Afternoon

John Garretson, from The School of Manners. Or Rules for Childrens Behaviour: At Church, at Home, at Table, in Company, in Discourse, at School, abroad, and among Boys. With some other short and mixt Precepts (1701)

One's conduct or behaviour was a crucial marker of one's place within English society. Although courtesy and advice literature had existed in various forms since the Middle Ages, the growth of the aspiring middle classes in the eighteenth century fueled a corresponding rise in the number of conduct books. The writers of conduct books are eager to advise men, women, and children on their social and religious duties, as well as on the fine distinctions in behavior that distinguish one class from another. Learning such rules — from how to educate one's children to how to make proper courtesies — offered readers of conduct books a way to recognize class distinctions, as well as the hope that they might improve their own station in life through imitating the behavior of their "betters."

The "Rules for Behaviour in Company" shown below are directed at forming polite behavior in children. How many of these rules remain applicable today?

Chap. V.

Rules for Behaviour in Company

Enter not into the Company of Superiors without command of calling; nor without a bow.

Sit not down in presence of Superiors without bidding.

Put not thy hand in the presence of others to any part of thy body, not ordinarily discovered.

Sing not nor hum in thy mouth while thou art in company.

Play not wantonly like a Mimick with thy Fingers or Feet.

Stand not wriggling with thy body hither and thither, but steddy and upright.

In coughing or sneesing make as little noise as possible.

If thou cannot avoid yawning, shut thy Mouth with thine Hand or Handkerchief before it, turning thy Face aside.

When thou blowest thy Nose, let thy Handkerchief be used, and make not a noise in so doing.

Gnaw not thy Nails, pick them not, nor bite them with thy teeth.

Spit not in the Room, but in a corner, and rub it out with thy Foot, or rather go out and do it abroad.

Lean not upon the Chair of a Superior, standing behind him.

Spit not upon the fire, nor sit too wide with thy Knees at it.

Sit not with thy legs crossed, but keep them firm and setled, and thy Feet even.

Turn not thy back to any, but place thyself conveniently, that none be behind thee.

Read not Letters, Books, nor other Writings in Company, unless there be necessity, and thou ask leave.

Touch not nor look upon the Books or Writings of any one, unless the Owner invite or desire thee.

Come not near when another reads a Letter or Paper.

Let thy Countenance be moderately chearful, neither laughing nor frowning.

Laugh not aloud, but silently Smile upon occasion.

Walking with thy Superior in the house or Garden, give him the upper or righthand, and walk not just even with him cheek be joll, but a little behind him, yet not so distant as that it shall be troublesome to him to speak to thee, or hard for thee to hear.

Look not boldly or willfully in the Face of thy Superior.

To look upon one in company and immediately whisper to another is unmannerly.

Stand not before Superiors with thine hands in thy pockets, scratch not thy Head, wink not with thine Eyes, but thine Eyes modestly looking straight before thee, and thine Hands behind thee.

Be not among Equals froward and fretful, but gentle and affable.

Whisper not in company.


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