THE ETIQUETTE OF TO-DAY
BY EDITH B. ORDWAY
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GEORGE SULLY & COMPANY NEW YORK
THE ETIQUETTE OF TO-DAY
REVISED AND ENLARGED
EDITH B. ORDWAY
Author of "The Opera Book," etc.
NEW YORK GEORGE SULLY AND COMPANY
Copyright, 1918 BY SULLY AND KLEINTEICH
* * * * *
Revised Edition, Copyright, 1920 BY GEORGE SULLY AND COMPANY All rights reserved
PRINTED IN U. S. A.
THE customs of social life need frequent restating and adaptation to new needs. They are customs because they are the best rules of conduct that have been garnered from the experiences of succeeding generations under common conditions.
To know them, to catch their spirit, and to follow them in an intelligent way, without slavish punctiliousness but with careful observance, make one skillful in the art of social intercourse, and at home in any society.
Etiquette will not take the place of character, nor of an accurate knowledge of human nature and the arts of practical life. Given these, however, it will unlock to any man or woman doors of success and profit and real happiness which, without it, would have remained forever closed.
E. B. O.
"We feel 'at home' wherever we know how to conduct ourselves."
T. L. NICHOLS
I. The Rewards of Etiquette 1
II. Personality 6
III. Family Etiquette 20 Obligations of the Married 20 General Rules of Conduct 26 Table Etiquette 33 Anniversaries 40 The Giving of Presents 41 Intimate Friends 42 Illness in the Home 44 Courtesy to Servants 45
IV. Conversation and Correspondence 48 The Art of Conversation 48 Correspondence 52 Paper 55 Ink 58 Handwriting 58 Sealing, Stamping, and Directing of Envelopes 59 Salutation, Conclusion, and Signature of Letters 66 Letters of Introduction 70 Letters of Recommendation 73 Third-person Letters 74 Informal Invitations and Announcements 74 Letters of Condolence 75 Answering Letters 76
V. Casual Meetings and Calls 78 Greetings and Recognitions 78 Introductions 84 Calls 90 Social Calls of Men 92 First Calls 94
VI. The Personal Card and the Engraved Invitation 96 Form of Card 96 Inscription 97 Titles 100 Use 102 The Engraved Invitation 105 Dining and Party Invitations 108 Wedding Invitations and Announcements 114 Various Announcement Cards 119
VII. Behavior in Public 122
VIII. The Art of Being a Guest 137
IX. Duties of Host and Hostess 145 Breakfasts and Luncheons 148 The Formal Dinner 149 Visits 158 Special Duties of the Country Hostess 161 Public Functions 165
X. Duties of the Chaperon 169
XI. Etiquette of the Marriage Engagement 174 The Proposal 174 Announcement of Engagement 179 Bridal "Showers" 181 The Broken Engagement 183 Preparation for a Wedding 185
XII. The Conduct of a Wedding 194 The Church Wedding 194 The Home Wedding 201 The Wedding Breakfast 204 The Wedding Journey 208 The Wedding Fee 208 Wedding Presents 210 The Country Wedding 212
XIII. Etiquette for Children 214
XIV. Etiquette of Mourning 224
XV. Military, Naval, and Flag Etiquette 231 The Formal Military Wedding 231 Naval and Yachting Usage 232 Etiquette of the Flag 233
"THE secret of success in society is a certain heartiness and sympathy. A man who is not happy in the company cannot find any word in his memory that will fit the occasion. All his information is a little impertinent. A man who is happy there finds in every turn of the conversation equally lucky occasions for the introduction of that which he has to say. The favorites of society, and what it calls whole souls, are able men, and of more spirit than wit, who have no uncomfortable egoism, but who exactly fill the hour and the company, contented and contenting, at a marriage or a funeral, a ball or a jury, a water party or a shooting match."
THE ETIQUETTE OF TO-DAY
THE REWARDS OF ETIQUETTE
SOCIETY is a game which all men play. "Etiquette" is the name given the rules of the game. If you play it well, you win. If you play it ill, you lose. The prize is a certain sort of happiness without which no human being is ever quite satisfied.
Because the demand for social happiness is thus fundamental in human nature, the game has to be played quite seriously. If played seriously, it is perforce successful, even when the outward signs of triumph are lacking. Played seriously, it becomes a worthy part of the great enterprise of noble living, the science of which is called "Ethics." Therefore the best etiquette is that which is based upon the fundamental principles of ethics.
The etiquette, as well as the ethics, of to-day may well be summed up in the one maxim known as the "Golden Rule": "Do unto others as you would that others should do unto you." Or in the philosophic statement of it, given by Kant: "Act so that the maxim of thy conduct shall be fit to be universal law."
A certain social sense is, therefore, the foundation upon which all concerted action rests; and this, permeating the character and winning conformity in the life, produces a social order which is at once the criterion of civilization and the source of its power.
Every social code presupposes the trained personality, that is, the individual who is intelligent enough and controlled enough to conform to the rules prescribed for the good of all. It is only in the common good that true individual good can be found. Therefore is it so essential that every man regard his brother's welfare as anxiously as his own, and permit himself to be curbed in his extravagances, limited in the indulgence of even legitimate desires, in order that he may not defraud another, or menace the general well-being.
Not only in social life, but in business, politics, and international relations, this principle of the common good as the ultimate goal, the supreme authority for conduct, holds good. To it society approaches, now by direct progress and now by seeming reaction, but ever with a higher evaluation of justice. This is shown in the fulfillment of both small and large obligations.
Following the rules of courtesy, men give to each other that deference which each believes is his own due, and each receives in return twofold the deference that he sincerely gives. Men show, at home and abroad, the courtesy to women in general that they would wish shown to those of their family, and thereby the standard of respect for woman is so lifted that even the city street at night is a safe place for a woman to pass unaccosted, if it is necessary for her to go unattended.
Rigidly do we hold ourselves to the established rules of good breeding, endeavoring to make of ourselves all that Nature will permit; and we are surprised to find that Nature's own gentlemen and gentlewomen gather about us, and rare souls look to us for companionship, as finding in us kindred spirits.
No field so surely bears a like harvest as the one sown with the seeds of good-will and consideration for others.
Etiquette tells us how to accomplish what we desire,—to make clear the path to the goal of high companionship with many worthy minds,—and enables us to get out of social intercourse the honey that is hidden there. Without it, as social beings, we should be as workmen without tools, architects without material, musicians without instruments.
After all, however, etiquette is only a tool, and should never be mistaken for the finished work itself. How you carry yourself at a reception is not a matter of so great moment, as is the fact that you went, and there exchanged certain worth-while thoughts with certain people. It is the people, the thoughts they gave you and you gave them, and the practical influence on your life of those people and those thoughts, which are of moment.
Just as, from a musicale, you must carry the music away in your soul, either in definite memories or in a refreshed and more joyous frame of mind, or it is of no avail that you attended, so from social intercourse it is absolutely necessary that you carry away the inspiration of meeting others and the thoughts that they have given you, and garner from those help and guidance in your life, or the most elaborate of toilets, the most perfect of manners, and the most ceremonious of customs are of little worth.
The tool, however, becomes invaluable when the master desires to create. Therefore, if we wish to gain from social life the enjoyment and happiness and help which it should yield, we should become familiar with the practice of the best forms of etiquette, so that we shall have skill and aptitude in their application.
The rewards of etiquette are, therefore, both spiritual and material. That fine poise of soul which restrains all selfish and unlovely tendencies, that clear insight which sees the individual as but a single unit in the composite of the human race, that high aspiration which culls only the best from the mingled elements of life,—all these come from a true and sincere adherence to the spirit of courteous observances, and each of these is its own reward.
On the other hand, human hearts open only to gentle influences, and all that it is in the power of human beings to bestow upon one another comes most readily and most lavishly to those who outrage no social instinct. To be highly and sincerely honored socially means to be well loved, and that must mean to be lovable. Wealth and family position are matters of chance as far as the individual is concerned, but good breeding is a matter of personal desire and effort. It makes for power and influence, and often literally commands the wealth and position which the accident of birth has refused. It is the necessary colleague of intellectual ability in winning the farthest heights of success, and makes the plains of mediocre attainment habitable and pleasant.
THE social world is a world of personalities. Each individual has a value and importance according to the sum total of his characteristics, physical, mental, and moral. Other and more external facts enter into his social position, but in the circle of his friends and acquaintances, in whatever grade of society he may move, his place is determined by his personality. Personality alone is the final test of a man's worth to society.
A man's worth to the business world as a doer, maker, or as any other executive, his worth to the state as an incorruptible official, his worth to his family as a devoted husband and father, his worth to literature or art as a thinker or maker,—these values are imprinted upon his personality, howbeit with almost imperceptible lines.
If a man would present a pleasing personality as his claim for recognition in society, he must not neglect his mental attitude, his appearance, his manners, or his speech. They are all true expressions of his real self, and they, together with his deeds, are all that his fellow men have by which to appraise his real worth.
Character is the foundation of all true courtesy, for manners are but minor morals, as many a writer has shown. It is not the part of a book on etiquette to tell how to keep out of prison, or to explain that one should be honorable and should do no murder. No book or person, however, can inculcate etiquette without showing that the roots of all true courtesy lie deep in the spirit of unselfish consideration for others. To master this spirit until it becomes one's own is the best fitting one can have for social achievement. Such consideration is the touchstone by which all social customs are tried, to see whether they be worthy of perpetuation or not. It is the sure test of correct conduct under all circumstances, and can be so utilized in case of doubt.
A veneer of virtue long passes as currency in no society. It is necessary to have character in order to be respected. As etiquette is founded upon certain simple virtues, it is necessary, at least, to affect the semblance of them. To be long effective they must be sincere, as a little experience shows.
Among the minor moral virtues which in social life are of major importance are those of self-control, sincerity, and unselfishness.
There is no place for anger in social life. To give expression among a group of people to any strong feeling, no matter how justified it may be, is not courteous, because you may be inadvertently treading upon the beliefs or prejudices of some of your hearers. There are times when debate and the taking of sides on questions of common interest are in order, but that is not usually in the mixed society of men and women, who are supposedly dropping, for a time, the burdens of life for the sake of enjoyment and recreation.
Self-control is necessary not only in the constant curbing of anger and the more violent emotions, but in pushing into the background one's personal desires in order that one may do one's social duty. A bridesmaid may have assumed the obligations of that honor, and then found that, for personal reasons, they were distasteful to her. She should not, however, permit herself to fail in one iota of her duty. The always-remembered disappointment of the bride, or bridegroom, if either bridesmaid or best man should fail, at a time when life should be as full of happiness as it possibly could, should more than offset the pain of even difficult control on the part of the chosen friend, in order to carry out his or her obligations satisfactorily.
In thousands of minor circumstances the need of absolute self-command for the sake of social virtues is evident. The man and woman who can so control themselves, and think only of others, win warm places in the hearts of their friends.
It is a dreary thing to be always sustaining a sham of any sort. Sincerity has its pleasure as well as its virtue. One should seek to be sincere, as perhaps no social virtue is of greater importance than this. The possibilities of development of character and of the betterment of social customs depend upon the exercise of this virtue. For that reason it is well to follow carefully the acknowledged rules of etiquette, in the hope and expectation of growing into the attitude of mind which will make them a natural expression of one's self.
"The little observances of social life," says Dr. T. L. Nichols in his book on "Social Life," "are more important than many people think them. The outward signs or expressions of any sentiment not only manifest it to others, but help to keep it active in ourselves. This is the use of all ceremony and ritualism in religion . . . and the same principle governs all social ceremonies and observances."
Without unselfishness and a fine consideration for others, the art of etiquette would be impossible. True etiquette learns no maxims to practise mechanically. Rather, it learns all the maxims upon which it may have to draw, and practises them only as the considerate heart sees an opportunity and desires to embrace it.
Personal appearance is next to character in importance. The most important factors in this, with the average person, are not those that Nature alone is responsible for, but those that the individual himself is alone responsible for. Beauty is a pleasant thing, and not to be despised, although beauty alone is of little worth. The social conquests of history have not been confined to the possessors of beauty, and there have been many notable cases where decided plainness and even ugliness was the lot of one who nevertheless was a person of great charm.
One's figure and bearing count perhaps for most, as they give the first and distant impression, and are, as it were, the outlines of the picture.
Self-consciousness, for any reason and to even the slightest degree, is a great barrier to social intercourse and to mental freedom. It shows as often in a person's carriage as in his words or features. It should be broken down at all costs, and this can be done only by the person himself. It may be done, usually with comparative ease, by becoming and staying interested in something. Then awkwardness, and a defiant attitude of spirit and body, will vanish. Haughtiness is usually the outward sign of a great inner self-consciousness. All of these traits, as well as their opposites, stamp themselves upon the bearing of the body, and reveal there the clearest manifestations of character.
Dress is almost as essential. By this is not meant a rigid adherence to fashion,—the stamp of a weak mind,—or even good taste, but an eye to the appropriate and fitting. First of all, dress should be subordinated to character, that is, it should be no more costly than the wearer can afford, and no more striking than modesty and good taste allow.
Good taste in dress means plain and simple styles, but material as elegant, serviceable, and pleasing as one's purse permits. It means also a few things well chosen and kept in good order, rather than many things more or less untidy; that one's wardrobe will be harmonious,—not a cheap, shabby garment to-day, and an expensive, showy one to-morrow. It means also that the wardrobe throughout, not only the external garments, is equally well chosen and well cared for.
One should not mix one's wardrobe. A coat of one suit and the skirt of another should not be worn together. A carriage parasol should not be used on a sunny promenade, nor an umbrella in a carriage, or open automobile.
It is necessary to wear a dress appropriate to the occasion in order to be well dressed. No matter how excellent one's costume may be, if it does not suit the time and place it is absurd and incongruous. Some of the major rules for appropriate dress are as follows:
Full evening dress demands one's most elaborate gown, made of silk, satin, velvet, lace, or crepe-de-chine, as costly as one's purse permits, with decollete effects, gained by either actual cut or the use of lace and chiffon. One should wear delicate shoes, white or light-colored gloves, and appropriate jewels, of which it is not good taste to have too lavish a display.
As hostess at an afternoon reception or luncheon one may wear an elaborate gown of the richest materials, with either long sleeves and high neck, or elbow sleeves and slightly low neck. As guest one may wear a walking suit, with pretty blouse, white gloves, and decorative hat.
The usual dress for a formal breakfast is much the same as for a luncheon,—a pretty afternoon street costume, with a dainty blouse, gloves, and "picture" hat, which is not removed. In summer, a gown of light material, such as organdie, muslin, or other soft goods, dainty and somewhat elaborate, is in good taste. Hat and gloves are invariably worn with this gown if the affair is ceremonious.
For church wear, a quiet, rather simple street dress, which does not proclaim that either money or time has been spent upon it to any notable extent, is by far the most appropriate. The suit should be becoming but inconspicuous.
Ball costume is conventionally gay and elaborate, the lightest of materials being used, especially by those who intend to take part in the dancing, and a dainty effect being sought. Any costly, rich-looking materials are used, and a wide range of fashion is permitted. The gown is cut short-sleeved and decollete, and the dancing shoes are of satin or very fine kid. Jewels are worn but sparingly by young women in their first season in society. The costume of a debutante at her first ball is usually white.
At an informal dinner, any pretty gown may be worn, with special attention to the coiffure.
Black should never be worn at a wedding. If one does not care to lay it aside for the time being, one should not attend.
For men, the proper costume for an early morning breakfast is the black cutaway coat with gray trousers, and other details as for a formal breakfast. In summer a gray morning suit with fancy waistcoat, or white flannels or linen, with appropriate hat, shoes, and tie, is permissible.
At a formal breakfast men wear frock coats, fancy waistcoats, gray trousers, patent-leather shoes, large ties, high hats, and gray gloves.
Afternoon dress for formal functions between noon and evening consists of a double-breasted black frock coat, or a black cutaway coat, with either light or dark waistcoat, gray trousers, patent-leather shoes, light four-in-hand tie, and light gloves.
Evening dress is the correct attire for all occasions after six o'clock. It consists of a black suit,—coat cut "swallow-tail," and waistcoat cut low and in the shape of a "U,"—with white lawn tie, patent-leather pumps, black silk stockings, white gloves, and no jewelry but shirt studs, cuff links, and an inconspicuous watch fob. A black overcoat of some stylish cut and a silk hat or crush or opera hat is also worn.
Full evening dress is a man's costume for a formal dinner. The Tuxedo or short dinner coat with a black tie is intended only for dinners where women are not present. Although its use on other occasions is common, it is not correct, and ill accords with the elaborate gown which is usually worn at the formal dinner.
