Working Girl was reorganizing her bookcase the other day (doesn’t happen often) and ran across a small, thin, blue hardback that had been a gift from a friend years ago. The title is ”The School of Manners.” Originally published in 1701, it’s a handbook advising children how to behave and was apparently widely distributed at the time.
It covers behavior at church, home, school, at the table, and “in discourse.” There’s also a neat little chapter called “Rules for Behavior in Company.” Read it and you may be amazed at how little our idea of polite behavior has changed in the last 308 years. That and the reverse–what strikes us as rude in 2009 we also found rude in 1701. It’s quite comforting, really.
Anyway, since this is a season of heightened socializing for many of us, WG decided to copy it here, as a sort of public service. It all pretty much applies to office Christmas parties, except maybe the bits about bowing. And spitting.
1. Enter not into the Company of Superiors without command or calling, nor without a bow.
2. Sit not down in presence of Superiors without bidding.
3. Put not thy hand in the presence of others to any part of thy body not ordinarily discovered.
4. Sing not nor hum in thy mouth while thou art in company.
5. Play not wantonly like a Mimick with thy Fingers or Feet.
6. Stand not wriggling with thy body hither and thither, but steady and upright.
7. In coughing or sneezing make as little noise as possible.
8. If thou cannot avoid yawning, shut thy Mouth with thine Hand or Handkerchief before it, turning thy Face aside.
9. When thou blowest thy Nose, let thy Handkerchief be used, and make not a noise in so doing.
10. Gnaw not thy Nails, pick them not, nor bite them with thy Teeth.
11. Spit not in the Room, but in a corner, and rub it out with thy Foot, or rather go out and do it abroad.
12. Lean not upon the Chair of a Superior, standing behind him.
13. Spit not upon the fire, nor sit too wide with thy Knees at it.
14. Sit not with thy legs crossed, but keep them firm and settled, and thy Feet even.
15. Turn not thy back to any, but place thy self conveniently, that none be behind thee.
16. Read not Letters, Books, nor other Writings in Company, unless there be necessity, and thou ask leave.
17. Touch not nor look upon the Books or Writing of any one, unless the Owner invite or desire thee.
18. Come not near when another Reads a Letter or Paper.
19. Let thy Countenance be moderately cheerful, neither laughing nor frowning.
20. Laugh not aloud, but silently Smile upon occasion.
21. Walking with thy Superior in the house or Garden, give him the upper or right hand, and walk not just even with him cheek by jowl, but a little behind him, yet not so distant as that it shall be troublesome to him to speak to thee, or hard for thee to hear.
22. Look not boldly or wishfully in the Face of thy Superior.
23. To look upon one in company and immediately whisper to another is unmannerly.
24. Stand not before Superiors with thine hands in thy pockets, scratch not thy Head, wink not with thine Eyes, but thine Eyes modestly looking straight before thee, and thine Hands behind thee.
25. Be not among Equals froward and fretful, but gentle and affable.
26. Whisper not in company.
May you have a gentle and affable holiday season, and may you even silently smile upon occasion. And if you ever master #21, let WG know.