Washington’s Manners. Pt. I
So here’s the deal. I was on the Colonial Williamsburg website and found a list of 104 rules of etiquette, as written by George Washington when he was fifteen years old. I find them interesting in several ways. First, they show some manners that modern society has sadly lost. Second, they show the way people in the 18th century wrote. Third, some of them give clues into things that we find bizarre/disgusting/quaint but were obviously common back then. So here they are…and I couldn’t possibly keep myself from commenting.
1st Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.
Read back a blog or two from me, and see if we still do that. Ever.
2d When in Company, put not your Hands to any Part of the Body, not usualy Discovered.
“He handles the ball more than Wilt Chamberlain!!” Yeah, this’d be nice, wouldn’t it?
3d Shew Nothing to your Freind that may affright him.
4th In the Presence of Others Sing not to yourself with a humming Noise, nor Drum with your Fingers or Feet.
5th If You Cough, Sneeze, Sigh, or Yawn, do it not Loud but Privately; and Speak not in your Yawning, but put Your handkercheif or Hand before your face and turn aside.
6th Sleep not when others Speak, Sit not when others stand, Speak not when you Should hold your Peace, walk not on when others Stop.
7th Put not off your Cloths in the presence of Others, nor go out your Chamber half Drest.
Now, I’m all for this rule being broken by certain people…Coming to mind are, I dunno…Carmen Electra, my cousin-in-law’s girlfriend, you know. I do sort of miss the days when men wore suits and hats outside…not jogging shorts and tanktops.
8th At Play and at Fire its Good manners to Give Place to the last Commer, and affect not to Speak Louder than Ordinary.
Oh good lord…give people room to sit, and don’t talk over others? Heresy I say!!
9th Spit not in the Fire, nor Stoop low before it neither Put your Hands into the Flames to warm them, nor Set your Feet upon the Fire especially if there be meat before it.
10th When you Sit down, Keep your Feet firm and Even, without putting one on the other or Crossing them.
11th Shift not yourself in the Sight of others nor Gnaw your nails.
12th Shake not the head, Feet, or Legs rowl not the Eys lift not one eyebrow higher than the other wry not the mouth, and bedew no mans face with your Spittle, by approaching too near him when you Speak.
Yeah, I’m all for not spitting when we talk…this one has been shortened to “say it, don’t spray it,” in our typically vulgar Western vernacular.
13th Kill no Vermin as Fleas, lice ticks &c in the Sight of Others, if you See any filth or thick Spittle put your foot Dexteriously upon it if it be upon the Cloths of your Companions, Put it off privately, and if it be upon your own Cloths return Thanks to him who puts it off.
Okay, this one raises my eyebrow as it gives us a glimpse back to pre-Revolutionary times…were fleas and lice so common as to be found on the most respectable people? Wow.
14th Turn not your Back to others especially in Speaking, Jog not the Table or Desk on which Another reads or writes, lean not upon any one.
15th Keep your Nails clean and Short, also your Hands and Teeth Clean yet without Shewing any great Concern for them.
16th Do not Puff up the Cheeks, Loll not out the tongue rub the Hands, or beard, thrust out the lips, or bite them or keep the Lips too open or too Close.
Loll out the tongue? Bleahhhhh…
17th Be no Flatterer, neither Play with any that delights not to be Play’d Withal.
18th Read no Letters, Books, or Papers in Company but when there is a Necessity for the doing of it you must ask leave: come not near the Books or Writings of Another so as to read them unless desired or give your opinion of them unask’d also look not nigh when another is writing a Letter.
Yes! Put the crap down! Don’t watch me when I write! So true then, so true now!!
19th let your Countenance be pleasant but in Serious Matters Somewhat grave.
21st: Reproach none for the Infirmaties of Nature, nor Delight to Put them that have in mind thereof.
Yeah. Take that, Americans With Disabilities Act. What? You mean don’t stare at wheelchairs and prosthetics and actually treat cripples like real people? Wow!
22d Shew not yourself glad at the Misfortune of another though he were your enemy.
Something else we would do well to return to.
23d When you see a Crime punished, you may be inwardly Pleased; but always shew Pity to the Suffering Offender.
I love this one. “you may be inwardly pleased.” It kills me. Of course, the method of punishment back then was probably the stocks or pillory in the town square.
24th Do not laugh too loud or too much at any Publick Spectacle.
Again, “Publick Spectacle” probably means the pillory in the town square, where people can huck rotten tomatoes at thieves.
25th Superfluous Complements and all Affectation of Ceremonie are to be avoided, yet where due they are not to be Neglected.
