Archive for the ‘epistolary etiquette’ Category

Advice is dreaded, even when it is apparently desired. It is usually offensive to self-love in the hope of finding approbation. You must, therefore, be very economical of advice. A father owes it to his son, a mother to her daughter, a tutor to his pupil, a friend to his friend [or HER friend, in this case]. In these cases, do not be sparing of counsel, even when it is ill received, for you are merely discharging a debt. But in any other circumstances, see that you are entreated more than once before your assume the character of a counselor, and when you are compelled to be one, act with the utmost caution. As advice almost invariably contains a tacit reproof of actual faults, or dangerous inclinations, the sternness of reason should be disguised under inviting exteriors; and prudence demands an air of timidity in offering advice to a superior. It will be proper to introduce, frequently, some form of speech like the following: ‘’It would appear to me;’’ ‘’I may be deceived;’’ ‘’Were you not perhaps mistaken?’’ ‘’If I may presume to express my sentiments’’ ‘’How is it possible that you did not perceive it, since you usually see so clearly, and judge so correctly’’? The bitterness of counsel will be scarcely perceptible, if the person who gives advice is modest, and bestows suitable praise on the person who receives it.

From The Letter Writer’s Own Book: or, The Art of Polite Correspondence (1843) – published by John B. Perry.


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