Contents

“True Christian politeness will always be the result of an unselfish regard for the feelings of others, and though you may err in the ceremonious points of etiquette, you will never be impolite.”



“If you wish to be a well-bred lady, you must carry your good manners everywhere with you. It is not a thing that can be laid aside. True politeness is uniform disinterestedness trifles, accompanied by the calm self-possession which belongs to a noble simplicity of purpose; and this must be the effect of a Christian spirit running through all you do, or say, or think; and, unless you cultivate it and exercise it, upon all occasions and towards all persons, it will never be a part of yourself.”

The Ladies Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness

Author: Florence Hartley Published: 1860

Introduction


Chapter I.

Conversation

Chapter II.

Dress

Chapter III.

Traveling

Chapter IV.

How to Behave at a Hotel

Chapter V.

EVENING Parties--etiquette for the Hostess

Chapter VI.

EVENING Parties--etiquette for the Guest

Chapter VII.

Visiting--etiquette for the Hostess

Chapter VIII.

Visiting--etiquette for the Guest

Chapter IX.

MORNING RECEPTIONS OR Calls--etiquette for the Hostess

Chapter X.

MORNING RECEPTIONS OR Calls--etiquette for the Caller

Chapter XI.

DINNER Company--etiquette for the Hostess

Chapter XII.

DINNER Company--etiquette for the Guest

Chapter XIII.

Table Etiquette

Chapter XIV.

Conduct in the Street

Chapter XV.

Letter Writing

Chapter XVI.

Polite Deportment and Good Habits

Chapter XVII.

Conduct in Church

Chapter XVIII.

BALL ROOM Etiquette--for the Hostess

Chapter XIX.

BALL ROOM Etiquette--for the Guest

Chapter XX.

Places of Amusement

Chapter XXI.

Accomplishments

Chapter XXII.

Servants

Chapter XXIII.

On a Young Lady's Conduct When Contemplating Marriage

Chapter XXIV.

Bridal Etiquette

Chapter XXV.

Hints on Health

Chapter XXVI.

Miscellaneous

Receipts

For the Complexion




CHAPTER XXIII.

ON A YOUNG LADY'S CONDUCT WHEN CONTEMPLATING MARRIAGE.

The following chapter, met with in a recent perusal of an English work for young ladies, strikes me as so admirable, and so appropriate in this place, that I quote the chapter entire:

"The difficulties and trials of life have only just begun when a young lady fancies herself to be of sufficient importance to become the theme of animadversion. She knows little of the true importance of self-control, until she experiences the first indications of preference shown her by the other sex.

"Such indications are often manifested, whilst she to whom they are directed, is wholly unprepared to analyze her own feelings, before her opinions upon what she has seen are by any means developed; before she has even considered adequately, on what her happiness depends; before she has discernment to reject what is frivolous, or wisdom to prefer what is good. This is more especially the case in the highest and lowest classes, in which, by a strange analogy, they either rush into the marriage state whilst children, or wait until the bloom and hopes of youth have forever passed away, in order to form interested matches. The matured period of five-and-twenty to thirty, is passed by the lower classes in the single state in labor to gain subsistence; after thirty, or even forty, we often find them marrying. But the majority have sealed their own fate before the age of twenty.

"In high life, the same haste to dispose of daughters prevails as among the lowest classes. At seventeen, most of our belles of fashion expect to receive proposals. If they do not marry within a few years after their introduction, they have a mortified sense of having lost time--that the expectations of friends and of parents have not been fulfilled; that others have 'gone off' before them. The next ten years are often a period of subdued vexation, and the sweetness and contentment of the original character is impaired. About seven or eight and twenty, the views of life are sobered--the expectations chastened--a renovation takes place--women again become agreeable; their minds must in the lapse of time, even with a miserable store of observation, have improved. They then often marry--and, if the union be not a mere effort of despair, if it be based on sound and holy principles, and on good sense, there is, for both parties engaged, a great likelihood of happiness.

