IN SOCIETY, IN BUSINESS, IN POLITICS AND AT HOME
BY EMILY POST
(MRS. PRICE POST)
Author of "Purple and Fine Linen," "The Title Market," "Woven in the Tapestry," "The Flight of a Moth," "Letters of a Worldly Godmother," etc., etc.
ILLUSTRATED WITH PRIVATE PHOTOGRAPHS AND FACSIMILES OF SOCIAL FORMS
FUNK & WAGNALLS COMPANY
NEW YORK AND LONDON
FUNK & WAGNALLS COMPANY
[Printed in the United States of America] First Edition published in July 1922 Second Edition published in September, 1922
August 11, 1910.
TO YOU MY FRIENDS WHOSE IDENTITY IN THESE PAGES IS VEILED IN FICTIONAL DISGUISE IT IS BUT FITTING THAT I DEDICATE THIS BOOK.
INTRODUCTION I. WHAT IS BEST SOCIETY? II. INTRODUCTIONS III. GREETINGS IV. SALUTATIONS OF COURTESY V. ON THE STREET AND IN PUBLIC VI. AT PUBLIC GATHERINGS VII. CONVERSATION VIII. WORDS, PHRASES AND PRONUNCIATION IX. ONE'S POSITION IN THE COMMUNITY X. CARDS AND VISITS XI. INVITATIONS, ACCEPTANCES AND REGRETS XII. THE WELL-APPOINTED HOUSE XIII. TEAS AND OTHER AFTERNOON PARTIES XIV. FORMAL DINNERS XV. DINNER-GIVING WITH LIMITED EQUIPMENT XVI. LUNCHEONS, BREAKFASTS AND SUPPERS XVII. BALLS AND DANCES XVIII. THE DEBUTANTE XIX. THE CHAPERON AND OTHER CONVENTIONS XX. ENGAGEMENTS XXI. FIRST PREPARATIONS BEFORE A WEDDING XXII. THE DAY OF THE WEDDING XXIII. CHRISTENINGS XXIV. FUNERALS XXV. THE COUNTRY HOUSE AND ITS HOSPITALITY XXVI. THE HOUSE PARTY IN CAMP XXVII. NOTES AND SHORTER LETTERS XXVIII. LONGER LETTERS XXIX. THE FUNDAMENTALS OF GOOD BEHAVIOR XXX. CLUBS AND CLUB ETIQUETTE XXXI. GAMES AND SPORTS XXXII. ETIQUETTE IN BUSINESS AND POLITICS XXXIII. DRESS XXXIV. THE CLOTHES OF A GENTLEMAN XXXV. THE KINDERGARTEN OF ETIQUETTE XXXVI. EVERY-DAY MANNERS AT HOME XXXVII. TRAVELING AT HOME AND ABROAD XXXVIII. THE GROWTH OF GOOD TASTE IN AMERICA
A BRIDE'S BOUQUET A GEM OF A HOUSE THE PERSONALITY OF A HOUSE CONSIDERATION FOR SERVANTS THE AFTERNOON TEA-TABLE A FORMAL DINNER DETAIL OF PLACE AT A FORMAL DINNER A DINNER SERVICE WITHOUT SILVER THE MOST ELABORATE DINNER DANCE EVER GIVEN IN NEW YORK A CHURCH WEDDING A HOUSE WEDDING THE IDEAL GUEST ROOM A BREAKFAST TRAY THE CHILD AT TABLE
MANNERS AND MORALS
Many who scoff at a book of etiquette would be shocked to hear the least expression of levity touching the Ten Commandments. But the Commandments do not always prevent such virtuous scoffers from dealings with their neighbor of which no gentleman could be capable and retain his claim to the title. Though it may require ingenuity to reconcile their actions with the Decalogue—the ingenuity is always forthcoming. There is no intention in this remark to intimate that there is any higher rule of life than the Ten Commandments; only it is illuminating as showing the relationship between manners and morals, which is too often overlooked. The polished gentleman of sentimental fiction has so long served as the type of smooth and conscienceless depravity that urbanity of demeanor inspires distrust in ruder minds. On the other hand, the blunt, unpolished hero of melodrama and romantic fiction has lifted brusqueness and pushfulness to a pedestal not wholly merited. Consequently, the kinship between conduct that keeps us within the law and conduct that makes civilized life worthy to be called such, deserves to be noted with emphasis. The Chinese sage, Confucius, could not tolerate the suggestion that virtue is in itself enough without politeness, for he viewed them as inseparable and "saw courtesies as coming from the heart," maintaining that "when they are practised with all the heart, a moral elevation ensues."
People who ridicule etiquette as a mass of trivial and arbitrary conventions, "extremely troublesome to those who practise them and insupportable to everybody else," seem to forget the long, slow progress of social intercourse in the upward climb of man from the primeval state. Conventions were established from the first to regulate the rights of the individual and the tribe. They were and are the rules of the game of life and must be followed if we would "play the game." Ages before man felt the need of indigestion remedies, he ate his food solitary and furtive in some corner, hoping he would not be espied by any stronger and hungrier fellow. It was a long, long time before the habit of eating in common was acquired; and it is obvious that the practise could not have been taken up with safety until the individuals of the race knew enough about one another and about the food resources to be sure that there was food sufficient for all. When eating in common became the vogue, table manners made their appearance and they have been waging an uphill struggle ever since. The custom of raising the hat when meeting an acquaintance derives from the old rule that friendly knights in accosting each other should raise the visor for mutual recognition in amity. In the knightly years, it must be remembered, it was important to know whether one was meeting friend or foe. Meeting a foe meant fighting on the spot. Thus, it is evident that the conventions of courtesy not only tend to make the wheels of life run more smoothly, but also act as safeguards in human relationship. Imagine the Paris Peace Conference, or any of the later conferences in Europe, without the protective armor of diplomatic etiquette!
Nevertheless, to some the very word etiquette is an irritant. It implies a great pother about trifles, these conscientious objectors assure us, and trifles are unimportant. Trifles are unimportant, it is true, but then life is made up of trifles. To those who dislike the word, it suggests all that is finical and superfluous. It means a garish embroidery on the big scheme of life; a clog on the forward march of a strong and courageous nation. To such as these, the words etiquette and politeness connote weakness and timidity. Their notion of a really polite man is a dancing master or a man milliner. They were always willing to admit that the French were the politest nation in Europe and equally ready to assert that the French were the weakest and least valorous, until the war opened their eyes in amazement. Yet, that manners and fighting can go hand in hand appears in the following anecdote:
In the midst of the war, some French soldiers and some non-French of the Allied forces were receiving their rations in a village back of the lines. The non-French fighters belonged to an Army that supplied rations plentifully. They grabbed their allotments and stood about while hastily eating, uninterrupted by conversation or other concern. The French soldiers took their very meager portions of food, improvised a kind of table on the top of a flat rock, and having laid out the rations, including the small quantity of wine that formed part of the repast, sat down in comfort and began their meal amid a chatter of talk. One of the non-French soldiers, all of whom had finished their large supply of food before the French had begun eating, asked sardonically: "Why do you fellows make such a lot of fuss over the little bit of grub they give you to eat?" The Frenchman replied: "Well, we are making war for civilization, are we not? Very well, we are. Therefore, we eat in a civilized way."
To the French we owe the word etiquette, and it is amusing to discover its origin in the commonplace familiar warning—"Keep off the grass." It happened in the reign of Louis XIV, when the gardens of Versailles were being laid out, that the master gardener, an old Scotsman, was sorely tried because his newly seeded lawns were being continually trampled upon. To keep trespassers off, he put up warning signs or tickets—etiquettes—on which was indicated the path along which to pass. But the courtiers paid no attention to these directions and so the determined Scot complained to the King in such convincing manner that His Majesty issued an edict commanding everyone at Court to "keep within the etiquettes." Gradually the term came to cover all the rules for correct demeanor and deportment in court circles; and thus through the centuries it has grown into use to describe the conventions sanctioned for the purpose of smoothing personal contacts and developing tact and good manners in social intercourse. With the decline of feudal courts and the rise of empires of industry, much of the ceremony of life was discarded for plain and less formal dealing. Trousers and coats supplanted doublets and hose, and the change in costume was not more extreme than the change in social ideas. The court ceased to be the arbiter of manners, though the aristocracy of the land remained the high exemplar of good breeding.
Yet, even so courtly and materialistic a mind as Lord Chesterfield's acknowledged a connection between manners and morality, of which latter the courts of Europe seemed so sparing. In one of the famous "Letters to His Son" he writes: "Moral virtues are the foundation of society in general, and of friendship in particular; but attentions, manners, and graces, both adorn and strengthen them." Again he says: "Great merit, or great failings, will make you respected or despised; but trifles, little attentions, mere nothings, either done or reflected, will make you either liked or disliked, in the general run of the world." For all the wisdom and brilliancy of his worldly knowledge, perhaps no other writer has done so much to bring disrepute on the "manners and graces" as Lord Chesterfield, and this, it is charged, because he debased them so heavily by considering them merely as the machinery of a successful career. To the moralists, the fact that the moral standards of society in Lord Chesterfield's day were very different from those of the present era rather adds to the odium that has become associated with his attitude. His severest critics, however, do concede that he is candid and outspoken, and many admit that his social strategy is widely practised even in these days.
