Saturday, March 5, 2016

A Secret to Refinement

Lack of repose of manner -- that is a key to so much that is amiss in decorum among us.
Rev. C.W. De L. Nichols, Correct Social Usage

While reading a book defining correct social behavior from my great-grandmother's day (1906), I came upon a small section addressing "repose of manner."  The phrase seems quaint in our modern vernacular, yet it beautifully describes the essence of refinement lost to many in our twenty-first century.

What is repose of manner?   It is a calm dignity in the way a person conducts herself.  Here are four specific ways to develop repose of manner:

  1. Slow down.  Hurry and refinement do not go together.  Rushing is inconsistent with the calm, measured actions of a reposed manner.  Slowing down allows you to speak and act thoughtfully, and makes your presence soothing to others.
  2. Develop savoir faire.  Know what to do and say.  This is accomplished by study and observation.  Search out books and articles on etiquette and feminine charm.  Read the biographies of true ladies and gentlemen.  Learn from previous generations who knew more about gentility.  Knowing the proper thing to do and say gives confidence to act with calm dignity.
  3. Be Unflappable.  Retain your composure in upsetting circumstances.  Respond to rudeness with finesse.  Keep a sense of humor when things go haywire.  
  4. Maintain a degree of personal mystique.  Repose of manner requires more reserve than is demonstrated by the average woman in our society.  Nothing is refined about giving out too much personal information. Practice quiet restraint by listening and observing more than speaking.  Keep a discerning sense of privacy.

Principle:  A lady demonstrates repose of manner.

Photo: by Regina Relang, Paris 1950s


  1. Hi Nancy - I love this piece and it's something that I would like achieve now that I am in my 30s and about to have my first child. :)

    May I ask what which book from 1906 were you reading that inspired this post? I'd like to be able to read it as well.

    Many thanks,

  2. Hello, Lovelle, It's a pleasure to hear from you. The book referenced is titled Correct Social Usage by Seventeen Authors, published by The New York Society of Self-Culture.

    Warmest wishes to you and congratulations on your new little one!

    1. Gentle readers,

      Presently, I was searching for this book in which Ms. Nancy was referencing on Amazon. Could a kind soul please lead me to the one in which I should make an acquisition? Is it volume 1 or 2? Both?

      Thank you!

    2. Hello, HarmlessCandy,

      The edition of the book I have is from 1910, before the work was divided into two volumes. My guess is that the quotation I used would be found in Volume 1.

      But I should let you know that this book is very old and filled with (somewhat exhausting!) details of social graces in Victorian times. I enjoy searching through such collections, but it may prove disappointing to someone wanting to read about manners applicable today.

      I will make a point to post some more current reading recommendations this week, which might prove more useful. I hope this helps!

    3. Graceful Nancy,

      (snippet)....this book is very old and filled with (somewhat exhausting!) details of social graces in Victorian times.

      Perfectly put! Presently, I am reading the 1922 version of Fascinating woman online.

      You have made my day dear lady, and thank you so much for getting back with me during your busy day. I look forward to the more current reading recommendations you mentioned as well! It is MUCH appreciate!

  3. All good advice for the introvert, but how about those of us extroverts? Cannot one be a lady, have exquisite manners and still the life of the party? For me some of the old rules were much more about keeping a woman in her "place" than being a lady. My $.02 Back to lurking.

    1. I'm so glad you did share your thoughts, helenko. Repose is necessary to refinement whether a person is extroverted or introverted! The key here is a calm dignity, which mustn't be confused with being dull or mousy. Repose doesn't require a person to be a wallflower and allows all personality types to sparkle in their own way. An extrovert with repose will bring life to a party with grace, and without being a spectacle.

  4. I love these principles. I need to grow in these areas - and I want to. Nancy, thank you again!

    1. Thank you for reading, AHHa! I'm always happy to hear from you.

  5. I can't thank you enough for your wisdom. I am a Pastor's mother and so much of what you have written on is my daily adventures. Personal information and too many questions are always a challenge. You have given me some excellent applicable information.
    Thank you and God bless you.

    1. Thank you so much, Trish. It's words like yours that encourage me to keep writing!