Never Mind Your Mannersrnby J.O.TaternHaving been invited to address tlie topic of manners, I canrnonl’ do so with a certain embarrassment, for I have beenrnknown to liave l)ehaved deplorably, hidccd, I was once evenrncalled “reprehensible” by a woman of repellent aspect, remotc-rn1 connected with education, bnt, all things considered, I feltrnmore honored than not. I consoled myself with the nnvoicedrnreflection. If I thought my thumbs could ever find the wmdpipernsomewhere deeply buried m the wattles of your bloated neck, incrediblyrnlarge person, I’d show you something ”reprehensible.”rnBut haxing been at fault on occasions all too numerous hasrntanght me a few things, such as not to insult anyone unintentionally;rnnot to lose my composure; and not to telegraph arnpunch. You know, experience counts for a lot. And so does theon’.rnNow, when the subject of manners comes up, I can only sayrnthat I know good manners when I sec them, because I have indeedrnseen them, though not so much in the last 40 ‘cars. I dornnot claim any other authority on the topic, but perhaps I can beginrnbv sa)’ing that I at least hope we are cured todav of the romanticrndisgust that many have felt for Lord Chesterfield’s lettersrnto his son. hi our own time, J.P. Donleavy has written brilliant-rn1)- on manners, hi general, we need to get back to traditionalrnstandards in order to recover some reason, dignit)’, and peace,rnbut things are not looking propihous. Specifically, I would likernto see a revival of dueling, but that would be too much to hopernfor.rnWhat we need today, and what we arc not going to get, is a returnrnto the 18th century, at least to understand the truth ofrnRochefoucauld’s maxim that hypocrisy is the tribute that vicernpas to irtne. Such a tribute is no bad thing. An examinationrnof the etymologies of person and hypocrisy is most instructive,rn/.O. Tate is a professor of English at Dowling College onrnI/me Island.rnstriking at many of our modern vanities and illusions. Reading,rnas I did the other day, that Hollywood fdms have “revealed socialrnli’poerisv” is to suffer a temporary vertigo. Societ}’ is hypocriticalrnby definition, as humans always knew until Rousseaurnand Ranieau’s nephew; and the arrogance, greed, and coarsenessrnof Holh-wood have hardly been a basis for any revelation.rnEven if they had been, the illusion of film and of contrivedrnscenes only confirm—tlie’ do not den) —the ancient wisdomrnthat all the world’s a stage.rnShakespeare was certainly not the first to give voice to that insight,rnbnt he developed it as no other has done. I have alwaysrnthought that Hfamlet’s paradoxically rude injunction to hisrnmother—”Assume a virhie, if yon have it not”—was sage advice.rnHamlet recommended hypocrisy, and this is in a play withrna pla- within the play, to cite only one of many paradoxes.rnHamlet’s manners are mostly bad—at Ophelia’s funeral, unforgivablern— but noble in the end. Horatio is a gentleman.rnClaudius’s manners are dcceptie (when they are not gross).rnOsric is a fop, a travesty of good manners. And Polonius is justlyrnslain for his meddling and, above all, for talking too much.rnI suppose that, when we think of manners, we think of literature,rnbecause that is v’here we see manners fixed — manners asrncharacter, as in 18th-century comedy, and as in such novels asrnthose of Jane Austen. That toady, the Re-. Mr. Collins, and hisrnesteemed patroness, the odious Lady Catherine De Bourgh, arernunforgettable, as Austen brilliantiv renegotiated the meaningsrnof class and manners in her time. That heap of infamy, UriahrnHeep, pretended clumsil) and villainously to good mannersrnabove his station, as melodramatically imagined by Dickens.rnBut by the time of Dickens, the rot had already set in. Thatrngreat romantic hero, Heatiicliff, was significantly ill bred, unkempt,rnand rude. Emily Bronte, more than Dickens, admiredrn”sincerit)” and “passion” all too well, with sinister long-rangernimplications. Thackeray spent his career examining the mean-rnAUCUST 2001/15rnrnrn