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manners. What are they but thought entering
the hands and feet, controlling the movements
of the body, the speech, and behaviour?

There is always a best way of doing every-
thing, if it be to boil an egg. Manners are the
happy ways of doing things; each once a stroke
of genius or of love now repeated and har-
dened into usage. They form at last a rich
varnish, with which the routine of life is washed
and its details adorned. If they are superficial,
so are the dew-drops which give such a depth
to the morning meadows. Manners are very
communicable; men catch them from each
other. Consuelo, in the romance, boasts of the
lessons she had given the nobles in manners,
on the stage; and, in real life, Talma taught
Napoleon the arts of behaviour. Genius in-
vents fine manners, which the baron and the
baroness copy very fast, and, by the advantage
of a palace, betters the instruction. They
stereotype the lesson they have learned into a

The power of manners is incessant an ele-
ment as unconcealable as fire. The nobility
cannot in any country be disguised, and no
more in a republic or a democracy than in a
kingdom. No man can resist their influence.
There are certain manners which are learned
in good society, of that force that, if a person
have them, he or she must be considered, and
is everywhere welcome, though without beauty,
wealth, or genius. Give a boy address and
accomplishments, and you give him the mas-
tery of palaces and fortunes where he goes.
He has not the trouble of earning or owning
them : they solicit him to enter and possess.
We send girls of a timid, retreating disposition
to the boarding-school, to the riding-school, to
the ballroom, or wheresoever they can come
into acquaintance and nearness of leading per-
sons of their own sex; where they might learn
address, and see it near at hand. The power
of a woman of fashion to lead, and also to daunt
and repel, derives from their belief that she
knows resources and behaviour not known to
them: but when these have mastered her secret,
they learn to confront her, and recover their

Every day bears witness to their gentle rule.
People who would obtrude, now do not obtrude.
The mediocre circle learns to demand that
which belongs to a high state of nature or of
culture. Your manners are always under ex-
amination, and by committees little expected
a police in citizen's clothes but are award-
ing or denying you very high prizes when yoa
least think of it.

We talk much of utilities but 'tis our man-
ners that associate us. In hours of business
we go to him who knows, or has, or does this
or that which we want, and we do not let our
taste or feeling stand in the way. But this
activity over, we return to the indolent state,
and wish for those we can be at ease with;
those who will go where we go, whose manners
do not offend us, whose social tone chimes with
ours. When we reflect on their persuasive and
cheering force; how they recommend, prepare,
and draw people together; how, in all clubs,
manners make the members; how manners
make the fortune of the ambitious youth: that,
for the most part, his manners marry him, and,
for the most part, he marries manners; when
we think what keys they are, and to what
secrets; what high lessons and inspiring tokens
of character they convey; and what divination
is required in us, for the reading of this fine
telegraph, we see what range the subject has,
and what relations to convenience, power* and

Their first service is very low when they
are the minor morals: but 'tis the beginning
of civility to make us, 1 mean, endurable to
each other. We prize them for their rough-
plastic, abstergent force; to get people out of
the quadruped state; to get them washed,
clothed, and set up on end ; to slough their
animal husks and habits ; compel them to be
clean; overawe their spite and meanness, teach
them to stifle the base, and choose the generous
expression, and make them know how much
happier the generous behaviours are.

Bad behaviour the laws cannot reach. So-
ciety is infested with rude, cynical, restless,
and frivolous persons who prey upon the rest,
and whom a public opinion concentrated into
good manners, forms accepted by the sense of
all, can reach; the contradictors and railers at
public and private tables, who are like terriers,
who conceive it the duty of a dog of honour to
growl at any passer-by, and do the honours of
the house by barking him out of sight: I have
seen men who neigh like a horse when you con-
tradict them, or say something which they do
not understand; then the overbold, who make
their own invitation to your hearth; the perse-



vering talker, who gives you his society in large
saturating doses ; the pitiers of themselves a
perilous class ; the frivolous Asmodeus, who
relies on you to find him in ropes of sand to
twist; the monotones; in short, every stripe of
absurdity; these are social inflictions which
the magistrate cannot cure or defend you from,
and which must be intrusted to the restraining
force of custom, and proverbs, and familiar
rules of behaviour impressed on young people
in their school-days. . . .

