I’d like to stock up the Erasmus resources on this site a bit more – as you know I’m speaking up for the Christian Humanist and Anabaptist Spiritual tradition with fellow Universalist who are Armenians and Calvinists and don’t know a lot about us (so that’s why I’m posting a lot for a season to keep m brothers and sisters informed).
Erasmus wrote a charming little Book for the Education of the Little Christian gentleman – which really reflects his moderation and good humour. It’s such a contrast to the Puritan literature for children which I’ll do a post on after this. For the moment, if you are a follower of this marginal thread, I hope you enjoy – and please put a note after this post if you have done (it’ll keep me sweet and cheerful).
The Quotations are from ‘A handbook of Good Manners for Children’ by Deisidere Erasmus, translated by Eleanor Merchant (published by Preface 2008)
•Let other people emblazon their shields with lions, eagles, bulls and leopards; the emblems of the intellect, acquired by an education in the liberal arts, bear a truer nobility.
•It’s rather obscene to snort through your nose, and implies anger if it’s a habit. Of course, those who are short of breath on account of illness must be excused.
•To laugh on your own or for no obvious reason is an attribute of the stupid or the insane. If however something of this kind arises, it’s polite to explain to others the reason for your laughter. But if you don’t consider it appropriate to relate this, make something else up, in case someone thinks that they are the object of the joke.
•To refrain from passing urine is bad for your health; but be discreet when you go. There are some who teach that a child should hold in digestive wind by clenching his buttocks. But it’s not good manners to make yourself ill in your eagerness to appear polite.
•Don’t be conspicuous by your shabbiness, nor by any opulence, wantonness or arrogance.
•The greater someone’s fortune, the more agreeable is his modesty.
•When the gospel is proclaimed, stand up, and listen with devout attention if you are able. When the Creed is sung, at the words ‘and was made man’, kneel down, as in this way you submit yourself in honour of him, who, although Lord of all the heavens, came down to earth for your salvation; who, although God, deigned to become man, that he should reconcile you with God.
•Consider yourself to have come to church in vain unless you go out from there a better and purer person.
•Whilst dining you should be cheerful, but not cheeky
•As you wash your hands, so too, clear troubles from your mind. For it’s not good manners to be gloomy at dinner or to make anyone else miserable.
•…the rewards of enjoying strong wine will be decayed teeth, bleary eyes, dim vision and a dull mind, in short, a premature decline.
•It’s courteous to return the favour when someone toasts you with his cup, raising the cup to your lips, sipping a little and giving the impression of drinking.
•If someone crudely urges you to drink more, it’s fine for you to promise that you will respond to his request when you are grown up.
•A child should be kept waiting for a while, so that he gets used to controlling his appetite.
•If someone else offers you a particularly choice piece of food, you should try to decline gently before accepting it, but only cut off a small portion for yourself, and offer the remainder to the person who gave it to you, or share it with someone sitting near you.
•To swallow whole pieces of food in one gulp is the practice of storks and clowns.
•Gnawing on bones is for dogs; using a knife to strip meat away is well-mannered.
•Greedy gobbling is the way of ruffians.
•To blurt out what someone’s said or done when they’ve had a few drinks is behaviour fitting for no one, especially a child.
•At dinner nothing should be blurted out that might darken the cheerful tone. Harming the reputation of someone not present is a great offence. And it’s not the place to reopen old wounds with anyone.
•Get-togethers ought to feel relaxed.
•Those who force children to fast, in my opinion, are just as insane as those who stuff children full of food…Moderation ought to be learnt from the beginning
•Those who often allow their children to stay up through long meals lasting into the middle of the night show their disregard for their children.
•Just as God bid us, through Solomon, that we should stand up out of respect for the elderly, and likewise, through Paul, he urged us to show double reverence to our elders.
•We should speak respectfully and succinctly to our superiors; lovingly and kindly to our contemporaries.
•A shy manner is acceptable, but only if it suits someone, not if it renders them thunderstruck.
•Allow your voice to be soft and gentle, not clamorous like a farmer’s, nor so subdued that it can’t , heard by the person you’re addressing.
•…the well-raised child should neither use foul language nor listen to it.
•If something is to be contradicted, be careful not to say, ‘You’re not telling the truth’, particularly if you are speaking to your elder, but say with respect, ‘It was told to me very differently by so and so.’
•He shouldn’t put himself above others, nor boast about what he’s done, nor criticise someone else’s behaviour, nor disparage the customs or habits of another country, nor reveal a secret he’s been trusted with, nor spread fresh rumours, nor damage someone’s reputation spitefully, nor reproach someone on account of an inborn defect…Following these guidelines should mean that you win praise without envy and gain friends.
•Don’t get involved in quarrels with anyone, and show affability to all.
•When playing games be cheerful. Don’t be stubborn as that causes quarrels.
•Someone who concedes a game with good humour gains more honour than one who always insists on winning.
•Don’t contradict the umpires.
•The point of playing is in the spirit of the game rather than any prize.
•When you’ve been to the toilet, don’t do anything else until after you’ve washed your face and hands, and rinsed out your mouth.
•For those lucky enough to be born in to privilege, it’s disgraceful if their manners don’t match their position. Those whom fate has chosen to be ordinary, common or uncouth have to make a much greater effort with their manners to compensate for their lack of privilege.
•The key to good manners is that you should readily ignore the faults of others, but avoid falling short yourself. For that reason, you shouldn’t look down on a friend if he has poorer behaviour…but if a friend does something wrong without realising it, and it seems important, then it’s polite to inform him of it gently and in private.
My good friend who has shared a very similar spiritual journey to me tyoed these extracts (and chose them). She’s a mum so I thought she’d make the best choice. I’ll have to call her ‘Sister Sobornost’ and offer my warm thanks to her –
All the best