"But, it may be naturally contended, that there come not to all young ladies the opportunities of which I write; that indications of preference arrive not to all. I am inclined to believe that, with good temper, pleasing manners, and respectable connections, there exists, in modern society, very few young ladies who have not received under various circumstances, some marks of preference, more or less decided. Beauty and plainness are arbitrary, not positive, terms. Unless there be any actual deformity, any great infirmity, in which case I think it were cruel to pre-suppose the likelihood of such indications, there is no one, that I hardly ever met with, who has not had, on some grounds, her partizans and admirers. The plain are often particularized as elegant; tastes vary: even a sour look I have heard admired as sensible, cold manners eulogized as correct. Opinion, however it may generally verge to the correct, springs from so many sources, it is so governed by association of ideas, such trifles may guide it, that I am never surprised at the latitude given to personal encomium nor at the endless variety and incongruity of human judgment. It is well that all have a chance of being approved, admired, beloved, and it remains for them to avail themselves of those possibilities which contribute so much to happiness. For we are sympathizing beings, and a law of our nature makes us look for a return of sympathy. We are sent here to form ties, and to love, and to be loved, whether the term applies to parental, or filial, or fraternal love--or whether it respects the less sure and more fitful experiences of love, in its ordinary sense.

"I do not blame the parents who instil into their children of both sexes a desire to be married. I think those who teach the young a different lesson deceive them. Marriage, with all its chances, its infelicities, its sacrifices, is seldom so infelicitous, so uncertain, so full of sacrifice, as the single state. Life must have some objects, and those objects must be progressive. The mind is happier and healthier with such interests, even if sorrow comes along with them, than in its solitude, its desolate freedom from care, when having, as the phrase is, no troubles of the conjugal sort to disturb its tranquillity. I therefore do not censure those who desire to see their daughters happily and suitably established in life. It is the indiscreet and vulgar haste, the indelicacy, the low mercenary views, and the equally low ambition to compass a splendid match, which is blameable and revolting in the parental conduct.

"Many are, however, blessed with guides and guardians of very different characters; with parents, whose lofty natures not only reject such unworthy notions, but somewhat incline to the extreme of repelling all advances for their daughters. In either case, the conduct of a young lady may be the same. It is she who must form her own destiny in points on which none can effectually aid her. It is she who is to be the happy wife, or the wretched victim; and it is to her that these observations of admonition and of warning are addressed. Let us suppose her young, of course, attractive in appearance, of good birth, and some fortune. I here except heiresses, who, being anomalies, deserve a particular paragraph for themselves. But let us suppose that no obstacle of family or connection interferes to check the approach of a suitor.

"The eyes of her family and of her young friends are upon her, when a young lady receives the first indications of preference. She is generally ashamed of it. This is the first sentiment of a modest and ingenuous mind, and it is one indication, in my opinion, of the impropriety of early marriages. Nature seems still to wish to keep the young and blushing girl apart from that connection which entails grave and arduous duties. But Nature's voice is far less often heard than that of her adversary, expediency. I must, therefore, shape my injunctions to that which exists, not to that which we would wish to exist.

"Almost sinking under this painful sense of shame, this novel disturbance of her usual set of feelings, a young girl catches at the first reed to save herself from observation and detection. I mean detection of her perception of that which others may or may not see. She seizes upon ridicule. She pretends to laugh at one, whom sometimes her youthful romantic fancy dwells upon in a very different sense. She laughs at the foibles, supposed or real, of her admirer: she plays a dangerous game. If any of those to whom she imparts her witticisms are malevolently disposed or thoughtless, she runs a risk either of wounding the feelings of a man whom she does not like, or of losing the regard of one whom she might in time not only esteem, but love.

"Another effect of such attentions as awaken a consciousness in a young lady's mind, is the gratification of vanity, perhaps until then latent in her heart. The first preference is apt to upset the reason of its object as of him who shows it. The word vanity does not seem to imply danger. Vanity is generally considered an innocent failing; but it is innocent only as some kinds of food are to a healthy subject. On a weak, or even on an inexperienced mind, it acts, sometimes, fatally for the vain. A girl is either carried away by admiration so as to be flippant and foolish, or she is blinded by her vanity to the failings of the man who first admires her. She is intoxicated with the notion of an offer of marriage; she imagines, in her simplicity, effervesced as it is by the infusion of flattered vanity, that she has inspired such an attachment as will never be recovered, should she prove adverse to it. Many an engagement has been formed under this conviction, and fulfilled only to prove its fallacy, for the love which was supposed too strong to survive disappointment, has expired in the fruition of its hopes.

