The Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation

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This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).

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The Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation
by George Washington
23699The Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and ConversationGeorge Washington

Page 1

  • 1ſt Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Reſpect, to thoſe that are Preſent.
  • 2nd When in Company, put not your Hands to any Part of the Body, not uſualy Diſcovered.
  • 3rd Shew Nothing to your Freind that may affright him.
  • 4th In the Preſence of Others Sing not to yourſelf with a humming Noiſe, nor Drum with your Fingers or Feet.
  • 5th If You Cough, Sneeze, Sigh, or Yawn, do it not Loud but Privately; and Speak not in your Yawning, but put Your handkercheif or Hand before your face and turn aſide.
  • 6th Sleep not when others Speak, Sit not when others ſtand, Speak not when you Should hold your Peace, walk not on when others Stop.
  • 7th Put not off your Cloths in the preſence of Others, nor go out your Chamber half Dreſt.
  • 8th At Play and at Fire its Good manners to Give Place to the laſt Commer, and affect not to Speak Louder than Ordinary.
  • 9th Spit not in the Fire, nor Stoop low before it neither Put your Hands into the Flames to warm them, nor Set your Feet upon the Fire eſpecially if there be meat before it.
  • 10th When you Sit down, Keep your Feet firm and Even, without putting one on the other or Croſsing them.
  • 11th Shift not yourſelf in the Sight of others nor Gnaw your nails.
  • 12th Shake not the head, Feet, or Legs rowl not the Eys lift not one eyebrow higher than the other wry not the mouth, and bedew no mans face with your Spittle, by approaching too near him when you Speak.

Page 2

  • 13th Kill no Vermin as Fleas, lice ticks &c in the Sight of Others, if you See any filth or thick Spittle put your foot Dexteriouſly upon it if it be upon the Cloths of your Companions, Put it off privately, and if it be upon your own Cloths return Thanks to him who puts it off.
  • 14th Turn not your Back to others eſpecially in Speaking, Jog not the Table or Deſk on which Another reads or writes, lean not upon any one.
  • 15th Keep your Nails clean and Short, alſo your Hands and Teeth Clean yet without Shewing any great Concern for them.
  • 16th Do not Puff up the Cheeks, Loll not out the tongue rub the Hands, or beard, thruſt out the lips, or bite them or keep the Lips too open or too Cloſe.
  • 17th Be no Flatterer, neither Play with any that delights not to be Play'd Withal.
  • 18th Read no Letters, Books, or Papers in Company but when there is a Neceſsity for the doing of it you muſt aſk leave: come not near the Books or Writings of Another ſo as to read them unleſs deſired or give your opinion of them unaſk'd alſo look not nigh when another is writing a Letter.
  • 19th Let your Countenance be pleaſant but in Serious Matters Somewhat grave.
  • 20th The Geſtures of the Body muſt be Suited to the diſcourſe you are upon.
  • 21ſt Reproach none for the Infirmaties of Nature, nor Delight to Put them that have in mind thereof.
  • 22nd Shew not yourſelf glad at the Miſfortune of another though he were your enemy.
  • 23rd When you ſee a Crime puniſhed, you may be inwardly Pleaſed; but always ſhew Pity to the Suffering Offender.
  • 24th Do not laugh too loud or too much at any Publick Spectacle.

