The Fundamentals of Good Behaviour

A gentleman does not, and a man who aspires to be one must not, ever borrow money from a woman, nor should he, except in unexpected circumstances, borrow money from a man. Money borrowed without security is a debt of honor which must be paid without fail and promptly as possible. The debts incurred by a deceased parent, brother, sister, or grown child, are assumed by honorable men and women, as debts of honor.

A gentleman never takes advantage of a woman in a business dealing, nor of the poor or the helpless.

One who is rich does not make a display of his money or his possessions. Only a vulgarian talks ceaselessly about how much this or that cost him.

A gentleman never discusses his family affairs either in public or with acquaintances, nor does he speak more than casually about his wife. A man is a cad who tells anyone, no matter who, what his wife told him in confidence, or describes what she looks like in her bedroom. To impart details of her beauty is scarcely better than to publish her blemishes; to do either is unspeakable.

Nor does a gentleman ever criticise the behavior of a wife whose conduct is scandalous. What he says to her in the privacy of their own apartments is no one’s affair but his own, but he must never treat her with disrespect before their children, or a servant, or any one.

A gentleman does not lose control of his temper. In fact, in his own self-control under difficult or dangerous circumstances, lies his chief ascendancy over others who impulsively betray every emotion which animates them. Exhibitions of anger, fear, hatred, embarrassment, ardor or hilarity, are all bad form in public. And bad form is merely an action which “jars” the sensibilities of others. A gentleman does not show a letter written by a lady, unless perhaps to a very intimate friend if the letter is entirely impersonal and written by some one who is equally the friend of the one to whom it is shown. But the occasions when the letter of a woman may be shown properly by a man are so few that it is safest to make it a rule never to mention a woman’s letter.

The born gentleman avoids the mention of names exactly as he avoids the mention of what things cost; both are an abomination to his soul.

A man of breeding does not slap strangers on the back nor so much as lay his finger-tips on a lady. Nor does he punctuate his conversation by pushing or nudging or patting people, nor take his conversation out of the drawing-room! Notwithstanding the advertisements in the most dignified magazines, a discussion of underwear and toilet articles and their merit or their use, is unpleasant in polite conversation.

A gentleman never takes advantage of another’s helplessness or ignorance, and assumes that no gentleman will take advantage of him.

Emily Post

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