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The Editor's Letter Box

Dear Editor of The Epoch,

I wonder if you mind your readers writing to you on everyday difficulties, difficulties which cannot be called "spiritual," and yet they are very vital in a man’s life. I am a very ‘"new" reader of your valuable Magazine, but I am thankful that even at this late hour for I see it has been published nearly twenty years) I have come across it. Well, to make a long story short, I am a young man, brought up in very humble circumstances, educated in a board school, but never trained in all those little courtesies which mark one man off from another—the one a gentleman, well-bred, cultured, easy, refined—the other—myself—awkward, ill at ease in the company of ladies and my superiors; clumsy, always late in doing the right thing, shy, and shall I say, because of all this—shunned? Can you help me in this, what you may call "unspiritual matter"? Have you written any book on Good Manners? Do you know of any book I could read on Good Manners? I feel that many a man like myself,—well, shall we say just for the sake of argument, today a Tommy, tomorrow an officer,—or as the times demand it,—-today a man about the office,—tomorrow a chief in that same office,—many a man, I say, will be glad to have a little help in this direction as well as myself so if you care to answer in the Letter Box, which by the way, I have read with intense interest, you are at liberty to do so. l felt when l read The Epoch "Here, if I mistake not, is the friend I have been longing for!" I feel sure you will rejoice in helping me over this stile, as you will any other young man who will just do as l am doing, write to you and tell you how they need just such a friend,

Yours very truly

"Ex-Tommy"

My dear "Ex Tommy,"

lf it were possible for me to express my delight when l received your letter you would not for one moment hesitate to write to me when you feel at any time you need a friend to confide in, or a gentle, understanding word to cheer you along, or help you over a difficulty. Now first let me say how glad I am you have at last found The Epoch. May it be a lifelong friend to you! Then let me ask you to pass it on to others, it has blessed and helped you, it has found you a friend; it has cheered you in your loneliness; it has brightened a dark day for you; then pass it on!

If you know of another lonely Tommy, or officer, tell them about it, and tell them they need never want a friend, or miss a letter, or go lonely, if they will write to me. lf I have not been able to take any active part as a W.A.A.C., if I have not, through the many duties of my life, been able to do as so many women have done to help our country in her need, I do thank God I have had the honor of being a friend, a comrade, even a "chum" to many of our brave soldiers, both Tommies and Officers. I could tell you many a story of The Epoch and its work during the war, but one must suffice. I was asked to write to a very sad and lonely boy back in 1914. I sent him The Epoch also, and he gave it to another, who passed it on to another, and he to another. The last "other" was H. E. E. H. who has been such a help to me during the last two years, and such an inspiration to my readers. There were others influenced by that one Epoch being passed on too. Men to whom I have written constantly, some of them pure, upright, clean, noble men; some of them struggling to keep pure and clean and noble, and oh, so glad to have a woman friend to help them to conquer—and they have conquered! Some of them down in the depths, but, I held out my hand of love and tenderness and compassion to them, and they grasped it, found it true and real, and we came up together! Some of them, dear, dear lads, are gone to await me in the Summer Land, but still their love in mine, and their trust in me never wavers, and I shall be glad when I see them again, and their gladness will be very great also. "l am so glad I have known you," wrote one, a young Doctor, an officer in the early days, "you have changed everything for me," he said, "you have given me a great, great outlook." It was the last letter. He died of wounds of few hours after. A great outlook! I wept, I could not help it, but even today, how I treasure that letter, and I love to think that, even then, with death so near, the "great outlook" was enabling him to see beyond the shadows; to see that Life could never end, and that there was nothing to fear in either life of death.