Page 3

  • 25th Superfluous Complements and all Affectation of Ceremonie are to be avoided, yet where due they are not to be Neglected.
  • 26th In Pulling off your Hat to Perſons of Diſtinction, as Noblemen, Juſtices, Churchmen &c make a Reverence, bowing more or leſs according to the Cuſtom of the Better Bred, and Quality of the Perſon. Amongſt your equals expect not always that they Should begin with you firſt, but to Pull off the Hat when there is no need is Affectation, in the Manner of Saluting and reſaluting in words keep to the moſt uſual Cuſtom.
  • 27th Tis ill manners to bid one more eminent than yourſelf be covered as well as not to do it to whom it's due Likewiſe he that makes too much haſte to Put on his hat does not well, yet he ought to Put it on at the firſt, or at moſt the Second time of being aſk'd; now what is herein Spoken, of Qualification in behaviour in Saluting, ought alſo to be obſerved in taking of Place, and Sitting down for ceremonies without Bounds is troubleſome.
  • 28th If any one come to Speak to you while you are are Sitting Stand up tho he be your Inferiour, and when you Preſent Seats let it be to every one according to his Degree.
  • 29th When you meet with one of Greater Quality than yourſelf, Stop, and retire eſpecially if it be at a Door or any Straight place to give way for him to Paſs.
  • 30th In walking the higheſt Place in moſt Countrys Seems to be on the right hand therefore Place yourſelf on the left of him whom you deſire to Honour: but if three walk together the middeſt Place is the moſt Honourable the wall is uſually given to the moſt worthy if two walk together.
  • 31ſt If any one far Surpaſseſs others, either in age, Eſtate, or Merit yet would give Place to a meaner than himſelf in his own lodging or elſewhere the one ought not to except it, So he on the other part ſhould not uſe much earneſtneſs nor offer it above once or twice.

Page 4

  • 32nd To one that is your equal, or not much inferior you are to give the cheif Place in your Lodging and he to who 'tis offered ought at the firſt to refuſe it but at the Second to accept though not without acknowledging his own unworthineſs.
  • 33rd They that are in Dignity or in office have in all places Preceedency but whilſt they are Young they ought to reſpect thoſe that are their equals in Birth or other Qualitys, though they have no Publick charge.
  • 34th It is good Manners to prefer them to whom we Speak before ourſelves eſpecially if they be above us with whom in no Sort we ought to begin.
  • 35th Let your Diſcourſe with Men of Buſineſs be Short and Comprehenſive.
  • 36th Artificers & Perſons of low Degree ought not to uſe many ceremonies to Lords, or Others of high Degree but Reſpect and highly Honour them, and thoſe of high Degree ought to treat them with affibility & Courteſie, without Arrogancy.
  • 37th In Speaking to men of Quality do not lean nor Look them full in the Face, nor approach too near them at leſt Keep a full Pace from them.
  • 38th In viſiting the Sick, do not Preſently play the Phyſicion if you be not Knowing therein.
  • 39th In writing or Speaking, give to every Perſon his due Title According to his Degree & the Cuſtom of the Place.
  • 40th Strive not with your Superiers in argument, but always Submit your Judgment to others with Modeſty.
  • 41ſt Undertake not to Teach your equal in the art himſelf Proffeſses; it Savours of arrogancy.
  • 42nd Let thy ceremonies in Courteſie be proper to the Dignity of his place with whom thou converſeſt for it is abſurd to act the ſame with a Clown and a Prince.

Page 5

  • 43rd Do not expreſs Joy before one ſick or in pain for that contrary Paſsion will aggravate his Miſery.
  • 44th When a man does all he can though it Succeeds not well blame not him that did it.
  • 45th Being to adviſe or reprehend any one, conſider whether it ought to be in publick or in Private; preſently, or at Some other time in what terms to do it & in reproving Shew no Sign of Cholar but do it with all Sweetneſs and Mildneſs.
  • 46th Take all Admonitions thankfully in what Time or Place Soever given but afterwards not being culpable take a Time & Place convenient to let him him know it that gave them.
  • 47th Mock not nor Jeſt at any thing of Importance break no Jeſt that are Sharp Biting and if you Deliver any thing witty and Pleaſent abtain from Laughing thereat yourſelf.
  • 48th Wherein wherein you reprove Another be unblameable yourſelf; for example is more prevalent than Precepts.
  • 49th Uſe no Reproachfull Language againſt any one neither Curſe nor Revile.
  • 50th Be not haſty to beleive flying Reports to the Diſparagement of any.
  • 51ſt Wear not your Cloths, foul, unript or Duſty but See they be Bruſh'd once every day at leaſt and take heed that you approach not to any Uncleaneſs.
  • 52nd In your Apparel be Modeſt and endeavour to accomodate Nature, rather than to procure Admiration keep to the Faſhion of your equals Such as are Civil and orderly with reſpect to Times and Places.
  • 53rd Run not in the Streets, neither go too ſlowly nor with Mouth open go not Shaking your Arms kick not the earth with your feet, go not upon the Toes, nor in a Dancing faſhion.

