Manners in the Drawing Room — some ‘don’ts’

From an undated but late Victorian self-help / etiquette book called Don't: A Manual of Mistakes and Improprieties more or less prevalent in Conduct & Speech (Ward, Lock, London circa 1890). The author is noted as 'Censor' - now known to be Oliver Bell Bunce. Much of the advice still holds, e.g. about reading a book in 2014 it  would be about perusing a smartphone.

DON'T repeat old jokes or tell time-worn stories. DON'T make obvious puns. An occasional pun, if a good one, is a good thing; but a ceaseless flow of puns is simply maddening.

DON'T be always on the look out for opportunities of making jokes. For a man, to be constantly straining after witticism is to render himself ridiculous, and to annoy the whole company.

DON'T, if you think you are a clever mimic - and many persons entertain that idea with more or less basis of fact - be very ready to exhibit your powers in society. Few persons like to have their peculiarities noticed; and it is almost certain that some officious, and well-intentioned friend, will let B know that A gave an admirable (or execrable) imitation of him at Mr. So-and So's dinner party.

DON'T respond to remarks made to you with mere monosyllables. This is chilling, if not fairly insulting. Have something to say, and say it.

DON'T appear listless and indifferent, or exhibit impatience when others are talking. Listening politely to every one is a cardinal necessity of good breeding.

DON'T be conceited. DON'T dilate on your own acquirements or achievements; DON'T expatiate on what you have done or are going to do, or on your superior talents in anything. DON'T always make yourself the hero of your own stories.

DON'T if you have travelled, be continually talking about what foreign places you have seen, or the adventures you may have met with; and DON'T consider the people of foreign places to be necessarily inferior to your own countrymen, because their national habits are different.

DON'T be sulky because you imagine yourself neglected. Think only of pleasing; and try to please. You will end by being pleased.

DON'T show repugnance even to a bore. A supreme test of politeness is submission to various social inflictions without a wince.

DON'T, when at the card-table, moisten your thumb and fingers at your lips in order to facilitate the dealing of the cards. This common habit is very vulgar.

DON'T fail in proper attention to elderly people. Young persons are often scandalously neglectful of the aged, especially if they are deaf or otherwise afflicted: Nothing shows a better heart, or a nicer sense of true politeness, than kindly attention to those advanced in years.

DON'T in company open a book and begin reading to yourself. If you are tired of the company, withdraw; if not, honour it with your attention.

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