Manners are partly factitious, but, mainly,
there must be capacity for culture in the blood.
Else all culture is vain. The obstinate preju-
dice in favour of blood, which lies at the base
of the feudal and monarchical fabrics of the
Old World, has some reason in common experi-
ence. Every man mathematician, artist,
soldier, or merchant looks with confidence
for some traits and talents in his own child,
which he would not dare to presume in the
child of a stranger. The Orientalists are very
orthodox on this point. "Take a thorn-bush,"
said the Emir Abd-el-Kader, "and sprinkle it
for a whole year with water; it will yield
nothing but thorns. Take a date-tree, leave
it without culture, and it will always produce
dates. Nobility is the date-tree, and the Arab
populace is a bush of thorns."

A main fact in the history of manners is the
wonderful expressiveness of the human body.
If it were made of glass, or of air, and the
thoughts were written on steel tablets within,
it could not publish more truly its meaning
than now. Wise men read very sharply all
your private history in your look and gait and
behaviour. The whole economy of nature is
bent on expression. The tell-tale body is all
tongues. Men are like Geneva watches with
crystal faces, which expose the whole move-
ment. They carry the liquor of life flowing
up and down in these beautiful bottles, and
announcing to the curious how it is with them.
The face and eyes reveal what the spirit is
doing, how old it is, what aims it has. The
eyes indicate the antiquity of the soul, or
through how many forms it has already as-
cended. It almost violates the proprieties, if
we say above the breath here what the confess-
ing eyes do not hesitate to utter to every street

Man cannot fix his eye on the sun, and so
far seems imperfect. In Siberia a late traveller
found men who could see the satellites of Jupi-
ter with their unarmed eye. In some respects
the animals excel us. The birds have a longer
sight, beside the advantage by their wings of
r, higher observatory. A cow can bid her calf,

by secret signal, probably of the eye, to run
away, or to lie down and hide itself. The
jockeys say of certain horses, that "they look
over the whole ground." The out-door life,
and hunting, and labour, give equal vigour to
the human eye. A farmer looks out at you as
strong as the horse; his eye-beam is like the
stroke of a staff. An eye can threaten like a
loaded and levelled gun, or can insult like hiss-
ing or kicking; or, in its altered mood, by beams
of kindness, it can make^the heart dance with


The eye obeys exactly the action of the mind.
When a thought strikes us, the eyes fix, and
remain gazing at a distance; in enumerating
the names of persons or of countries, as France,"
Germany, Spain, Turkey, the eyes wink at
each new nsme. There is no nicety of learning
sought by the mind which the eyes do not vie
in acquiring. "An artist," said Michel An-
gelo, "must have his measuring tools not in
the hand but in the eye;" and there is no end
to the catalogue of its performances, whether
in indolent vision (that of health and beauty),
or in strained vision (that of art and labour).

Eyes are bold as lions roving, running,
leaping, here and there, far and near. They
speak all languages. They wait for no intro-
duction; they are no Englishmen; ask no leave
of age or rank ; they respect neither poverty
nor riches, neither learning nor power, nor
virtue, nor sex, but intrude, and come again,
and go through and through you, in a moment
of time. What inundation of life and thought is
discharged from one soul into another, through
them! The glance is natural magic. The
mysterious communication established across
a house between two entire strangers, moves
all the springs of wonder. The communication
by the glance is in the greatest part not subject
to the control of the will. It is the bodily
symbol of identity of nature. We look into
the eyes to know if this other form is another
self, and the eyes will not lie, but make a faith-
ful confession what inhabitant is there. The
revelations are sometimes terrific. The con-
fession of a low, usurping devil is there made,
and the observer shall seem to feel the stirring
of owls, and bats, and horned hoofs, where he
looked for innocence and simplicity. Tis re-
markable, too, that the spirit that appears at
the windows of the house does at once invest
himself in a new form of his own to the mind
of the beholder.

