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Martha B Mosher.

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usually suffices that particular hostess. The
guest should see that the hostess meets all the
visitors who call on her, and should make no
engagements with others without first consult-
ing and gaining the approval of her friend.
Promptness at meals, and careful attention to
the regulations of the house are required, as
well as great consideration in the demands on
the service of the domestics. If one is visiting
in a family in which the members by reason of
scarcity of servants attend to their own rooms
or do part of the work of the house, one should ,
take care of one's own room, or at least make
the bed and attend to the disposal of one's!
wearing apparel, and at all times keep the room
as tidy and well ordered as possible. One can-
not be too careful of misusing and damaging
the furniture in the friend's house, and whether
it be costly or inexpensive, it should receive
equal consideration. Persons who are accus-



176 Child Culture

tomed to fine furnishings and surroundings are
the most particular in this regard. One should
have a book or a piece of work in which one is
interested, and which, when she cannot be pres-
ent, the hostess may consider a resource for the
guest. At certain times of the day, (if the
hostess is preoccupied in the morning, let it be
the morning, or if it seems more convenient,
during a part of the afternoon) guests should
withdraw and give the hostess a little time for
her personal affairs and for recuperation. Noth-
ing is more irksome and wearisome than con-
tinuous society, however enjoyable it may be at
intervals. On returning from entertainments
late at night, it is scarcely necessary to suggest
that the guest come in as noiselessly as possi-
ble, and no sound be made that can disturb
the sleeping family. Perhaps the most impera-
tive rule of visiting is that nothing that trans-
pires of a discreditable nature, or which might
elicit criticism, shall ever pass one's lips; no
greater breach of delicacy or good breeding can
be committed.

The requirements of polite visiting are too
many to enumerate here, but a general
thoughtfulness and a consideration of the sug-
gestions here made will enable one to avoid the
chief offences to which the untrained visitor is
liable. The hostess, on the other hand, has to
pursue a middle course in the entertainment of



e UNIVEI

Manners 177

a guest, to steer between overattention and
neglect. Every guest feels better and freer if
she is not overwhelmed with attention, if she
is occasionally left to her own resources, for
she is then assured that her presence is making
no inconvenient demands on her hostess.

The etiquette of calls and cards is so compli-
cated that an elucidation thereof would require
several chapters, but a few cardinal points may
be suggested here. While it is the privilege in
all but the largest cities and Washington, of
the older residents to call on the newcomer,
even before they have met, it is better not to
make such calls hastily, except in the case of
near neighbors. Others should have met the
lady and feel sure that their acquaintance is
desired ; but one may always call when re-
quested by a common friend to do so;

First calls must invariably be returned, and
should be returned within a week; if the ac-
quaintance is not desired, further calls may be
omitted, but return of the first call is impera-
tive. After a dinner party a call must be
made in person and promptly ; after other forms
of entertainment one is privileged to send or
leave a card without asking for the hostess, ex-
cept on her day at home, when one must see
her. One should never hand one's card to the
hostess, for the card acts as one's representa-
tive, and the two should not meet the hostess



178 Child Culture

together. If on entering a drawing-room the
hostess is there, the card can be laid on the
table, or returned to the card case.

Ladies who have a very large circle of friends
to whom they cannot pay personal visits an-
nually, give " At Homes " or receptions in place
of calls, and such invitations substitute a per-
sonal call. No regrets or acceptances are ex-
pected before these functions ; one leaves a card
at the door on entering, or if one cannot attend
one may send one's card by mail or proxy or
call afterward. No one has the privilege of
entertaining a lady except at an "At Home,"
until calls have been exchanged, and when one
receives invitations from persons who have
omitted the preliminary attention, one should
not accept, for though the intention may be
good, and the omission is doubtless made in ig-
norance, it is the duty of every woman in
society to know and to conform to the usages
of " good society." If one wishes to be excused
from a caller it should be done at the door be-
fore she is admitted, and never after, as she
may feel that it is a personal refusal. Callers
should never forget to ask and leave cards for
the lady of the house when calling on a visitor
in the house, and likewise, visitors should be
requested both by the hostess and her callers to
meet all of the latter who call.