One should always have the appearance of being "well-groomed." It is a minor matter to add to habits of personal cleanliness, which every man and woman of refinement adheres to with scrupulous conscientiousness, that attention to the little details and finishing touches of dressing, which give the impression conveyed in that graphic expression "well-groomed." The niceties of life are always matters of small care but great moment.
The aim to be beautiful is a legitimate one, and worthy of the attention of every lover of beauty. To make the most of one's self, both for one's own sake and that of those about one, is a duty. Much can be done if good taste is consulted, and one's salient good points studied and emphasized. One can at least dress characteristically, and so bring out the ideals to which one gives adherence.
For instance, the business woman, in business hours, dresses with that same effort after efficiency and economy of time and strength that she has to put into her business to make it successful. She is, therefore, besides being scrupulously neat, perfectly plainly and yet durably and comfortably dressed. The sudden storm does not catch her unprepared, for she cannot afford to lose even an hour's work next day because she "caught cold." She permits no fussing with her garments, therefore they have to be in perfect working order, as fussing takes time, and time is money. Her hair is done neatly, and as becomingly as possible, but securely for the day.
If, on the other hand, the business woman be a milliner, whose own artistic personality must be her best advertisement, she takes pains to dress artistically even though she wear less serviceable and more elaborate costumes. She should, however, give the same impression of neatness and businesslike serviceableness, with the additional artistic impression which is going to show her customer that she knows how to bring out the telling points in her own personality, and create a charming effect.
The housewife needs, in her choice of morning garments, the same effectiveness as the business woman, for she must also work with real efficiency; but, in addition, she needs to give the impression of homelike abandon, as well as beauty and grace, which shall appear restful.
The art of correct speech and intelligent conversation is one which every one who wishes to hold an envied place in society should possess. There is no more attractive accomplishment. Others have only a limited use and give only an occasional pleasure, while good conversation is appropriate to almost any occasion, and amuses and entertains when all other interests have palled.
If one does not undertake to cultivate the art of conversation, one should at least be correct in speech. One should not permit slovenly expressions, or slang, or the thousand and one faults of mispronunciation and ungrammatical construction into which people fall, to be characteristic of one's speaking. For if one has time to go into society, one should have time and money enough to make one's self presentable mentally as well as physically, and nothing so clearly shows lack of intelligence and appreciation of the matters of the intellect, as carelessness and neglect of the words one uses and the thoughts one utters. No physical defect is more glaring than the mental defect revealed in every sentence of such a person.
Mannerisms of speech or act are glaring flaws in the personality which would delight to charm, and successfully preclude the possibility of popularity among refined people. Many a man and woman of character have been barred from the pleasurable enjoyment of society, even by people of less character though of more surface refinement than themselves, because they lacked the intelligence and the good sense to abolish certain mannerisms of act or expression, which, though they may have had normal and logical causes, were not such as society could enjoy or approve, and would not tend to anything but harm if characteristic of many people.
Certain rather glaring faults are quite conspicuous among all classes of women, for reasons which are hard to determine, but which must be general as the faults are so prevalent. Women, as a rule, do not respect an appointment and keep it punctually, interrupt conversation repeatedly and ruthlessly, keep visitors waiting by needless delays, and do not seem to notice or regret the sacrifice that some courtesy to them may have caused another.
The arraignment of women for these faults is indeed serious, for social misdemeanors could not easily be much worse. It means that the deep heart-feeling of courtesy is quite lacking from certain classes of women,—classes not to be marked off distinctly from any grade of wealth or learning. If the ladies of a fashionable and progressive intellectual club will not, after two or three years of repeated requests, make it a habit, one and all, to remove their hats during a dinner and the subsequent speeches in a crowded and level-floored club dining-room, it is useless to look for any finer courtesy among the "cultured" than among the work-worn "laboring" classes.
As a rule the women least at fault in these matters are the business women, a fact which would seem to prove that lack of business and professional training was in part responsible for the general apathy and indifference toward these matters of ordinary courtesy.
Courtesy, like honesty, is the best policy in all our dealings with our fellow men. Therefore, we cannot afford to neglect to exercise it.
Politeness and interest in others alike lead one to make those inquiries concerning friends and their families which show real concern in their welfare, and which are exceedingly gratifying to all. Often this kindly trait alone gives one a reputation for charm, although it has its disadvantages, to be sure, in its demands upon one's sympathy and patience.
We each know that we are worth while. We should, therefore, treat others on that assumption, and thereby make them rise to their potential worth. The good that a person, who thus calls out the good within people, may do is limited only by his acquaintance.
Personality is, after all, one's greatest asset in life. No thought or effort should be spared in making it pleasing and inspiring,—a fit expression of one's character and ideals, and a worthy gift to the world.
THE permanence of a courteous manner is the test of its sincerity. If one is polite invariably everywhere but at home, one's politeness is as superficial as a disguise, and as easily penetrated by the discerning.
Unselfish consideration for others meets its sternest discipline in the home and in family relations, and becomes, under that discipline, a reliable guide, instinctively consulted in every emergency.
Without manners at home, it is impossible to preserve the real nobility and unselfishness of character which make a man or a woman socially desirable.
Obligations of the Married
The marriage relation, while based upon certain fundamental principles, and not to be preserved without adherence to them, has some little etiquette of its own which adds to its happiness.
The solemnization of marriage is a sacred ceremony and should be observed in a reverent spirit. To partake of its home intimacies for the first time as of a sacrament, and to perpetuate that same spirit on the anniversaries of the day, will do much toward making it a holy and a happy union.
Every marriage should be at least a perfect friendship; so a married couple should observe with each other the same little courtesies that they would observe if still only friends, being as deferential in greeting one another in public, as careful of each other's feelings, and as observant of each other's preferences.
A woman should remember to accept from her husband, as her due and without surprise or awkwardness, the little attentions which she expects and receives in society. A man, also, should expect, and not be disappointed in receiving, the graceful little appreciations and courtesies which the woman of charm extends to the man of achievement in her social circle. The difference between the appreciations of society and those of the family is mainly that, in society, only the men of mark receive them, while, in the home, every man should receive his due; for there his efforts are known, even though they are not signal enough for society to recognize.
As equality is the only basis upon which the authority of the home can happily rest, so a complete union of interests is the only basis for the successful financing of a home.
While all the virtues of good management of her household, economy in the expenditure of money, taste in dressing herself and her children, and promptness and charm in fulfilling her social duties are expected of a wife, and should be fulfilled to the best of her ability, there are some minor things which make for happiness which should not be neglected.
The wife who shines socially should remember that her family needs the charm of her presence more than society does, and it should be a daily household quality rather than for use only on state occasions.
The wife should confide in her husband on every matter of importance. She should not trouble him with trivial things, but, if a matter is of concern to her, she should not fail to let him know about it, and get his advice upon it. The cement of love is mutual confidence.
If a wife takes pains to understand her husband, to be his companion, and to do her full duty by him, by her children, and by her home, she cannot fail, under the ordinary circumstances of the American home, of winning happiness and making her husband happy. It is in the lack of desire to understand and love that the real menace to the happiness of the home lies. The deep-hearted and thoughtful people approach nearest the ideal of love.
It is taken for granted that the husband will perform the major duties of his relation, such as being a good citizen, a good business man, and hence a good provider for his family, and that he will in all things seek the mutual happiness of his family and himself.
He must be considerate to his wife if he would keep her love and respect. He should confide his business to her as far as she, in her inexperience, is able to grasp it, and he should teach her the things about it which it is important for her to know. Through his conversation alone she can get the rudiments of a good business training, and she will at least be able to comprehend the changes he may make or the difficulties in which he may find himself, and, seeing their cause, thus be able to sympathize, and not to blame, if reverses come. He should so train her in business ways and methods that, in case of his death or disability, she could attend to the business of his estate, even though she could not, or need not, earn money for the family.
The work of adjusting the labors of each to those of the other, so that there shall be time for recreation and social life together, should be a matter of mutual effort, and should not be dropped until solved to mutual satisfaction. If the members of the family cannot move in the same social circle, and together, a serious breach of family happiness is threatened.
There is no marriage license which gives the right to constant harping upon one another's faults. In this, as in all other respects, the rule of friendship should prevail.
A husband should not open his wife's letters, nor should a wife her husband's.
All invitations are sent to a husband and wife jointly, except those for such occasions as a stag dinner, or a luncheon or "shower" to which ladies only are invited. If for any reason either the husband or the wife cannot attend a function, the other also must decline. The exceptions to this rule are those cases where a man or a woman of particular talent moves in a circle the interests of which are not especially enjoyable to the other one of the couple, or where the health of the one precludes the possibility of attendance upon affairs of which the other should not be deprived. Too long or too frequent use of the excuses which cover these exceptions, reflects seriously upon the marital happiness of the pair.
