My eight-year-old, Katie, has many wonderful qualities, but I wouldn’t list good table manners among them. So I was interested when I saw a book called The School of Manners, or Rules for Children’s Behaviour, in a shop at Colonial Williamsburg.
According to the online Norton Anthology of English Literature, “conduct books” like The School of Manners, which was written by John Garretson and published in London in 1701, had been around since the Middle Ages but became hugely popular with the growth of the middle classes in the 18th century. They offered readers “a way to recognize class distinctions, as well as the hope that they might improve their own station in life through imitating the behavior of their ‘betters.'” Continue reading