But the aims of the world in which he moved were routed by the onrush of the ideals of democratic equality, fraternity, and liberty. With the prosperity of the newer shibboleths, the old-time notion of aristocracy, gentility, and high breeding became more and more a curio to be framed suitably in gold and kept in the glass case of an art museum. The crashing advance of the industrial age of gold thrust all courts and their sinuous graces aside for the unmistakable ledger balance of the counting-house. This new order of things had been a long time in process, when, in the first year of this century, a distinguished English social historian, the late The Right Honorable G.W.E. Russell, wrote: "Probably in all ages of history men have liked money, but a hundred years ago they did not talk about it in society.... Birth, breeding, rank, accomplishments, eminence in literature, eminence in art, eminence in public service—all these things still count for something in society. But when combined they are only as the dust of the balance when weighed against the all-prevalent power of money. The worship of the Golden Calf is the characteristic cult of modern society." In the Elizabethan Age of mighty glory, three hundred years before this was said, Ben Jonson had railed against money as "a thin membrane of honor," groaning: "How hath all true reputation fallen since money began to have any!" Now the very fact that the debasing effect of money on the social organism has been so constantly reprehended, from Scriptural days onward, proves the instinctive yearning of mankind for a system of life regulated by good taste, high intelligence and sound affections. But, it remains true that, in the succession of great commercial epochs, coincident with the progress of modern science and invention, almost everything can be bought and sold, and so almost everything is rated by the standard of money.
Yet, this standard is precisely not the ultimate test of the Christianity on which we have been pluming ourselves through the centuries. Still, no one can get along without money; and few of us get along very well with what we have. At least we think so—because everybody else seems to think that way. We Americans are members of the nation which, materially, is the richest, most prosperous and most promising in the world. This idea is dinned into our heads continually by foreign observers, and publicly we "own the soft impeachment." Privately, each individual American seems driven with the decision that he must live up to the general conception of the nation as a whole. And he does, but in less strenuous moments he might profitably ponder the counsel of Gladstone to his countrymen: "Let us respect the ancient manners and recollect that, if the true soul of chivalry has died among us, with it all that is good in society has died. Let us cherish a sober mind; take for granted that in our best performances there are latent many errors which in their own time will come to light."
America, too, has her ancient manners to remember and respect; but, in the rapid assimilation of new peoples into her economic and social organism, more pressing concerns take up nearly all her time. The perfection of manners by intensive cultivation of good taste, some believe, would be the greatest aid possible to the moralists who are alarmed over the decadence of the younger generation. Good taste may not make men or women really virtuous, but it will often save them from what theologians call "occasions of sin." We may note, too, that grossness in manners forms a large proportion of the offenses that fanatical reformers foam about. Besides grossness, there is also the meaner selfishness. Selfishness is at the polar remove from the worldly manners of the old school, according to which, as Dr. Pusey wrote, others were preferred to self, pain was given to no one, no one was neglected, deference was shown to the weak and the aged, and unconscious courtesy extended to all inferiors. Such was the "beauty" of the old manners, which he felt consisted in "acting upon Christian principle, and if in any case it became soulless, as apart from Christianity, the beautiful form was there, into which the real life might re-enter."
As a study of all that is admirable in American manners, and as a guide to behavior in the simplest as well as the most complex requirements of life day by day, whether we are at home or away from it, there can be no happier choice than the present volume. It is conceived in the belief that etiquette in its broader sense means the technique of human conduct under all circumstances in life. Yet all minutiae of correct manners are included and no detail is too small to be explained, from the selection of a visiting card to the mystery of eating corn on the cob. Matters of clothes for men and women are treated with the same fullness of information and accuracy of taste as are questions of the furnishing of their houses and the training of their minds to social intercourse. But there is no exaggeration of the minor details at the expense of the more important spirit of personal conduct and attitude of mind. To dwell on formal trivialities, the author holds, is like "measuring the letters of the sign-boards by the roadside instead of profiting by the directions they offer." She would have us know also that "it is not the people who make small technical mistakes or even blunders, who are barred from the paths of good society, but those of sham and pretense whose veneered vulgarity at every step tramples the flowers in the gardens of cultivation." To her mind the structure of etiquette is comparable to that of a house, of which the foundation is ethics and the rest good taste, correct speech, quiet, unassuming behavior, and a proper pride of dignity.
To such as entertain the mistaken notion that politeness implies all give and little or no return, it is well to recall Coleridge's definition of a gentleman: "We feel the gentlemanly character present with us," he said, "whenever, under all circumstances of social intercourse, the trivial, not less than the important, through the whole detail of his manners and deportment, and with the ease of a habit, a person shows respect to others in such a way as at the same time implies, in his own feelings, and habitually, an assured anticipation of reciprocal respect from them to himself. In short, the gentlemanly character arises out of the feeling of equality acting as a habit, yet flexible to the varieties of rank, and modified without being disturbed or superseded by them." Definitions of a gentleman are numerous, and some of them famous; but we do not find such copiousness for choice in definitions of a lady. Perhaps it has been understood all along that the admirable and just characteristics of a gentleman should of necessity be those also of a lady, with the charm of womanhood combined. And, in these days, with the added responsibility of the vote.
Besides the significance of this volume as an indubitable authority on manners, it should be pointed out that as a social document, it is without precedent in American literature. In order that we may better realize the behavior and environment of well-bred people, the distinguished author has introduced actual persons and places in fictional guise. They are the persons and the places of her own world; and whether we can or can not penetrate the incognito of the Worldlys, the Gildings, the Kindharts, the Oldnames, and the others, is of no importance. Fictionally, they are real enough for us to be interested and instructed in their way of living. That they happen to move in what is known as Society is incidental, for, as the author declares at the very outset: "Best Society is not a fellowship of the wealthy, nor does it seek to exclude those who are not of exalted birth; but it is an association of gentlefolk, of which good form in speech, charm of manner, knowledge of the social amenities, and instinctive consideration for the feelings of others, are the credentials by which society the world over recognizes its chosen members."
The immediate fact is that the characters of this book are thoroughbred Americans, representative of various sections of the country and free from the slightest tinge of snobbery. Not all of them are even well-to-do, in the postwar sense; and their devices of economy in household outlay, dress and entertainment are a revelation in the science of ways and means. There are parents, children, relatives and friends all passing before us in the pageant of life from the cradle to the grave. No circumstance, from an introduction to a wedding, is overlooked in this panorama and the spectator has beside him a cicerone in the person of the author who clears every doubt and answers every question. In course, the conviction grows upon him that etiquette is no flummery of poseurs "aping the manners of their betters," nor a code of snobs, who divide their time between licking the boots of those above them and kicking at those below, but a system of rules of conduct based on respect of self coupled with respect of others. Meanwhile, to guard against conceit in his new knowledge, he may at odd moments recall Ben Jonson's lines:
"Nor stand so much on your gentility, Which is an airy, and mere borrowed thing, From dead men's dust, and bones: And none of yours Except you make, or hold it."
WHAT IS BEST SOCIETY?
"Society" is an ambiguous term; it may mean much or nothing. Every human being—unless dwelling alone in a cave—is a member of society of one sort or another, and therefore it is well to define what is to be understood by the term "Best Society" and why its authority is recognized. Best Society abroad is always the oldest aristocracy; composed not so much of persons of title, which may be new, as of those families and communities which have for the longest period of time known highest cultivation. Our own Best Society is represented by social groups which have had, since this is America, widest rather than longest association with old world cultivation. Cultivation is always the basic attribute of Best Society, much as we hear in this country of an "Aristocracy of wealth."
To the general public a long purse is synonymous with high position—a theory dear to the heart of the "yellow" press and eagerly fostered in the preposterous social functions of screen drama. It is true that Best Society is comparatively rich; it is true that the hostess of great wealth, who constantly and lavishly entertains, will shine, at least to the readers of the press, more brilliantly than her less affluent sister. Yet the latter, through her quality of birth, her poise, her inimitable distinction, is often the jewel of deeper water in the social crown of her time.
The most advertised commodity is not always intrinsically the best, but is sometimes merely the product of a company with plenty of money to spend on advertising. In the same way, money brings certain people before the public—sometimes they are persons of "quality," quite as often the so-called "society leaders" featured in the public press do not belong to good society at all, in spite of their many published photographs and the energies of their press-agents. Or possibly they do belong to "smart" society; but if too much advertised, instead of being the "queens" they seem, they might more accurately be classified as the court jesters of to-day.
THE IMITATION AND THE GENUINE
New York, more than any city in the world, unless it be Paris, loves to be amused, thrilled and surprised all at the same time; and will accept with outstretched hand any one who can perform this astounding feat. Do not underestimate the ability that can achieve it: a scintillating wit, an arresting originality, a talent for entertaining that amounts to genius, and gold poured literally like rain, are the least requirements.
Puritan America on the other hand demanding, as a ticket of admission to her Best Society, the qualifications of birth, manners and cultivation, clasps her hands tight across her slim trim waist and announces severely that New York's "Best" is, in her opinion, very "bad" indeed. But this is because Puritan America, as well as the general public, mistakes the jester for the queen.
