Table Manners and Etiquette.
It is of the highest importance that all persons should conduct themselves with the strictest regard to good breeding, even in the privacy of their own homes, when at table, a neglect of such observances will render one stiff and awkward in society. There are so many little points to be observed, that unless a person is habitually accustomed to observe them, he unconsciously commits some error, or will appear awkward and constrained upon occasions when it is important to be fully at ease. To be thoroughly at ease at such times is only acquired by the habitual practice of good manners at the table, and is the result of proper home training. It is the duty of parents to accustom their children, by example as well as by precept, to be attentive and polite to each other at every meal, as well as to observe proper rules of etiquette, and if they do so, they need never fear that they will be rude or awkward when they go abroad. Even when persons habitually eat alone, they should pay due regard to the rules of etiquette, for by so doing they form habits of ease and gracefulness which are requisite in refined circles; otherwise they speedily acquire rude and awkward habits which they cannot shake off without great difficulty, and which are at times embarrassing to themselves and their friends. In private families it should be observed as a rule to meet together at all meals of the day around one common table, where the same rules of etiquette should be rigidly enforced, as though each member of the family were sitting at a stranger’s table. It is only by this constant practice of the rules of good behaviour at home, that good manners become easy when any of them go abroad.
At the first meal of the day, even in the most orderly households, an amount of freedom is allowed, which would be unjustifiable at any other meal. The head of the house may look over his morning paper, and the various other members may glance over correspondence or such books or studies as they are interested in. Each may rise and leave the table when business or pleasure dictates, without awaiting for the others or for a general signal.