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A Portraiture of Quakerism, Volume 1 by Clarkson

Soon force out of sight all ideas of uncourteousness


[Footnote

55: 1 Cor. Chap. xi.]

CHAP. V.

_Manners and conversation--Quakers esteemed reserved--this an appearance owing to their education--their hospitality in their own houses--the freedom allowed and taken--their conversation limited--politics generally excluded--subjects of conversation examined in our towns--also in the metropolis--no such subjects among the Quakers--their conversation more dignified--extraordinary circumstance that takes place occasionally in the company of the Quakers._

The Quakers are generally supposed to be a stiff and reserved people, and to be a people of severe and uncourteous manners. I confess there is something in their appearance that will justify the supposition in the eyes of strangers, and of such as do not know them: I mean of such, as just see them occasionally out of doors, but do not mix with them in their own houses.

It cannot be expected that persons, educated like the Quakers, should assimilate much in their manners to other people. The very dress they wear, which is so different from that of others, would give them a stiff appearance in the eyes of the world, if nothing else could be found to contribute towards it. Excluded also from much intercourse with the world, and separated at a vast distance from it by the singularity of many of their customs, they would naturally

appear to others to be close and reserved. Neither is it to be expected that those, whose spirits are never animated by music, or enlivened by the exhibitions of the theatre, or the diversions which others follow, would have other than countenances that were grave. Their discipline also, which calls them so frequently to important duties, and the dispatch of serious business, would produce the same feature. I may observe also, that a peculiarity of gait, which might be mistaken for awkwardness, might not unreasonably be expected in those, who had neither learned to walk under the guidance of a dancing, master, nor to bow under the direction of the dominion of fashion. If those and those only are to be esteemed really polished and courteous, who bow and scrape, and salute each other by certain prescribed gestures, then the Quakers will appear to have contracted much rust, and to have an indisputable right to the title of a clownish and inflexible people.

I must observe however that these appearances, though they may be substantial in the estimation of those who do not know them, gradually vanish with those, who do. Their hospitality in their own houses, and their great attention and kindness, soon force out of sight all ideas of uncourteousness. Their freedom also soon annihilates those of stiffness and reserve. Their manners, though they have not the polished surface of those which are usually attached to fashionable life, are agreeable, when known.

There is one trait in the Quaker-manners, which runs through the whole society, as far as I have seen in their houses, and which is worthy of mention. The Quakers appear to be particularly gratified, when those, who visit them, ask for what they want. Instead of considering this as rudeness or intrusion, they esteem it as a favour done them. The circumstance of asking, on such an occasion, is to them a proof, that there visitors feel themselves at home. Indeed they almost always desire a stranger who has been introduced to them "to be free." This is their usual expression. And if he assures them that he will, and if they find him asking for what he wishes to have, you may perceive in their countenances the pleasure, which his conduct has given them. They consider him, when he has used this freedom, to have acted as they express it "kindly." Nothing can be more truly polite than that conduct to another, by which he shall be induced to feel himself as comfortably situated, as if he were in his own house.


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