FROST'S LAWS AND BY-LAWS OF AMERICAN SOCIETY
A CONDENSED BUT THOROUGH TREATISE ON ETIQUETTE AND ITS USAGES IN AMERICA, CONTAINING PLAIN AND RELIABLE DIRECTIONS FOR DEPORTMENT IN EVERY SITUATION IN LIFE ON THE FOLLOWING SUBJECTS:
Letters of Introduction, Salutes and Salutations Calls, Conversation, Invitations, Dinner Company, Balls, Morning and Evening Parties, Visiting, Street Etiquette, Riding and Driving, Travelling, Etiquette in Church, Etiquette for Places of Amusement, Servants, Hotel Etiquette, Etiquette at Weddings, Baptisms and Funerals. Etiquette with Children and at the Card Table, Visiting Cards, Lettter-Writing, The Lady's Toilet, The Gentleman's Toilet,
BESIDES ONE HUNDRED UNCLASSIFIED LAWS APPLICABLE TO ALL OCCASIONS By S. A. FROST,
AUTHOR OF "FROST'S LETTER-WRITER," ETC.
For a long time the little book which we now offer to the public has been wanted in the library of the fashionable world; the customs, the etiquette, the different obligations which society imposes upon those who live in its midst, change frequently, and although the general principles are the same, although politeness and civility are of all epoques and times, nevertheless there are few persons so entirely at home in all the forms that they do not on some occasion feel hesitation as to the proper manner of conducting themselves.
Indeed, besides the broader and more essential rules of politeness, there are certain conventionalities adopted by good society, which, sanctioned by custom and absolute obligation, cannot, without some good reason, be neglected by the truly polite gentleman or lady. Every day the question is raised whether such and such a custom is adopted, received, and proper; there will constantly arise a doubt about the details of some ceremony, the proper hour for some entertainment, the true etiquette for some occasion. At such a time, there is a regret felt that there is not at hand, in one's own library, a safe guide, an experienced counsellor, who will answer such questions, so trifling in appearance, so important in reality.
A breach of etiquette, an involuntarily omission of some point of politeness, may often have a serious influence upon the future of the perpetrator. None of these little details are to be scorned they have each and every one a value.
It is to meet the want already mentioned that this little volume has been prepared. It makes no claim to originality; but its aim is to be perfectly reliable. English, French, and American authorities of weight have been consulted, and nothing admitted that was not sanctioned by experience and the customs of the best society.
Books, it is very true, have been already written upon this subject; but they are for the most part filled with useless details, and often do not contain what is of most importance. The aim of the Editor of the present work has been to avoid both extremes, to select only what was useful, reliable, and well established, and to reject only what was valueless or mere repetition.
The subjects treated are all classed that they may have easy reference, and admit of consultation at a moment's notice.
The little book goes forth with one pretension only, one ambition alone—to be useful.
Etiquette and Its Uses Introductions Letters of Introduction Salutes and Salutations Calls Conversation Invitations Dinner Company Balls Morning and Evening Parties Visiting Street Etiquette Riding and Driving Travelling Etiquette In Church Etiquette For Places of Amusemfent Servants Hotel Etiquette Wedding Etiquette Etiquette For Baptisms Etiquette For Funerals Etiquette of the Studio Table Etiquette Etiquette With Children Games With Cards Visiting Cards Letter Writing The Lady's Toilet The Gentleman's Toilet Miscellaneous
THE LAWS AND BY-LAWS OF AMERICAN SOCIETY.
ETIQUETTE AND ITS USES.
THERE are a great many people, in other respects perfectly estimable (which makes the complaint against them the more grievous) who maintain that the laws of nature are the only laws of binding force among the units which compose society. They do not assert their doctrine in so many words, but practically they avow it, and they are not slow to express their contempt for the "ridiculous etiquette" which is declared by their opponents to be essential to the well being of society. These people are probably a law to themselves in such matters; they obey in their rules of conduct those instincts of propriety and good manners which were implanted in them at their birth, and cultivated probably by their education, and therefore they have small need to study especially how to conduct themselves in their intercourse with society. In such cases, their opposition to a written code of manners is rather an affair of theory than of practice, and it seems rather absurd that they should so emphatically denounce the system which they themselves, by example rather than precept, thoroughly carry out. They would be probably as averse to committing any act of rudeness, or any breach of politeness as the warmest admirer of the primitive life of the Indian would be to living himself in a dirty tent, and eating his food, half cooked, on a forked-stick over a camp fire. For such people this little code of the "Laws and By-Laws of American Society" is not written.
There are others who are equally fierce in their denunciations of the ridiculous etiquette above mentioned, but who have not the same natural excuse for being so. These are the rude, rough natures, whom no amount of social rubbing, or intercourse with the most refined would polish, though the professors of the art of good breeding polished never so wisely. They act in their rules of conduct on a principle wholly selfish, making their own ease and comfort the first, if not indeed the sole aim, regardless entirely of the amount of inconvenience or discomfort they may occasion to others. They are obliged to cry down, for mere consistency's sake, the system which condemns their own course of action, and which gives certain laws for governing the conduct, and certain other laws prohibiting many of the acts of rudeness which they find so agreeable, but which others may reasonably object to as offensive. Such persons, too, will of course freely express their opinion, yet their denunciations will probably produce an exactly opposite effect to the one they intend, their own conduct proving the pernicious influence of their theory. Their abuse will be, not the expression, half in badinage, of minds protesting by anticipation against the abuse of forms and ceremonies; but the ignorant invective of coarse-minded people against a principle that would tame them, and mould them into a more agreeable presence. They exclaim loudly against what they personally dislike, however beneficial it may be either to themselves or others. For them this little book of the "Laws and By-Laws of American Society" is not written.
Besides the two classes already mentioned, there is another exceedingly large class of society, which, far from being boorish by nature, yet from circumstances lacks the cultivation which alone will bring the conduct into such training as will fit it practically for exhibition in society. To the persons comprising this class, it is not only a source of regret, but of absolute pain, to be ignorant of the rules which make society cohere, which mark out the functions and duties of the various members which comprise it, and which guard alike against annoyances from the impertinent, and intrusions by the ill-bred, promoting by organized methods the formation of desirable acquaintanceship and pleasant friendships, which otherwise might never take place. Isolation from society, the want of proper instruction, the ill effect of bad example, the advice of the prejudiced, the association with the low-bred, and a hundred other causes, may conspire to prevent that intimacy with the cardinal rules of good behavior, which decorum and good breeding have dictated for the better guidance of the community. It is for such persons, and for the many others who, though not unacquainted with the principles which should guide them in their conduct, are yet often at fault upon questions of detail, and sometimes commit errors, which are the more excusable that absolute rules, deduced from precedent and established by practice alone could set them right, that this code of Modern Etiquette has been prepared. To them it is offered as supplying a need which it is their misfortune, rather than their fault, to experience, in the hope that it will be found to contain a complete guide for them in the open paths and by-paths too of good society.
Before beginning to lay down the rules and ordinances of Etiquette, it will be well to say a few words upon Etiquette itself.
Etiquette is, in point of fact, nothing more nor less than the law, written and unwritten, which regulates the society of civilized people, distinguishing them from the communities of barbarous tribes, whose lives are hard and their manners still harder. It is to a well disciplined and refined mind the fundamental principle of action in all intercourse with society, and they are interested in maintaining it in its integrity, and bound to heed and obey its simplest as well as more formal precepts. The real law-giver is the general convenience, speaking with authority and the experience of many years; and it will be found that even in those cases, where the meaning of its rules may be somewhat obscure at first sight, there is an underlying reason for the regulation laid down.
Etiquette, like every other human institution, is of course liable to abuse; it may be transformed from a convenient and wholesome means of producing universal comfort into an inconvenient and burdensome restraint upon freedom and ease. It may become the first consideration, instead of more properly the second, as is often the case with the instrumental accompaniment to a song, and then it becomes, as does the accompaniment, an intolerable nuisance. The mere form, over-riding and hiding the spirit which should control and guide it; an entirely artificial state of things, taking the place of the natural, must inevitably produce discomfort and extravagance of behavior. Nature is thus made the slave of Art, instead of Art taking its proper place as the handmaid to Nature.