It is extremely negligent when an entertain-



Manners 179

ment is given in compliment to a visitor for
the invited guests to neglect that visitor. She
is, by the circumstances, entitled to the most
cordial attention from all present ; a disregard
of this courtesy is not only extremely mortify-
ing to a hostess and her guest, but would war-
rant her being thoroughly ashamed of the in-
vited guests.

Well-bred people always converse in low
tones and never laugh boisterously ; especially
at public entertainments is it selfish to speak
or to make any noise that can disturb the per-
sons in the adjacent seats. Children should be
instructed in the art of doing every act in the
best manner ; in passing or handing a chair it
is unnecessary to strike it against anything, or
to touch anyone with it. Perfect repose of
manner is the greatest elegance ; in the details
of life persons show their good or ill breeding
even more than in the large observances.
Prompt acknowledgment of all attention,
prompt responses to invitations, the courtesy
of an early call after invitations and entertain-
ments, mark the degree of one's refinement.
In approaching a lady with an umbrella in her
hand, a man should raise his high enough to
pass without interfering. In all carrying of
umbrellas, canes and sunshades, one should
take care, for it is very annoying to feel the
points attacking one's hat or face, and one's



180 Child Culture

companion will suffer a great deal rather than
mention it. In making way through a crowd,
one should never jostle or push, but gently and
patiently await an opening. In the use of fans,
much unnecessary discomfort is caused others
by fanning them as well as oneself, for while
the one wielding the fan may be too warm, her
neighbor may be shivering, and the draught
created by the fan most unpleasant to her.

One's manner of sitting, standing, walking,
every act and movement betray the degree of
one's breeding, and should be considered until
the best manner becomes second nature, and is
done unconsciously. One makes a circle from
the unconscious to the conscious, and then back
to the unconscious again.

. The subject of manners is inexhaustible, and
an entire book might profitably be given to its
consideration, but in this limited space only a
few of the most frequent delinquencies can be
noticed.

A constantly changing society admits of
many interlopers, who, having money and en-
tertaining handsomely, have gained access to
good society. Having successfully attained a
coveted place, they are most disdainful of all
new aspirants; having so recently climbed the
social ladder themselves, their sole thought and
pleasure is to keep off all others, and the '* ex-
clusives" of society are usually found among



Manners 181

its recent additions. Snubbing is the delight of
parvenues, and none are so tenacious of their
position and hedge it around so closely as they
who hold it uncertainly.

On the other hand, when the restriction is in
behalf of good breeding and genuine worth
and culture, no one can complain ; in such case
the exclusions are in the interest of the admis-
sions, and all who are entitled to enter will ap-
preciate the advantage of the regulation.



XIII

HABITS OF CHILDHOOD

" HABIT a second nature ! Habit is ten times
nature," the Duke of Wellington is said to have
exclaimed, and the degree to which this is true
no one probably can appreciate as well as one
who is a veteran soldier himself. The daily
drill and the years of discipline end by fashion-
ing a man completely over again, with respect
to most of the possibilities of his conduct.

" There is a story,' 1 says Professor Huxley,
" which is credible enough, though it may not
be true, of a practical joker, who, seeing a dis-
charged veteran carrying home his dinner, sud-
denly called out, ' Attention ! ' whereupon the
man instantly brought his hands down and lost
his mutton and potatoes in the gutter. The
drill had been thorough, and its effects had be-
come embodied in the man's nervous struc-
ture.

