In the 1750s, during a dinner with foreign dignitaries, Henry Fox’s toddler son Charles was brought in--to be admired by the guests, undoubtedly. The boy said he wanted to bathe in the huge bowl of cream sitting on the table. His father had the bowl put on the floor and little Charles put into the bowl to splash around. I think about scenes like that when I encounter manners-challenged children. Overindulgent parents are nothing new.
Thus the need for THE SCHOOL OF MANNERS or RULES for Childrens Behaviour. I think this 1701 publication offers interesting insights into the culture of earlier times, some amusing bits, some curiosities and puzzlers, and many proofs that the fundamentals of manners haven’t changed all that much.
CHAP. I. Short and mixt Precepts.
3. Reverence thy Parents.
4. Submit to thy Superiors
5. Despise not thy inferiors.
6. Be courteous with thy Equals.
CHAP. III Of Behaviour at Home1. Always bow at coming Home; and be immediately uncovered.
3. Never sit in the presence of thy Parents without bidding, though no Strangers be present.
4. If thou pass by thy Parents or by any place where thou seest them, either by themselves or with Company, bow towards them.
6. Never speak to thy Parents, without some Title of Respect, viz. Sir, Madam, Forsooth; &c.
CHAP. IV Of Behaviour at the Table.
5. Ask not for any thing, but tarry till it be offered thee.
8. Feed thy self with thy two Fingers and the Thumb of the left hand.
9. Speak not at the Table; if thy Superiors be discoursing, meddle not with the matter.
19. Take not salt with a greazy Knife.
25. Smell not thy Meat, nor move it to thy Nose; turn it not the other side upward to view it upon the Plate.
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6. Stand not wriggling with thy body hither and thither, but steddy and upright.
9. When thou blowest thy Nose, let thy Handkerchief be used, and make not a noise in so doing.
CHAP. VIII Rules for Behaviour Abroad.
5. Always give the Wall to thy Superiors, that thou meetest; or if thou walkest with thy elder, give him the upper-hand, but if three walk together, the middle place is most Honorable. [And if anyone can figure this one out, please enlighten me. L.]
Painting: Arthur Devis, The John Bacon Family (1742-43), courtesy Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection