Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Manners and Social Usages by Mrs. John M. E. W. Sherwood

Part 1 out of 7

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.8 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Produced by Holly Ingraham.




"Manners are the shadows of great virtues."--Whateley

"Solid Fashion is funded politeness."--Emerson


JUN 11 1887


This etiquette manual was probably originally a series of columns
in a newspaper or a magazine like Harper's, as the chapters on
weddings in the different seasons refer to how the fashions have
changed since the last one--by the original copyright, 1884,
though the book version appeared in 1887. Notable features among
the usual: how to dance the German, or Cotillon; remarks and four
chapters on English, French, or others in contrast to American
customs, making it a guide to European manners; proper behavior
for the single woman past girlhood; appropriate costumes for many
occasions; three chapters on staff and servants.


There is no country where there are so many people asking what is
"proper to do," or, indeed, where there are so many genuinely
anxious to do the proper thing, as in the vast conglomerate which
we call the United States of America. The newness of our country
is perpetually renewed by the sudden making of fortunes, and by
the absence of a hereditary, reigning set. There is no aristocracy
here which has the right and title to set the fashions.

But a "reigning set," whether it depend upon hereditary right or
adventitious wealth, if it be possessed of a desire to lead and a
disposition to hospitality, becomes for a period the dictator of
fashion to a large number of lookers-on. The travelling world,
living far from great centres, goes to Newport, Saratoga, New
York, Washington, Philadelphia, Boston, and gazes on what is
called the latest American fashion. This, though exploited by what
we may call for the sake of distinction the "newer set," is
influenced and shaped in some degree by people of native
refinement and taste, and that wide experience which is gained by
travel and association with broad and cultivated minds. They
counteract the tendency to vulgarity, which is the great danger of
a newly launched society, so that our social condition improves,
rather than retrogrades, with every decade.

There may be many social purists who will disagree with us in this
statement. Men and women educated in the creeds of the Old World,
with the good blood of a long ancestry of quiet ladies and
gentlemen, find modern American society, particularly in New York
and at Newport, fast, furious, and vulgar. There are, of course,
excesses committed everywhere in the name of fashion; but we
cannot see that they are peculiar to America. We can only answer
that the creed of fashion is one of perpetual change. There is a
Council of Trent, we may say, every five years, perhaps even every
two years, in our new and changeful country, and we learn that,
follow as we may either the grand old etiquette of England or the
more gay and shifting social code of France, we still must make an
original etiquette of our own. Our political system alone, where
the lowest may rise to the highest preferment, upsets in a measure
all that the Old World insists upon in matters of precedence and
formality. Certain immutable principles remain common to all
elegant people who assume to gather society about them, and who
wish to enter its portals; the absent-minded scholar from his
library should not ignore them, the fresh young farmer from the
countryside feels and recognizes their importance. If we are to
live together in unity we must make society a pleasant thing, we
must obey certain formal rules, and these rules must conform to
the fashion of the period.

And it is in no way derogatory to a new country like our own if on
some minor points of etiquette we presume to differ from the older
world. We must fit our garments to the climate, our manners to our
fortunes and to our daily lives. There are, however, faults and
inelegancies of which foreigners accuse us which we may do well to
consider. One of these is the greater freedom allowed in the
manners of our young women a freedom which, as our New World fills
up with people of foreign birth, cannot but lead to social
disturbances. Other national faults, which English writers and
critics kindly point out, are our bumptiousness, our spread-
eagleism, and our too great familiarity and lack of dignity, etc.

Instead of growing angry over these criticisms, perhaps we might
as well look into the matter dispassionately, and see if we cannot
turn the advice in some degree to our advantage. We can, however,
decide for ourselves on certain points of etiquette which we
borrow from nobody; they are a part of our great nation, of our
republican institutions, and of that continental hospitality which
gives a home to the Russian, the German, the Frenchman, the
Irishman, man, and the "heathen Chinee." A somewhat wide and
elastic code, as boundless as the prairies, can alone meet the
needs of these different citizens. The old traditions of stately
manners, so common to the Washington and Jefferson days, have
almost died out here, as similar manners have died out all over
the world. The war of 1861 swept away what little was left of that
once important American fact--a grandfather. We began all over
again; and now there comes up from this newer world a flood of
questions: How shall we manage all this? How shall we use a fork?
When wear a dress-coat? How and when and on whom shall we leave
our cards? How long and for whom shall we wear mourning? What is
the etiquette of a wedding? How shall we give a dinner-party?
The young housekeeper of Kansas writes as to the manners she shall
teach to her children; the miner's wife, having become rich, asks
how she shall arrange her house, call on her neighbors, write her
letters? Many an anxious girl writes as to the propriety of
"driving out with a gentleman," etc. In fact, there is one great
universal question, What is the etiquette of good society?

Not a few people have tried to answer these questions, and have
broken down in the attempt. Many have made valuable manuals, as
far as they went; but writers on etiquette commonly fail, for one
or two different reasons. Many attempt to write who know nothing
of good society by experience, and their books are full of
ludicrous errors. Others have had the disadvantage of knowing too
much, of ignoring the beginning of things, of supposing that the
person who reads will take much for granted. For a person who has
an intuitive knowledge of etiquette, who has been brought up from
his mother's knee in the best society, has always known what to
do, how to dress, to whom to bow, to write in the simplest way
about etiquette would be impossible; he would never know how
little the reader, to whose edification he was addressing himself,
knew of the matter.

If, however, an anxious inquirer should write and ask if "mashed
potato must be eaten with a knife or a fork," or if "napkins and
finger bowls can be used at breakfast," those questions he can

It is with an effort to answer thousands of these questions,
written in good faith to Harper's Bazar, that this book is
undertaken. The simplicity, the directness, and the evident desire
"to improve," which characterize these anonymous letters, are all
much to be commended. Many people have found themselves suddenly
conquerors of material wealth, the most successful colonists in
the world, the heirs of a great inheritance, the builders of a new
empire. There is a true refinement manifested in their questions.
Not only do men and women like to behave properly themselves, but
all desire to know what is the best school of manners, that they
may educate their children therein. Such minds are the best
conservators of law and order. It is not a communistic spirit that
asks, "How can I do this thing in a better way?" It is that wise
and liberal conservatism which includes reverence for law, respect
for age, belief in religion, and a desire for a refined society. A
book on etiquette, however patiently considered and honestly
written, must have many shortcomings, and contain disputed
testimony. All we can do is endeavor to mention those fashions and
customs which we believe to be the best, remembering always, as we
have said, that the great law of change goes on forever, that our
stately grandfathers had fashions which we should now consider
gross and unbecoming, while we have customs, particularly of
speech, which would have shocked them. This law of change is not
only one which time modifies, but with us the South, the North,
the East, and the West differ as to certain points of etiquette.
All, however, agree in saying that there is a good society in
America whose mandates are supreme. All feel that the well-bred
man or woman is a "recognized institution." Everybody laughed at
the mistakes of Daisy Miller, and saw wherein she and her mother
were wrong. Independent American girls may still choose to travel
without a chaperon, but they must be prepared to fight a
well-founded prejudice if they do. There is a recognition of the
necessity of good manners, and a profound conviction, let us hope,
that a graceful manner is the outcropping of a well-regulated mind
and of a good heart.


I. Women as Leaders ... 13
II. Optional Civilities ... 29
III. Good and Bad Society ... 36
IV. On Introducing People ... 44
V. Visiting ... 58
VI. Invitations, Acceptances, and Regrets ... 66
VII. Cards of Compliment, Courtesy, Condolence, and Congratulation
... 74
VIII. The Etiquette of Weddings ... 82
IX. Who Pays for the Cards ... 94
X. Weddings after Easter ... 102
XI. Summer Weddings ... 110
XII Autumn Weddings ... 117
XIII. Before the Wedding and After ... 125
XIV. Gold, Silver, and Tin Weddings ... 133
XV. The Etiquette of Balls ... 142
XVI. Fashionable Dancing ... 150
XVII. Letters and Letter Writing ... 159
XVIII. Costly thy Habit ... 167
XlX. Dressing for Driving ... 174
XX. Incongruities of Dress ... 181
XXI. Etiquette of Mourning ... 188
XXII. Mourning and Funeral Usages ... 200
XXIII. Letters of Condolence ... 207
XXIV. Chaperons and Their Duties ... 214
XXV. Etiquette for Elderly Girls ... 223
XXVI. New Year's Calls ... 230
XXVII. Matin,es And Soir,es ... 239
XXVIII. Afternoon Tea ... 247
XXIX. Caudle And Christening Cups and Ceremonies ... 255
XXX. Modern Dinner Table ... 261
XXXI. Laying the Dinner-table ... 269
XXXII. Favors and Bonbonni,res ... 277
XXXIII. Dinner Table Novelites ... 285
XXXIV. Summer Dinners ... 292
XXXV. Luncheons, Informal and Social ... 300
XXXVI. Supper Parties ... 307
XXXVII. Simple Dinners ... 314
XXXVIII. The Small Talk of Society ... 320
XXXIX. Garden Parties ... 328
XL. Silver Weddings and Other Wedding Anniversaries ... 335
XLI. Spring And Summer Entertainments ... 343
XLII. Floral Tributes and Decorations ... 353
XLIII. The Fork and the Spoon ... 359
XLIV. Napkins and Table-cloths ... 364
XLV. Servants, their Dress and Duties ... 371
XLVI. House with One Servant ... 380
XLVII. House with Two Servants ... 886
XLVIII. House with Many Servants ... 394
XLIX. Manners: A Study For The Awkward and the Shy ... 401
L. How To Treat A Guest ... 408
LI. Lady And Gentleman ... 415
LIL The Manners of the Past ... 424
LIII. The Manners of the Optimist ... 484
LIV. The Manners of the Sympathetic ... 441
LV. Certain Questions Answered ... 450
LVI. English Table Manners and Social Usages. ... 457
LVII. American And English Etiquette Contrasted ... 465
LVIII. How To Treat English People ... 473
LIX. A Foreign Table D'H"te, and Casino Life Abroad ... 480



Nothing strikes the foreigner so much (since the days of De
Tocqueville, the first to mention it) as the prominent position of
woman in the best society of America. She has almost no position
in the political world. She is not a leader, an _intrigante_ in
politics, as she is in France. We have no Madame de Stael, no
Princess Belgioso, here to make and unmake our Presidents; but
women do all the social work, which in Europe is done not only by
women, but by young bachelors and old ones, statesmen, princes,
ambassadors, and _attaches_. Officials are connected with every
court whose business it is to visit, write and answer invitations,
leave cards, call, and perform all the multifarious duties of the
social world.

In America, the lady of the house does all this. Her men are all
in business or in pleasure, her sons are at work or off yachting.
They cannot spend time to make their dinner calls--"Mamma, please
leave my cards" is the legend written on their banners.

Thus to women, as the conductors of social politics, is committed
the card--that pasteboard protocol, whose laws are well defined
in every land but our own.

Now, in ten different books on etiquette which we have consulted
we find ten different opinions upon the subject of first calls, as
between two women. We cannot, therefore, presume to decide where
so many doctors disagree, but give the commonly received opinions
as expressed by the customs of New York society.

When should a lady call first upon a new and a desirable
acquaintance? Not hastily. She should have met the new and
desirable acquaintance, should have been properly introduced,
should feel sure that her acquaintance is desired. The oldest
resident, the one most prominent in fashion, should call first;
but, if there is no such distinction, two women need not forever
stand at bay each waiting for the other to call. A very admirable
and polite expedient has been: substituted for a first call in the
sending out of cards, for several days in the month, by a lady who
wishes to begin her social life, we will say, in a new city. These
may or may not be accompanied by the card of some well-known
friend. If these cards bring the desired visits or the cards of
the desired guests, the beginner may feel that she has started on
her society career with no loss of self respect. Those who do not
respond are generally in a minority. Too much haste in making new
acquaintances, however--"pushing," as it is called-cannot be too
much deprecated.

First calls should be returned within a week. If a lady is invited
to any entertainment by a new acquaintance, whether the invitation
come through a friend or not, she should immediately leave cards,
and send either a regret or an acceptance. To lose time in this
matter is a great rudeness. Whether she attend the entertainment
or not, she should call after it within a week. Then, having done
all that is polite, and having shown herself a woman of
good-breeding, she can keep up the acquaintance or not as she
pleases. Sometimes there are reasons why a lady does not wish to
keep up the acquaintance, but she must not, for her own sake, be
oblivious to the politeness extended. Some very rude people in New
York have sent back invitations, or failed to recognize the first
attempt at civility, saying, "We don't know the people." This is
not the way to discourage unpleasant familiarity. In New York,
Boston, and Philadelphia, and in the large cities of the West, and
generally in the country: towns, residents call first upon
new-comers; but in Washington this custom is reversed, and the
new-comer calls first upon the resident. Every one--officials of
the highest down to the lowest grade returns these cards. The
visitor generally finds himself invited to the receptions of the
President and his Cabinet, etc. This arrangement is so convenient
that it is a thousand pities it does not go into operation all
over the country, particularly in those large cities where the
resident cannot know if her dearest friend be in town unless
informed in some such way of the fact.

This does not, as might be supposed, expose society to the
intrusion of unwelcome visitors. Tact, which is the only guide
through the mazes of society, will enable a woman to avoid
anything like an unwelcome intimacy or a doubtful acquaintance,
even if such a person should "call first."

Now the question comes up, and here doctors disagree: When may a
lady call by proxy, or when may she send her card, or when must
she call in person?

After a dinner-party a guest must call in person and inquire if
the hostess is at home. For other entertainments it is allowed, in
New York, that the lady call by proxy, or that she simply send her
card. In sending to inquire for a person's health, cards may be
sent by a servant, with a kindly message.

No first visit should, however, be returned by card only; this
would be considered a slight, unless followed by an invitation.
The size of New York, the great distances, the busy life of a
woman of charities, large family, and immense circle of
acquaintances may render a personal visit almost impossible. She
may be considered to have done her duty if she in her turn asks
her new acquaintance to call on her on a specified day, if she is
not herself able to call.

Bachelors should leave cards (if they ever leave any) on the
master and mistress of the house, and, in America, upon the young
ladies. A gentleman does not turn down the corners of his
card--indeed, that fashion has become almost obsolete, except,
perhaps, where a lady wishes it distinctly understood that she has
called in person. The plainer the card the better. A small, thin
card for a gentleman, not glazed, with his name in small script
and his address well engraved in the corner, is in good taste. A
lady's card should be larger, but not glazed or ornamented in any
way. It is a rule with sticklers for good-breeding that after any
entertainment a gentleman should leave his card in person,
although, as we have said, he often commits it to some feminine

No gentleman should call on a lady unless she asks him to do so,
or unless he brings a letter of introduction, or unless he is
taken by a lady who is sufficiently intimate to invite him to
call. A lady should say to a gentleman, if she wishes him to call,
"I hope that we shall see you," or, "I am at home on Monday," or
something of that sort. If he receives an invitation to dinner or
to a ball from a stranger, he is bound to send an immediate
answer, call the very next day, leave his card, and then to call
after the entertainment.

This, at least, is foreign etiquette, and we cannot do better than
import it. This rule holds good for the entertainments of
bachelors, who should leave their cards on each other after an
entertainment, unless the intimacy is so great that no card-
leaving is expected.

When a lady returns to town, after an absence in Europe or in the
country, it is strict etiquette that she should leave cards on all
her acquaintances and friends if she expects to entertain or to
lead a gay, social winter; but as distances in our great cities
are formidable, as all ladies do not keep a carriage, as most
ladies have a great deal else to do besides making visits, this
long and troublesome process is sometimes simplified by giving a
tea or a series of teas, which enables the lady, by staying at
home on one evening of a week, or two or three afternoons of a
month, to send out her cards to that effect, and to thus show her
friends that she at least remembers them. As society and
card-leaving thus become rapidly complicated, a lady should have a
visiting-book, into which her list is carefully copied, with
spaces for days and future engagements.

A servant must be taught to receive the cards at the door,
remember messages, and recollect for whom they are left, as it is
not proper in calling upon Mrs. Brown at a private house to write
her name on your card. At a crowded hotel this may be allowed, but
it is not etiquette in visiting at private houses. In returning
visits, observe the exact etiquette of the person who has left the
first card. A call must not be returned with a card only, or a
card by a call. If a person send you a card by post, return a card
by post; if a personal visit is made, return it by a personal
visit; if your acquaintance leave cards only, without inquiring if
you are at home, return the same courtesy. If she has left the
cards of the gentlemen of her family, return those of the
gentlemen of your family.

A young lady's card should almost always be accompanied by that of
her mother or her chaperon. It is well, on her entrance into
society, that the name of the young lady be engraved on her
mother's card. After she has been out a year, she may leave her
own card only. Here American etiquette begins to differ from
English etiquette. In London, on the other hand, no young lady
leaves her card: if she is motherless, her name is engraved
beneath the name of her father, and the card of her chaperon is
left with both until she becomes a maiden lady of somewhat mature
if uncertain age.

It is rare now to see the names of both husband and wife engraved
on one card, as "Mr. and Mrs. Brown." The lady has her own card,
"Mrs. Octavius Brown," or with the addition, "The Misses Brown."
Her husband has his separate card; each of the sons has his own
card. No titles are used on visiting-cards in America, save
military, naval, or judicial ones; and, indeed, many of our most
distinguished judges have had cards printed simply with the name,
without prefix or affix. "Mr. Webster," "Mr. Winthrop," "Henry
Clay" are well-known instances of simplicity. But a woman must
always use the prefix "Mrs." or "Miss." A gentleman may or may not
use the prefix "Mr.," as he pleases, but women must treat
themselves with more respect. No card is less proper than one
which is boldly engraved "Gertrude F. Brown;" it should be "Miss
Gertrude F. Brown."

A married lady always bears her husband's name, during his life,
on her card. Some discussion is now going on as to whether she
should continue to call herself "Mrs. Octavius Brown" or "Mrs.
Mary Brown" after his death. The burden of opinion is in favor of
the latter--particularly as a son may bear his father's name, so
there will be two Mrs. Octavius Browns. No lady wishes to be known
as "old Mrs. Octavius Brown," and as we do not use the convenient
title of Dowager, we may as well take the alternative of the
Christian name. We cannot say "Mrs. Octavius Brown, Jr.," if the
husband has ceased to be a junior. Many married ladies hesitate to
discard the name by which they have always been known. Perhaps the
simple "Mrs. Brown" is the best, after all. No lady should leave
cards upon an unmarried gentleman, except in the case of his
having given entertainments at which ladies were present. Then the
lady of the house should drive to his door with the cards of
herself and family, allowing the footman to leave them.

The young ladies' names, in such a case as this, should be
engraven on their mother's card.

"We have no leisure class," as Henry James says in his brilliant
"International Episode;" but still young men should try to make
time to call on those who entertain them, showing by some sort of
personal attention their gratitude for the politeness shown them.
American young men are, as a rule, very remiss about this matter
of calling on the hostess whose hospitality they accept.

A gentleman should not call on a young lady without asking for her
mother or her chaperon. Nor should he leave cards for her alone,
but always leave one for her mother.

Ladies can, and often do, write informal invitations on the
visiting-card. To teas, readings, and small parties, may be added
the day of reception. It is convenient and proper to send these
cards by post. Everything can be sent by post now, except an
invitation to dinner, and that must always be sent by private
hand, and an answer must be immediately returned in the same
formal manner.

After balls, amateur concerts, theatrical parties, garden-parties,
or "at homes," cards should be left by all invited guests within a
week after the invitation, particularly if the invited guest has
been obliged to decline. These cards may be left without inquiring
for the hostess, if time presses; but it is more polite to inquire
for the hostess, even if it is not her day. If it is her reception
day, it would be rude not to inquire, enter, and pay a personal
visit. After a dinner, one must inquire for the hostess and pay a
personal visit. It is necessary to mention this fact, because so
many ladies have got into the habit (having large acquaintances)
of leaving or sending cards in by a footman, without inquiring for
the hostess (who is generally not at home), that there has grown
up a confusion, which leads to offence being taken where none is

It is not considered necessary to leave cards after a tea. A lady
leaves her cards as she enters the hall, pays her visit, and the
etiquette of a visiting acquaintance is thus established for a
year. She should, however, give a tea herself, asking all her

If a lady has been invited to a tea or other entertainment through
a friend without having known her hostess, she is bound to call
soon; but if the invitation is not followed up by a return card or
another invitation, she must understand that the acquaintance is
at an end. She may, however, invite her new friend, within a
reasonable time, to some entertainment at her own house, and if
that is accepted, the acquaintance goes on. It is soon ascertained
by a young woman who begins life in a new city whether her new
friends intend to be friendly or the reverse. A resident of a town
or village can call, with propriety, on any new-comer. The
newcomer must return this call; but, if she does not desire a
further acquaintance, this can be the end of it. The time of
calling must in every town be settled by the habits of the place;
after two o'clock and before six is, however, generally safe.

In England they have a pleasant fashion of calling to inquire for
invalids or afflicted friends, and of pencilling the words "kind
inquiries." It has not obtained that popularity in America which
it deserves, and it would be well to introduce it. If a lady call
on a person who is a stranger to her, and if she has difficulty in
impressing her name on the servant, she sends up her card, while
she waits to see if the lady will receive her. But she must never
on any occasion hand her own card to her hostess. If she enters
the parlor and finds her hostess there, she must introduce herself
by pronouncing her own name distinctly. If she is acquainted with
the lady, she simply gives her name to the servant, and does not
send up her card.

