|‘I love to follow them (rules of politesse), but not to be so servilely tied to their observation that my whole life should be enslaved to ceremonies ... I have seen some people rude, by being over-civil and troublesome in their courtesy.'|
There is no subject so frivolous that it does not merit a place in my essays. According to our social customs, it would be rude (to an equal, and much more so to a superior) to fail being at home when someone has told you he will come to visit. Queen Margaret of Navarre adds further that it would even be rude for a gentleman to go over to someone’s house when he is supposed to be coming over, no matter what high position he may be in. It is more respectful to stay at home and receive him, if only because you could miss him on the way. Personally, I try to reduce the ritual observances of my house as much as I can, and I often commit either one or both of these offences. If someone takes offence ‘I can’t help it; it is much better to offend him once than myself every day, for it would be a perpetual slavery’. What is the point of avoiding the servile ceremonies of the court if we bring the same trouble into our own homes? Another common rule of all assemblies is that ‘those of less quality’ arrive earlier, in order to allow the ‘better sort’ to make the others wait, in expectation.
None of these rules are set in stone. For instance,
- When the Pope Clement came to visit King Francis in Marseilles (France, 1533), the King, after making preparations for the Pope’s entertainment and reception, left town, and he gave the Pope two or three days rest and refreshment time before he met him.
- The Emperor Charles V in 1532 had the Pope visit him first before he visited the Pope. This was an act of deference, following a custom common at princely meetings, where the greater person should be present first in the appointed place of meeting. This is especially important when the meeting is in the country of the other person because it is more proper for the less to seem out the great than vice versa.
Not just every country, but every city and every society has its own customs. I was educated well in the formalities of our own nation; I could even give lessons in it. ‘I love to follow them, but not to be so servilely tied to their observation that my whole life should be enslaved to ceremonies’. Some are so troublesome that it would be better to avoid them, provided that this is done with good judgment and not just uncouthness. I have seen some people rude, by being over-civil and troublesome in their courtesy.