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The proper scene of this art is a tea-party; you go early, perhaps, and are introduced into a room, the walls of which are studded with fair faces, with an open space for the performer in the centre. The master of ceremonies is engaged, or absent in mind, or there is none; the conversation has ceased, or more probably has not begun, and the company, sitting in mute expectation, is glad of an object. You reconnoitre the whole circle in quest of the presiding genius, whom you finally discover in a remote corner, engaged in a conversation, which you expect will be suspended for an instant, on your approach, but which at that instant grows more interesting, while you stand like one waiting for his sen tence, in the preliminary attitude of a bow; this being executed or given over, according as fortune favours or frowns upon the attempt, you consider yourself as initiated, and may proceed in one way or another, as your talent invites. If it be in ceremony, you may begin with the next lady, and make the tour of the company, taking care afterwards, not to overlook any one who may come in. A gentleman of my acquaintance, is very exact in performing this duty, and assures me, that no lady had escaped him for the last seven years. He proceeds to business as soon as he enters the room, and does not allow himself a moment's respite till he has despatched the whole company. He relieves the uniformity by interspersing his greetings, with a few little conceits, which, though like sir Hudibras's new-coinnd words, they contain little or no wit, yet serve to keep the parties in countenance. It is very well to have a little garnish of this sort, as it does not cost much, and contrib utes to effect; it is besides very acceptable to the company, as it gives them an opportunity to laugh at the gentleman or his wit among themselves, and thus he brings his share to the general stock of amusement, as in duty bound. If you do not plume yourself on doing exteriors, it is best not to go through the circle methodically, but to address those who happen to be near, or subside into silence with a becoming air of contentment. I have observed some of my friends to adopt another mode, that saves all the trouble of making advances and
retreats. As soon as they are initiated, they go to the part of the room occupied by their clan or familiar acquaintances, and, forming a separate group, pass the evening in company, just as much at ease, and as agreeably, as if they were at home. Not only so, they may, if they please, by talking and laughing pretty audibly, be the most conspicuous persons.
This art of civility, differs from that of war in many things, and particularly in this-that the party acting on the defensive, generally has the advantage. It is especially so, when a lady sitting in the midst of a circle is the object of a movement, who the moment a gentleman has drawn himself up, and is ready to discharge a round of civilities, turns to the one by her side to begin a conversation, and leaves the assailant to waste his forces in the empty air, or retreat in confusion. This mode of defence is not justifiable, except in extreme cases.
The usual modes of salutation are by moving the hand, a nod, an inclination of the body, a bow, a smile, a taking of the hand, pressing the hand, shaking hands and griping hands. Each of these has its degrees, and by varying and compounding them, one may express any degree of regard, from slight recognition, which is as much as to say "it seems to me I have seen you before," to strong attachment and esteem. All these, taken together, form a copious language, which admits as great a variety of style as any written one. Look, for example, at the first volume of reviews that comes to your hands, and collect all the epithets of style that occur in fifty pages, and you will find them to apply with equal propriety to the styles of the different authors in the salutatory language. Thus you have the lofty, familiar, cold, elegant, awkward, &c. styles of salutation, as well as of composition. Both languages are equally liable to ambiguities and obscurities, and stand in an equal need of commentaries, and to be read cum grano satis. Thus if a man salute you with formality, it may mean that he wishes to keep you at a distance; or, that he has you in great respect, or that he much respects himself. If a man waves his hand, bowing and smiling at the same time, it may mean that he would do a thing in a clever
way, and like a man of the world, or that he wishes to make use of you in some way, or that he regards you with cordiality. These uncertainties make room for interpretations, in which the occasions, the characters of the persons, and parallel instances, are to be considered, and in general, the same rules of criticism are to be adopted, to find out the meaning and force of a salutation and a sentence.
I have not given a minute account of every species of greeting, because the English language is not equal to the description of them, without the help of engravings. But this defect in my essay is the less to be regretted, as it is to be hoped that some teachers of this art, will, before long, establish schools in our principal towns, and render it a regular branch of instruction, and give young people as great facilities in acquiring this accomplishment, as they now have in music, dancing, mnemonics, &c.; when all the attitudes, expressions, movements and looks, belonging to accosting, greeting, evading and cutting, will be made a matter of science, and as well understood as the entrechat, or the diaton ic scale.
