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ly from silly affectation and ignorance. My opinion is, indeed, that society should tolerate neither the one nor the other, and never permit the use of the Sliding Scale of manners under any circumstances. But what can be done, when so many worthy persons will not perceive its existence, and always declare the condescension of great people to be the very pink and perfection of elegant and refined courtesy, talking incessantly of the kind and considerate attention shown by “dear Lady A.” to all her guests, and of the “frank and delightful hospitality of Sir John B.'s splendid mansion;” and that too, at the very time when every one knows that Lady A. and Sir John B. practise the Sliding Scale to an extent that none of their own footmen can equal. Now the worts feature of the whole case is, that these very persons who affect such perfect blindness to the vulgar condescension of which we have spoken are, in fact, as clear-sighted as others; for nothing is so easily seen through as this slightly gilded impertinence, only they would rather be thought blind than be taken for sycophants, and rather submit to insult, than forego the society whence they derive what they would call fashionable distinction. Let me here relate a trifling anecdote, which, though not exactly to the point before us, touches pretty considerably on the general subject. Our regiment happening, some years ago, to be quartered near a fashionable wateringplace, it was usual for officers when off duty to ride over and pass a day or two with the gay world there assembled, whenever we heard that the party was rich in beauty or in agreeable society. While idling in the drawing-room after dinner one evening, we were told that a new guest had arrived; our informant adding that he was “a very good-looking fellow.” The last portion of the information did not please some of the would-be dandies of the party who were paying particular attention to the ladies present, several of whom were, indeed, extremely pretty. They declared, therefore, that they had seen the man, and that it was only “the handsome tailor,” as a snip from the neighboring town was, from his good looks, very deservedly called, and who would not of course think of joining the party at the hotel. The thing, having been said in apparent seriousness, there being besides no perceptible wit or humor in saying it as a jest, was readily believed, so that when a young gentleman answering the description
entered the room and placed himself at one end of the tea-tables, lady after lady, and dandy after dandy, rose from their seats and joined other parties. The stranger looked a little surprised to find himself thus left alone, but took no notice of the rudeness, and proceeded very calmly to help himself to the best things present. The fine ladies and gentlemen of the party did not take things so quietly, and though a single look might have satisfied any one that he was a gentleman, they despatched a secret messenger to the landlord calling for the immediate expulsion of the supposed tailor. Mine host was of course forced to obey, and sent his waiter to inform the obnoxious guest that Mr. Thomson wished to speak with him. “Who is Mr. Thomson 7" inquired the stranger with perfect composure. “The master of the house, sir,” replied John. “Oh tell Mr. Thomson to walk in, and that I shall be happy to see him.” Out went John, evidently a little disconcerted, to do his bidding, warning his master at the same time that the young gentleman looked “more like a lord than a tailor.” Mr. Thomson, however, thought differently; the parties who had desired the tailor's expulsion kept horses and carriages, and could not be mistaken ; besides, the stranger had come on the top of the coach, and had not even a servant with him ; there could be no mistake in the case. Entering the room, therefore, he told the stranger in a half-whispering tone, but with perfect politeness, that the drawing room was exclusively appropriated to the use of the “company,” and that he had another apartment ready for his reception in which tea was already served, and to which, making a move to the door, he begged leave to show the way. “Thank you—thank you!” replied the stranger with continued calmness, “I am extremely well here; plenty of room has, you see, been made for me.” An ill-suppressed titter, in which the stranger seemed greatly inclined to join, ran round the room ; and mine host, who had prepared no further speech, could only remonstrate with “hems,” broken phrases, and awkward bows; the stranger keeping his seat and sipping his tea with the most imperturbable gravity. The culprit having at last finished his repast, and seeing Mr.
