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three years with the same pen, and that it was an excellent good one still.
A certain degree of exterior seriousness in looks and motions gives dignity, without excluding wit and decent cheerfulness, which are always serious themselves. A constant smirk upon the face, and a whiffling activity of the body, are strong indications of futility. Whoever is in a hurry, shows that the thing he is about is too big for him. Haste and hurry are very different things.
I have only mentioned some of those things which may, and do, in the opinion of the world, lower and sink characters, in other respects valuable enough ; but I have taken no notice of those that affect and sink the moral characters. They are sufficiently obvious. A man who has patiently been kicked, may as well pretend to courage, as a man blasted by vices and crimes, to dignity of any kind. But an exterior decency and dignity of manners will even keep such a man longer from sinking, than otherwise he would be : of such consequence is decorum, even though affected and put on!
A VULGAR, ordinary way of thinking, acting, or speaking, implies a low education, and a habit of low company. Young people contract it at school, or among servants, with whom they are too often used to converse; but, after they frequent good company, they must want attention and observation very much, if they do not lay it quite aside. And indeed if they do not, good company will be very apt to lay them aside. The various kinds of vulgarisms are infinite: I cannot pretend to point them out to you; but I will give some samples, by which you may guess at the rest.
A vulgar man is captious and jealous; eager and impetuous about trifles. He suspects himself to be slighted, thinks every thing that is said meant at him: if the company happen to laugh, he is persuaded they laugh at him; he grows angry and testy; says something very impertinent, and draws himself into a scrape, by showing what he calls a proper spirit, and asserting himself. A well-bred man does not suppose
himself to be either the sole or principal object of the thoughts, looks, or words of the company; and never suspects that he is either slighted or laughed at, unless he is conscious that he deserves it. And if (which very seldom happens) the company is absurd or ill-bred enough to do either, he does not care twopence, unless the insult be so gross and plain as to require satisfaction of another kind. As he is above trifles, he is never vehement and eager
about them; and wherever they are concerned, rather acquiesces than wrangles. A vulgar man's conversation always savours strongly of the lowness of his education and company. It turns chiefly upon his domestic affairs, his servants, the excellent order he keeps in his own family, and the little anecdotes of the neighbourhood; all which he relates with emphasis, as interesting matters. He is a man gossip.
Vulgarism in language is the next and distinguishing characteristic of bad company, and a bad education. A man of fashion avoids nothing with more care than this. Proverbial expressions and trite sayings are the flowers of the rhetoric of a vulgar man. Would he say, that men differ in their tastes; he both supports and adorns that opinion, by the good old saying, as he respectfully calls it, that “what is one man's meat is another man's poison.” If anybcdy attempts being smart, as he calls it, upon him; he gives them tit for tat, ay, that he does. He has always some favourite word for the time being; which, for the sake of using often, he commonly abuses. Such as, vastly angry, vastly kind, vastly handsome, and vastly ugly. Even his pronunciation of proper words carries the mark of the beast along with it. He calls the earth yearth; he is obleeged, not obliged to you. He goes to wards and not towards such a place. He sometimes affects hard words, by way of orna
ment, which he always mangles. A well-bred man 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 caught 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 encumbrances 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.
XIII.-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 self-denial 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 anybody, 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 circumstances; and are only to be acquired by observation and experience; but the substance of it is everywhere and eternally the same. Good manners are, to particular societies, what good morals are to society in generaltheir 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 invavies another's property, is justly hanged for it; and the ill-bred man, who, by his ill manners, invades and disturbs the quiet and comforts of private life, is by common consent as justly banished society. Mutual complaisance, attentions, 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 manner of showing that respect which is different. The man of fashion and of the world, expresses it in its full 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 company that he respected. In such companies, therefore, the only point to be attended to is, to show that respect, which everybody 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 principal 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 wo 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 contrary, 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