a week;" but to her
husband or son she would say, "He is a clever man," rather than, "He
is a clever gentleman."
We might almost say that no women talk to men about "gentlemen," and
no men talk to women about "ladies," in fashionable society. A woman
in good society speaks of the hunting men, the dancing men, the
talking men. She does not say "gentleman," unless in some such
connection as this, "No gentleman would do such a thing," if some
breach of etiquette had occurred. And yet no man would come into a
lady's drawing-room saying, "Where are the girls?" or "Where are the
women?" He would Say; "Where are the young ladies?"
It therefore requires a fine ear and a fine sense of modern fashion
and of eternal propriety always to choose the right word in the
delicate and almost unsettled estate of these two epithets.
"Ladylike" can never go out of fashion. It is at once a compliment
of the highest order and a suggestion of subtle perfection. The word
"woman" does not reach up to this, because in its broad and strong
etymology it may mean a washer-woman, a fighting woman, a coarse
woman, alas! a drunken woman. If we hear of "a drunken lady," we see
a downfall, a glimpse of better days; chloral, opium, even cologne,
may have brought her to it. The word still saves her miserable
reputation a little. But the words "a drunken woman" merely suggest
whiskey, degradation, squalor, dirt, and the tenement-house.
It is evident, therefore, that we cannot do without the word "lady."
It is the outgrowth of years of chivalric devotion, and of that
progress in the history of woman which has ever been raising her
from her low estate. To the Christian religion first does she owe
her rise; to the institution of chivalry, to the growth of
civilization since, has woman owed her continual elevation. She can
never go back to the degradation of those days when, in Greece and
Rome, she was not allowed to eat with her husband and sons. She
waited on them as a servant. Now they in every country serve her, if
they are _gentlemen_. But, owing to a curious twist in the way of
looking at things, she is now undoubtedly the tyrant, and in
fashionable society she is often imperiously ill-bred, and requires
that her male slaves be in a state of servitude to which the
Egyptian bondage would have been light frivolity.
American women are said to be faulty in manners, particularly in
places of public amusement, in railway travelling, in omnibuses, and
in shops. Men complain very much that the fairer sex are very brutal
on these occasions. "I wish _women_ would behave like _ladies_,"
said a man at a _matin,e_. "Yes," said his friend, "I wish they
would behave like _men_." Just then a sharp feminine elbow was
thrust into his chest. "I wish _gentlemen_ would not crowd so," was
the remark which accompanied the "dig under the fifth rib" from a
person whom no one could call a lady.
In speaking to a servant, either a lady or a gentleman will ever be
patient, courteous, kind, not presuming on his or her power. But
there should always be a certain ceremony observed, and a term of
respect to the person spoken of. Therefore a mistress will not say
"Have the _girls_ come in?" "Is _Lucy_ home?" She will say: "Have
the young ladies come in?" "Is Miss Lucy at home?" This sort of
dignified etiquette has the happiest and the most beneficial result
on the relations of mistress and servant.
In modern literature the terms man and woman have nearly obliterated
the words gentleman and lady, and we can hardly imagine a more
absurd phrase than the following: "I asked Mary what she thought of
Charles, and she said he was a beautiful gentleman, and Charles said
that Mary was a lovely lady; so it was quite natural that I should
try to bring them together," etc., etc.
Still, in poetry we like the word lady. "If my lady loves me true,"
is much better than "if my woman loves me true" would be; so there,
again, we have the contradiction, for the Anglo-Saxon rule of using
the word "woman" when anything real or sincere in emotion is in
question is here honored in the breach. But this is one of the many
shadowy conflicts which complicate this subject.
The term "lady" is like the word "gentry" in England--it is elastic.
All persons coming within the category of "gentry" may attend the
Queen's Drawing-room, yet it is well understood that birth, wealth,
association, and position give the _raison d'^tre_ for the use of
such a privilege, and in that carefully guarded English society the
wife or daughters of an officer in the navy or in a line regiment
whose means are slender and whose position is obscure would not be
justified in presenting themselves at court. The same remark holds
good of the wives and daughters of clergymen, barristers, doctors,
authors, and artists, although the husband, if eminent, might attend
a lev,e if he wished. Yet these women are very tenacious of the
title of lady, and no tradesman's wife would deny it to them, while
she would not, if ever so rich, aspire to be called a lady herself.
"I ain't no lady myself, but I can afford to have 'em as
governesses," remarked a Mrs. Kicklebury on the Rhine. She was not
at all ashamed of the fact that she was no lady herself, yet her
compeer and equal in America, if she kept a gin-shop, would insist
upon the title of lady.
A lady is a person of refinement, of education, of fashion, of
birth, of prestige, of a higher grade of some sort, if we apply the
term rightly. She may be out of place through loss of fortune, or
she may have sullied her title, but a something tells us that she is
still a lady. We have a habit of saying, as some person, perhaps
well decked out with fortune's favors, passes us, "She is not a
lady," and every one will know what we mean. The phrase "vulgar
lady," therefore, is an absurdity; there is no such thing; as well
talk of a white blackbird; the term is self-contradictory. If she is
vulgar, she is not a lady; but there is such a thing as a vulgar
woman, and it is a very real thing.
In England they have many terms to express the word "woman" which we
have not. A traveller in the rural districts speaks of a "kindly old
wife who received me," or a "wretched old crone," or a "saucy
lassie," or a "neat maid," etc. We should use the word "woman," or
"old woman," or "girl," for all these.