"An acquired habit, from the physiological
point of view, is nothing but a new pathway of
discharge formed in the brain, by which cer-
tain incoming currents ever after tend to
escape ; and the functions of perception, mem-
ory, reasoning, the education of the will, are
182



Habits of Childhood 183

results of formations de novo of just such path-
ways of discharge. The habits of an elemen-
tary particle cannot change, because the par-
ticle is itself an unchangeable thing ; but those
of a compound mass of matter can change,
because they are in the last instance due to the
structure of the compound, and either outward
forces or inward tension can turn the structure
into something different from what it was ; that
is, if the body be plastic enough to maintain its
integrity and be not disrupted when its struc-
ture yields. Plasticity, then, in the wide sense
of the word, means the possession of a structure
weak enough to yield to an influence, but
strong enough not to yield all at once. Organic
matter, especially nervous tissue, seems en-
dowed with a very extraordinary degree of
plasticity of this sort, so that we may say with-
out hesitation, that the phenomena of habit in
living beings are due to the plasticity of the
organic materials of which their bodies are
composed. At the outset, more force is re-
quired to overcome ; the overcoming of the
resistance is a phenomenon of habituation. In
the nervous system itself, it is well known how
many so-called functional diseases seem to keep
themselves going simply because they happen
to have once begun, and how the forcible cut-
ting short by medicine of a few attacks is often
sufficient to enable the physiological forces to



184 Child Culture

get possession of the field again, and to bring
the organs back to functions of health. And,
to take what are more obviously habits, the
success with which a weaning treatment can
often be applied to the victims of unhealthy
indulgence of passion, or of mere complaining,
or irascible disposition, shows us how much the
morbid manifestations themselves were due to
the mere inertia of the nervous organs, when
once launched on a false career.

" Habit simplifies our movements, makes
them accurate, and diminishes fatigue. Man is
born with a tendency to do more things than
he has ready made arrangements for in his
nerve centres. If practice did not make per-
fect, nor habit economize the expense of nerv-
ous muscular energy, he would be in a sorry
plight. As Dr. Maudsley says in ' Physiology
of Mind : ' ' If an act becomes no easier after
being done several times, if the careful direc-
tion of consciousness were necessary to its ac-
complishment on each occasion, it is evident
that the whole activity of a lifetime might be
confined to one or two deeds that no progress
could take place in development. A man might
be occupied all day in dressing or undressing
himself; the attitude of his body would absorb
all his attention and energy, the washing of
his hands or the fastening of a button would
be as difficult to him on each occasion as to the



Habits of Childhood 185

child on its first trial, and he would further-
more be completely exhausted by his exer-
tions therefore habit diminishes the conscious
attention with which our acts are performed.

" Habit is thus the enormous flywheel of so-
ciety, its most precious conservative agent. It
alone is what keeps us all within the bounds of
ordinance, and saves the children of fortune
from the uprising of the poor. It alone pre-
vents the hardest and the most repulsive walks
of life from being deserted by those brought
up to tread therein. It keeps the fisherman
and the deck hand at sea through the winter ;
it nails the countryman to his log cabin and his
lonely farm through all the months of snow ;
it protects us from invasion by the natives of
the desert and the frozen zone. It dooms us
all to fight out the battle of life upon the lines
of our nurture or our early choice, and to
make the best of a pursuit that disagrees, be-
cause there is no other for which we are fitted,
and it is too late to begin again. It keeps dif-
ferent social strata from mixing.

" Already at the age of twenty -five, you see
the professional mannerism settling down on
the young commercial traveller, on the young
doctor, on the young minister, on the young
attorney. If the period between twenty and
thirty is the critical one in the formation of in-
tellectual and professional habits, the period



i86 Child Culture

below twenty is more important still for the fix-
ing of the personal hahits, such as vocalization,
pronunciation, gesture, motion and address.
Hardly ever is a language learned after twenty
spoken without a foreign accent ; hardly ever
can a youth transferred to the society of his
betters unlearn the nasality and other vices of
speech bred in him by the association of his
growing years. Hardly ever, indeed, no mat-
ter how much money there be in his pocket,
can he ever learn to dress like a gentleman
born.

" The great thing in all education is to make
our nervous system our ally instead of our
enemy ! It is to fund and capitalize our acqui-
sitions, and live at ease upon the interest of the
fund. For this we must make automatic and
habitual as early as possible, as many useful
actions as we can, and guard against the grow-
ing into ways that are likely to be disadvanta-
geous to us, as we should guard against the
plague. The more of the dictates of our daily
life we can hand over to the effortless custodian
of automatism, the more our higher powers of
mind will be set free for their own proper
work." 1

In Professor Bain's Chapter on " The Moral
Habits " we are given the following maxims :
The first is that in the acquisition of a new

'Prof. Wm. James: "Psychology."



