Thursday, 26 January 2012

Rescue Etiquette

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From the great Mark Twain comes a typically humorous etiquette guide, written for the benefit of young gentlemen rescuing people from boarding house fires. Twain identifies 26 types of people (plus furniture) to be plucked from the inferno, all listed in order of importance.

(Source: Letters from the Earth: New Uncensored Writings By Mark Twain; Image: Mark Twain, courtesy of UKTV.)

In assisting at a fire in a boarding house, the true gentleman will always save the young ladies first—making no distinction in favor of personal attractions, or social eminence, or pecuniary predominance—but taking them as they come, and firing them out with as much celerity as shall be consistent with decorum. There are exceptions, of course, to all rules; the exceptions to this one are:

Partiality, in the matter of rescue, to be shown to:

1. Fiancées.
2. Persons toward whom the operator feels a tender sentiment, but has not yet declared himself.
3. Sisters.
4. Stepsisters.
5. Nieces.
6. First cousins.
7. Cripples.
8. Second cousins.
9. Invalids.
10. Young-lady relations by marriage.
11. Third cousins, and young-lady friends of the family.
12. The Unclassified.

Other material in boarding house is to be rescued in the following order:

13. Babies.
14. Children under 10 years of age.
15. Young widows.
16. Young married females.
17. Elderly married ditto.
18. Elderly widows.
19. Clergymen.
20. Boarders in general.
21. Female domestics.
22. Male ditto.
23. Landlady.
24. Landlord.
25. Firemen.
26. Furniture.
27. Mothers-in-law.