Etiquette, to be perfect, therefore, must be like a perfectly fitting garment, which, beautifying and adorning the person, must yet never cramp or restrain perfect freedom of movement. Any visible restraint will mar its grace, as a wrinkle will mar the pure outline of the garment.
Most people have heard of the gentleman (?) who was perfect in his knowledge of the laws of etiquette, and who, seeing a man drowning, took off his coat and was about to plunge into the water to rescue him, when he suddenly remembered that he had never been introduced to the struggling victim, and resuming his coat, tranquilly proceeded upon his way.
Not less absurd are a thousand instances where a regard for formal mannerism takes the place of the easy grace that is the mark of true politeness, which being well acquired and habitual, is never obtrusive or offensively prominent. Too rigid an observance of the laws of etiquette makes them an absurdity and a nuisance.
But, because the laws of etiquette may be made a restraint under injudicious management, it does not follow that they should be disregarded or in any way set aside. The abuse of them is no argument against them, any more than gluttony is any reason for starvation. It is not the food that is in fault, but the excess of the person partaking of it. The fault must be laid wholly and solely at the door of those who misunderstand the use and intention of really sound and excellent precepts. The extravagance of an overdisplay of etiquette is really only another form of innate vulgarity, although there are instances which may be drawn from the side of over refinement, from the history of people and societies, who become extravagant in their devotion to what they deem good breeding, simply because, like the stars that looked down upon Molly Bawn, "they'd nothing else to do."
There are to be found, even in grave history—amid the records of war, treaties, conquests, administrations and revolutions— accounts given in equally grave language of deep questions of etiquette which seem to have been debated and settled with as much care and energy as the most serious questions of state affairs. Cases of this sort are announced and well founded. Whoever likes to see the extent to which attention was given to the subject can seek instances in the memoirs of public characters who lived in the seventeenth century, in the diaries of minute detailers like the Duke de St. Simon, Page to His Most Christian Majesty, Louis the Fourteenth; like Sir John Finett, Master of Ceremonies to Charles the First, and in the domestic histories of the courtiers and grandees of the Spanish and Venetian courts.
Fortunately, the time has gone by when nice questions about trifling points of etiquette served to light the flame of civil war, as once they did in France, and to set the whole of the upper class in a kingdom in arms. We owe this, perhaps, as much to the general increase of civilization as to the working of any particular set of rules or system. But the principle which actuated the French nobility, at the time alluded to, is an inherent one in the human mind, and would be likely to repeat itself in some shape or another, not so violently perhaps, but still to repeat itself, were it not kept in check by the known laws of society.
Mr. Buckle tells us that as late as the reign of Louis the Fourteenth, the right to sit in the presence of the French king "was considered to be a matter of such gravity that in comparison with it a mere struggle for liberty faded into insignificance." There was a perpetual striving which should be accounted greatest. According to the old code of etiquette, a duke's wife might sit in the French queen's presence, but no one under that rank could do so. A combination of marquises, counts, and other nobles was formed and wrung from the hand of Louis the Fourteenth, this concession that the ladies of the house of Bouillon might sit in the presence of the queen. But this was fuel to the fire of the combined noblemen's anger; two hostile parties were formed, and the question of etiquette was nearly being decided by the sword. It required all the tact and statesmanship of Mazarin to prevent this, and in the end the right was conceded to three of the most distinguished ladies of the lower aristocracy, to sit down in the presence of the queen. Upon this, the superior nobility summoned their adherents to Paris, and really a severe struggle followed, which ended in the last mentioned concession being revoked; and so great was the importance attached to the revocation that nothing would satisfy the nobles short of the public withdrawal being drawn up in a state paper, signed by the queen's regent, countersigned by the four secretaries of state, and conveyed to the assembly of nobles by four marshals of France.
The French memoirs of this period (the seventeenth century) abound with references to just such questions of court etiquette; who might use an arm-chair at court; who was to be invited to the royal dinner; who might be kissed by the queen; what degree of nobility entitled a man to be driven to the Louvre in a coach; whether all dukes were equal, or whether, as some thought, the Duke de Bouillon, having once possessed the sovereignty of Sedan, was superior to the Duke de la Rochefoucauld, who had never possessed any sovereignty at all; who should give the king his napkin at dinner, and who might have the honor of assisting at the toilet of the queen. The question whether the Duke de Beaufort ought or ought not to enter the council chamber before the Duke de Nemours, and whether, being there, he ought or ought not to sit above him, caused a violent quarrel between the two dukes in 1652, a quarrel which, of course, ended in a duel, and the death of the Duke de Nemours. The equally grave question, whether a duke should sign before a marshal was violently disputed between the Duke de Rohan and one of the marshals of Henry the Fourth, and the king was obliged to interfere in the matter.
These, of course, are but so many instances of the principle of etiquette carried to an extravagant length, and simply prove the danger there is in allowing things of less importance to supersede or take the precedence of those of greater weight. They serve to explain, and in some measure to excuse the denunciatory expressions which many thoroughly well-bred people use against etiquette, such expressions being, as before suggested, merely protests uttered in anticipation of a repetition of the absurdity which over-attention to ceremonies is liable to introduce.
But such cases are really no argument against etiquette itself, without deference to which it would be impossible to live in anything like freedom from annoyance from persons naturally impertinent, or in the full enjoyment of that social liberty which every one has a right to expect.
Good breeding is, as Lord Chesterfield well says, "the result of much good sense, some good nature, and a little self-denial for the sake of others, and with a view to obtain the same indulgence from them." Lord Bacon, in his admirable essay on Ceremonies, says:
"Not to use ceremonies at all, is to teach others not to use them again, and so diminisheth respect to himself; especially they be not to be omitted to strangers and formal natures; but the dwelling upon them, and exalting them above the moon is not only tedious, but doth diminish the faith and credit of him that speaks."
To quote again from Lord Chesterfield, who says:
"Good sense and good nature suggest civility in general; but in good breeding there are a thousand little delicacies which are established only by custom."
It is precisely these "little delicacies" which constitute the difference between politeness and etiquette. Politeness is that inborn regard for others which may dwell in the heart of the most ignorant boor, but etiquette is a code of outward laws which must be learned by the resident in good society, either from observation or the instruction of others.
It is a poor argument used against etiquette that it is not truthful, and that uncouth manners are more frank and sincere than polished and refined ones. Is truth then a hedgehog, always 3 bristling and offensive. Cannot truth be spoken in courteous accents from a kind, gentle impulse, as well as blurted out rudely and giving pain and mortification? It is true that roughness and sincerity often abide together, but would it destroy the honesty to polish away the roughness?
Etiquette, it is sometimes urged, is used to cloak what is hollow, unmeaning and false, yet may it not also drape gracefully what is true, sincere and important?
True politeness must come from the heart, from an unselfish desire to please others and contribute to their happiness; when upon this natural impulse is placed the polish of a complete and thorough knowledge of the laws of etiquette, the manners must be perfect and graceful.
Etiquette added to natural politeness is as a beautiful jewel upon a tasteful dress. Ruskin thus defines a gentleman:
"A gentleman's first character is that firmness of structure in the body which renders it capable of the most delicate sensation, and of that structure in the mind which renders it capable of the most delicate sympathies—one may say simply fineness of nature. This is, of course, compatible with heroic bodily strength and mental firmness; in fact, heroic strength is not conceivable without such delicacy. Elephantine strength may drive its way through a forest, and feel no touch of the boughs, but the white skin of Homer's Atrides would have felt a bent rose leaf, yet subdue its feelings in glow of battle, and behave itself like iron. I do not mean to call an elephant a vulgar animal; but if you think about him carefully, you will find that his non- vulgarity consists in such gentleness as is possible to elephantine nature; not in his insensitive hide, nor in his clumsy foot, but in the way he will lift his foot if a child lies in his way; and in his sensitive trunk, and still more sensitive mind, and capability of pique on points of honor....
"Hence it will follow, that one of the probable signs of high breeding in men generally will be their kindness and mercifulness; these always indicating more or less firmness of make in the mind."