Wedding-cards have great prominence in America, but we ignore
those elaborate funeral-cards and christening-cards, and printed
cards with announcements of engagements, and many other cards
fashionable abroad. With us the cards of the bride and her
parents, and sometimes of the _fianc,_, are sent to all friends
before the wedding, and those of the invitation to the wedding to
a few only, it may be, or to all, as the family desire. After the
marriage, the cards of the married pair, with their address, are
sent to all whose acquaintance is desired.

Husbands and wives rarely call together in America, although there
is no law against their doing so. It is unusual because, as we
have said, we have no "leisure class." Gentlemen are privileged to
call on Sunday, after church, and on Sunday evenings. A mother and
daughter should call together, or, if the mother is an invalid,
the daughter can call, leaving her mother's card.

"Not at home" is a proper formula, if ladies are not receiving;
nor does it involve a falsehood. It merely means that the lady is
not at home to company. The servant should also add, "Mrs. Brown
receives on Tuesdays," if the lady has a day. Were not ladies able
to deny themselves to callers there would be no time in crowded
cities for any sort of work, or repose, or leisure for self-
improvement. For, with the many idle people who seek to rid
themselves of the pain and penalty of their own vapid society by
calling and making somebody else entertain them, with the
wandering book-agents and beggars, or with even the overflow of
society, a lady would find her existence muddled away by the
poorest and most abject of occupations--that of receiving a number
of inconsiderate, and perhaps impertinent, wasters of time.

It is well for all house-keepers to devote one day in the week to
the reception of visitors--the morning to tradespeople and those
who may wish to see her on business, and the afternoon to those
who call socially. It saves her time and simplifies matters.

Nothing is more vulgar than that a caller should ask the servant
where his mistress is, when she went out, when she will be in, how
soon she will be down, etc. All that a well-bred servant should
say to such questions is, "I do not know, madam." A mistress
should inform her servant after breakfast _what he is to say_ to
all comers. It is very offensive to a visitor to be let in, and
then be told that she cannot see the lady of the house. She feels
personally insulted, and as if, had she been some other person,
the lady of the house would perhaps have seen her.

If a servant, evidently ignorant and uncertain of his mistress and
her wishes, says, "I will see if Mrs. Brown will see you," and
ushers you into the parlor, it is only proper to go in and wait.
But it is always well to say, "If Mrs. Brown is going out, is
dressing, or is otherwise engaged, ask her not to trouble herself
to come down." Mrs. Brown will be very much obliged to you. In
calling on a friend who is staying with people with whom you are
not acquainted, always leave a card for the lady of the house. The
lack of this attention is severely felt by new people who may
entertain a fashionable woman as their guest--one who receives
many calls from those who do not know her hostess. It is never
proper to call on a guest without asking for the hostess.

Again, if the hostess be a very fashionable woman, and the visitor
decidedly not so, it is equally vulgar to make one's friend who
may be a guest in the house a sort of entering wedge for an
acquaintance; a card should be left, but unaccompanied by any
request to see the lady of the house. This every lady will at once
understand. A lady who has a guest staying with her who receives
really calls should always try to place a parlor at her disposal
where she can see her friends alone, unless she be a very young
person, to whom the chaperonage of the hostess is indispensable.

If the lady of the house is in the drawing-room when the visitor
arrives to call on her guest, she is, of course, introduced and
says a few words; and if she is not in the room, the guest should
inquire of the visitor if the lady of the house will see him or
her, thus giving her a chance to accept or decline.

In calling on the sons or the daughters of the house, every
visitor should leave a card for the father and mother. If ladies
are at home, cards should be left for the gentlemen of the family.

In Europe a young man is not allowed to ask for the young ladies
of the house in formal parlance, nor is he allowed to leave a card
on them--socially in Europe the "_jeune fille_" has no existence.
He calls on the mother or chaperon; the young lady may be sent
for, but he must not inquire for her first. Even if she is a young
lady at the head of a house, he is not allowed to call upon her
without some preliminaries; some amiable female friend must manage
to bring them together.

In America the other extreme has led to a very vicious system of
etiquette, by which young ladies are recognized as altogether
leaders of society, receiving the guests and pushing their mothers
into the background. It would amaze a large number of ambitious
young ladies to be told that it was not proper that young men
should call on them and be received by them alone. But the
solution would seem to be that the mother or chaperon should
advance to her proper place in this country, and while taking care
of her daughter, appearing with her in public, and receiving
visits with her, still permit that good-natured and well-intended
social intercourse between young men and women which is so seldom
abused, and which has led to so many happy marriages. It is one of
the points yet debatable how much liberty should be allowed young
ladies. Certainly, however, we do not wish to hold our young girls
up to the scorn and ridicule of the novelist or the foreign critic
by ignoring what has been a recognized tenet of good manners since
society was formed. The fact that the chaperon is a necessary
institution, and that to married ladies and to elderly ladies
should be paid all due respect, is a subject of which we shall
treat later. No young lady who is visiting in a strange city or
country town should ever receive the visits of gentlemen without
asking her hostess and her daughters to come down and be
introduced to them; nor should she ever invite such persons to
call without asking her hostess if it would be agreeable. To
receive an ordinary acquaintance at any hour, even that of the
afternoon reception, without her hostess would be very bad
manners. We fear the practice is too common, however. How much
worse to receive a lover, or a gentleman who may aspire to the
honor of becoming one, at unusual hours, without saying anything
to the lady of the house! Too many young American girls are in the
habit of doing so: making of their friend's house a convenience by
which an acquaintance with a young man may be carried on--a young
man too, perhaps, who has been forbidden her own home.

A bride receives her callers after she has settled down in her
married home just as any lady does. There is no particular
etiquette observed. She sends out cards for two or three reception
days, and her friends and new acquaintances call or send cards on
these days. She must not, however, call on her friends until they
have called upon her.

As many of these callers--friends, perhaps, of the bridegroom--are
unknown to the bride, it is well to have a servant announce the
names; and they should also leave their cards in the hall that she
may be able to know where to return the visits.

What has so far been said will serve to give a general idea of the
card and its uses, and of the duties which it imposes upon
different members of society. Farther on in this volume we will
take up, in much more particular fashion, the matters only alluded
to in this opening chapter.

We may say that cards have changed less in the history of
etiquette and fashion than anything else. They, the shifting
pasteboards, are in style about what they were fifty--nay, a
hundred--years ago.

The plain, unglazed card with fine engraved script cannot be
improved upon. The passing fashion for engraved autographs, for
old English, for German text, all these fashions have had but a
brief hour. Nothing is in worse taste than for an American to put
a coat-of-arms on his card. It only serves to make him ridiculous.

A lady should send up her card by a servant, but not deliver it to
the lady of the house; a card is yourself, therefore if you meet a
lady, she does not want two of you. If you wish to leave your
address, leave a card on the hall table. One does right in leaving
a card on the hall table at a reception, and one need not call
again. An invitation to one's house cancels all indebtedness. If a
card is left on a lady's reception, she should make the next call,
although many busy society women now never make calls, except when
they receive invitations to afternoon teas or receptions.

When a gentleman calls on ladies who are at home, if he knows them
well he does not send up a card; the servant announces his name.
If he does not know them well, he does send up a card. One card is
sufficient, but he can inquire for them all. In leaving cards it
is not necessary to leave seven or eight, but it is customary to
leave two--one for the lady of the house, the other for the rest
of the family or the stranger who is within their gates. If a
gentleman wishes particularly to call on any one member, he says
so to the servant, as "Take my card up to Miss Jones," and he
adds, "I should like to see all the ladies if they are at home."
The trouble in answering this question is that authorities differ.
We give the latest London and New York fashion, so far as we know,
and also what we believe to be the common-sense view. A gentleman
can ask first for the lady of the house, then for any other member
of the family, but he need never leave more than two cards. He
must in this, as in all etiquette, exercise common-sense. No one
can define all the ten thousand little points.


There are many optional civilities in life which add very much to
its charm if observed, but which cannot be called indispensable.
To those which are harmless and graceful we shall give a cursory
glance, and to those which are doubtful and perhaps harmful we
shall also briefly allude, leaving it to the common-sense of the
reader as to whether he will hereafter observe in his own manners
these so-called optional civilities.

In France, when a gentleman takes off his hat in a windy street or
in an exposed passage-way, and holds it in his hand while talking
to a lady, she always says, "_Couvrez vous_" (I beg of you not to
stand uncovered). A kind-hearted woman says this to a boatman, a
coachman, a man of low degree, who always takes off his hat when a
lady speaks to him. Now in our country, unfortunately, the cabmen
have such bad manners that a lady seldom has the opportunity of
this optional civility, for, unlike a similar class in Europe,
those who serve you for your money in America often throw in a
good deal of incivility with the service, and no book of etiquette
is more needed than one which should teach shop-girls and shop-men
the beauty and advantages of a respectful manner. If men who drive
carriages and street cabs would learn the most advantageous way of
making money, they would learn to touch their hats to a lady when
she speaks to them or gives an order. It is always done in the Old
World, and this respectful air adds infinitely to the pleasures of
foreign travel.

In all foreign hotels the landlords enforce such respect on the
part of the waiters to the guests of the hotel that if two
complaints are made of incivility, the man or woman complained of
is immediately dismissed. In a livery-stable, if the hired
coachman is complained of for an uncivil answer, or even a silence
which is construed as incivility, he is immediately discharged. On
the lake of Como, if a lady steps down to a wharf to hire a boat,
every boatman takes off his cap until she has finished speaking,
and remains uncovered until she asks him to put on his hat.

Now optional civilities, such as saying to one's inferior, "Do not
stand without your hat," to one's equal, "Do not rise, I beg of
you," "Do not come out in the rain to put me in my carriage,"
naturally occur to the kind-hearted, but they may be cultivated.
It used to be enumerated among the uses of foreign travel that a
man went away a bear and came home a gentleman. It is not natural
to the Anglo-Saxon race to be overpolite. They have no _petits
soins_. A husband in France moves out an easy-chair for his wife,
and sets a footstool for every lady. He hands her the morning
paper, he brings a shawl if there is danger of a draught, he
kisses her hand when he comes in, and he tries to make himself
agreeable to her in the matter of these little optional
civilities. It has the most charming effect upon all domestic
life, and we find a curious allusion to the politeness observed by
French sons towards their mothers and fathers in one of Moliere's
comedies, where a prodigal son observes to his father, who comes
to denounce him, "Pray, sir, take a chair," says Prodigal; "you
could scold me so much more at your ease if you were seated."

