|From Diane's Antique Book Collection|
PART 2 - THE LADY’S GUIDE TO GENTILITY: Gentility and refinement of manners in all the relations of home and society.
An Elegant and Correct Taste
Importance of taste. – Taste is exhibited in the minutest as well as in the most important particulars of conduct; it influences the affections; it gives a bias to the opinions; its control over the inclinations is absolute. For though, where judgment may be opposed to taste, a conviction of duty may determine us to follow the dictates of the former rather than the latter, yet the bias will remain in favor of the more seductive guide; and our sense of what is, or what is not, pleasing to us, will be apt to regulate, at least, the degree of ardor with which we follow a pursuit, or prosecute a line of action.
Effect of cultivation. – Taste, there can be little doubt, depends, in a great measure, on association. We can account for it often on no other grounds. Our tastes and distastes proceed, for the most part, from the power which objects have to recall other ideas to the mind. And persons of superior cultivation have not only established for themselves a higher standard of grace or excellence, to which they refer, but they have attained to a quicker perception of the relation of things to each other. They trace the connexion immediately, and, as it were, intuitively; and they at once distinguish between what is allied to elegance, and what is in however remote a degree, connected with anything displeasing or vulgar.
Taste with regard to manners.- This is especially true with regard to manners. Persons of refinement are the most apt to detect inelegance in manner. They are instantly offended at a deportment which is, in their minds, connected with vulgarity; and associations, which might escape others, are recognized by them. Their organization is peculiarly delicate. As a practiced ear can detect, in the vibration of a single string, its accordant tones, so persons of cultivated taste at once perceive the affinity between a style or manner, and the tone of mind of which it is the symptom and the expression; and, therefore, such persons are often designated as fastidious. Doubtless there may be a fastidiousness which finds blemishes in the most perfect work, and a prejudice which is causelessly offended; but in general, those minds which are the most highly cultivated are the most accurate discerners, and are the least disposed to take groundless exceptions.
There cannot be a greater mistake than to regard as trivial the formation of our own taste, or the pleasing that of others. Upon the former, the latter in a great measure depends. We shall succeed in rendering ourselves agreeable to those whose taste is most accurate, in proportion as our own is moulded on the most correct model; and although, by persons of inferior refinement, bad taste may not only be tolerated, but may even call forth in them admiration, yet good taste can offend no one; and, by a strict adherence to its dictates, we shall be most likely to raise the standard of those with whom we may chance to be associated.
NOTE: The above blog article is word for word, including punctuation, grammar, and spelling as the author, Emily Thornwell, wrote in her book in 1884.
Thornwell, Emily, THE LADY’S GUIDE TO COMPLETE ETIQUETTE, New York, Belford, Clarke & Company, 1884