Now as to the term "old woman" or "old lady." The latter has a
pretty sound. We see the soft white curls, so like floss silk, the
delicate white camel's-hair shawl, the soft lace and appropriate
black satin gown, the pretty old-fashioned manner, and we see that
this is a _real_ lady. She may have her tricks of old-fashioned
speech; they do not offend us. To be sure, she has no slang; she
does not talk about "awfully jolly," or a "ghastly way off;" she
does not talk of the boys as being a "bully lot," or the girls as
being "beastly fine;" she does not say that she is "feeling rather
seedy to-day," etc. No, "our old lady" is a "lady," and it would be
in bad taste to call her an "old woman," which somehow sounds
Therefore we must, while begging of our correspondents to use the
word "woman" whenever they can, tell them not entirely to drop the
word "lady." The real lady or gentleman is very much known by the
voice, the choice of words, the appropriate term. Nothing can be
better than to err on the side of simplicity, which is always better
than gush, or over-effort, or conceit of speech. One may be
"ignorant of the shibboleth of a good set," yet speak most excellent
Thackeray said of George the Fourth that there was only one reason
why he should not have been called the "first gentleman in Europe,"
and that was because he was not a gentleman. But of the young Duke
of Albany, just deceased, no one could hesitate to speak as a
gentleman. Therefore, while we see that birth does not always make a
gentleman, we still get the idea that it may help to make one, as we
do not readily connect the idea with Jeames, who was a "gentleman's
gentleman." He might have been "fine," but not "noble."
As for titles for married women, we have only the one word, "Mrs.,"
not even the pretty French "Madame." But no woman should write
herself "Mrs." on her checks or at the foot of her notes; nowhere
but in a hotel register or on a card should she give herself this
title, simple though it be. She is always, if she writes in the
first person, "Mary Smith," even to a person she does not know. This
seems to trouble some people, who ask, "How will such a person know
I am married?" Why should they? If desirous of informing some
distant servant or other person of that fact, add in a parenthesis
beneath "Mary Smith" the important addenda, "Mrs. John Smith."
When women are allowed to vote, perhaps further complications may
arise. The truth is, women have no real names. They simply are
called by the name of father or husband, and if they marry several
times may well begin to doubt their own identity. Happy those who
never have to sign but one new name to their letters!
CHAPTER LII. THE MANNERS OF THE PAST.
In these days, amid what has been strongly stated as "the prevailing
mediocrity of manners," a study of the manners of the past would
seem to reveal to us the fact that in those days of ceremony a man
who was beset with shyness need then have suffered less than he
would do now in these days of impertinence and brass.
A man was not then expected to enter a room and to dash at once into
a lively conversation. The stately influence of the _minuet de la
cour_ was upon him; he deliberately entered a room, made a low bow,
and sat down, waiting to be spoken to.
Indeed, we may go farther back and imagine ourselves at the court of
Louis XIV., when the world was broadly separated into the two
classes--the noble and the _bourgeois_. That world which Moliere
divided in his _dramatis personae_ into the courtier, the provincial
noble, and the plain gentleman; and secondly, into the men of law
and medicine, the merchant, and the shopkeeper. These divisions
shall be for a moment considered. Now, all these men knew exactly,
from the day when they reached ten years of age, how they were
expected to behave in the sphere of life to which they were called.
The marquis was instructed in every art of graceful behavior, the
_bel air_ was taught him as we teach our boys how to dance, even
more thoroughly. The _grand seigneur_ of those days, the man who
would not arrange the folds of his own cravat with his own hands,
and who exacted an observance as punctilious from his valets as if
he were the king himself, that marquis of whom the great Moliere
makes such fun, the courtier whom even the _grand monarque_ liked to
see ridiculed--this man had, nevertheless, good manners. We see him
reflected with marvellous fidelity in those wonderful comedies of
the French Shakespeare; he is more than the fashion of an epoch--he
is one of the eternal types of human nature. We learn what a man
becomes whose business is "deportment." Even despicable as he is in
"Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme"---flattering, borrowing money, cheating
the poor citizen, and using his rank as a mask and excuse for his
vices--we still read that it was such a one as he who took poor
Moliere's cold hands in his and put them in his muff, when, on the
last dreadful day of the actor's life (with a liberality which does
his memory immortal honor), he strove to play, "that fifty poor
workmen might receive their daily pay." It was such a one as this
who was kind to poor Moliere. There was in these _gens de cour_ a
copy of fine feeling, even if they had it not, They were polite and
elegant, making the people about them feel better for the moment,
doing graceful acts courteously, and gilding vice with the polish of
perfect manners. The _bourgeois_, according to Moliere, was as bad a
man as the courtier, but he had, besides, brutal manners; and as for
the magistrates and merchants, they were harsh and surly, and very
sparing of civility. No wonder, when the French Revolution came,
that one of the victims, regretting the not-yet-forgotten marquis,
desired the return of the aristocracy; for, said he, "I would rather
be trampled upon by a velvet slipper than a wooden shoe."
It is the best definition of manners--"a velvet slipper rather than
a wooden shoe." We ask very little of the people whom we casually
meet but that the salutation be pleasant; and as we remember how
many crimes and misfortunes have arisen from sudden anger, caused
sometimes by pure breaches of good manners, we almost agree with
Burke that "manners are of more importance than laws. Upon them, in
a great measure, the laws depend."