If this was a piece of optional civility which had in it a bit of
sarcasm, we can readily see that civility lends great strength to
satire, and take a hint from it in our treatment of rude people. A
lady once entering a crowded shop, where the women behind the
counter were singularly inattentive and rude even for America,
remarked to one young woman who was lounging on the counter, and
who did not show any particular desire to serve her,

"My dear, you make me a convert to the Saturday-afternoon
early-closing rule, and to the plan for providing seats for
saleswomen, for I see that fatigue has impaired your usefulness to
your employer."

The lounger started to her feet with flashing eyes. "I am as
strong as you are," said she, very indignantly.

"Then save yourself a report at the desk by showing me some lace,"
said the lady, in a soft voice, with a smile.

She was served after this with alacrity. In America we are all
workers; we have no privileged class; we are earning money in
various servitudes, called variously law, medicine, divinity,
literature, art, mercantile business, or as clerks, servants,
seamstresses, and nurses, and we owe it to our work to do it not
only honestly but pleasantly. It is absolutely necessary to
success in the last-mentioned profession that a woman have a
pleasant manner, and it is a part of the instruction of the
training-school of nurses, that of civility. It is not every one
who has a fascinating manner. What a great gift of fortune it is!
But it is in every one's power to try and cultivate a civil

In the matter of "keeping a hotel"--a slang expression which has
become a proverb--how well the women in Europe understand their
business, and how poorly the women in America understand theirs!
In England and all over the Continent the newly arrived stranger
is received by a woman neatly dressed, with pleasant, respectful
manners, who is overflowing with optional civilities. She conducts
the lady to her room, asks if she will have the blinds drawn or
open, if she will have hot water or cold, if she would like a cup
of tea, etc.; sends a neat chambermaid to her to take her orders,
gets her pen and paper for her notes--in fact, treats her as a
lady should treat a guest. Even in very rural districts the
landlady comes out to her own door to meet the stranger, holds her
neat hand to assist her to alight, and performs for her all the
service she can while she is under her roof.

In America a lady may alight in what is called a tavern, weary,
travel-stained, and with a headache. She is shown into a
waiting-room where sits, perhaps, an overdressed female in a
rocking-chair violently fanning herself. She learns that this is
the landlady. She asks if she can have a room, some hot water,
etc. The answer may be, "I don't know; I don't have to work;
perhaps Jim will tell you." And it is to the man of the house that
the traveller must apply. It is a favorable sign that American men
are never ashamed to labor, although they may not overflow with
civility. It is a very unfavorable sign for the women of America
when they are afraid or ashamed of work, and when they hesitate to
do that which is nearest them with civility and interest.

Another test of self-respect, and one which is sometimes lacking
in those whom the world calls fashionable, those who have the
possessions which the majority of us desire, fine houses, fine
clothes, wealth, good position, etc., is the lack or the presence
of "fine courtesy," which shall treat every one so that he or she
is entirely at ease.

"Society is the intercourse of persons on a footing of apparent
equality," and if so, any one in it who treats other people so as
to make them uncomfortable is manifestly unfit for society. Now an
optional courtesy should be the unfailing custom of such a woman,
we will say, one who has the power of giving pain by a slight, who
can wound _amour propre_ in the shy, can make a _d,butante_
stammer and blush, can annoy a shy youth by a sneer. How many a
girl has had her society life ruined by the cruelty of a society
leader! how many a young man has had his blood frozen by a
contemptuous smile at his awkwardness! How much of the native
good-will of an impulsive person has been frozen into a caustic
and sardonic temper by the lack of a little optional civility? The
servant who comes for a place, and seats herself while the lady
who speaks to her is standing, is wanting in optional civility.
She sins from ignorance, and should be kindly told of her offence,
and taught better manners. The rich woman who treats a guest
impolitely, the landlady who sits in her rocking-chair while the
traveller waits for those comforts which her house of call
invites, all are guilty of the same offence. It hurts the landlady
and the servant more nearly than it does the rich woman, because
it renders their self-imposed task of getting a living the more
difficult, but it is equally reprehensible in all three.

Good manners are said to be the result of a kind heart and careful
home training; bad manners, the result of a coarse nature and
unwise training. We are prone to believe that bad manners in
Americans are almost purely from want of thought. There is no more
generous, kindly, or better people in the world than the standard
American, but he is often an untrained creature. The thousands of
emigrants who land on our shores, with privileges which they never
thought to have thrust upon them, how can they immediately learn
good manners? In the Old World tradition of power is still so
fresh that they have to learn respect for their employers there.
Here there are no such traditions.

The first duty, then, it would seem, both for those to whom
fortune has been kind and for those who are still courting her
favors, would be to study optional civility; not only the
decencies of life, but a little more. Not only be virtuous, but
have the shadows of virtue. Be polite, be engaging; give a cordial
bow, a gracious smile; make sunshine in a shady place. Begin at
home with your optional civility. Not only avoid those serious
breaches of manners which should cause a man to kick another man
down-stairs, but go further than good manners--have _better_
manners. Let men raise their hats to women, give up seats in cars,
kiss the hand of an elderly lady if she confers the honor of her
acquaintance upon them, protect the weak, assist the fallen, and
cultivate civility; in every class of life this would oil the
wheels; and especially let American women seek to mend their

Optional civility does not in any way include familiarity. We
doubt whether it is not the best of all armor against it.
Familiarity is "bad style." It is not civility which causes one
lady to say to another, "Your bonnet is very unbecoming; let me
beg of you to go to another milliner." That is familiarity, which
however much it may be supposed to be excess of friendship, is
generally either caused by spite or by a deficiency of respect The
latter is never pardonable. It is in doubtful taste to warn people
of their faults, to comment upon their lack of taste, to carry
them disagreeable tidings, under the name of friendship. On the
Continent, where diffidence is unknown, where a man, whoever he
may be, has a right to speak to his fellow-man (if he does it
civilly), where a woman finds other women much more polite to her
than women are to each other in this country, there is no
familiarity. It is almost an insult to touch the person; for
instance, no one places his hand on the arm or shoulder of another
person unless there is the closest intimacy; but everywhere there
is an optional civility freely given between poor and poor, rich
and poor, rich and rich, superiors and inferiors, between equals.
It would be pleasant to follow this out in detail, the results are
so agreeable and so honorable.


Many of our correspondents ask us to define what is meant by the
terms "good society" and "bad society." They say that they read in
the newspapers of the "good society" in New York and Washington
and Newport, and that it is a record of drunkenness, flirtation,
bad manners and gossip, backbiting, divorce, and slander. They
read that the fashionable people at popular resorts commit all
sorts of vulgarities, such as talking aloud at the opera, and
disturbing their neighbors; that young men go to a dinner, get
drunk, and break glasses; and one ingenuous young girl remarks,
"We do not call that good society in Atlanta."

Such a letter might have been written to that careful chronicler
of "good society" in the days of Charles II., old Pepys of courtly
fame. The young maiden of Hertfordshire, far from the Court, might
well have thought of Rochester and such "gay sparks," and the
ladies who threw glasses of wine at them, as not altogether
well-bred, nor entitled to admission into "good society." We
cannot blame her.

It is the old story. Where, too, as in our land, pleasure and
luxury rule a certain set who enjoy no tradition of good manners,
the contradiction in terms is the more apparent. Even the external
forms of respect to good manners are wanting. No such overt
vulgarity, for instance, as talking aloud at the opera will ever
be endured in London, because a powerful class of really well-born
and well-bred people will hiss it down, and insist on the quiet
which music, of all other things, demands. That is what we mean by
a tradition of good manners.

In humbler society, we may say as in the household of a Scotch
peasant, such as was the father of Carlyle, the breaches of
manners which are often seen in fashionable society would never
occur. They would appear perfectly impossible to a person who had
a really good heart and a gentle nature. The manners of a young
man of fashion who keeps his hat on when speaking to a lady, who
would smoke in her face, and would appear indifferent to her
comfort at a supper-table, who would be contradictory and
neglectful--such manners would have been impossible to Thomas or
John Carlyle, reared as they were in the humblest poverty. It was
the "London swell" who dared to be rude in their day as now.

But this impertinence and arrogance of fashion should not prevent
the son of a Scotch peasant from acquiring, or attempting to
acquire, the conventional habits and manners of a gentleman. If he
have already the grace of high culture, he should seek to add to
it the knowledge of social laws, which will render him an
agreeable person to be met in society. He must learn how to write
a graceful note, and to answer his invitations promptly; he must
learn the etiquette of dress and of leaving cards; he must learn
how to eat his dinner gracefully, and, even if he sees in good
society men of external polish guilty of a rudeness which would
have shocked the man who in the Scotch Highlands fed and milked
the cows, he still must not forget that society demands something
which was not found in the farm-yard. Carlyle, himself the
greatest radical and democrat in the world, found that life at
Craigenputtock would not do all for him, that he must go to London
and Edinburgh to rub off his solitary neglect of manners, and
strive to be like other people. On the other band, the Queen of
England has just refused to receive the Duke of Marlborough
because he notoriously ill-treated the best of wives, and had
been, in all his relations of life, what they call in England a
"cad." She has even asked him to give back the Star and Garter,
the insignia once worn by the great duke, which has never fallen
on shoulders so unworthy as those of the late Marquis of
Blandford, now Duke of Marlborough. For all this the world has
great reason to thank the Queen, for the present duke has been
always in "good society," and such is the reverence felt for rank
and for hereditary name in England that he might have continued in
the most fashionable circles for all his bad behaviour, still
being courted for name and title, had not the highest lady in the
land rebuked him.

She has refused to receive the friends of the Prince of Wales,
particularly some of his American favorites, this good Queen,
because she esteems good manners and a virtuous life as a part of
good society.

Now, those who are not "in society" are apt to mistake all that is
excessive, all that is boorish, all that is snobbish, all that is
aggressive, as being a part of that society. In this they are
wrong. No one estimates the grandeur of the ocean by the rubbish
thrown up on the shore. Fashionable society, good society, the
best society, is composed of the very best people, the most
polished and accomplished, religious, moral, and charitable.

The higher the civilization, therefore, the better the society,
it being always borne in mind that there will be found, here and
there, the objectionable outgrowths of a false luxury and of an
insincere culture. No doubt, among the circles of the highest
nobility, while the king and queen may be people of simple and
unpretending manners, there may be some arrogant and
self-sufficient master of ceremonies, some Malvolio whose
pomposity is in strange contrast to the good-breeding of Olivia.
It is the lesser star which twinkles most. The "School for
Scandal" is a lasting picture of the folly and frivolity of a
certain phase of London society in the past, and it repeats itself
in every decade. There is always a Mrs. Candour, a Sir Benjamin
Backbite, and a scandalous college at Newport, in New York,
Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, Chicago, Saratoga,
Long Branch, wherever society congregates. It is the necessary
imperfection, the seamy side. Such is the reverse of the pattern.
Unfortunately, the right side is not so easily described. The
colors of a beautiful bit of brocade are, when seen as a whole, so
judiciously blended that they can hardly be pronounced upon
individually: one only admires the _tout ensemble_, and that
uncritically, perhaps.