Thomson still, as it seemed, waiting for him, looked up and asked the meaning of all this anxiety to get rid of him. Mine host, thus driven to the wall, was obliged to confess that the drawing-room was not intended for gentlemen of his profession. “My profession " said the stranger; “and pray what is that 7” Mr. Thomson was evidently confused and desirous of evading an answer, but the new guest would not let him off. “Speak out, man,” he said, “your house is your castle, let us hear what my profession is; if it is a good one, I promise not to disown it.” “Why, a tailor to be sure, since you will have it,” replied mine host, thus forced upon his mettle; while a roar of laughter, in which the young gentleman joined right heartily, burst from the whole party. The supposed tailor, having regained his gravity, pointed with a nod to his hat, in the manner of a person accustomed to be waited upon, and having received it from mine host, who handed it in proper courtesy, said, with perfect good humor, “Well, Mr. Thomson, let us now look at this room of yours. I like the situation of your house, and if you can find good stabling for my horses, and quarters for my servants, who are not so easily pleased as I am, I shall probably remain a few days with you. I suppose you will want my name for your book; there's my card,”—Lord A. B. “And let me give you a piece of advice at the same time: whenever you see a tailor, travelling with a batch of horses and servants, shut your eyes to the goose, man—shut them close—otherwise the world will say that you are the greater goose of the two.” A burst of laughter followed this sally. The gentlemen, who from mere envious motives, from not wishing to have a good-looking young man added to the circle, had represented our new guest as a tailor, vanished without being even missed; while his lordship became the very soul of the party, though they hardly deserved so much courtesy at his hands, for a very little observation would have shown them that he was evidently a gentleman of the first water. A very little reflection ought also to have made them sensible of the impropriety of behaving with, what was in reality, extreme rudeness—and would probably have been considered as such by a man of inferior cast— to a person of whom they knew absolutely nothing, and before they could even take the trouble to inquire how far they had any cause of complaint against him. The Sli
ding Scale, however, accounts for all; for it shows us crowds of persons who can never be too little before the great, and others again, who can never be too great —or in too great a hurry to be so—before those whom they think little. And yet what a delightful change would come over the world—how cheerful, buoyant, and exhilarating, would be the sunshine in which we should constantly move, if ladies and gentlemen would only feel convinced that their friends and neighbors see as clearly as they do themselves, and that society at large are never long imposed upon by acting of any kind. Affectation and pretension, the bland but heartless smile of malignant envy, the mighty frown of wouldbe greatness, whether of wealth, power, or intellect, the humility of pride or of meanness, are all seen through with equal facili
“Pour paraitre honnéte homime, en un mot, if faut l'étre,
Et jamais quoiqu'il fasse, un mortel cibas
Ne peut aux yeux du monde, Čtre ce qu'il n'est pas,”
says Boileau, and very truly; for men are physiognomists, bongré, malgré, even while they deny the accuracy of the science, which is only an imperfect one because it confines itself to the lineaments of the face, whereas character is displayed in every attitude and gesture, in the voice, tone, and manner of every word uttered, as well as in every step, bow, look, or move, of the best-drilled follower of fashion. Children are physiognomists, dogs are admirable physiognomists; but ladies and gentlemen are not, because they dare not always avow the moving springs of their actions and manners. Few would wish to confess that their hearts are fairly open to scrutiny, though, in most cases, we should probably discover, after all, more of weakness than of wickedness muffled up in their folds. It is affecting to think, indeed, that at a time when steam-boats and spinning-machines have made such rapid progress, the far more important art of polishing manners—or its result, the art of pleasing— should still be so far behind; for though the world is some 6000 years old, there are, as we see, many points, essentially affecting the ordinary intercourse of society, of which my fashionable public are still in utter darkness. I might say in deplorable darkness, for, among the classes to whom these papers are more particularly addressed, a great deal of the so-called happiness of life depends, after all, on the mere manner in which the most ordinary acts of every-day intercourse are gone through; if the parties we meet and transact business with, whether for pleasure and amusement, or in the pursuits of ambition or profit, are agreeable or disagreeable in their manners, are proficient in, or ignorant of the art of pleasIng. Though I have seen an Arowak Indian, adorned with blue paint and parrot's feathers, striving hard to act the agreeable towards the copper-colored belle of the tribe, and know that there is a system of etiquette observed at the court of Ashantee as well as at the court of St. James's, it may yet be true that the so-called useful arts precede the agreeable ones. Certain it is that the latter only extend their influence as knowledge advances, as society becomes more polished and refined, and as our sentiments and perceptions of what is due to conduct, character, acquirements, sentiments of honor, learning, and intellect, L to the nobler and better qualities of our nature—become more generally and universally admitted. In educated society we are each and all forced to claim a certain portion of these qualities—they constitute our ticket of admission; and, claiming from our neighbors the respect due to us on these grounds, we are certainly bound to give them the same amount of credit, and treat them accordingly. But have we fulfilled our duty in this respect? and are refined manners—or, to simplify the term—is a due attention to the art of pleasing properly enforced by society? We suspect not; the very existence, indeed, of the Sliding Scale of Manners shows how far we are yet behind, though the importance of the subject has been long perceived, as is amply proved by the books and codes of instruction to which it has given rise. In 1637 Baltasar Graciano, of Catalayud, in Arragon, already published an advice to courtiers, entitled, el Oraculo Manuel, y arte de prudencia. In Paris, Bellegarde, Vaumoriere, and others, followed in the same line, till, in the next century, England eclipsed all foreign nations by the glory which Chesterfield acquired as master of ceremonies to the very graces themselves. Whether the study of the graces, as recommended by the accomplished peer, required gifts of a higher order, more refinement and mental cultivation, or, above all,
greater sacrifices of individual sufficiency and pretension, than suits the fashionable public of the nineteenth century, need not be argued here; as it is enough for our purpose to know—what is, indeed, sufficiently apparent—that the art of pleasing has been completely superseded by the science of etiquette. This science, the wide-spread study of which, particularly in our own country, so strongly marks the real spirit of the age, could hardly fail to obtain numerous followers the moment it obtained influence; for it is easily acquired, suits the meanest capacity, and enables the most perfect mediocrity to act—what it fancies—a part, by merely following prescribed mechanical rules natural to all persons of good breeding, but absolutely worthless by themselves, as they only form the frame, and the ungilt frame, indeed, of the portraiture which the Art of Pleasing can alone fill up and render valuable. And yet it is within this worthless framework, fortified by these silver-spoon rules, that so many person think themselves entitled to sport their Sliding Scale manners; a scale that certainly tends to lower the general tone of social intercourse, and though it rarely imposes, even upon the foolish, furnishes invariable amusement to the mischievous. It is really afflicting to think how some of the grandest Sliders in the land are occasionally laughed at by wicked wags, that were thought to have been almost annihilated by the superlative bearing of the very objects of their merriment. “It is too bad.”
