Review: Why Manners Matter by Lucinda Holdforth
The Case for Civilised Behaviour in a Barbarous World
In all honesty, I approached this book with a raised brow, expecting a contemporary version of an old-fashioned etiquette guide. Instead, Lucinda Holdforth presents an essay that examines the human tendency towards barbarism and explores the case for manners.
She argues that privacy can co-exist with neighbourliness, that intellectual freedom can flourish with agreed social rules, and that civility can even save us from over-legislation.
Outlining manners through the ages and drawing on anecdotes that range from ancient Athens to Eighteenth Century Versailles to Bloomsbury and current day Australia, she touches on all aspects of civility. She quotes Emerson on self-restraint; Erasmus on the management of bodily functions; even John Howard’s praise of the friendly, well-mannered young people who serve at McDonalds.
Lest this all sounds too light-hearted, Holdforth strives for something bigger. . . .