That society is bad whose members, however tenacious they be of
forms of etiquette and elaborate ceremonials, have one code of
manners for those whom they deem their equals, and another for
those whom they esteem to be of less importance to them by reason
of age, pecuniary condition, or relative social influence. Bad
manners are apt to prove the concomitant of a mind and disposition
that are none too good, and the fashionable woman who slights and
wounds people because they cannot minister to her ambition,
challenges a merciless criticism of her own moral shortcomings. A
young girl who is impertinent or careless in her demeanor to her
mother or her mother's friends; who goes about without a chaperon
and talks slang; who is careless in her bearing towards young men,
permitting them to treat her as if she were one of themselves;
who accepts the attention of a young man of bad character or
dissipated habits because he happens to be rich; who is loud in
dress and rough in manner--such a young girl is "bad society," be
she the daughter of an earl or a butcher. There are many such
instances of audacity in the so-called "good society" of America,
but such people do not spoil it; they simply isolate themselves.

A young man is "bad society" who is indifferent to those older
than himself, who neglects to acknowledge invitations, who sits
while a lady stands, who goes to a ball and does not speak to his
host, who is selfish, who is notoriously immoral and careless of
his good name, and who throws discredit on his father and mother
by showing his ill-breeding. No matter how rich, how externally
agreeable to those whom he may wish to court, no matter how much
varnish of outward manner such a man may possess, he is "bad

A parvenue who assumes to keep other people out of the society
which she has just conquered, whose thoughts are wholly upon
social success (which means, with her, knowing somebody who has
heretofore refused to know her), who is climbing, and throwing
backward looks of disdain upon those who also climb--such a woman,
unfortunately too common in America, is, when she happens to have
achieved a fashionable position, one of the worst instances of bad
society. She may be very prominent, powerful, and influential. She
may have money and "entertain," and people desirous of being
amused may court her, and her bad manners will be accepted by the
careless observer as one of the concomitants of fashion. The
reverse is true. She is an interloper in the circles of good
society, and the old fable of the ass in the lion's skin fits her
precisely. Many a duchess in England is such an interloper; her
supercilious airs betray the falsity of her politeness, but she is
obliged by the rules of the Court at which she has been educated
to "behave like a lady;" she has to counterfeit good-breeding; she
cannot, she dare not, behave as a woman who has suddenly become
rich may sometimes, nay does, behave in American society, and
still be received.

It will thus be seen, as has been happily expressed, that "fashion
has many classes, and many rules of probation and admission." A
young person ignorant of its laws should not be deluded, however,
by false appearances. If a young girl comes from the most secluded
circles to Saratoga, and sees some handsome, well-dressed,
conspicuous woman much courted, lionized, as it were, and observes
in her what seems to be insolent pretence, unkindness, frivolity,
and superciliousness, let her inquire and wait before she accepts
this bit of brass for pure gold. Emerson defines "sterling fashion
as funded talent." Its objects may be frivolous or objectless;
but, in the long-run, its purposes are neither frivolous nor
accidental. It is an effort for good society; it is the bringing
together of admirable men and women in a pleasant way.
Good-breeding, personal superiority, beauty, genius, culture, are
all very good things. Every one delights in a person of charming
manners. Some people will forgive very great derelictions in a
person who has charming manners, but the truly good society is the
society of those who have virtue and good manners both.

Some Englishman asked an American, "What sort of a country is
America?" "It is a country where everybody can tread on
everybody's toes," was the answer.

It is very bad society where any one wishes to tread on his
neighbor's toes, and worse yet where there is a disposition to
feel aggrieved, or to show that one feels aggrieved. There are
certain people new in society who are always having their toes
trodden upon. They say: "Mrs. Brown snubbed me; Mrs. Smith does
not wish to know me; Mrs. Thompson ought to have invited me. I am
as good as any of them." This is very bad society. No woman with
self-respect will ever say such things. If one meets with
rudeness, take no revenge, cast no aspersions. Wit and tact,
accomplishments and social talents, may have elevated some woman
to a higher popularity than another, but no woman will gain that
height by complaining. Command of temper, delicacy of feeling, and
elegance of manner--all these are demanded of the persons who
become leaders of society, and would remain so. They alone are
"good society." Their imitators may masquerade for a time, and
tread on toes, and fling scorn and insult about them while in a
false and insecure supremacy; but such pretenders to the throne
are soon unseated. There is a dreadful Sedan and Strasburg
awaiting them. They distrust their own flatterers; their
"appanage" is not a solid one.

People who are looking on at society from a distance must remember
that women of the world are not always worldly women. They forget
that brilliancy in society may be accompanied by the best heart
and the sternest principle. The best people of the world are those
who know the world best. They recognize the fact that this world
should be known and served and treated with as much respect and
sincerity as that other world, which is to be our reward for
having conquered the one in which we live now.


A lady in her own house can in these United States do pretty much
as she pleases, but there is one thing in which our cultivated and
exclusive city fashionable society seems agreed, and that is, that
she must not introduce two ladies who reside in the same town. It
is an awkward and an embarrassing restriction, particularly as the
other rule, which renders it easy enough--the English rule--that
the "roof is an introduction," and that visitors can converse
without further notice, is not understood. So awkward, however,
are Americans about this, that even in very good houses one lady
has spoken to another, perhaps to a young girl, and has received
no answer, "because she had not been introduced;" but this state
of ignorance is, fortunately, not very common. It should be met by
the surprised rejoinder of the Hoosier school-mistress: "Don't yer
know enough to speak when yer spoken to?" Let every woman
remember, whether she is from the backwoods, or from the most
fashionable city house, that no such casual conversation can hurt
her. It does not involve the further acquaintance of these two
persons. They may cease to know each other when they go down the
front steps; and it would be kinder if they would both relieve the
lady of the house of their joint entertainment by joining in the
conversation, or even speaking to each other.

A hostess in this land is sometimes young, embarrassed, and not
fluent. The presence of two ladies with whom she is not very well
acquainted herself, and both of whom she must entertain, presents
a fearful dilemma. It is a kindness to her, which should outweigh
the dangers of making an acquaintance in "another set," if those
ladies converse a little with each other.

If one lady desires to be introduced to another, the hostess
should ask if she may do so, of course unobtrusively. Sometimes
this places one lady in an unlucky position towards another. She
does not know exactly what to do. Mrs. So-and-so may have the gift
of exclusiveness, and may desire that Mrs. That-and-that shall not
have the privilege of bowing to her. Gurowski says, in his very
clever book on America, that snobbishness is a peculiarity of the
fashionable set in America, because they do not know where they
stand. It is the peculiarity of vulgar people everywhere, whether
they sit on thrones or keep liquor-shops; snobs are born--not
made. If, ever, a lady has this gift or this drawback of
exclusiveness, it is wrong to invade her privacy by introducing
people to her.

Introducing should not be indiscriminately done either at home or
in society by any lady, however kind-hearted. Her own position
must be maintained, and that may demand a certain loyalty to her
own set. She must be careful how she lets loose on society an
undesirable or aggressive man, for instance, or a great bore, or a
vulgar, irritating woman. These will all be social obstacles to
the young ladies of her family, whom she must first consider. She
must not add to the embarrassments of a lady who has already too
large a visiting list. Unsolicited introductions are bad for both
parties. Some large-hearted women of society are too generous by
half in this way. A lady should by adroit questions find out how a
new acquaintance would be received, whether or not it is the
desire of both parties to know each other; for, if there is the
slightest doubt existing on this point, she will be blamed by
both. It is often the good-natured desire of a sympathetic person
that the people whom she knows well should know each other. She
therefore strives to bring them together at lunch or dinner, but
perhaps finds out afterwards that one of the ladies has particular
objections to knowing the other, and she is not thanked. The
disaffected lady shows her displeasure by being impolite to the
pushing lady, as she may consider her. Had no introduction taken
place, she argues, she might have Still enjoyed a reputation for
politeness. Wary women of the world are therefore very shy of
introducing two women to each other.

This is the awkward side. The more agreeable and, we may say,
humane side has its thousands and thousands of supporters, who
believe that a friendly introduction hurts no one; but we are now
not talking of kindness, but of etiquette, which is decidedly
opposed to indiscriminate introductions.

Society is such a complicated organization, and its laws are so
lamentably unwritten, yet so deeply engraved on certain minds,
that these things become important to those who are always winding
and unwinding the chains of fashion.

It is therefore well to state it as a received rule that no
gentleman should ever be introduced to a lady unless her
permission has been asked, and she be given an opportunity to
refuse; and that no woman should be introduced formally to another
woman unless the introducer has consulted the wishes of both
women. No delicate-minded person would ever intrude herself upon
the notice of a person to whom she had been casually introduced in
a friend's drawing-room; but all the world, unfortunately, is not
made up of delicate-minded persons.

In making an introduction, the gentleman is presented to the lady
with some such informal speech as this: "Mrs. A, allow me to
present Mr. B;" or, "Mrs. A, Mr. B desires the honor of knowing
you." In introducing two women, present the younger to the older
woman, the question of rank not holding good in our society where
the position of the husband, be he judge, general, senator, or
president even, does not give his wife fashionable position. She
may be of far less importance in the great world of society than
some Mrs. Smith, who, having nothing else, is set down as of the
highest rank in that unpublished but well-known book of heraldry
which is so thoroughly understood in America as a tradition. It is
the proper thing for a gentleman to ask a mutual friend or an
acquaintance to introduce him to a lady, and there are few
occasions when this request is refused. In our crowded ballrooms,
chaperons often ask young men if they will be introduced to their
charges. It is better before asking the young men of this present
luxurious age, if they will not only be introduced, but if they
propose to dance, with the young lady, else that young person may
be mortified by a snub. It is painful to record, as we must, that
the age of chivalry is past, and that at a gay ball young men
appear as supremely selfish, and desire generally only
introductions to the reigning belle, or to an heiress, not
deigning to look at the humble wall-flower, who is neither, but
whose womanhood should command respect. Ballroom introductions are
supposed to mean, on the part of the gentleman, either an
intention to dance with the young lady, to walk with her, or to
talk to her through one dance, or to show her some attention.

Men scarcely ever ask to be introduced to each other, but if a
lady, through some desire of her own, wishes to present them, she
should never be met by indifference on their part. Men have a
right to be exclusive as to their acquaintances, of course; but at
a lady's table, or in her parlor, they should never openly show
distaste for each other's society before her.

In America it is the fashion to shake hands, and most women, if
desirous of being cordial, extend their hands even on a first
introduction; but it is, perhaps, more elegant to make a bow only,
at a first introduction.