As a matter of fact, Best Society is not at all like a court with an especial queen or king, nor is it confined to any one place or group, but might better be described as an unlimited brotherhood which spreads over the entire surface of the globe, the members of which are invariably people of cultivation and worldly knowledge, who have not only perfect manners but a perfect manner. Manners are made up of trivialities of deportment which can be easily learned if one does not happen to know them; manner is personality—the outward manifestation of one's innate character and attitude toward life. A gentleman, for instance, will never be ostentatious or overbearing any more than he will ever be servile, because these attributes never animate the impulses of a well-bred person. A man whose manners suggest the grotesque is invariably a person of imitation rather than of real position.
Etiquette must, if it is to be of more than trifling use, include ethics as well as manners. Certainly what one is, is of far greater importance than what one appears to be. A knowledge of etiquette is of course essential to one's decent behavior, just as clothing is essential to one's decent appearance; and precisely as one wears the latter without being self-conscious of having on shoes and perhaps gloves, one who has good manners is equally unself-conscious in the observance of etiquette, the precepts of which must be so thoroughly absorbed as to make their observance a matter of instinct rather than of conscious obedience.
Thus Best Society is not a fellowship of the wealthy, nor does it seek to exclude those who are not of exalted birth; but it is an association of gentle-folk, of which good form in speech, charm of manner, knowledge of the social amenities, and instinctive consideration for the feelings of others, are the credentials by which society the world over recognizes its chosen members.
THE CORRECT FORM
The word "present" is preferable on formal occasions to the word "introduce." On informal occasions neither word is expressed, though understood, as will be shown below. The correct formal introduction is:
"Mrs. Jones, may I present Mr. Smith?"
"Mr. Distinguished, may I present Mr. Young?"
The younger person is always presented to the older or more distinguished, but a gentleman is always presented to a lady, even though he is an old gentleman of great distinction and the lady a mere slip of a girl.
No lady is ever, except to the President of the United States, a cardinal, or a reigning sovereign, presented to a man. The correct introduction of either a man or woman:
To the President,
"Mr. President, I have the honor to present Mrs. Jones, of Chicago."
To a Cardinal,
"Your Eminence, may I present Mrs. Jones?"
To a King:
Much formality of presenting names on lists is gone through beforehand; at the actual presentation an "accepted" name is repeated from functionary to equerry and nothing is said to the King or Queen except: "Mrs. Jones."
But a Foreign Ambassador is presented, "Mr. Ambassador, may I present you to Mrs. Jones."
Very few people in polite society are introduced by their formal titles. A hostess says, "Mrs. Jones, may I present the Duke of Overthere?" or "Lord Blank?"; never "his Grace" or "his Lordship." The Honorable is merely Mr. Lordson, or Mr. Holdoffice. A doctor, a judge, a bishop, are addressed and introduced by their titles. The clergy are usually Mister unless they formally hold the title of Doctor, or Dean, or Canon. A Catholic priest is "Father Kelly." A senator is always introduced as Senator, whether he is still in office or not. But the President of the United States, once he is out of office, is merely "Mr." and not "Ex-president."
THE PREVAILING INTRODUCTION AND INFLECTION
In the briefer form of introduction commonly used,
"Mrs. Worldly, Mrs. Norman,"
if the two names are said in the same tone of voice it is not apparent who is introduced to whom; but by accentuating the more important person's name, it can be made as clear as though the words "May I present" had been used.
The more important name is said with a slightly rising inflection, the secondary as a mere statement of fact. For instance, suppose you say, "Are you there?" and then "It is raining!" Use the same inflection exactly and say, "Mrs. Worldly?"—"Mrs. Younger!"
Are you there?—It is raining! Mrs. Worldly?—Mrs. Younger!
The unmarried lady is presented to the married one, unless the latter is very much the younger. As a matter of fact, in introducing two ladies to each other or one gentleman to another, no distinction is made. "Mrs. Smith; Mrs. Norman." "Mr. Brown; Mr. Green."
The inflection is:
I think—it's going to rain! Mrs. Smith—Mrs. Norman!
A man is also often introduced, "Mrs. Worldly? Mr. Norman!" But to a very distinguished man, a mother would say:
"Mr. Edison—My daughter, Mary!"
To a young man, however, she should say, "Mr. Struthers, have you met my daughter?" If the daughter is married, she should have added, "My daughter, Mrs. Smartlington." The daughter's name is omitted because it is extremely bad taste (except in the South) to call her daughter "Miss Mary" to any one but a servant, and on the other hand she should not present a young man to "Mary." The young man can easily find out her name afterward.
OTHER FORMS OF INTRODUCTION
Other permissible forms of introduction are:
"Mrs. Jones, do you know Mrs. Norman?"
"Mrs. Jones, you know Mrs. Robinson, don't you?" (on no account say "Do you not?" Best Society always says "don't you?")
"Mrs. Robinson, have you met Mrs. Jones?"
"Mrs. Jones, do you know my mother?"
"This is my daughter Ellen, Mrs. Jones."
These are all good form, whether gentlemen are introduced to ladies, ladies to ladies, or gentlemen to gentlemen. In introducing a gentleman to a lady, you may ask Mr. Smith if he has met Mrs. Jones, but you must not ask Mrs. Jones if she has met Mr. Smith!
FORMS OF INTRODUCTIONS TO AVOID
Do not say: "Mr. Jones, shake hands with Mr. Smith," or "Mrs. Jones, I want to make you acquainted with Mrs. Smith." Never say: "make you acquainted with" and do not, in introducing one person to another, call one of them "my friend." You can say "my aunt," or "my sister," or "my cousin"—but to pick out a particular person as "my friend" is not only bad style but, unless you have only one friend, bad manners—as it implies Mrs. Smith is "my friend" and you are a stranger.
You may very properly say to Mr. Smith "I want you to meet Mrs. Jones," but this is not a form of introduction, nor is it to be said in Mrs. Jones' hearing. Upon leading Mr. Smith up to Mrs. Jones, you say "Mrs. Jones may I present Mr. Smith" or "Mrs. Jones; Mr. Smith." Under no circumstances whatsoever say "Mr. Smith meet Mrs. Jones," or "Mrs. Jones meet Mr. Smith." Either wording is equally preposterous.
Do not repeat "Mrs. Jones? Mrs. Smith! Mrs. Smith? Mrs. Jones!" To say each name once is quite enough.
Most people of good taste very much dislike being asked their names. To say "What is your name?" is always abrupt and unflattering. If you want to know with whom you have been talking, you can generally find a third person later and ask "Who was the lady with the grey feather in her hat?" The next time you see her you can say "How do you do, Mrs. ——" (calling her by name).
WHEN TO SHAKE HANDS
When gentlemen are introduced to each other they always shake hands.
When a gentleman is introduced to a lady, she sometimes puts out her hand—especially if he is some one she has long heard about from friends in common, but to an entire stranger she generally merely bows her head slightly and says: "How do you do!" Strictly speaking, it is always her place to offer her hand or not as she chooses, but if he puts out his hand, it is rude on her part to ignore it. Nothing could be more ill-bred than to treat curtly any overture made in spontaneous friendliness. No thoroughbred lady would ever refuse to shake any hand that is honorable, not even the hand of a coal heaver at the risk of her fresh white glove.
Those who have been drawn into a conversation do not usually shake hands on parting. But there is no fixed rule. A lady sometimes shakes hands after talking with a casual stranger; at other times she does not offer her hand on parting from one who has been punctiliously presented to her. She may find the former sympathetic and the latter very much the contrary.
Very few rules of etiquette are inelastic and none more so than the acceptance or rejection of the strangers you meet.
There is a wide distance between rudeness and reserve. You can be courteously polite and at the same time extremely aloof to a stranger who does not appeal to you, or you can be welcomingly friendly to another whom you like on sight. Individual temperament has also to be taken into consideration: one person is naturally austere, another genial. The latter shakes hands far more often than the former. As already said, it is unforgivably rude to refuse a proffered hand, but it is rarely necessary to offer your hand if you prefer not to.
WHAT TO SAY WHEN INTRODUCED
Best Society has only one phrase in acknowledgment of an introduction: "How do you do?" It literally accepts no other. When Mr. Bachelor says, "Mrs. Worldly, may I present Mr. Struthers?" Mrs. Worldly says, "How do you do?" Struthers bows, and says nothing. To sweetly echo "Mr. Struthers?" with a rising inflection on "—thers?" is not good form. Saccharine chirpings should be classed with crooked little fingers, high hand-shaking and other affectations. All affectations are bad form.
Persons of position do not say: "Charmed," or "Pleased to meet you," etc., but often the first remark is the beginning of a conversation. For instance,
Young Struthers is presented to Mrs. Worldly. She smiles and perhaps says, "I hear that you are going to be in New York all winter?" Struthers answers, "Yes, I am at the Columbia Law School," etc., or since he is much younger than she, he might answer, "Yes, Mrs. Worldly," especially if his answer would otherwise be a curt yes or no. Otherwise he does not continue repeating her name.