This art is admirably calculated for instruction, as it admits of all the Lancasterian facilities; for when the professor exhibits the figure, the pupils may, all at the same time, take it off, and as the different figures succeed, go through all the evolutions of making an advance, accosting, repelling and cutting, as regularly and expertly, as now they wind through a cotillon. The most important and difficult part of the course, will consist of the discipline of the face. It must be taught, promptly to relax into indifference, to assume the expression of recognition, to command at will, the cutting look that expresses, "who can it be ?"—to expand into complacency, and to be lighted up with esteem. In the present state of the art, the excess of sweet or sour, in a forced smile, often betrays it; whereas, if the means of education were properly extended, you would see people have every kind of manner and expression always at command, and it would sit upon them as naturally, as if the thing signified, were really meant.
VII. A STAGE COACH.
A MAN can go but a little way through life before he finds himself elbowed by one, crowded by another, and snarled at by a third; especially, if it be his signal good fortune to ride frequently in a stage coach, along with an importation of calico, a museum of canary-birds and puppies, an invoice of band-boxes, loads of trunks, bottles and umbrellas, nursing children and old maids, sailors and dandies, green peas and fresh salmon, and a Frenchman.
Most of the miseries of human life, (and that there are enough, every one knows, who ever was jammed into a stage with twenty passengers, calling himself nothing)-I say, most of the miseries of human life admit of some melioration, because, we can generally estimate, at once, the amount of what we have to do and to suffer, when calamity strikes us on the shoulder; and accordingly we set our teeth together with the more firmness; but, in a stage coach, there is no guessing what a day will bring forth.
After scaling the shoulders of some dozen passengers, and, as if by a miracle, having escaped the dislocation of your ankle, and after many ineffectual attempts, wedging yourself, at last, into a seat; your principal duty is there to endeavour to lessen the horrors of this "durance vile;" you begin first by moving your foot, then your head, and afterwards, if possible, your shoulders; you then labour, to get off your hat, and presently you will make many unlucky efforts for your handkerchief -for now, "vials full of odours sweet," salute your nasal sensibilities, with the united fragrance of musk, rose-water, lozenges and peppermint.
· By-and-by, you are addressed by one of the passengers, a companion in adversity--"Will you have the goodness to pass your snuff-box, sir?"
My dear sir, it would be the greatest happiness imaginable for me to be able to confer such a favour, but at present, having had the misfortune of losing the use of my arms"
Ugh! Ugh! Ugh! now coughs a good old woman from the very penetralia of her lungs
Yah! Yah! goes the lap dog
"You'll spoil my Leghorn," exclaims a distressed young lady, planted in the back seat, between a large old man and very large old woman.
"Poor Poll-pretty Poll," screams the parrot.
"Be good enough, sir, to take the point of your cane off my gouty toe, and place it on another," says an irritable old gentleman to an alarmed dandy :
To which my little dandy fiercely replies "do you know, sir, do you know you are speaking to a gentleman ?"
"No, I do not, upon my word," says my crusty old fellow.
"Hoh, Helas! pardonnez moi, monsieur," vociferates the Frenchman, (speaking, as it were, by ventriloquism, from under the load of poultry and band boxes, which hitherto had concealed him)" hoh! monsieur-je vous prie--take your von, pied, f-oo-t from my neck, I be, vat you call? etouffe, hang-ing strangling-de breath be valking from my-vat you call?-my-les poumonsmy-my bod—my sto-mach!-bah; peste ! take off your von, two, tree foot."
"I say, messmate, (cries a sailor) less of your blarney, if you like--square yourself, you outlandish landlubber! and bring your stern athwart this here capstan, and we'll bouse you up❞—
You then, after the coachy answers the hundred questions, which all who live on the road think themselves bound to ask-and after he has made the two hundred answers, which he supposes himself bound to give, are unloaded en-masse at a tavern.
Then wo be to the man who fares sumptuously every (other) day; and wo be to him who has so little sense as not to eat for his life, or so much delicacy as to think of the wants of others, while his own stomach will take no apology. Just at the moment you hook your chicken -just as the Frenchman makes himself understood well enough to get possession of his soup and crust-the lit