"To guard against either of these risks to happiness, a well-educated girl should endeavor, in this, to exercise her judgment. She should be sincere. She is blameable to ridicule the attentions which are meant as complimentary to her. They ought to be at least regarded with respect.

"Should they not be acceptable, she is inexcusable to requite them with levity and disdain. Let her reflect how she would like such conduct herself. Besides, she is often making a bitter enemy; perhaps she is exciting fierce and unamiable sentiments in one who otherwise might have been regarded as a mild and worthy individual. Let her be undeceived if she supposes that in thus doing she is carrying herself with dignity, or acquiring any added admiration from others. She ceases, in thus acting, to support the characteristics of a gentlewoman, which are mildness, courtesy, and reserve. If she cherishes, in spite of her pretended disgust, a secret partiality for the individual who distinguishes her, if she is lowering the esteem of a man whom she prefers, she not only incurs the hazard of losing his regard, but she is scattering ridicule on one whom she afterwards avows as her choice. In that case, she is lowering herself, or she is sowing the seeds of distrust in the minds of those who know her--she is, perhaps, frustrating and delaying her own happiness. Let her act with candor, with consideration, with good sense, and all this web which her folly would weave around her will not embarrass her. Let her not madly and obstinately resist the advice of those on whose affection to her, and on whose good judgment, experience has taught her to rely. Let her be a child in nothing except humility; let her listen to counsels; yet her own heart must decide for her--none can know so well as herself its secret throbs, or the impression of dislike or of regard which has been made upon it.

"I am, I confess, an enemy to trying to like a person, as I have rarely seen such a mental process end in happiness to either party. If an advantageous proposal offer itself, it is wiser decidedly to refuse it, than to trust to the slow growth of affection, upon a foundation of original dislike. And the trials of married life are such,--its temptations to irritability and contention are so manifold, its anxieties so unforseen and so complicated, that few can steer their difficult course safely and happily, unless there be a deep and true attachment, to contend with all the storms which may arise in the navigation.

"Deeply impressed with this conviction, should it be the lot of any young lady in whom I were interested to form a real, well-grounded attachment to a man whose circumstances were indifferent, I should counsel her, provided she can depend on the character and exertions of the object so beloved, to risk the event of an engagement--to trust to time and Providence, and to marry whenever means were afforded,--convinced as I am, that patience, and trust, and true affection, raise the character, and are acceptable in the eyes of our Heavenly Father. But in such a case, she must school her mind to meet the anxieties which attend limited means. She must prepare herself, by habits of diligence and economy, to become a poor man's wife. She must learn the difficult art of doing well upon a little. She must not, be she in any rank of life, think to indulge with impunity to herself in every refinement and luxury when she is single; and, upon her marriage, imagine that she can attain the practice of economy by wishing it. Such metamorphoses are out of reason--out of nature. She must endeavor before the bond which ties her to poverty is framed, to understand the duties of housekeeping, the mysteries of needle-work. She must lay down to herself rules of expenditure suitable, in part, to her future condition in life. Many a wife, thus commencing, has laid the foundations of future fortune, at least independence, to her husband, by keeping his mind at peace, during his progress up the steep ascent to professional, or clerical, or literary fame. Many a home has been cheered by domestic forbearance, and placid submission to circumstances, even in the higher classes, during the life-time of a father, or in the course of those long expectancies, in which the fortitude and principle of many of the aristocracy are tried and proved. But the self-denial, the cheerfulness, the good management, the strict principle, are formed at an earlier period than that in which a young lady gives her hand to him whom she has chosen, in spite of the frown of fortune, as her husband.

"Of this let the young be assured; there are few situations in life, in which a man, young, and in health, cannot meliorate his circumstances, if he possess energy and if he be stimulated by a true affection. The clergyman, with humble stipend, often hopeless from want of interest, has leisure--he has had education. He may, if he desires to assist himself, have recourse to literary labor, or to tuition. If he make not such exertion, during the course of an engagement, what hope can there be of him in future life?