But l am forgetting the real reason why you wrote to me. There is a chapter in my book Personality: Its Cultivation and Power, on "Manners." There is an essay by that great writer Emerson, on "Manners"—an essay every young man should read. There are many books published on Good Manners, but I am sorry I cannot name one, or a publisher of one, just now. But let me give you some hints. You must be thrown constantly among men of gentle manners Watch them closely. Try to take in how they act, and what they do under different circumstances. It will be better than any book you may read. The essence of good manners is kindness. Be watchful to serve another. There is a story told of a man at a table in a Restaurant who had to be asked to pass the salt &c, and at last he said,—"Sir, do you mistake me for the waiter?" "No," quietly answered the other, "l mistook you for a gentleman." A well bred man is always, without any fuss or noise, watchful how he may serve others around him, even in such a small matter as passing the salt, or water at the table. A well bred man never sits down while a woman is standing, or if an elderly man or woman is without a chair, or a seat in the train, the garden or the drawing room. A gentleman always opens the door for a woman as she is passing out of a room, and gives every assistance to her in every possible way. All these things are natural to the gentleman. He does them with perfect ease. You will do them with the same ease in a very short time. Never intrude; never contradict; never talk foolishness and empty chatter with no meaning in it; never allow your voice to become loud or coarse. Watch the refined, among whom you must move everyday according to your letter, and learn of them, do as they do. Remember always—and this is most important—that real Good Manners spring from purity, first. You do not want any false show of what you do not really possess. There may be any amount of veneering passing for Good Manners. Beware of it. A thousand men may be called "the first gentlemen in England" but if their private life is not pure, and clean, and noble, then they are very far from being gentlemen. Dear Friend, make your foundation sure. Let every part of your conduct, the most private as well as the most public, be pure, and clean, and upright. That will tell. We women have a divine instinct which never leads us astray. We know the man who is pure, even though he may be what we call "ill-mannered," and we honor him, and love him, and bless him. We know the man who is unclean, even though his manners be perfect, and his deportment that of a prince. Be unselfish. Let that be one of the greatest incentives to your good manners. To serve others. Some may say, "Oh, those little attentions to woman, they belong to the early Victorian period, the New Woman does not desire them." Don’t they? Well, let such speak for themselves. I, for one, value them and desire them. I do not want to see chivalry die out. I would have it rather increased. I saw a pretty little incident the other day in the tube. A lot of men just home from France, tired, dusty, bronzed, and sad, carrying all their war-worn kit with them, were sitting in the carriage when a wounded Tommy came in, and took a seat beside one of them whose steel helmet had fallen on to the seat by his side. The wounded man sat down on the helmet, and just then a young girl came in, and had to take a strap. The wounded man, maimed and crippled as he was, looked into the girl’s face and with such gentle simplicity he said, "My dear, I would get up for you to sit down but l am sitting on a steel helmet." I looked at the girl to see if she would appreciate it, and was glad to see she did, for she smiled back at him, and said "Thank you," and then a civilian gave her his seat. That soldier was a true gentleman. I am quite sure that as you cultivate the beautiful, and the kind, and the gentle, within your heart, the outward will take on all the refinement and ease that you desire. At the same time let the inward culture—the inward purification—the inward growth be accompanied by watchfulness for all the help you can possibly get from others; by a desire to make every action correspond with the aspiration of your heart, and constantly pay attention to the small things of life, the little attentions, the kind actions, and the even small sacrifices which are so important and from which we generally, whether we will or not, form our estimate of the man. And above all things make no distinctions. Do not lift your hat or salute the "lady," or her banking account, or her motor, or her position. Remember the woman, and all women. Don’t, don't, don't be a snob. Don’t pay empty attentions because of outward pomp and show. Be a man under all circumstances. Treat all men and all women with courtesy, kindness and consideration, and be as ready to give your seat to a woman in a sun bonnet, as to the woman in costly silks and furs. Cultivate poise, and reliability. Always be the same. Under all conditions be true to your friends. Don’t treat them with attentions and kindnesses one day, and slight them the next. Be sure of yourself, and of them, and then, "what you must do is all that concerns you, and not what the people think."

Write to me when you will your letter will always be welcomed and treated with the greatest confidence. The trust of my friends is very sacred and precious to me.

With kindest thoughts to help and bless you,

Your friend,

Lily L. Allen

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Lily L. Allen

  • Born on December 30th, 1867 at Burrishoole, Eire
  • Wife of author James Allen
  • Wrote many books of her own
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