Although present together at a function, husband and wife are not paired off together in their entertainment. He takes some other woman out to dinner, and she is escorted by some other man. Even at dances and balls it is not good form for them to dance together too frequently, except at public dances where they are two of a private party of four or six, in which case rotation of partners would bring them together more frequently than if a larger number of their personal friends were present.
In America a wife never shares her husband's titles.
Consultation and advice together on everything which concerns either is one of the privileges as well as the duties of marriage.
To reproach for errors which were made with good motives and the best of judgment available at the time is always unjust.
Always to greet and to part from each other with affection is the source of much happiness.
Neither parent should be overambitious. Their personalities make the home, and if they are overworked and crowded with care, the home is not happy.
The mother should always remember that home comes first, and should not absent herself from it save at those times and for that length of time when she is really not needed there.
Neither husband nor wife should confide family matters to any one but each other, nor discuss each other with any other person.
Companionship means the willingness to let one's own mood be dominated by another. Therefore, if they would be companionable, a husband and wife should meet each other's moods halfway. For what is lost personally now and then, far more of greater mutual value is obtained; and it is largely by a habit of companionableness that the happiness of the home can be made so satisfying that there can arise no question of its permanence.
To keep one's self up to one's best standard of speech and conduct is necessary, for only thus can the family standard be kept high.
An arbitrary disposition in the home ruins the comfort of all. Companionship and mutual authority and helpfulness are the only foundations for a happy home.
General Rules of Conduct
Seek the companionship of the refined and the gentle-mannered if you would be the same. Move in that society in whose ways you are versed and whose rules you practice, if you would be appreciated or met with like courtesy.
Never fail to say kind words to those in distress whom you meet. The kindness, however, must be genuine, and come from the heart, never in stereotyped and hollow phrases.
The courtesy which offers attentions should be met with graciousness in receiving them. Surprise is a sign that one rates one's self lower than did the person who showed the courtesy. Attentions should be warmly accepted, and the gratitude expressed should be of the sort which does not forget.
A woman, when in the presence of the men of the family, should expect that doors will be opened for her, that she will pass through them first, that packages will be carried, and errands run. She should not, however, let these little attentions be paid her by her father or an elderly relative.
Enter a room filled with people in a dignified manner and with a slight bow to the general company. "We all do stamp our value on ourselves" is true enough, and our private stamp is never more conspicuous than when we confront a roomful of people. If we show modesty but intense self-respect in our bearing, there is no one who will not raise his personal estimate of us no matter what it was.
The head should be well up, the body squarely erect, the chest out. Self-consciousness at such a time is a mistake, if natural, and shows the actual littleness which one is trying by an upright bearing to conceal. One should train one's self until the meeting of people, no matter who they may be, whether singly or in large numbers, is a matter of no particular concern as to deportment.
Never enter a room noisily, nor fail to close a door after you, without slamming.
Never take another's seat unless you give it up upon his return.
Dignified postures in sitting are marks of respect to yourself and the company you are with. A gentleman does not sit astride a chair, nor with legs spread out, nor a lady with her legs crossed. Never put out your foot, in the street car or elsewhere, or place it where it may trouble others in passing by.
When several people enter a room in a private house where you are sitting, always rise, especially if they are older than you. When an elderly person enters the room alone, it is always a graceful show of deference for all younger than he to rise and remain standing until he is seated.
The greetings of night and morning are due to all members of one's household, and should not be omitted. The one who enters a room where others are assembled gives the salutation first.
"Good morning" is the appropriate greeting till noon. "Good afternoon" and "Good evening" are the greetings for the later hours of the day. "Good-by" is, however, the common and most acceptable form of farewell. After an evening's entertainment, it is permissible also to say "Good night" instead. "Good day," "Good afternoon," and "Good evening," used in farewell, are provincial.
"I beg pardon," spoken with an inquiring inflection, is much better than simply "What?" when you do not hear what is said. The abruptness of the latter savors of rudeness.
Whispering is not permissible in company, and it is not necessary in private. Therefore, whisper not at all, especially not in a sick-room or in church, where the whisper is far more penetrating than a low, distinct tone.
The calling up or down stairs is inconsiderate, for you attract the attention of two floors of people, as well as publish your message. To carry on a conversation over the banisters is also equally bad. Even a word of inquiry should usually be spoken at short distance in a hall which leads to several rooms, and where many people may hear or be disturbed by the noise. Such calling should never be permitted to servants or children, for once begun its convenience will demand its continuance.
Interrupting another's conversation is a serious breach of courtesy.
Finding fault is a very disturbing feature of home life, no matter how glaring the faults which may be criticised. Faults have to be remedied, but every effort should be made to do it skillfully, and not make the remedy worse than the disease.
Do not open your letters in company, except in case of emergency, and in the latter, ask the permission of the company to do so. Never, under any circumstances, open a private letter addressed to another. If the one to whom it is addressed is near enough to give you permission to open it, he can usually open it himself; if he is not by to give permission, the letter should go to his legal representative, who then acts according to the law.
Politeness as well as pity impel one to be especially polite to the caller or visitor who is uncongenial, or stupid, or unattractive. By even an excess of hospitality one should try to make up for the inevitable slight which society always puts upon such a one.
Impartial courtesy is the right of all guests. The close friend and the distant and far less welcome relative are entitled to equal courtesy.
The holding of a grudge, and the failing to forgive a slight for which apology has been made, are the height of discourtesy. It is invariably true that the same spirit with which you mete out social slights will be shown you in return. Resent each one, whether intentional or a mere oversight, and you will surely crush the spontaneity out of all attentions shown you, and be met only with distrust.
When applied to for a favor, if you intend to grant it, grant it graciously and readily; if you intend to refuse, refuse with equal civility even though firmly. None but the unmannerly will urge a request when the slightest token of refusal has been given.
A gentleman may offer personal service to a lady, if there is need, tying her shoe, or hooking or buttoning her dress, or doing any other little act which she cannot herself do.
In a company of people, it is the height of rudeness to call attention to the form or features or dress of any one present.
In using a handkerchief, always do so unobtrusively. At the dining table it should be used very sparingly. Better retire than be obnoxious to even the most fastidious.
Never look over the shoulder of any one who is reading or writing, whether in the home, of in a car, or at a concert, or anywhere else.
Do not touch any one in order to arrest his attention, but address him.
To lend a borrowed article is an appropriation of it which is next to stealing, unless one has permission of the owner to do so.
Self-control in excitement of any sort is a most valuable trait. It always makes for comfort of one's self and of others, and often for safety.
Do not pass between two persons who are talking together, if avoidable. If it is not, then apologize.
Never refuse to receive an apology. Courtesy requires, no matter how unforgivable the offense, that an apology should be accepted. Friendship may not be restored, but friendly courtesy should always thereafter be maintained.
Never neglect to perform a commission which a friend intrusted to you. Forgetfulness denotes lack of regard for the friend.
Never fail to be punctual at the time appointed, in keeping every engagement.
To make yourself the hero of your own story, or to speak much of your own performances, denotes deep-seated self-conceit, and may be very distasteful to others, who also have achieved.
One's social obligations should never be neglected unless one is determined to drop out from one's place entirely. To acknowledge one invitation and not another is surely to be discredited with all.
Never question a child or a servant upon family matters.
Fulfill your promises,—or do not promise.
Deaf persons should be treated with special consideration. Act as though they could hear what is being said, yet without laying the burden of reply upon them, and without permitting it to be conspicuous in any way that they may have lost the drift of the talk. It is well to talk both louder and more expressively when they are present, but always more distinctly, and somewhat more slowly. Never shout at them, or attract their attention by touching them suddenly. This latter is not polite to any one, but the stronger impulse to do it in case of the deaf must be withstood. It is always better to come within the range of their vision before speaking to them.
A man should not seat himself at the dinner table until his wife or his hostess is seated. This rule holds good in the home, for if it is not practised there, it will not be observed gracefully in society.
Seat yourself not too close to nor too far from the table.
Erect position at table is the first requisite. One should so place one's seat that correct position is possible, and then should keep it.
Elbows should never be placed upon the table.
The hands should be kept quietly in the lap while not busy with the food. One should sit quietly at the table, without handling the cutlery or making useless motions, while waiting to be served. If there is some form of grace said, or some simple ceremony preliminary to the meal, one should pay respectful attention silently.
