To ladies always yield your seat,
And lift your hat upon the street.—Uncle Dan.

Nowhere has a man or a woman occasion more frequently to exercise the virtue of courtesy than on the street; and in no place is the distinction between the polite and the vulgar more marked. The following are some of the rules of street etiquette:

Except in a case of necessity, you should not stop a business man on the street during business hours. He may have appointments, and, in any event, his time is precious. If you must speak with him, walk on in his direction, or if you detain him, state your errand briefly, and politely apologize for the detention.

Do not allow yourself to be so absent-minded or absorbed in your business as not to recognize and salute your acquaintances on the street. You must not make the pressure of your affairs an excuse for rudeness. If you do not intend to stop, on meeting a friend, touch your hat, say “Good-morning,” or “I hope you are well,” and pass on. If you stop, you may offer a gloved hand, if necessary, without apology. Waiting to draw off a tight glove is awkward. In stopping to talk on the street, you should step aside from the human current. If you are compelled to detain a friend,[Pg 101] when he is walking with a stranger, apologize to the stranger and release your friend as soon as possible. The stranger will withdraw, in order not to hear your conversation. Never leave a friend suddenly on the street, either to join another or for any other reason, without a brief apology.

In walking with gentlemen who are your superiors in age or station, give them the place of honor, by taking yourself the outer side of the pavement.

When you meet a lady with whom you are acquainted, you should lift your hat, as you bow to her; but unless you are intimate friends, it is the lady’s duty to give some sign of recognition first, as she might possibly choose to “cut” you, and thus place you in a very awkward position; but unless you have forfeited all claims to respect, she certainly should not do such a thing.

In meeting a gentleman whom you know, walking with a lady with whom you are not acquainted, you are to bow with grave respect to her also.[M] If you are acquainted with both, you bow first to the lady, and then, less profoundly, to the gentleman.

If your glove be dark colored, or your hand ungloved, do not offer to shake hands with a lady in full dress. If you wish to speak with a lady whom you meet on the street, turn and walk with her; but you should not accompany her far, except at her request, and should always lift your hat and bow upon withdrawing.

Be careful to avoid intrusion everywhere; and for this reason be very sure that such an addition to their party would be perfectly agreeable before you join a lady and gentleman who may be walking together;[Pg 102] otherwise you might find yourself in the position of an “awkward third.”

In walking with ladies on the street, gentlemen will of course treat them with the most scrupulous politeness. This requires that you place yourself in that relative position in which you can best shield them from danger or inconvenience. You generally give them the wall side, but circumstances may require you to reverse this position.

You must offer your arm to a lady with whom you are walking whenever her safety, comfort, or convenience may seem to require such attention on your part. At night, in taking a long walk in the country, or in ascending the steps of a public building, your arm should always be tendered.

In walking with ladies or elderly people, a gentleman must not forget to accommodate his speed to theirs. In walking with any person you should keep step with military precision.

If a lady with whom you are walking receives the salute of a person who is a stranger to you, you should return it, not for yourself, but for her.

When a lady whom you accompany wishes to enter a shop, or store (if we must use an Americanism to explain a good English word), you should hold the door open and allow her to enter first, if practicable; for you must never pass before a lady anywhere, if you can avoid it, or without an apology.

If a lady addresses an inquiry to a gentleman on the street, he will lift his hat, or at least touch it respectfully, as he replies. If he can not give the information required, he will express his regrets.

“When tripping over the pavement,” Madame Celnart says, “a lady should gracefully raise her dress a[Pg 103] little above her ankle. With her right hand she should hold together the folds of her gown and draw them toward the right side. To raise the dress on both sides, and with both hands, is vulgar. This ungraceful practice can be tolerated only for a moment, when the mud is very deep.” This was written in Paris, and not in New York.

American ladies dress too richly and elaborately for the street. You should dress well—neatly and in good taste, and in material adapted to the season; but the full costume, suitable to the carriage or the drawing-room, is entirely out of place in a shopping excursion, and does not indicate a refined taste; in other words, it looks snobbish.

