Do not glare upon thy snot

The following extracts come from a book of manners, written by the Italian Giovanni Della Casa. This edition was published in English in 1576. I’ve standardised the spelling since the text would otherwise prove rather difficult to read.

When thou hast blown thy nose, use not to open thy handkerchief, to glare upon thy snot, as if you had pearls and Rubies fallen from thy brains.

A man must leave to yawn much, as that it seems to proceed of a certain weariness that shows that he that yawneth could better like to be elsewhere than there in that place, as wearied with the company, their talk, and their doings. And sure, albeit a man be many times disposed to yawn, yet if he be occupied with any delight, or earnest matter to think upon, he shall have no mind to do it. But if he be lumpish & idle, it is an easy matter to fall into it. And therefore, when a man yawneth, in place where there be slothful and idle folks that have nothing to doe, the rest, as you may see many times, yawn again for company by & by. And I have many times heard learned and wise men say, that A yawner meaneth as much in Latin as a careless and idle body. Let us then fly from these conditions that loathe the eyes, the ears, & the stomach. For in using these fashions, we do not only show that we take little pleasure in the company, but we give them occasion to judge amiss of us

It is ill to see a Gentleman settle himself to do the needs of Nature in the presence of men: And after he hath done, to truss himself again before them. Neither would I have him (if I may give him counsel) when he comes from such an occupation, so much as wash his hands in the sight of honest company: for yet the cause of his washing puts them in mind of some filthy matter that hath been done apart. And by the same reason, it is no good manner, when a man chanceth to see, as he passeth the way, a loathsome thing, that will make a man to cast [turn] his stomach, to turn unto the company, & show it them. And much worse, to reach some stinking thing unto a man to smell it, as it is many a man’s fashion to do, with importunate means, thrusting it unto their nose, saying: ‘Oh, I pray you, how this doth stink’. Where they should rather say, ‘smell not unto it: for it hath an ill scent.’

And as these and like fashions offend the senses: to grind the teethe, to whistle, to make pitiful cries, to rub sharp stones together, and to file upon Iron, [and] do much offend the ears and would be left in any case. Neither must we refrain those things alone, but we must also beware we do not sing, and specially alone, if we have an untuneable voice, which is a common fault with most men.

It is also an unmannerly for a man to lay his nose upon the cup where another must drink: or upon the meat that another must eat, to the end to smell unto it, because it may chance there might fall some drop from his nose that would make a man to loath it

Let a man take heed he does not begrease his fingers so deep that he befile the napkins, for it is an ill sight to see it: neither is it good manners to rub your greasy fingers upon the bread you must eat. The servants that be appointed to wait upon the table must not (in any way) scratch and rub their heads, nor any part else in the sight of their Lord & Master. Nor thrust their hands in any of those parts of their body that be covered, as some careless fellows do, holding their hands in their bosom, or under the flaps of their coats behind them. But they must bear them abroad without any suspicion and keep them (in any case) washed & clean without any spot of dirt upon them. And they that carry the dishes, or reach the cup, must beware at that time they do not spit, cough or sneeze.

It is a rude fashion some men use, to lie lolling asleep in that place where honest men be met together, of purpose to talk. For his so doing shows that he doth not esteem the company, and little reckoneth of their talk. And more than that, he that sleepeth wonts (for the most part) to do some foul thing, to behold, or hear, and many times they awake sweating and drivelling at the mouth. And in like manner, to rise up where other men do sit and talk, and to walk up and down the chamber is no point of good manner. Also there be some that so buskell themselves, reach, stretch and yawn, writhing now one side, and then another, that a man would think they had some fever upon them: A manifest sign that the company they keep doth weary them.

Likewise do they very ill that now & then pull out a letter out of their pocket, to read it as if they had great matters of charge, and affairs of the common weal committed unto them. But they are much more to be blamed that pull out their knives or their scissors, and do nothing else but pare their nails, as if they made no account at all of the company, and would seek some other solace to passe the time away.

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  • September 29, 2011 - 3:32 am | Permalink

    These habits are still quite worthy of study in modern times. Many of the slothful and slovenly habits here, just show that things haven’t really changed that much since the sixteenth century.

  • September 17, 2011 - 1:36 am | Permalink

    Love it! And shared it!

  • September 16, 2011 - 3:20 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for these practical tips aimed at the couth-challenged.

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