Do not seem impatient to be served. The meal is a social occasion and the food is an adjunct to friendly intercourse. The success of the meal depends equally perhaps upon the food and the conversation. Because of the interruptions of service, conversation cannot be long continued, or deeply thoughtful. It must be on subjects of no great moment nor grave interest, or on such subjects lightly touched; but it should be on bright, cheerful topics, and as witty as the talent of the company affords.
Eating should be slow, and mastication of the food thorough, for reasons of health as well as for the sake of appearance. No meal can be eaten properly and adequately in less than thirty minutes, but more than an hour for a meal is sheer waste of both time and food, unless the company is large, the times of waiting between courses long, and the portions served very small.
Eat silently. The noise of food being masticated is very distressing, and except in cases of crusts and crisp vegetables, perfectly unnecessary.
The napkin is unfolded and spread over the lap. One is supposed to be skillful enough in raising food to the lips not to need the napkin in front of the dress or coat to prevent injury.
In case you do not care for a course, you should not refuse it. Receive it, and take what part of it you desire, trying to take some; or, if you wish, leave it untouched, but do not have the appearance of being neglected or ill-provided for, even if you do not eat of it. A little more attention to conversation on your part may make unnoticeable to those about you the fact that you do not eat of a certain course.
If your preference is consulted as to food, whether the matter be trivial to you or not, express some preference so that the one who is serving, and who has asked to be guided, may be so far assisted.
Never place food or waste matter upon the tablecloth. An exception to this may be made in regard to hard breads and celery, when individual dishes for these are not furnished. Always use the side of some one of the dishes about you for chips and scraps.
The fork is used in general except with semi-liquid sauces, where a spoon is of necessity used. It is not permissible to eat peas with a spoon.
The mouth should be closed while it contains food. It should not be too full, as it is often necessary to reply to some question when there is food in the mouth.
Do not leave the table until you have quite ceased chewing.
Be dainty and skillful in using your napkin and cutlery, avoiding soiling the tablecloth.
Discussions and unpleasant topics of conversation should never be introduced. One should regard not only one's own aversions but those of the others present.
Never put your finger in your mouth at table, nor pick your teeth.
Tidiness of personal appearance is never at a higher premium than at the dining table. Soiled hands, negligee dress, shirt sleeves, and disheveled hair are disgusting there.
It is quite proper to take the last helping of any dish which may be passed you. To refrain looks as if you doubted the supply.
Bread is not cut, but broken into fairly small pieces. One should never nibble from a large piece.
It is permissible to eat crackers, olives, celery, radishes, salted nuts, crystallized fruits, corn on the cob, bonbons, and most raw fruits from the fingers. Apples, pears, and peaches are quartered, peeled, and then cut into small pieces. Cherries, plums, and grapes are eaten one by one, the stones being removed with the fingers and laid upon the plate.
Cheese may be laid in small pieces on bread or crackers, and conveyed to the mouth in that way.
Asparagus should be eaten with the fork, the part which is not readily broken off by it being left.
At a formal meal a second helping of a dish is never offered, and should never be asked for; but at an informal dinner party it is not out of place to accept a second helping, if one is offered, but is complimentary to the hostess, who is responsible for the cook.
In passing the plate for a second helping, the knife and fork should be laid across it full length,—not held in the hand until the plate returns.
One may ask the waiter for a second or third glass of water, as even at a formal dinner that is always permissible.
Lettuce, cress, and chicory are never cut with a knife, but rolled up on the fork and so conveyed to the mouth.
Never leave the spoon in any cup while drinking from it. Liquid bouillon,—not jellied,—should be drunk from the bouillon cup.
Spoons are used for grape fruit and oranges, when cut in halves and put upon a plate, for soft-boiled eggs, puddings, custards, and gelatins.
With fruit, finger-bowls should always be passed. A bowl half-full of water is placed upon a plate covered with a doily. Unless the fruit is passed upon a second plate, the bowl and doily are removed from this and set at one side, the fruit being eaten from this plate. The fingers are then dipped, one hand at a time, into the water, and wiped upon the napkin.
Salt should never be put upon the tablecloth, but always on the side of the plate, unless the individual salts are provided.
Never spit out a prune, peach, or cherry stone.
Never hold food on the fork while you are talking, ready as soon as you reach a period to be put into your mouth. Having once picked it up, eat it promptly.
A bit of bread, but nothing else, may be used, if necessary, to help one put food upon the fork.
If one tastes of something which one does not care to swallow, it may be removed from the mouth with the closed left hand and placed on the plate. This should be done silently and with as little attention as possible.
Never take a chicken or chop bone in the fingers. Cut the meat from the bone, leaving all that does not readily separate.
Bread and butter plates, with the butter spreader, are always used, except at formal dinners, when the dinner-roll is laid in the fold of the napkin.
The knife is used only for cutting, and for spreading butter on bread in the absence of butter spreaders.
Almost all foods are eaten with the fork, which should always be used in the right hand with the tines up. It may be held in the left hand, tines down, when one is cutting, the knife being in the right hand.
The soup spoon is an almost circular and quite deep spoon. Therefore it is obvious that the soup should be noiselessly sipped from the side of it. When the oval dessert spoon is used for soup, it is especially necessary to sip the liquid from the side.
Special spoon-shaped forks are provided for salads, ices, and creams, but for these spoons may always be substituted.
No hot drink should be poured from the cup into the saucer to cool it.
Toothpicks should not be passed at the table. They may be left on the sideboard, and if one is needed, it may be requested of the waiter or taken as you leave the room, but always used in private.
Wherein elderly people do differently from the established ways of to-day, they are not to be criticised. Manners change even several times within a generation, and such may be simply following the customs they were taught. When the three-tined fork was the only one in common use, the blade of the knife was much more in requisition than now.
On leaving the table the dishes of the last course should be left exactly as used, and the napkin left unfolded by the side of the plate. In case one is at home, or visiting a friend, and the napkins usually serve for two or three meals, then neatly fold it. Many families have clean napkins once a day, that is, at dinner.
The chair should either be pushed quite back from the table, or close to it, so that others may easily pass by.
If obliged to leave the table in the midst of a meal, one should address the hostess, saying, "Please excuse me," as he rises.
The observance of family festivals is a great bond of union when there are different ages and temperaments and interests represented in the family circle. In the home holidays, all meet on a common ground, and get once more into touch with each other. Yet the observance of such festivals should never be more elaborate than the purse will justify, nor should it be allowed to become a burden upon any one, even the most willing. The festive spirit is lost if it becomes obligatory.
The observance of wedding anniversaries is usually an honored custom in the case of happy marriages, where children grow up who take delight in making much of the days which are sacred to their parents. Where this observance is not a matter of form or done with any ulterior motive, but is spontaneous and joyous, it adds much to the family happiness and strengthens the bonds, not only between parents but between parents and children.
It is customary to make gifts of the sort signified in the name of the anniversary, and much ingenuity can be exercised in carrying out the idea. The anniversaries are named as follows:
At the end of the first year comes a cotton wedding; at the end of the second, a paper wedding; the third, a linen wedding; the fifth, a wooden; the tenth, a tin wedding; the fifteenth, a crystal; the twentieth, linen; the twenty-fifth, silver; the thirtieth, pearl; fortieth, ruby; fiftieth, a golden wedding; and the sixtieth, a diamond wedding.
These anniversaries may be added to, as by celebrating a leather wedding the third year, instead of two of linen; a woolen one the seventh; and a china one the twelfth.
A birthday anniversary is a momentous event in the life of a child. Disregard of it is a heart-breaking slight. The celebrations of these events, even in families where they are numerous and resources few, can be made joyous if there is love enough to do it, even without money.
The Giving of Presents
The members of a family who have each other's welfare at heart, often have the impulse to give each other something which they may know is needed or wanted. While this impulse should be cultivated even with the most limited means, and the sense of generosity preserved even among the poorest,—where, to be frank, it is more apt to be found than among the rich,—there should be no counting upon such presents, nor obligation to make them imposed. This destroys their value as expressions of affection, and makes the custom harmful. For that reason it is not well to adhere to times and seasons, but at any time when the right opportunity offers and the impulse moves, give the gift that one desires to give.
Where such an impulse is characteristic of a family, the members will naturally take pride in expressing in that way their appreciation of individual achievement, as when a member graduates from a high school or college, or attains his majority, or makes some special advance in any way. The spirit which welcomes achievement and recognizes it, becomes an incentive, perhaps the strongest there is, and surely the most noble, that of satisfying and pleasing a loved one. Life holds too much of defeat for the average person, for its minor victories to be passed over in silence and indifference.