In her own house a hostess should always extend her hand to a
person brought to her by a mutual friend, and introduced for the
first time. At a dinner-party, a few minutes before dinner, the
hostess introduces to a lady the gentleman who is to take her down
to the dining-room, but makes no further introductions, except in
the case of a distinguished stranger, to whom all the company are
introduced. Here people, as we have said, are shy of speaking, but
they should not be, for the room where they meet is a sufficient
guarantee that they can converse without any loss of dignity.

At large gatherings in the country it is proper for the lady to
introduce her guests to each other, and it is perfectly proper to
do this without asking permission of either party. A mother always
introduces her son or daughter, a husband his wife, or a wife her
husband, without asking permission.

A gentleman, after being introduced to a lady, must wait for her
to bow first before he ventures to claim her as an acquaintance.

This is Anglo-Saxon etiquette. On the Continent, however, the
gentleman bows first. There the matter of the raising the hat is
also important. An American gentleman takes his hat quite off to a
lady; a foreigner raises it but slightly, and bows with a
deferential air. Between ladies but slightly acquainted, and just
introduced, a very formal bow is all that is proper; acquaintances
and friends bow and smile; intimate male friends simply nod, but
all gentlemen with ladies raise the hat and bow if the lady
recognizes a friend.

Introductions which take place out-of-doors, as on the lawn-tennis
ground, in the hunting field, in the street, or in any casual way,
are not to be taken as necessarily formal, unless the lady chooses
so to consider them. The same may be said of introductions at a
watering-place, where a group of ladies walking together may meet
other ladies or gentlemen, and join forces for a walk or drive.
Introductions are needful, and should be made by the oldest lady
of the party, but are not to be considered as making an
acquaintance necessary between the parties if neither should
afterwards wish it. It is universally conceded now that this sort
of casual introduction does not involve either lady in the
net-work of a future acquaintance; nor need a lady recognize a
gentleman, if she does not choose to do so, after a watering-place
introduction. It is always, however, more polite to bow; that
civility hurts no one.

There are in our new country many women who consider themselves
fashionable leaders--members of an exclusive set--and who fear if
they should know some other women out of that set that they would
imperil their social standing. These people have no titles by
which they can be known, so they preserve their exclusiveness by
disagreeable manners, as one would hedge a garden by a border of
prickly-pear. The result is that much ill-feeling is engendered in
society, and people whom these old aristocrats call the "_nouveaux
riches_," "parvenus," etc., are always having their feelings hurt.
The fact remains that the best-bred and most truly aristocratic
people do not find it necessary to hurt any one's feelings. An
introduction never harms anybody, and a woman with the slightest
tact can keep off a vulgar and a pushing person without being
rude. It is to be feared that there are vulgar natures among those
who aspire to be considered exclusive, and that they are gratified
if they can presumably increase their own importance by seeming
exclusive; but it is not necessary to dwell on such people.

The place given here to the ill-bred is only conceded to them that
one may realize the great demands made upon the tact and the good
feeling of a hostess. She must have a quick apprehension; she may
and will remember, however, that it is very easily forgiven, this
kind-heartedness--that it is better to sin against etiquette than
to do an unkind thing.

Great pains should be taken by a hostess to introduce shy people.
Young people are those whose pleasure must depend on

It is well for a lady in presenting two strangers to say something
which may break the ice, and make the conversation easy and
agreeable; as, for instance, "Mrs. Smith, allow me to present Mr.
Brown, who has just arrived from New Zealand;" or, "Mrs. Jones,
allow me to present Mrs. Walsingham, of Washington--or San
Francisco," so that the two may naturally have a question and
answer ready with which to step over the threshold of conversation
without tripping.

At a five-o'clock tea or a large reception there are reasons why a
lady cannot introduce any one but the daughter or sister whom she
has in charge. A lady who comes and knows no one sometimes goes
away feeling that her hostess has been inattentive, because no one
has spoken to her. She remembers Europe, where the roof-tree has
been an introduction, and where people spoke kindly to her and did
not pass her by. Dinner-parties in stiff and formal London have
this great attraction: a gentleman steps up and speaks to a lady,
although they have never met before, and often takes her down to
dinner without an introduction. The women chat after dinner like
old friends; every one knows that the roof is a sufficient
guarantee. This is as it should be; but great awkwardness results
in the United States if one lady speaks to another and receives no
answer. "Pray, can you tell me who the pianist is?" said a leader
of society to a young girl near her at a private concert. The
young lady looked distressed and blushed, and did not answer.
Having seen a deaf-mute in the room whom she knew, the speaker
concluded that this young lady belonged to that class of persons,
and was very much surprised when later the hostess brought up this
silent personage and introduced her.

"I could not speak to you before because I had not been
introduced--but the pianist is Mr. Mills," remarked this
punctilious person. "I, however, could speak to you, although we
had not been formally presented. The roof was a sufficient
guarantee of your respectability, and I thought from your not
answering that you were deaf and dumb," said the lady.

The rebuke was deserved. Common-sense must interpret etiquette;
"nice customs courtesy to great kings." Society depends upon its
social soothsayers for all that is good in it. A disagreeable
woman can always find precedents for being formal and chilling; a
fine-tempered woman can always find reasons enough for being
agreeable. A woman would rather be a benediction than a curse, one
would think. We hold it proper, all things considered, that at
dinner-parties and receptions a hostess may introduce her friends
to each other. So long as there is embarrassment, or the mistake
made by the young lady above mentioned who would not answer a
civil question; so long as these mistakes and others are made, and
the result be stupidity and gloom, and a party silent and
thumb-twisting, instead of gayly conversing, as it should be; so
long as people do not come together easily--it is manifestly
proper that the hostess should put her finger on the social
pendulum, and give it a swing to start the conversational clock.
All well-bred people recognize the propriety of speaking to even
an enemy at a dinner-party, although they would suffer no
recognition an hour later. The same principle holds good, of
course, if, in the true exercise of her hospitality, the hostess
should introduce some person whom she would like to commend. These
are the exceptions which form the rule.

Care should be taken in presenting foreigners to young ladies;
sometimes titles are dubious. Here, a hostess is to be forgiven if
she positively declines. She may say, politely, "I hardly think I
know you well enough to dare to present you to that young lady.
You must wait until her parents (or guardians, or chaperon) will
present you."

But the numbers of agreeable people who are ready and waiting to
be introduced are many. The woman of literary distinction and the
possessor of an honored name may be invincibly shy and afraid to
speak; while her next neighbor, knowing her fame perhaps, and
anxious to make her acquaintance, misconstrues shyness for
pride--a masquerade which bashfulness sometimes plays; so two
people, with volumes to say to each other, remain silent as
fishes, until the kindly magician comes along, and, by the open
sesame of an introduction, unlocks the treasure which has been so
deftly hidden. A woman of fashion may enter an assembly of
thinkers and find herself dreaded and shunned, until some kind
word creates the _entente cordiale_. In the social entertainments
of New York, the majority prefer those where the hostess
introduces her guests--under, of course, these wise and proper

As for forms of introduction, the simplest are best. A lady should
introduce her husband as "Mr. Brown," "General Brown," "Judge
Brown." If he has a title she is always to give it to him. Our
simple forms of titular respect have been condemned abroad, and we
are accused of being all "colonels" and "generals;" but a wife
should still give her husband his title. In addressing the
President we say "Mr. President," but his wife should say, "Allow
me to introduce the President to you." The modesty of Mrs. Grant,
however, never allowed her to call her many-titled husband
anything but "Mr. Grant," which had, in her case, a sweetness
above all etiquette.

Introductions in the homely German fatherland are universal,
everybody pronouncing to everybody else the name of the lady to
whom he is talking; and among our German fellow-citizens we often
see a gentleman convoying a lady through a crowded assemblage,
introducing her to everybody. It is a simple, cordial, and
pleasant thing enough, as with them the acquaintance stops there;
and a bow and smile hurt nobody.

No one of heart or mind need feel afraid to talk and be agreeable,
whether introduced or not, at a friend's house; even if she meets
with the rebuff of a deaf-and-dumb neighbor, she need not feel
heart-broken: she is right, and her stiff acquaintance is wrong.

If a gentleman asks to be presented to a lady, she should signify
her assent in a pleasant way, and pay her hostess, through whom
the request comes, the compliment of at least seeming to be
gratified at the introduction. Our American ladies are sometimes a
little lacking in cordiality of manner, often receiving a new
acquaintance with that part of their conformation which is known
as the "cold shoulder." A brusque discourtesy is bad, a very
effusive courtesy and a too low bow are worse, and an overwhelming
and patronizing manner is atrocious. The proper salutation lies
just between the two extremes: the_ juste milieu_ is the proper
thing always. In seeking introductions for ourselves, while we
need not be shy of making a first visit or asking for an
introduction, we must still beware of "push." There are instincts
in the humblest understanding which will tell us where to draw the
line. If a person is socially more prominent than ourselves, or
more distinguished in any way, we should not be violently anxious
to take the first step; we should wait until some happy chance
brought us together, for we must be as firm in our self-respect as
our neighbor is secure in her exalted position. Wealth has
heretofore had very little power to give a person an exclusively
fashionable position. Character, breeding, culture, good
connections--all must help. An aristocrat who is such by virtue of
an old and honored name which has never been tarnished is a power
in the newest society as in the oldest; but it is a shadowy power,
felt rather than described. Education is always a power.

To be sure, there is a tyranny in large cities of what is known as
the "fashionable set," formed of people willing to spend money;
who make a sort of alliance, offensive and defensive; who can give
balls and parties and keep certain people out; who have the place
which many covet; who are too much feared and dreaded. If those
who desire an introduction to this set strive for it too much,
they will be sure to be snubbed; for this circle lives by
snubbing. If such an aspirant will wait patiently, either the
whole autocratic set of ladies will disband--for such sets
disentangle easily--or else they in their turn will come knocking
at the door and ask to be received. _L'art de tenir salon_ is not
acquired in an hour. It takes many years for a new and an
uninstructed set to surmount all the little awkwardnesses, the
dubious points of etiquette, that come up in every new shuffle of
the social cards; but a modest and serene courtesy, a civility
which is not servile, will be a good introduction into any

And it is well to have that philosophical spirit which puts the
best possible interpretation upon the conduct of others. Be not in
haste to consider yourself neglected. Self-respect does not easily
receive an insult. A lady who is fully aware of her own
respectability, who has always lived in the best society, is never
afraid to bow or call first, or to introduce the people whom she
may desire should know each other. She perhaps presumes on her
position, but it is very rare that such a person offends; for tact
is almost always the concomitant of social success.

