Category Archives: Manners

1641: “Bedew not thy face of those thou speakest with”

Youths Behaviour, or Decency in Conversation amongst Men, is a mid 17th-century guide to etiquette and manners, first published in 1641. Its author was Francis Hawkins, a lad of just ten years old. In reality Youths Behaviour was an example of parental vanity publishing, printed at the request of Hawkins’ father: its frontispiece featured an engraved image of the author, promoting him as a child prodigy.

Despite Hawkins’ tender age, Youths Behaviour became a best seller, going through numerous print runs and at least 12 editions over the next three decades. Much of its advice was not original but was translated and adapted by Hawkins from earlier works, such as Desiderius Erasmus’ De Civilitate Morum Puerilium.

Topics covered by Hawkins included personal conduct, bearing, manners and methods of speaking. There was also a list of ‘dos and don’ts’ when dining out. When at the house of another, Hawkins cautions against eating too much – and warns not to sniff the fare:

“Take not thy repast like a glutton… Eat not with cheeks full and with full mouth… Smell not to thy meat, and if thou do hold thy nose to it, set it not afterwards before another [diner]…”

He also warns against spreading thy germs by double-dipping:

“If thou soakest thy bread or meat in the sauce, soak it not again after thou hast bitten it. Dip therein at each time a reasonable morsel which may be eaten at one mouthful.”

Hawkins also gave advice on conversation. He suggested respecting the personal space of others, lest you drench them with spit:

“Neither shake thy head, feet or legs. Roll not thine eyes. Lift not one of thine eyebrows higher than thine other. Wry not thy mouth. Take heed that thy spittle [doth] not bedew his face with whom thou speakest. To that end, approach not too nigh him.”

On reaching adulthood, Francis Hawkins joined the Jesuits. He studied theology and, according to some sources, medicine. Hawkins was later responsible for training novices in Scotland and on the continent. He died in Liege, Belgium in 1681.

Source: Francis Hawkins, Youths Behaviour, or Decency in Conversation amongst Men, 1641. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2019-23. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1609: Curl your moustache for sneeze-free kissing

An appropriately maintained early 17th century beard and moustache

Simion Grahame (1570-1614) was a Scottish-born writer and courtier to James VI. Little is known about Grahame’s life. He was a good scholar who soldiered for a time, after which he traveled widely in Europe, possibly while in exile. In the early 1600s, Grahame returned to Scotland and turned his hand to writing, earning the patronage of James VI. He later moved to the Italian states and spent his final years as a Franciscan friar.

One of Grahame’s better known works was his 1609 Anatomie of Humors. Much of this manuscript dwells on human emotions, particularly melancholy or depression, something Grahame himself seemed familiar with. But it is also interspersed with advice about conduct, manners and how to forge and maintain good relationships with others.

In one chapter, Grahame urged gentlemen to keep their beards and moustaches clean, well trimmed and tightly curled:

“…A man is to be commended if he be [clean] in his linings, his hair well dressed, his beard well brushed and always his upper lip well curled… For if he chance to kiss a gentlewoman, some rebellious hairs may happen to startle in her nose and make her sneeze…”

Those who did not attend to their facial hair, wrote Grahame, were slobs, not fit to socialise with:

“[These] snotty nosed gentlemen, with their drooping moustaches covering their mouth and becoming a harbour for meldrops [mucus]… He will drink with anybody whatsoever, and after he hath washed his filthy beard in the cup… he will suck the hair so heartily with his under lip.”

Source: Simion Grahame, The Anatomie of Humors, Edinburgh, 1609. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2019-23. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1529: Antonius de Arena’s rules for dancing

Antonius de Arena was born into a well-off family near Toulouse, France, sometime around 1500. He studied law at Avignon and later joined the French army, participating in the Italian War of 1521-26.

Arena, who was a romantic at heart and something of a ladies’ man, did not enjoy military life – he much preferred writing and teaching. Arena wrote several texts on matters of law, as well as manuals on conduct and etiquette.

In 1529, Arena penned The Rules of Dancing, a quite thorough account of of several examples of basse danse, the slow-moving court dances popular with the French nobility. He urged his readers, particularly young men, to take their dancing seriously, for “to dance badly is a great disgrace”. The young person who cannot dance well, he writes, is likely to fall victim to “proud ladies and damsels who gossip away like magpies”. In contrast, the man who can dance well will “kiss many charming ladies and a thousand girls”.

Arena goes on to offer advice on music, movement and choreography – as well as proper deportment while dancing:

“Wear the most elegant clothes when you are dancing and are all set for love… the slovenly dressed man will be ridiculed…”

“Do not have a dripping nose and do not dribble at the mouth. No woman desires a man with rabies…”

“Do not scratch your head in search of lice…”

“When you are dancing do not keep your mouth open, since the flies… could easily fly into your gaping mouth and choke you…”

“Do not eat either leeks or onions because they leave an unpleasant odour in the mouth…”

“Always maintain a smiling aspect when dancing and, I pray you, a pleasant friendly expression. Some people look as if they are weeping and as if they want to shit hard turds…”

Source: Antonius de Arena, The Rules of Dancing, 1529. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2019-23. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

c.1210: Daniel of Eccles offers advice on privy use

Urbanus Magnus (‘The Civilised Man’) was written by Daniel of Eccles in the first two decades of the 1200s. Written in Latin, it contained approximately 3,000 lines of advice for the modern medieval man. Among topics explored in Urbanus Magnus are issues of protocol, personal conduct and sexual morality. It also offers advice on manners, including how to behave in church, how to conduct oneself at the dinner table and how to entertain guests of higher and lower rank. There are also information about ablutions and privy etiquette. Daniel tells readers that only the lord or host was permitted to urinate in the great hall; all others should step outside. “Clearing the bowels” should occur in “secluded places” outside, with the backside presented “into the wind”. Daniel also provided advice to those attending the king or lord at his privy:

“Go before [him] carrying sufficient light. When your lord enters his inner chamber, check that the privy is free of soil. When he sits on the privy, take in your hands hay or straw. Take up two large clumps of hay in your fingers; press them tightly together. Give them to your patron as he requires them. Let the wads be given to him [as you] stand, not on bended knee.”

Also, if sharing a communal lavatory, Daniel says it is good manners to stay until your partner is also finished:

“If two together are sitting on a privy, one should not rise while the other is still emptying himself.”

Source: Daniel of Eccles, Urbanus Magnus, c.1210. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2019-23. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.