Advice to a Young Gentleman on Entering
Society. Philadelphia, 1839. 295p.
G360 A939 A839. By a Gentleman.
Pp. 18-19 Constant usage in society, and familiarity with men and women, are of great importance in teaching young men to correct that over estimation, which ignorance forms of the abilities of particular persons, and the difficulties of certain professions. A bashful youth, who hears of such a one as "the witty," "the accomplished," or "the thoroughly bred," fancies the subject of such epithets, a being of a different species from himself, and as having a gift from the gods, and qualitites which he never can attain. If he sees such people intimately, and often, he will discover that their defects are numerous, and that what exellences they have, are the mere result of toil and attention, and he will learn that the same means will put him in possession of the same adornments. He will thus learn the wisdom of hopefulness, and of cheerful enterprise. That kind of contempt which familiarity causes, for men and things, is necessary for him who would deal with them rightly. It is thus that the world is subdued unto the mind, and thus it arrives to the practised intellect, that nothing can daunt its ambition or distrust its action. to amire is to be, so far forth, an inferior, and a coward; for veneration is of the nature of slavery. Familiarity with eminent persons will show how small a portion of what is called greatness is natural, and how much is acquired and artificial. All men are conscious of their own failings, and that they may feel a proper and comparative self-respect, they should see the failings of others: that they will infallibly do, if they look closely.
Pp.37-39 We spoke, in the beginning of theis chapter, of the propriety of regulationg the life in accordance with some definite, edeal character,merely for the illumination of the conduct and the satisfaction f the xonsciecne of the intellect. For the more politic purpose of prevailing in what your undertake, and haing your powers and possessions acknowledged by the world, it is equally necessary to arrange them according to theordinary distrubutions of reutation, and to let it be known that you assusme such or such a character, and that you insist on having it admitted. Men will always take you at wahat you declare yourself; and men have only to choose what title they will have, and assert it usually, and they will obtain it from the acquiescence of the multitudde, as certainly as if they had received letters patent. Modesty is a quality that never profits. To understate your merit is a certain means of having it undervalued. "In our bad world," saysgoldsmith,, "respect is given where respect is claimed." and LaBruyere says, with similar and equal wisdom, " On ne vaut jamais dans ce monde que ce qu'on veut valoir." Quiet perseverance in assumption through a sufficeint length of time wil lbring a man to any situation he aspire to, and give him any epithets he wishes. "Continual claim," the lawyers say, "will keep alive the title to an estate: if maintained firmly enough, and through a sufficiently long period, it would create a title to any thing except an estate, - even to the throne of England, or the fame of Caesar.
P.53 But if in any scene or among any persons, it should be deemed expedient to assume an apppearnace of modesty, it then becomes very important to distinguish beween that quality and timidness. The one is an affair of show, the other of feeling; that is to conciliate taste, this saps and ruins strength: the last is as noxious in effect, as the first is pleasing in form. He, therefore, who puts on an air of diffidence, must be very carful that this sentiment which he outwardly enacts, does not enter and affect his purposes and character. Modesty is an appearance assumed to gain an object; if it makes us really diffident, the weapon we have grasped, has cut our hand.
Gossip and Wit
Pp.56-58 A young man should be very diligent in shunning the reputation of a dealer in gosssip. That profession is a mean and little one, and society treats it with deserved contempt. It is the humour of a waiting-man to talk about the small affairs of others, and it is an impertinence and a confession of the superiority of another, not honourable to a gentleman. It is likewise not a very safe thing to gain the reputation of being a wit. The burden which that imposes on a man, and the disadvantage atwhich he conversed, who has it, have been humorously exhibited by Dr. Johnson*; and the effectwhich it has in making a man disliked and readed, has been stated by Lord Chesterfield, with something of the earnestness of one who had felt what he declared. " That ready wit," says he, "which you so partially allow me, and so justly , Sir Charles Wiliams, may create many admirers; but, take my word for it, it makes few friends. It shines and dazles like the noon-day sun, but, like that too, is very apt to scorch; and, therefore, is always feared. The milder, morning and evening, light and that of that planet, sooth and calm our minds." A better reputation for the drawing-room, is that of being "agreeable." It has all the advantage which the other has in making one's society recherchee, without the evil of making one formidable. A wit carries with him much of the terror of old attended the satiric poet.