The out-door costume of ladies is not complete without a shawl or a mantle. Shawls are difficult to wear gracefully, and few American ladies wear them well. You should not drag a shawl tight to your shoulders, and stick out your elbows, but fold it loosely and gracefully, so that it may fully envelop the figure.

Madame Celnart has the following hints to the ladies on this important subject. Having enjoined the most patient and forbearing courtesy on the part of the shopkeeper,[N] she proceeds:

“Every civility ought to be reciprocal, or nearly so. If the officious politeness of the shopkeeper does not require an equal return, he has at least a claim to civil treatment; and, finally, if this politeness proceed from interest, is this a reason why purchasers should add to the unpleasantness of his profession, and disregard [Pg 104]violating the laws of politeness? Many very respectable people allow themselves so many infractions in this particular, that I think it my duty to dwell upon it.

“You should never say, I want such a thing, but Show me, if you please, that article, or use some other polite form of address. If they do not show you at first the articles you desire, and you are obliged to examine a great number, apologize to the shopkeeper for the trouble you give him. If after all you can not suit yourself, renew your apologies when you go away.

“If you make small purchases, say, I am sorry for having troubled you for so trifling a thing. If you spend a considerable time in the selection of articles, apologize to the shopkeeper who waits for you to decide.

“If the price seems to you too high, and the shop has not fixed prices, ask an abatement in brief and civil terms, and without ever appearing to suspect the good faith of the shopkeeper. If he does not yield, do not enter into a contest with him, but go away, after telling him politely that you think you can obtain the article cheaper elsewhere, but if not, that you will give him the preference.”

If you go to church, be in season, that you may not interrupt the congregation by entering after the services have commenced. The celebrated Mrs. Chapone said that it was a part of her religion not to disturb the religion of others. We may all adopt with profit that article of her creed. Always remove your hat on entering a church. If you attend ladies, you open the door of the slip for them, allowing them to enter first. Your demeanor should of course be such as becomes the[Pg 105] place and occasion. If you are so unfortunate as to have no religious feelings yourself, you must respect those of others.

It is the custom in some places for gentlemen who may be already in a slip or pew to deploy into the aisle, on the arrival of a lady who may desire admittance, allow her to enter, and then resume their seats. This is a very awkward and annoying maneuver.

You should pay due respect to the observances of the church you attend. If you have conscientious scruples against kneeling in an Episcopal or Catholic church, you should be a little more conscientious, and stay away.

Good manners do not require young gentlemen to stand about the door of a church to see the ladies come out; and the ladies will excuse the omission of this mark of admiration.

Gentlemen who attend ladies to the opera, to concerts, to lectures, etc., should endeavor to go early in order to secure good seats, unless, indeed, they have been previously secured, and to avoid the disagreeable crowd which they are liable to encounter if they go a little later.

Gentlemen should take off their hats on entering any public room (or dwelling either). They will, of course, do so if attending ladies, on showing them their seats. Having taken your seats, remain quietly in them, and avoid, unless absolute necessity require it, incommoding others by crowding out and in before them. If obliged to do this, politely apologize for the trouble you cause them.

To talk during the performance is an act of rudeness[Pg 106] and injustice. You thus proclaim your own ill-breeding and invade the rights of others, who have paid for the privilege of hearing the performers, and not for listening to you.

If you are in attendance upon a lady at any opera, concert, or lecture, you should retain your seat at her side; but if you have no lady with you, and have taken a desirable seat, you should, if need be, cheerfully relinquish it in favor of a lady, for one less eligible.

Be careful to secure your libretto or opera book, concert bill or programme, before taking your seat.

To the opera, ladies should wear opera hoods, which are to be taken off on entering. In this country, custom permits the wearing of bonnets; but as they are (in our opinion) neither comfortable nor beautiful, we advise the ladies to dispense with their use whenever they can.

Gloves should be worn by ladies in church, and in places of public amusement. Do not take them off to shake hands. Great care should be taken that they are well made and fit neatly.