The eyes of men converse as much as their
tongues, with the advantage that the ocular
dialect needs no dictionary, but is understood
all the world over. When the eyes say one



thing, and the tongue another, a practised
man relies on the language of the first. If the
man is off his centre, the eyes show it. You
can read in the eyes of your companion whether
your argument hits him, though hia tongue
will not confess it. There is a look by which
a man shows he is going to say a good thing,
and a look when he has said it. Vain and
forgotten are all the fine offers and offices of
hospitality, if there is no holiday in the eye.
How many furtive inclinations avowed by the
eye, though dissembled by the lips ! One
comes away from a company in which, it may
easily happen, he has said nothing, and no
important remark has been addressed to him,
and yet, if in sympathy with the society, he
shall not have a sense of this fact, such a stream
of life has been flowing into him and out from
him through the eyes. There are eyes, to be
sure, that give no more admission into the
man than blueberries. Others are liquid and
deep wells that a man might fall into; others
are aggressive and devouring, seem to call out
the police, take all too much notice, and re-
quire crowded broadways, and the security of
millions to protect individuals against them.
The military eye I meet, now darkly sparkling
under clerical, now under rustic brows. 'Tis
the city of Lacedaemon ; 'tis a stack of bayonets.
There are asking eyes, asserting eyes, prowling
eyes, and eyes full of fate some of good, and
some of sinister omen. The alleged power to
charm down insanity, or ferocity in beasts is
a power behind the eye. It must be a victory
achieved in the will before it can be signified
in the eye. 'Tis very certain that each man
carries in his eye the exact indication of his
rank in the immense scale of men, and we are
always learning to read it. A complete man
should need no auxiliaries to his personal pre-
sence. Whoever looked on him would consent
to his will, being certified that his aims were
generous and universal. The reason why men
do not obey us is because they see the mud at
the bottom of our eye.

If the organ of sight is such a vehicle of
power, the other features have their own. A
man finds room in the few square inches of the
face for the traits of all his ancestors; for the
expression of all his history, and his wants.
The sculptor, and Winckelmann, and Lavater
will tell you how significant a feature is the
nose; how its forms express strength or weak-
ness of will, and good or bad temper. The
nose of Julius Caesar, of Dante, and of Pitt,
suggest "the terrors of the beak." What re-
finement and what limitations the teeth be-
tray! "Beware you don't laugh," said the

wise mother, "for then you show all your

Balzac left in manuscript a chapter, which
he called " Tlieorle de la Demarche," in which
he says, "The look, the voice, the respiration,
and the attitude or walk are identical. But,
as it has not been given to man, the power to
stand guard at once over these four different
simultaneous expressions of his thought, watch
that one which speaks out the truth, and you
will know the whole man."

Palaces interest us mainly in the exhibition
of manners, which, in the idle and expensive
society dwelling in them, are raised to a high
art. The maxim of courts is, that manner is
power. A calm and resolute bearing, a polished
speech, an embellishment of trifles, and the
art of hiding all uncomfortable feeling, are
essential to the courtier: and Saint Simon, and
Cardinal de Ret/, and Roederer, and an ency-
clopedia of Memoires, will instruct you, if you
wish, in those potent secrets. Thus, it is a
point of pride with kings to remember faces
and names. It is reported of one prince, that
his head had the air of leaning downwards in
order not to humble the crowd. There are
people who come in ever like a child with a
piece of good news. It was said of the late
Lord Holland, that he always came down to
breakfast with the air of a man who had just
met with some signal good fortune. In "Notre
Dame," the grandee took his place on the dais,
with the look of one who is thinking of some-
thing else. But we must not peep and eaves-
drop at palace-doors. . . .

The theatre in which this science of man-
ners has a formal importance is not with us
a court, but dress-circles, wherein, after the
close of the day's business, men and women
meet at leisure for mutual entertainment in
ornamented drawing-rooms. Of course, it
has every variety of attraction and merit; but,
to earnest persons, to youths or maidens who
have great objects at heart, we cannot extol
it highly. A well-dressed, talkative com-
pany, where each is bent to amuse the other
yet the high-born Turk who came hither
fancied that every woman seemed to be suffer-
ing for a chair; that all the talkers were brained
and exhausted by the deoxygenated air: it
spoiled the best persons; it put all on stilts.
Yet here are the secret biographies written and
read. The aspect of that man is repulsive; I
do not wish to deal with him. The other is
irritable, shy, and on his guard. The youth
looks humble and manly: I choose him. Look
on this woman. There is not beauty, nor
brilliant sayings, nor distinguished power to



