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lytės to ceremony. I have seen a duchess fairly knocked down, by the precipitancy of an officious coxcomb running to save her the trouble of opening a door. I remember, upon a birth-day at court, a great lady was rendered utterly disconsolate by a dish of sauce let fall by a page directly upon her head-dress and brocade, while she gave a sudden turn to her elbow upon some point of ceremony with the person who sat next to her. Monsieur Buys, the Dutch envoy, whose politics and manners were much of a size, brought a son with him, about thirteen years old, to a great table
The boy and his father, whatever they put on their plates, they first offered round in order, to every person in company; so that we could not get a minute's quiet during the whole dinner. At last their two plates happened to encounter, and with so much violence, that, being china, they broke in twenty pieces, and stained half the company with wet sweetmeats and cream
There is a pedantry in manners, as in all arts and sciences : and sometimes in trades Pedantry is properly the over-rating of any kind of knowledge we pretend to. And if that kind of knowledge be a trifle in itself, the pedantry is the greater. For which reason I look upon fiddlers, dancing-masters, heralds, masters of the ceremony, &c. to be greater pedants than Lipsius, or the elder Scaliger. With this kind of pedants, the court, while I knew it, was always plentifully stocked; I mean from the gentleman usher (at least) inclusive, downward to the gentleman porter: who are, generally speaking, the most insignificant race of people that this island can afford, and with the smallest tincture of good manners; which is the only trade they profess For, being wholly illiterate, and conversing chiefly with each other, they reduce the whole system of breeding within the forms and circles of their several of fices: and, as they are below the notice of ministers, they live and die in court under all revolutions, with great obsequiousness to those who are in any degree of credit or favour, and with rudeness and insolence to every body else. Whence I have long concluded, that good manners are not a plant of the court growth: for if they were, those people, who have understandings directly of a level for such acquirements, who have served such long apprenticeships to nothing else, would certainly have picked them up. For, as to the great officers, who attend the prince's person or councils, or preside in his family, they are a transient body, who have no better a title to good manners than their neighbours, 'nor will probably have recourse to gentlemen ushers for instruction. So that I know little to be learned at court upon this head, except in the material circumstance of dress; wherein the authority of the maids of honour must indeed be allowed to be almost equal to that of a favourite actress.
I remember a passage my lord Bolingbroke told me; that going to receive prince Eugene of Savoy at his landing, in order to conduct him immediately to the queen, the prince said, he was much concerned that he could not see her majesty that night; for monsieur Hoffman (who was then by) had assured his highness that he could not be admitted into her presence with a tied-up periwig; that his equipage was not arrived; and that he had endeavoured in vain to borrow a long one among all his valets and pages. My lord turned the matter into a jest, and brought the prince to her majesty; for which he was highly censured by the whole tribe of gentlemen ushers; among
whom monsieur Hoffman, an old dull resident of the emperor's, had picked up this material point of ceremony; and which, I believe, was the best lesson he had learned in five-and-twenty years' residence.
* Swift's patron, Harley, would however have done wisely to have attended to this insignificant etiquette. Queen Anne, upon whom, in some case of emergency, he had waited in a tie-wig, said very resentfully, she supposed his lordship would next appear before her in his night-cap.