TAKING LEAVE OF ONE YOU HAVE JUST MET
After an introduction, when you have talked for some time to a stranger whom you have found agreeable, and you then take leave, you say, "Good-by, I am very glad to have met you," or "Good-by, I hope I shall see you again soon"—or "some time." The other person answers, "Thank you," or perhaps adds, "I hope so, too." Usually "Thank you" is all that is necessary.
In taking leave of a group of strangers—it makes no difference whether you have been introduced to them or merely included in their conversation—you bow "good-by" to any who happen to be looking at you, but you do not attempt to attract the attention of those who are unaware that you are turning away.
INTRODUCING ONE PERSON TO A GROUP
This is never done on formal occasions when a great many persons are present. At a small luncheon, for instance, a hostess always introduces her guests to one another.
Let us suppose you are the hostess: your position is not necessarily near, but it is toward the door. Mrs. King is sitting quite close to you, Mrs. Lawrence also near. Miss Robinson and Miss Brown are much farther away.
Mrs. Jones enters. You go a few steps forward and shake hands with her, then stand aside as it were, for a second only, to see if Mrs. Jones goes to speak to any one. If she apparently knows no one, you say,
"Mrs. King, do you know Mrs. Jones?" Mrs. King being close at hand (usually but not necessarily) rises, shakes hands with Mrs. Jones and sits down again. If Mrs. King is an elderly lady, and Mrs. Jones a young one, Mrs. King merely extends her hand and does not rise. Having said "Mrs. Jones" once, you do not repeat it immediately, but turning to the other lady sitting near you, you say, "Mrs. Lawrence," then you look across the room and continue, "Miss Robinson, Miss Brown—Mrs. Jones!" Mrs. Lawrence, if she is young, rises and shakes hands with Mrs. Jones, and the other two bow but do not rise.
At a very big luncheon you would introduce Mrs. Jones to Mrs. King and possibly to Mrs. Lawrence, so that Mrs. Jones might have some one to talk to. But if other guests come in at this moment, Mrs. Jones finds a place for herself and after a pause, falls naturally into conversation with those she is next to, without giving her name or asking theirs.
A friend's roof is supposed to be an introduction to those it shelters. In Best Society this is always recognized if the gathering is intimate, such as at a luncheon, dinner or house party; but it is not accepted at a ball or reception, or any "general" entertainment. People always talk to their neighbors at table whether introduced or not. It would be a breach of etiquette not to! But if Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Norman merely spoke to each other for a few moments, in the drawing-room, it is not necessary that they recognize each other afterwards.
NEW YORK'S BAD MANNERS
New York's bad manners are often condemned and often very deservedly. Even though the cause is carelessness rather than intentional indifference, the indifference is no less actual and the rudeness inexcusable.
It is by no means unheard of that after sitting at table next to the guest of honor, a New Yorker will meet her the next day with utter unrecognition. Not because the New Yorker means to "cut" the stranger or feels the slightest unwillingness to continue the acquaintance, but because few New Yorkers possess enthusiasm enough to make an effort to remember all the new faces they come in contact with, but allow all those who are not especially "fixed" in their attention, to drift easily out of mind and recognition. It is mortifyingly true; no one is so ignorantly indifferent to everything outside his or her own personal concern as the socially fashionable New Yorker, unless it is the Londoner! The late Theodore Roosevelt was a brilliantly shining exception. And, of course, and happily, there are other men and women like him in this. But there are also enough of the snail-in-shell variety to give color to the very just resentment that those from other and more gracious cities hold against New Yorkers.
Everywhere else in the world (except London), the impulse of self-cultivation, if not the more generous ones of consideration and hospitality, induces people of good breeding to try and make the effort to find out what manner of mind, or experience, or talent, a stranger has; and to remember, at least out of courtesy, anyone for whose benefit a friend of theirs gave a dinner or luncheon. To fashionable New York, however, luncheon was at one-thirty; at three there is something else occupying the moment—that is all.
Nearly all people of the Atlantic Coast dislike general introductions, and present people to each other as little as possible. In the West, however, people do not feel comfortable in a room full of strangers. Whether or not to introduce people therefore becomes not merely a question of propriety, but of consideration for local custom.
NEVER INTRODUCE UNNECESSARILY
The question as to when introductions should be made, or not made, is one of the most elusive points in the entire range of social knowledge. "Whenever necessary to bridge an awkward situation," is a definition that is exact enough, but not very helpful or clear. The hostess who allows a guest to stand, awkward and unknown, in the middle of her drawing-room is no worse than she who pounces on every chance acquaintance and drags unwilling victims into forced recognition of each other, everywhere and on all occasions. The fundamental rule never to introduce unnecessarily brings up the question:
WHICH ARE THE NECESSARY OCCASIONS?
First, in order of importance, is the presentation of everyone to guests of honor, whether the "guests" are distinguished strangers for whom a dinner is given, or a bride and groom, or a debutante being introduced to society. It is the height of rudeness for anyone to go to an entertainment given in honor of some one and fail to "meet" him. (Even though one's memory is too feeble to remember him afterward!)
INTRODUCTIONS AT A DINNER
The host must always see that every gentleman either knows or is presented to the lady he is to "take in" to dinner, and also, if possible, to the one who is to sit at the other side of him. If the latter introduction is overlooked, people sitting next each other at table nearly always introduce themselves. A gentleman says, "How do you do, Mrs. Jones. I am Arthur Robinson." Or showing her his place card, "I have to introduce myself, this is my name." Or the lady says first, "I am Mrs. Hunter Jones." And the man answers, "How do you do, Mrs. Jones, my name is Titherington Smith."
It is not unusual, in New York, for those placed next each other to talk without introducing themselves—particularly if each can read the name of the other on the place cards.
OTHER NECESSARY INTRODUCTIONS
Even in New York's most introductionless circles, people always introduce:
A small group of people who are to sit together anywhere.
Partners at dinner.
The guests at a house party.
Everyone at a small dinner or luncheon.
The four who are at the same bridge table.
Partners or fellow-players in any game.
At a dance, when an invitation has been asked for a stranger, the friend who vouched for him should personally present him to the hostess. "Mrs. Worldly, this is Mr. Robinson, whom you said I might bring." The hostess shakes hands and smiles and says: "I am very glad to see you, Mr. Robinson."
A guest in a box at the opera always introduces any gentleman who comes to speak to her, to her hostess, unless the latter is engrossed in conversation with a visitor of her own, or unless other people block the distance between so that an introduction would be forced and awkward.
A newly arriving visitor in a lady's drawing-room is not introduced to another who is taking leave. Nor is an animated conversation between two persons interrupted to introduce a third. Nor is any one ever led around a room and introduced right and left.
If two ladies or young girls are walking together and they meet a third who stops to speak to one of them, the other walks slowly on and does not stand awkwardly by and wait for an introduction. If the third is asked by the one she knows, to join them, the sauntering friend is overtaken and an introduction always made. The third, however, must not join them unless invited to do so.
At a very large dinner, people (excepting the gentlemen and ladies who are to sit next to each other at table) are not collectively introduced. After dinner, men in the smoking room or left at table always talk to their neighbors whether they have been introduced or not, and ladies in the drawing-room do the same. But unless they meet soon again, or have found each other so agreeable that they make an effort to continue the acquaintance, they become strangers again, equally whether they were introduced or not.
Some writers on etiquette speak of "correct introductions" that carry "obligations of future acquaintance," and "incorrect introductions," that seemingly obligate one to nothing.
Degrees of introduction are utterly unknown to best society. It makes not the slightest difference so far as any one's acceptance or rejection of another is concerned how an introduction is worded or, on occasions, whether an introduction takes place at all.
Fashionable people in very large cities take introductions lightly; they are veritable ships that pass in the night. They show their red or green signals—which are merely polite sentences and pleasant manners—and they pass on again.
When you are introduced to some one for the second time and the first occasion was without interest and long ago, there is no reason why you should speak of the former meeting.
If some one presents you to Mrs. Smith for the second time on the same occasion, you smile and say "I have already met Mrs. Smith," but you say nothing if you met Mrs. Smith long ago and she showed no interest in you at that time.
Most rules are elastic and contract and expand according to circumstances. You do not remind Mrs. Smith of having met her before, but on meeting again any one who was brought to your own house, or one who showed you an especial courtesy you instinctively say, "I am so glad to see you again."
INCLUDING SOMEONE IN CONVERSATION WITHOUT AN INTRODUCTION
On occasions it happens that in talking to one person you want to include another in your conversation without making an introduction. For instance: suppose you are talking to a seedsman and a friend joins you in your garden. You greet your friend, and then include her by saying, "Mr. Smith is suggesting that I dig up these cannas and put in delphiniums." Whether your friend gives an opinion as to the change in color of your flower bed or not, she has been made part of your conversation.
This same maneuver of evading an introduction is also resorted to when you are not sure that an acquaintance will be agreeable to one or both of those whom an accidental circumstance has brought together.
You must never introduce people to each other in public places unless you are certain beyond a doubt that the introduction will be agreeable to both. You cannot commit a greater social blunder than to introduce, to a person of position, some one she does not care to know, especially on shipboard, in hotels, or in other very small, rather public, communities where people are so closely thrown together that it is correspondingly difficult to avoid undesirable acquaintances who have been given the wedge of an introduction.
