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disgrace of good breeding, as brutality often is of truth and sin, cerity. Good breeding is the middle point between those two odious extremes.
Ceremony is the superstition of good breeding, as well as of religion; but yet being an out-work to both, should not be absolutely demolished. It is always, to a certain degree, to be complied with, though despised by those who think, because admired and respected by those who do not.
The most perfect degree of good breeding, as I have already hinted, is only to be acquired by great knowledge of the world and keeping the best company. It is not the object of mere speculation, and cannot be exactly defined, as it consists in a fitness, in a propriety of words, actions, and even looks, adapted to the infinite variety and combinations of persons, places and things. It is a mode, not a substance; for what is good breeding at St. James's, would pass for foppery or banter in a remote village ; and the homespun civility of that village would be considered as brutality at court.
6. A cloistered pedant may form true notions of civility; but ifamidst the cobwebs of his cell he pretends to spin a speculative system of good breeding, he will not be less absurd than his prer decessor, who judiciously undertook to instruct Hannibal in the art of war. The most ridiculous and most aukward of men are, therefore, the speculatively well bred monks of all religions and all professions.
7. Good breeding, like charity, not only covers a multitude of faults, but, to a certain degree, supplies the want of some vir- , tues. In the common intercourse of life, it acts good natured, and often does what good nature will not always do: it keeps both wits and fools within those bounds of decency, which the former are too apt to transgress, and which the latter never knew. Courts are unquestionably the seats of good breeding, and must necessarily be so; otherwise they would be the seats of violence and dissolution. There all the passions are in their highest state of fermentation.
8. All pursue what but few can obtain, and many seek what but one can enjoy. Good breeding alone restrains their excesses. There, if enemies did not embrace, they would stab. There, smiles are often.put on to conceal tears. There, mutual servi. ces are professed, while mutual injuries are intended; and there, to guide all the serpent simulations the gentleness of the dove : all this, it is true, at the expense of sincerity, but upon the whole, to the advantage of social intercourse in general.
9. I would not be misapprehended, and supposed to recommend good breeding, thus profaned and prostituted to the pura poses of guilt and perfidy ; but I think I may justly infer
from it, to what a degree the accomplishment of good breeding must adorn and enforce virtue and truth when it can thus soften the outrages and deformity of vice, and falsehood. I am sorry to be obliged to confess, that my native country is not perhaps the seat of the most perfect good breeding, though I really believe that it-zields to none in hearty and sincere civility, as far as civility is (and to a certain degree it is) an inferior moral duty of eloing as one would be done by.
10. If France exceeds us in that particular, the incomparable author of L'Esprit des Loix accounts for it very impartially, and I believe very truly. "If my countrymen," says he, “are the best bred people in the world, it is only because they are the vainest." It is certain that their good breeding and attentions, by flattering the vanity and self-love of others, repay their own with interest. It is a general commerce, usefully carried on by a barter of attentions, and often without one grain of solid merit, by way of medium, to make up the balance.
11. It were to be wished that good breeding were in general thought a more essential part in the education of our youth, especially, of distinction, than at present it seems to be. It might evep be substituted in the room of some academical studies, that take up a great deal of time to very little purpose; or, at least, it might usefully share some of those many hours, that are so frequently employed upon a crach-box, or in stables. Surely those, who by their rank and fortune are called to adorn courts, ought at least not to disgrace them by their manners.
12. But I observe with concern, that it is the fashion for our youth of both sexes to brand good breeding with the name of ceremony and formality. As such they ridicule and explode it, and adopt in its stead, an offensive carelessness and inattention, to the diminution, I will venture to say, even of their own pleasures, if they know what true pleasures are. Love and friendşhip necessarily produce, and justly authorise familiarity; but then good breeding must mark out its bounds, and say, thus far shali thou go, and no farther ; for I have known many a passion and many a friendship, degraded, weakened, and at last (if I may use the expression) wholly flattered away by an unguarded and illiberal familiarity.
13. Nor is good breeding less the ornament and cement of common social life: it connects, it endears, and at the same time that it indulges the just liberty, restrains that indecent licentiousness of conversation, which alienates and provokes. Great talents make a man famous, great merit makes him respected, and great learning makes him esteemed; but good breeding alone can make him beloved. 14. I recommend it in a more particular manner to my coun.
try-women, as the greatest ornament to such of them as have beauty, and the safest refuge for those who have not. It facilitates the victories, decorates the triumphs and secures the conquest of beauty; or in some degree atones for the want of it. It almost deifies a fine woman, and secures respect at least to those who have not charms enough to be admired. Upon the whole, though good breeding cannot, (strictly speaking) be called a virtue, yet it is productive of so many good effects, that in my opinion, it may be justly reckoned more than a mere accomplishment.
