This section is from the book "Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: A Guide To Correct Writing", by Thos. E. Hill. Also available from Amazon: Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: The How-To-Do-Everything Book Of Victorian America.
To some, a pleasing manner comes very naturally. If born to the possession of an easy flow of language, agreeableness of address, poetical and imaginative power, and large knowledge of human nature, the whole accompanied by judicious training, good education and wide opportunities, such persons will most surely, without studied effort, be self-possessed and at ease in any company, upon any occasion.
On the contrary, if the natural advantages have been few, and the opportunities for acquiring polished deportment limited, then we may very appropriately make a study of the subject of how to please; and hence the necessity for special instruction on the subject of Etiquette.
It is of the utmost importance, however, that there be no labored effort to behave by rule, and that the forms of etiquette be not carried too far. The law of common sense should rest at the basis of our intercourse with society, and a kindly desire to make happy everybody with whom we come in contact, should actuate our conduct. Still, with all this, there are thousands of people of the kindest intentions, with much breadth of intellect, who continually violate the common usages of society, and who are liable to do the wrong thing at important times, and thus embarrass their warmest friends. Hence, the need of a treatise on general conduct is evidently as much a necessity as is the text-book on grammar, penmanship or mathematics.
If the soldier is more efficient by drill, the teacher more competent by practice, the parliamentarian more influential by understanding the code of parliamentary law, then equally is the general member of society more successful by an understanding of the laws of etiquette, which teach how to appear, and what to do and say in the varied positions in which we may be placed.
In the study of etiquette, much may be learned by observation, but much more is learned by practice. "We may listen to the finest oratory for a dozen years, and yet never be able to speak in public ourselves; whereas, by practice in the art of declamation, with passable talent, we may become quite proficient in half that time. We may thoroughly study the theory and art of language for twenty years, and yet be very poor talkers. We may practice the art of conversation by familiar and continuous intercourse with the cultured and refined, and become fluent and easy in communicating thought in a few years.
Such is the difference between theory and practice. Both are necessary - the former in pointing the way; the latter by making use of theory in practical application. Thus we may acquire ease and grace of manner: First, by understanding the regulations which govern social etiquette; and secondly, by a free intermingling in society, putting into continual practice the theories which we understand. To avail ourselves, however, to the fullest extent of society advantages, we must have acquaintance; and hence, we introduce the rules of etiquette by a chapter on the forms of presentation - the art of getting acquainted.