Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Remember When . . . Manners Were King?

Don't forget to enter yesterday's giveaway for The Big 5-Oh!


One of the most interesting tidbits I've come across thus far in my research for my 1784 story is on manners of the day. The Colonial Williamsburg site has a page on the Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation, as transcribed by George Washington at the age of 16 or so.

I've read through about half of the 100+ rules of etiquette, and I gotta say, it's really enriched my understanding of the culture of the time. And explained some things. You know how you get that particular feeling of decorum and elegance from paintings of the time? These rules actually make it pretty clear it wasn't a trick of the artist. I'm going to give y'all a taste of some of their rules and manners. The spelling and capitalization are all George's. =) Enjoy!

~In the Presence of Others Sing not to yourself with a humming Noise, nor Drum with your Fingers or Feet.

~Shift not yourself in the Sight of others nor Gnaw your nails.

~(One of my favorites) Shake not the head, Feet, or Legs rowl not the Eys 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.

~Kill no Vermin as Fleas, lice ticks &c in the Sight of Others, if you See any filth or thick Spittle put your foot Dexteriously 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.

~let your Countenance be pleasant but in Serious Matters Somewhat grave.

~Shew not yourself glad at the Misfortune of another though he were your enemy.

~Superfluous Complements and all Affectation of Ceremonie are to be avoided, yet where due they are not to be Neglected.

~Let your Discourse with Men of Business be Short and Comprehensive.

~Undertake not to Teach your equal in the art himself Proffesses; it Savours of arrogancy.

~Do not express Joy before one sick or in pain for that contrary Passion will aggravate his Misery.

There are still a ton more, so maybe I'll treat you to a few other lessons next week. =)


  1. These are great. There's a poetical rhythm to them that is really cool.

  2. I'm a fan of the one about not killing fleas you might see hopping around on yourself or others. Um, ew!!!