Monday, February 8, 2010

The School of Manners

Monday, February 8, 2010
Loretta reports:

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.

CHAP V.  Rules for Behaviour in Company.3.  Put not thy hand in the presence of others to any part of thy body, not ordinarily discovered.
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.]

The painting is The Children of Edward Holden Cruttenden, by Joshua Reynolds, ca. 1763


News From the Holmestead said...

I wish they had something like that nowadays for kids and teens. I've had it up to here with kids who feel the world owes them. I realize that's a generalization, and not all kids are so materialistic and self-centered. However, I feel there's such a thing as parents being too "reasonable" and permissive. We didn't have "time outs" when we were kids. We got the old swat on the butt, and we had a healthy respect for the consequences of bad behavior.

OTOH, I think life for a child is better now than it was back in the Regency and Georgian era. It's funny how good manners became part of every child's upbringing back then, but nowadays, deportment and good manners seem to have gone by the wayside. ~Sherrie Holmes, sounding like an old curmudgeon

Ingrid said...

I own a reprint of a 1733 Dutch etiquette book that says one should always place oneself on the left side of a superior, so he would have his right hand free. So the right hand would seem to be the upper hand. However, it gets more complicated, because in a room the side with the bed is the upper hand. If there is no bed, the side of the door is the lower end.
This book also says that if there's three of you, the middle place goes to the top dog. To his right is the second place, and to his left is the lowest place.
I also remember having read that when the superior ran the risk of being splashed with mud by traffic on the right side, you should give him the safe side (which would be the wall side) and catch the splashes yourself. It's not in this book, so it must be another one I cannot put my hand on (too many books and too little tidiness). I remember it also had lots of instructions on how to carve different birds and other meat. This book also remarked that you should not keep buzzing from one side of the superior to the other, because that was just silly and annoying.

Rowenna said...

These sort of books are so funny--I'm not sure if I have the same one or not, but there are some bits that are completely on-point today, and others that are so off that it's hilarious! One of my favorite outdated rules is that, if one needs to spit, one ought to do so out of doors or in the corner, *not* in the middle of the room. Because spitting in the corner just screams class, doesn't it? :)

I think Ingrid is right about the order while walking--I believe the same thing is printed in Washington's rules of civility. I particularly recall the position of honor being the middle from Washington.

Vanessa Kelly said...

I laughed at the instruction not to sniff your meat, or pick the plate up and inspect it. Seems like good common sense to me in a time period without refrigeration!

nightsmusic said...

Oh, Sherrie, I am SO with you on that! I cannot believe how so very many teens today think they're owed everything and need to give nothing. Yes, I realize part of it is society giving them this idea, but really, it starts with no foundation of reasonable expectation of kids to show respect. (and now, I'll shut up too ;) )

This is the one I laughed at:

8. Feed thy self with thy two Fingers and the Thumb of the left hand.

Most because my 21 year old still eats like that unless she's at a restaurant or in company! At least then, she displays her manners. She doesn't like it, but she does it. *sigh*

Ingrid said...

Rowenna, that sounds like Erasmus' 1530 book on manners for children. I have never been able to finish that because of all the descriptions of spitting and blowing one's nose on one's sleeve instead of on the tablecloth. A friend of mine, who has done some research into these books, says that for centuries etiquette books were just elaborations on Erasmus.

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

I was fascinated by the picture of the English children with an Indian attendant or servant. A little Googling, and here's what I found:

Rowenna said...

Hehe Ingrid, I'll have to check out the Erasmus book--this one was printed in the eighteenth century at some point, but it might be a "new edition" or the like! It did have a lot on proper ways to conduct bodily functions like noseblowing and tooth picking.

LorettaChase said...

Ingrid, thank you for explaining. Sometimes I find the sentence construction in these older works impenetrable. A bit more about the book: I've added a link at "1701" that offers additional quotations from the book and some context. The original book is in the V&A, and is in both English & Latin and not illustrated. In the intro to my edition, School of Manners is described as "a direct descendant of the 'courtesy books' of the Middle Ages," which were aimed at "the young page in a medieval castle, who began his long climb up the ladder to knighthood by learning how to comport himself in contemporary company." Susan, many thanks for tracking down the tale of the Indian servant in the painting--that adds a whole new dimension to the picture!

Mme.Tresbeau said...

It's a shame more modern parents don't pay attention to these rules, however ancient they may be. Many of the world's ills would be cured if more people, of every age, paid attention to the rules in the first group alone. All a matter of respect for others, and for one's self, as well.

Michael Robinson said...

The School for Manners.

ESTC (the standard database) states the text is described as being by 'the Author of English Exercises,' currently assumed to be John Garretson, and describes itself as 'the Fourth Edition.' There is also a surviving copy in North America at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington D.C. At the time printers / publisher's statements of edition for small works such as this are notoriously unreliable and could be marketing statements made to indicate that the work was desirable.

The only prior printing surviving is a single copy, in the British Library, of an undated engraved title page, without the rest of the text, dated tentatively to 1685 on the basis of the 'Term Catalogues' - the formal official list of what printers said they had issued.

The book is small and fragile and texts for children were subject to the kind of hard wear that makes survival a chance event.

What appears to be a colored wood engraving reproduced on the 'blue panel facsimile' above left is definitely an anachronistic addition and must date from 1780 at least and is of a 'type' in use till the 1830's.

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Michael, I like the tentative date of 1685 for the first version of this book. Could it be that all those permissive parents of the Restoration suddenly realized they'd have to rein in their offspring with dour James II on the throne? *g*

LorettaChase said...

Michael, you're definitely on target with the woodcut on the cover, which comes from _Divine song in easy language for the use of children_, tentatively dated 1820. The b&w illustrations within also look to be from that time period. And how cool that the Folger Shakespeare Library has a copy!

Unknown said...

I love the blog, it's very interesting. I know this is old but wouldn't upper-hand just be figuratively meant?

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