Did you know that a gentleman doesn’t wear a nose ring?
I discovered a digital book version of “The Gentlemen’s Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness Being a Complete Guide for a Gentleman’s Conduct in all his Relations Towards Society” by Cecil B. Hartley. (That’s certainly a long title!)
The book, first published in 1860, is 169 pages of invaluable tips for the gentleman – the Do’s and Don’ts for being the kind of man who thinks of others and presents himself well; the type of man everyone looks forward to being around.
There is the advice I expected on keeping one’s hair clean and combed. (Now that I think of it, uncombed and sloppy parts seem to be the fashion of today – that is, people don’t seem to know what a comb is or what it’s used for. Or even shampoo for that matter.)
I found the section on how men should treat ladies – they include mothers, sisters, grandmas, aunts, and wives – to be of great interest. The book frankly lays it all out there: women are to be treated with the utmost respect. A gentleman must act like a gentleman towards every lady who acts like a lady. Women are to be helped with everything – not as if they are weak wallflowers, but because helping one another makes for a more harmonious world. Unfortunately, in today’s world, I see and hear a lot of disrespect, anger, and degradation towards one another. Women do it to men, and vice versa. And what for and why? I have a theory on how this sniping between the sexes started, and although it’s a quite lengthy observation and analysis, I will briefly state here is that I believe the man-hating began around the Bra-Burning Era, and the disrespecting of women began about a generation after that.
But I’ll return to discussing this book.
The most surprising section in the entire book was the advice given regarding nose rings: DON’T wear them! The subject quite shocked me. I wonder what segment of society in the mid-nineteenth century wore nose rings in America!
There is also stern advice to the gentleman to not attach a bunch of charms on one’s watch fob, either. That’s tacky. Ah – could that be the precursor to “less is more”?
I appreciated the section regarding offensive language. Swearing, using vulgarity, and tossing about slang is a sign of what the author wrote as “low-breeding.” This subject is a sticking point with me. I didn’t grow up in a home with anyone using vulgar language. I didn’t hear any such language until I started working after I graduated from high school, and I was taken aback when I heard a male personnel management specialist slam down his phone and curse about the phone call he was just on. He saw that I was in the supply room near his desk, and he profusely apologized. Nowadays, women and even minor children are just as loose with the crude language – and nobody ever apologizes. In fact, lately I have been told to grow up and accept others using offensive language around me. Who the heck do I think I am anyway? The nerve of me trying to live a clean life!
Statements like that are disrespectful and egotistical on their part. And people wonder about the chaos and uncontrolled negativity in the world!
Nevertheless, the book has sound advice and tips that would be well-followed in these twenty-first century days. They could only help halt the widespread chaos and turmoil in our world.
The only things that actually date these books are references to horses and carriages, styles of clothing, and hygiene (only insofar as how little people washed then, as compared to hygiene habits).
It is a good and uplifting book.
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Excerpt from my upcoming book, “Gracious Living,” ©2023