Now do not misunderstand what I have here said about etiquette, which is very well in its way, and perhaps indispensable. In this country it is, at all events, very useful; for we have so many able, excellent, and deserving persons, constantly rising from the humbler ranks to wealth and station, by pursuits that precluded them mixing early in polished society, and becoming acquainted with the manners of fashionable life, that it is of advantage to have some fixed rules laid down for their guidance ; rules that shall prevent them from crossing their legs Yankee fashion, over a dinner table, or picking their teeth with a fork a la Française. But this is to give no sanction to persons of any class, whether nowweaur riches or aristocrats of the oldest standing, to assume the slightest particle of merit for a knowledge of and adherence to mere rules and forms, more easily learned than the duties of the footman who waits upon them at dinner.
“But a truce to these cynical remarks,” I think I hear the reader say; “teach us the Art of Pleasing, and you will find plenty of willing disciples; for we are all anxious to please in society, and be well thought of in the world, but do not always know how to set about it. Let fops of all classes, the rude, the vapid, the affected, say what they will, they act the part most congenial to their capacity, and give themselves airs because they can do no better; they would gladly be distinguished for skill in the art of pleasing, be men of gallantry, of elegant and refined manners, if they could, and only pretend to undervalue and disdain that excellence which they cannot attain. No, no; only show us the way to please, and we shall gladly follow.”
There may be some truth in this; but it is not easy to reduce the Art of Pleasing to rules and regulations. All that can be done is to call upon society to maintain their own dignity, to prevent them from af. secting blindness, from shutting their eyes to the evils of the Sliding Scale, and from receiving counterfeit coin instead of real good breeding and manners. What single pen could polish down the vulgar barbarian, the bully of society' who can amend the pompous blockhead, the man of envious and envenomed vanity ? what cure, short of the actual knowt, can improve the jealous, vapid, affected, and pretending ! what is to be done with the numerous class who purposely study the art of displeasing 7 some from the impulse of bad hearts and coarse minds; others from the silly vanity which makes them anxious to act the magnifico in so exalted a style as not to admit of their appearing polite or attentive to ordinary mortals; others, again, because they fear to fail in doing the agreeable, but are sure to succeed in acting the ruffian. No single effort can, I repeat, remedy these evils; all we can do is to hold up the mirror of truth, and shame society into the performance of its duty.
