From New Statesman:
The author takes us through history to describe how manners originated at royal courts but then became the province of the middle class. They also had much to do with the concept of personal space and allowing the integrity of the individual; and they have a great deal to do with bodily functions. Almost all of those we wish to do without the gaze of others, apart from the function that usually requires two. It became a mark of refinement not to emit toxic odours, or to belch, or to smell for want of attention to personal hygiene: but all that was quite recent.
Perhaps it is true (not that Hitchings says so) that nowhere else in the western world is such attention paid to table manners, and nowhere is there such a link between a certain sort of manners and class. The person who holds his or her knife like a pen remains an object of outrage in golf cubs all round suburban England. Indeed, it remains a metaphor for the “not quite one of us” school to speak of such an outsider as one “who does not hold his knife and fork properly”.