Some one calls politeness "benevolence in trifles, the preference of
others to ourselves in little, daily, hourly occurrences in the
business of life, a better place, a more commodious seat, priority
in being helped at table," etc.
Now, in all these minor morals the marquis was a benevolent man; he
was affable and both well and fair spoken, "and would use strange
sweetness and blandishment of words when he desired to affect or
persuade anything that he took to heart"--that is, with his equals.
It is well to study this man, and to remember that he was not always
vile. The Prince of Cond, had these manners and a generous, great
heart as well. Gentleness really belongs to virtue, and a sycophant
can hardly imitate it well. The perfect gentleman is he who has a
strong heart under the silken doublet of a perfect manner.
We do not want all the decent drapery of life torn off; we do not
want to be told that we are full of defects; we do not wish people
to show us a latent antagonism; and if we have in ourselves the
elements of roughness, severity of judgment, a critical eye which
sees defects rather than virtues, we are bound to study how to tone
down that native, disagreeable temper--just as we are bound to try
to break the icy formality of a reserved manner, and to cultivate a
cordiality which we do not feel. Such a command over the
shortcomings of our own natures is not insincerity, as we often find
that the effort to make ourselves agreeable towards some one whom we
dislike ends in leading us to like the offending person. We find
that we have really been the offender, going about with a moral
tape-measure graduated by ourselves, and measuring the opposite
party with a serene conceit which has called itself principle or
honor, or some high-sounding name, while it was really nothing but
We should try to carry entertainment with us, and to seem
entertained with our company. A friendly behavior often conciliates
and pleases more than wit or brilliancy; and here we come back to
those polished manners of the past, which were a perfect drapery,
and therefore should be studied, and perhaps in a degree copied, by
the awkward and the shy, who cannot depend upon themselves for
inspirations of agreeability. Emerson says that "fashion is good-
sense entertaining company; it hates corners and sharp points of
character, hates quarrelsome, egotistical, solitary, and gloomy
people, hates whatever can interfere with total blending of parties,
while it values all particularities as in the highest degree
refreshing which can consist with good-fellowship."
It does the awkward and the shy good to contemplate these words. It
may not immediately help them to become graceful and self-possessed,
but it will certainly have a very good effect in inducing them to
We find that the successful man of the world has studied the temper
of the finest sword. He can bend easily, he is flexible, he is
pliant, and yet he has not lost the bravery and the power of his
weapon. Men of the bar, for instance, have been at the trouble to
construct a system of politeness, in which even an offensive self-
estimation takes on the garb of humility. The harmony is preserved,
a trial goes on with an appearance of deference and respect each to
the other, highly, most highly, commendable, and producing law and
order where otherwise we might find strife, hatred, and warfare.
Although this may be a mimic humility, although the compliments may
be judged insincere, they are still the shadows of the very highest
virtues. The man who is guarding his speech is ruling his spirit; he
is keeping his temper, that furnace of all affliction, and the lofty
chambers of his brain are cool and full of fresh air.
A man who is by nature clownish, and who has what he calls a "noble
sincerity," is very apt to do injustice to the polished man; he
should, however, remember that "the manner of a vulgar man has
freedom without ease, and that the manner of a gentleman has ease
without freedom." A man with an obliging, agreeable address may be
just as sincere as if he had the noble art of treading on
everybody's toes. The "putter-down-upon-system" man is quite as
often urged by love of display as by a love of truth; he is
ungenerous, combative, and ungenial; he is the "bravo of society."
To some people a fine manner is the gift of nature. We see a young
person enter a room, make himself charming, go through the
transition period of boy to man, always graceful, and at man's
estate aim to still possess that unconscious and flattering grace,
that "most exquisite taste of politeness," which is a gift from the
gods. He is exactly formed to please, this lucky creature, and all
this is done for him by nature. We are disposed to abuse Mother
Nature when we think of this boy's heritage of joy compared with her
step-son, to whom she has given the burning blushes, the awkward
step, the heavy self-consciousness, the uncourtly gait, the
hesitating speech, and the bashful demeanor.
But nothing would be omitted by either parent or child to cure the
boy if he had a twisted ankle, so nothing should be omitted that
can, cure the twist of shyness, and therefore a shy young person
should not be expected to confront such a trial.
And to those who have the bringing up of shy young persons we
commend these excellent words of Whately: "There are many otherwise
sensible people who seek to cure a young person of that very common
complaint--shyness--by exhorting him not to be shy, telling him what
an awkward appearance it has, and that it prevents his doing himself
justice, all of which is manifestly pouring oil on the fire to
quench it; for the very cause of shyness is an over-anxiety as to
what people are thinking of you, a morbid attention to your own
appearance. The course, therefore, that ought to be pursued is
exactly the reverse. The sufferer should be exhorted to think as
little as possible about himself and the opinion formed of him, to
be assured that most of the company do not trouble their heads about
him, and to harden him against any impertinent criticisms that he
supposed to be going on, taking care only to do what is right,
leaving others to say and to think what they will."
All this philosophy is excellent, and is like the sensible
archbishop. But the presence of a set of carefully cultivated,
artificial manners, or a hat to hold in one's hand, will better help
the shy person when he is first under fire, and when his senses are
about deserting him, than any moral maxims can be expected to do.