serve you; but all see her gladly; her whole
air and impression are healthful. Here comes
the sentimentalists and the invalids. Here is
Elise, who caught cold in coming into the
world, and has always increased it since. Here
are creep-mouse manners, and thievish man-
ners. " Look at Northcote," said Fuseli; "he
looks like a rat that lias seen a cat." In the
shallow company, easily excited, easily tired,
here is the columnar Bernard: the Alleghanies
do not express more repose than his behaviour.
Here are the sweet following eyes of Cecilc : it
seemed always tiiat she demanded the heart.
Nothing can be moro excellent in kind than
the Corinthian grace of Gertrude's manners,
and yet Blanche, who has no manners, has
better manners than she; for the movei icnts of
Blanche are the sallies of a spirit which is
sufficient for the moment, and she can afford
to express every thought by instant action.

Manners have been somewhat cynically de-
nned to be a contrivance of wise men to keep
fools at a distance. Fashion is shrewd to detect
those who do not belong to her train, and sel-
dom wastes her attentions. Society is very
swift in its instincts, and, if you do not belong
to it, resists and sneers at you, or quietly drops
you. The first weapon enrages the party at-
tacked ; the second is still more effective, but
is not to be resisted, as the date of the trans-
action is not easily found. People grow up
and grow old under this infliction, and never
suspect the truth, ascribing the solitude which
acts on them very injuriously to any cause but
the right one.

The basis of good manners is self-reliance.
Necessity is the law of all who are not self-
possessed. Those who are not self-possessed
obtrude and pain us. Some men appear to
feel that they belong to a parish caste. They
fear to offend, they bend and apologize, and
walk through life with a timid step. As we
sometimes dream that we are in a well-dressed
company without any coat, so Godfrey acts
ever as if he suffered from some mortifying
circumstance. The hero should find himself
at home wherever he is; should impart comfort
by his own security and good nature to all be-
holders. The hero is suffered to be himself.
A person of strong mind comes to perceive that
for him an immunity is secured so long as he
renders to society that service which is native
and proper to him an immunity from all the
observances, yea, and duties, which society so
tyrannically imposes on the rank and file of
its members. " Euripides," says Aspasia,
"has not the fine manners of Sophocles; but,"
she adds good-humouredly, "the movers and

masters of our souls have surely a right to
throw out their limbs as carelessly as they
please on the world that belongs to them, and
before the creatures they have animated." 1

Manners require time, as nothing is more
vulgar than haste. Friendship should be sur-
rounded with ceremonies and respects, and not
crushed into corners. Friendship requires more
time than poor busy men can usually command.
Here comes to me Roland, with a delicacy of
sentiment leading and inwrapping him like a
divine cloud or holy ghost. 'Tis a great desti-
tution to both that this should not be enter-
tained with large leisures, but contrariwise
should be balked by importunate affairs.

But through this lustrous varnish, the reality
is ever shining. 'Tis hard to keep the what
from breaking through this pretty painting of
the how. The core will come to the surface.
Strong will and keen perception overpower old
manners, and create new; and the thought of
the present moment has a greater value than
all the past. In persons of character, we do
not remark manners, because of their instan-
taneousness. We are surprised by the thing
done, out of all power to watch the way of it.
Yet nothing is more charming than to recog-
nize the great style which runs through the
actions of such. People masquerade before us
in their fortunes, titles, offices, and connec-
tions, as academic or civil presidents, or sena-
tors, or professors, or great lawyers, and impose
on the frivolous, and a good deal on each other,
by these fames. At least, it is a point of pru-
dent good manners to treat these reputations
tenderly, as if they were merited. But the
sad realist knows these fellows at a glance, and
they know him ; as when in Paris the chief of
the police enters a ball-room, so many dia-
monded pretenders shrink and make themselves
as inconspicuous as they can, or give him a
supplicating look as they pass. " I had re-
ceived," said a sibyl, "I had received at birth
the fatal gift of penetration" and these Cas-
sandras are always born.

