We do not pretend that a man will be metamorphosed into a gentleman by reading this book, or any other book. Refined manners are like refined style which Cicero compares to the colour of the cheeks, which is not acquired by sudden or violent exposure to heat, but by continual walking in the sun. Good manners can certainly only be acquired by much usage in good company. But there are a number of little forms, imperiously enacted by custom, which may be taught in this manner, and the conscious ignorance of which often prevents persons from going into company at all.
These forms may be abundantly absurd, but still they must be attended to; for one half the world does and always will observe them, and the other half is at a great disadvantage if it does not. Intercourse is constantly taking place, and an awkward man of letters, in the society of a polished man of the world, is like a strong man contending with a skilful fencer. Mr. Addison says, that he once saw the ablest mathematician in the kingdom utterly embarrassed, from not knowing whether he ought to stand or sit when my lord duke drank his health.
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The Floating Press Ltd.
January 01, 2009
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