Undoubtedly the first law of good breeding is unselfishness, that thorough forgetfulness of one's own wants and comforts, and thoughtfulness for the happiness and ease of others, which is the Christian gentleman's rule of life; which makes him yield the easy chair to another older and weaker than himself, and sit upon a narrow bench, or perhaps stand up; which selects for another the choicest portions of the dishes upon the table, and uncomplainingly dines off what is left; which hears with smiling interest the well- worn anecdotes of the veteran story-teller; which gently lifts the little child, who has fallen, and comforts the sobbing grief and terror; which never forgets to endeavor to please others, and seems, at least, pleased with all efforts made to entertain himself. Place the code of politeness beside that of vulgarity and see if the one does not contain all virtue, the other vice. Is not good temper virtuous and polite, bad temper vicious and vulgar? Is not self denial virtuous and polite, selfishness vicious and vulgar? Is not truth virtuous and polite, scandal vicious and vulgar? Take every principle in the conventional code of the perfectly well-bred, and so define it, and not a virtue is rude.
True etiquette, as we have said before, is not politeness, yet it is founded upon the same basis. An English author says:
"Etiquette may be defined as the minor morality of life. No observances, however minute, that tend to spare the feelings of others, can be classed under the head of trivialities; and politeness, which is but another name for general amiability, will oil the creaking wheels of life more effectually than any of those unguents supplied by mere wealth or station."
To be truly polite, one must be at once good, just and generous, has been well said by a modern French writer:
"True politeness is the outward visible sign of those inward spiritual graces called modesty, unselfishness, generosity. The manners of a gentleman are the index of his soul. His speech is innocent, because his life is pure; his thoughts are direct, because his actions are upright; his bearing is gentle, because his blood, and his impulses, and his training are gentle also. A true gentleman is entirely free from every kind of pretence. He avoids homage, instead of exacting it. Mere ceremonies have no attractions for him. He seeks not only to say civil things, but to do them. His hospitality, though hearty and sincere, will be strictly regulated by his means. His friends will he chosen for their good qualities and good manners; his servants for their thoughtfulness and honesty; his occupations for their usefulness, or their gracefulness, or their elevating tendencies, whether moral, or mental, or political. And so we come round again to our first maxims, i.e., that 'good manners are the kindly fruit of a refined nature.'
"And if this be true of mankind, how still more true is it of womankind! Granted that truthfulness, gracefulness, considerateness, unselfishness, are essential to the breeding of a true gentleman, how infinitely essential must they be to the breeding of a true lady! That her tact should be even readier, her sympathies even tenderer, her instinct even finer than those of the man, seems only fit and natural. In her politeness, prevcyance, and all the minor observances of etiquette, are absolutely indispensable. She must be even more upon her guard than a man in all those niceties of speech, look and manner, which are the especial and indispensable credentials of good breeding. Every little drawing-room ceremonial, all the laws of society, the whole etiquette of hospitality must be familiar to her. And even in these points, artificial though they be, her best guide after all, is that kindness of heart which gives honor where honor is due, and which is ever anxious to spare the feelings and prejudices of others.
"Every mistress of a house, be it remembered, is a minor sovereign, upon whose bounty the comfort, and happiness, and refinement of her little court depends. She must take especial care that her servants are capable, well trained and reliable, and that her domestic arrangements are carried on as noiselessly and easily as if by machinery. In a well ordered house the machinery is always in order, and always works out of sight. No well-bred woman talks of her servants, of her dinner arrangements, or the affairs of her nursery. One feels these matters to be under her surveillance, and that fact alone is a guarantee of their good management. The amusements and comforts of her guests are provided for without discussion or comment; and whatever goes wrong is studiously withheld from the conversation of the drawing-room. And let no lady, however young, however beautiful, however gifted, for one moment imagine that the management of her house can be neglected with impunity. If she is rich enough to provide an efficient housekeeper, well and good; but, even so, the final responsibility must still rest upon her, and her alone. No tastes, no pleasures must stand in the way of this important duty; and even if that duty should at first seem irksome, the fulfillment of it is sure to bring its own reward.
"The very atmosphere of the house proclaims the mistress. The servants wear a cheerful air, and meet you with candid and friendly faces; the rooms are tastefully furnished; an irreproachable cleanliness and neatness reign around. The unexpected guest finds an orderly table and an unembarrassed welcome. In such a house, scandal finds no favor, and conversation never degenerates into gossip. In such a home, peace and plenty and goodwill are permanent household gods."
The most perfect law of politeness, the safest and surest guide in all that pertains to the true definition of a gentleman or lady is, after all, the Christian rule:
"Do unto others as you would others should do unto you."
No one with this for a guide can ever fail in true, genuine politeness, and that politeness will soon lead him to learn and remember all the prevailing rules of established etiquette.
NEVER introduce people to each other unless you are sure the acquaintance so commenced will be mutually agreeable.
A person who, from youth, social position or any other cause, stands in the inferior position of the two persons to be introduced to each other, must be introduced to the superior. A gentleman is always to be introduced to a lady, never a lady to a gentleman.
At a ball, it is the part of the host and hostess to make introductions amongst the guests; but guests may with perfect propriety introduce friends to each other. Gentlemen must never introduce friends to ladies, without first obtaining special permission to do so, and this permission should be always granted, unless there is a very strong reason for the refusal. The French, and in a great measure the English, dispense with introductions at a private ball. It is taken for granted that the hostess has invited to her ball only such people as are fit to be mutually acquainted, and the fact that they have been invited to meet each other is a sufficient warrant for self-introduction. This practice saves a great deal of trouble, but it applies only to balls in private houses. At any public ball, partners must be introduced to each other; indeed it is better for ladies at such entertainments, to dance only with the gentlemen of their own party, or with whom they had a previous acquaintance. Special introductions may, however, be made with propriety by the master of ceremonies.
When introducing two gentlemen, look first to the elder, or, if there is any difference in social standing, to the superior, and with a slight bow say to him: "Allow me to introduce my friend, Mr. Jones, to you;" then turning to your friend, repeat his name, and follow it by that of the gentleman to whom he is introduced, thus: "Mr. Smith, allow me to introduce my friend, Mr. Jones, to you. Mr. Jones, Mr. Smith." In introducing a gentleman to a lady, bow slightly to the latter, saying, "Miss—-, allow me to introduce Mr.—-; Mr.—-, (bowing to him) Miss—-."
When several persons are introduced to one, it is sufficient to name the single individual once, repeating all the names of the others, thus: "Mr. Johnson, allow me to introduce Mr. and Mrs. James, Miss Smithson, Mr. Lewis, Mr. Johnson," bowing slightly to each when named.
Shaking hands after an introduction has taken place is merely optional, not necessary; and is forbidden to an unmarried lady to whom a gentleman is introduced. A bow is all that etiquette requires. In introducing young persons to elder ones of good social standing, it is often a kindly act of encouragement for the latter to shake hands, with a few cordial words.
It is not necessary to introduce people who meet at your house on morning calls, though it may be done with propriety if the introduction has been previously ascertained to be mutually pleasant.
It is optional after such an introduction, with the parties introduced, to continue or drop the acquaintance so formed. Without a formal introduction, the merely meeting at the house of a mutual friend, does not warrant any future recognition. It rests, however, after an introduction with the lady, if between lady and gentleman, with the married or elder lady, if between lady and lady, and with the elder, if between gentlemen, to continue or drop the acquaintance.
Gentlemen who meet at the house or rooms of a mutual friend are not obliged to recognize one another if they meet again elsewhere. There is no rule forbidding their doing so, if agreeable to both parties, but there is no requirement of etiquette obliging them to appear as if they had even met before.
A lady is not obliged to afterwards recognize a partner with whom she may have danced at a ball. It is entirely optional with her to do so or not; and if she has danced several times with the gentlemen, it will be a question between her and her conscience how far she may consider herself justified in passing by without notice one who has extended to her so much courtesy at a ball. Etiquette, however, does not require even the slightest recognition.