In the notes on my friend Mr Southey's Cid, he has quoted a pas sage which strongly illustrates that which we have in the text. “ Sir John Finett, master of the ceremonies to James and Charles I. left behind him some choice observations touching the reception and precedence, the treatment and audience, the puntillios and contests of forren ambassadors in England, which Howell published under the title of Finetti Philoxenis. That any man should have lived about such a court in such times, and have left such memoirs of it, is truly surprizing. A passage which shows that chairs and stools were as great objects of discussion in those days, as they were in the reign of king Don Alfonso, is a good specimen of the book. Sir John, who had a good genius for the worthy office which he held, had been sent in the king's name to invite the French ambassador to the marriage of Lady Jane Dromond, which was to be solemnized the next day, at Somerset-house; and after many diplomatic difficulties the point seemed to be settled, that the ambassador (postponing all other considerations) be there both dinner and supper. With this signification I returned to the lord Lysle, (lord chamberlaine to the queene) who communicated it to the earl of Worcester, master of her majesties horse, that he might convey it to her majesty, as he should go with her in a coach, from Whitehall to Somerset-house. It hung yet in intention when the ambassador's secretary came to me from his lord, with a further exception, that howsoever the queen were pleased that he should be present both dinner and supper, he would be bold to prefer this condition to her allowance, that he might not sit upon a stool, but on a chair, in the same manner as the bride should be seated. I answered, I thought that would be no great difficulty. But how (quoth I) if the prince were there, and have but a stool to sit on? If my lord' ambassador were sure of that, replied the secretary, I presume he would make no further question, but in all bear his highness company. To be resolved of this,
I make a difference between good manners and good breeding; although, in order to vary my expression, I am sometimes forced to confound them. By the first, I only understand the art of remembering and applying certain settled forms of general behaviour. But good breeding is of a much larger extent; for, beside an uncomnon degree of literature sufficient to qualify a gentleman for reading a play or a political pamphlet, it takes in a great compass of knowledge; no less than that of dancing, fighting, gaming, making the circle of Italy, riding the great horse, and speaking French; not to mention some other secondary or subaltern accomplishments, which are more easily acquired. So that the difference between good breeding and good manners lies in this; that the former cannot be attained to by the best understandings without study and labour: whereas a tolerable degree of reason will instruct us in every part of good manners, without other assistance.
I went at his request to my lord Lysle, my lord Worcester, and my lord Carew, vice chamberlain, whom I found altogether; and having assurance from them of the prince, his presence with the bride at dinner, and requesting their lordships (as the Secretary desired me) that they would not trouble the queen any further concerning the ambassador till the secretary had been with him, and returned with his final satisfaction, he repaired that evening to
my lord Lysle, and propounding the same demand of a chair, as he had done to me in the afternoon, it was resolved he should have one with the prince: and so ended that difference. The next day he came, and the bride (seated at the table’s end, which was placed at the
upper end of the hall) had the prince at her left hand, as the better place nearest the wall, (his highness sitting with his right hand uppermost) on her right hand the ambassador, both in chairs; and opposite to him, beneath the prince, in a little distance, sate on a stool, a duke of Saxony, here at that time to visit his majesty.”—P. 17.
“ For the Puntillios of an ambassador, sir John had all possible respect. But when one of the king's gentlemen ushers objected to a guest's sitting on a stool, at the end of the table, in the council chamber, as being,' he said, "irregular and unusual, that place being ever wont to be reserved empty for state ;'--this, says sir John, as a superstition of a gentleman usher's, was neglected." Souhey's CID, p. 426.
I can think of nothing more useful upon this subject, than to point out some particulars, wherein the very essentials of good manners are concerned, the neglect or perverting of which does very much disturb the good commerce of the world, by introducing a traffic of mutual uneasiness in most companies.
First, A necessary part of good manners, is a punctual observance of time at our own dwellings, or those of others, or at third places; whether upon matter of civility, business, or diversion ; which rule, though it be a plain dictate of common reason, yet the greatest minister I ever knew was the greatest trespasser against it; by which all his business doubled upon him, and placed him in a continual arrear. Upon which I often used to rally him, as deficient in point of good man
I have known more than one ambassador, and secretary of state, with a very moderate portion of intellectuals, execute their offices with good success and applause, by the mere force of exactness and regularity. If you duly observe time for the service of another, it doubles the obligation : if upon your own account, it would be manifest folly, as well as ingratitude, to ne glect it: if both are concerned, to make your equal or inferior attend on you to his own disadvantage, is pride and injustice.
Ignorance of forms cannot properly be styled ill manners: because forms are subject to frequent changes; and consequently, being not founded