Walking: A Fine Art (1907)

A few excerpts:

“It has been a wearisome trudge over the city’s ugly pavements, and between the citizens’ ugly walls with their endless rows of windows, screened and curtained into a privacy which I have no desire to invade. Electric cars shake the earth, their gongs rend the air; the peanut vendor’s whistle shrieks on the corner; small boys yell and curse; drays rattle over the cobble-stones; ‘devil wagons’ leap through the streets, hissing and thumping, and leave behind them the stench… But even in the city streets nature is kind, for she often sends us a cloud of vaporized oil from the oil-cloth factory, to counteract the ‘intolerable stink’ of the automobile, while the heart-sick walker sighs for that lodge in the vast wilderness…

“To be in the open fields with no human companion, to be embraced by the sunlight, and to see only the flowers beneath and the sky above is what the soul and the body of every naturalist, amateur and professional, aged or young, must have if he would not lose his mind.”

— Dr. Alfred C. Stokes

“When Nero advertised for a new luxury, a walk in the woods should have been offered. It is the consolation of mortal men. I think no pursuit has more breath of immortality in it… It is the best of humanity, I think, that goes out for a walk. In happy hours all affairs may be wisely postponed for this.”

— Emerson, quoted in James Elliot Cabot’s A Memoir of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1888)

“I am not going to advocate the disuse of boots and shoes, or the abandoning of the improved modes of travel; but I am going to brag as lustily as I can on behalf of the pedestrian, and show how all the shining angels second and accompany the man who goes afoot, while all the dark spirits are ever looking out for a chance to ride.”

— John Burroughs in Winter Sunshine (1875)

“Walking is the natural recreation for a man who desires not absolutely to suppress his intellect but to turn it out to play for a season.”

— Sir Leslie Stephen in Studies of a Biographer (1898)

“Well, walking, perhaps, is the primal instinct, ancient as Eden, where the Lord God walked in the garden in the cool of the day. And, if my theory is correct, walking will persist till in recovered Paradise man walks with his Maker again.”

— Arnold Haltain, Atlantic Monthly, October 1903, with a nod to Genesis 3:8

Emily Post

Thanks to the “Swap Shop” at the dump in Skaneateles, N.Y., I was able to procure a tattered but serviceable copy of Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage by Emily Post. It’s the 1940 edition of the classic first published in 1922. I share some excerpts in the assurance that should you ever be my guest, you will find everything as it should be:

“The personality of a house is indefinable, but there never lived a lady of great cultivation and charm, whose home, whether a palace, a farm cottage or a tiny apartment, did not reflect the charm of its owner.”

“A certain few fastidious cooks wear small white kerchief-shaped caps when they are preparing food. It is to be hoped that this custom may become universal, since nothing in the world is so revolting as even the thought that a sudden breeze is quite likely to blow a hair into the food.”

“The parlor maid keeps the drawing-room and library in order. The useful man brings up the wood for the fireplaces, but the parlor maid lays the fire. In some houses the parlor maid takes up the breakfast trays; in other houses, the butler does this himself and then hands them to the lady’s maid or the house maid, who takes them into the bedrooms.”

“Twenty years ago, every maid in a lady’s house wore a cap except the personal maid, who wore a velvet bow or nothing on the head. But when every little slattern in every sloppy household had a small mat of whitish swiss pinned somewhere on an untidy head, and was decked out in as many yards of embroidery ruffling on her apron and shoulders as her person could carry, people of fashion began taking caps and trimmings off.”

“The well-trained high-class servant is faultlessly neat in appearance, reticent in manner, speaks in a low voice, walks and moves quickly but silently, and is unfailingly courteous and respectful.”

“It is sometimes impossible to go for a week-end without a good deal of luggage. An athletic man, who is likely to ride and play golf and tennis and perhaps polo, might easily be taken for a vaudeville star carrying his properties with him. Otherwise a dinner coat, colloquially known as a tuxedo, and one or, at most, two country suits with the necessary shirts, shoes, ties, etc., will suffice for the average weekend.”

“No young human being, any more than a young dog, has the least claim to attractiveness unless it is trained to manners and obedience. The child that whines interrupts, fusses, fidgets, and does nothing that it is told to do, has not the least power of attraction for anyone, even though it may have the features of an angel and be dressed like a picture.”

“The hostess who has herself served first when another woman is guest at her table, is giving an innocent example of the outstanding rudeness in America at the present day.”

“As soon as the guests are seated and the first course is put in front of them, the butler goes from guest to guest on the right-hand side of each, and asks, ‘Apollinaris or plain water?’ and fills the goblet accordingly.”

“At an informal dinner party (informal in this sense meaning anything less than a dinner of greatest ceremony) whisky is always proffered, as an alternative, to the gentlemen. Before pouring the champagne, the butler or waitress asks, ‘Would you prefer Scotch or rye, sir?’ ‘High ball’ is a social tabu. One says Scotch and soda or whisky and soda. A tall glass — the same as that for iced tea — should have one large piece of ice in it (small pieces melt too quickly and fail to keep the drink cold). The whisky is poured by the servant until the guests makes a gesture to stop. And then the glass is filled with soda or any other sparkling mineral water.”

“No bread plates are ever on a table where this is no butter, and no butter is ever served at a formal dinner.”

“To attack corn on the cob with as little ferocity as possible is perhaps the only direction to be given, since from the point of view of grace a series of ferociously snatching, teeth-bared bites that can be heard as well as seen, to say nothing of butter and corn fragments sprinkled on chin and cheeks, while delectable to the palate, is a horrible sight.”

“If one thing is more revolting than another, it is to see food in the process of mastication being churned around in plain view. Yet the very people who commit this unspeakable offense are often the ones who wonder which fork to use! As if that mattered.”

“In the [guest] bedroom the hostess should make sure — by sleeping in it at least once — that the bed is comfortable, that the sheets are long enough to tuck in, that there are enough pillows for one who sleeps with head high. Also one of the pillows should be medium hard and one especially soft, so that one may make one’s choice.”

“The bride of good family need do nothing on her own initiative. After her marriage, when she settles down in her new home, she assumes by right the intimate visiting list of her husband’s family in addition to that of her own.”

“Not withstanding the ornamental beauty of a crest and the utter ugliness of a lozenge, a widow has no right to use her husband’s crest on her letter paper.”

“The mails carry letters every day that are so many packages of TNT should there contents be exploded by falling into wrong hands. Letters that should never have been written are put in evidence in courtrooms every day. Many cannot, under any circumstances, be excused; but often silly girls and foolish women write things that sound quite different from what they innocently, but stupidly, intended… Of course the best advice to a young girl who is impelled to write letters to men, can be put in one word, don’t!

“Well-bred people neither monopolize space for two parked cars¬† nor park so close to others that they are prevented from pulling out. In marked parking places, well-bred people stay within the lines.”

“A snob is a person who is always animated by the impression he wants to make, and the exalted regard in which he strives to be held by others. The discriminating person cares nothing whatever about the opinions of others, and chooses his interests and his companions according to his personal taste and inclination. Between being a snob and merely reserved and selective is the entire distance between being contemptible and admirable — between worst and best.”