*Rambler, No. 101
Entrance into Society
Pp.67-68 There are some departments of action in which it is fatal to the highest success, to come upon the scene too early in life. In politics, for example, it is important that the adventurer should assume a commanding position at the outset, and that he should bring with him upon the stage the power and knowledge which the future exigencies of his career will require. His public life is one long contest; and when the trumpet has sounded on the field, the period of preparation is past. It is otherwise in respect of company; there, long years of inferiority and failure are no bar to subsequent success: and there, the more one is conversant, the better one is versed; so that, other qualities being equal, the longer a man has mingled in society the abler he will be to sustain his part. It is, therefore, in every regard, advisable that a young man should enter into company at as early a period as possible. Those considerations which prescribe a particular era and season for the debut of a young lady, are in no degree applicable to young men: there is no reason why they should not come into society when boys, and grow up in it.
Experience in Society
Pp. 76-77 While, therefore, you consider the best and most elevated society of the place you reside in, as your home and abiding-place, you should endeavour to see as much as posssible of every other. All enlargement of your experience in that matter will add to the variety and readiness of your manners, and extend and strengthen the resources of your character. Every description and grade of company has its pecuiar advantages of improvement to one who is capaable of employing it properly: he who seeks wherever he can find it, will make acquaintance with each circle, to receive the moral avancement which it has to impart. Accordingly, it is proper to go among one's betters in rank and talent, to learn modesty and find models; and among one's inferiors to acquire confidence nad self-possession. The latter will add strength to your nature as much as the former will give refinement to your behaviour.
To bring yourself on in that circle of which I have spoken, it is a politic method to select and single out some particular woman, advancing in life and, therefore, declining in attraction, unmarried - and there are apt to be many old maids in this rank of life - fashionable, influential, talkative, and vain; and pay to her the most diligent court and attention, and become, though not slavishly, her attendant and page. She will puff and extol you among her friends, and will be engaged to make you a reputation worthy of her admirer.
Man as Example
Pp. 81-82 If in the circle which you frequent there is any man particularly eminent and admired for any valuable quality, as wit, eloquence, or manners, you should endeavor to make yourself intimate with him, that you may see behind the curtain of this show, and learn what are the principles of conduct, the habits, studies, and maxims, by the aid and exercise of which he has made himself what he is. You will see by how much painful labour and continuous toil, his excellence has been attained; how many mortifying failures and defeats he has passed through to arrive at success; and how much of imperfection and trick there is in those highest exhibitions which get him a reputation of copious and sustained ability. You will in these discoveries get much to console you in discomfiture, and to encourage you to renewed endeavours and attempts. You will learn how gradual and cumulative in acquisition, and how doubtful and hazardous in exhibition, is that power whose displays come at length to be considered as the unstrained brilliance of a natural spendour of genius. You wil find that striving and trial are the only requisites for obtaining this ability, and boldness and confidence the only qualities demanded for its exercise. And you will perceive that nothing but indolence and cowardice can keep you from being at the summit of accomplishment in that matter.
Which Women to Seek
Pp. 94-96 Among women, it is not so much the young, the fair and the gay, as the more educated and finished, and therefore, more advanced in life, whose society you should frequent and whose intimacy you should seek. At least, the former are only to be courted for pleasure and prevailment, and as far as fashion renders advisable: the latter are to be cultivated for the refinement of the taste, the settlement of the principles, and the formation of the manners. This remark has a peculiarly emphatic application in America: in the society of Europe, that class which we speak of, - composed of persons, never perhaps beautiful, but on that very acount more habitually and systematically attentive to the polish of the mind and style, - mature in years and wanting at the same time the fascination and the faults of unproved youth - and distinguished for wit and sense far more than for wealth - would be found in the fore-ground of the drawing-room, and there would be no distinction between interest of character and fashoin of standing.
How to Impress
P.101 The impression you should be desirous of making upon men and women, and thetalents you should exert n your intercourse with those two classes, are very different, yet the respect of one cleass and the affection of the other mutually aid and increase one another. A French writer has a good observation on that point: "Pour plaire aux femmes, il faut etre consedere des hommes: et pour plaire aux hommmes, il faut savoir plaire aux femmes."
P.114 A tragedy of Shakspeare feebly performed, an overture of Beethoven blunderingly played, a sermon of Massillon awkwardly delivered, are the types of a strong man badly mannered.
Irrelevant Social Formalites
Pp.115-116 It is sometimes said by pedants who argue from Aldrich, and sometimes thought by more practical persons who do not reason from a thorough experience of the world, that certain established ceremonies and points of conduct are irrational and senseless, and that there is no reason why a particular behaviour or action should indicate kindness or respect, nor why the omission of it should denote the want of them. To this there is the ready answer that persons in society have so long been accustomed to associate the act with the feeling, that they now believe that the one naturally and necessarily signifies the other, and that nothing but this can do so. As we have observed before, etiquette is the social dialect of courtesy, by which alone sentiments are conveyed in high life. Athough the form is significant of an inward sense only, by arbitrary practice, yet long usage has by this time availed to inform each barren sign with an instinictive meaning, which can neither be changed nor struck off. Those formalities which are, in their inception, but the conventional hieroglyphics of sentiments, have become of the essence which they were invented to indicate; and he who, wishing to signify a feeling in established society, should employ a ceremony which ought to express it, instead of one which is understood to denote it, could not be less polished than he who is on the daily conference of life should employ the terms of a philosophic language which he had construced in his closet, instead of those arbitrary phrases which form the speech of the market-place.
