FOOD & DRINK
One of the hallmarks of being a gentleman in the 18th-century was a strong sense of honor, politesse, and civility. Although this notion is something of a romatic ideal, the letters of Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) offer some sense of what was expected of a gentleman, including many wonderful maxims that are still relevant today.
The simple rules that follow were originally
written down by a young Virginian named George Washington. They are said to have
been taken from an English translation of a French work, and so were apparently a
universal guide for proper behavior when in company. Many of these maxims still stand
as a guide for good manners today!
Washington’s Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour In Company and Conversation [ca. 1744]
1st Every Action done in Company, ought to be with
Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.
2d When in Company, put not your Hands to any
Part of the Body, not usually Discovered.
Nothing to your Friend 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 handkerchief
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.
Play and at Fire its Good manners to Give Place to the last Comer, and affect not
to Speak Louder than Ordinary.
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 roll not
the Eyes 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.
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 Dexterously
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.
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
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.
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.
19th let your Countenance be pleasant but in Serious
Matters Somewhat grave.
20th The Gestures of the Body must be Suited to the
discourse you are upon.
21st Reproach none for the Infirmities of Nature,
nor Delight to Put them that have in mind thereof.
22d Shew not yourself glad at the Misfortune of
another though he were your enemy.
23d When you see a Crime punished, you may be inwardly
Pleased; but always shew Pity to the Suffering Offender.
24th Do not laugh too loud or too much at any Publick
25th Superfluous Complements and all Affectation
of Ceremony are to be avoided, yet where due they are not to be Neglected.
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.
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.
28th If any one come to Speak to you while you are
are Sitting Stand up though he be your Inferior, and when you Present Seats let it
be to every one according to his Degree.
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.
30th In walking the highest Place in most Countries
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.
31st If any one far Surpasses 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.
32d To one that is your equal, or not much inferior
you are to give the chief 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.
33d They that are in Dignity or in office have
in all places Precedence but whilst they are Young they ought to respect those that
are their equals in Birth or other Qualities, though they have no Publick charge.
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
35th Let your Discourse with Men of Business be
Short and Comprehensive.
36th Artificers & Persons of low Degree ought
not to use many ceremonies to Lords, or Others of high Degree but Respect and highly
Honour them, and those of high Degree ought to treat them with affability & Courtesy,
37th In Speaking to men of Quality do not lean nor
Look them full in the Face, nor approach too near them at lest Keep a full Pace from
38th In visiting the Sick, do not Presently play
the Physician if you be not Knowing therein.
39th In writing or Speaking, give to every Person
his due Title According to his Degree & the Custom of the Place.
40th Strive not with your Superiors in argument,
but always Submit your Judgment to others with Modesty.
41st Undertake not to Teach your equal in the art
himself Professes; it Savours of arrogance.
42d Let thy ceremonies in Courtesy be proper to
the Dignity of his place with whom thou conversest for it is absurd to act the same
with a Clown and a Prince.
43d Do not express Joy before one sick or in pain
for that contrary Passion will aggravate his Misery.
44th When a man does all he can though it Succeeds
not well blame not him that did it.
45th Being to advise or reprehend any one, consider
whether it ought to be in publick or in Private; presently, or at Some other time
in what terms to do it & in reproving Shew no Sign of Choler but do it with all
Sweetness and Mildness.
46th Take all Admonitions thankfully in what Time
or Place Soever given but afterwards not being culpable take a Time & Place convenient
to let him him know it that gave them.
47th Mock not nor Jest at any thing of Importance
break no Jest that are Sharp Biting and if you Deliver any thing witty and Pleasant
obtain from Laughing
48th Wherein wherein you reprove Another be unblameable
yourself; for example is more prevalent than Precepts.
49th Use no Reproachful Language against any one
neither Curse nor Revile.
50th Be not hasty to believe flying Reports to the
Disparagement of any.