As said above, introductions in very large cities are unimportant. In New York, where people are meeting new faces daily, seldom seeing the same one twice in a year, it requires a tenacious memory to recognize those one hoped most to see again, and others are blotted out at once.
People in good society rarely ask to be introduced to each other, but if there is a good reason for knowing some one, they often introduce themselves; for instance, Mary Smith says:
"Mrs. Jones, aren't you a friend of my mother's? I am Mrs. Titherington Smith's daughter." Mrs. Jones says:
"Why, my dear child, I am so glad you spoke to me. Your mother and I have known each other since we were children!"
Or, an elder lady asks: "Aren't you Mary Smith? I have known your mother since she was your age." Or a young woman says: "Aren't you Mrs. Worldly?" Mrs. Worldly, looking rather freezingly, politely says "Yes" and waits. And the stranger continues, "I think my sister Millicent Manners is a friend of yours." Mrs. Worldly at once unbends. "Oh, yes, indeed, I am devoted to Millicent! And you must be ——?"
"Oh, of course, Millicent has often talked of you, and of your lovely voice. I want very much to hear you sing some time."
These self-introductions, however, must never presumingly be made. It would be in very bad taste for Alice to introduce herself to Mrs. Worldly if her sister knew her only slightly.
A BUSINESS VISIT NOT AN INTRODUCTION
A lady who goes to see another to get a reference for a servant, or to ask her aid in an organization for charity, would never consider such a meeting as an introduction, even though they talked for an hour. Nor would she offer to shake hands in leaving. On the other hand, neighbors who are continually meeting, gradually become accustomed to say "How do you do?" when they meet, even though they never become acquaintances.
THE RETORT COURTEOUS TO ONE YOU HAVE FORGOTTEN
Let us suppose some one addresses you, and then slightly disconcerted says: "You don't remember me, do you?" The polite thing—unless his manner does not ring true, is to say "Why, of course, I do." And then if a few neutral remarks lead to no enlightening topic, and bring no further memory, you ask at the first opportunity who it was that addressed you. If the person should prove actually to be unknown, it is very easy to repel any further advances. But nearly always you find it is some one you ought to have known, and your hiding the fact of your forgetfulness saves you from the rather rude and stupid situation of blankly declaring: "I don't remember you."
If, after being introduced to you, Mr. Jones calls you by a wrong name, you let it pass, at first, but if he persists you may say: "My name is Simpson, not Simpkin."
At a private dance, young men nowadays introduce their men friends to young women without first asking the latter's permission, because all those invited to a lady's house are supposed to be eligible for presentation to everyone, or they would not be there.
At a public ball young men and women keep very much to their own particular small circle and are not apt to meet outsiders at all. Under these circumstances a gentleman should be very careful not to introduce a youth whom he knows nothing about to a lady of his acquaintance—or at least he should ask her first. He can say frankly: "There is a man called Sliders who has asked to meet you. I don't know who he is, but he seems decent. Shall I introduce him?" The lady can say "Yes"; or, "I'd rather not."
INTRODUCTION BY LETTER
An introduction by letter is far more binding than a casual spoken introduction which commits you to nothing. This is explained fully and example letters are given in the chapter on Letters.
A letter of introduction is handed you unsealed, always. It is correct for you to seal it at once in the presence of its author. You thank your friend for having written it and go on your journey.
If you are a man and your introduction is to a lady, you go to her house as soon as you arrive in her city, and leave the letter with your card at her door. Usually you do not ask to see her; but if it is between four and six o'clock it is quite correct to do so if you choose. Presenting yourself with a letter is always a little awkward. Most people prefer to leave their cards without asking to be received.
If your letter is to a man, you mail it to his house, unless the letter is a business one. In the latter case you go to his office, and send in your card and the letter. Meanwhile you wait in the reception room until he has read the letter and sends for you to come into his private office.
If you are a woman, you mail your letter of social introduction and do nothing further until you receive an acknowledgment. If the recipient of your letter leaves her card on you, you in return leave yours on her. But the obligation of a written introduction is such that only illness can excuse her not asking you to her house—either formally or informally.
When a man receives a letter introducing another man, he calls the person introduced on the telephone and asks how he may be of service to him. If he does not invite the newcomer to his house, he may put him up at his club, or have him take luncheon or dinner at a restaurant, as the circumstances seem to warrant.
WHAT TO SAY WHEN INTRODUCED
As explained in the foregoing chapter, the correct formal greeting is: "How do you do?" If Mrs. Younger is presented to Mrs. Worldly, Mrs. Worldly says "How do you do?" If the Ambassador of France is presented to her, she says "How do you do?" Mrs. Younger and the Ambassador likewise say "How do you do?" or merely bow.
There are a few expressions possible under other circumstances and upon other occasions. If you have, through friends in common, long heard of a certain lady, or gentleman, and you know that she, or he, also has heard much of you, you may say when you are introduced to her: "I am very glad to meet you," or "I am delighted to meet you at last!" Do not use the expression "pleased to meet you" then or on any occasion. And you must not say you are delighted unless you have reason to be sure that she also is delighted to meet you.
To one who has volunteered to help you in charitable work for instance, you would say: "It is very good of you to help us," or, "to join us."
In business a gentleman says: "Very glad to meet you," or "Delighted to meet you." Or, if in his own office: "Very glad to see you!"
Informal greetings are almost as limited as formal, but not quite; for besides saying "How do you do?" you can say "Good morning" and on occasions "How are you?" or "Good evening."
On very informal occasions, it is the present fashion to greet an intimate friend with "Hello!" This seemingly vulgar salutation is made acceptable by the tone in which it is said. To shout "Hullow!" is vulgar, but "Hello, Mary" or "How 'do John," each spoken in an ordinary tone of voice, sound much the same. But remember that the "Hello" is spoken, not called out, and never used except between intimate friends who call each other by the first name.
There are only two forms of farewell: "Good-by" and "Good night." Never say "Au revoir" unless you have been talking French, or are speaking to a French person. Never interlard your conversation with foreign words or phrases when you can possibly translate them into English; and the occasions when our mother tongue will not serve are extremely rare.
Very often in place of the over-worn "How do you do," perhaps more often than not, people skip the words of actual greeting and plunge instead into conversation: "Why, Mary! When did you get back?" or "What is the news with you?" or "What have you been doing lately?" The weather, too, fills in with equal faithfulness. "Isn't it a heavenly day!" or "Horrid weather, isn't it?" It would seem that the variability of the weather was purposely devised to furnish mankind with unfailing material for conversation.
In bidding good-by to a new acquaintance with whom you have been talking, you shake hands and say, "Good-by. I am very glad to have met you." To one who has been especially interesting, or who is somewhat of a personage you say: "It has been a great pleasure to meet you." The other answers: "Thank you."
People do not greet each other in church, except at a wedding. At weddings people do speak to friends sitting near them, but in a low tone of voice. It would be shocking to enter a church and hear a babel of voices!
Ordinarily in church if a friend happens to catch your eye, you smile, but never actually bow. If you go to a church not your own and a stranger offers you a seat in her pew, you should, on leaving, turn to her and say: "Thank you." But you do not greet anyone until you are out on the church steps, when you naturally speak to your friends. "Hello" should not be said on this occasion because it is too "familiar" for the solemnity of church surroundings.
Gentlemen always shake hands when they are introduced to each other. Ladies rarely do so with gentlemen who are introduced to them; but they usually shake hands with other ladies, if they are standing near together. All people who know each other, unless merely passing by, shake hands when they meet.
A gentleman on the street never shakes hands with a lady without first removing his right glove. But at the opera, or at a ball, or if he is usher at a wedding, he keeps his glove on.
PERSONALITY OF A HANDSHAKE
A handshake often creates a feeling of liking or of irritation between two strangers. Who does not dislike a "boneless" hand extended as though it were a spray of sea-weed, or a miniature boiled pudding? It is equally annoying to have one's hand clutched aloft in grotesque affectation and shaken violently sideways, as though it were being used to clean a spot out of the atmosphere. What woman does not wince at the viselike grasp that cuts her rings into her flesh and temporarily paralyzes every finger?
The proper handshake is made briefly; but there should be a feeling of strength and warmth in the clasp, and, as in bowing, one should at the same time look into the countenance of the person whose hand one takes. In giving her hand to a foreigner, a married woman always relaxes her arm and fingers, as it is customary for him to lift her hand to his lips. But by a relaxed hand is not meant a wet rag; a hand should have life even though it be passive. A woman should always allow a man who is only an acquaintance to shake her hand; she should never shake his. To a very old friend she gives a much firmer clasp, but he shakes her hand more than she shakes his. Younger women usually shake the hand of the older; or they both merely clasp hands, give them a dropping movement rather than a shake, and let go.
POLITE GREETINGS FROM YOUNGER TO OLDER
It is the height of rudeness for young people not to go and shake hands with an older lady of their acquaintance when they meet her away from home, if she is a hostess to whose house they have often gone. It is not at all necessary for either young women or young men to linger and enter into a conversation, unless the older lady detains them, which she should not do beyond the briefest minute.