It was at a party only last winter, that Mr. Coarsegrain bandied words with Miss Smirkwell, who, forgetting that she was engaged to dance with him, had provided herself with another partner; and he was yet, notwithstanding such conduct, invited to almost every succeeding ball of the season. Ladies never jilt me about mere dances; the cruel dears reserve these tricks for matters that more nearly affect the heart; but had a lady cut me about a dance, I should only have expressed my regret at
her having forgot me so soon—should have assured her that a thousand years could not obliterate her image from the tablets of my memory. In such a case, the other cavaliero, unless a regular vulgarian, would instantly have withdrawn his claim, and declared that it was happiness enough for him to have been, even for a moment, thought worthy of dancing with Miss Smirkwell; who, as far as he was concerned, was to consider herself perfectly disengaged, and at full liberty to dance with any one deserving the honor. Such conduct would have led at once to smiles, bows, and pretty speeches, instead of frowns and harsh words, which should be considered as altogether excluded from ladies' society. “But you forget,” I think I hear Mrs. Huntwell say, “that Mr. Coarsegrain's estate is worth five thousand a-year.” True, true; and this may account for the subsequent invitations, but cannot justify them. At the same time I would recommend ladies never to make such double engagements; there can be no great difficulty in recollecting who is to be the partner for the third quadrille or second waltz ; or if you have a bad memory, take a little ivory tablet with you, and register the gentlemen according to a German fashion, which I always thought a little affected. Inattention to this trifling matter—sometimes, I fear the result of a little vanity—occasions ill blood and bad feeling, and should be most carefully avoided. On the Continent, especially in France, it is a law de rigueur that no lady, after making such a mistake, dances again during the evening; and though I deem it ludicrous in the extreme to see a grim and moustachioed dandy keeping fierce watch to prevent a pretty girl from joining a quadrille, I still think it right to have some rein kept over ladies' caprices. To return, however, to the direct thread of my subject. Though the Art of Pleasing cannot be taught by mere rules, we may yet lay down some general principles for the guidance of those who are willing to profit by them. The simple Christian maxim, indeed, which tells us to do by others as we would be done by ourselves, contains the very essence of all that can be said on the subject. But do we follow the maxim in our intercourse with the world? No, truly. Forgetting that it is far more meritorious to be beloved than admired, we go into society
to astonish the natives, to excite wonder, but rarely, indeed, with the least intention of evincing a particle of admiration for any one else, the stoicism of the nil admirari school being looked upon as the very persection of high breeding. And from whom does the reader suppose this boasted tone of fashion has been derived 2 From the high, accomplished, and cultivated of the earth? No, faith ! from the very opposite class; from the dull, the ignorant, and the savage. We who write have seen this species of fashionable stoicism displayed in the highest perfection sby Arowak Indians, who deem it beneath their dignity to evince surprise or admiration on any occasion, as they wish it to be believed that they are perfectly familiar with all that is most excellent and exalted in the world. By the united testimony of all African travellers, every petty Negro despot excels in the same style of fashionable deportment, and retains as much apparent composure at the sight of a scarlet-bay's cloak and bottle of rum, that make his very heart throb again, as he would on beholding a bowl of palm wine, or ordinary piece of Negro-worked cloth. The merit of the nil admirari system is not, therefore, of a very high order or brilliant origin. For my own part, I confess that I have no patience with my fashionable public on this point. A captain of the Royal Horse Grenadiers has certainly as much right to be fastidious as any one can have, and yet I never go into society, never move about the world with parties of pleasure, as parties are sometimes miscalled, without seeing a vast deal that is to be admired. Where is the ball-room in Britain, in which you will not find many, very many pretty, often charming, women, with evidence of every thing that is kind, generous, affectionate,_with intelligence and feeling beaming from animated eyes and expressive features,-women, with the young of whom, whether plain or pretty, you almost fancy yourself in love at first sight, while you feel that with the old you could instant: ly harmonize in thoughts, sentiments, and opinion? How delightful, indeed, is the society and conversation of an old lady, who retains the kindly feeling of youth, the frank generosity of heart, open to the im: pressions of all that is great, good, and beautiful; who joins to the result of education a knowledge of society, and the quick and just perception for which the sex are distinguished; who can appreciate and join
in the praise of merit, grieve for the faults and errors of the fallible, smile and laugh— and that right heartily, too—at the follies of the vain, the ignorant, and pretending ! There is, in fact, no conversation equal to that of a cheerful old lady. Nor are gentlemen of talents, acquirements, and finished manners, ever wanting in English society; you know them at once by their countenances, by the truly British countenance, the noblest the world has yet to show. They may chance to be neither peers nor millionaires, though the peerage is rich in such men, but folly only can act the port of the haughty exquisite in their presence.
You cannot enter a gentleman's library, however ill arranged, that is not full of books which have been, and are to be, the admiration of ages. You cannot pass through the gallery where his fathers frown, in “rude and antique portraiture around,” without being struck by the noble lineaments that so often break through the bad painting and atrocious costumes that disfigure our old family portraits. Nay, you cannot walk in the worst laid-out flowergarden, the most contracted lawn, or dingy shrubbery, without finding constant objects of admiration ; for there is not a leaf that grows, a flower that blooms, there is not a sprig of heath that bends beneath the gales of the north, that is not absolutely beautiful, that does not bear the impress of a mighty master-hand, which leaves all attempts of worldly imitation at a distance, measured only by immensity. No-no, trust none of this nil admirari stoicism, for none but
“The fool and dandy, Those sous of buttermilk and sugar candy,”
can pass, if only through the world of fashion, and declare that all is barren. Do not suppose from this that I wish you to deal in constant exclamations, and seem in ecstasy with every thing you see or hear. Very far from it : exclamations and ecstasies are foolish ; but I must insist on all ladies and gentlemen meeting a willingness to please them, with a cheerful readiness to be pleased, and shall always declare the stateliness which affects to be above deriving pleasure from the sayings, doings, and showings of the company with which it associates, to be the height of bad manners. The most certain mode of pleasing is, no doubt, to make others pleased with themselves; but as this principle can only be
successfully acted upon in téte-à-tête con