The importance of a good manner.

The qualities valued by society.

“Life is a large bundle of little things.”

Simulation may induce reality.


And reticence.

It would not be easy to over-estimate the importance of a good manner from a social point of view. It ranks far above much more important qualities. The “rough diamonds” who conceal their traditional good heart under a surly exterior are seldom happy people, notwithstanding their genuine thoroughness and real goodness. In family life and in society a gentle manner “covers a multitude of sins.” The world and the home reflect back to us the face we present to them. If we cultivate a bright and cordial manner we shall be heartily received by others, though the real nature of us lies beneath as cold and hard as salt fresh from a mine. In the home the coldness and hardness are soon found out, but they are partially condoned for the sake of the superficial courtesy and kindness. In society the quality of the heart matters little, so long as the surface is, at the same time, genial and polished. Life is chiefly made up of small things, and if we learn to take an interest in the trifling incidents of our friends’ lives, in the everyday occurrences in the existence of our acquaintances, we supply the sympathetic element that tells so largely in our favour. And very often the simulation of this interest induces the reality, and our own life is brightened by participating in the pleasures and the happiness of others, and deepened by sharing in their disappointments, and by doing so helping them to overcome them. With a cold, forbidding manner it is impossible to convey any such impression. But this often comes from shyness, not only in the young, but all through life. The youthful form of shyness is self-consciousness and self-distrust. That which lasts through life is the fear of self-revelation. Even the frankest natures have often this quality of reticence, which forbids them to reveal the inner depths of their thoughts, and makes them hate to be divined.

Rochefoucauld says we all hate to be divined, though we like to divine others; but many of us know well what a delightful thing it is to be read like an open book by those whose thoughts reflect our own, and with whom we discover ourselves to be in mental kinship.

The ideal life—few friends, many acquaintances.

A recipe for the formation of a good manner.

The ideal life is that which has few friends but many acquaintances. The friends are close and firm ones, “grappled to our hearts with hooks of steel,” and the circle of acquaintances offers opportunities for adding to their number. But without an agreeable manner it is difficult to secure these inner and outer spheres of social companionship. Were I asked to give a recipe for the formation of a good manner I should recommend an equal mixture of self-confidence and humility as the first essential, then a considerable desire to please, tempered by the self-respect which preserves from officiousness and that annoying air of “ingratiating” themselves that some men assume in society. There must be perfect self-possession, though in the very young this is scarcely expected, a little becoming shyness sitting very well upon them. “I like a shy man. He’s getting so scarce,” said a very pretty woman at a ball not long since. “Find one, quick, and introduce him.” Her laughing emissaries went off to search for the desired article, and after a while returned with the report that the only shy man in the room was engaged for every dance!

Add gentleness to self-possession.

When self-possession has been acquired it is well to add on to it the saving grace of gentleness. This quality is much misunderstood by men. In women they adore it; in themselves and each other they undervalue

  By PanEris using Melati.

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