Carlyle speaks of the fine manners of his peasant father (which he
does not seem to have inherited), and he says: "I think-that they
came from his having, early in life, worked for Maxwell, of Keir, a
Scotch gentleman of great dignity and worth, who gave to all those
under him a fine impression of the governing classes." Old Carlyle
had no shame in standing with his hat off as his landlord passed; he
had no truckling spirit either of paying court to those whose lot in
life it was to be his superiors.
Those manners of the past were studied; they had, no doubt, much
about them which we should now call stiff, formal, and affected, but
they were a great help to the awkward and the shy.
In the past our ancestors had the help of costume, which we have
not. Nothing is more defenceless than a being in a dress-coat, with
no pockets allowable in which he can put his hands. If a man is in a
costume he forgets the sufferings of the coat and pantaloon. He has
a sense of being in a fortress. A military man once said that he
always fought better in his uniform--that a fashionably cut coat and
an every-day hat took all heroism out of him.
Women, particularly shy ones, feel the effect of handsome clothes as
a reinforcement. "There is an _appui_ in a good gown," said Madame
de Sta%l. Therefore, the awkward and the shy, in attempting to
conquer the manners of artificial society, should dress as well as
possible. Perhaps to their taste in dress do Frenchmen owe much of
their easy civility and their success in social politics; and herein
women are very much more fortunate than men, for they can always
ask, "Is it becoming?" and can add the handkerchief, fan, muff, or
mantle as a refuge for trembling hands. A man has only his pockets;
he does not wish to always appear with his hands in them.
Taste is said to be the instantaneous, ready appreciation of the
fitness of things. To most of us who may regret the want of it in
ourselves, it seems to be the instinct of the fortunate few. Some
women look as if they had simply blossomed out of their inner
consciousness into a beautiful toilet; others are the creatures of
chance, and look as if their clothes had been hurled at them by a
Some women, otherwise good and true, have a sort of moral want of
taste, and wear too bright colors, too many glass beads, too much
hair, and a combination of discordant materials which causes the
heart of a good dresser to ache with anguish. This want of taste
runs across the character like an intellectual bar-sinister, forcing
us to believe that their conclusions are anything but legitimate.
People who say innocently things which shock you, who put the
listeners at a dinner-table upon tenter-hooks, are either wanting in
taste or their minds are confused with shyness.
A person thus does great injustice to his own moral qualities when
he permits himself to be misrepresented by that disease of which we
speak. Shyness perverts the speech more than vice even. But if a man
or a woman can look down on a well-fitting, becoming dress (even if
it is the barren and forlorn dress which men wore to parties in
1882), it is still an _appui_. We know how it offends us to see a
person in a dress which is inappropriate. A chief-justice in the
war-paint and feathers of an Indian chief would scarcely be listened
to, even if his utterances were those of a Marshall or a Jay.
It takes a great person, a courageous person, to bear the shame of
unbecoming dress; and, no doubt, to a nature shy, passionate, proud,
and poor, the necessity of wearing poor or unbecoming clothes has
been an injury for life. He despised himself for his weakness, but
the weakness remained. When the French Revolution came in with its
_sans-culotteism_, and republican simplicity found its perfect
expression in Thomas Jefferson, still, the prejudices of powdered
hair and stiff brocades remained. They gradually disappeared, and
the man of the nineteenth century lost the advantages of becoming
dress, and began anew the battle of life stripped of all his
trappings. Manners went with these flowing accessaries, and the
abrupt speech, curt bow, and rather exaggerated simplicity of the
present day came in.
But it is a not unworthy study--these manners of the past. We are
returning, at least on the feminine side, to a great and magnificent
"princess," or queenly, style of dress. It is becoming the fashion
to make a courtesy, to flourish a fan, to bear one's self with
dignity when in this fine costume. Cannot the elegance, the repose,
and the respectfulness of the past return also?
CHAPTER LIII. THE MANNERS OF THE OPTIMIST.
It is very easy to laugh at the optimist, and to accuse him of
"poetizing the truth." No doubt, an optimist will see excellence,
beauty, and truth where pessimists see only degradation, vice, and
ugliness. The one hears the nightingale, the other the raven only.
To one, the sunsetting forms a magic picture; to the other, it is
but a presage of bad weather tomorrow. Some people seem to look at
nature through a glass of red wine or in a Claude Lorraine mirror;
to them the landscape has ever the bloom of summer or a spring-tide
grace. To others, it is always cloudy, dreary, dull. The desolate
ravine, the stony path, the blighted heath--that is all they can
find in a book which should have a chapter for everybody. And the
latter are apt to call the former dreamers, visionaries, fools. They
are dubbed in society often flatterers, people whose "geese are all
But are those, then, the fools who see only the pleasant side? Are
they alone the visionaries who see the best rather than the worst?
It is strange that the critics see only weakness in the "pleasant-
spoken," and only truth and safety in those who croak.
The person who sees a bright light in an eye otherwise considered
dull, who distrusts the last scandal, is supposed to be foolish, too
easily pleased, and wanting in that wise scepticism which should be
the handmaid of common-sense; and if such a person in telling a
story poetizes the truth, if it is a principle or a tendency to
believe the best of everybody, to take everybody at their highest
note, is she any the less canny? Has she necessarily less insight?