"The young lawyer, however tedious his advancement, however few his opportunities, may also distinguish himself in a literary career. Innumerable are the subjects open to one of such a profession. How few avail themselves of the chance! Upon this rely, the man truly in love will make the effort. To the military man, though perhaps he may be less qualified, the same course is open, in a degree. Some of our best travels, some of our most amusing literary productions, have been the compositions of military men. And the advantage of this mode of aiding a small fortune is, that a man not only does not lower, but he raises his position by it, if his works are moral, written in a gentlemanly spirit, and affording information. However deep the attachment, however agreeable the object, if a man be indisposed to help himself to independence and competence, I should counsel no woman to continue an engagement formed in the expectation of 'times mending.' When I advocate the indulgence of attachment, it is to worthy, not to unworthy, objects.

"I now come to speak of moral character. Hard is the contest between affection and expediency, when it is raised by the question of circumstances. But harder still is it, when its result is to be decided upon an inquiry into moral conduct. I know not a more cruel situation than that when the heart is bestowed on one whom the judgment could not approve. I know not one which should be more strictly guarded against, not only by parents and friends, but (for I would impress on every young lady how much she may prove the best guardian of her own happiness) by the female heart itself.

"With every vigilance, with little to blame, little to repent, such cases will occur in this world. The feelings are interested, but the judgment distrusts. Happy is it for those who know the combat between affection and principle only in single life, and have not the misery of encountering so severe a destiny when it can no longer be remedied--who know not how to fulfill the vow to honor what is proved to be unworthy--and yet still must love,--for the affections once given, are little in our own power.

"In such a case occurring to the young, in, perhaps, a first attachment, I think they must be guided by friends. I am not an advocate for the interference of friends: where it is much a question of a long and contingent engagement--a question of being married at once, or of waiting, in some uncertainty--a question of ease or discomfort, of limited means or luxury--in such instances, if the moral character be unexceptionable, it is the duty of parents to point out all the risk, all the disadvantages, but to leave the heart to form its own decisions. Let them not seek to wrench the affections from the channel in which they flowed, when fresh from their source. They cannot know how deep the channel is--they cannot know if ever those pure and beautiful waters will flow in peace again when once hastily turned aside. But in cases of moral character, of right or wrong, the affair is wholly different, and the strictest parental authority ought, upon due inquiry, to be exercised.

"Submission and self-control are then the duty of the young sufferer--for a sufferer she truly is;--no page of her after-history could unfold a bitterer pang. But peace and hope come at last--the struggle, though violent, leaves behind it none of that corroding sorrow, which would have accompanied the acquiescence of parents in a union unblessed by a Providence, whose will is that all should be pure, even as He above is pure. Had your fond wishes been granted, young and trusting being, how fearful would have been your condition! For there is no suspicion so revolting to an innocent mind as that which unseats love from his throne in our affections, and places another in his stead. Be assured of this--little can you know of the moral conduct of the other sex; little is it desirable that you should know. But whenever improprieties are so flagrant as to be matters of conversation; when the good shun, and the pitying forbear to excuse; be assured some deeper cause than you can divine exists for the opprobrium. Think not that your empire over affections thus wasted can be a real one. It is transient, it will not last--it will not bring reformation--it will never be adequately requited. Throw yourself on the judgment of those whose interest in you has been life-long, or of such as you know truly regard your happiness; conquer the unhallowed preference; pray for support and guidance; trust in Him who 'catereth for the sparrow.'

"But, when the commencement of life is chilled by so cruel a sorrow--when the blight has fallen on the bud--we must not only look up to heavenly aid, we must take every means of care for an unfortunate, and, when once the judgment is convinced of the unworthiness of the object, a blameable attachment. How often, in the Psalms, in the Gospels, the word 'Help' is reiterated! We are to help ourselves--we must work for our heavenly peace on earth--the mental discipline, to prosper, must be aided by divine grace, but its springs must be from our own hearts. And, to fulfill the will of God in this, as in the other events of life, let us take such means as may aid us in the work of self-government.