Habits of Childhood 187

habit, or the leaving off of an old one, we must
take care to launch ourselves with as strong
and decided an initiative as possible. Accumu-
late all the possible circumstances which shall
reinforce the right motives ; this will give your
new beginning such momentum that the temp-
tation to break down will not occur as soon as
it otherwise might, and every day during which
a breakdown is postponed, adds to the chances
of its not occurring at all.

The second maxim is : " Never suffer an ex-
ception to occur till the new habit is securely
rooted in your life." Continuity of training is
the great means of making the nervous system act
right. Professor Bain says : " The peculiarity
of the moral habits contradistinguishing them
from the intellectual acquisitions, is the pres-
ence of two hostile powers, one to be gradu-
ally raised into the ascendant over the other.
It is necessary above all things, in such a situ-
ation, never to lose a battle. Every gain on
the wrong side undoes the effect of many con-
quests on the right. The essential precaution,
therefore, is to regulate the two opposing powers
that the one may have a series of uninterrupted
successes, until repetition has fortified it to
such a degree as to enable it to cope with the
opposition under any circumstances : this is the
theoretically best career of mental progress!
The great need of securing success at the out-



i88 Child Culture

set is imperative. Failure at first is apt to
damp the energy of all future attempts, whereas
past experiences of success nerve one to future
vigor."

The force of habit is strongly exemplified in
the case of an old woman who lived in extreme
poverty in the top story of a miserable tene-
ment. Some philanthropic friends, pitying her
meagre sustenance and wretched quarters, ar-
ranged for her to spend two weeks in the coun-
try, where green grass, pure air, and fresh milk
and eggs would be hers. She went anticipating
great pleasure. In a few days those ladies
chanced in the building again and were told that
the old lady had returned ; they were much sur-
prised and went up to her room to ascertain
the cause of the short sojourn. They asked
her if she had not been well treated and well
fed. She replied : " Yes, they did everything
for me, but I was lonesome. I have lived all
my life in the excitement of tenement life, and
I missed it, and I thought 'people were better
than stumps.' '

In infancy and childhood the mind and dis-
position are as plastic as clay, and may be
moulded to whatsoever is desired. If the aim
be definite, the methods judicious and sustained,
it is impossible to calculate what perfect habits
can be formed and fixed. There is not suffi-
cient appreciation of the importance of training



Habits of Childhood 189

at this early period, hence the time is not util-
ized to its best advantage ; habits are, how-
ever, constantly crystallizing, and when the
parents awaken to the necessity of attending
to them, they are already fixed to a degree, and
then follows the labor of correcting what at
first might have been prevented. The prevent-
ive method is much the easier for parents and
child, and much the wiser.

The habit of obedience, already urged in a
previous chapter, is one of the first to be formed
as on it hang the others. It is largely by in-
judicious demands and by irregular and incon-
sistent exactions that the habit of disobedience
is created and fostered. If no one spoils and
no one teases the child, he will be found ame-
nable to the voice of authority.

Habits of personal cleanliness are never
formed if not from babyhood, or in early
childhood. The daily ablution from head to
foot should be as regular a practice as the daily
meal, likewise should the cleansing of the
teeth and nails. It is not imperative that the
child be at all times immaculately clean. He
cannot play with pleasure and spirit if his mind
be constantly fixed on guarding his body and
clothing from contact with mother earth ; the
contact is decidedly wholesome, and his mind
gains more than his body loses by a free and
familiar association with her occasionally. If



190 Child Culture

he has a daily bath and presents himself at
table with clean face, hands, nails, and clothing,
and well brushed hair, he is doing all in the ac-
quisition of habits of personal cleanliness that
should be required of him. The child's teeth
are often overlooked in the toilet, and because
the first ones are temporary some parents hold
them unworthy of the daily scrubbing ; the
more care the first ones receive the longer they
last, and that adds to the permanency of the
later ones. For the purpose of cleanliness and
to avoid indigestion and toothache, this atten-
tion is demanded ; if the habit of daily cleans-
ing the teeth is not formed simultaneously with
other personal habits, it is much more difficult
to establish later.