51st Wear not your Cloths, foul, ripped or Dusty
but See they be Brush'd once every day at least and take heed that you approach not
to any Uncleaness.
52d In your Apparel be Modest and endeavour to
accommodate Nature, rather than to procure Admiration keep to the Fashion of your
equals Such as are Civil and orderly with respect to Times and Places.
53d Run not in the Streets, neither go too slowly
nor with Mouth open go not Shaking your Arms kick not the earth with your feet, go
not upon the Toes, nor in a Dancing fashion.
54th Play not the Peacock, looking every where about
you, to See if you be well Deck't, if your Shoes fit well, if your Stockings sit
neatly, and Cloths handsomely.
55th Eat not in the Streets, nor in the House, out
56th Associate yourself with Men of good Quality
if you Esteem your own Reputation; for 'tis better to be alone than in bad Company.
57th In walking up and Down in a House, only with
One in Company if he be Greater than yourself, at the first give him the Right hand
and Stop not till he does and be not the first that turns, and when you do turn let
it be with your face towards him, if he be a Man of Great Quality, walk not with
him Cheek by Joul but Somewhat behind him; but yet in Such a Manner that he may easily
Speak to you.
58th Let your Conversation be without Malice or
Envy, for 'tis a Sign of a Tractable and Commendable Nature: And in all Causes of
Passion admit Reason to Govern.
59th Never express anything unbecoming, nor Act against
the Rules Moral before your inferiors.
60th Be not immodest in urging your Friends to Discover
61st Utter not base and frivolous things amongst
grave and Learn'd Men nor very Difficult Questions or Subjects, among the Ignorant
or things hard to be believed, Stuff not your Discourse with Sentences amongst your
Betters nor Equals.
62d Speak not of doleful Things in a Time of Mirth
or at the Table; Speak not of Melancholy Things as Death and Wounds, and if others
Mention them Change if you can the Discourse tell not your Dreams, but to your intimate
63d A Man ought not to value himself of his Achievements,
or rare Qualities of wit; much less of his riches Virtue or Kindred.
64th Break not a Jest where none take pleasure in
mirth Laugh not aloud, nor at all without Occasion, deride no mans Misfortune, tho'
there Seem to be Some cause.
65th Speak not injurious Words neither in Jest nor
Earnest Scoff at none although they give Occasion.
66th Be not forward but friendly and Courteous;
the first to Salute hear and answer & be not Pensive when it's a time to Converse.
67th Detract not from others neither be excessive
68th Go not thither, where you know not, whether
you Shall be Welcome or not. Give not Advice without being Ask'd & when desired
do it briefly.
69th If two contend together take not the part of
either unconstrained; and be not obstinate in your own Opinion, in Things indifferent
be of the Major Side.
70th Reprehend not the imperfections of others for
that belongs to Parents Masters and Superiors.
71st Gaze not on the marks or blemishes of Others
and ask not how they came. What you may Speak in Secret to your Friend deliver not
72d Speak not in an unknown Tongue in Company but
in your own Language and that as those of Quality do and not as the Vulgar; Sublime
matters treat Seriously.
73d Think before you Speak pronounce not imperfectly
nor bring out your Words too hastily but orderly & distinctly.
74th When Another Speaks be attentive your Self
and disturb not the Audience if any hesitate in his Words help him not nor Prompt
him without desired, Interrupt him not, nor Answer him till his Speech be ended.
75th In the midst of Discourse ask not of what one
treateth but if you Perceive any Stop because of your coming you may well entreat
him gently to Proceed: If a Person of Quality comes in while your Conversing it's
handsome to Repeat what was said before.
76th While you are talking, Point not with your
Finger at him of Whom you Discourse nor Approach too near him to whom you talk especially
to his face.
77th Treat with men at fit Times about Business
& Whisper not in the Company of Others.
78th Make no Comparisons and if any of the Company
be Commended for any brave act of Virtue, commend not another for the Same.
