|Diane's Antique Book Collection|
PART 3 - THE LADY’S GUIDE TO GENTILITY: Gentility and refinement of manners in all the relations of home and society.
An Elegant and Correct Taste
Value of correct taste in society.- A correct taste is more properly the result of a general moral and intellectual culture, than of any direct rules or discipline. The subject, at all events, admits of no special directions. It is a matter of feeling; it rests upon a few broad principles; and when these are interwoven with the character, the desired end will be attained.
Naturalness.-The first great fundamental rule of good taste is to be natural; and it is from an infringement of this that many of our worst mistakes proceed. In manner or style, affectation is the source of the most flagrant offences against taste. Whether it be an affectation of fashion, or of learning, of ignorance, of wit, or of piety, it will be equally repugnant to the delicacy of a superior mind.
Affectation is an offence against high moral feeling. It excites a suspicion of the truth of those who are guilty of it; and although it may have resolved itself into a mere habit, we cannot help feeling that it originates in artifice.
Suitableness a good guide.-An important rule for the regulation of taste is to consult suitability. The reason which we ordinarily have to assign for finding fault with the taste of anything is, that it is unsuitable.
Suitability is always the professed guide in matters of taste. If, on a point of dress, an artiste is consulted, the plea which she deems most likely to decide the wavering choice is that the object for selection “is becoming.” Her judgment may be questioned, but the plea which she urges is a practical lesson on the principles of taste.
Besides, in our own application of the rule, we have to take into account that of which the artiste may be ignorant-not merely what would adorn, but what may suit our character, position, and circumstances. Are we professedly religious? Sobriety, in all outward adorning is the subject of express scriptural precept; not only so, it is congenial to the Christian character, suitable to the Christian temper. The style of a religious person should be moderate, because moderation is in accordance with the whole tone of the Gospel. On the contrary, we may indulge in extravagance; this is felt to be bad taste, not merely by religious persons, but in quite as great a degree by persons of the world.
We may offend by extreme plainness, which is quite as opposed to Christian morals as extravagance. In things, however, which are quite indifferent, we should endeavor to recommend our religions. It can serve no purpose to select a dress for no apparent reason but for its want of elegance; to prefer the unbecoming to the graceful; to adopt, in external arrangements, a style inferior to our position, and which attracts notice by its meanness.
|The Lady's Guide to Complete Etiquette|
Low and vulgar associations.- It is almost needless to say that taste leads us to avoid low or vulgar associations. Refinement is the opposite of vulgarity; and, as taste is the property of a refined mind, it, of course, involves a dislike to anything approaching to vulgarity. Still, the boundary lines are not so marked as might be imagined. Prejudice may reject as vulgar, what is not really so.
There is a fastidiousness which would reject much that is true, and destroy much that is beautiful. We are indebted to those to whom the poetry of nature owes its revival, Coleridge and Wordsworth, for the restoration to their use and dignity of many words and images, which an artificial refinement had discarded as inadmissible in verse. The prejudice, which they successfully combated, is of general application. It is the result of a taste falsely and effeminately nurtured, which would take away from eloquence its energy, and disallow to simplicity its beauty and its pathos. It is this, which often, in religion is offended at the plain-spoken language of truth, which takes exception at a word because it is not found in its own authorized vocabulary, and cannot tolerate a deviation from the conventional standard which itself has prescribed.
Thornwell, Emily, THE LADY’S GUIDE TO COMPLETE ETIQUETTE, New York, Belford, Clarke & Company, 1884