As there are always two sides to a shield, why not look at the
An excess of the organ of hope has created people like Colonel
Sellers in the play, who deluded himself that there were "millions
in it," who landed in poverty and wrecked his friends; but this
excess is scarcely a common one. Far more often does discouragement
paralyze than does hope exalt. Those who have sunshine for
themselves and to spare are apt to be happy and useful people; they
are in the aggregate the successful people.
But, although good-nature is temperamental, and although some men
and women are, by their force of imagination and charity, forced to
poetize the truth, the question remains an open one, Which is the
nearest to truth, a pessimist or an optimist? Truth is a virtue more
palpable and less shadowy than we think; It is not easy to speak the
unvarnished, uncorrupted truth (so the lawyers tell us). The faculty
of observation differs, and the faculty of language is variable.
Some people have no intellectual apprehension of the truth, although
they morally believe in it. People who abstractly revere the truth
have never been able to tell anything but falsehoods. To such the
power of making a statement either favorable or prejudicial depends
upon the mood of the moment, not upon fact. Therefore a habit of
poetizing the truth would seem to be of either excess the safest.
Society becomes sometimes a hot-bed of evil passions--one person
succeeds at the expense of another. How severe is the suffering
proceeding from social neglect and social stabs! It might, much of
it, be smoothed away by poetizing the truth ever so little. Instead
of bearing an ill-natured message, suppose we carry an amiable one.
Instead of believing that an insult was intended, suppose a
"Should he upbraid, I'll own that he prevail, And sing more sweetly
than the nightingale! Say that he frown, I'll own his looks I view
Like morning roses newly dipped in dew."
People who are thus calmly serene and amiable through the frowns and
smiles, the ups and downs, of a social career are often called
Well, let us suppose that they are. Some author has wisely said:
"That the world should be full of worldliness seems as right as that
a stream should be full of water or a living body full of blood." To
conquer this world, to get out of it a full, abounding, agreeable
life, is what we are put here for. Else, why such gifts as beauty,
talent, health, wit, and a power of enjoyment be given to us? To be
worldly, or worldlings, is supposed to be incurring the righteous
anger of the good. But is it not improperly using a term of implied
reproach? For, although the world may be too much with us, and a
worldling may be a being not filled to the brim with the deeper
qualities or the highest aims, still he is a man necessary to the
day, the hour, the sphere which must be supplied with people fitted
to its needs. So with a woman in society. She must be a worldling in
the best sense of the word. She must keep up her corner of the great
mantle of the Field of the Cloth of Gold. She must fill the social
arena with her influence; for in society she is a most important
Then, as a "complex overgrowth of wants and fruitions" has covered
our world as with a banyan-tree, we must have something else to keep
alive our umbrageous growth of art, refinement, inventions,
luxuries, and delicate sensibilities. We must have wealth.
"Wealth is the golden essence of the outer world,"
and therefore to be respected.
Of course the pessimist sees purse-pride, pompous and outrageous
arrogance, a cringing of the pregnant hinges of the knee, false
standards, and a thousand faults in this admission. And yet the
optimist finds the "very rich," with but few exceptions, amiable,
generous, and kindly, often regretting that poorer friends will
allow their wealth to bar them off, wishing often that their
opulence need not shut them off from the little dinners, the homely
hospitality, the small gifts, the sincere courtesies of those whose
means are moderate, The cheerful people who are not dismayed by the
superior magnificence of a friend are very apt to find that friend
quite as anxious for sympathy and for kindness as are the poor,
especially if his wealth has caused him, almost necessarily, to live
upon the superficial and the external in life.
We all know that there is a worldly life, poor in aim and narrow in
radius, which is as false as possible. To live _only_ for this
world, with its changing fashions, its imperfect judgments, its
toleration of snobs and of sinners, its forgiveness of ignorance
under a high-sounding name, its exaggeration of the transient and
the artificial, would be a poor life indeed. But, if we can lift
ourselves up into the higher comprehension of what a noble thing
this world really is, we may well aspire to be worldlings.
Julius Caesar was a worldling; so was Shakespeare. Erasmus was a
worldling. We might increase the list indefinitely. These men
brought the loftiest talents to the use of worldly things. They
showed how great conquest, poetry, thought might become used for the
world. They were full of this world.
To see everything through a poetic vision (the only genuine
idealization) is and has been the gift of the benefactors of our
race. B,ranger was of the world, worldly; but can we give him up? So
were the great artists who flooded the world with light--Titian,
Tintoretto, Correggio, Raphael, Rubens, Watteau. These men poetized
the truth. Life was a brilliant drama, a splendid picture, a garden
ever fresh and fair;
The optimist carries a lamp through dark, social obstructions. "I
would fain bind up many wounds, if I could be assured that neither
by stupidity nor by malice I need make one!" is her motto, the true
It is a fine allegory upon the implied power of society that the
poet Marvell used when he said he "would not drink wine with any one
to whom he could not trust his life."
Titian painted his women with all their best points visible. There
was a careful shadow or drapery which hid the defects which none of
us are without; but defects to the eye of the optimist make beauty
more attractive by contrast; in a portrait they may better be hid
To poetize the truth in the science of charity and forgiveness can
never be a great sin. If it is one, the recording angel will
probably drop a tear. This tendency to optimism is, we think, more
like that magic wand which the great idealist waved over a troubled
sea, or like those sudden sunsets after a storm, which not only
control the wave, but gild the leaden mass with crimson and
unexpected gold, whose brightness may reach some storm-driven sail,
giving it the light of hope, bringing the ship to a well-defined and
hospitable shore, and regulating, with a new attraction, the lately
distracted compass. Therefore, we do not hesitate to say that the
philosophy, and the creed, and the manners of the optimist are good
for society. However, his excellence may well be criticised; it may
even sometimes take its place amid those excesses which are
catalogued as amid the "deformities of exaggerated virtues." We may
be too good, some of us, in one single direction.
