This section of the book is from the "Household Companion: The Home Book Of Etiquette" book.
Another important element of social deportment is a graceful and easy bearing, and that softness and amiability of manner which is so engaging in our intercourse with the world. Such a manner is more easily felt than described. It is a compound of several elements of character and conduct; not a servility of demeanor, but an affability and courtesy in speech and expression; and this, whether or not you agree with the person or persons with whom you are conversing.
This should be particularly considered when we are obliged to refuse a favor asked of us, or to say what cannot be very agreeable to the person to whom we say it. If we have a bitter pill to administer, we should at least seek to sweeten it with courtesy and kindness. Yet this softness of manner will sink into a mean and timid complaisance, or insincere affectation, if not supported by firmness and dignity of character; and one should, while cultivating courtesy, be careful to avoid insincerity or fear of truthful expression. To be winning at the expense of truth and honesty is to convert a virtue into a fault.
Genuine easy manners result from a constant attention to the relation of persons and things, times and places. When we converse with one much superior to us in station or in the world's appreciation, we should seek to be as easy and unembarressed as with our equals, avoiding sedulously any show of servility or flattery, yet indicating in word, look and action, the greatest respect. In the society of our equals greater ease and liberty are allowable; but they, too, have their proper limitations. There is a social respect in every case necessary, and though our language may have a greater degree of latitude among friends and equals, its freedom should never be unbounded. It is always safer to say too little than too much. An engaging ease of carriage and behavior widely differs from negligence and inattention, and by no means implies that one is justified in consulting only his own pleasure in society; it only means that he should not be formal or embarrassed, disconcerted or diffident. It need only be said that the thing it is correct to do should be done with ease and ability; the improper thing should not be done at all.
In mixed companies different ages and sexes should be differently addressed. Although it is our duty to be respectful to all; old age particularly requires to be treated with a degree of deference and regard. It is a good general rule to accustom ourselves to have a kindly feeling towards every thing connected with our fellows, and when this is the case, we shall seldom err in the application. The inward feeling will appear in the outward conduct.