So saying “Oh, your hair looks GOOD” is bad…unless the hair actually looks good, then say something like…”Oh, your hair looks GOOD!” Yes? No?
26th In Pulling off your Hat to Persons of Distinction, as Noblemen, Justices, Churchmen &c make a Reverence, bowing more or less according to the Custom of the Better Bred, and Quality of the Person. Amongst your equals expect not always that they Should begin with you first, but to Pull off the Hat when there is no need is Affectation, in the Manner of Saluting and resaluting in words keep to the most usual Custom.
This is where the concept of class, status and aristocracy shows up in Washington’s rules. It’s a totally lost concept in America anymore.
27th Tis ill manners to bid one more eminent than yourself be covered as well as not to do it to whom it’s due Likewise he that makes too much haste to Put on his hat does not well, yet he ought to Put it on at the first, or at most the Second time of being ask’d; now what is herein Spoken, of Qualification in behaviour in Saluting, ought also to be observed in taking of Place, and Sitting down for ceremonies without Bounds is troublesome.
Again, the concept of “one more eminent than yourself”
28th If any one come to Speak to you while you are are Sitting Stand up tho he be your Inferiour, and when you Present Seats let it be to every one according to his Degree.
So don’t rock back in your office chair and fold your arms?
29th When you meet with one of Greater Quality than yourself, Stop, and retire especially if it be at a Door or any Straight place to give way for him to Pass.
This one kills me, too. The whole concept of “one of Greater Quality than yourself” is just to totally alien today. In fact, how many times have you smelled chicken soup, turned around to find a filthy guy wearing an Arctic Cat coat who glares at you and belches out “Whut you lookin’ at? Yew ain’t no better’n me!” We have maybe overdone the equality thing in this country.
30th In walking the highest Place in most Countrys Seems to be on the right hand therefore Place yourself on the left of him whom you desire to Honour: but if three walk together the middest Place is the most Honourable the wall is usually given to the most worthy if two walk together.
There’s just nothing comparable to this today. Maybe in World of Warcraft??
31st If any one far Surpassess others, either in age, Estate, or Merit yet would give Place to a meaner than himself in his own lodging or elsewhere the one ought not to except it, So he on the other part should not use much earnestness nor offer it above once or twice.
It’s the whole “yeah, I offered but I was only being polite” thing that we’re all told NOT to do by our mothers. “Do you need a place to stay?” “No thanks.” “You sure?” “I’m sure.” …aaaand done. But moreover, the concept of refusing an offer because you’re not worthy? Again Wow.
32d: To one that is your equal, or not much inferior you are to give the cheif Place in your Lodging and he to who ’tis offered ought at the first to refuse it but at the Second to accept though not without acknowledging his own unworthiness.
And we see that again…but this time it’s the “no, I really can’t…..awww okay then, but you really shouldn’t have.” How circuitous, really.
33d They that are in Dignity or in office have in all places Preceedency but whilst they are Young they ought to respect those that are their equals in Birth or other Qualitys, though they have no Publick charge.
So, respect your elders…even if your daddy is the governor?
34th It is good Manners to prefer them to whom we Speak before ourselves especially if they be above us with whom in no Sort we ought to begin.
We still try to teach our children to refer to others first.
I’ll try to post more of these later. As for now, I have to go be a father.
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Current mood: drunk
Well, we’re buying the house that we’re currently renting. We’ve been jumping at the whim of the mortgage underwriter (whom I suspect is really a monkey) for the last month, but we’re finally going to close next week. What I find amazing is the change in attitude of our landlord toward us, once she found out she’s going to be getting a check for $100,000+ from us. She’s been so friendly that I want to puke. It’s transparent, it really is. She has “avarice” written on her forehead.
So next weekend we’ll own this dump. It’s been trashed by four years of renters — I guess trashed is a bit strong, really. It has the collective dinge of four years of renters. Every wall has dinge. And the whole place is brown. Brown counters, brown floors, and carpets, and walls — the walls are especially hideous, the paint is a nasty brown, orange, tan, pink mess, depending on how the light hits it.
All that’s going to change. We have plans to make this into our French Country / Cottage style retreat from the world. There’s white wainscoting in the works, as well as a sunny yellow entryway, earthy green living room, chair rail, hardwood floors, and cream-colored carpet. Eventually, anyway, this place will be nice.
And on that note, I need to get more ‘Tis Red wine in my glass, my buzz is wearing off.
Currently listening :
Bleed It Out
By Linkin Park
Release date: 10 September, 2007
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