Monday, December 14, 2009

The Value of Etiquette vs. Sneering at Etiquette

By Mrs. Elsey Whittard

It is the practice with certain people to sneer at the word "etiquette," and to claim that it merely means a foolish pandering to frivolous customs which in themselves have no meaning or use. This is a misapprehension which a little thoughtful consideration will remove.
Certain rules for the government of social, business and political life have been current for generations, and have been handed down with almost unvarying exactitude, in all civilized lands. Such customs or laws, are grounded in good taste, a sense of the fitness of things, kindly feelings, and a natural desire to smooth away the asperities and roughness which would prevail among so many persons of varying tastes and ideas, without a certain set of rules to help to this end.

A Polite Person Admired.

Who is not attracted toward a polite, well-bred person? Who does not carry with them, perhaps through life, the remembrance of some real gentleman or lady with whom they came in contact, at perhaps, an early period of their life? The pleasant memory such a person has left, and the agreeable impression, may unconsciously have had some influence upon their own life, and served as a model for their own behavior when launched into the society which they wish to adorn.
To understand and cultivate the tenets laid down by good society, is not to assume airs, or does not prevent the recognition of the "rough diamond" that sometimes shines out from among those whose early advantages have not been many. Rather it adds a higher polish to that gem, and gives it a higher luster. Who are the gems in your life? Think about it ...

Certain Rules.

Rules of etiquette have their allotted place among the forces of life, and must be acknowledged as moral agents in refining and making more agreeable our daily intercourse with each other. They are agents for good. They teach us to be more lenient with the various elements which compose society. Life is a sort of a partnership in which each human being has an interest; and the laws of etiquette, well enforced, oblige us to make concessions to the many tastes, prejudices and habits of those we meet in the social circle , at public entertainments, in business relations, or when traveling. If the value of good breeding is in danger of being depreciated, it is only necessary to compare the impression which a gentle, pleasant demeanor leaves upon you, with the gruff abrupt or indifferent carriage of those who affect to despise good manners. If two applicants for a position are equally capable, it is safe to assert that in every case, the agreeable and courteous seeker will obtain it in preference to the other, who is his equal in all respects, save that he is deficient in that suave dignity that charms all.
We are all susceptible to the charm of good manners. Indeed, society could not be maintained save for the usages of etiquette. But true etiquette must spring from a sincere desire to make everyone around us feel at ease; a determination to exercise a thoughtful regard for the feelings of others. It is this patient forbearance with the eccentricities of all, which stamps the true lady or gentleman. It is a duty which each one owes to himself, to acquire certain rules for guidance, which shall make him a welcome guest in any circle.

What Etiquette Is.

Etiquette is not a servile yielding up of one's individuality, or cold formality. It is rather the beautiful frame which is placed around a valuable picture to prevent its being marred or defaced. Etiquette throws a protection around the well-bred, keeping the coarse and disagreeable at a distance, and punishing those who violate her dictates, with banishment from the social circle.

I will discuss manners in my next writing. Until then, study and learn my students, study and learn.

Mrs. Elsey Whittard, December 14, 1891

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Setting a Frugal Table, A Ladies Guide for Young and Inexperienced Housewives.

August 4, 1888

Dear Readers,

If we take the average income of the prosperous American household of the medium range of intelligence and culture, we shall find it to be from $1500.00 to $2000.00 a year. Young professional men and young merchants and financial men who have married and see families growing up about them do not usually exceed these amounts in the years when they are laying the foundations of future fortunes. When the ordinary expenses of living are considered, the table should not consume more than one third of the entire amount. Suppose this to be $1500.00. An average rent would be $25.00 per month; while in some cities it would be more, in many localities it would be considerably less, especially in young and spreading communities and their suburbs, and upon the line of Metropolitan railways; in perfectly respectable city neighborhoods a floor or a part of a small house can be rented for/from $25.00 to $30.00 a month. Fuel for a cooking-stove and two other fires, and lights, would cost about $8.00 per month, providing coke were used in cities, and the cinders of coal utilized, and if some of the lighting were done by kerosene. Upon this point it may be well to say here that actual tests have shown possible the entire lighting of a four-story city house with kerosene at an average cost of $3.00 per month. Then would come household wear and tear and medical attendance, that would probably be covered by $100.00 a year, the fact being remembered that the doctor's visits can be largely affected by the mother's own care of her family, and chiefly by keeping them properly nourished. Church dues, literature, and amusements would require at least $60.00 a year. And this estimate would leave $300.00 for clothing.

Now that you have these figures dear ones, I shall show you in my next bit of advice how to break down our first bill of fare which is suitable for any season when fresh vegetables are available.

Cream of beets,
Fried cauliflower
Breast of lamb with stuffed potatoes
Stewed beets with brown sauce
Marianne puddings with cream sauce
Apples, nuts, black coffee

Respectfully Yours
Mrs. Elsey Whittard