When strangers in a city are introduced to residents it is customary to name the place from which they come, thus: "Allow me to introduce to you my friend Mr. Schmidt, from Germany. Mr. Schmidt, Mr. Popking;" or if introducing a traveller, "Allow me to introduce my friend Mr. Robinson, lately returned from Egypt." A pleasant opening is thus offered for conversation, and a foreigner may have the pleasure of a salutation in his own language.
An important duty in introducing friends is to pronounce the name of each party clearly and distinctly, that no error or necessity for repetition may occur.
It is often a positive kindness to take advantage of the etiquette which dispenses with introductions at morning calls. Many a witty, talented person has had a stupid bore pursue him upon such an introduction, and even the one necessary conversation following an introduction is a painful effort, owing to the entire uncongeniality of the parties introduced.
A friend visiting at your house must be introduced to all callers, who are bound to continue the acquaintance as long as the friend is your guest. So, if when calling upon a friend, you are introduced to a visitor, you are bound to extend all courtesies and attentions which you would desire paid to your visitors in similar circumstances.
Introductions, given at a party to a stranger visiting in a city, must be followed by recognition as long as the visit continues.
If, when walking with one friend, you should meet another, it is not necessary to introduce them; indeed, you should not do so without special reason for it. Never, even after an introduction, start a long conversation, unless all continue the walk in the same direction.
Should you, when walking with a friend, meet a lady who desires to speak to you, your friend must stop with you, yet an introduction under such circumstances does not exact any future recognition.
Sisters, brothers or other relatives may always be introduced to friends when met casually.
If friends meet at public places of amusement and are accompanied by strangers, introductions are not required by etiquette, and if made do not oblige any future acquaintance.
It is not necessary to have an introduction in order to pay your respects to the President of the United States, excepting that of the master of ceremonies at the receptions. He will receive your card and present you. For a private interview it is better to be introduced by a Senator or a member of the House of Representatives.
In visiting foreign courts, introductions are more a matter of ceremony than in this country. If you wish to obtain an introduction to the Emperor of France, you must address your request to the Grand Chamberlain, which may be done personally or by letter.
Your statement that you are an American citizen, and a reference to the American Consul will procure you an interview. Punctuality to the hour appointed for the interview is essential, and ladies present themselves in full dress; gentlemen in a dress suit of black, white vest, gloves and neck-tie.
The ceremony of presentation will be explained before you are presented.
In the English court, the ladies must be presented by a lady; gentlemen by a gentleman. Strangers must have credentials from the Consul before they can be introduced.
If at a dinner, a ball, or upon any occasion you are introduced, at a friend's house, to one with whom you are not on good terms, though it be your bitterest enemy, etiquette requires you to salute him or her courteously, and make no sign of resentment whilst under your friend's roof.
If you are introduced as a petitioner to any one in authority, that introduction does not authorize you in claiming an acquaintance afterwards.
Never introduce persons who may be related to you, without calling their full name. It is done very often, even amongst well-bred people, from thoughtfulness, as, "Mrs. James, allow me to introduce my cousin Frank; Frank, Mrs. James," and poor Mrs. James is left entirely ignorant of cousin Frank's name. The proper way is to name the relationship and also the surname of the relative. If you introduce a brother or sister even, marriage may have changed the name of one. You should say: "Mrs. James, allow me to introduce to you my sister, Miss Curtis; Miss Curtis, Mrs. James."
If you are introduced to the relative of a friend, etiquette requires you to consider that relative an acquaintance, unless there is some special reason to the contrary.
It is best to avoid introductions in a public conveyance, as few people like to have their names called out in such places. If such introductions are made, however, it should be done as quietly as possible.
To introduce to a friend a person who is in any way objectionable, is an insult which fully justifies a withdrawal of friendship.
A gentleman should always raise his hat, if introduced in the street, to either lady or gentleman.
If introducing a foreigner or a gentleman in this country, whose position gives him an honorary title, always give the title. Thus, if a member of Congress, meeting a German baron at your house, you introduce them, you say: "Mr. Somers, allow me to introduce to you my friend, the Baron von Schmidt; Baron von Schmidt, the Honorable Mr. Somers."
LETTERS OF INTRODUCTION.
LETTERS of introduction should never be given, except to persons well known to the person introducing them, and addressed to those only who have a long-standing friendship for the writer. Amongst persons but slightly acquainted, such letters are not only foolish but positively dangerous, as you may thus give your countenance to those who will take advantage of your carelessness to bring you into mortifying, if not disgraceful positions.
Even amongst friends of long standing they should be given very cautiously and sparingly, as it is a great responsibility to send to your friend a visitor who may prove disagreeable, and you have no right whatever to call upon comparative strangers to extend hospitality or courtesy to your friends.
Letters of introduction should always be as short and concise as possible. If you wish to send any information to your friends about their visitor, send it in a separate letter by mail.
The utmost brevity is of importance in the letter of introduction, as it is usually read in the presence of the party introduced, and the pause must necessarily be awkward. You may in a letter of introduction use a few words of warm, cordial feeling toward your friend, but praise of any kind is in as bad taste as it would be at a personal introduction.
This rule, however, does not apply to letters introducing applicants for favor, office or position, which latter come more strictly under the head of letters of recommendation than merely letters of introduction.
Letters of introduction must be left unsealed invariably; they should be folded and addressed like any other letter, but it is a gross breach of etiquette to prevent the bearer from reading what you may have said of him to your friend. It is optional with the bearer to seal such letters before delivery, but it is customary to leave them open.
A letter of introduction should not, unless circumstances make it absolutely unavoidable, be delivered in person. It should be sent, with the card of the person introduced, to the person to whom it is addressed, by a servant. The person receiving it should then call at once or send a written invitation to his house, and the person introduced may then call in person. If, however, the stay in the city is very short, these formalities must be omitted, and the person introduced call in person, sending in his letter and card by a servant.
Business letters of introduction should mention the errand and business of the party introduced, and if your own acquaintance is of recent date, mention by whom your were yourself introduced.
Letters introducing professional artists may contain a few words expressive of the pleasure conferred by the talent or skill of the person introduced.
Letters of introduction soliciting favors should be but seldom given, and never unless the claims upon both parties interested are very strong.
There is no rule of etiquette prescribing the exact amount of attention required to be shown to the bearer of a letter of introduction by the person to whom it is addressed.
A thousand circumstances of time, place, position, leisure and disposition of the parties must control this, but as a rule, the most generous hospitality and courtesy it is possible to give, should be extended to your friend's friend. It is a compliment to both the bearer and the writer of the letter. La Fontaine says: "A letter of introduction is a draft at sight, and you must cash it." It might be added, "You must cash it in full, never allowing the courtesy exchange to be against the presenter of the draft."
Letters of introduction should bear upon the envelope the name and address of the party introduced, written in the left hand corner— thus:
JOHN JONES, ESQ., No. 714 —- Street, Philadelphia. Introducing L. F. Townsend, Esq., of Troy.
Letters of introduction to and from business men, for business purposes, may be delivered by the bearers in person, and etiquette does not require the receiver to entertain the person introduced as the private friend of the writer. Good nature and native courtesy would suggest some attentions, which could be increased according to the pleasure conferred or received, but it is entirely optional.
Letters of introduction are very useful to travellers, or those about to change their place of residence; care, however, should be especially taken in the latter case to present persons to each other only, who will prove mutually agreeable, as it is surely no friendly act to force upon your friends a life-long acquaintance, perhaps with uncongenial persons.
A form is given for an ordinary letter of introduction, to be varied according to circumstances, always bearing in mind that brevity is essential, long acquaintance necessary, and some claim on both parties important, before giving any letters of introduction to your friends and acquaintances.
"New York, August 12, 1869.
"JAMES WILCOX, ESQ.,
"Dear Sir:—Allow me to introduce to you my friend, Mr. Loving, who will make a brief visit to your city. Any attention you may be able to show him, during his stay, will be appreciated as a favor by,
"Yours sincerely, "E. B. Lyons."
(To be directed) "JAMES WILCOX, ESQ., "No. 204 —- Street, "Washington, D.C. "Introducing F. G. Loving, Esq., of New York."