Manners impress as they indicate real power.
A man who is sure of his point carries a broad
and contented expression which everybody
reads. And you cannot rightly train one to
an air and manner, except by making him the
kind of man of whom that manner is the natu-
ral expression. Nature for ever puts a premium
on reality. What is done for effect, is seen to
be done for effect ; what is done for love is felt
to be done for love. A man inspires affection
and honour, because he was not lying in wait
for these. The things of a man for which we
1 Landor : Periclu and Aspasia.



visit him, were done in the dark and the cold.
A little integrity is better than any career.
So deep are the sources of this surface-action,
that even the size of your companion seems to
vary with his freedom of thought. Not only
is he larger when at ease and his thoughts
generous, but everything around him becomes
variable with expression. No carpenter's rule,
no rod and chain, will measure the dimensions
of any house or house-lot: go into the house:
if the proprietor is constrained and deferring,
'tis of no importance how large his house, how
beautiful his grounds you quickly come tc
the end of all; but if the man is self-possessed,
happy, and at home, his house is deep-founded,
indefinitely large and interesting, the roof and
dome bouyant as the sky. Under the humblest
roof, the commonest person in plain clothes
sits there massive, cheerful, yet formidable,
like the Egyptian colossi. . . .

In all the superior people I have met, I
notice directness, truth spoken more truly, as
if everything of obstruction, of malformation,
had been trained away. What have they to
conceal? What have they to exhibit? Be-
tween simple and noble persons, there is always
quick intelligence: they recognize at sight,
and meet on a better ground than the talents
and skills they may chance to possess, namely,
on sincerity and uprightness. For it is not
what talents or genius a man has, but how he
is to his talents, that constitutes friendship
and character. The man that stands by him-
self, the universe stands by him also. It is
related of the monk Basle, that, being excom-
municated by the pope, he was, at his death,
sent in charge of an angel to find a fit place of
suffering in hell ; but such was the eloquence
and good humour of the monk, that wherever
be went he was received gladly, and civilly
treated, even by the most uncivil angels ; and
when he came to discourse with them, instead
of contradicting or forcing him, they took his
part, and adopted his manners; and even good
angels came from far to see him, and take up
their abode with him. The angel that was
sent to find a place of torment for him, at-
tempted to remove him to a worse pit, but with
no better success ; for such was the contented
spirit of the monk, that he found something
to praise in every place and company, though
ia hell, and made a kind of heaven of it. At
last the escorting angel returned with his
prisoner to them that sent him, saying, that
no phlegethon could be found that would burn
him ; for that, in whatever condition, Basle
remained incorrigibly Basle. The legend says,
his sentence was remitted, and he was allowed

to go into heaven, and was canonized as a

There is a stroke of magnanimity in the
correspondence of Bonaparte with his brother
Joseph, when the latter was King of Spain,
and complained that he missed in Napoleon's
letters the affectionate tone which had marked
their childish correspondence. "I am .sorry,"
replies Napoleon, "you think you shall find
your brother again only in the Elysian fields.
It is natural that at forty, he should not feel
towai'ds you as he did at twelve. But his feel-
ings towards you have greater truth and
strength. His friendship has the features of
his mind."

How much we forgive to those who yield us
the rare spectacle of heroic manners! We will
pardon them the want of books, of arts, and
even of the gentler virtues. How tenaciously
we remember them! Here is a lesson which I
brought along with me in boyhood from the
Latin school, and which ranks with the best
of Roman anecdotes. Marcus Scaurus was
accused by Quintus Varius Hispanus that he
had excited the allies to take arms against the
republic. But he, full of firmness and gravity,
defended himself in this manner: "Quintus
Varius Hispanus alleges that Marcus Scaurus,
president of the senate, excited the allies to
arms: Marcus Scaurus, president of the senate,
denies it. There is no witness. Which cio
you believe, Romans?" " Utrl credit/s, Qu'.r-
ites?" When he had said these words, he was
absolved by the assembly of the people.

I have seen manners that make a similar
impression with personal beauty: that give the
like exhilaration, and refine us like that; and
in memorable experiences they are suddenly

Online LibraryUnknownThe library of choice literature : poetry and prose selected from the most admired authors (Volume 4) → online text (page 64 of 75)