In my library I have an original copy of a little book of manners written in 1884.The 4 1/2 x 6 inch handbook is packed full of etiquette for those seeking to improve their manners in the late 19th century. The book is entitled,“Don’t: A Manual of Mistakes and Improprieties More or Less Prevalent in Conduct and Speech”. The author’s pseudonym is Censor, though a later publication tells his true name as Oliver Bell Bunce.
You and I both will be thankful that we no longer must conform to these rules of etiquette, although today’s society could stand to conform to a few “dont’s” such as: Don’t let your undergarments show in public, don’t forget to take your hat off at appropriate times, don’t forget to ask a blessing on your meals, don’t text while driving,don't read acebook feed during dinner, and don't forget to say please and thank you. Here are a few excerpts from this little book for your information and entertainment.
have the habit of letting your lip drop and your mouth remain open.
“Shut your mouth,” is the advice of a savant, who has written a book on
the subject. Breathe through your nostrils and not through your mouth;
sleep with your mouth closed; keep it closed except when you open it for
a purpose. An open mouth indicates feebleness of character, while the
habit affects the teeth and the general health.
Don’t neglect the details of the toilet. Many persons, neat in other particulars, carry blackened finger-nails. This is disgusting. Don’t neglect the small hairs that project from the nostrils and grow about the apertures of the ears – small matters of the toilet often overlooked.
Don't bring children into company. Don't set them at table where there are guests. Don't force them on people's attention.
talk in a high shrill voice and avoid nasal tones Cultivate a chest
voice learn to moderate your tones Talk always in a low register but not
Don’t devour the last mouthful of soup, the last fragment of bread, the
last morsel of food. It is not expected that your plate should be sent
away cleansed by your gastronomic exertions.
Don't carry cane or umbrella in a crowd horizontally This is a common trick and a very annoying one to the victims of it.
Don't sit cross legged. Pretty nearly everybody of the male sex does but nevertheless don't.
Don’t be embarrassed. Endeavor to be self-possessed and at ease; to accomplish which, try and not be self-conscious. Remember that self-respect is as much a virtue as respect for others.
Don't talk about your maladies or about your afflictions of any kind Complaining people are pronounced on all hands great bores.
Don't cultivate an ornamental style of writing Don t imitate the nourishes of a writing master keep as far away from a writing master's style as possible A lady's or gentleman's handwriting should be perfectly plain and wholly free from affectations of all kinds.
Don't borrow books unless you return them promptly If you do borrow books don t injure them in any way don t bend or break the backs don t fold down the leaves don't write on the margins don t stain them with grease spots Read them but treat them as friends that must not be abused.
Don't eat peppermint in public places or ever use strong perfumes of any kind.
Don't speak ungrammatically. Study books of grammar and the writings of the best authors.
And above all . . .
Don't fail to heed all the don'ts in this little book. Perhaps you think the injunctions are not needed in your case. This is true of many of them no doubt, but the best of us are not perfect in manners any more than in anything else.
This book is available online at Google Books for your perusal where you can view it in its entirety. What are some manners that you think our modern society should consider supporting?
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