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the company of your superiors : for you will be held in estimation according to the company you keep. By superiors, I do not mean so much with regard to birth, as merit, and the light in which they are considered by the world.
2. There are two sorts of good company: the one consists of persons of birth, rank and fashion; the other, of those who are distinguished by some peculiar merit, in any liberal art or science; as men of letters, &c. and a mixture of these is what I would have understood by good company; for it is not what particular sets of people shall call themselves, but what the people in general acknowledge to be so, and are the accredited good company of the place.
3. Now and then, persons without either birth, rank, or character, will creep into good company, under the protection of some considerable personage ; but in general none are admitted of mean degree, or infamous moral character.
In this fashionable good company alone, can you learn the best manners and the best language; for, as there is no legal standard to form them by, it is here they are established.
It may possibly be questioned, whether a man has it always in his power to get into good company; undoubtedly by deserving it, he has; provided he is in circumstances which enable him to live and appear in the style of a gentleman. Knowledge, modesty, and good breeding will endear him to all that see him; for without politeness the scholar is no more than a pedant, the philosopher than a cynic, the soldier than a brute, nor any man than a clown.
4. Though the company of men of learning and genius is highly to be valued, and occasionally coveted, I would by no means have you always found in such company. As they do not live in the world, they cannot have that easy manner and address which I would wish you to acquire. If you can bear a part in such company, it is certainly advisable to be in it sometimes, and you will be the more esteemed in other company by being so, but let it not engross you, lest you be considered as one of the literati, which, however respectable in name, is not the way to rise or shine in the fashionable world.
5. But the company which, of all others, you should carefully avoid, is that, which, in every sense of the word may be called low ; low in birth, low in rank, low in parts, and low in manners; that company, who insignificant and contemptible in themselves, think it an honour to be seen with you, and who will flatter your follies, nay, your very vices, to keep you with them.
6. Though you may think such a caution unnecessary, I do nos; for many a young gentleman of sense and rank has been
led by his vanity to keep such company, till he has been degraded, vilified and undone.
The vanity I mean, is that of being the first of the company. This pride, though too common, is idle to the last degree. Nothing in the world lets a man down so much. For the sake of dictating, being applauded and admired by this low company, he is disgraced and disqualified for better. Depend upon it, in the estimation of mankind, you will sink or rise to the level of the company you keep.
7. Be it then your ambition to get into the best company, and when there imitate their virtues, but not their vices.
You have, no doubt often heard of genteel and fashionable vices. These are drinking, gaming, and the like. It has happened that some men, even with these vices, have been admired and esteemed. Understand this matter rightly: it is not their vices for which they are admired; but for some accomplishments they at the same time possess; for their parts, their learning or their good breeding. Be assured, were they free from their vices, they would be much more esteemed. In these mixed characters, the bad part is overlooked, for the sake of the good.
8. Should you be unfortunate enough to have any vices of your own, add not to their number by adopting the vices of others. Vices of adoption are of all others the most unpardonable, for they have not inadvertency to plead. If people had no vices but their own, few would have so many as they have.
Imitate then, only the perfections, you meet with ; copy the politeness, the address, the easy manners of well bred people ; and remeniber, let them shine ever so bright, if they have any. vices, they are so many blemishes which it would be as ridiculous to imitate, as it would to make an artificial wart upon one's face, because some very handsome man had the misfortune to kave a natural one upon his.
far from inconsiderable. Of these laughter is one.
Frequent and loud laughter is a sure sign of a weak mind, and no less characteristic of a low education. It is the manner in which low bred men express their silly joy, at silly things, and they call it being merry. 2. I do not recommend upon all occasions a solemn counte
A man may smile ; but if he would be thought a gentlemen and a man of sense he should by no means laugh. True wit never yet made a man of fashion laugh; he is above it. It may create a smile; but as loud laughter shews that a man has
mot the command of himself, every one who would wish to appear sensible, must abhor it.
A man's going to sit down, on a supposition that he has a chair behind him, and falling for want of one, occasions a general laugh when the best piece of wit would not do it; a sufficient proof how low and unbecoming laughter is.
3. Besides could the immoderate laugher hear his own noise, or see the faces he makes, he would despise himself for his folly. Laughter being generally supposed to be the effect of gaiety, its absurdity is not properly attended to: but a little reflection will easily restrain it, and when you are told, it is a mark of low breeding, I persuade myself you will endeavour to avoid it.
4. Some people have a silly trick of laughing, whenever they speak; so that they are ever on the grin, and their faces are ever distorted. This and a thousand other tricks such as scratching their heads, twirling their hats, fumbling with their buttons, playing with their fingers, &c. are acquired from a false modesiy at their first outset in life. Being shamed-faced in company, they try a variety of ways to keep themselves in countenance; thus, they fall into those awkward habits I have mentioned, which grow upon them, and in time become habitual.
Nothing is more repugnant likewise to good breeding than horse-play of any sort, romping, throwing things at one another's heads, and so on. They may pass well enough with the mob, but they lessen, and degrade the gentleman.
