There is no subject so vain that it does not deserve a place in this rhapsody.
It was a notable discourtesy to our common rules, both towards an equal, but more towards a great person, not to meet with you in your house if he has once warned you that he will come. Margaret Queen of Navarre used to say to this purpose, That it was a kind of incivility in a gentleman to depart from his house, as the fashion is, to meet with him that is coming to him, however worthy he may be, and that it more agrees with civility and respect to stay for him at home and there to entertain him, except it is for fear the stranger should miss his way, and that it suffices to accompany and wait upon him when he is going away again.” As for me, I often forget these vain offices, as one who endeavors to abolish all manner of ceremonies in my house. Some will be offended at it. What can I do with all? I would rather offend a stranger once than myself every day, for it would be a continual subjection. To what end do men avoid the servitude of Courts and entertain the same in their own houses?
Moreover, it is a common rule in all assemblies that the meaner man comes first to the appointed place. This is because it belongs to the better man to be waited upon and stayed for by the other. However, at the interview prepared at Marseilles between Pope Clement the Seventh and Francis the First, King of France, the King himself went out of the town after appointing all necessary preparations. He gave the Pope two or three days to make his entry into the town and refresh himself before coming to meet him there. Similarly, at the meeting of the Pope with the Emperor at Bologna, the Emperor gave the Pope the advantage and leisure to be there first, and afterward came himself.
It is said that an ordinary ceremony at entering parleys between such princes is that the better man should always come first to the appointed place, even before him in whose country the assembly is held. They take it in this sense, that this compliment should testify that he is the better man whom the meaner goes to seek, and that he sues unto him. Not only does each country, but every city and every vocation have its own particular decorum. I have been carefully brought up in my infancy and have lived in very good company because I would not be ignorant of the good manners of our country of France. I am persuaded that I might keep a school of them.
I love to follow them, but not so cowardly, as my life remains thereby in subjection. They have some painful forms in them, which, if a man forgets by discretion and not by error, he shall not be disgraced. I have often seen men prove unmannerly by too much manners and importunate by overmuch courtesy. The knowledge of entertainment is otherwise a profitable knowledge. It is, as grace and beauty are, the reconciler of the first encounters of society and familiarity. And, by consequence, it opens the entrance to instruct us by the example of others and to exploit and produce our example if it has any instructing or communicable thing in it.