In cities, do social meetings abound? and what are their purposes and character? Are they most religious, political, or festive? If religious, have they more the character of Passion Week at Rome, or of a camp-meeting in Ohio? If political, do the people meet on wide plains to worship the Sun of the Celestial Empire, as in China; or in town-halls, to remonstrate with their representatives, as in England; or in secret places, to spring mines under the thrones of their rulers, as in Spain? If festive, are they most like an Italian carnival, where everybody laughs; or an Egyptian holiday, when all eyes are solemnly fixed on the whirling Dervishes? Are women there? In what proportions, and under what law of liberty? What are the public amusements?…In country towns, how is the imitation of the metropolis carried on? Do the provincials emulate most in show, in science, or in the fine arts? In the villages, w hat are the popular amusements? Do the people meet to drink or to read, to discuss, or play games, or dance? What are the public houses like? Do the people eat fruit and tell stories? or drink ale and talk politics or call for tea and saunter about? or coffee and play dominoes? or lemonade and laugh at Punch? Do they crowd within four walls, or gather under the elm, or spread themselves abroad over the cricket-field or the yellow sands?… In the manners of all classes, from the highest to the lowest, are forms of manners enforced in action, or dismissed in words? Is there barbarous freedom in the lower, while there is formality in the higher ranks, as in newly settled countries? or have all grown up together to that period of refined civilization when ease has superseded alike the freedom of the Australian peasantry, and the etiquette of the court of Ava? What are the manners of professional men of the society, from the eminent lawyer or physician of the metropolis down to the village barber?
from Harriet Martineau, How To Observe : Morals And Manners (1838)