Page 6

  • 54th Play not the Peacock, looking every where about you, to See if you be well Deck't, if your Shoes fit well if your Stokings ſit neatly, and Cloths handſomely.
  • 55th Eat not in the Streets, nor in the Houſe, out of Seaſon.
  • 56th Aſsociate yourſelf with Men of good Quality if you Eſteem your own Reputation; for 'tis better to be alone than in bad Company.
  • 57th In walking up and Down in a Houſe, only with One in Company if he be Greater than yourſelf, at the firſt give him the Right hand and Stop not till he does and be not the firſt that turns, and when you do turn let it be with your face towards him, if he be a Man of Great Quality, walk not with him Cheek by Joul but Somewhat behind him; but yet in Such a Manner that he may eaſily Speak to you.
  • 58th Let your Converſation be without Malice or Envy, for 'tis a Sign of a Tractable and Commendable Nature: And in all Cauſes of Paſsion admit Reaſon to Govern.
  • 59th Never expreſs anything unbecoming, nor Act againſt the Rules Moral before your inferiours.
  • 60th Be not immodeſt in urging your Freinds to Diſcover a Secret.
  • 61ſt Utter not baſe and frivilous things amongſt grave and Learn'd Men nor very Difficult Queſtians or Subjects, among the Ignorant or things hard to be believed, Stuff not your Diſcourſe with Sentences amongſt your Betters nor Equals.
  • 62nd Speak not of doleful Things in a Time of Mirth or at the Table; Speak not of Melancholy Things as Death and Wounds, and if others Mention them Change if you can the Diſcourſe tell not your Dreams, but to your intimate Friend.
  • 63rd A Man ought not to value himſelf of his Atchievements, or rare Qualities of wit; much leſs of his riches Virtue or Kindred.

Page 7

  • 64th Break not a Jeſt where none take pleaſure in mirth Laugh not aloud, nor at all without Occaſion, deride no mans Miſfortune, tho' there Seem to be Some cauſe.
  • 65th Speak not injurious Words neither in Jeſt nor Earneſt Scoff at none although they give Occaſion.
  • 66th Be not froward but friendly and Courteous; the firſt to Salute hear and anſwer & be not Penſive when it's a time to Converſe.
  • 67th Detract not from others neither be exceſsive in Commanding.
  • 68th Go not thither, where you know not, whether you Shall be Welcome or not. Give not Advice without being Aſk'd & when deſired do it briefly.
  • 69th If two contend together take not the part of either unconſtrained; and be not obſtinate in your own Opinion, in Things indiferent be of the Major Side.
  • 70th Reprehend not the imperfections of others for that belongs to Parents Maſters and Superiours.
  • 71ſt Gaze not on the marks or blemiſhes of Others and aſk not how they came. What you may Speak in Secret to your Friend deliver not before others.
  • 72nd Speak not in an unknown Tongue in Company but in your own Language and that as thoſe of Quality do and not as the Vulgar; Sublime matters treat Seriouſly.
  • 73rd Think before you Speak pronounce not imperfectly nor bring out your Words too haſtily but orderly & diſtinctly.
  • 74th When Another Speaks be attentive your Self and diſturb not the Audience if any heſitate in his Words help him not nor Prompt him without deſired, Interrupt him not, nor Anſwer him till his Speech be ended.