In receiving such a letter, bear in mind the courtesy extended is really a compliment to the writer of the letter, and such hospitality and courtesy as you extend you are entitled to claim again for your own friends at some future time. If you are in a position to do so, you should follow your first call by an invitation to dinner, or to meet friends in the evening, and if the new comer is a stranger in the city, select such friends to meet him or her, as will prove agreeable and valuable acquaintances. If your are a bachelor or boarding, and cannot extend the hospitalities of a home, offer your services as guide to points of interest in the city, places of public amusement, in short, extend any courtesy your purse or leisure time will warrant.
It is contrary to etiquette for the bearer of a letter of introduction to visit too frequently the house to which he has just been introduced. The fact that Mr. Smith is your only friend in town, and has been cordial in his invitations to "make his house your home," does not justify you in pulling too frequently at Mr. Smith's door-bell, or presenting yourself at unseasonable hours in Mrs. Smith's drawing-room.
In travelling abroad it is impossible to have too many letters of introduction. They take up but little room in a trunk, but their value when you find yourself "a stranger in a strange land," cannot be over-estimated.
SALUTES AND SALUTATIONS.
IN this country men do not embrace each other, nor do they exchange kisses, while, unless amongst intimate friends, even the fair sex now dispense with demonstrative salutations. In many European countries kisses are exchanged, even between gentlemen, and an embrace is quite in accordance with even a somewhat formal salutation. In America, however, these demonstrations are mostly confined to gushing misses and school-girls.
Men in this country acknowledge an introduction by extending the right hand in greeting—the whole hand—for it is positively insulting to offer two fingers, as some under-bred snobs will sometimes do, and it is almost as bad to extend the left hand, unless two persons are introduced at the same time, or the right hand is useless or occupied; in any such case apologize for the hand extended. The right hand is the sword hand, and its extension to a friend is emblematic as a proof of peace, and as a safeguard against treachery.
In offering the hand to a friend in the house, always remove the glove, and grasp the hand given in return firmly for a moment. In the street, however, the glove may be retained, if it would cause an awkward pause to remove it; but always in such a case apologize for the covered hand.
In shaking hands, do not try to wring them off the wrists, nor press them as in a vise, nor pull them as though they were bell handles, nor fling the two together with violence, so as to cause a report. Let the palms grasp each other firmly, but without any display of energy, and shake the hand moderately for a moment, then release it. Mr. Pecksniff was wont to clasp his left hand over his "dear friend's" right hand, resting in his own right. This practice may be very effective, from a scenic point of view, but it is not countenanced by any rule of etiquette.
A lady must first recognize a gentleman by bowing before he is at liberty to salute her. She is the sole judge of the propriety of recognizing him at all, and etiquette requires the strictest deference to her desire in this respect. Should she recognize him, he should raise his hat a little from his head, with the hand furthest from her, and return her salutation with a slight inclination of the body. He may not obtrude himself upon her notice even if he thinks she has not observed him.
A lady should never stop in the street to salute a gentleman friend, nor may a gentleman join a lady in the street.
Should a lady, however, stop in meeting a gentleman, etiquette requires him to stop also, no matter how great his haste. If he is really unable to stop any time, he must at least pause long enough to state this fact, and apologize for leaving her in such haste.
When a lady wishes to end a conversation in the street, she should bow slightly, and the gentleman must at once take his leave.
If a lady resumes her walk without any pause in the conversation, a gentleman is then at liberty to join her in her promenade.
Married ladies are allowed more freedom in such matters than unmarried ones. It is against all established laws of etiquette for young unmarried ladies to do more than bow to gentlemen in the street, unless the fact of relationship allows some violation of strict etiquette.
Unless related, or upon terms of intimate friendship with a gentleman, a lady should never salute excepting by a slightly formal bow. A nod is vulgar, even when exchanged by intimate friends.
In her own house, however, a lady should extend her hand in salutation to every guest who crosses her threshold.
Froissart, that charmingly quaint writer, tells of the dame of ancient days thus:
"When Sir Walter Manny and his men returned from a successful sortie out of Henneboune, the chronicle tells us,' The Countess de Montfort came down from the castle to meet them, and with a most cheerful countenance kissed Sir Walter Manny and all his companions, one after the other, like a noble and valiant dame.'" Modern etiquette would hardly speak in praise of such a lady in the current year.
On horseback a lady salutes by bowing slightly. A gentleman, grasping reins and whip in his left hand, raises his hat slightly with his right, at the same time inclining the body forward. He may not, however, join a lady riding, unless she is escorted only by a groom, and then he must first request permission to do so.
Never will a gentleman so far imitate a vulgar clown as to smack a friend on the back, poke him in the ribs, or by clapping his hand upon his shoulder. It is equally bad taste to use a familiar shout, or "Hullo, old boy!" or any other "Hail fellow, well met" phrase of salutation.
If a gentleman salutes another by mistake, even if he has given him an unceremonious slap or poke, it is etiquette to treat the offender with the utmost courtesy. He will probably be sufficiently embarrassed, when he discovers his error, without having any blunt speech made to add to his discomfiture.
If a gentleman meet a gentleman, be may salute him by touching his hat without removing it, but if a lady be with either gentleman both hats must be lifted in salutation.
If a gentleman stops to speak to a lady, in the street, he must hold his hat in his hand during the interview, unless she requests him to replace it. With a gentleman friend etiquette does not require this formality.
A gentleman may bow to a lady seated at a window, if he is passing on the street, but he must not bow from a window to a lady on the street.
A gentleman may never offer to shake hands with a lady, but he must accept such an offer on her part, taking her hand lightly but firmly in his ungloved right one, and delicately shaking it for a moment. A pressure is an insult in such a case.
In entering a church a gentleman must remove his hat as soon as his foot crosses the threshold of the sacred edifice. Travellers will often omit this salutation in visiting churches abroad, whose faith differs from their own. There is no more certain sign of ill breeding as well as irreverence.
A gentleman may always bow to a lady he may meet on a airway, even if not acquainted. If at the foot of the stairs, he must bow, pass her and ascend before her. If at the head of the stairs, he must bow, and wait for her to precede him in the descent.
If two friends are walking together and meet a friend of one, a bow is all the salutation etiquette demands; if, however, one of the two stops to speak to the third, he owes the friend he accompanies an apology for the delay thus occasioned.
In entering a room, a gentleman must take his hat, cane and gloves in his left hand, leaving his right hand free for salutation.
If a gentleman, walking with a friend, meets a lady with whom his friend is acquainted, he must also bow, although the lady may be a stranger to him. The bow must be very slight and formal, merely, in fact, a compliment to his friend, and a mark of respect to the lady.
A gentleman must always return a bow made to him in the street, even if he fails to recognize the person who makes it. It may be a person to whom he has been introduced, but whose face he has forgotten, and if it is an error on the part of the other, a courteous return of the salute will greatly diminish the embarrassment of the mistaken party.
In meeting a party of friends with some of whom you are intimately acquainted, and with some only slightly, endeavor to make your salutations as equal as possible. A formal bow to one, and a gushing demonstration of delight over another is a breach of etiquette. Be courteous and cordial to all.
If a foreigner salute you after the fashion of his own country, do not draw back or allow yourself to smile, but strive to put him at his ease by taking no notice of the "national salute."
Kissing in public, even between intimate lady friends, is a vulgar parade of affection, that a truly refined person will shrink from.
It is an insult to return a cordial grasp of the hand, and hearty greeting, by a cold bow or a flabby extension of a portion of the hand. Even if you do not approve of the familiar greeting you should return it with some show of cordiality.
The Countess de —- speaking of salutations, says:
"It would seem that good manners were originally the mere expression of submission from the weaker to the stronger. In a rude state of society every salutation is to this day an act of worship. Hence the commonest acts, phrases and signs of courtesy with which we are now familiar, date from those earlier stages when the strong hand ruled, and the inferior demonstrated his allegiance by studied servility. Let us take for example the words' Sir' and' Madam.'' Sir' is derived from Seigneur, Sieur', Sire, and originally meant Lord, King, Ruler, and in its patriarchal sense, Father. The title of Sire was last borne by some of the ancient feudal families of France who, as Selden has said, 'affected rather to be styled by the name of Sire than Baron, as Le Sire de Montmorenci and the like.'
