There is a tiny book titled, “The School of Good Manners,” written in 1822 by Nancy Sproat, that contains the following charming poem. It is written in rhyme and outlines the basic manners of being “in company,” that still apply today!
Intrude not where you’re not desired,
Nor stay till every one is tired.
Writhe not your limbs in every shape
Of awkward gesture, like an ape,
Nor twirl your hands, nor hit your toes –
Nor hum a tune – nor pick your nose –
Nor keep in motion as you sit,
Nor on the floor or carpet spit,
But in the first with prudent care.
Nor lean upon another’s chair.
If you must cough, or sneeze, be still
In doing it, if possible.
If you must yawn, just turn aside,
And with your hand the motion hide.
And when you blow your nose, be brief,
And neatly use your handkerchief.
All whispering, giggling, squinting shun,
Don’t turn your back on any one.
Nor bite your nails, nor lolling stand,
Nor in your pockets keep your hand.
Do not allow yourself to look
In letters, papers, or a book,
Till you have leave. If one is reading,
Don’t overlook him; ’tis ill breeding.
Don’t wear a frown upon your face;
Let cheerfulness your aspect grace.
To your superiors always strive,
In walking, your right hand to give.
A proper distance keep in mind,
Crowd not too near, nor lag behind.
To equals let your conduct be
Marked with sweet affability.
by Nancy Sproat