Almost all children, except babies, sleep too
little; when the little bodies begin to run
around, they are so actively and so perpetually
in motion, and at the same time growing, that
they require a great deal of rest to enable them
to recuperate fully. Children under six years
of age require at least one short nap every day
and early bed hours ; after that age the early
retiring should continue, seven o'clock in win-
ter and eight o'clock in summer being none too
early bed hours for boys and girls under ten.

Nothing, except exercise, so composes the
nerves or maintains them in wholesome con-
dition as ample sleep. Until they are quite



Habits of Childhood 191

grown all girls and boys should be permitted to
sleep as late as they wish once a week ; thus
the system recuperates and incipient illness, to
which the system is always more liable when in
a semi-exhausted condition, is averted.

Of overeating a physician says : " In all my
knowledge of children, I have found most of
them diseased before five years of age with ir-
regular and injudicious eating. Dyspepsia is
not an adult disease, but its beginnings are in
childhood. I profess to know, and I can verify
my assertion, that there are more dyspeptics
under five years of age than there are over that.
I do not know many children that are not dys-
peptic. The miseries of childhood and youth
are mostly of this sort. I have made some
careful observations of children during my pro-
fessional calls, and I assure you that at least
nine out of ten are eating when seen by me. I
can only presume that they are eating most of
the time. The staple food of very young chil-
dren is cookies and fruit. Of the fruit eaten
at proper times I can say no evil, but of the
cake there is no good to be said. The special
damage is from the perpetual working of the
stomach and bowels. I do not think it is so
much the upper digestive tract as the lower
that gets the damage." Irregularity in eating
creates a morbid and irregular appetite ; a slice
of bread and butter and a little fruit once be-



192 Child Culture

tween meals are all that are required for a child
past babyhood and under six years of age, and
after that age the fruit should suffice. If their
appetites are adequately gratified at meals this
collation between meals will satisfy them, and
their appetites will be unspoiled for the next
meal.

Order is another important habit which is
much more easily acquired in childhood than
at a later period ; they who have the most serv-
ice at their command, who have some one to
gather up and dispose of all their clothing as it
is removed, have no opportunity at the forma-
tive period of obtaining orderly habits. The
maid can be present to render what service is
necessary, but she should instruct the child to
open out and tidily arrange his wearing apparel
himself when he takes it off. When one sees
grown girls and boys leave their clothing on the
floor as they have stepped out of it, or throw it
in heaps on a chair, one can only infer a failure
on the parents' part to properly train them at
the right period ; for one can struggle and strive
to remedy the neglect later, but after the bad
habit has been established the correction is a
stupendous task. I have seen a child in whom
the right habit was fixed undress himself when
half asleep, and never fail to properly arrange
his clothes.

One may distrust the intellect and the moral-



Habits of Childhood 193

ity of people to whom disorder is of no conse-
quence, for what surrounds us reflects very
largely what is in us.

Habits of industry, of virtue, of prayer, of
courtesy, and of attention and application, are
all much more easily contracted before their
opposites are established ; and if the positive
ones are not first acquired the negative ones
will form themselves.

Too much commendation cannot be given the
habit of punctuality ; if the value of one's own
time is not appreciated one should show con-
sideration for that of another. Persons of re-
sponsibility are always more sensible to the
mischief of wasting minutes, and many busi-
ness men are patronized and preferred on ac-
count of their recognized promptness and punc-
tuality. Reliableness in regard to all engage-
ments and economy of time are virtues of nearly
all high-bred people.

It is a bad habit of school children to study
after dinner in the evening ; the body and mind
are then both weary from the day's activities,
and while the dinner is in process of digestion,
the blood should not be diverted from the di-
gestive organs to the brain. The best time for
study is in the early morning, when the head is
clear and the body refreshed, but as that time


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Online LibraryMartha B MosherChild culture in the home. A book for mothers → online text (page 10 of 13)