Read LESSON VII of Lessons on Manners For School and Home Use, free online book, by Edith E. Wiggin, on

Entering and taking leave.
Removal of hat and care of wrappings.
Various courtesies.
Staring at or speaking of defects and infirmities.
Treatment of accidents and mistakes.
Whispering, laughing, and private conversation.
Attention to one’s dress or matters of toilet.
Sitting still gracefully.
Inattention to the company we are in.
Giving proper titles.
Attention in conversation, -- illustration.
Attention to reading or music.
Looking over another’s shoulder.
Reading letters.
Interest in what is shown us.
Asking questions of strangers.
Contradicting statements.
Doing our part.


WHEN we make a call upon a friend, we should speak to each person in the room when we enter and when we leave, but at a party or other formal gathering it is not necessary to take leave of any except the host and hostess, to whom we must also speak as soon as we arrive. A visit is a more important matter than a call, and at its close, we should take pains to bid good by to each one of the household, expressing to those who have entertained us, when we can do so with truth, our enjoyment of the visit, and our wish to have them visit us.

It is polite to write as soon as possible to those whom we have been visiting: they wish to know of our safe arrival at home; and a letter also gives us opportunity to say any pleasant thing about the visit that we may have forgotten or omitted.

Upon entering any house a gentleman or gentlemanly boy will remove his hat, and never allow it upon his head inside the door.

When the streets are muddy or snowy, we should carefully wipe our feet or remove our overshoes at the door; and in stormy weather we must take care that dripping waterproofs and umbrellas are put where they will not injure carpets or paper.

When the company are putting on their wrappings to go home, it is polite to offer assistance, particularly to those older than ourselves.

A gentleman should allow a lady to pass through a door before him, holding it open for her. We ought not to pass in front of others if we can go behind them; but if it is necessary to do so, we should ask them to excuse us. A gentleman should go upstairs before a lady, and behind her coming down, taking care not to step on her dress.

If a handkerchief or other article is dropped, we should hasten to pick it up and restore it to the owner. In handing a pair of scissors, a knife, or any pointed article, we ought to turn the point toward ourselves.

It is rude to stare at people in company, especially if they are unfortunate in any way or peculiar in appearance; neither is it polite to allude to a personal defect or ask a question about its cause, even in the kindest manner. The same rule applies here as in case of family misfortune or bereavement, that if persons suffering the affliction wish it mentioned, they will speak of it first themselves. To do as we would be done by is the rule of real politeness in all these cases.

If an accident happens to persons or their dress, or if their dress is out of order, if we can give assistance we should do so in a quiet way without attracting attention; if we cannot be of use, we should take no notice of the misfortune. The same principle of good-breeding will keep us from laughing at mistakes or accidents.

To exchange glances with another, to whisper, or to laugh unless others know what we are laughing at, is even ruder than to stare, and no one who is polite will do these things. In company is not the place to tell secrets or carry on personal or private conversation.

We should see that our dress is in order before we enter the room, and then neither think nor speak of it. To look in the glass, smooth one’s gloves and laces, or play with rings or chain, seems like calling attention to our dress, and is in bad taste. It would seem unnecessary here or anywhere to say that attention to finger-nails, which is a matter of the toilet for one’s chamber, is inexcusable, if we did not sometimes see persons in the presence of others take out pocket-knives for this purpose.

It is a common saying that people unused to society do not know what to do with their hands and feet. The best direction that can be given is to do nothing. Let them take easy positions of themselves, and think no more about them. To sit still gracefully is an accomplishment worth acquiring, and it should be studied by boys and girls as well as grown people. The necessity for it comes so often in life that we should learn to do it well. We should not sit on the edge or corner of a chair, or tilt it backward or forward.

Drumming with the fingers on tables or chairs, rocking rapidly back and forth, or looking out of the window, as if we were more interested in things outside than in those in the room, should never be done. It is well said that “if in company we are absent in mind, we had better be absent in body.” “Forget yourself” is one of the best and broadest precepts of good behavior; but we should never forget others.