"Madam or Madame, corrupted by servants into 'Ma'am,' and by Mrs. Gamp and her tribe into' Mum,' is in substance equivalent to' Your exalted,' or' Your Highness.' Ma Dame originally meaning high- born or stately, and being applied only to ladies of the highest rank.
"To turn to our every-day forms of salutation. We take off our hats on visiting an acquaintance. We bow on being introduced to strangers. We rise when visitors enter our drawing-room. We wave our hand to our friends as he passes the window, or drives away from our door. The Oriental, in like manner, leaves his shoes on the threshold when he pays a visit. The natives of the Tonga Islands kiss the soles of a chieftain's feet. The Siberian peasant grovels in the dust before a Russian noble. Each of these acts has a primary, a historical significance. The very word' salutation' in the first place, derived as it is from' salutatio,' the daily homage paid by a Roman client to his patron, suggests in itself a history of manners.
"To bare the head was originally an act of submission to gods and rulers. A bow is a modified protestation. A lady's courtesy is a modified genuflexion. Rising and standing are acts of homage; and when we wave our hand to the friend on the opposite side of the street, we are unconsciously imitating the Romans who, as Selden tells us, used to stand somewhat off before the images of their gods, solemnly moving the right hand to the lips and casting it, as if they had cast kisses.'
"Again, men remove the glove when they shake hands with a lady—a custom evidently of feudal origin. The knight removed his iron gauntlet, the pressure of which would have been all too harsh for the palm of a fair chatelaine, and the custom which began in necessity has travelled down to us as a point of etiquette."
General salutations of a mixed company are not now in vogue in the best society, where etiquette requires that we recognize only our own friends and acquaintances.
In meeting at a friend's house where you are visiting a circle who are all entire strangers to you, remember that as mutual friends of the host and hostess you are bound whilst under the same roof to consider yourselves as acquaintances. No spirit of exclusiveness is an apology for a neglect of this, and no shyness can excuse a withdrawing into a corner, or clinging to one friend alone in such a circle.
WHEN ladies have, according to the French custom, set apart one morning or one evening in the week for receiving callers, it is a breach of etiquette to call at any other time, unless a short visit in the city or business that will not admit of delay are the excuses. An hour in the evening, and from ten to twenty minutes in the morning are the limits for a formal call.
When there is no time thus set apart, formal calls must be paid in the morning, but with friends of long standing the evening call is not only permissible, but often far more welcome.
Morning calls may be made by gentlemen in society upon all the occasions following:
In answer to a letter of introduction sent to him, or to return the call if the letter is personally presented.
In return for any hospitality offered to him when visiting another city, if the entertainer visit his own place of abode.
In return for any favor received or courtesy extended to him by another gentleman.
In return for an invitation to the house of a friend, whether the invitation has been accepted or declined, and this call must be made within the week following that during which the entertainment was given.
On any occasion when a grief or a joy calls for expressions of condolence or congratulation in the circle of his friends.
To greet the safe return of any friend who has been abroad, or away from home for any length of time.
Following any occasion when a lady has accepted his services as an escort, a gentleman must call to inquire after the health of his fair charge, and must not delay longer than the day after that upon which he has escorted the lady.
After a wedding, at the time appointed for the reception of friends.
When visiting in another city, upon any friends there, or upon those to whom letters of introduction have been given.
In asking or granting a favor, a call is demanded by etiquette.
The visit or call is a much better institution than the vulgar suppose. It is not without its objections, consuming valuable time, and giving occasion for gossip and small talk, but it is the most agreeable and customary way of turning a mere acquaintance into a friend. In a friendly call much of the restraint of meeting in large assemblies is thrown aside, mind meets mind much more easily in an easy tete-a-tete conversation, and the conversation may be allowed to partake somewhat more of a personal character than it could in the ball-room or evening party.
First calls require prompt return, even if you drop the acquaintance before the second one.
Morning calls must never be earlier than noon, evening ones never later than nine o'clock.
When calling, if the room seems crowded, do not prolong your visit.
A gentleman may never call with a friend upon a lady, unless the friend is previously acquainted, or he has obtained permission of the lady to introduce him.
In making a formal call, a gentleman must retain his hat in his hand. An umbrella or cane may be left in the hall, never the hat or gloves. If the call is made in the evening, the hat and gloves must be held until the host or hostess gives an invitation to lay them aside and spend the evening. Strict etiquette requires that such an invitation shall not be given, or if given, not accepted on the occasion of a first call.
In making an informal call in the evening, a gentleman may leave hat, gloves, cane and overcoat in the hall.
No gentleman will prolong a call if he finds his host or hostess dressed to go out. A brief visit with a promise to repeat it will place his entertainers at ease, and even if they urge a longer stay, the very fact that they were preparing to go out, proves their desire to do so.
A card used in calling must never have anything upon it, but the name and address of the caller. Nothing can show a greater ignorance of the customs of society than to use a business card for a friendly call. A physician may put the prefix Dr. or the professional M.D., upon his card, and an Army or Navy officer his rank and branch of service. Thus a civilian's card must be simply:
JAMES LAWTON, 417 L—- Street.
DR. JEROME HAYES, 218 T—- Street, or
JEROME HAYES, M.D.
An Army officer's:
LIEUT. JAMES BENNETT, U. S. A.
An Naval officer's:
LIEUT. HENRY KEYSER, U.S.N.
In receiving a gentleman caller, a gentleman meets him at the door, takes his hat and cane, and places a chair for him, but a lady does not leave her seat to receive a gentleman, slightly rising to bow, and resuming her place again when her visitor is seated; in receiving another lady, a lady should rise and advance to meet her, also rise and accompany her to the door when leaving, unless she has other callers, in which case, she is not required to leave her place, only standing to bid her caller farewell.
An English authority gives some excellent directions for calling upon occasions of congratulation or condolence. He says:
"Visits of condolence and congratulation must be made about a week after the event. If you are intimate with the person upon whom you call, you may ask, in the first case, for admission; if not, it is better to leave only a card, and make your "kind inquiries" of the servant, who is generally primed in what manner to answer them. In visits of congratulation you should always go in, and be hearty in your congratulations. Visits of condolence are terrible inflictions to both receiver and giver, but they may be made less so by avoiding, as much as is consistent with sympathy, any allusion to the past. The receiver does well to abstain from tears. A lady of my acquaintance, who had lost her husband, was receiving such a visit in her best crape. She wept profusely for sometime upon the best broad-hemmed cambric handkerchiefs, and then turning to her visitor said: 'I am sure that you will be glad to hear that Mr. B. has left me most comfortably provided for.' Hinc illae lachrymae. Perhaps they would have been more sincere if he had left her without a penny. At the same time, if you have not sympathy and heart enough to pump up a little condolence, you will do better to avoid it, but take care that your conversation is not too gay. Whatever you may feel you must respect the sorrows of others."
On marriage, cards are sent round to such people as you wish to keep among your acquaintances, and it is then their part to call first on the young couple, when within distance.
A lady when calling keeps her parasol in her hand, and is not required to remove her glove.
No dog, however "dear or interesting," can be admitted to the drawing-room, and it is bad taste to have one follow you from home, if you intend to make calls.
It is better for a lady not to have a child with her when paying calls, unless it is trained to sit silent, or old enough to behave with quiet propriety.
It is a sign of low-breeding to fidget with the hat, cane or parasol during a call. They are introduced merely as signs that the caller is in walking dress, and are not intended, the hat to be whirled round the top of the cane, the cane to be employed in tracing out the pattern of the carpet, or the parasol to be tapped on the teeth, or worse still, sucked.
It is in bad taste for a caller to preface his or her departure by consulting a watch, remarking, "Now I must go," or insinuating that the hostess is weary of the visitor. Rise when ready to go, and express your pleasure at finding your friends at home, followed by a cordially expressed desire for a speedy meeting again.
Pelham said he always withdrew when he said something that produced a sensation, because he knew he must leave such an impression as would make people wish to see him again. The lady of the house should always ring when visitors rise to go, that a servant may be ready to show them out.
