The power of III

Summum ius summa iniuria--More law, less justice

01 July 2011

The vanishing culture of gentility

Below is a letter written by a 60 year old British mother to her soon to be daughter in law, 29, after a recent visit to their home:

The tone of gentility that the woman expresses  reminds me of the old South that is no more;  
it reminds me of my grandmother, who tried and often succeeded in impressing rules of behavior like these upon me.  

Mostly, it makes me think of what the United States is not...disciplined and refined, especially in Yankeeland.  

Every generation from the time of the WBTS has experienced a degeneration in manners, degenerating borders of social intercourse, and degeneration of language.  

Honestly, as stiff as this woman may sound, I wish more people adhered to religious, moral, and ethical codes of behavior, guarded their tongues more, and were careful about encroaching on other peoples space, feelings, and property.  

That, I think, is the theme of what the mother in law is trying to impart on the daughter in law.  

While the mother in law still expresses hope that the younger woman might respond positively to the ideas in the letter, I am certain that she wont for two reasons:  

1. The younger woman is habituated to the language and behavior since childhood. 

2. Unless the younger woman sought out the older for this sort of advice, there is no way her intellect will receive this letter well.  Even the media commentators refer to the mother in law as a "monster in law".

Anyway, here is the letter:  

It is high time someone explained to you about good manners. Yours are obvious by their absence and I feel sorry for you.

Unfortunately for Freddie, he has fallen in love with you and Freddie being Freddie, I gather it is not easy to reason with him or yet encourage him to consider how he might be able to help you.

It may just be possible to get through to you though. I do hope so.

Your behaviour on your visit to Devon during April was staggering in its uncouthness and lack of grace.
Unfortunately, this was not the first example of bad manners I have experienced from you.

If you want to be accepted by the wider Bourne family I suggest you take some guidance from experts with utmost haste.

There are plenty of finishing schools around. You would be an ideal candidate for the Ladette to Lady television series.

Please, for your own good, for Freddie's sake and for your future involvement with the Bourne family, do something as soon as possible.

Here are a few examples of your lack of manners:
When you are a guest in another's house, you do not declare what you will and will not eat - unless you are positively allergic to something.

You do not remark that you do not have enough food.

You do not start before everyone else.

You do not take additional helpings without being invited to by your host.

When a guest in another's house, you do not lie in bed until late morning in households that rise early - you fall in line with house norms.

You should never ever insult the family you are about to join at any time and most definitely not in public. I gather you passed this off as a joke but the reaction in the pub was one of shock, not laughter.

I have no idea whether you wrote to thank [your future sister-in-law] for the weekend but you should have hand-written a card to her.

You should have hand-written a card to me. You have never written to thank me when you have stayed at Houndspool.
[Your future sister-in-law] has quite the most exquisite manners of anyone I have ever come across. You would do well to follow her example.
You regularly draw attention to yourself. Perhaps you should ask yourself why.

It is tragic that you have diabetes. However, you aren't the only young person in the world who is a diabetic.

I know quite a few young people who have this condition, one of whom is getting married in June. I have never heard her discuss her condition.
She quietly gets on with it. She doesn't like being diabetic. Who would? You do not need to regale everyone with the details of your condition or use it as an excuse to draw attention to yourself. It is vulgar.

As a diabetic of long standing you must be acutely aware of the need to prepare yourself for extraordinary eventualities, the walk to Mothecombe beach being an example.
You are experienced enough to have prepared yourself appropriately.

No-one gets married in a castle unless they own it. It is brash, celebrity style behaviour.

I understand your parents are unable to contribute very much towards the cost of your wedding. (There is nothing wrong with that except that convention is such that one might presume they would have saved over the years for their daughters' marriages.)
If this is the case, it would be most ladylike and gracious to lower your sights and have a modest wedding as befits both your incomes.

One could be accused of thinking that Heidi Withers must be patting herself on the back for having caught a most eligible young man. I pity Freddie.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent and posted. My mother could have written it.