A Handbook on Good Manners for Children

Erasmus of Rotterdam, Eleanor Merchant (trs.)

A Handbook on Good Manners for Children

When did you last tell your children to put their hand over their mouth when they yawn? When did you last suggest that when they are introduced to someone they should look them in the eye? Do you remind them that they should wait until everyone is served before they start eating? And not hoover up the best bit? Do you think that the children of today have disgraceful manners? Unlike, of course, when you were young? Well, that's what Erasmus of Rotterdam thought in 1530 when he published 'de Civilitate Morum Puerilium Libellus: A Handbook on Good Manners for Children'. After all, as William of Wykeham memorably said in the 1350s, Manners Makyth Man'. A Handbook on Good Manners for Children is considered to be the first treatise in Western Europe on the moral and practical education of children. It was a massive bestseller - indeed the biggest selling book of the sixteenth century - going into 130 editions over 300 years and being translated into 22 languages. In it, Erasmus concerns himself with matters such as how to dress, how to behave at table, how to converse with one's elders and contemporaries, how to address the opposite sex and much else. For example:'It's just as rude to lick greasy fingers as it is to wipe them on your clothing; use a cloth or napkin instead'. 'Some people, no sooner than they've sat down, immediately stick their hands into the dishes of food. This is the manner of wolves'. 'Making a raucous noise or shrieking intentionally when you sneeze, or showing off by carrying on sneezing on purpose, is very ill-mannered'. 'To fidget around in your seat, and to settle first on one buttock and then the next, gives the impression that you are repeatedly farting, or trying to fart'. The advice is as relevant today as it was 500 years ago. 4.0 out of 5 based on 2 reviews
A Handbook on Good Manners for Children

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Reference, Humour, Family & Lifestyle
Format Hardback
Pages 112
RRP £10.00
Date of Publication October 2008
ISBN 978-1848091085
Publisher Preface
 

When did you last tell your children to put their hand over their mouth when they yawn? When did you last suggest that when they are introduced to someone they should look them in the eye? Do you remind them that they should wait until everyone is served before they start eating? And not hoover up the best bit? Do you think that the children of today have disgraceful manners? Unlike, of course, when you were young? Well, that's what Erasmus of Rotterdam thought in 1530 when he published 'de Civilitate Morum Puerilium Libellus: A Handbook on Good Manners for Children'. After all, as William of Wykeham memorably said in the 1350s, Manners Makyth Man'. A Handbook on Good Manners for Children is considered to be the first treatise in Western Europe on the moral and practical education of children. It was a massive bestseller - indeed the biggest selling book of the sixteenth century - going into 130 editions over 300 years and being translated into 22 languages. In it, Erasmus concerns himself with matters such as how to dress, how to behave at table, how to converse with one's elders and contemporaries, how to address the opposite sex and much else. For example:'It's just as rude to lick greasy fingers as it is to wipe them on your clothing; use a cloth or napkin instead'. 'Some people, no sooner than they've sat down, immediately stick their hands into the dishes of food. This is the manner of wolves'. 'Making a raucous noise or shrieking intentionally when you sneeze, or showing off by carrying on sneezing on purpose, is very ill-mannered'. 'To fidget around in your seat, and to settle first on one buttock and then the next, gives the impression that you are repeatedly farting, or trying to fart'. The advice is as relevant today as it was 500 years ago.

Reviews

The Independent on Sunday

Elspeth Barker

Erasmus is writing to a child but every point made applies equally to adults and is relevant enough today. "Was it not ever thus?" demands the translator. Well, yes and no. That this book was produced at all is an indication of a leisure gap in turbulent times. His friend Thomas More was beheaded five years later. God, war, and the axe shadowed Erasmus's life. Merchant's breezy, determinedly contemporary style promotes the notion that they were really just like us, those doubleted geezers back in the 16th. They weren't.

02/11/2008

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The Times

Harry Mount

For anyone who thinks that modern manners have gone to the dogs, this is a salutary read. Europe in the 16th century was a much dirtier and offensive place than it is today. The Spanish, Erasmus confirms, did brush their teeth with urine... For all this openness about bodily functions, though, Erasmus comes across as a bit of a snob and a killjoy. At the dinner table, he says, you mustn't gossip, talk about what you've been up to, criticise anybody else or reveal secrets.

30/10/2008

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