One's attitude toward intimate friends is either a pleasant memory or a sad revelation. If one holds them a little lower than one's family, and expends upon them effort to charm second only to the effort habitually given to those whom one loves, then intimacy becomes a privilege, no matter what the circumstances, and a lifelong gratification and pleasure. If, however, one considers that intimate friends are entitled to less courtesy than the public, and are to be made to serve one's purpose more effectually than mere acquaintances do, then the burden of friendship is great, and soon dropped. Affection is not mercenary.
One word in regard to the single monopolizing friendship. Many a marriage has been wrecked, and many a mother's friendship turned away, because some one friend, of about one's own age and tastes, of pronounced influence and exorbitant demands, has usurped, at first perhaps unconsciously but ever surely, the place in one's life, and at last in one's heart, that some member of the family should have taken.
Some people seem naturally predisposed to this sort of friendship, and as soon as the intellectual zest is gone from absorbing companionship with one person, they turn to another. One such instance showed through twenty years a series of such friendships on the part of a well-meaning but foolish woman, in which her husband figured briefly, passing on and off the stage as violently as, and even more speedily than, the other "friends."
Too great familiarity with new acquaintances is impolite as well as unwise. It cannot fail of seeming forced, and even if the friendship is to be close and permanent, a hastily-laid foundation is never the most secure.
One should never call a friend by his Christian name until he requests one to do so.
Illness in the Home
Illness means that the order of the home life must be seriously disturbed. Consideration for the one who is ill, and effort to alleviate the suffering, should take the place of every other thought and ambition. It is necessary, of course, that the routine of living should be sufficiently preserved for the health of the others not to be affected, but matters of comfort and well-being for all take precedence of everything else.
The well should make all wise sacrifices for the sake of the ill, such as being quiet about the house; never complaining at late or simple meals; setting aside personal plans and comfort in order to assist, if needed, in the care of the ill; looking out for the relief and comfort of the nurse, upon whom the major part of the responsibility rests; never grudging time or money in the effort to restore health; and, above all, making these sacrifices in the spirit of love and not in that of martyrdom. Many people, who make even unreasonable sacrifices for others in times of emergency, do it so ungraciously, that one does not feel that they are entitled to the thanks which they still actually deserve and should receive.
Courtesy demands that the claims of the nurse and doctor be settled promptly and generously. They were prompt in meeting the emergency. There should be no delay in acknowledging the obligation to them, even though their promptness is looked upon, by them and by society, as part of their professional duty.
The convalescent takes such abnormally keen delight in being remembered, that it is obligatory upon the rest of his family and his friends not to forget him. Kindly messages should be frequent. Trifling gifts frequently are better than large gifts occasionally, unless the large gift is something greatly desired.
One should never fail to offer the easiest and best seat in the room to an invalid, an elderly person, or a lady.
Courtesy to Servants
It is safe to predict that, if the acumen of the business man, and the courtesy of the social leader and woman of true refinement were brought to bear upon the servant problem, that would soon assume a different aspect.
If the consideration that would be shown an ailing guest were shown an ailing servant, service would be more generously and more faithfully rendered.
The waitress at the table is entitled to courtesy, but not to apologetic efforts to diminish her task. Appreciation may be shown in a "Thank you," or, "If you please," but such notice of her should be unobtrusively spoken, so as not to interfere with the general conversation about the table.
The servant has every human right to civility, and the withholding of wages is no more culpable, if more illegal, than is the withholding of civil treatment, and the infliction of the indignity of impatience and harsh and unmerited reproof.
All servants need careful training.
Neatness is the first requisite. The lack of it most seriously reflects upon the management of the household.
Servants should be trained to answer the door-bell promptly, reply civilly to questions, and in all things represent their master and mistress in a dignified and courteous way. They should not admit one person who calls socially, and deny another, unless under special and exceptional orders. They should not fail to deliver promptly all notes, messages, and cards which may be received. Verbal messages should be received and given with accuracy.
The direct neglect of orders is unpardonable in an intelligent servant who has been well trained, and will not occur, even in the absence of the mistress, if the training has been explicit and complete and the servant is honorable,—as he should be in order to retain any position. A certain degree of initiative, too, should be cultivated in a servant who is given responsibility, so that he may meet an emergency with resourcefulness, in the absence of orders or specific instructions.
The servant needs to respect his master and mistress. The firm, strong, honest, and just control is respected by servants, and is much preferred to the irresolute one, even when the latter overflows frequently in lax kindness. Each man needs to be made to do his duty, and the power that forces him to do it should be gracious but must be firm.
To be familiar with servants is a fatal mistake, and eventually upsets and destroys all discipline.
Servants should never be reproved in the presence of guests, or members of the family, or other servants, but should be talked with singly, and considerately, but plainly.
CONVERSATION AND CORRESPONDENCE
The Art of Conversation
CONVERSATION is a game we all play, but most of us with ill success. We do not take pains to learn the rules, and we do not consider the honor of winning sufficiently great. It is, however, an accomplishment that all who will may possess, that consumes a great deal of the time of all of us, and that yields great pleasure and profit if skillfully used.
The subject of conversation should be pertinent, and of interest to all, or at least the majority, of those in the group of talkers. The treasures of experience and of knowledge should be grouped about the topic, and every one who contributes should take care to proffer nothing that the conversation has not logically called forth. Then the pleasure and the success of the time thus spent is measured only by the wit and mental resources of the talkers.
News which has a universal interest is always a legitimate subject of discussion. Personal news which has only the interest of gossip or scandal is never permitted among cultured people, no more than are physiological facts or the records of criminology. It is a safe rule to speak of things rather than of persons.
The brilliant conversationalist never monopolizes the talk, as such a method would prevent his most telling points or his keenest wit from having dramatic expression. If he tells an anecdote which holds the attention of the table or of the circle of listeners, he permits his duller neighbor to tell the next, not only that his own wit may have a foil, but that his next anecdote may meet the sharp edge of whetted appetites.
If dining out or being entertained, do not play the host or hostess by leading the conversation, even though your talent in that direction be far superior to theirs. You thereby do them an injustice which is exceedingly discourteous on the part of one who has accepted of hospitality.
Never interrupt. It kills the expression of any thought to interrupt the speaker, and every person, no matter how badly he may express himself, has a right to the effort and to what he can win of the hearer's attention.
To supply a word which seems to fail the speaker is perhaps a friendly service, if he be a foreigner, but should never be tendered to a countryman, nor often to even the most grateful wrestler with the English language. It confuses any one, and the only polite way is to wait quietly until the speaker collects himself and finds his words.
Do not contend any point. Among intelligent people questions may be pleasantly and earnestly debated, arguments weighed and tested, and yet the conversation be absolutely courteous, although conviction be deep on both sides. The impossibility, among untrained people, of debate without great emotion is what retards the progress of the intellectual life in many circles.
One should never answer questions in general company that have been put to another.
One should not note the points of discrepancy in the remarks of another, or the points of divergence in opinion. In society the subjects of conversation are subordinated to the human interest of the gathering, and points of harmony and agreement should be emphasized, leaving all others unnoted. One does not need to conceal his opinions, but he should not arrogantly or dogmatically publish them. Not opinions but individuals are of greater interest at that time, and the battle of ideas should be fought in another arena.
This is the only safe rule to follow in mixed companies, or with people imperfectly trained socially. With highly intelligent people of congenial tastes, people who have ideas and convictions of great worth, and who are controlled enough to express them without undue or foolish emotion, the battle of ideas is fought most effectively and most to the benefit of society, in the drawing-room of that host and hostess whose own talents make them able to draw talent about them.
Here all the rules of polite society may be observed, and yet the inner convictions, whether political, religious, or moral, of the circle, may find welcome expression and fair hearing. The growth of ideas and the progress of ideals in such a society is rapid and along the right lines.
Never try to have the last word, but always refrain from saying it.
Do not enter into tete-a-tete conversation in the presence of others, or refer to any topic of conversation which is not of common interest and commonly known. Mysterious allusions or assumed understandings with one or two members of a group are insults to the others.
Inquiries into private affairs should never be made, but those on the subjects of age and income are especially obnoxious, and merit for the inquirer the cool silence which they usually obtain.
The loud-voiced, aggressive person, whose opinions are alone of vital moment in his estimation, and who will not yield a point in an argument, is much to be dreaded in any company, and effectually brings to an end any general conversation into which he intrudes.
