Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Good Samaritan and Emily Post

I have been reading the original 1922 edition of Emily's Post's famous Etiquette as research for a story I want to set in the late teens, early twenties era. In the introduction by Richard Duffy, it states:

Many who scoff at a book of etiquette would be shocked to hear the least expression of levity touching the Ten Commandments. But the Commandments do not always prevent such virtuous scoffers from dealings with their neighbor of which no gentleman could be capable and retain his claim to the title. 

Interestingly, our readings at church this morning had to do with law. The Gospel reading was of the well known parable of The Good Samaritan. As you most likely know, Jesus told the story in response to a lawyer's question "Who is my neighbor?" While listening to the story I could not help but think of Emily Post and her explanations of manners.

In the chapter The Fundamentals of Good Behavior, Post explains:


All thoroughbred people are considerate of the feelings of others no matter what the station of the others may be. Thackeray's climber who "licks the boots of those above him and kicks the faces of those below him on the social ladder," is a, very good illustration of what a gentleman is not.
A gentleman never takes advantage of another's helplessness or ignorance, and assumes that no gentleman will take advantage of him.

And then farther on in the chapter:  All thoroughbred women, and men, are considerate of others less fortunately placed, especially of those in their employ. One of the tests by which to distinguish between the woman of breeding and the woman merely of wealth, is to notice the way she speaks to dependents...When you see a woman in silks and sables and diamonds speak to a little errand girl or a footman or a scullery maid as though they were the dirt under her feet, you may be sure of one thing; she hasn't come a very long way from the ground herself. 

While this is not a parallel to the parable, I think it's likely that Jesus would tend to agree with Emily.