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

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if possible, a committee of ladies to receive. It is very much
more conducive to the elegance of a ball if there be a recognized
hostess, or committee of hostesses: the very aspect of the room is
thus improved. And to a stranger from another city these ladies
should be hospitable, taking care that she be introduced and
treated with suitable attention.

An awning and carpet should be placed at the front entrance of a
house in which a ball is to be given, to protect the guests
against the weather and the gaze of the crowd of by-standers who
always gather in a great city to see the well-dressed ladies
alight. Unfortunately, in a heavy rain these awnings are most
objectionable; they are not water-proof, and as soon as they are
thoroughly wet they afford no protection whatever.

The cotillion styled the German was first danced by the German
court just after the battle of Waterloo, probably at the ball at
Aix-la-Chapelle given to the allied sovereigns. Favors are given
merely to promote enjoyment and to give variety. It is not
necessary that people be matrimonially engaged to dance it. One
engages his partner for it as for any other dance. It had been
fashionable in Europe many years before it came to this country,
but has been danced here for over forty years, first coming out at


The return to quadrilles at some of the latest balls at
Delmonico's in the winter of 1884 was an important epoch in the
history of dancing, reiterating the well-known proverb of the
dressmakers that everything comes round in fifty years. Fashion
seems to be perennial in this way, for it is almost fifty
years--certainly forty--since the quadrille was at the height of
fashion. In Germany, where they dance for dancing's sake, the
quadrille was long ago voted _rococo_ and stiff. In England and at
court balls it served always as a way, a dignified manner, for
sovereigns and people of inconveniently high rank to begin a ball,
to open a festivity, and it had a sporadic existence in the
country and at Washington even during the years when the Lancers,
a much livelier dance, had chased it away from the New York balls
for a long period of time.

The quadrille is a stately and a conversational dance. The figures
are accurate, and every one should know them well enough to
respond to the voice of the leader. But inasmuch as the figures
are always calling one away from his partner, the first law is to
have a large supply of small-talk, so that, on rejoining, a remark
and a smile may make up for lost time. A calm, graceful carriage,
the power to make an elegant courtesy, are necessary to a lady. No
one in these days takes steps; a sort of galop is, however,
allowed in the rapid figures of the quadrille. A defiant manner,
sometimes assumed by a bashful man, is out of place, although
there are certain figures which make a man feel rather defiant.
One of these is where he is obliged, as _cavalier seul_, to
advance to three ladies, who frequently laugh at him. Then a man
should equally avoid a boisterous demeanor in a quadrille; not
swinging the lady round too gayly. It is never a romping dance,
like the Virginia reel, for instance.

All people are apt to walk through a quadrille slowly, to music,
until they come to the "ladies' chain" or the "promenade." It is,
however, permissible to add a little swinging-step and a graceful
dancing-movement to this stately promenade. A quadrille cannot go
on evenly if any confusion arises from the ignorance, obstinacy,
or inattention of one of the dancers. It is proper, therefore, if
ignorant of the figures, to consult a dancing-master and to learn
them. It is a most valuable dance, as all ages, sizes, and
conditions of men and women can join in it. The young, old, stout,
thin, lazy, active, maimed, or single, _without loss of caste_,
can dance a quadrille. No one looks ridiculous dancing a
quadrille. It is decidedly easier than the German, makes a break
in a _t^te-...-t^te_ conversation, and enables a gentleman to be
polite to a lady who may not be a good dancer for waltz or polka.
The morality of round dances seems now to be little questioned. At
any rate, young girls in the presence of their mothers are not
supposed to come to harm from their enjoyment. Dancing is one of
the oldest, the most historical, forms of amusement. Even Socrates
learned to dance. There is no longer an excommunication on the
waltz, that dance which Byron abused.