But the rounded and harmonious Greek calm is hard to find. "For
repose and serenity of mind," says a modern author, "we must go back
to the Greek temple and statue, the Greek epic and drama, the Greek
oration and moral treatise; and modern education will never become
truly effectual till it brings more minds into happy contact with
the ideal of a balanced, harmonious development of all the powers of
mind, body, conscience, and heart."
And who was a greater optimist than your Athenian? He had a
passionate love of nature, a rapt and infinite adoration of beauty,
and he diffused the splendid radiance of his genius in making life
more attractive and the grave less gloomy. Perhaps we of a brighter
faith and a more certain revelation may borrow something from this
CHAPTER LIV. THE MANNERS OF THE SYMPATHETIC.
Sympathy is the most delicate tendril of the mind, and the most
fascinating gift which nature can give to us. The most precious
associations of the human heart cluster around the word, and we love
to remember those who have sorrowed with us in sorrow, and rejoiced
with us when we were glad. But for the awkward and the shy, the
sympathetic are the very worst company. They do not wish to be
sympathized with--they wish to be with people who are cold and
indifferent; they like shy people like themselves. Put two shy
people in a room together, and they begin to talk with unaccustomed
glibness. A shy woman always attracts a shy man. But women who are
gifted with that rapid, gay impressionability which puts them _en
rapport_ with their surroundings, who have fancy and an excitable
disposition, a quick susceptibility to the influences around them,
are very charming in general society, but they are terrible to the
awkward and the shy. They sympathize too much, they are too aware of
that burning shame which the sufferer desires to conceal.
The moment that a shy person sees before him a perfectly
unsympathetic person, one who is neither thinking nor caring for
him, his shyness begins to flee; the moment that he recognizes a
fellow-sufferer he begins to feel a reinforcement of energy. If he
be a lover, especially, the almost certain embarrassment of the lady
inspires him with hope and with renewed courage. A woman who has a
bashful lover, even if she is afflicted with shyness, has been known
to find a way to help the poor fellow out of his dilemma more than
once. Hawthorne, who has left us the most complete and most tragic
history of shyness which belongs to "that long rosary on which the
blushes of a life are strung," found a woman (the most perfect
character, apparently, who ever married and made happy a great
genius) who, fortunately for him, was shy naturally, although
without that morbid shyness which accompanied him through life.
Those who knew Mrs. Hawthorne later found her possessed of great
fascination of manner, even in general society, where Hawthorne was
quite impenetrable. The story of his running down to the Concord
River and taking boat to escape his visitors has been long familiar
to us all. Mrs. Hawthorne, no doubt, with a woman's tact and a
woman's generosity, overcame her own shyness in order to receive
those guests whom Hawthorne ran away from, and through life remained
his better angel. It was through this absence of expressed sympathy
that English people became very agreeable to Hawthorne. He
describes, in his "Note Book," a speech made by him at a dinner in
England: "When I was called upon," he says, "I rapped my head, and
it returned a hollow sound."
He had, however, been sitting next to a shy English lawyer, a man
who won upon him by his quiet, unobtrusive simplicity, and who, in
some well-chosen words, rather made light of dinner-speaking and its
terrors. When Hawthorne finally got up and made his speech, his
"voice, meantime, having a far-off and remote echo," and when, as we
learn from others, a burst of applause greeted the few well-chosen
words drawn up from that full well of thought, that pellucid rill of
"English undefiled," the unobtrusive gentleman by his side
applauded, and said to him, "It was handsomely done." The compliment
pleased the shy man. It is the only compliment to himself which
Hawthorne ever recorded.
Now, had Hawthorne been congratulated by a sympathetic, effusive
American who had clapped him on the back, and who had said, "Oh,
never fear--you will speak well!" he would have said nothing. The
shy sprite in his own eyes would have read in his neighbor's eyes
the dreadful truth that his sympathetic neighbor would have
indubitably betrayed--a fear that he would not do well. The
phlegmatic and stony Englishman neither felt nor cared whether
Hawthorne spoke well or ill; and, although pleased that he did speak
well, invested no particular sympathy in the matter, either for or
against, and so spared Hawthorne's shyness the last bitter drop in
the cup, which would have been a recognition of his own moral dread.
Hawthorne bitterly records his own sufferings. He says, in one of
his books, "At this time I acquired this accursed habit of
solitude." It has been said that the Hawthorne family were, in the
earlier generation, afflicted with shyness almost as a disease--
certainly a curious freak of nature in a family descended from
robust sea-captains. It only goes to prove how far away are the
influences which control our natures and our actions.