When other callers arrive, it is in bad taste to rise at once as if driven away. Let the first caller watch for a favorable opportunity to retire gracefully.
If a gentleman calling sees a lady unescorted rise to go, he may with perfect propriety offer to escort her to her carriage, even if a stranger, but he must return again to make his own farewell bow to the hostess.
The most trivial subjects are admissible for a call, and it is not in good taste to discuss deep interests, political questions or matters of grave moment.
If strangers are in the room when a caller rises to leave, courtesy requires only a slight bow in passing.
When calling, etiquette requires that a card be sent up. It will show that you have called, and if friends are at home, will prevent any confusion from mispronunciation of your name by the servant.
When the lady of the house is not at home, a card must be left, and if there are two or more ladies, the turning down of one corner of the card signifies that the call was intended for all the family,
If cards to be left preparatory to leaving town, the initials p. p. c. (pour prendre conge,* or, presents parting compliments), must be written in the left hand corner. If the departure is a hurried one, the card may be sent by a servant, but it is in better taste to leave it in person.
—— * To take leave. ——-
Cards sent during the illness of any member of the family to whom they are sent, must be accompanied by verbal inquiries regarding the patient's health. The same rule applies to the survivors when cards of condolence are sent.
Cards may be left or sent the day after a ball or large evening party.
After a dinner party or small social gathering, cards must be left within the following week. When unable to accept an invitation to dinner, a call should soon afterwards be made to express regret at the inability to be present.
Visits of condolence are made within a week after the bereavement, unless the deceased be one of the immediate family, when a fortnight may be allowed to intervene. Cards may, however, be left immediately after the death is known.
The first call of a stranger must be returned within a week.
Married men are not obliged to make calls of ceremony in person. It is sufficient for their wives to leave their cards with their own.
Residents in a place make the first call upon any new comers.
If a lady does not wish to receive visitors, her servant must be instructed to reply "not at home," to callers. This is not meant to imply that she is out of the house; merely that she is not home to callers. To say that she is "engaged" answers the same purpose, but such answers must be made upon the first inquiry, for if the visitor is announced, he or she may conclude the refusal is intended for that especial call.
It is not necessary, nor is it customary in the city, to offer refreshments to callers. In the country, especially if the visitors have come from a distance, it is not only courteous, but often a positive kindness to do so.
If a stranger come to stay at the house of a friend, those who are in the habit of visiting at the house should call as soon as possible, and such calls should be returned at the earliest practicable opportunity.
A well-bred person should endeavor to be always prepared for callers. If it is impossible, during the day, to see your friends, instruct your servant to deny them at the door, but if once within house, no personal inconvenience should prevent you from presenting yourself. Illness alone, either your own, or that of some one requiring your constant attention, can then excuse you.
A lady should avoid keeping callers waiting. If they call before the hours etiquette has appointed, it is better to see them in the morning dress than to make them wait for a more elaborate toilet. If there is any fault, it is their own for intruding at improper hours.
Persons who do not keep a carriage should not make visits of ceremony in wet weather. It is ill-bred to enter a drawing-room, with a handsome carpet upon it, in muddy boots and spattered garments, to stand a dripping umbrella beside you, or deposit over-shoes in the hall.
Never resume your seat after having once left it to say adieu. There is nothing more awkward than to take leave twice. A lady who is receiving morning visits, may keep some trifling fancy-work in her hand, if she desires; but drawing, music, writing or any other absorbing occupation must at once be laid aside.
In receiving many callers at one time, a well-bred lady must divide her attentions as equally as possible. A tete-a-tete conversation is a gross breach of etiquette, and no one may receive any especial notice excepting any elderly person.
If, during a call any contretemps occur, shorten your visit. Your hostess may preserve a smiling serenity while a voice in the distance proclaims that, "Johnnie has fallen down the stairs," or "Mary has set the nursery curtains on fire," but you may be certain she will not resent your departure, even if you have not been two minutes seated.
If you find yourself intruding upon an early dinner hour, do not prolong your stay.
A call may be made upon a friend to whom some good fortune has come, as promotion in service or other happy event, even if he has not returned the last of your visits.
It is a breach of etiquette, during a call, to draw near to the fire to warm your hands and feet, unless you are invited by the mistress of the house to do so. If you are alone in the drawing- room for a time, while your visit is announced, and then go to the fire, leave your seat and advance to meet the mistress of the house as she enters, and then take the seat she points out to you.
In visiting an invalid, never offer to go to the room, but wait for a invitation to do so.
A gentleman who is a confirmed invalid, may receive the visits of a lady friend, but under no other circumstances.
Calls made either in person or by card, during an illness of your own, must be returned as soon as you are able to go abroad again.
It is a breach of etiquette to remove the gloves when making a formal call.
It is a breach of etiquette to stare round a room when you are making a call.
In paying visits of condolence, let your dress be subdued. It is offensive to put on your gayest attire to call upon a friend in affliction, and equally so to converse upon such subjects as balls, opera or similar amusements. Let the mourner decide whether to speak of the recent sorrow or not.
A lady who allows remarks to be made upon a caller, who has just left the room, commits not only a breach of etiquette, but a positive rudeness and ill-natured act. It is quite easy to check any such disposition by a grave reserve, and to turn the conversation at once.
Calls in the country may be less ceremonious, and of longer duration than those in the city.
It is an ostentation almost unkind for a lady to call upon a friend in reduced circumstances, with any parade of her own wealth in equipage or dress.
No mistress of the house may ever leave the room when there are visitors in it.
It is a breach of etiquette for a caller, who is waiting the entrance of the hostess, to open the piano, or to touch it if it is open.
It is a breach of etiquette to walk round the room when waiting for your hostess, examining the furniture or pictures.
It is a breach of etiquette for a caller to open or shut a door, raise or lower a window curtain, or in any way alter the arrangement of a room.
Many consider a clock on a drawing-room mantel a breach of etiquette, as it seems to hint to visitors to keep early hours.
It is a breach of etiquette to turn your chair so as to bring your back to any one seated near to you.
It is a breach of etiquette when making a call, to play with any ornament in the room, finger the furniture or seem indeed to be aware of anything but the company present.
To prolong a call to the next meal time is a positive rudeness, as it forces your hostess to invite you to the table whether convenient and agreeable or not.
In calling upon friends at a boardinghouse or a hotel, always write their names above your own upon your card, that it may be certain to be delivered to the right person.
THERE are several principal rules of etiquette which must be rigidly observed in conversation, the non-observance of which will at once stamp the guilty party as ignorant of the forms and customs of polite society.
Ungrammatical expressions are unfortunately too common even amongst those who have not the excuse of ignorance, but who fall into the use of them merely from carelessness, or unconscious imitation of others. "Says she to me," and other vulgarisms of a like type, are also a gross violation of good taste in conversation.
The personal pronouns should be used as little as possible when speaking of any one, either present or absent. The name of the lady or gentleman to whom reference is made should be repeated if necessary, but under no circumstances should the words "she" or "he," accompanied by a nod or jerk of the thumb, in the direction of the person spoken of, be employed. Never talk of any one with whom you may have held intercourse as "that party," or "a party" of your acquaintance.
Avoid as utterly hateful the use of slang terms. There are surely words enough in the English language to express all the thoughts and ideas of the mind, and it is a sign of pure vulgarity to employ synonyms, the only remarkable part of which is that they derive their existence solely from vulgar sources. In a gentleman such expressions are too suggestive of low company, and intercourse with the worst associates, and in a lady such expressions are too offensive to be tolerated at all in good society. Slang never ornamented conversation, but it invariably sullies and degrades it. Equally to be censured as a violation of etiquette, and more so in a moral point of view, is the use of profanity; it is a sure mark, not only of low-breeding, but of a narrow, degraded if not a positively vicious mind. Lamont says:
"Whatever fortune may be made by perjury, I believe there never was a man who made a fortune by common swearing. It often appears that men pay for swearing, but it seldom happens that they are paid for it. It is not easy to perceive what honor or credit is connected with it. Does any man receive promotion because he is a notable blusterer? Or is any man advanced to dignity because he is expert at profane swearing? Never. Low must be the character which such impertinence will exalt: high must be the character which such impertinence will not degrade. Inexcusable, therefore, must be the practice which has neither reason nor passion to support it. The drunkard has his cups; the satirist his revenge; the ambitious man his preferments; the miser his gold; but the common swearer has nothing; he is a fool at large, sells his soul for naught, and drudges in the service of the devil gratis. Swearing is void of all plea, it is not the native offspring of the soul, nor interwoven with the texture of the body, nor any how allied to our frame. For, as Tillotson expresses it,'Though some men pour out oaths as if they were natural, yet no man was ever born of a swearing constitution.' But it is a custom, a low and paltry custom, picked up by low and paltry spirits who have no sense of honor, no regard to decency, but are forced to substitute some rhapsody of nonsense to supply the vacancy of good sense. Hence the silliness of the practice can only be equalled by the silliness of those who adopt it."