In England the _valse ... deux temps_ is still the most fashionable,
as it always will be the most beautiful, of dances. Some of the
critics of all countries have said that only Germans, Russians,
and Americans can dance it. The Germans dance it very quickly,
with a great deal of motion, but render it elegant by slacking the
pace every now and then. The Russians waltz so quietly, on the
contrary, that they can go round the room holding a brimming glass
of champagne without spilling a drop. This evenness in waltzing is
very graceful, and can only be reached by long practice, a good
ear for music, and a natural gracefulness. Young Americans, who,
as a rule, are the best dancers in the world, achieve this step to
admiration. It is the gentleman's duty in any round dance to guide
his fair companion gracefully; he must not risk a collision or the
chance of a fall. A lady should never waltz if she feels dizzy. It
is a sign of disease of the heart, and has brought on death.
Neither should she step flat-footed, and make her partner carry
her round; but must do her part of the work, and dance lightly and
well, or not at all. Then, again, neither should her partner waltz
on the tip of his toes, nor lift his partner too much off the
floor; all should be smooth, graceful, delicate.

The American dance of the season is, however, the polka--not the
old-fashioned "heel and toe," but the step, quick and gay, of the
Sclavonic nationalities. It may be danced slowly or quickly. It is
always, however, a spirited step, and the music is undoubtedly
pretty. The dancing-masters describe the step of a polka as being
a "hop, three glides, and a rest," and the music is two-four time.
In order to apply the step to the music one must make it in
four-eight time, counting four to each measure of the music, each
measure taking about a second of time by the watch. The polka
redowa and the polka mazourka are modifications of this step to
different times.

The galop is another fashionable dance this winter. It is very
easy, and is danced to very quick music; it is inspiriting at the
end of a ball.

The _minuet de la cour_ was first danced in the ancient province
of Poitou, France. In Paris, in 1653, Louis XIV., who was
passionately fond of it, danced it to perfection. In 1710, Marcel,
the renowned dancing-master, introduced it into England. Then it
went out for many years, until Queen Victoria revived it at a _bal
costum,_ at Buckingham Palace in 1845. In New York it was revived
and ardently practised for Mrs. W. K. Vanderbilt's splendid fancy
ball in 1883, and it was much admired. There seems no reason why
the grace, the dignity, the continuous movement; the courtesy, the
_pas grace_, the skilfully-managed train, the play with the fan,
should not commend this elegant dance to even our republican
dancers; but it has not been danced this winter. It is possibly
too much trouble. A dancing-master worked all winter to teach it
to the performers of the last season.

To make a courtesy (or, as we are fond of saying, a _curtsy_)
properly is a very difficult art, yet all who dance the quadrille
must learn it. To courtesy to her partner the lady steps off with
the right foot, carrying nearly all her weight upon it, at the
same time raising the heel of the left foot, thus placing herself
in the second position, facing her partner, counting _one_. She
then glides the left foot backward and across till the toe of the
left foot is directly behind the right heel, the feet about one
half of the length of the foot apart. This glide commences on the
ball of the left foot, and terminates with both feet flat upon the
floor, and the transfer of the weight to the backward foot. The
bending of the knees and the casting down of the eyes begin with
the commencement of the glide with the left foot, and the
genuflection is steadily continued until the left foot reaches the
position required, counting _two_; then, without changing the
weight from the backward foot, she gradually rises, at the same
time raising the forward heel and lifting the eyes, until she
recovers her full height, counting _three_; and finally transfers
the weight to the forward foot, counting _four_. Such is the
elaborate and the graceful courtesy. It should be studied with a

The "German" (the "Cotillon," as the French call it) is, however,
and probably long will be, the most fashionable dance in society.
It ends every ball in New York, Washington, Boston, Philadelphia,
and Newport; it is a part of the business of life, and demands
consummate skill in its leadership. Any number may join in it; it
often reaches twice around a large ballroom. All the couples in it
are regarded as introduced to each other. No lady can refuse to
dance with any gentleman who is brought to her in the German. So
long as she remains in the charmed circle she must dance with any
one in it. Therefore the German must only be introduced at select
assemblies, not at a public ball. The leader opens the German by
motioning to certain couples to make a _tour de valse_ round the

