This section of the book is from the "Household Companion: The Home Book Of Etiquette" book.
Yet there are every where particular ceremonial requisites of good breeding, often of local application, which, being arbitrary or accidental, can be learned only by residence and observation. Among these are forms of salutation, gradations of reverence, and various rules of place and precedence. Yet these may be violated without giving offence by one who is evidently a stranger to them, and when it is apparent that neither malice nor pride had a share in their non-observance. And however rigidly these and other rules of behavior be observed, they can never condone insolence or selfishness. True courtesy is that which flows from the heart, not that which is worn only on the surface.
Real good breeding is not always to be found among those who spend their time in visiting, in frequenting public entertainments, in studying ceremonial rules, and in keeping in pace with the changes of fashionable regulations. Such people may know what fashion demands in acts of deportment and ceremony, but they too often confine themselves to the exterior and unessential elements of civility, and are much too apt to consider their own gratification as of more value than the pleasure of others.
The most certain way to give any man pleasure is to persuade him that you receive pleasure from him, to encourage him to freedom and confidence, and to avoid any such appearance of superiority as may overbear and depress him. We see many who, by this art alone, spend their days in the midst of caresses, invitations, and civilities; and, without any extraordinary qualities or attainments, are the universal favorites of both sexes.
In assemblies and places of public resort it is frequently observed that at the entrance of some particular person every face brightens with gladness, and every hand is extended in salutation. Yet, often, if you follow this favorite beyond the first exchange of civilities, you will find him of only ordinary abilities, and welcome to the company simply as one by whom all conceive themselves to be admired, and with whom any one is at liberty to amuse himself when he can find no other auditor or companion. He can place all at ease if he will hear a jest without criticism, and a narrative without contradiction, laugh at every wit, and yield to every disputer.
All are at some hour or another fond of companions whom they can entertain upon easy terms, and who will relieve them from solitude, without requiring them to guard their speech with vigilance and caution.
We are most inclined to love when we have nothing to fear, and he that encourages us to please ourselves, will not be long without preference in our affection to those whose learning holds us at a distance, or whose wit calls all attention from us, and leaves us without importance and without regard. All men dislike to be placed in such unpleasant contrast, even though they cannot but admire the abilities which they are incapable of rivalling or even unable to imitate.