There has been a movement lately towards the stately bows and
courtesies of the past in our recent importation of Old-World
fashions. A lady silently courtesies when introduced, a gentleman
makes a deep bow without speaking. We have had the custom of
hand-shaking--and a very good custom it is--but perhaps the latest
fashion in ceremonious introduction forbids it. If a gentleman
carries his crush hat, and a lady her fan and a bouquet,
hand-shaking may not be perfectly convenient. However, if a lady
or gentleman extends a hand, it should be taken cordially. Always
respond to the greeting in the key-note of the giver.


No term admits of a wider interpretation than this; no subject is
capable of a greater number of subdivisions. The matter of formal
visiting has led to the writing of innumerable books. The decay of
social visiting is a cause of regret to all the old-fashioned
people who remember how agreeable it was; but our cities have
grown too large for it, and in our villages the population changes
too quickly. The constant effort to make the two systems shake
hands, to add cordiality to formality, and to provide for all the
forced conditions of a rapidly growing and constantly changing
society, these are but a few of the difficulties attending this

The original plan of an acquaintance in a formal city circle was
to call once or twice a year on all one's friends personally, with
the hope and the remote expectation of finding two or three at
home. When society was smaller in New York, this was possible, but
it soon grew to be impossible, as in all large cities. This
finally led to the establishment of a reception day which held
good all winter. That became impossible and tiresome, and was
narrowed down to four Tuesdays, perhaps, in one month; that
resolved itself into one or two five-o'clock teas; and then again,
if a lady got lame or lazy or luxurious, even the last easy method
of receiving her friends became too onerous, and cards were left
or sent in an envelope.

Now, according to the strict rules of etiquette, one card a year
left at the door, or one sent in an envelope, continues the
acquaintance. We can never know what sudden pressure of calamity,
what stringent need of economy, what exigencies of work, may
prompt a lady to give up her visiting for a season. Even when
there is no apparent cause, society must ask no questions, but
must acquiesce in the most good-natured view of the subject.

Still, there must be uniformity. We are not pleased to receive
Mrs. Brown's card by post, and then to meet her making a personal
visit to our next neighbor. We all wish to receive our personal
visits, and if a lady cannot call on all her formal acquaintances
once, she had better call on none.

If she gives one reception a year and invites all her "list," she
is then at liberty to refrain from either calling or sending a
card, unless she is asked to a wedding or dinner, a ladies' lunch
or a christening, or receives some very particular invitation
which she must return by an early personal call--the very formal
and the punctilious say within a week, but that is often

And if a lady have a day, the call should be made on that day; it
is rude to ignore the intimation. One should try to call on a
reception day. But here in a crowded city another complication
comes in. If a lady have four Thursdays in January and several
other ladies have Thursdays, it may be impossible to reach all
those ladies on their reception day. There is nothing for it,
then, but to good-naturedly apologize, and to regret that calling
hours are now reduced to between four and six in large cities.

Some people have too many acquaintances. If they hope to do
anything in the world but drive about and leave cards, they must
exonerate themselves from blame by giving a reception, having a
day or an evening for receiving, and then trust to the good-nature
of society, or its forgetfulness, which is about the same thing,
to excuse them.

Happy those ladies who can give up an evening a week to their
friends; that rubs out the score on the social slate, besides
giving a number of people a chance to spend a very agreeable hour
in that society which gathers around a hospitable lamp.

The danger of this kind of hospitality is that it is abused by
bores, who are too apt to congregate in numbers, and to wear out
the lady of the house by using her parlor as a spot where they are
safe from the rain and cold and free to bestow their tediousness
on anybody, herself included. Then a lady after committing herself
to a reception evening often wishes to go out herself. It requires
unselfishness to give up an evening to that large circle, some of
whom forget it, some go elsewhere, some come too often, and
sometimes, alas! no on e calls. These are the drawbacks of an
"evening at home." However, it is a laudable custom; one could
wish it were more common.

No one can forget the eloquent thanks of such men as Horace
Walpole, and other persons of distinction, to the Misses Berry, in
London, who kept up their evening receptions for sixty years. But,
from the trials of those who have too much visiting, we turn to
the people who have all the means and appliances of visiting and
no one to visit.

The young married woman who comes to New York, or any other large
city, often passes years of loneliness before she has made her
acquaintances. She is properly introduced, we will say by her
mother-in-law or some other friend, and then, after a round of
visits in which she has but, perhaps, imperfectly apprehended the
positions and names of her new acquaintances, she has a long
illness, or she is called into mourning, or the cares of the
nursery surround her, and she is shut out from society until it
has forgotten her; and when she is ready to emerge, it is
difficult for her to find her place again in the visiting-book. If
she is energetic and clever, she surmounts this difficulty by
giving a series of receptions, or engaging in charities, or
working on some committee, making herself of use to society in
some way; and thus picks up her dropped stitches. But some young
women are without the courage and tact to do this thing; they
wait, expecting that society will find them out, and, taking them
up, will do all the work and leave them to accept or refuse
civilities as they please. Society never does this; it has too
much on its hands; a few conspicuously beautiful and gifted people
may occasionally receive such an ovation, but it is not for the
rank and file.

Every young woman should try to make at least one personal visit
to those who are older than herself, and she should show charity
towards those who do not return this visit immediately. Of course,
she has a right to be piqued if her visit be persistently ignored;
and she should not press herself upon a cold or indifferent
acquaintance, but she should be slow to wrath; and if she is once
invited to the older lady's house, it is worth a dozen calls so
far as the intention of civility is concerned.

It is proper to call in person, or to leave a card, after an
acquaintance has lost a relative, after an engagement is
announced, after a marriage has taken place, after a return from
Europe, and of course after an invitation has been extended; but,
as society grows larger and larger, the first four visits may be
omitted, and cards sent if it is impossible to pay the visits
personally. Most ladies in large cities are invisible except on
their days; in this way alone can they hope to have any time for
their own individual tastes, be these what they may--china
painting, authorship, embroidery, or music. So the formal visiting
gets to be a mere matter of card-leaving; and the witty author who
suggested that there should be a "clearing-house for cards," and
who hailed the Casino at Newport as a good institution for the
same, was not without genius. One hates to lose time in this world
while greasing the machinery, and the formal, perfunctory
card-leaving is little else.

Could we all have abundant leisure and be sure to find our friends
at home, what more agreeable business than visiting? To wander
from one pleasant interior to another, to talk a little harmless
gossip, to hear the last _mot_, the best piece of news, to see
one's friends, their children, and the stranger within their
gates--all this is charming; it is the Utopia of society; it would
be the apotheosis of visiting--if there were such a thing!

Unfortunately, it is impossible. There may be here and there a
person of such exalted leisure that he can keep his accounts to
society marked in one of those purple satin manuals stamped
"Visites," and make the proper marks every day under the heads of
"address," "received," "returned visits," and "reception days,"
but he is a _rara avis_.

Certain rules are, however, immutable. A first call from a new
acquaintance should be speedily returned. These are formal calls,
and should be made in person between the hours of four and six in
New York and other large cities. Every town has its own hours for
receiving, however. When calling for the first time on several
ladies not mother and daughters in one family, a card should be
left on each. In the first call of the season, a lady leaves her
own card and those of her husband, sons, and daughters.

A lady has a right to leave her card without asking for the lady
of the house if it is not her day, or if there is any reason--such
as bad weather, pressure of engagements, or the like--which
renders time an important matter.

If ladies are receiving, and she is admitted, the visitor should
leave her husband's cards for the gentlemen of the family on the
hall table. Strangers staying in town who wish to be called upon
should send their cards by post, with address attached, to those
whom they would like to see. There is no necessity of calling
after a tea or general reception if one has attended the
festivity, or has left or sent a card on that day.

For reception days a lady wears a plain, dark, rich dress, taking
care, however, never to be overdressed at home. She rises when her
visitors enter, and is careful to seat her friends so that she can
have a word with each. If this is impossible, she keeps her eye on
the recent arrivals to be sure to speak to every one. She is to be
forgiven if she pays more attention to the aged, to some
distinguished stranger, or to some one who has the still higher
claim of misfortune, or to one of a modest and shrinking
temperament, than to one young, gay, fashionable, and rich. If she
neglects these fortunate visitors they will not feel it; if she
bows low to them and neglects the others, she betrays that she is
a snob. If a lady is not sure that she is known by name to her
hostess, she should not fail to pronounce her own name. Many
ladies send their cards to the young brides who have come into a
friend's family, and yet who are without personal acquaintance.
Many, alas! forget faces, so that a name quickly pronounced is a
help. In the event of an exchange of calls between two ladies who
have never met (and this has gone on for years in New York,
sometimes until death has removed one forever), they should take
an early opportunity of speaking to each other at some friend's
house; the younger should approach the elder and introduce
herself; it is always regarded as a kindness; or the one who has
received the first attention should be the first to speak.

It is well always to leave a card in the hall even if one is
received, as it assists the lady's memory in her attempts to
return these civilities. Cards of condolence must be returned by a
mourning-card sent in an envelope at such reasonable time after
the death of a relative as one can determine again to take up the
business of society. When the separate card of a lady is left,
with her reception day printed in one corner, two cards of her
husband should be left, one for the lady, the other for the
master, of the house; but after the first call of the season, it
is not necessary to leave the husband's card, except after a
dinner invitation. It is a convenience, although not a universal
custom, to have the joint names of husband and wife, as "Dr. and
Mrs. J. B. Watson," printed on one card, to use as a card of
condolence or congratulation, but not as a visiting-card. These
cards are used as "P. P. C." cards, and can be sent in an envelope
by post. Society is rapidly getting over its prejudice against
sending cards by post. In Europe it is always done, and it is much
safer. Etiquette and hospitality have been reduced to a system in
the Old World. It would be much more convenient could we do that
here. Ceremonious visiting is the machinery by which an
acquaintance is kept up in a circle too large for social visiting;
but every lady should try to make one or two informal calls each
winter on intimate friends. These calls can be made in the morning
in the plainest walking-dress, and are certainly the most
agreeable and flattering of all visits.


The engraving of invitation-cards has become the important
function of more than one enterprising firm in every city, so that
it seems unnecessary to say more than that the most plain and
simple style of engraving the necessary words is all that is

The English ambassador at Rome has a plain, stiff, unglazed card
of a large size, on which is engraved,

Sir Augustus and Lady Paget
request the pleasure of ______ company
on Thursday evening, November fifteenth, at ten o'clock.
The favor of an answer is requested.

The lady of the house writes the name of the invited guest in the
blank space left before the word "company." Many entertainers in
America keep these blanks, or half-engraved invitations, always on
hand, and thus save themselves the trouble of writing the whole

Sometimes, however, ladies prefer to write their own dinner
invitations. The formula should always be,

Mr. and Mrs. Henry Brown
request the pleasure of
Mr. and Mrs. Jones's company at dinner.
November fifteenth, at seven o'clock,
132 Blank St. West.