Many of our correspondents write to ask us what are the latest and
the favorite figures in the German. This is a difficult question
to answer, as the leader always has his own favorite figures. The
German generally begins with _l'avant trois double_, which may be
generally described thus: the leader, having performed the _tour
de valse_ with his partner, leaves her, and brings forward two
other ladies; his lady brings forward two other gentlemen; the two
_trios_ place themselves opposite each other, then forward and
back, and each gentleman with the lady in front of him performs a
_tour de valse_. Should the company be large, two or more couples
may start together, each couple choosing other ladies and
gentlemen in the same manner as the first couple. Then comes _La
Chaise_ after the _tour de valse_. The leader places his partner
in a chair in the centre of the room; he then brings forward two
gentlemen and presents them to the lady, who chooses one of them,
after which he seats the gentleman who is rejected, and brings to
him two ladies; he also selects a partner, and the leader dances
with the refused lady to her place. This figure may be danced by
any number of couples.

_Les Drapeaux_ is a favorite figure. Five or six duplicate sets of
small flags of national or fancy devices must be in readiness. The
leader takes a flag of each pattern, and his partner takes the
duplicate. They perform a _tour de valse_. The conductor then
presents his flags to five or six ladies, and his partner presents
the corresponding flags to as many gentlemen. The gentlemen then
seek the ladies having the duplicates, and with them perform a
_tour de valse_, waving the flags as they dance. Repeated by all
the couples.

_Les Bouquets_ brings in the favors. A number of small bouquets
and boutonnieres are placed upon a table or in a basket. The first
couple perform a _tour de valse_; they then separate. The
gentleman takes a bouquet, and the lady a boutonniere. They now
select new partners, to whom they present the bouquet and
boutonniere, the lady attaching the boutonniere to the gentleman's
coat. They perform a _tour de valse_ with their new partners.
Repeated by all the couples. Other favors are frequently
substituted for bouquets and boutonnieres, such as rosettes,
miniature flags, artificial butterflies, badges, sashes, bonbons,
little bells (the latter being attached to small pieces of ribbon
and pinned to the coat or dress), scarf-pins, bangles, fans, caps,
imitation antique coins, breastpins, lace pins, lockets; and even
gifts of great value, such as shawls, scarfs, vases,
picture-frames, writing-desks, and chairs (represented, of course,
by tickets) have been this winter introduced in the german. But
the cheap, light, fantastic things are the best, and contribute
more to the amusement of the company.

Some of the figures of the German border on the romp. One of these
is called _La Corde_. A rope is stretched by the leading couple
across the room, and the gentlemen jump over it to reach their
partners. Much amusement is occasioned by the tripping of
gentlemen who are thrown by the intentional raising of the rope.
After all have reached their partners they perform a _tour de
valse_, and regain their seats. This is a figure not to be
commended. Still less is the figure called _Les Masques_. The
gentlemen put on masques resembling "Bully Bottom" and other
grotesque faces and heads of animals. They raise these heads above
a screen, the ladies choosing partners without knowing them; the
gentlemen remain _en masque_ until the termination of the _tour de
valse_. This figure was danced at Delmonico's and at the Brunswick
last winter, and the mammas complained that the fun grew rather
too fast and furious. _Les Rubans_ is a very pretty figure. Six
ribbons, each about a yard in length, and of various colors, are
attached to one end of a stick about twenty-four inches in length,
also a duplicate set of ribbons, attached to another stick, must
be in readiness. The first couple perform a _tour de valse_, then
separate; the gentleman takes one set of ribbons, and stops
successively in front of the ladies whom he desires to select to
take part in the figure; each of these ladies rises and takes hold
of the loose end of the ribbon; the first lady takes the other set
of ribbons, bringing forward the six gentlemen in the same manner.
The first couple conduct the ladies and gentlemen towards each
other, and each gentleman dances with the lady holding the ribbon
duplicate of his own; the first gentleman dances with his partner.