Older ladies who are always dragging young men up to unprepossessing partners, are studiously avoided and with reason; but otherwise it is inexcusable for any youth to fail in this small exaction of polite behavior. If a young man is talking with some one when an older lady enters the room, he bows formally from where he is, as it would be rude to leave a young girl standing alone while he went up to speak to Mrs. Worldly or Mrs. Toplofty. But a young girl passing near an older lady can easily stop for a moment, say "How do you do, Mrs. Jones!" and pass on.
People do not cross a room to speak to any one unless—to show politeness to an acquaintance who is a stranger there; to speak to an intimate friend; or to talk to some one about something in particular.
SALUTATIONS OF COURTESY
WHEN A GENTLEMAN TAKES OFF HIS HAT
A gentleman takes off his hat and holds it in his hand when a lady enters the elevator in which he is a passenger, but he puts it on again in the corridor. A public corridor is like the street, but an elevator is suggestive of a room, and a gentleman does not keep his hat on in the presence of ladies in a house.
This is the rule in elevators in hotels, clubs and apartments. In office buildings and stores the elevator is considered as public a place as the corridor. What is more, the elevators in such business structures are usually so crowded that the only room for a man's hat is on his head. But even under these conditions a gentleman can reveal his innate respect for women by not permitting himself to be crowded too near to them.
When a gentleman stops to speak to a lady of his acquaintance in the street, he takes his hat off with his left hand, leaving his right free to shake hands, or he takes it off with his right and transfers it to his left. If he has a stick, he puts his stick in his left hand, takes off his hat with his right, transfers his hat also to his left hand, and gives her his right. If they walk ahead together, he at once puts his hat on; but while he is standing in the street talking to her, he should remain hatless. There is no rudeness greater than for him to stand talking to a lady with his hat on, and a cigar or cigarette in his mouth.
A gentleman always rises when a lady comes into a room. In public places men do not jump up for every strange woman who happens to approach. But if any woman addresses a remark to him, a gentleman at once rises to his feet as he answers her. In a restaurant, when a lady bows to him, a gentleman merely makes the gesture of rising by getting up half way from his chair and at the same time bowing. Then he sits down again.
When a lady goes to a gentleman's office on business he should stand up to receive her, offer her a chair, and not sit down until after she is seated. When she rises to leave, he must get up instantly and stand until she has left the office.
It is not necessary to add that every American citizen stands with his hat off at the passing of the "colors" and when the national anthem is played. If he didn't, some other more loyal citizen would take it off for him. Also every man should stand with his hat off in the presence of a funeral that passes close or blocks his way.
A GENTLEMAN LIFTS HIS HAT
Lifting the hat is a conventional gesture of politeness shown to strangers only, not to be confused with bowing, which is a gesture used to acquaintances and friends. In lifting his hat, a gentleman merely lifts it slightly off his forehead and replaces it; he does not smile nor bow, nor even look at the object of his courtesy. No gentleman ever subjects a lady to his scrutiny or his apparent observation.
If a lady drops her glove, a gentleman should pick it up, hurry ahead of her—on no account nudge her—offer the glove to her and say: "I think you dropped this!" The lady replies: "Thank you." The gentleman should then lift his hat and turn away.
If he passes a lady in a narrow space, so that he blocks her way or in any manner obtrudes upon her, he lifts his hat as he passes.
If he gets on a street car and the car gives a lurch just as he is about to be seated and throws him against another passenger, he lifts his hat and says "Excuse me!" or "I beg your pardon!" He must not say "Pardon me!" He must not take a seat if there are ladies standing. But if he is sitting and ladies enter, should they be young, he may with perfect propriety keep his seat. If a very old woman, or a young one carrying a baby, enters the car, a gentleman rises at once, lifts his hat slightly, and says: "Please take my seat." He lifts his hat again when she thanks him.
If the car is very crowded when he wishes to leave it and a lady is directly in his way, he asks: "May I get through, please?" As she makes room for him to pass, he lifts his hat and says: "Thank you!"
If he is in the company of a lady in a street car, he lifts his hat to another gentleman who offers her a seat, picks up something she has dropped, or shows her any civility.
He lifts his hat if he asks anyone a question, and always, if, when walking on the street with either a lady or a gentleman, his companion bows to another person. In other words, a gentleman lifts his hat whenever he says "Excuse me," "Thank you," or speaks to a stranger, or is spoken to by a lady, or by an older gentleman. And no gentleman ever keeps a pipe, cigar or cigarette in his mouth when he lifts his hat, takes it off, or bows.
THE BOW OF CEREMONY
The standing bow, made by a gentleman when he rises at a dinner to say a few words, in response to applause, or across a drawing-room at a formal dinner when he bows to a lady or an elderly gentleman, is usually the outcome of the bow taught little boys at dancing school. The instinct of clicking heels together and making a quick bend over from the hips and neck, as though the human body had two hinges, a big one at the hip and a slight one at the neck, and was quite rigid in between, remains in a modified form through life. The man who as a child came habitually into his mother's drawing-room when there was "company," generally makes a charming bow when grown, which is wholly lacking in self-consciousness. There is no apparent "heel-clicking" but a camera would show that the motion is there.
In every form of bow, as distinct from merely lifting his hat, a gentleman looks at the person he is bowing to. In a very formal standing bow, his heels come together, his knees are rigid and his expression is rather serious.
THE INFORMAL BOW
The informal bow is merely a modification of the above; it is easy and unstudied, but it should suggest the ease of controlled muscles, not the floppiness of a rag doll.
In bowing on the street, a gentleman should never take his hat off with a flourish, nor should he sweep it down to his knee; nor is it graceful to bow by pulling the hat over the face as though examining the lining. The correct bow, when wearing a high hat or derby, is to lift it by holding the brim directly in front, take it off merely high enough to escape the head easily, bring it a few inches forward, the back somewhat up, the front down, and put it on again. To a very old lady or gentleman, to show adequate respect, a sweeping bow is sometimes made by a somewhat exaggerated circular motion downward to perhaps the level of the waist, so that the hat's position is upside down.
If a man is wearing a soft hat he takes it by the crown instead of the brim, lifts it slightly off his head and puts it on again.
The bow to a friend is made with a smile, to a very intimate friend often with a broad grin that fits exactly with the word "Hello"; whereas the formal bow is mentally accompanied by the formal salutation: "How do you do!"
THE BOW OF A WOMAN OF CHARM
The reputation of Southern women for having the gift of fascination is perhaps due not to prettiness of feature more than to the brilliancy or sweetness of their ready smile. That Southern women are charming and "feminine" and lovable is proverbial. How many have noticed that Southern women always bow with the grace of a flower bending in the breeze and a smile like sudden sunshine? The unlovely woman bows as though her head were on a hinge and her smile sucked through a lemon.
Nothing is so easy for any woman to acquire as a charming bow. It is such a short and fleeting duty. Not a bit of trouble really; just to incline your head and spontaneously smile as though you thought "Why, there is Mrs. Smith! How glad I am to see her!"
Even to a stranger who does her a favor, a woman of charm always smiles as she says "Thank you!" As a possession for either woman or man, a ready smile is more valuable in life than a ready wit; the latter may sometimes bring enemies, but the former always brings friends.
WHEN TO BOW
Under formal circumstances a lady is supposed to bow to a gentleman first; but people who know each other well bow spontaneously without observing this etiquette.
In meeting the same person many times within an hour or so, one does not continue to bow after the second, or at most third meeting. After that one either looks away or merely smiles. Unless one has a good memory for people, it is always better to bow to some one whose face is familiar than to run the greater risk of ignoring an acquaintance.
THE "CUT DIRECT"
For one person to look directly at another and not acknowledge the other's bow is such a breach of civility that only an unforgivable misdemeanor can warrant the rebuke. Nor without the gravest cause may a lady "cut" a gentleman. But there are no circumstances under which a gentleman may "cut" any woman who, even by courtesy, can be called a lady.
On the other hand, one must not confuse absent-mindedness, or a forgetful memory with an intentional "cut." Anyone who is preoccupied is apt to pass others without being aware of them, and without the least want of friendly regard. Others who have bad memories forget even those by whom they were much attracted. This does not excuse the bad memory, but it explains the seeming rudeness.
A "cut" is very different. It is a direct stare of blank refusal, and is not only insulting to its victim but embarrassing to every witness. Happily it is practically unknown in polite society.
ON THE STREET AND IN PUBLIC
WALKING ON THE STREET
A gentleman, whether walking with two ladies or one, takes the curb side of the pavement. He should never sandwich himself between them.
A young man walking with a young woman should be careful that his manner in no way draws attention to her or to himself. Too devoted a manner is always conspicuous, and so is loud talking. Under no circumstances should he take her arm, or grasp her by or above the elbow, and shove her here and there, unless, of course, to save her from being run over! He should not walk along hitting things with his stick. The small boy's delight in drawing a stick along a picket fence should be curbed in the nursery! And it is scarcely necessary to add that no gentleman walks along the street chewing gum or, if he is walking with a lady, puffing a cigar or cigarette.
All people in the streets, or anywhere in public, should be careful not to talk too loud. They should especially avoid pronouncing people's names, or making personal remarks that may attract passing attention or give a clue to themselves.
One should never call out a name in public, unless it is absolutely unavoidable. A young girl who was separated from her friends in a baseball crowd had the presence of mind to put her hat on her parasol and lift it above the people surrounding her so that her friends might find her.