It is often our duty in society to introduce persons to each other, and we should study to do this gracefully. It is said of Alice Cary that she had such a happy way of giving introductions as to make each person feel specially honored. We should introduce a gentleman to a lady, saying, “Mr. Smith, Miss Jones,” if we use this simplest form of introduction, and not “Miss Jones, Mr. Smith,” as is often done. We should introduce a younger person to an older, unless it be one of our own family, when, “My aunt, Mrs. Brown, Miss Jones,” is proper. We should introduce strangers to each other at the table and elsewhere before they have time to feel awkward at not being able to speak. Great pains should be taken to pronounce distinctly the names of those introduced. Too often each person hears only his own.

We should speak of people as Mr., Mrs., or Miss, except with intimate friends, giving particular titles when proper, and never allude to any one as “Old Smith,” or “Old Miss Jones.”

To make ill-natured remarks about the absent shows a want of good-breeding as well as good feeling.

No one should make himself conspicuous in company by loud laughing and talking. To make remarks intended to be overheard, especially remarks meant to be funny, is clownish, and to be a society clown is a very low ambition.

We must not interrupt one who is speaking, and must pay attention to remarks addressed to the company. If a person is speaking to us we ought to listen attentively, even if we are not interested, and not hurt his feelings by letting our eyes wander from him or showing other signs of impatience. A good listener is as welcome in society as a good talker, and often more so, because every one who talks likes to be listened to with appreciative attention.

Those who have read “The Wide, Wide World” will remember an instance of little Ellen Montgomery’s good-breeding in this respect, when she was visiting at Ventnor.

“Ellen is a fascinating child,” said Mrs. Gillespie, “I cannot comprehend where she gets the manners she has. I never saw a more perfectly polite little girl.”

“I have noticed the same thing often,” said Miss Sophia. “Did you observe her last night when John Humphreys came in? You were talking to her at the moment. Before the door was opened, I saw her color come and her eyes sparkle, but she did not look towards him for an instant till you had finished what you were saying to her, and she had given, as she always does, her modest, quiet answer, and then her eye went straight as an arrow to where he was standing.”

When any one is reading aloud, playing, or singing, we ought to give him the same close attention we would wish to receive if we were in his place. Talking or moving about at such times is unpardonably rude, and also looking at the clock as if we were impatient for the performer to finish.

We should never interrupt with questions or remarks a person engaged in reading or writing, and to look over the shoulder of one so employed is impertinent.

If letters are brought to us, we should not open and read them in company unless they require immediate attention, when we should ask to be excused for doing so.

We should give interested attention to books, pictures, views, or games shown us for our entertainment, and express pleasure and admiration when we can with truth. If an article or a letter is given us to read, we should not hand it back without remark, or begin to read something else, as is often done by people who ought to know better, but we should thank the one who showed it to us, speak of it politely, and if there is anything about it we can commend, do so.

If we have occasion to make an inquiry of a stranger, we should preface it with, “Excuse me,” “Pardon me,” or, “I beg your pardon,” unless we use the simpler form, “Will you please tell me,” in beginning our question.

It is ill-bred to contradict, especially if the one addressed be an older person. If a person says in our hearing that the lecture was given Thursday evening, when it was really Wednesday, or that Miss Green was at the concert with Miss White when we know that Miss Gray was her companion, it is not our place to embarrass the speaker by setting him right. If we are appealed to, or if there is good reason why we should correct the statement, we should do so politely, with an apology for the correction.

We ought to be willing in company to contribute our share to the general entertainment. Unless we are willing to give as well as receive, we had better stay at home. It is ill-mannered to read aloud, sing, or play to others unless we are invited to do so; but if a request is made, it is much more polite and agreeable to the company for us to comply cheerfully, and do the best we can, than to wait for much urging and then to burden the listeners with apologies before we begin. If we do not feel able to do what is asked of us, we should politely but positively decline at first.

If games are proposed, unless there is some good reason for our doing so, it is not polite to decline taking part, saying, “I will see the rest play.” If all did this, nobody would be entertained. It is much more the part of good manners to enter heartily into the amusement of the hour, and do our best to make it a success.

It is this spirit of readiness to help on things that makes useful members of society, and the more earnestly boys and girls cultivate it the more fit they will be for their duties as citizens. We ought not to be content to be ciphers anywhere. As significant figures, we shall be of more value in the world, be happier ourselves, and make others happier.