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Page:Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.djvu/34

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The secret of our conversation being entertaining or the reverse consists mainly on our powers of suiting it to the minds of those with whom we are speaking. With some it is necessary to make but little effort for they much prefer to talk themselves, and it is then the duty of the hostess to listen with as much interest as she can command. Other people are shy, and then a good deal of tact is required to find out subjects congenial to them, for there are sure to be some in which they are interested, and it is well for the mistress of a household to know a little of the current topics of the day.

Cheerfulness.—We cannot too strongly insist on the vital importance of always preserving an equable good temper amidst all the little cares and worries of domestic life. Many women may be heard to declare that men cannot realize the petty anxieties of a household. But a woman must cultivate that tact and forbearance without which no man can hope to succeed in his career. The true woman combines with mere tact that subtle sympathy which makes her the loved companion and friend alike of husband, children and all around her. Stevenson's prayer is worth remembering: "The day returns, and brings us the petty round of irritating concerns and duties. Help us to play the man, help us to perform them with laughter and kind faces, let cheerfulness abound with industry. Give us to go blithely on our business all this day, bring us to our resting beds weary and content and undishonoured, and grant us in the end the gift of sleep."

On the Important Subject of Dress and Fashion we cannot do better than quote: "Let people write, talk, lecture, satirize, as they may, it cannot be denied that, whatever is the prevailing mode in attire, let it intrinsically be ever so absurd, it will never look as ridiculous as another, which, however convenient, comfortable, or even becoming is totally opposite in style to that generally worn." A lady's dress should be always suited to her circumstances, and varied for different occasions. The morning dress should be neat and simple, and suitable for the domestic duties that usually occupy the early part of the day. This dress should be changed before calling hours; but it is not in good taste to wear much jewellery except with evening dress. A lady should always aim at being well and attractively dressed whilst never allowing questions of costume to establish inordinate claims on either time or purse. In purchasing her own garments, after taking account of the important detail of the length of her purse, she should aim at adapting the style of the day in such a manner as best suits the requirements of her face, figure and complexion, and never allow slavish adherence to temporary fads of fashion to overrule her own sense of what is becoming and befitting. She should also bear in mind that her different costumes have to furnish her with apparel for home wear, outdoor exercise and social functions, and try to allot due relative importance to the claims of each.

The advice of Polonius to his son Laertes, in Hamlet, is excellent;