Page 8

  • 75th In the midſt of Diſcourſe aſk not of what one treateth but if you Perceive any Stop becauſe of your coming you may well intreat him gently to Proceed: If a Perſon of Quality comes in while your Converſing it's handſome to Repeat what was ſaid before.
  • 76th While you are talking, Point not with your Finger at him of Whom you Diſcourſe nor Approach too near him to whom you talk eſpecially to his face.
  • 77th Treat with men at fit Times about Buſineſs & Whiſper not in the Company of Others.
  • 78th Make no Compariſons and if any of the Company be Commended for any brave act of Vertue, commend not another for the Same.
  • 79th Be not apt to relate News if you know not the truth thereof. In Diſcourſing of things you Have heard Name not your Author always A Secret Diſcover not.
  • 80th Be not Tedious in Diſcourſe or in reading unleſs you find the Company pleaſed therewith.
  • 81ſt Be not Curious to Know the Affairs of Others neither approach thoſe that Speak in Private.
  • 82nd Undertake not what you cannot Perform but be Carefull to keep your Promiſe.
  • 83rd When you deliver a matter do it without Paſsion & with Diſcretion, however mean the Perſon be you do it too.
  • 84th When your Superiours talk to any Body hearken not neither Speak nor Laugh.
  • 85th In Company of theſe of Higher Quality than yourſelf Speak not til you are aſk'd a Queſtion then Stand upright put of your Hat & Anſwer in few words.
  • 86th In Diſputes, be not So Deſireous to Overcome as not to give Liberty to each one to deliver his Opinion and Submit to the Judgment of the Major Part eſpecially if they are Judges of the Diſpute.
  • 87th Let thy carriage be ſuch as becomes a Man Grave Settled and attentive to that which is ſpoken. Contradict not at every turn what others Say.

Page 9

  • 88th Be not tedious in Diſcourſe, make not many Digreſsigns, nor repeat often the Same manner of Diſcourſe.
  • 89th Speak not Evil of the abſent for it is unjuſt.
  • 90th Being Set at meat Scratch not neither Spit Cough or blow your Noſe except there's a Neceſsity for it.
  • 91ſt Make no Shew of taking great Delight in your Victuals, Feed not with Greedineſs; cut your Bread with a Knife, lean not on the Table neither find fault with what you Eat.
  • 92nd Take no Salt or cut Bread with your Knife Greaſy.
  • 93rd Entertaining any one at table it is decent to preſent him with meat, Undertake not to help others undeſired by the Maſter.
  • 94th If you Soak bread in the Sauce let it be no more than what you put in your Mouth at a time and blow not your broth at Table but Stay till Cools of it Self.
  • 95th Put not your meat to your Mouth with your Knife in your hand neither Spit forth the Stones of any fruit Pye upon a Diſh nor Caſt anything under the table.
  • 96th It's unbecoming to Stoop much to ones Meat Keep your Fingers clean & when foul wipe them on a Corner of your Table Napkin.
  • 97th Put not another bit into your Mouth til the former be Swallowed let not your Morſels be too big for the Gowls.
  • 98th Drink not nor talk with your mouth full neither Gaze about you while you are a Drinking.
  • 99th Drink not too leiſurely nor yet too haſtily. Before and after Drinking wipe your Lips breath not then or Ever with too Great a Noiſe, for its uncivil.
  • 100th Cleanſe not your teeth with the Table Cloth Napkin Fork or Knife but if Others do it let it be done with a Pick Tooth.
  • 101ſt Rince not your Mouth in the Preſence of Others.
  • 102nd It is out of uſe to call upon the Company often to Eat nor need you Drink to others every Time you Drink.
  • 103rd In Company of your Betters be not longer in eating than they are lay not your Arm but only your hand upon the table.

Page 10

  • 104th It belongs to the Chiefeſt in Company to unfold his Napkin and fall to Meat firſt, But he ought then to Begin in time & to Diſpatch with Dexterity that the Sloweſt may have time allowed him.
  • 105th Be not Angry at Table whatever happens & if you have reaſon to be ſo, Shew it not but on a Chearfull Countenance eſpecially if there be Strangers for Good Humour makes one Diſh of Meat a Feaſt.
  • 106th Set not yourſelf at the upper of the Table but if it Be your Due or that the Maſter of the houſe will have it So, Contend not, leaſt you Should Trouble the Company.
  • 107th If others talk at Table be attentive but talk not with Meat in your Mouth.
  • 108th When you Speak of God or his Atributes, let it be Seriouſly & with Reverence. Honour & Obey your Natural Parents altho they be Poor.
  • 109th Let your Recreations be Manfull not Sinfull.
  • 110th Labour to keep alive in your Breaſt that Little Spark of Celeſtial fire Called Conſcience.