Whether, if Hawthorne had not been a shy man, afflicted with a sort
of horror of his species at times, always averse to letting himself
go, miserable and morbid, we should have been the inheritors of the
great fortune which he has left us, is not for us to decide. Whether
we should have owned "The Gentle Boy," the immortal "Scarlet
Letter," "The House with Seven Gables," the "Marble Faun," and all
the other wonderful things which grew out of that secluded and
gifted nature, had he been born a cheerful, popular, and sympathetic
boy, with a dancing-school manner, instead of an awkward and shy
youth (although an exceedingly handsome one), we cannot tell. That
is the great secret behind the veil. The answer is not yet made, the
oracle has not spoken, and we must not invade the penumbra of
It has always been a comfort to the awkward and the shy that
Washington could not make an after-dinner speech; and the well-known
anecdote--"Sit down, Mr. Washington, your modesty is even greater
than your valor "--must have consoled many a voiceless hero.
Washington Irving tried to welcome Dickens, but failed in the
attempt, while Dickens was as voluble as he was gifted. Probably the
very surroundings of sympathetic admirers unnerved both Washington
and Irving, although there are some men who can never "speak on
their legs," as the saying goes, in any society.
Other shy men--men who fear general society, and show embarrassment
in the every-day surroundings--are eloquent when they get on their
feet. Many a shy boy at college has astonished his friends by his
ability in an after-dinner speech. Many a voluble, glib boy, who has
been appointed the orator of the occasion, fails utterly,
disappoints public expectation, and sits down with an uncomfortable
mantle of failure upon his shoulders. Therefore, the ways of shyness
are inscrutable. Many a woman who has never known what it was to be
bashful or shy has, when called upon to read a copy of verses, even
to a circle of intimate friends, lost her voice, and has utterly
broken down, to her own and her friends' great astonishment.
The voice is a treacherous servant; it deserts us, trembles, makes a
failure of it, is "not present or accounted for" often when we need
its help. It is not alone in the shriek of the hysterical that we
learn of its lawlessness, it is in its complete retirement. A bride,
often, even when she felt no other embarrassment, has found that she
had no voice with which to make her responses. It simply was not
A lady who was presented at court, and who felt--as she described
herself--wonderfully at her ease, began talking, and, without
wishing to speak loud, discovered that she was shouting like a
trumpeter. The somewhat unusual strain which she had put upon
herself, during the ordeal of being presented at the English court,
revenged itself by an outpouring of voice which she could not
Many shy people have recognized in themselves this curious and
unconscious elevation of the voice. It is not so common as a loss of
voice, but it is quite as uncontrollable.
The bronchial tubes play us another trick when we are frightened:
the voice is the voice of somebody else, it has no resemblance to
our own. Ventriloquism might well study the phenomena of shyness,
for the voice becomes bass that was treble, and soprano that which
"I dislike to have Wilthorpe come to see me," said a very shy woman
--"I know my voice will squeak so." With her Wilthorpe, who for some
reason drove her into an agony of shyness, had the effect of making
her talk in a high, unnatural strain, excessively fatiguing.
The presence of one's own family, who are naturally painfully
sympathetic, has always had upon the bashful and the shy a most evil
"I can never plead a cause before my father?" "Nor I before my son,"
said two distinguished lawyers. "If mamma is in the room, I shall
never be able to get through my part," said a young amateur actor.
But here we must pause to note another exception in the laws of
In the false perspective of the stage shyness often disappears. The
shy man, speaking the words, and assuming the character of another,
often loses his shyness. It is himself of whom he is afraid, not of
Tony Lumpkin or of Charles Surface, of Hamlet or of Claude Melnotte.
Behind their masks he can speak well; but if he at his own dinner-
table essays to speak, and mamma watches him with sympathetic eyes,
and his brothers and sisters are all listening, he fails.
"Lord Percy sees me fall."
Yet it is with our own people that we must stand or fall, live or
die; it is in our own circle that we must conquer our shyness.
Now, these reflections are not intended as an argument against
sympathy properly expressed. A reasonable and judiciously expressed
sympathy with our fellow-beings is the very highest attribute of our
nature. "It unravels secrets more surely than the highest critical
faculty. Analysis of motives that sway men and women is like the
knife of the anatomist: it works on the dead. Unite sympathy to
observation, and the dead Spring to life." It is thus to the shy, in
their moments of tremor, that we should endeavor to be calmly
unsympathetic; not cruel, but indifferent, unobservant.
Now, women of genius who obtain a reflected comprehension of certain
aspects of life through sympathy often arrive at the admirable
result of apprehending the sufferings of the shy without seeming to
observe them. Such a woman, in talking to a shy man, will not seem
to see him; she will prattle on about herself, or tell some funny
anecdote of how she was tumbled out into the snow, or how she
spilled her glass of claret at dinner, or how she got just too late
to the lecture; and while she is thus absorbed in her little
improvised autobiography, the shy man gets hold of himself and
ceases to be afraid of her. This is the secret of tact.
Madame R,camier, the famous beauty, was always somewhat shy. She was
not a wit, but she possessed the gift of drawing out what was best
in others. Her biographers have blamed her that she had not a more
impressionable temper, that she was not more sympathetic. Perhaps
(in spite of her courage when she took up contributions in the
churches dressed as a Neo-Greek) she was always hampered by shyness.
She certainly attracted all the best and most gifted of her time,
and had a noble fearlessness in friendship, and a constancy which
she showed by following Madame de Sta%l into exile, and in her
devotion to Ballenche and Chateaubriand. She had the genius of
friendship, a native sincerity, a certain reality of nature--those
fine qualities which so often accompany the shy that we almost, as
we read biography and history, begin to think that shyness is but a
veil for all the virtues.
