Facta Ficta

vitam impendere vero

[MA-250]

MANNERS

Good manners disappear in proportion as the influence of a Court and an exclusive aristocracy lessens; this decrease can be plainly observed from decade to decade by those who have an eye for public behaviour, which grows visibly more vulgar. No one any longer knows how to court and flatter intelligently; hence arises the ludicrous fact that in cases where we must render actual homage (to a great statesman or artist, for instance), the words of deepest feeling, of simple, peasant-like honesty, have to be borrowed, owing to the embarrassment resulting from the lack of grace and wit. Thus the public ceremonious meeting of men appears ever more clumsy, but more full of feeling and honesty without really being so. But must there always be a decline in manners? It appears to me, rather, that manners take a deep curve and that we are approaching their lowest point. When society has become sure of its intentions and principles, so that they have a moulding effect (the manners we have learnt from former moulding conditions are now inherited and always more weakly learnt), there will then be company manners, gestures and social expressions, which must appear as necessary and simply natural because they are intentions and principles. The better division of time and work, the gymnastic exercise transformed into the accompaniment of all beautiful leisure, increased and severer meditation, which brings wisdom and suppleness even to the body, will bring all this in its train. Here, indeed, we might think with a smile of our scholars, and consider whether, as a matter of fact, they who wish to be regarded as the forerunners of that new culture are distinguished by their better manners? This is hardly the case; although their spirit may be willing enough their flesh is weak. The past of culture is still too powerful in their muscles, they still stand in a fettered position, and are half worldly priests and half dependent educators of the upper classes, and besides this they have been rendered crippled and life-less by the pedantry of science and by antiquated, spiritless methods. In any case, therefore, they are physically, and often three-fourths mentally, still the courtiers of an old, even antiquated culture, and as such are themselves antiquated; the new spirit that occasionally inhabits these old dwellings often serves only to make them more uncertain and frightened. In them there dwell the ghosts of the past as well as the ghosts of the future; what wonder if they do not wear the best expression or show the most pleasing behaviour?