When addressing people face to face, it is necessary to give them their social or professional titles, if the latter be such as have influence on social rank, no matter if such titles are not inscribed on the visiting card of the person possessing them, or are purely honorary.
It is not now customary to add "Madam," or "Sir," or the colloquial equivalent of the former,—"m'am" or "m'm,"—to "Yes" and "No," even by children.
Letter writing is a high art, and can give great pleasure to one's friends. It must not, however, be intemperately indulged in, either in frequency, length of letters, or freedom of expression. A timely note is a great binder of friendship, and may give comfort and satisfaction much greater than a longer letter at a less important moment.
The danger of letter writing is that one is tempted to pour out one's inmost feelings with thoughtless abandon, and find later that the relative or friend to whom the letter was addressed was unworthy of the confidence, or, if not unworthy, was repelled by it, or indiscreet in guarding it. It is always wise for one to restrain his expression of himself, when writing or speaking, within the bounds of dignity and a self-respecting reserve.
The classic letters of literature are usually those the fervor of expression and self-revelation of which gave them a strong human interest, but in the preservation and publication of which sacred confidence was violated. The average letter of the average man or woman is by no means a classic, or worthy of preservation. It should be destroyed when it has fulfilled the immediate purpose for which it was written. It may otherwise sometime be instrumental in bringing ridicule, if not shame, upon the unsuspecting writer.
As letter writing is the most common form of composition, the general rules pertaining to that art should be observed in even the most informal of letters.
All letters should be concise and definite. An involved style is a great waste of time and mental power, and has no advantage.
A letter should be written on consecutive pages, unless it be very short, in which case it is preferable to use the first and third, rather than only the first and second, pages. It should never be written so that the sheet has to be turned around and the pages read at different angles. The turning over of the pages should be all that is necessary.
If, however, social note paper is used for a short business letter to a business man, open the sheet out flat, turn it so that the left side becomes the top of the sheet, and use as you would a single large sheet of commercial paper. This enables the reader to see the whole matter at a glance.
Do not scrawl your letter over the page; but do not, on the other hand, appear to economize in paper. Make the place and date lines clear and distinct. Set off the salutation from the body of the letter, and make the form of the letter upon the page artistic and concise. Paper is cheap, and the delight of receiving a letter well framed in even margins and written on regular, if invisible, lines is a pleasure easily afforded a friend.
The letter should be begun about two inches down from the upper edge of the paper. The left-hand margin should be three-quarters of an inch, with paragraph indention an inch more. The lower margin also should be three-quarters of an inch, and the right margin should be kept even and, for best effect, almost as wide as the left margin.
Do not run on the letter without paragraphing it, but place each subject in a paragraph by itself.
A business letter should always go straight to the point.
A note of apology should be direct, and say but the one thing which is its subject.
A note asking a favor should do it simply and without unnecessary preamble. The sense of freedom or intimacy which permits one to ask a favor, should be great enough to obviate the necessity of long explanation, which seems like coaxing.
The refusal of a request requires tact, and may necessitate less directness than courteous explanation: but it should not be so extended as to be apologetic.
A letter of thanks is difficult, but too great effusiveness is as disgusting as too great abruptness is unsatisfactory. The elusive but happy medium is the work of the socially well-trained.
The grade of paper used is a matter of no small moment. Some people affect a fastidiousness in color and quality quite out of keeping with the purpose to which the paper is to be put. Others affect an opposite slovenliness, which shows equal disregard of use and effectiveness.
A good quality of paper is essential to elegance. Plain white or cream white paper, unlined, with either rough or smooth finish, is always correct, and is the only kind for formal social correspondence. For more intimate letters ladies sometimes use a pale blue, delicate pearl-gray, light lavender or heliotrope, or a Colonial buff. There has lately been imported the style of an envelope with lining of another color and paper to match, in a variety of bright tints and striking designs. These styles, even in the daintier variations of them, appeal only to the younger members of the "smart set." Gentlemen never use any but white stationery.
Correspondence cards are a great convenience for the very shortest of messages, where even the small note paper is too large. They are to social letter writing what the postal is in business. They, like the postal, should be used only for brief messages of no special importance, or for notifications.
It is a matter of taste and of expense to have one's monogram or home address engraved at the top of choice note paper or letter paper. This may be in gilt, silver, or colors.
The more common forms of heading are centered an inch below the top of the paper, but may be placed somewhat lower down, and to the right, leaving about three-quarters of an inch margin. In this case the date line follows. Engraved and embossed headings are the most elegant, and printed ones should be used only for business purposes. There can, however, be no objection to a very neatly printed small heading for personal business correspondence, if it is tastefully done in a quiet color. While it would not be acceptable for formal social correspondence, it does very well on more intimate letters and saves the necessity of writing each time the home address. It is best to use printed letterheads, rather than commit the blunder now so common, among those who do not habitually use engraved paper, of omitting the address from the letter. This, in case the letter is misdirected, and travels to the Dead-Letter Office, prevents effectually its restoration to the writer.
The size of note paper suited to the letter to be written should be used. Do not start with a small note size, and run on over several sheets. The letter size should have been taken in the first place, as the note is only for such messages as are essentially short.
The forms of heading which are permissible at the top of the personal letter paper are the following: a crest, monogram, or the separate initials; the name of the home if, as an estate, it has a special title; the name of the city and state; or the street address, with the name of the city and state beneath.
When in mourning, it is customary to use a note paper and envelopes surrounded with a narrow black border. The border should not exceed three-eighths of an inch in width, and three-sixteenths of an inch during the period of half mourning. Sometimes only a black line with the monogram is used.
Scented note paper is not in good taste, except perhaps that which has a very faint odor of violets or of orris root, or, in the Southland, of orange blossoms.
Colored inks are not liked or approved of by society. A good blue-black ink is the best for all writing.
Pale inks, too faint to be easily seen, and too lacking in stock to last any length of time, are useless.
Illegibility in handwriting, or a stilted and difficult hand, is a great waste of time and energy, mainly the would-be reader's. There is no excuse, in these days of the typewriter and of common knowledge of stenography, for an illegible letter or manuscript, and the carelessness which writes too hurriedly to form the letters is excusable only in the gravest emergency and between intimate friends, where the inconvenience caused by it will be, for personal reasons, gladly forgiven. Some handwritings which are thoroughly legible are extremely tiring to the reader, and the simpler, less ornate hand is for every purpose preferable.
The affectation of a handwriting which enables you to put but few words on a page, is absurd and vulgar in the extreme. Yet, on the other hand, a too delicate or minute hand is not desirable. Legibility, neatness, and clearness are the salient virtues of a letter.
The use of the typewriter is confined to business. It is still very bad form to use it for personal letters; but should elegant script and small, clear forms of type, such as are furnished by one or two of the machines now on the market, be in common use, there is little doubt but what the speed of service and the advantages of clearness would bring the typewriter into use in intimate, and perhaps at last into more formal, social correspondence. The tendency seems to lie in that direction.
Sealing, Stamping, and Directing Envelopes
Neatness is especially necessary in the folding of letters, and in addressing, stamping, and sealing the envelopes. Haste and slovenliness here take away the suggestion of compliment in the courtesy of the note, and are as insulting as any rudeness of manner can well be.
The fastidious and leisurely still seal their envelopes with wax, imprinting thus their monogram. The well-gummed envelope now in vogue makes this superfluous for the ordinary informal letter. Addresses should be written with an eye to legibility, and the stamp should be affixed to the upper right-hand corner of the envelope with care and neatness. Social invitations, although engraved and therefore containing no handwriting, should always be sent with letter postage.
Letters should be plainly and completely addressed to insure their safe and prompt delivery.
Persons who have a large business correspondence should use for it envelopes on which their name and post office address are printed in the upper left-hand corner. In social correspondence these should be clearly written or engraved upon the back of the envelope.
Sometimes where a business firm is small or little known, it facilitates the delivery of a business letter to place the number of the office room in a building upon the envelope. Where, however, the firm is so large that probably the entire mail is carried from the post office in bags, or where a post office box is doubtless made use of instead of the carriers' delivery, even the street number is superfluous. Letters for departments should be so marked.
If the city is one of the largest in the country, the name of the state is not added; as, New York City, Boston, Chicago, and Philadelphia would stand alone.
Only a business letter should have the word "City" in place of the name of the city, and it is better to write the name, omitting, if you choose, the state. This is permissible only when the central post office is used, as the postmark of any suburban station might cause confusion, and railway post office clerks, especially, should not be expected to guess accurately the intents of a writer.