Perhaps to this shyness, or to this hidden sympathy, did Madame
R,camier owe that power over all men which survived her wonderful
beauty. The blind and poor old woman of the _Abbaye_ had not lost
her charm; the most eminent men and women of her day followed her
there, and enjoyed her quiet (not very eloquent) conversation. She
had a wholesome heart; it kept her from folly when she was young,
from a too over-facile sensitiveness to which an impressionable,
sympathetic temperament would have betrayed her. Her firm, sweet
nature was not flurried by excitement; she had a steadfastness in
her social relations which has left behind an everlasting renown to
And what are, after all, these social relations which call for so
much courage, and which can create so much suffering to most of us
as we conquer for them our awkwardness and our shyness? Let us pause
for a moment, and try to be just. Let us contemplate these social
ethics, which call for so much that is, perhaps, artificial and
troublesome and contradictory. Society, so long as it is the
congregation of the good, the witty, the bright, the intelligent,
and the gifted, is the thing most necessary to us all. We are apt to
like it and its excitements almost too well, or to hate it, with its
excesses and its mistakes, too bitterly. We are rarely just to
The rounded and harmonious and temperate understanding and use of
society is, however, the very end and aim of education. We are born
to live with each other and not for ourselves; if we are cheerful,
our cheerfulness was given to us to make bright the lives of those
about us; if we have genius, that is a sacred trust; if we have
beauty, wit, joyousness, it was given us for the delectation of
others, not for ourselves; if we are awkward and shy, we are bound
to break the crust and to show that within us is beauty,
cheerfulness, and wit. "It is but the fool who loves excess." The
best human being should moderately like society.
CHAPTER LV. CERTAIN QUESTIONS ANSWERED.
We are asked by a correspondent as to when a gentleman should wear
his hat and when take it off. A gentleman wears his hat in the
street, on a steamboat deck, raising it to a lady acquaintance; also
in a promenade concert-room and picture-gallery. He never wears it
in a theatre or opera-house, and seldom in the parlors of a hotel.
The etiquette of raising the hat on the staircases and in the halls
of a hotel as gentlemen pass ladies is much commended. In Europe
each man raises his hat as he passes a bier, or if a hearse carrying
a dead body passes him. In this country men simply raise their hats
as a funeral _cort,ge_ passes into a church, or at the grave. If a
gentleman, particularly an elderly one, takes off his hat and stands
uncovered in a draughty place, as the _foyer_ of an opera-house,
while talking to ladies, it is proper for one of them to say, "Pray
resume your hat "--a delicate attention deeply prized by a
respectful man, who, perhaps, would not otherwise cover his head.
Again, our young lady friends ask us many questions on the subject
of _propriety_, showing how anxious they are to do right, but also
proving how far they are from apprehending what in Old-World customs
has been always considered propriety. In our new country the
relations of men and women are necessarily simple. The whole
business of etiquette is, of course, reduced to each one's sense of
propriety, and the standard must be changed as the circumstances
demand. As, for instance, a lady writes to know if she should thank
a gentleman for paying for her on an excursion. Now this involves a
long answer. In Europe no young lady could accept an invitation to
go as the guest of a young gentleman on "an excursion," and allow
him to pay for her, without losing much reputation. She would not in
either England or France be received in society again. She should be
invited by the gentleman through her father or mother, and one or
both should accompany an her. Even then it is not customary for
gentlemen to invite ladies to go on an excursion. He could invite
the lady's mother to chaperon a theatre party which he had paid for.
Another young lady asks if she could with propriety buy the tickets
and take a young gentleman to the theatre. Of course she could, if
her mother or chaperon would go with her; but even then the mother
or chaperon should write the note of invitation.
But in our free country it is, we hear, particularly in the West,
allowable for a young lady and gentleman to go off on, "an
excursion" together, the gentleman paying all the expenses. If that
is allowed, then, of course--to answer our correspondent's question
she should thank him. But if we were to answer the young lady's
later question, "Would this be considered etiquette?" we should say,
Another question which we are perpetually asked is this: How to
allow a gentleman a proper degree of friendly intimacy without
allowing him to think himself too much of a favorite. Here we cannot
bring in either etiquette or custom to decide. One very general law
would be not to accept too many attentions, to show a certain
reserve in dancing with him or driving with him. It is always proper
for a gentleman to take a young lady out to drive in his dog-cart
with his servant behind, if her parents approve; but if it is done
very often, of course it looks conspicuous, and the lady runs the
risk of being considered engaged. And she knows, of course, whether
her looks and words give him reason to think that he is a favorite.
She must decide all that herself.
Another writes to ask us if she should take a gentleman's hat and
coat when he calls. Never. Let him take care of those. Christianity
and chivalry, modern and ancient custom, make a man the servant of
women. The old form of salutation used by Sir Walter Raleigh and
other courtiers was always, "Your servant, madam," and it is the
prettiest and most admirable way for a man to address a woman in any
Another asks if she should introduce a gentleman who calls to her
mother. This, we should say, would answer itself did not the
question re-appear. Of course she should; and her mother should
always sit with her when she is receiving a call from a gentleman.
But if in our lesser fashionable circles the restrictions of
etiquette are relaxed, let a young lady always remember these
general principles, that men will like and respect her far better if
she is extremely particular about allowing them to pay for her, if
she refuses two invitations out of three, if she is dignified and
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