Do not attract attention to yourself in public. This is one of the fundamental rules of good breeding. Shun conspicuous manners, conspicuous clothes, a loud voice, staring at people, knocking into them, talking across anyone—in a word do not attract attention to yourself. Do not expose your private affairs, feelings or innermost thoughts in public. You are knocking down the walls of your house when you do.
GENTLEMEN AND BUNDLES
Nearly all books on etiquette insist that a "gentleman must offer to carry a lady's bundles." Bundles do not suggest a lady in the first place, and as for gentlemen and bundles!—they don't go together at all. Very neat packages that could never without injury to their pride be designated as "bundles" are different. Such, for instance, might be a square, smoothly wrapped box of cigars, candy, or books. Also, a gentleman might carry flowers, or a basket of fruit, or, in fact, any package that looks tempting. He might even stagger under bags and suitcases, or a small trunk—but carry a "bundle"? Not twice! And yet, many an unknowing woman, sometimes a very young and pretty one, too, has asked a relative, a neighbor, or an admirer, to carry something suggestive of a pillow, done up in crinkled paper and odd lengths of joined string. Then she wonders afterwards in unenlightened surprise why her cousin, or her neighbor, or her admirer, who is one of the smartest men in town, never comes to see her any more!
A GENTLEMAN OFFERS HIS ARM
To an old lady or to an invalid a gentleman offers his arm if either of them wants his support. Otherwise a lady no longer leans upon a gentleman in the daytime, unless to cross a very crowded thoroughfare, or to be helped over a rough piece of road, or under other impeding circumstances. In accompanying a lady anywhere at night, whether down the steps of a house, or from one building to another, or when walking a distance, a gentleman always offers his arm. The reason is that in her thin high-heeled slippers, and when it is too dark to see her foothold clearly, she is likely to trip.
Under any of these circumstances when he proffers his assistance, he might say: "Don't you think you had better take my arm? You might trip." Or—"Wouldn't it be easier if you took my arm along here? The going is pretty bad." Otherwise the only occasions on which a gentleman offers his arm to a lady are in taking her in at a formal dinner, or taking her in to supper at a ball, or when he is an usher at a wedding. Even in walking across a ballroom, except at a public ball in the grand march, it is the present fashion for the younger generation to walk side by side, never arm in arm. This, however, is merely an instance where etiquette and the custom of the moment differ. Old-fashioned gentlemen still offer their arm, and it is, and long will be, in accordance with etiquette to do so. But etiquette does not permit a gentleman to take a lady's arm!
In seeing a lady to her carriage or motor, it is quite correct for a gentleman to put his hand under her elbow to assist her; and in helping her out he should alight first and offer her his hand. He should not hold a parasol over her head unless momentarily while she searches in her wrist-bag for something, or stops perhaps to put on or take off her glove, or do anything that occupies both hands. With an umbrella the case is different, especially in a sudden and driving rain, when she is often very busily occupied in trying to hold "good" clothes out of the wet and a hat on, as well. She may also, under these circumstances, take the gentleman's arm, if the "going" is thereby made any easier.
A LADY NEVER "ON THE LEFT"
The owner always sits on the right hand side of the rear seat of a carriage or a motor, that is driven by a coachman or a chauffeur. If the vehicle belongs to a lady, she should take her own place always, unless she relinquishes it to a guest whose rank is above her own, such as that of the wife of the President or the Governor. If a man is the owner, he must, on the contrary, give a lady the right hand seat. Whether in a private carriage, a car or a taxi, a lady must never sit on a gentleman's left; because according to European etiquette, a lady "on the left" is not a "lady." Although this etiquette is not strictly observed in America, no gentleman should risk allowing even a single foreigner to misinterpret a lady's position.
AWKWARD QUESTIONS OF PAYMENT
It is becoming much less customary than it used to be for a gentleman to offer to pay a lady's way. If in taking a ferry or a subway, a young woman stops to buy magazines, chocolates, or other trifles, a young man accompanying her usually offers to pay for them. She quite as usually answers: "Don't bother, I have it!" and puts the change on the counter. It would be awkward for him to protest, and bad taste to press the point. But usually in small matters such as a subway fare, he pays for two. If he invites her to go to a ball game, or to a matinee or to tea, he naturally buys the tickets and any refreshment which they may have.
Very often it happens that a young woman and a young man who are bound for the same house party, at a few hours' distance from the place where they both live, take the same train—either by accident or by pre-arrangement. In this case the young woman should pay for every item of her journey. She should not let her companion pay for her parlor car seat or for her luncheon; nor should he, when they arrive at their destination, tip the porter for carrying her bag.
A gentleman who is by chance sitting next to a lady of his acquaintance on a train or boat, should never think of offering to pay for her seat or for anything she may buy from the vendor.
Notwithstanding the fact that he is met, all dressed in his best store clothes, with his "lady friend" leaning on his arm, in the pages of counterfeit society novels and unauthoritative books on etiquette, there is no such actual person known to good society—at least not in New York or any great city—as an escort, he is not only unknown, but he is impossible.
In good society ladies do not go about under the "care of" gentlemen! It is unheard of for a gentleman to "take" a young girl alone to a dance or to dine or to parties of any description; nor can she accept his sponsorship anywhere whatsoever. A well behaved young girl goes to public dances only when properly chaperoned and to a private dance with her mother or else accompanied by her maid, who waits for her the entire evening in the dressing room. It is not only improper, it is impossible for any man to take a lady to a party of any sort, to which she has not been personally invited by the hostess.
A lady may never be under the "protection" of a man anywhere! A young girl is not even taken about by her betrothed. His friends send invitations to her on his account, it is true, and, if possible, he accompanies her, but correct invitations must be sent by them to her, or she should not go.
Older ladies are often thoughtless and say to a young man: "Bring your fiancee to see me!" His answer should be: "Indeed, I'd love to any time you telephone her"; or, "I know she'd love to come if you'd ask her." If the lady stupidly persists in casually saying, "Do bring her," he must smile and say lightly: "But I can't bring her without an invitation from you." Or, he merely evades the issue, and does not bring her.
THE RESTAURANT CHECK
Everyone has at some time or other been subjected to the awkward moment when the waiter presents the check to the host. For a host to count up the items is suggestive of parsimony, while not to look at them is disconcertingly reckless, and to pay before their faces for what his guests have eaten is embarrassing. Having the check presented to a hostess when gentlemen are among her guests, is more unpleasant. Therefore, to avoid this whole transaction, people who have not charge accounts, should order the meal ahead, and at the same time pay for it in advance, including the waiter's tip. Charge customers should make arrangements to have the check presented to them elsewhere than at table.
IN STORES OR SHOPS
Lack of consideration for those who in any capacity serve you, is always an evidence of ill-breeding, as well as of inexcusable selfishness. Occasionally a so-called "lady" who has nothing whatever to do but drive uptown or down in her comfortable limousine, vents her irritability upon a saleswoman at a crowded counter in a store, because she does not leave other customers and wait immediately upon her. Then, perhaps, when the article she asked for is not to be had, she complains to the floor-walker about the saleswoman's stupidity! Or having nothing that she can think of to occupy an empty hour on her hands, she demands that every sort of material be dragged down from the shelves until, discovering that it is at last time for her appointment, she yawns and leaves.
Of course, on the other hand, there is the genuinely lethargic saleswoman whose mind doesn't seem to register a single syllable that you have said to her; who, with complete indifference to you and your preferences, insists on showing what you distinctly say you do not want, and who caps the climax by drawling "They" are wearing it this season! Does that sort of saleswoman ever succeed in selling anything? Does anyone living buy anything because someone, who knows nothing, tells another, who is often an expert, what an indiscriminating "They" may be doing? That kind of a saleswoman would try to tell Kreisler that "They" are not using violins this season!
There are always two sides to the case, of course, and it is a credit to good manners that there is scarcely ever any friction in stores and shops of the first class. Salesmen and women are usually persons who are both patient and polite, and their customers are most often ladies in fact as well as "by courtesy." Between those before and those behind the counters, there has sprung up in many instances a relationship of mutual goodwill and friendliness. It is, in fact, only the woman who is afraid that someone may encroach upon her exceedingly insecure dignity, who shows neither courtesy nor consideration to any except those whom she considers it to her advantage to please.
REGARD FOR OTHERS
Consideration for the rights and feelings of others is not merely a rule for behavior in public but the very foundation upon which social life is built.
Rule of etiquette the first—which hundreds of others merely paraphrase or explain or elaborate—is:
Never do anything that is unpleasant to others.
Never take more than your share—whether of the road in driving a car, of chairs on a boat or seats on a train, or food at the table.
People who picnic along the public highway leaving a clutter of greasy paper and swill (not, a pretty name, but neither is it a pretty object!) for other people to walk or drive past, and to make a breeding place for flies, and furnish nourishment for rats, choose a disgusting way to repay the land-owner for the liberty they took in temporarily occupying his property.
AT THE OPERA, THE THEATER, AND OTHER PUBLIC GATHERINGS
Excepting a religious ceremonial, there is no occasion where greater dignity of manner is required of ladies and gentlemen both, than in occupying a box at the opera. For a gentleman especially no other etiquette is so exacting.