P.121 Thus much we have writen upon the importance of good manners. It is above all things necessary that every one who enters society should be convinced oftheir worth and influence, and shouldknow that if he is to succeed in any profession either of pleasure or of business, they mus form the first, the most earnest, almost the exclusive object of his pursuit. He who has them not, might as well be the daily listener to a convent bell. As few thing can resist their presence, so nothing can supply their absence. The deepest learning, the highest wisdom, and the most varie accomplishments, wil be useless, nay, they wil lbe the subject of ridicule or detestation, without them.
Manner and Emotion
Pp. 135 Any one who hopes to get on at all in life, will find it frequently necessary to treat men very diferently from what he actually feels, - to talk pleasantly with those he hates, and behave respectfully to those he despises. To make the manner contradict the heart, to elaborate a demeanour purely false and artificial, is a task of extaordinary difficulty and hazard, and a thing which perhaps no one can do with thorough success. A better plan, therefore, is actually to create in your bosom the feeling which you wold manifest, - which is a matter of the utmost facility, - and to persuade yourself that you wish to indicate. It is necessary if this course be adopted to lay down, beforehand, a limit of feeling, as a positive barrier beyond whichyou will not go; else, you ight be carred too far, and your conuct become the buble of your deceit. The true method of getting along in society and in business, is to stave off all passionate and hostile feeling, whether of anger or scorn, and never let it enter your bosom, whatever may be the provaocation; but to preserve your equanimity as long as you remain in company, and after you have retired, review the circumstances, and decide what it is best to do. You will thus be sure that you do not undertke to resent a thin unless you can carry the revenge through, and conclude it effectively. This, of course, does not appply to those direct, violent, and unambiguous insults, which must be noticed by knockind a man down on the spot, and connot be properly punished in any other way. There are some offences which ought to be corrected, and yet cannot be corrected in cold blood: in those cases, the more rapidly you act the better.
Importance of Fashion
Pp.137-138 Though there is no essential merit in fashion, yet every man who is much in the world should pay that degree of deference to the taste of others in respect to dress and style, as to adopt what they prefer, since there is no good reason for deviating. To keep in the fashion as to those conventional forms which are practised by men of ton, observe closely the appearance and demeanour of those who are dedicated to that matter. Study their dress and mode of wearing it, -their usages as to the colour and wearing of gloves on different occasions, - their habits as to carrying canes, - employment of their hats, and the thousand minutiae which make up the picture. It often happens, by the by, that second-rate people who but live in imitation of persons of fashion, and who are diligent mirrors of the peculiarities of those above them, afford the best version, of "the card or calendar of gentry" in affairs of this order. It is true their copy somewhat caricatures its model, but the strong points of every original are best seen and studied in caricature.
Actions in Regards to Different Classes
Pp. 140-141 As an instance of that condescension of manner to the views of ordinary people, if you were to meet a woman, whom you do not know, whose shoe- string was dragging along the street, or who was herself stooping down to tie it, you should instantly offer ot arrange it for her, if you perceive that she is a lady; but I imagine that such an approach from a stranger would offend a woman of inferior delicacy. Or if in walking with a friend you have once or twice spoken to a woman of his acquaintance you should salute her when you meet her alone, provided she is of your own standing in society; but if you were to do so to one of a lower grade, you would be very apt to be thought insulting and intrusive, as an "introduction" in that class is loooked on as an indispensable preliminary to any civility.
Listen with Interest
Pp. 168-169 By showing a man that you appreciate all the hidden wisom of his dulness, and that you detect that rare intelligence which he has successfully concealed from all the world besides, you will infallibly gain in his eyes the reputation of a man of sense. Listen, therefore, inquiringly and docilely, catch the exact shape and shade of your companion's remark, and reply to it precisely. In speaking, likewise, assume a look and manner which shall show that you are anxious to convince the man you talk to, because you think him worth convincing. "Injuries," says Junius, "are sooner forgiven than insults:" and nothing is more insulting than indifference and disregard on occasions of this kind. Call a man a fool to his face, and he may think that you speak from passion; or declare on `Change that another is a booby, and he may believe that jealousy prompts you to injure him; but gape while he is speaking, or reply in a manner to show you have not heard what he has said and you exhibit and prove to him a hearty, thorough, and unmitigated contempt. Nothing is so revengeful as wounded self-love. A calumny injures the reputation, and a wrong hurts the fortune; but neither of them wound the man: a slight strikes and stings the inmost soul. The strongest head and the wisest heart are unavaiing to control the madness which follows: it is the blind instincts of nature that are roused, and their resentment knows no appeasing.