WORLD, No. 143. Further remarks, taken from Lord Chesterfield's letters to his
Son. 15. GOOD BREEDING has been very justly defined to be 6 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.”
Good breeding alone can prepossess people in our favour at first sight; more time being necessary to discover greater talents. Good breeding, however, does not consist in low bows, and formal ceremony; but in an easy, civil, and respectful behaviour.
16. Indeed, good sense, in many cases, must determine good breeding ; for what would be civil at one time, and to one per-son, would be rude at another time, and to another person : there are, however, some general rules of good breeding. As for example ; to answer only yes, or no, to any person, without adding sir, my lord, or madam, (as it may happen) is always extremely rude; and it is equally so not to give proper attention and a civil answer, when spoken' to : such behaviour convinces the person who is speaking to us, that we despise him, and do not think him worthy of our intention or answer.
17, A well bred person will take care to answer with complis sance when he is spoken to? will place himself at the lower end of the table, unless bid to go higher; will first drink to the lady of the house, and then to the master; he will not eat awkwardly or dirtily, nor sit when others stand; and he will do all this with an air of complaisance, and not with a grave ill-natured look, as if he did it all unwillingly.
18. There is nothing more difficult to attain, or so necesary to possess, as perfect good breeding; which is equally inconsistent with a stiff formality, and impertinent forwardness, and an awkward bashfulness. A little ceremony is sometimes necessary; a certain degree of firmness is absolutely so; and an outward modesty is extremely becoming.
19. Virtue and learning, like gold, have their intrinsic value; but if they are not polished, they certainly loose a great deal of their lustre; and even polished brass will pass upon more people than rough gold.
My Lord Bacon says, " that a pleasing figure is a perpetual letter of recommendation." It is certainly an agreeable forerunner of merit, and smooths the way for it.
20. A man of good breeding should be acquainted with the forms and particular customs of courts.
At Vienna men always make courtesies, instead of bows, to the emperor; in France nobody bows to the king, or kisses his hand, but in Spain and England bows are made and hands are kissed. court has some peculiarity, which those who visit them ought previously to ipform themselves of, to avoid blunders and awkwardness.
21. Very few, scarce any, are wanting in the respect which they should shew to those whom they acknowledge to be infinitely their superiors. 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 company that he respected. In such companies, therefore, the only point to be attended to is, to shew that respect, which every body means to shew, in an casy, unembarrassed, and graceful manner.
22. 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 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 shew him by a manifest inattention to what he says, that you think him a fool or a blockhead, and not worth hearing.
23. 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
You must never usurp to yourself those conveniencies and agremens 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 common right.
24. The third sort of good breeding is local, and is variously modified, in not only different countries but in different towns in the same country. But it must be founded upon the two former sorts; they are the matter, to which in this case, fashion and custom only give tire different strapes and impressions. Whoev
or has the two first sorts will easily acquire this third sort of good breeding which depends singly upon attention and observation. It is properly the polish, the lustre, the last finishing stroke of good breeding. A man of sense, therefore carefully attends to the local manners of the respective places where he is, and takes for his models those persons, whom he observes to be at the head of the fashion and good breeding.
25. He watches how they address themselves to their superiors, how they accost their equals, and how they treat their inferiors: and lets none of those little niceties escape him ; which are to good breeding, what the last delicate and masterly touches are to a good picture, and which the vulgar have no notion of, but by which good judges distinguish the master. He attends even to their airs, dress and motions, and imitates them liberally, and not servilely, he copies but does not mimic. These personal graces are of very great consequence. They anticipate the sentiments before merit can engage the understanding ; they cap. tivate the heart, and give rise, I believe, to the extravagant notions of charms and philters. Their effects were so surprising: that they were reckoned supernatural.
26. In short, as it is necessary to possess learning, honour and virtue, to gain the esteem and admiration of mankind, so politeness and good breeding are equally necessary to render us agreeable in conversation and common life. Great talents are above the generality of the world, who neither possess them selves, nor are competent judges of them in others; but all are judges of the lesser talents, such as civility, affability, and an agreeable address and manner: because they feel the good effects of them, as making society easy and agreeable.
To conclude: be assured that the profoundest learning, without good breeding, is unwelcome and tiresome pedantry, that a man who is not perfectly well bred, is unfit for company, and unwelcome in it; and that a man who is not well bred, is full as unfit for business as for company.
Make, then, good breeding the great object of your thoughts and actions. Observe carefully the behaviour and manners of those who are distinguished by their good breeding; imitate, nay, endeavour to excel, that you may at least reach them : and • be convinced that good breeding is to all worldly qualifications, what charity is to all christian virtues. Observe how it adorns merit, and how often it covers the want of it.
wholly free from those ill habits and awkward actions. which many very worthy persons are addicted to,