Good Manners at Home

Woman’s influence in the home.

It is usually the wife and mother who sets the key of behaviour in the home. If she is loud and rough, her servants and her children will follow suit. If she is gentle, kindly, and patient, her example will exercise a subtle influence on even the noisest of her domestics. Sometimes, when a man has married beneath him, his first disillusionment, after the glamour of his love is past, is caused by the brusquerie of the uneducated and ill-trained wife. And, on the other hand, when a girl or woman has married beneath her own class—run away with a handsome groom or become the wife of a good-looking jockey—her domestic experiences are calculated to be her severest punishment. A relative of one such misguided girl, having visited her in her married home, said afterwards to a friend: “His manners at table, my dear, are simply frightful, but they compare agreeably with his behaviour anywhere else, for he neither talks nor swears when he is eating.” What a life-companion for a well-bred girl! Should the husband have any gentleness or goodness stowed away within him, he is sure to improve as time goes on. His wife is an education to him, but at such a tremendous cost to herself as to be absolutely incalculable.

Where manners are absent.

In ordinary cases, however, it is the wife who is responsible for the home manners. And, oh! what a difference they make! In some families there is a constant jar and fret of sulks and little tempers. Politeness among the members is wholly ignored. Each one says the first disagreeable thing that occurs to him, and the others warmly follow suit. The habit grows on all, and the result is a state of things that makes the gentle-minded among the inmates of the home long for peace and rest, and seize the first opportunity of leaving it. And it is so easy, after all, to initiate a far different and more agreeable state of things. The young ones can be trained to gentleness and good manners, to self-control under provocation, and to the daily practice of those small acts of self-denial, self-control, and true courtesy, which do so much towards building up conditions of home happiness.

Churlish natures.

Their rampant egotism.

There are, of course, churlish natures which nothing could ever influence in the direction of true politeness, which always means self-effacement to a certain extent. It is of such as these that a student of human nature has said, “Grattez le Russe, et vous trouvez le Tartare.” Would that such beings were confined to Russia! How happy would other countries be in their absence! The smallest touch to their vanity, their enormously developed self-love, their triumphant self-conceit, robs them in a moment of any surface polish they may ever have acquired. As a breath upon a mirror dulls its brightness, and renders it useless for the purposes for which it is made, so does the merest suggestion or shadow of a shade of blame or criticism dull the touchy human subject, for a day, for a week, perhaps longer, rendering him or her unfit for ordinary social intercourse The egotism of such an one is ever rampant. It pervades his atmosphere, so that one can touch and hurt it from afar, with the most genuine absence of any intention to do so.

Their presence a blight.

Oh, how disagreeable they are! What cloudy blackness they spread over the home! How they kill the little joys and blisses that might otherwise surround the domestic hearth, giving human creatures solace for much suffering! And, worse still, how completely they destroy the affection that might be theirs, if only they could unwrap themselves from the envelope of self in which they are enshrouded. No love, not even the strongest, can sustain itself against years of brutal roughness, intermittent it is true, but ever imminent. For who can tell how innocently or unconsciously one may wound the outrageous self- conceit of one of these? Martyrs in their own idea, they offer a spectacle to gods and men which, could they but see it with clearness in its true aspect, would be so mortifying and humiliating that it would convey a highly salutary lesson. But they can never see anything in its true light that is connected with themselves. If love is blind, what on earth is self-love?

  By PanEris using Melati.

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