Pp.185-187 The true policy in this matter, is, to appear to conceal. Such conduct is always seen, and always gets one credit; for a large possession of that quality which thus seems to be hidden. If a man, wishing to get the reputation of wealth, should dress finely, give great dinners, and boast of his lands and stocks, people will infallibly think that there is something unsound: but let him dress meanly, complain ostentatiously of his poverty, or express his fears of it, or seem to wish that all allusion to the subject should be avoided, and by thus appearing to shun the appearance, he will get the reputation of the reality. The sagacious world well knows (what many ostentatious people forget,) that extravagance is the natural characteristic of poverty, and meanness of wealth. The same is true in the matter of blood and descent: when men are conscious of their claims, and satisfied with them, they rest in the reality; they only boast when they are not sure. As Lord Bacon says of atheists, they make their assertions "by rote, as that they would have, rather than what they can thoroughly believe, or be persuaded of." The same considerations run though all other matters, in which one is anxious to obtain a reputation. If a man boasts of having been with great persons, like the fellow who used to say that "he had just come from Sam Johnson," or is often quoting distinguished people, you may be sure that he is not reallly familiar with them, and that his won standing is very doubtful. The same thing holds particularly true with regard to gallantry. If you hear a man boasitng of the favours he has received, or of the licentiousness into which he has fallen, there is no ecxeption to the rule, that you may safely conclude those pretensions baseless. Lock your chest, and appear desirous of pushing it out of notice, and people will take it for granted that it is full of money; but call your visiter's attention to your "jewel boxes," in the middle of the floor, as Mr. Job Johnson did that of his friend Mr. Pelham, and a trick is suspected at once.
pg 197-198 women do not like to hear their sex abused; they take it as a kind of personal insult. Men do not mind it. Perhaps, the reason is that there is a touch of nobleness to be proud of, in all the errors of men, - of weakness to be ashamed of in all those of women.
Pp.274-27 In respect of the forming of acquaintancs and friends, it is proper to consider that the restraints and clogs which the practice of well- bred and experienced persons, and the usage of the world generally, impose upon the facility of acquiring them, probably have their foundation in reason and convenience, seeing that they were doubtless suggested by necessity, and approved by exerience. The customs and maxims which prevail among those persons who having tried the world in all its shapes, have retired with their knowledge in the decline of life, are entitled to the highest respect; for, like towers among the mountains, their existence gives proof of the strength of their foundation, and in the policy of the world of business and of pleaure, nothing is more firmly establlished than that it is imprudent in dealings of profit, and ungenteel in matters of amusement, to have intercourse with strangers, or transactions with any who are not regularly brought before you, and responsibly recommended to your attention. And these "old narrow ordinances" of society, transmitted from age to youth and maintained with even augmented rigour, as time has shown their value, will commend themselves strongly to the judgment of the wise, by the single weight of their authority; and no prudent man will deviate from the practice fo those who are experienced in the world. Have friendships with none of whom you do not know something. Make it a rule to avoid those who, unintroduced, offer their acquaintance or friendship. Insist that all with whom you have intercourse, shall either be presented or known. From these maxims nothing should induce you to depart; for though an opposite course may sometimes, by accident, be unattended by unpleasant consequences, it will eventually lead you into difficulties, and will at all times prevent your feeling the certainty of safety. If any man will look back upon those actions upon which he can fix as the most pregnant errors, moral and prudential, of his own life or in that of any one around him, he will infallibly discover that the fault proceeded from violting some broad fundamental rule of wisdom. It has doubtlesss appeared, at the moment, that some particular inducements in the case were superior to the obligation of the general law, and that certain peculiarities of circumstance took the occasion out of the usual principle; but, in fact, those precepts which we speak of are so comprehensive, as to take within the scope of their appliction all possiple variations of condiditon, and to affirm their own truth with the consideration of all the qualifications and abatements which especial accidents could claim. In truth, these great rules of policy and of ethics, have no exceptions; and in every event in which they have been set aside, the result has sooner or later affirmed their justness. The wary and the aged - those in whom the fear of evil is stronger that the hope of good - would find a sufficient motive to obedience in theconsideration that danger would be thereby conclusively avoided; but experience would permit us to go farther, and say to those who would confide in chance, that opposition to those canons will certainly bring evil with it.
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