Sundry little Accomplishments. HAVE had reason to observe before, that various little matters, apparently trifling in themselves, conspire to form the whole of pleasing, as in a well finished portrait a variety of colours combine to complete the piece. It not being necessary to dwell much upon them, I shall content myself with just mentioning them as they occur.
2. To do the honours of a table gracefully, is one of the outlines of a well bred man; and to carve well, is an article, little
may seem, that is useful twice every day, and the doing of which ill is not only troublesome to one's self, but renders us disagreeable and ridiculous to others. We are always in pain for a man, who, instead of cutting up a fowl genteely, is hacking for half an hour across the bone, greasing himself, and bespattering the company with the sauce. Use with a little attention, is all that is requisite to acquit yourself well in this particular.
3. To be well received, you must also pay some attention to your behaviour at table where it is exceedingly rude to scratch any part of your body, to spit, or blow your nose if you can possibly avoid it, to eat greedily, to lean your elbows on the table, to pick your teeth before the dishes are removed, or to leave the table before grace is said.
4. Drinking of healths is now growing out of fashion, and is very unpolite in good company. Custom once had made it universal, but the improved manners of the age now render it vul: gar. What can be more rude or ridiculous than to interrupt persons at their meals, with an unnecessary compliment ? Abstain then from this silly custom, where you find it out of use; and use it only at those tables where it continues general.
5. A polite manner of refusing to comply with the solicitations of a
company is also very necessary to be learnt, for a young man who seems to have no will of his own, but does every thing that is asked of him, may be a very good natured fellow, but he is a very silly one. If you are invited to drink, at any man's house, more than you think is wholesome, you may say, you wish you could, but that so little makes you both drunk and sick, that you shall only be bad company by doing it : of course, beg to be excused."
6. To write well and correct, and in a pleasing style, is another part of polite education. Every man who has the use of his
eyes and his right hand, can write whatever hand he pleases. Nothing is so illiberal as a school-boy's scrawl. I would not have you
learn stiff formal hand writing, like that of a schoolmaster, but a genteel legible, and liberal hand, and to be able to write quick. As to the correctness and elegancy of your writing, attention to grammar does the one, and to the best authors, the other. Epistolary correspondence should not be carried on in a studied or affected style, but the language should flow from the pen, as naturally and as easily as it would from the mouth. In short, a letter should be penned in the same style as you would talk to your friend, if he were present.
7. If writing well shews the gentleman, much more so does spelling well. It is so essentially necessary for a gentleman, or a man of letters, that one false spelling may fix a ridicule on him for the remainder of his life. Words in books are generally well spelled, according to the orthography of the age; reading therefore with attention will teach every one to spell right. It sometimes happens that words shall be spelled differently by different authors, but, if you spell them upon the authority of one in estimation of the public, you escape ridicule. Where there is but one way of spelling a word, by your spelling it wrong, you will be sure to be laughed at. For a woman of a tolerable education would laugh at and despise her lover, if he wrote to her, and the words were ill spelled. Be particularly attentive then to your spelling.
8. There is notking that a man at his first appearance in life
ought more to dread than having any ridicule fixed on him. In the estimation even of the most rational men, it will lessen him, but ruin him with all the rest. Many a man has been undone by a ridiculous nick-name. The causes of nick-names among wellbred men, are generally the little defects in manners, air, or address. To have the appellation of ill-bred, awkward, muttering, left-legged, or any other tacked always to your name, would injure you more than you are aware of; avoid then these little defects (and they are easily avoided) and you need never fear a pick-name.
9. Some young men are apt to think, that they cannot be complete gentlemen, without becoming men of pleasure. A rake is made up of the meanest and most disgraceful vices. They all combine to degrade his character, and ruin his health and fortune. A man of pleasure will refine upon the enjoyments of the age, attend them with decency, and partake of them becomingly.
10. Indeed, he is too often less scrupulous than he should be, and frequently has cause to repent it. A man of pleasure, at best is but a dissipated being, and what the rational part of mankind must abhor; I mention it however, lest in taking up the man of pleasure, you should fall into the rake; for of two evils always choose the least. A dissolute, flagitious footman may make as good a rake as a man of the first quality. Few men can be men of pleasure, every man may be a rake.
11. There is a certain dignity that should be preserved in all our pleasures; in love, a man may loose his heart, without loosing his nose: at table a man may have a distinguished palate, without being a glutton: he may love wine, without being a drunkard; he may game without being a gambler, and so on.
12. Every virtue has its kindred vice and every pleasure its neighbouring disgrace. Temperance and moderation mark the gentleman: but excess the blackguard. Attend carefully, then, to the line that divides them; and remember, stop rather a yard short, than step an inch beyond it. Weigh the present enjoyment of your pleasures against the necessary consequences of them, and I will leave you to your own determination.
13. A gentleman has ever some regard also to the choice of his amusements. If at cards, he will not be seen at cribbage, all fours, or putt; or in sports of exercise, at skittles, foot-ball, leap-frog, cricket, driving of coaches, &c. but will preserve a propriety in every part of his conduct; knowing that their imi. tation of the manners of the mob, will unavoidably stamp him with vulgarity. There is another amusement too, which I cannot help calling illiberal, that is, playing upon any musical instrument.
14. Music is commonly reckoned one of the liberal arts, and