|Diane's Antique Book Collection|
PART 1 – General Principles Lying at the Foundation of Good Breeding and Lady-like Conduct
Amiability and self-command.- Where the manners indicate amiable, moral qualities and a gentle and benignant spirit, this will go far to atone for any lesser imperfections by which they may be marked. Nevertheless, it is not only desirable that you should appear amiable, but unconstrained; that you should feel at ease yourself, and be able to put others at ease around you.
You will be placed, almost of course, in a variety of situations. It is important that you should have that habitual self-command that will enable you readily to accommodate yourself to the peculiarities of each; and, at least, to conceal from those around you the secret that you are not perfectly at home. Possibly this is not essential to your passing in good society, but it certainly is essential to the perfection of good manners.
Good society a means of improvement.- It is of great importance, in the formation of good manners, that a young lady should be accustomed to mingle in good society. It is not necessary that you should select all your associates from the more elevated walks of life, for this would be likely to unfit you for mingling with ease and advantage among the less refined; but so much intercourse with cultivated persons as will permit you to feel perfectly at home is very desirable, and will enable you to combine in your manners both elegance and refinement.
It is a rare instance indeed, that a young female, who is habitually accustomed to society of a rude or groveling character, ever becomes dignified or graceful in her own manners; and on the other hand, where her intimate associates are persons of intelligence and refinement, it is almost a matter of course that she becomes conformed, in a good degree, to the models with which she is conversant.
Servile imitation to be avoided.- The privilege of good society, in the formation of manners, should be highly esteemed, but care should be taken to guard against servile imitation. You may have a friend, whose manners seem to you to combine every quality that is necessary to render them a perfect model; who unites elegant simplicity with generous frankness, and dignified address with winning condescension; who, in short, is everything, in this respect, that you could wish to be yourself; but, after all, it would be unwise in you to become a servile copyist even of such manners. For you are to remember that a certain cast of manners suits a certain cast of character; and, unless your character were precisely that of the individual whom you would imitate, you would, in attempting to assume her address, deservedly expose yourself to the charge of affectation.
You will, therefore, do yourself much better service by looking at good models in a general manner, and by endeavoring to become imbued with their spirit, than by making any direct efforts to become exactly conformed to them. Indeed, it may be doubted whether you will not reap every possible advantage by simply mingling in their society, without ever thinking of them as models.
Thornwell, Emily, THE LADY’S GUIDE TO COMPLETE ETIQUETTE, New York, Belford, Clarke & Company, 1884