"In the first place, let employment be resorted to by the sorrowing, do not indulge in tears; do not sit alone: abstain, for a time, from music; abstain from the perusal of poetry, or works of imagination. They still more soften the feelings and open up the sources of grief. Read works of fact--endeavor to occupy yourself with the passing events of the world. And, when the overburdened heart cannot be comforted, or its thoughts diverted--for there will be moments too mournful to be resisted--go forth into the fields, go to the houses of the poor--see the goodness and mercy of God--see too, the patience and long-suffering of the poor, who may often set the rich an example of fortitude. Occupy yourself, if you can, with children; their freshness, their joyful unconsciousness, the elasticity of their spirits, will sustain and draw you from yourself, or have recourse to the soothing calmness of the aged. Hear them converse upon the affairs of life; how they appreciate the importance of each passing event, as a traveler does the ruts and inequalities of the road he has traversed. How their confidence in the effect of time sustains you! and you turn from them, reflecting on all that the happiest of them must necessarily have endured. Be assured of your own recovery, under an influence so certain.

"Avoid young persons of your own age. If possible, except to a sister, whose deep interest in you will probably teach her a superior lesson, never confide in young friends, a similar trial as that to which I have referred. In general, your resolution will be weakened, your feelings re-excited, your confidence in your best advisers will be shaken. For the young usually take the part of the rejected lover--they delight in that dangerous species of sympathy which flatters with hope. They are naturally incredulous as to the delinquencies of a man who is agreeable, and in love; they incline to the notion of the hard-heartedness of fathers, uncles, and elder brothers; and even, if they happen to possess good sense, or to exercise the rare quality of prudence in such matters, the very communication of any sorrow, or the recital of any feelings, gives not only a merely temporary relief, but deadens that sorrow and strengthens those feelings, which grow every time they are imparted. If you wish to recover--and, if you have a sound and well-disposed mind, you will wish to recover--you must, after the first burst of grief is over, speak but rarely of a theme too painful and delicate to bear the contact of rude minds--too dangerous to dwell upon with those of a kindlier and loftier nature.

"To your female relations--to your mother, more especially, too great an openness cannot be practiced on these points, but openness does not imply a perpetual recurrence to a theme, which must wear out patience and exhaust all but maternal sympathy, in time. For maternal sympathy is exhaustless; be generous, and restrain, from that very reflection, the continual demand upon its flow. The first person to consult, the last to afflict--a mother--should not be the victim of her daughter's feelings. Her judgment should not be weakened by the incessant indulgence of a daughter's sorrows.

"I would, on many grounds, caution the young against hasty engagements. It seems extraordinary that the welfare of a life should often be determined upon the acquaintance of a few weeks. The principles, it is true, may be ascertained from the knowledge of others, the manners may please, the means and expectations may all be clearly understood. But the temper--that word of unspeakable import--the daily habits, the power of constancy--these are not to be known without a long and severe examination of the motives, and a daily observation of the conduct, of others. Very little suffices to mar the happiness of married life, if that little proceed in the character of a man, from a rooted selfishness.

"It is true, in regard to this defect, that much may be done by a wife to meliorate a vice of character which is, in some, only the result of never having had their feelings developed. But if there exist not this excuse--if, in spite of ties, which are dearer to an affectionate mind than existence; you find a man preferring his own comfort to that of those whom he professes to love--if you find him imperious to his servants, dictatorial to sisters, on cool terms with brothers, there is little hope that the mental disease will ever be rooted out, so as to leave a healthy character of mind. Examine well into this point; for a hasty temper may be remedied, and even endured--but the deep, slow, sullen course of a selfish nature wears away hope, imparts a cankering care, and, with it, often disgust. No defect is so little to be resisted as selfishness. It creeps into every detail; it infects the minutest affairs of life as well as the greatest concerns. It depresses the humble sufferer from its baneful effects; it irritates the passions of the unamiable. Study well the character in trifles; nor venture to risk your bark on the sea of matrimony, unless you know well how far this man, whom you might prefer, is free from this deadly infection. View him, if possible, in his home, before you pledge your faith with his--or, if that be not practicable, reflect upon the general course of his actions, of his sentiments, and endeavor dispassionately to judge them, as best you may."


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