Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Thursday Thirteen Rules of Civility

The top 13 of George Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation, which he wrote sometime before the age of 16. (Spelling and phrasing are as I found them; there are 110 rules in the original document.)

  1. When in Company, put not your Hands to any Part of the Body, not usualy Discovered.

  2. If You Cough, Sneeze, Sigh, or Yawn, do it not Loud but Privately; and Speak not in your Yawning, but put Your handkercheif or Hand before your face and turn aside.

  3. Shake not the head, Feet, or Legs rowl not the Eys lift not one eyebrow higher than the other wry not the mouth, and bedew no mans face with your Spittle, by approaching too near him when you Speak. (I love the phrase "bedew no mans face with your spittle.")

  4. Be not hasty to believe flying Reports to the Disparagement of any.

  5. Associate yourself with Men of good Quality if you Esteem your own Reputation; for 'tis better to be alone than in bad Company.

  6. Let your Conversation be without Malice or Envy, for 'tis a Sign of a Tractable and Commendable Nature: And in all Causes of Passion admit Reason to Govern.

  7. Speak not injurious Words neither in Jest nor Earnest Scoff at none although they give Occasion.

  8. Give not Advice without being Ask'd & when desired do it briefly.

  9. When Another Speaks be attentive your Self and disturb not the Audience if any hesitate in his Words help him not nor Prompt him without desired, Interrupt him not, nor Answer him till his Speech be ended. (Don't we all know people who could take this one to heart and improve our lives?!)

  10. Be not Tedious in Discourse or in reading unless you find the Company pleased therewith.

  11. Be not Curious to Know the Affairs of Others neither approach those that Speak in Private. (Most middle school students, in my teaching experience, haven't been taught this "rule of civility.")

  12. Speak not Evil of the absent for it is unjust.

  13. It's unbecoming to Stoop much to ones Meat Keep your Fingers clean & when foul wipe them on a Corner of your Table Napkin.
This is barely a tenth of the total 110 rules. I am including a few as a bonus. I especially like the poetic phrasing, as well as the sentiment, of the last one.

  1. Drink not nor talk with your mouth full neither Gaze about you while you are a Drinking.

  2. If others talk at Table be attentive but talk not with Meat in your Mouth.

  3. Honour & Obey your Natural Parents altho they be Poor. (Interesting qualifier, isn't it?)

  4. Labour to keep alive in your Breast that Little Spark of Celestial fire Called Conscience. (This is beautiful language, is it not? "that little spark of celestial fire...")

  5. Finis

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