79th Be not apt to relate News if you know not the
truth thereof. In Discoursing of things you Have heard Name not your Author always
A Secret Discover not.
80th Be not Tedious in Discourse or in reading unless
you find the Company pleased therewith.
81st Be not Curious to Know the Affairs of Others
neither approach those that Speak in Private.
82d Undertake not what you cannot Perform but be
Careful to keep your Promise.
83d When you deliver a matter do it without Passion
& with Discretion, however mean the Person be you do it too.
84th When your Superiors talk to any Body hearken
not neither Speak nor Laugh.
85th In Company of these of Higher Quality than
yourself Speak not 'til you are ask'd a Question then Stand upright put of your Hat
& Answer in few words.
86th In Disputes, be not So Desirous to Overcome
as not to give Liberty to each one to deliver his Opinion and Submit to the Judgment
of the Major Part especially if they are Judges of the Dispute.
87th Let thy carriage be such as becomes a Man Grave
Settled and attentive to that which is spoken. Contradict not at every turn what
88th Be not tedious in Discourse, make not many
Digressions, nor repeat often the Same manner of Discourse.
89th Speak not Evil of the absent for it is unjust.
90th Being Set at meat Scratch not neither Spit
Cough or blow your Nose except there's a Necessity for it.
91st Make no Shew of taking great Delight in your
Victuals, Feed not with Greediness; cut your Bread with a Knife, lean not on the
Table, neither find fault with what you Eat.
92nd Take no Salt or cut Bread with your Knife Greasy.
93rd Entertaining any one at table it is decent
to present him with meat, Undertake not to help others undesired by the Master.
94th If you Soak bread in the Sauce let it be no
more than what you put in your Mouth at a time and blow not your broth at Table but
Stay till Cools of it's Self.
95th Put not your meat to your Mouth with your Knife
in your hand, neither Spit forth the Stones of any fruit Pye upon a Dish nor Cast
anything under the table.
96th It's unbecoming to Stoop much to ones Meat
Keep your Fingers clean & when foul wipe them on a Corner of your Table Napkin.
97th Put not another bit into your Mouth 'til the
former be Swallowed let not your Morsels be too big for the Jowls.
98th Drink not nor talk with your mouth full neither
Gaze about you while you are a Drinking.
99th Drink not too leisurely nor yet too hastily.
Before and after Drinking wipe your Lips breath not then or Ever with too Great a
Noise, for its uncivil.
100th Cleanse not your teeth with the Table Cloth
Napkin Fork or Knife but if Others do it let it be done with a Pick Tooth.
101st Rinse not your Mouth in the Presence of Others.
102d It is out of use to call upon the Company often
to Eat nor need you Drink to others every Time you Drink.
103d In Company of your Betters be not longer in
eating than they are lay not your Arm but only your hand upon the table.
104th It belongs to the Chiefest in Company to unfold
his Napkin and fall to Meat first, But he ought then to Begin in time & to Dispatch
with Dexterity that the Slowest may have time allowed him.
105th Be not Angry at Table whatever happens &
if you have reason to be so, Shew it not but on a Cheerful Countenance especially
if there be Strangers for Good Humour makes one Dish of Meat a Feast.
106th Set not yourself at the upper of the Table
but if it Be your Due or that the Master of the house will have it So, Contend not,
least you Should Trouble the Company.
107th If others talk at Table be attentive but talk
not with Meat in your Mouth.
108th When you Speak of God or his Attributes, let
it be Seriously & with Reverence. Honour & Obey your Natural Parents although
they be Poor.
109th Let your Recreations be Manful not Sinful.
110th Labour to keep alive in your Breast that Little
Spark of Celestial fire Called Conscience.
A very nice faux-leather edition of
Washington's Rules... can be had from:
Applewood Books, P.O. Box 365, Bedford, MA 01730; ISBN 1-55709-103-X)
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