When street addresses like "Broadway," "Park Row," "Aborn Drive," are written, it is superfluous to write "St." after them.
The older form of writing an address was to end each line with a comma. The more recent style, and one coming into quite common use, is to omit the comma, using only such punctuation as the sense of the words within the line demands. Either way is permissible.
Uniformity and concise clearness are characteristics of a well-written address. An address should be written as follows:
Mr. Frankel Banchman, 15 Westland Avenue, Philadelphia, Pa.
If the directions are to be included, then the following arrangement is better:
Mrs. Arthur L. Casson, North Maplewood, Chestnut County, Care of Mr. Hiram Casson. N. Y.
The sign of per cent is no longer used to signify "care of."
A clergyman is addressed "The Reverend John L. Wrigley, D. D.," or, less correctly, "Rev. John L. Wrigley, D. D.," which may be transposed to "Rev. Dr. John L. Wrigley." The omission of the article before the word "Reverend" is quite common.
A physician is properly addressed, "Algernon Brigham, M. D.," and the salutation is "Dear Dr. Brigham," or "Dear Doctor," if he is an intimate friend. A man having the title of Doctor with any other significance than that of Doctor of Medicine, is usually addressed "Dr. Frederic V. Harlan." A very formal way, however, would be to address such a one,—supposing each of the titles to be his,—as "Professor Frederic V. Harlan, Ph. D." For the letter, the salutations "Dear Professor Harlan" and "Dear Dr. Harlan" are equally correct.
A letter to the President of the United States should be addressed simply with that title and with no further specification of name, whether it be official or social: as, "To the President of the United States, Executive Mansion, Washington, D. C." The salutation should be simply "Sir." The conclusion should be, "I have the honor to remain Your obedient servant." If a social letter it may be addressed either formally or "To the President of the United States, (Christian name and surname), Executive Mansion," etc. The salutation would then be "My dear Mr. President."
The Vice President should be addressed officially in the same form; that is, "To the Vice President, Hon. Chester A. Arthur." He should be saluted, officially, "Mr. Vice President, Sir;" socially, "My dear Mr. Arthur."
In addressing the governor of a state the superscription should be, "To His Excellency, The Governor of Massachusetts, State House, Boston." The salutation should be "Sir," if official, but "Dear Governor Barnard," if social. The conclusion of an official letter should read, "I have the honor to be, Sir, Your Excellency's most obedient servant."
The mayor of a city is addressed, "To His Honor, The Mayor of Chicago." Within, he is saluted officially as "Your Honor," socially as "My dear Mayor Sewall."
Ambassadors of any country, whatever their personal distinction, may be given the title of "Honorable," and their rank placed after the surname. As, "Honorable Whitelaw Reid, Ambassador to the Court of St. James." They may always be addressed as "Your Excellency."
The members of the Cabinet of the President of the United States are always addressed as "Honorable," and the name of their department, or their title added: as, "The Honorable, The Secretary of State." To give the name would be superfluous, as in the case of the President. On formal invitations, however, when the Secretary and his wife are entertaining, the form is, "The Secretary of State and Mrs. Hay request the honor," etc.
Invitations which come to one because of his official position are not intended for personal compliments, hence are addressed to the office, not to the man personally.
An invitation from the President of the United States is equal to a command, and may not be declined. Other engagements must be broken for it, and only grave calamity or illness should excuse one, the excuse being frankly stated instead of mere formal expressions of regret.
In ceremonious notes abbreviations should never be used.
Should one address the ruler of England, the superscription would be, "His Majesty, The King, London." The salutation would be, "Sir;" the conclusion, "I have the honor to be, Sir, Your Majesty's most obedient servant."
"His Grace the Duke of Fife" is the form of address for a Duke; "My Lord Duke" being the salutation, and "Your Grace's most obedient servant" the subscription.
In writing to the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, one should address the letter to "His Holiness, Pope ——, Rome." The salutation should be "Your Holiness," but the conclusion remains the same form as for other dignitaries. A Cardinal of the same church is addressed "To His Eminence (Christian name) Cardinal (surname)," and greeted as "Your Eminence." Formality should be strictly observed.
An Archbishop of the Church of England is addressed, "The Most Reverend (name) His Grace the Lord Archbishop of (name of bishopric)." The salutation is "My Lord Archbishop;" the subscription, "I have the honor to be, with the highest respect, Your Grace's most humble servant." A Bishop is addressed "The Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of (name of diocese)." He is saluted "My Lord Bishop."
In the United States the Bishops of the Protestant Episcopal Church, who are not here Lords, are addressed, singly, as "The Right Reverend (Christian name and surname). D. D.," or "The Right Reverend Bishop of (name of diocese)." They are saluted, singly, "Most Reverend Sir."
The word "To" may precede a formal or ceremonious address, adding to the formality.
An envelope containing a letter or card of introduction should never be sealed, if presented in person by the party introduced. If, however, he should deliver it by messenger,—an exceptional procedure, and one not to be followed by a man except in unusual circumstances,—the envelope may be sealed.
No letter sent through the kindness of a friend should ever be sealed. The envelope should bear, in the lower left-hand corner, the acknowledgment of the favor in words like "Kindness of Miss Hallowell."
Salutation, Conclusion, and Signature of Letters
A stranger should be saluted as follows: "Mr. Eugene Motley, My dear Sir;" "Mrs. Alonzo Parmenter, Dear Madam;" or "Eugene Motley, Esq., My dear Sir." These are forms slightly more formal than "My dear Mr. Motley," or "My dear Mrs. Parmenter," which in America are strangely considered more formal than "Dear Mr. Motley," or "Dear Mrs. Parmenter," although in England the reverse is true. Therefore, a mere acquaintance is addressed "My dear Mrs. Judson," while a friend is addressed "Dear Mr. Clark."
A married woman signs her name, as "Ethel Husted," and then puts her formal name, "Mrs. Hollis Husted," in brackets a little to the left of and a little below the other.
Never sign a title. The name only is your signature. It may be necessary to write the title in brackets and at the left, as "(Miss)" or "(Mrs.)," but it should never be part of the signature. Such notes as demand the use of the title are put in the third person.
The date should be at the end of a social note, in the lower left-hand corner, and should be written out, with the name of the year omitted and no figures used. The grammatical form is "The ninth of December," never "December the ninth," nor "December ninth."
In business letters the salutation for a firm name is "Dear Sir," or "Gentlemen." Where two married women go into business together, there seems to be in English no combined title to take the place of the French, so that is generally used, and that is "Mesdames," abbreviated "Mmes." before their names.
The formal conclusions of letters are: "Respectfully yours," used to a superior; "Sincerely yours," or "Truly yours," used largely in business, or the same forms with the adverb "Very" preceding them. Less formal terms are: "Cordially yours," "Fraternally yours," or the pronoun with any appropriate adverb which the originality of the writer may suggest. Less abrupt, but not less formal, endings are: "With best regards, I am," etc.; "With kindest regards, I remain," etc.; "Believe me Very sincerely yours."
For intimate letters either to relatives or friends no specified suggestions are needed. The ordinary form, "Your affectionate daughter," or "niece," etc., may, however, be employed, in dearth of special inspiration.
Distinction is sometimes made between business and social letters by the position of "Yours,"—it being placed before the adverb in social correspondence, and after in business. The tone of the letter may be left to guide in this matter. There is an abruptness always somewhat unpleasant in the use of the adverb alone.
Make the beginning and ending of a letter the same in degree of cordiality. Do not begin formally "My dear Madam," and end "Cordially yours."
Every letter should be signed with the full name of the writer. A possible exception might be made of those addressed to members of one's own family, where the use of the Christian name only would mean no ambiguity, or where the signing of the surname gives a touch of formality. It is well, however, to remember that letters placed in the post take the chances of fortune, and, with the plainest of addresses, may, by the absence of the person or for some other cause, bring up in the Dead-Letter Office. Their resurrection there will depend upon their containing the full name of the sender as well as his address. If a letter is valuable enough to send, it is valuable enough to sign, even if the signature be double,—first the familiar or given name, and then, in the lower left-hand corner, the full name.
It is well to use always the name which is your legal signature. This will prevent confusion, and forestall the possibility of your putting, from force of habit, the wrong form of your name upon a legal document.
It is well to write one's name in full. Three complete names are none too many for individual distinction in so crowded a world as is ours. If, however, the middle one is represented by an initial only, always write it uniformly. It is better, if the form with initial only has not become really established, to use the full name, although it may be long.