A gallery of paintings or sculpture is a temple of Art, and he is little better than a barbarian who can enter it without a feeling of reverence for the presiding divinity of the place. Loud talking, laughing, pushing before others who are examining a picture or statue, moving seats noisily, or any rude or discourteous conduct, seems like profanation in such a place. Avoid them by all means, we entreat you; and though you wear your hat everywhere else, reverently remove it here.

[Pg 107]

“The mode in which respect to the presence of a human being should be shown maybe left to custom. In the East, men take off their shoes before entering an apartment. We take off the hat, and add a verbal salutation. The mode is unimportant; it may vary with the humor of the moment; it may change with the changing fashion; but no one who respects himself, and has a proper regard for others, will omit to give some sign that he recognizes an essential difference between a horse and a man, between a stable and a house.”[O]

Under no circumstances is courtesy more urgently demanded, or rudeness more frequently displayed, than in traveling. The infelicities and vexations which so often attend a journey seem to call out all the latent selfishness of one’s nature; and the commonest observances of politeness are, we are sorry to say, sometimes neglected. In the scramble for tickets, for seats, for state-rooms, or for places at a public table, good manners are too frequently elbowed aside and trampled under foot. Even our national deference for women is occasionally lost sight of in our headlong rush for the railway cars or the steamer.

To avoid the scramble we have alluded to, purchase tickets and secure state-rooms in advance, if practicable, especially if you are accompanied by ladies, and, in any event, be in good time.

In the cars or stage-coach never allow considerations of personal comfort or convenience to cause you to disregard for a moment the rights of your fellow-travelers,[Pg 108] or forget the respectful courtesy due to woman. The pleasantest or most comfortable seats belong to the ladies, and no gentleman will refuse to resign such seats to them with a cheerful politeness. In a stage-coach you give them the back seat, unless they prefer another and take an outside seat yourself, if their convenience requires it. But a word to—Americans will be enough on this point.

And what do good manners require of the ladies? That which is but a little thing to the bestower, but of priceless value to the receiver—thanks—a smile—a grateful look at least. Is this too much?

Mr. Arbiter, whom we find quoted in a newspaper, has some rather severe strictures on the conduct of American ladies. He says:

“We boast of our politeness as a nation, and point out to foreigners, with pride, the alacrity with which Americans make way for women in all public places. Some love to call this chivalry. It is certainly an amiable trait of character, though frequently carried to an absurd extent. But what the men possess in this form of politeness the women appear to have lost. They never think of acknowledging, in any way, the kindness of the gentleman who gives up his seat, but settle themselves triumphantly in their new places, as if they were entitled to them by divine right.”

We are compelled to admit that there is at least an appearance of truth in this charge. We have had constant opportunities to observe the behavior of ladies in omnibuses and on board the crowded ferry-boats which ply between some of our large cities and their suburbs. We have, of course (as what gentleman has not?), relinquished our seats hundreds of times to ladies. For the occasional bow or smile of acknowledgment, or[Pg 109] pleasant “Thank you,” which we have received in return, we have almost invariably been indebted to some fair foreigner.

We believe that American ladies are as polite at heart as those of any other nation, but they do not say it.

The fair readers of our little book will, we are sure, excuse us for these hints, since they are dictated by the truest and most reverent love for their sex, and a sincere desire to serve them.

If in traveling you are thrown into the company of an invalid, or an aged person, or a woman with children and without a male protector, feelings of humanity, as well as sentiments of politeness, will dictate such kind attentions as, without being obtrusive, you can find occasion to bestow.

You have no right to keep a window open for your accommodation, if the current of air thus produced annoy or endanger the health of another. There are a sufficient number of discomforts in traveling, at best, and it should be the aim of each passenger to lessen them as much as possible, and to cheerfully bear his own part. Life is a journey, and we are all fellow-travelers.

If in riding in an omnibus, or crossing a ferry with a friend, he wishes to pay for you, never insist on paying for yourself or for both. If he is before you, let the matter pass without remark, and return the compliment on another occasion.

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