Skip to main content

The 1920s:

May 2024
1min read

“Should Politeness Ever Be Met With Cheap Sarcasm?”


THE CONSIDERATE GUEST

Courtesy demands that you, when you are a guest, shall show neither annoyance nor disappointment—no matter what happens. Before you can hope to become even a passable guest, let alone a perfect one, you must learn as it were not to notice if hot soup is poured down your back. If you neither understand nor care for dogs or children, and both insist on climbing all over you, you must seemingly like it; just as you must be amiable and polite to your fellow guests, even though they be of all the people on earth the most detestable to you. You must with the very best dissimulation at your command, appear to find the food delicious though they offer you all of the viands that are especially distasteful to your palate, or antagonistic to your digestion. You must disguise your hatred of red ants and scrambled food, if everyone else is bent on a picnic. You must pretend that six is a perfect dinner hour though you never dine before eight, or on the contrary, you must wait until eightthirty or nine with stoical fortitude, though your dinner hour is six and by seven your chest seems securely pinned to your spine.

If you go for a drive, and it pours, and there is no top to the carriage or car, and you are soaked to the skin and chilled to the marrow so that your teeth chatter, your lips must smile and you must appear to enjoy the refreshing coolness.

If you go to stay in a small house in the country, and they give you a bed full of lumps, in a room of mosquitoes and flies, in a chamber over that of a crying baby, under the eaves with a temperature of over a hundred, you can the next morning walk to the village, and send yourself a telegram and leave! But though you feel starved, exhausted, wilted, and are mosquito bitten until you resemble a well-developed case of chicken pox or measles, by not so much as a facial muscle must you let the family know that your comfort lacked anything your happiest imagination could picture—nor must you confide in any one afterwards (having broken bread in the house) how desperately wretched you were.

We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this magazine of trusted historical writing, now in its 75th year, and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.

Donate