It is exceedingly rude, nothing in fact can be more so, to talk to any one person in the presence of others, in a language not understood save by the two persons using it—unless you are addressing a foreigner in his own tongue, and then others should be made aware of the subject discussed. Nothing can be in worse taste than to speak in an unknown tongue, to laugh and joke in a language which leaves the rest of the company in ignorance whether they themselves may not be the subjects of your remarks or mirth.
Never hold your companion, in a conversation, by the buttonhole. If you are obliged to detain him forcibly in order to say what you wish, you are pressing upon him what is disagreeable or unwelcome, and you commit a gross breach of etiquette in so doing.
To speak to one person in a company in ambiguous terms, understood by him alone, as "G—-, I saw Mr. H., to-day, and delivered your message," is as rude as if you went up to G—- and whispered in his ear.
Do not interlard your conversation with scraps of foreign language. It is an affectation of knowledge in one direction, and a sort of tacit admission of ignorance in another; for it would seem to show that the speaker was not well enough acquainted with his own language to be able to express by its aid that which could really be told as well, perhaps better, by it than any other. There are certain expressions, chiefly French, which have become domesticated in the English language, and which may occasionally be employed, but only when they come in very aptly; the constant or extended use of them is intolerable in good society.
Quotations are to be avoided as much as possible. When made, they should be exceedingly short. There can scarcely be a greater annoyance to a company than for one person to take up all the time and attention by reciting a poem, a speech, a passage from a book, especially if it be the speaker's own book, speech or poem. Of course, if the company meet especially for mutual enjoyment in elocution or recitation, this rule does not apply. It is applicable only for general society. Short, pungent, epigrammatic quotations, if suitable to the subject of conversation, may be occasionally introduced, but their use should be the exception, not the rule.
Dr. Johnson says that in order to converse well, "there must, in the first place, be knowledge—there must be materials; in the second place, there must be a command of words; in the third place, there must be imagination to place things in such views as they are not commonly seen in; and in the fourth place, there must be a presence of mind, and a resolution that is not to be overcome by failure—this last is an essential requisite; for want of it many people do not excel in conversation."
To be known as an inveterate teller of stories, is a great injury to a man in society. A short, brilliant anecdote, that is especially applicable to the conversation, known to be new and never printed, is all that a well-bred man will ever permit himself to inflict.
Remarks having, and intended to have, a double meaning—even puns —are utterly to be deprecated. It is a great liberty to appeal to the private sympathies of any one, by which I mean, to those qualities or perceptions which are, as it were, a man's private property, available for the use of his intimate friends, but not for the general public. It seems almost needless to say that under no circumstances whatever are any coarse allusions permissible.
Trite remarks are simply drags upon conversation, and may produce awkward effects. It is told of Charles Lamb, that he was one day at dinner at a friend's house, where amongst a number of literary men was a solitary individual who had been invited for no apparent reason. The poor man thought that, being in such company, it behoved him to talk of some one or something literary. In an evil moment he said, without being conscious of the triteness of his remark: "Do you not think, sir, that Milton was a great genius?" Charles Lamb gazed at him curiously, rose, went to the sideboard and lighted a candle, with which he advanced, in solemn wise, to where the trite talker sat, and said as one who is about to look at some unusual object of interest-holding his candle near the poor man's head the while: "Will you allow me to examine this gentleman's pericranium?" Lamb was undoubtedly rude, but the other gave him enormous provocation.
Political and religious topics are not in good taste in general conversation. It is almost impossible to avoid strong personal feeling when a difference of opinion arises, and such discussions almost invariably lead to more warmth of expression and violence of argument than are compatible with the requirements of polite conversation.
To listen with interest and attention is as important in polite society as to converse well, and it is in the character of listener that the elegant refinement of a man accustomed to society will soonest prove itself. No matters how "flat, stale and unprofitable," the remarks of another may be, the well-bred man will listen with an appearance at least of interest, replying in such a manner as to show that he entirely "follows the thread of the discourse."
Avoid as much as possible all egotism; in conversation stick closely to Cardinal Wolsey's direction to "love thyself last." It is, to say the least of it, unseemly for a man to be constantly making himself the subject of conversation. At times it lays a man open to the attacks which his style certainly invites—as was the case with the egotist who dared to talk much of himself in the presence of Dr. Johnson, whom he had greatly irritated by his conceited talk. The Doctor availed himself of an opportunity to crush him.
"Oh, indeed, I did not know that!" exclaimed the man, upon some intelligent remark made by one of the company, whereupon the Doctor broke in with: "Sir, what you do not know would fill a very large library."
There used to be a joke against Lord, Erskine, who was notably a talker of himself, that the printer, having to print a speech which his lordship had delivered, sent word to say that "he was very sorry, but he had no more 'I's' in his founts than would suffice to set up half the speech."
The subject of conversation and the method of handling it should be so ordered as not to offend either directly or indirectly.
Suitable subjects, for time and place, form an important consideration in polite conversation. Grave tones and important consideration are not suited for the chit-chat of a brief call or a social evening, nor is small talk an appropriate introduction, when the meetings are for the purpose of discussing serious matters. Let gayety or gravity rule as place and occasion demand.
Gesticulations are in excessively bad taste. If you do not wish to attract censorious remark, converse quietly and without gesture. Declamation is not conversation.
Refrain from the use of satire, even if you are master of the art. It is permissible only as a guard against impertinence, or for the purpose of checking personalities, or troublesome intrusions. Under no circumstances whatever should it be used merely for amusement's sake, to produce an effect, or in order to show off one's own wit. It must never be employed by a gentleman against a lady, though ladies are prone to indulge in the use of this wordy weapon. Their acknowledged position should, in the eyes of a true gentleman, shield them from all shafts of satire. If they, on the other hand, choose to indulge in satire, it is the part of a gentleman to remonstrate gently, and if the invective be continued, to withdraw. There was a case in point during the Austro-Prussian war. The Grand Duchess of —-, being visited by a Prussian General on business, took occasion to pour forth upon him the unmeasured violence of her temper, which had naturally enough been disturbed by the success that had attended the Prussian arms, and had been at the same time so injurious to her husband's interests. The Prussian General remonstrated, at first mildly; the invective still flowed, when the General said he would not have believed that a Prussian officer could have been called upon to endure such abuse from the lips of a high-born lady. Still the Grand Duchess continuing to ignore the object of the General's visit, and continuing also to pour forth the bitterness of her spirit upon him, the soldier withdrew, not returning railing for railing, but simply declaring that the language used towards him was absolutely intolerable.
Do not attempt to speak with the mouth full.
Do not, however much you may be pleased with any remark, cry out "Bravo!" clap your hands, or permit any gesture, silent or otherwise, to mark your appreciation of it. A quiet expression of pleasure, or the smiling lip will show quite as plainly your sense of the wit, or fitness of the remark.
If you are flattered, repel it by quiet gravity. You cannot accept it without also accepting the contempt of the person who offers it. Refrain, too, from expressions of flattery to others; you will surely offend any hearer who has delicacy of feeling and refinement.
If an error in language, either in pronunciation or grammar, escapes those with whom you are conversing, never show that you notice it. To take occasion to repeat correctly the same word or phrase, is ill-bred in the extreme, and as much so to correct it when spoken.