Politeness, Etiquette And Good Breeding


In his manual of etiquette, Our Deportment, John H. Young quotes some French and English writers to explain what politeness, etiquette and good breading are and why they are important:

To go through this life with good manners possessed,
Is to be kind unto all, rich, poor and oppressed,
For kindness and mercy are balms that will heal
The sorrows, the pains, and the woes that we feel.

A French writer has said: "To be truly polite, it is necessary to be, at the same time, good, just, and generous. True politeness is the outward visible sign of those inward spiritual graces called modesty, unselfishness and generosity. The manners of a gentleman are the index of his soul. His speech is innocent, because his life is pure; his thoughts are right, because his actions are upright; his bearing is gentle, because his feelings, his impulses, and his training are gentle also. A gentleman is entirely free from every kind of pretence. He avoids homage, instead of exacting it. Mere ceremonies have no attraction for him. He seeks not to say any civil things, but to do them. His hospitality, though hearty and sincere, will be strictly regulated by his means. His friends will be chosen for their good qualities and good manners; his servants for their truthfulness and honesty; his occupations for their usefulness, their gracefulness or their elevating tendencies, whether moral, mental or political."

A recent English writer says: "Etiquette may be defined as the minor morality of life. No observances, however minute, that tend to spare the feelings of others, can be classed under the head of trivialities; and politeness, which is but another name for general amiability, will oil the creaking wheels of life more effectually than any of those unguents supplied by mere wealth and station." While the social observances, customs and rules which have grown up are numerous, and some perhaps considered trivial, they are all grounded upon principles of kindness to one another, and spring from the impulses of a good heart and from friendly feelings. The truly polite man acts from the highest and noblest ideas of what is right.

Lord Chesterfield declared good breeding to be "the result of much good sense, some good nature and a little self-denial for the sake of others, and with a view to obtain the same indulgence from them." Again he says: "Good sense and good nature suggest civility in general, but in good breeding there are a thousand little delicacies which are established only by custom."

Further reading:
Our Deportment by John H. Young