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Etiquette At Home And Abroad
by [?]

Reading that a sentinel had been punished the other day at St. Petersburg for having omitted to present arms, as her Imperial Highness, the Grand Duchess Olga, was leaving the winter palace-in her nurse’s arms-I smiled at what appeared to be needless punctilio; then, as is my habit, began turning the subject over, and gradually came to the conclusion that while it could doubtless be well to suppress much of the ceremonial encumbering court life, it might not be amiss if we engrafted a little more etiquette into our intercourse with strangers and the home relations. In our dear free and easy-going country there is a constant tendency to loosen the ties of fireside etiquette until any manners are thought good enough, as any toilet is considered sufficiently attractive for home use. A singular impression has grown up that formal politeness and the saying of gracious and complimentary things betray the toady and the hypocrite, both if whom are abhorrent to Americans.

By the force of circumstances most people are civil enough in general society; while many fail to keep to their high standard in the intimacy of home life and in their intercourse with inferiors, which is a pity, as these are the two cases where self-restraint and amenity are most required. Politeness is, after all, but the dictate of a kind heart, and supplies the oil necessary to make the social machinery run smoothly. In home life, which is the association during many hours each day of people of varying dispositions, views, and occupations, friction is inevitable; and there is especial need of lubrication to lessen the wear and tear and eliminate jarring.

Americans are always much shocked to learn that we are not popular on the Continent. Such a discovery comes to either a nation or an individual like a douche of cold water on nice, warm conceit, and brings with it a feeling of discouragement, of being unjustly treated, that is painful, for we are very “touchy” in America, and cry out when a foreigner expresses anything but admiration for our ways, yet we are the last to lend ourselves to foreign customs.

It has been a home thrust for many of us to find that our dear friends the French sympathized warmly with Spain in the recent struggle, and had little but sneers for us. One of the reasons for this partiality is not hard to discover.

The Spanish who travel are mostly members of an aristocracy celebrated for its grave courtesy, which has gone a long way toward making them popular on the Continent, while we have for years been riding rough-shod over the feelings and prejudices of the European peoples, under the pleasing but fallacious illusion that the money we spent so lavishly in foreign lands would atone for all our sins. The large majority of our travelling compatriots forget that an elaborate etiquette exists abroad regulating the intercourse between one class and another, the result of centuries of civilization, and as the Medic and Persian laws for durability. In our ignorance we break many of these social laws and give offence where none was intended.

A single illustration will explain my meaning. A young American girl once went to the mistress of a pension where she was staying and complained that the concierge of the house had been impertinent. When the proprietress asked the concierge what this meant, the latter burst out with her wrongs. “Since Miss B. has been in this house, she has never once bowed to me, or addressed a word to either my husband or myself that was not a question or an order; she walks in and out of my loge to look for letters or take her key as though my room were the street; I won’t stand such treatment from any one, much less from a girl. The duchess who lives au quatrième never passes without a kind word or an inquiry after the children or my health.”