These invitations should be immediately answered, and with a
peremptory acceptance or a regret. Never enter into any discussion
or prevision with a dinner invitation. Never write, saying "you
will come if you do not have to leave town," or that you will "try
to come," or, if you are a married pair, that you will "one of you
come." Your hostess wants to know exactly who is coming and who
isn't, that she may arrange her table accordingly. Simply say,

Mr. and Mrs. James Jones
accept with pleasure the polite invitation of
Mr. and Mrs. Henry Brown for dinner
on November fifteenth,
at seven o'clock.

Or if it is written in the first person, accept in the same
informal manner, but quickly and decisively.

After having accepted a dinner invitation, if illness or any other
cause interfere with your going to the dinner, send all immediate
note to your hostess, that she may fill your place. Never
selfishly keep the place open for yourself if there is a doubt
about your going. It has often made or marred the pleasure of a
dinner-party, this hesitancy on the part of a guest to send in
time to her hostess her regrets, caused by the illness of her
child, or the coming on of a cold, or a death in the family, or
any other calamity. Remember always that a dinner is a most formal
affair, that it is the highest social compliment, that its happy
fulfilment is of the greatest importance to the hostess, and that
it must be met in the same formal spirit. It precludes, on her
part, the necessity of having to make a first call if she be the
older resident, although she generally calls first. Some young
neophytes in society, having been asked to a dinner where the
elderly lady who gave it had forgotten to enclose her card, asked
if they should call afterwards. Of course they were bound to do
so, although their hostess should have called or enclosed her
card. However, one invitation to dinner is better than many cards
as a social compliment.

We have been asked by many, "To whom should the answer to an
invitation be addressed?" If Mr. and Mrs. Brown invite you, answer
Mr. and Mrs. Brown. If Mrs. John Jones asks you to a wedding,
answer Mrs. John Jones. Another of our correspondents asks, "Shall
I respond to the lady of the house or to the bride if asked to a
wedding?" This seems so impossible a confusion that we should not
think of mentioning so self-evident a fact had not the doubt
arisen. One has nothing to say to the bride in answering such an
invitation; the answer is to be sent to the hostess, who writes.

Always carefully observe the formula of your invitation, and
answer it exactly. As to the card of the English ambassador, a
gentleman should write: "Mr. Algernon Gracie will do himself the
honor to accept the invitation of Sir Augustus and Lady Paget." In
America he would be a trifle less formal, saying, "Mr. Algernon
Gracie will have much pleasure in accepting the polite invitation
of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Brown." We notice that on all English cards
the "R.S.V.P." is omitted, and that a plain line of English script
is engraved, saying, "The favor of an answer is requested."

In this country the invitations to a dinner are always in the name
of both host and hostess, but invitations to a ball, "at home," a
tea, or garden-party, are in the name of the hostess alone. At a
wedding the names of both host and hostess are given. And if a
father entertains for his daughters, he being a widower, his name
appears alone for her wedding; but if his eldest daughter presides
over his household, his and her name appear together for dinners,
receptions, and "at homes." Many widowed fathers, however, omit
the names of their daughters on the invitation. A young lady at
the head of her father's house may, if she is no longer very
young, issue her own cards for a tea. It is never proper for very
young ladies to invite gentlemen in their own name to visit at the
house, call on them, or to come to dinner. The invitation must
come from the father, mother, or chaperon.

At the Assembly, Patriarchs', Charity ball, or any public affair,
the word "ball" is used, but no lady invites you to a "ball" at
her own house. The words "At Home," with "Cotillion" or "Dancing"
in one corner, and the hour and date, alone are necessary. If it
is to be a small, informal dance, the word "Informal" should be
engraved in one corner. Officers of the army and navy giving a
ball, members of the hunt, bachelors, members of a club, heads of
committees, always "request the pleasure," or, "the honor of your
company." It is not proper for a gentleman to describe himself as
"at home;" he must "request the pleasure." A rich bachelor of
Utopia who gave many entertainments made this mistake, and sent a
card--"Mr. Horatio Brown. At Home. Tuesday, November fourteenth.
Tea at four"--to a lady who had been an ambassadress. She
immediately replied: "Mrs. Rousby is very glad to hear that Mr.
Horatio Brown is at home--she hopes that he will stay there; but
of what possible consequence is that to Mrs. Rousby?" This was a
piece of rough wit, but it told the young man of his mistake.
Another card, issued with the singular formula, "Mrs. Ferguson
hopes to see Mrs. Rousby at the church," on the occasion of the
wedding of a daughter, brought forth the rebuke, "Nothing is so
deceitful as human hope," The phrase is an improper one. Mrs.
Ferguson should have "requested the pleasure."

In asking for an invitation to a ball for friends, ladies must be
cautious not to intrude too far, or to feel offended if refused.
Often a hostess has a larger list than she can fill, and she is
not able to ask all whom she would wish to invite. Therefore a
very great discretion is to be observed on the part of those who
ask a favor. A lady may always request an invitation for
distinguished strangers, or for a young dancing man if she can
answer for him in every way, but rarely for a married couple, and
almost never for a couple living in the same city, unless newly

Invitations to evening or day receptions are generally "at home"
cards. A lady may use her own visiting cards for five-o'clock tea.
For other entertainments, "Music," "Lawn-tennis," "Garden-party,"
"Readings and Recitals," may be engraved in one corner, or written
in by the lady herself.

As for wedding invitations, they are almost invariably sent out by
the parents of the bride, engraved in small script on note-paper.
The style can always be obtained of a fashionable engraver. They
should be sent out a fortnight before the wedding-day, and are not
to be answered unless the guests are requested to attend a
"sit-down" breakfast, when the answer must be as explicit as to a
dinner. Those who cannot attend the wedding send or leave their
visiting-cards either on the day of the wedding or soon after.
Invitations to a luncheon are generally written by the hostess on
note-paper, and should be rather informal, as luncheon is an
informal meal. However, nowadays ladies' luncheons have become
such grand, consequential, and expensive affairs, that invitations
are engraved and sent out a fortnight in advance, and answered
immediately. There is the same etiquette as at dinner observed at
these formal luncheons. There is such a thing, however, as a
"stand-up" luncheon--a sort of reception with banquet, from which
one could absent one's self without being missed.

Punctuality in keeping all engagements is a feature of a well-bred
character, in society as well as in business, and it cannot be too
thoroughly insisted upon.

In sending a "regret" be particular to word your note most
respectfully. Never write the word "regrets" on your card unless
you wish to insult your hostess. Send a card without any
pencilling upon it, or write a note, thus: "Mrs. Brown regrets
that a previous engagement will deprive her of the pleasure of
accepting the polite invitation of Mrs. Jones."

No one should, in the matter of accepting or refusing an
invitation, economize his politeness. It is better to err on the
other side. Your friend has done his best in inviting you.

The question is often asked us, "Should invitations be sent to
people in mourning?" Of course they should. No one would knowingly
intrude on a house in which there is or has been death within a
month; but after that, although it is an idle compliment, it is
one which must be paid; it is a part of the machinery of society.
As invitations are now directed by the hundreds by hired
amanuenses, a lady should carefully revise her list, in order that
no names of persons deceased may be written on her cards; but the
members of the family who remain, and who have suffered a loss,
should be carefully remembered, and should not be pained by seeing
the name of one who has departed included in the invitations or
wedding-cards. People in deep mourning are not invited to dinners
or luncheons, but for weddings and large entertainments cards are
sent as a token of remembrance and compliment. After a year of
mourning the bereaved family should send out cards with a narrow
black edge to all who have remembered them.

Let it be understood that in all countries a card sent by a
private hand in an envelope is equivalent to a visit. In England
one sent by post is equivalent to a visit, excepting after a
dinner. Nothing is pencilled on a card sent by post, except the
three letters "P.P.C." No such words as "accepts," "declines,"
"regrets" should be written on a card. As much ill-will is
engendered in New York by the loss of cards for large receptions
and the like, some of which the messenger-boys fling into the
gutter, it is a thousand pities that we cannot agree to send all
invitations by mail. People always get letters that are sent by
post, particularly those which they could do without. Why should
they not get their more interesting letters that contain
invitations? It is considered thoroughly respectful in England,
and as our people are fond of copying that stately etiquette, why
should they not follow this sensible part of it?

It is in every sense as complimentary to send a letter by the post
as by the dirty fingers of a hired messenger. Very few people in
this country can afford to send by their own servants, who, again,
rarely find the right address.


A distinguished lady of New York, on recovering from a severe
illness, issued a card which is a new departure. In admiring its
fitness and the need which has existed for just such a card, we
wonder that none of us have before invented something so compact
and stately, pleasing and proper--that her thought had not been
our thought. It reads thus, engraved in elegant script, plain and
modest: "Mrs. ____ presents her compliments and thanks for recent
kind inquiries." This card, sent in an envelope which bears the
family crest as a seal, reached all those who had left cards and
inquiries for a useful and eminent member of society, who lay for
weeks trembling between life and death.

This card is an attention to her large circle of anxious friends
which only a kind-hearted woman would have thought of, and yet the
thought was all; for after that the engraver and the secretary
could do the rest, showing what a labor-saving invention it is to
a busy woman who is not yet sufficiently strong to write notes to
all who had felt for her severe suffering. The first joy of
convalescence is of gratitude, and the second that we have created
an interest and compassion among our friends, and that we were not
alone as we struggled with disease. Therefore we may well
recommend that this card should become a fashion. It meets a
universal want.

This may be called one of the "cards of compliment"--a phase of
card-leaving to which we have hardly reached in this country. It
is even more, it is a heartfelt and friendly blossom of etiquette,
"just out," as we say of the apple-blossoms.

Now as to the use of it by the afflicted: why would it not be well
for persons who have lost a friend also to have such a card
engraved? "Mr. R____ begs to express his thanks for your kind
sympathy in his recent bereavement," etc. It would save a world of
letter-writing to a person who does not care to write letters, and
it would be a very pleasant token to receive when all other such
tokens are impossible. For people leave their cards on a mourner,
and never know whether they have been received or not.
Particularly is this true of apartment-houses; and when people
live in hotels, who knows whether the card ever reaches its
destination? We generally find that it has not done so, if we have
the courage to make the inquiry.

Those cards which we send by a servant to make the necessary
inquiries for a sick friend, for the happy mother and the new-born
baby, are essentially "cards of compliment." In excessively
ceremonious circles the visits of ceremony on these occasions are
very elaborate--as at the Court of Spain, for instance; and a lady
of New York was once much amused at receiving the card of a superb
Spanish official, who called on her newly arrived daughter when
the latter was three days old, leaving a card for the "new
daughter." He of course left a card for the happy mamma, and did
not ask to go farther than the door, but he came in state.

In England the "family" were wont to send christening cards after
a birth, but this has never been the fashion in this country, and
it is disappearing in England. The complimentary card issued for
such events is now generally an invitation to partake of caudle--a

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest