« ZurückWeiter »
times affects hard words, by way of ornament, which he always mangles. A man of fashion never has recourse to proverbs and vulgar aphorisms; uses neither favourite words nor hard words; but takes great care to speak very correctly and grammatically, and to pronounce properly; that is, according to the usage of the best companies.
An awkward address, ungraceful attitudes and actions, and a certain left-handedness, (if I may use the word) loudly proclaim low education and low company; for it is impossible to suppose that a man can have frequented good company, without having catched something, at least, of their air and motions. A new-raised man is distinguished in a regiment by his awkwardness; but he must be impenetrably dull, if, in a month or two's time, he cannot perform at least the common manual exercise, and look like a soldier. The very accoutrements of a man of fashion are grievous incumbrances to a vulgar man. He is at a loss what to do with his hat, when it is not upon his head: his cane (if unfortunately he wears one) is at perpetual war with every cup of tea or coffee he drinks; destroys them first, and then accompanies them in their fall. His sword is formidable only to his own legs, which would possibly carry him fast enough out of the way of any sword but his own. His clothes fit him so ill, and constrain him so much, that he seems rather their prisoner than their proprietor. He presents himself in company like a criminal in a court of justice; his very air condemns him: and people of fashion will no more connect themselves with the one
than people of character will with the other. This repulse drives and sinks him into low company; a gulf from whence no man, after a certain age, ever emerged.
ON GOOD-BREEDING. A FRIEND of yours and mine has very justly defined good-breeding to be, the result of much good sense, some good-nature, and a little selfdenial for the sake of others, and with a view to obtain the same indulgence from them.' Taking this for granted (as I think it cannot be disputed) it is astonishing to me, that any body, who has good sense and good-nature, can essentially fail in good-breeding. As to the modes of it, indeed they vary according to persons, places, and cir cumstances, and are only to be acquired by observation and experience; but the substance of it is every where and eternally the same. · Good manners are, to particular societies, what good morals are to society in general, their cement and their security. And as laws are enacted to enforce good morals, or at least to prevent the ill effects of bad ones; so there are certain rules of civility, universally implied and received, to enforce good manners, and punish bad ones. And, indeed, there seems to me to be less difference both between the crimes and punishments, than at first one would imagine. The immoral man, who invades another's property, is justly hanged for it; and the ill-bred man, who, by his ill-manmers, invades and disturbs the quiet and comforts of private life, is by common consent as justly banished society. Mutual complaisances, atientions, and sacrifices of little conveniences, are as natural an implied compact between civilized people, as protection and obedience are between kings and subjects; whoever, in either case, violates that compact, justly forfeits all advantages arising from it. For my own part, I really think, that, next to the consciousness of doing a good action, that of doing a civil one is the most pleasing; and the epithet which I should covet the most, next to that of Aristides, would be that of well-bred. Thus much for good-breeding in general; I will now consider some of the various modes and degrees of it.
Very few, scarcely any, are wanting in the respect which they should show to those whom they acknowledge to be infinitely their superiors; such as crowned heads, princes, and public persons of distinguished and eminent posts. It is the man. ner of showing that respect which is different. The man of fashion, and of the world, expresses it in its fullest extent; but naturally, easily, and without concern: whereas a man who is not used to keep good company, expresses it awkwardly; one sees that he is not used to it, and that it costs him a great deal: but I never saw the worst bred man living guilty of lolling, whistling, scratching his head, and such like indecencies, in companies that he respected. In such companies, therefore, the only point to be attended to is, to show that respect which every body means to show, in an easy, unembarrassed, and graceful manner. This
is what observation and experience must teach you.
In mixed companies, whoever is admitted to make part of them, is, for the time at least, supposed to be upon a footing of equality with the rest; and, consequently, as there is no one prin. cipal object of awe and respect, people are apt to take a greater latitude in their behaviour, and to be less upon their guard; and so they may, provided it be within certain bounds, which are upon no occasion to be transgressed. But upon these occasions, though no one is entitled to distinguished marks of respect, every one claims, and very justly, every mark of civility and good-breeding. Ease is allowed, but carelessness and negligence are strictly forbidden. If a man accosts you, and talks to you ever so dully or frivolously; it is worse than rudeness, it is brutality, to show him, by a manifest inattention to what he says, that you think him a fool or a blockhead, and not worth hearing. It is much more so with regard to women : who, of whatever rank they are, are entitled, in consideration of their sex, not only to an attentive, but an officious good-breeding from men. Their little wants, likings, dislikes, preferences, antipathies, and fancies, must be officiously attended to, and, if possible, guessed at and anticipated, by a well-bred man. You must never usurp to yourself those conveniences and gratifications which are of common right; such as the best places, the best dishes, &c. but on the con.. trary, always decline them yourself, and offer them to others; who, in their turns, will offer them to you: so that, upon the whole, you will, in your
turn, enjoy your share of the common right. It would be endless for me to enumerate all the particular instances in which a well-bred man shows his good-breeding in good company; and it would be injurious to you to suppose, that your own good sense will not point them out to you; and then your own good-nature will recommend, and your self-interest enforce, the practice.
There is a third sort of good-breeding, in which people are the most apt to fail, from a very mis. taken notion that they cannot fail at all. I mean with regard to one's most familiar friends and ac. quaintances, or those who really are our inferiors; and there, undoubtedly, a greater degree of ease is not only allowed, but proper, and contributes much to the comforts of a private, social life. But ease and freedom have their bounds, which must by no means be violated. A certain degree of negligence and carelessness becomes injurious and insulting, from the real or supposed inferiority of the persons; and that delightful liberty of conversation, among a few friends, is soon destroyed, as liberty often has been, by being carried to licentiousness. But example explains things best, and I will put a pretty strong case :-Suppose you and me alone together; I believe you will allow that I have as good a right to unlimited freedom in your company, as either you or I can possibly have in any other; and I am apt to believe too, that you would indulge me in that freedom, as far as any body would. But notwithstanding this, do you imagine that I should think there was no bounds to that freedom? I assure you, I should not think so; and I take myself to be as much