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tied down by a certain degree of good manners to you, as by other degrees of them to other peo. people. The most familiar and intimate habitudes, connections, and friendships, require a degree of good-breeding, both to preserve and cement then. The best of us have our bad sides; and it is as imprudent as it is ill-bred, to exhibit them. I shall not use ceremony with you; it would be misplaced between us: but I shall certainly observe that degree of good-breeding with you, which is, in the first place, decent, and which, I am sure, is absolutely necessary to make us like one another's company long. Chesterfield.
ON DIGNITY OF MANNERS.
THERE is a certain dignity of manners absolutely necessary, to make even the most valuable character either respected or respectable.
Horse-play, romping, frequent and loud fits of laughter, jokes, waggery, and indiscriminate familiarity, will sink both merit and knowledge into a degree of contempt. They compose at most a merry fellow; and a merry fellow was never yet a respectable man. Indiscriminate familiarity either offends your superiors, or else dubs you their dependant and led captain. It gives your inferiors just, but troublesome and improper, claims of equality. A joker is near a-kin to a buffoon, and neither of them is the least related to wit. ever is admitted or sought for, in company, upon any other account than that of his merit and manners, is never respected there, but only made use of. We will have such-a-one, for he sings pret
tily; we will invite such-a-one to a ball, for he dances well; we will have such-a-one at supper, for he is always joking and laughing; we will ask another, because he plays deep at all games, or because he can drink a great deal. These are all vilifying distinctions, mortifying preferences, and exclude all ideas of esteem and regard. Whoever is had (as it is called) in company, for the sake of any one thing singly, is singly that thing, and will never be considered in any other light. consequently never respected, let his merits be what they may.
This dignity of manners, which I recommend so much to you, is not only as different from pride, as true courage is from blustering, or true wit from joking, but is absolutely inconsistent with it; for nothing vilifies and degrades more than pride. The pretensions of the proud man are oftener treated with sneer and contempt, than with indignation; as we offer ridiculously too little to a tradesman, who asks ridiculously too much for his goods; but we do not haggle with one who only asks a just and reasonable price.
Abject flattery and indiscriminate assentation degrade, as much as indiscriminate contradiction and noisy debate disgust. But a modest assertion of one's own opinion, and a complaisant acquiescence in other people's, preserve dignity.
Vulgar, low expressions, awkward motions and address, vilify, as they imply either a very low turn of mind, or low education, and low company.
Frivolous curiosity about trifles, and a laborious attention to little objects, which neither require nor deserve a moment's thought, lower a man:
who from thence is thought (and not unjustly) in capable of greater matters. Cardinal de Retz, very sagaciously, marked out Cardinal Chigi for a little mind, from the moment he told him he had wrote three years with the same pen, and that it was an excellent good one still.
A certain degree of exterior seriousness in looks and motions gives dignity, without excluding wit and decent cheerfulness, which are always serious themselves. A constant smirk upon the face, and a whiffling activity of the body, are strong indications of futility. Whoever is in a hurry, shows that the thing he is about is too big for him— haste and hurry are very different things.
I have only mentioned some of those things which may, and do, in the opinion of the world, lower and sink characters, in other respects valuable enough; but I have taken no notice of those that affect and sink the moral characters: they are sufficiently obvious. A man, who has patiently been kicked, may as well pretend to courage, as a man blasted by vices and crimes, to dignity of any kind. But an exterior decency and dignity of manners, will even keep such a man longer from sinking, than otherwise he would be; of such consequence is the ro wpsnov, or decorum, even though affected and put on. Chesterfield.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TRUE AND FALSE POLITENESS.
It is evident enough, that the moral and Christian duty, of preferring one another in honour, respects
only social peace and charity, and terminates in the good and edification of our Christian brother. Its use is, to soften the minds of men, and to draw them from that savage rusticity, which engenders many vices, and discredits the virtues themselves. But when men had experienced the benefit of this complying temper, and further saw the ends, not of charity only, but of self-interest, that might be answered by it; they considered no longer its just purpose, and application, but stretched it to that officious sedulity, and extreme servility of adulation, which we too often observe and lament in polished life.
Hence, that infinite attention and consideration, which is so rigidly exacted, and so duly paid, in the commerce of the world: hence, that prostitution of mind, which leaves a man no will, no sentiment, no principle, no character; all which disappear under the uniform exhibition of good manners: hence, those insidious arts, those studied disguises, those obsequious flatteries, nay, those multiplied and nicely varied forms of insinuation. and address, the direct aim of which may be to acquire the fame of politeness and good-breeding, but the certain effect, to corrupt every virtue, to soothe every vanity, and to inflame every vice
of the human heart.
These fatal mischiefs introduce themselves under the pretence and semblance of that humanity, which the Scriptures encourage and enjoin; but the genuine virtue is easily distinguished from the counterfeit, and by the following plain signs:
True politeness is modest, unpretending, and generous. It appears as little as may be; and
when it does a courtesy, would willingly conceal it. It chooses silently to forego its own claims, not officiously to withdraw them. It engages a man to prefer his neighbour to himself, because he really esteems him; because he is tender of his reputation; because he thinks it more manly, more Christian, to descend a little himself than to degrade another. It respects, in a word, the credit and estimation of his neighbour.
The mimic of this amiable virtue, false politeness, is, on the other hand, ambitious, servile, timorous. It affects popularity: is solicitous to please, and to be taken notice of. The man of this character does not offer, but obtrudes his civilities; because he would merit by this assiduity; because, in despair of winning regard by any worthier qualities, he would be sure to make the most of this; and lastly, because, of all things, he would dread, by the omission of any punctilious observance, to give offence. In a word, this sort of politeness respects, for its immediate object, the favour and consideration of our neighbour.
2. Again: the man who governs himself by the spirit of the Apostle's precept, expresses his preference of another in such a way as is worthy of himself; in all innocent compliances, in all honest civilities, in all decent and manly condescensions.
On the contrary, the man of the world, who rests in the letter of this command, is regardless of the means by which he conducts himself. He respects neither his own dignity, nor that of human nature. Truth, reason, virtue, are all equally betrayed by this supple impostor. He assents to the errours, though the most pernicious; he ap