In walking about in the foyer of the opera house, a gentleman leaves his coat in the box—or in his orchestra chair—but he always wears his high hat. The "collapsible" hat is for use in the seats rather than in the boxes, but it can be worn perfectly well by a guest in the latter if he hasn't a "silk" one. A gentleman must always be in full dress, tail coat, white waistcoat, white tie and white gloves whether he is seated in the orchestra or a box. He wears white gloves nowhere else except at a ball, or when usher at a wedding.
As people usually dine with their hostess before the opera, they arrive together; the gentlemen assist the ladies to lay off their wraps, one of the gentlemen (whichever is nearest) draws back the curtain dividing the ante-room from the box, and the ladies enter, followed by the gentlemen, the last of whom closes the curtain again. If there are two ladies besides the hostess, the latter places her most distinguished or older guest in the corner nearest the stage. The seat furthest from the stage is always her own. The older guest takes her seat first, then the hostess takes her place, whereupon the third lady goes forward in the center to the front of the box, and stands until one of the gentlemen places a chair for her between the other two. (The chairs are arranged in three rows, of one on either side with an aisle left between.)
One of the duties of the gentlemen is to see that the curtains at the back of the box remain tightly closed, as the light from the ante-room shining in the faces of others in the audience across the house is very disagreeable to them.
A gentleman never sits in the front row of a box, even though he is for a time alone in it.
AS TO VISITING
It is the custom for a gentleman who is a guest in one box to pay visits to friends in other boxes during the entr'actes. He must visit none but ladies of his acquaintance and must never enter a box in which he knows only the gentlemen, and expect to be introduced to the ladies. If Arthur Norman, for instance, wishes to present a gentleman to Mrs. Gilding in her box at the opera, he must first ask her if he may bring his friend James Dawson. (He would on no account speak of him as Mr. Dawson unless he is an elderly person.) A lady's box at the opera is actually her house, and only those who are acceptable as visitors in her house should ask to be admitted.
But it is quite correct for a gentleman to go into a stranger's box to speak to a lady who is a friend of his, just as he would go to see her if she were staying in a stranger's house. But he should not go into the box of one he does not know, to speak to a lady with whom he has only a slight acquaintance, since visits are not paid quite so casually to ladies who are themselves visitors. Upon a gentleman's entering a box it is obligatory for whoever is sitting behind the lady to whom the arriving gentleman's visit is addressed, to relinquish his chair. Another point of etiquette is that a gentleman must never leave the ladies of his own box alone. Occasionally it happens that the gentlemen in Mrs. Gilding's box, for instance, have all relinquished their places to visitors and have themselves gone to Mrs. Worldly's or Mrs. Jones' or Mrs. Town's boxes. Mrs. Gilding's guests must, from the vantage point of the Worldly, Jones or Town boxes, keep a watchful eye on their hostess and instantly return to her support when they see her visitors about to leave, even though the ladies whom they are momentarily visiting be left to themselves. It is of course the duty of the other gentlemen who came to the opera with Mrs. Worldly, Mrs. Jones or Mrs. Town to hurry to them.
A gentleman must never stay in any box that he does not belong in, after the lowering of the lights for the curtain. Nor, in spite of cartoons to the contrary, does good taste permit conversation during the performance or during the overture. Box holders arriving late or leaving before the final curtain do so as quietly as possible and always without speaking.
A "BRILLIANT OPERA NIGHT"
A "brilliant opera night," which one often hears spoken of (meaning merely that all the boxes are occupied, and that the ladies are more elaborately dressed than usual) is generally a night when a leader of fashion such as Mrs. Worldly, Mrs. Gilding, or Mrs. Toplofty, is giving a ball; and most of the holders of the parterre boxes are in ball dresses, with an unusual display of jewels. Or a house will be particularly "brilliant" if a very great singer is appearing in a new role, or if a personage be present, as when Marshal Joffre went to the Metropolitan.
AFTER THE PERFORMANCE
One gentleman, at least, must wait in the carriage lobby until all the ladies in his party have driven away. Never under any circumstances may "the last" gentleman leave a lady standing alone on the sidewalk. It is the duty of the hostess to take all unattended ladies home who have not a private conveyance of their own, but the obligation does not extend to married couples or odd men. But if a married lady or widow has ordered her own car to come for her, the odd gentleman waits with her until it appears. It is then considerate for her to offer him a "lift," but it is equally proper for her to thank him for waiting and drive off alone.
AT THE THEATER
New Yorkers of highest fashion almost never occupy a box at the theater. At the opera the world of fashion is to be seen in the parterre boxes (not the first tier), and in boxes at some of the horse shows and at many public charity balls and entertainments, but those in boxes at the theater are usually "strangers" or "outsiders."
No one can dispute that the best theater seats are those in the center of the orchestra. A box in these days of hatlessness has nothing to recommend it except that the people can sit in a group and gentlemen can go out between the acts easily, but these advantages hardly make up for the disadvantage to four or at least three out of the six box occupants who see scarcely a slice of the stage.
WILL YOU DINE AND GO TO THE PLAY?
There is no more popular or agreeable way of entertaining people than to ask them to "dine and go to the play." The majority do not even prefer to have "opera" substituted for "play," because those who care for serious music are a minority compared with those who like the theater.
If a bachelor gives a small theater party he usually takes his guests to dine at the Fitz-Cherry or some other fashionable and "amusing" restaurant, but a married couple living in their own house are more likely to dine at home, unless they belong to a type prevalent in New York which is "restaurant mad." The Gildings, in spite of the fact that their own chef is the best there is, are much more apt to dine in a restaurant before going to a play—or if they don't dine in a restaurant, they go to one for supper afterwards. But the Normans, if they ask people to dine and go to the theater, invariably dine at home.
A theater party can of course be of any size, but six or eight is the usual number, and the invitations are telephoned: "Will Mr. and Mrs. Lovejoy dine with Mr. and Mrs. Norman at seven-thirty on Tuesday and go to the play?"
Or "Will Mr. and Mrs. Oldname dine with Mr. Clubwin Doe on Saturday at the Toit d'Or and go to the play?"
When Mr. and Mrs. Oldname "accept with pleasure" a second message is given: "Dinner will be at 7.30."
Mrs. Norman's guests go to her house. Mr. Doe's guests meet him in the foyer of the Toit d'Or. But the guests at both dinners are taken to the theater by their host. If a dinner is given by a hostess who has no car of her own, a guest will sometimes ask: "Don't you want me to have the car come back for us?" The hostess can either say to an intimate friend "Why, yes, thank you very much," or to a more formal acquaintance, "No, thank you just the same—I have ordered taxis." Or she can accept. There is no rule beyond her own feelings in the matter.
Mr. Doe takes his guests to the theater in taxis. The Normans, if only the Lovejoys are dining with them, go in Mrs. Norman's little town car, but if there are to be six or eight, the ladies go in her car and the gentlemen follow in a taxi. (Unless Mrs. Worldly or Mrs. Gilding are in the party and order their cars back.)
TICKETS BOUGHT IN ADVANCE
Before inviting anyone to go to a particular play, a hostess must be sure that good tickets are to be had. She should also try to get seats for a play that is new; since it is dull to take people to something they have already seen. This is not difficult in cities where new plays come to town every week, but in New York, where the same ones run for a year or more, it is often a choice between an old good one or a new one that is poor. If intimate friends are coming, a hostess usually asks them what they want to see and tries to get tickets accordingly.
It is really unnecessary to add that one must never ask people to go to a place of public amusement and then stand in line to get seats at the time of the performance.
GOING DOWN THE AISLE OF A THEATER
The host, or whichever gentleman has the tickets, (if there is no host, the hostess usually hands them to one of the, gentlemen before leaving her house), goes down the aisle first and gives the checks to the usher, and the others follow in the order in which they are to sit and which the hostess must direct. It is necessary that each knows who follows whom, particularly if a theater party arrives after the curtain has gone up. If the hostess "forgets," the guests always ask before trooping down the aisle "How do you want us to sit?" For nothing is more awkward and stupid than to block the aisle at the row where their seats are, while their hostess "sorts them"; and worse yet, in her effort to be polite, sends the ladies to their seats first and then lets the gentlemen stumble across them to their own places. Going down the aisle is not a question of precedence, but a question of seating. The one who is to sit eighth from the aisle, whether a lady or a gentleman, goes first, then the seventh, then the sixth, and if the gentleman with the checks is fifth, he goes in his turn and the fourth follows him.
If a gentleman and his wife go to the theater alone, the question as to who goes down the aisle first depends on where the usher is. If the usher takes the checks at the head of the aisle, she follows the usher. Otherwise the gentleman goes first with the checks. When their places are shown him, he stands aside for his wife to take her place first and then he takes his. A lady never sits in the aisle seat if she is with a gentleman.
GOOD MANNERS AT THE THEATER
In passing across people who are seated, always face the stage and press as close to the backs of the seats you are facing as you can. Remember also not to drag anything across the heads of those sitting in front of you. At the moving pictures, especially when it is dark and difficult to see, a coat on an arm passing behind a chair can literally devastate the hair-dressing of a lady occupying it.