What Constitutes Society?
A famous essayist once wrote: "l have but seldom sat at the tables of the great. but on such occasions I did not fail to notice that exalted rank does not always confer a superiority of manners; however, I must confess that while respect must always be paid to nobility, the arts of polite conversation, gentle manners, discretion of speech, kindness, sobriety, wit and learning seem to me most successfully cultivated by those who possess no title to respect other than may be conceded to integrity, Industry and success in life.
“Samuel Littleton, a famous Queen’s Counsel in his day. had a family whose manners might cause many a house of noble rank to blush. He himself was a scholar and a wit, yet a wit who sought not to wound. His son, though apt to blush in conversation, had in him the making of a very pretty wit. His daughter, lovely in person, could also display the graces of the mind. They understood music enough to play movingly upon the spinuet. They were also well read and could aptly quote from Shakespeare. Milton and Dryden. They conversed intelligently on all subjects generally allowed to be Introduced before ladies, without boldness, but with a modesty which always best becomes a young geutiewoman. Of the wife and mother no praise would be too extravagant, but it will be sufficient to say that her daughter*, in attempting the task, despaired of emulating her.
When contrasting a dinner given by my Lord Fullacre, the noisy talk that prevailed, the low topics introduced, the profusion of wine and other evils and extravagances, with a dinner at the house of Sam Littleton, the sobriety of his table, yet the plenty, the moderation of the drinking, the pretty conversation and lively sallies of the girls, the graciousness of the matron, the innocent mirth and laughter of the company, then you find what is true society—that is, society ordered according to the politeness of the age—must be sought for where the men are scholars of delicacy and breeding, and where the women have been educated to make them fit mates for the men." — San Francisco Call, 1892