We might go on indefinitely with these figures, but have no more
space. The position of a dancer should be learned with the aid of
a teacher. The upper part of the body should be quiet; the head
held in a natural position, neither turned to one side nor the
other; the eyes neither cast down nor up. The gentleman should put
his arm firmly around a lady's waist, not holding her too close,
but firmly holding her right hand with his left one; the lady
turns the palm of her right hand downward; her right arm should be
nearly straight, but not stiff. The gentleman's left arm should be
slightly bent, his elbow inclined slightly backward. It is very
inelegant, however--indeed, vulgar--to place the joined hands
against the gentleman's side or hip; they should be kept clear of
the body. The step should be in unison; if the gentleman bends his
right elbow too much, he draws the lady's left shoulder against
his right, thereby drawing the lady too close. The gentleman's
right shoulder and the lady's left should be as far apart as the
other shoulders. If a gentleman does not hold his partner
properly, thereby causing her either to struggle to be free or
else to dance wildly for want of proper support, if he permits
himself and partner to collide with other couples, he cannot be
considered a good dancer.


The person who can write a graceful note is always spoken of with
phrases of commendation. The epistolary art is said to be
especially feminine, and the novelists and essayists are full of
compliments to the sex, which is alternately praised and
objurgated, as man feels well or ill. Bulwer says: "A woman is the
genius of epistolary communication. Even men write better to a
woman than to one of their own sex. No doubt they conjure up,
while writing, the loving, listening face, the tender, pardoning
heart, the ready tear of sympathy, and passionate confidences of
heart and brain flow rapidly from the pen." But there is no such
thing now as an "epistolary style." Our immediate ancestors wrote
better and longer letters than we do. They covered three pages of
large letter-paper with crow-quill handwriting, folded the paper
neatly, tucked one edge beneath the other (for there were no
envelopes), and then sealed it with a wafer or with sealing-wax.
To send one of these epistles was expensive--twenty-five cents
from New York to Boston. However, the electric telegraph and cheap
postage and postal-cards may have been said, in a way, to have
ruined correspondence in the old sense; lovers and fond mothers
doubtless still write long letters, but the business of the
letter-writer proper is at an end. The writing of notes has,
however, correspondingly increased; and the last ten years have
seen a profuse introduction of emblazoned crest and cipher,
pictorial design, and elaborate monogram in the corners of
ordinary note-paper. The old illuminated missal of the monks, the
fancy of the Japanese, the ever-ready taste of the French, all
have been exhausted to satisfy that always hungry caprice which
calls for something new.

The frequency with which notes upon business and pleasure must fly
across a city and a continent has done away, also, with the
sealing-wax, whose definite, red, clear, oval was a fixture with
our grandfathers, and which is still the only elegant, formal, and
ceremonious way acknowledged in England, of sealing a letter.

There were, however, serious objections to the use of wax in this
country, which were discovered during the early voyages to
California. The intense heat of the Isthmus of Panama melted the
wax, and letters were irretrievably glued together, to the loss of
the address and the confusion of the postmaster. So the glued
envelope--common, cheap, and necessary--became the almost
prevailing fashion for all notes as well as letters.

The taste for colored note-paper with flowers in the corner was
common among the belles of thirty years ago--the "rose-colored
and scented _billet-doux_" is often referred to in the novels of
that period. But colored note-paper fell into disuse long ago, and
for the last few years we have not seen the heavy tints. A few
pale greens, grays, blues, and lilacs have, indeed, found a place
in fashionable stationery, and a deep coffee-colored, heavy paper
had a little run about three years ago; but at the present moment
no color that is appreciable is considered stylish, unless it be
_,cru_, which is only a creamy white.

A long truce is at last bidden to the fanciful, emblazoned, and
colored monogram; the crest and cipher are laid on the shelf, and
ladies have simply the address of their city residence, or the
name of their country place, printed in one corner (generally in
color), or, latest device of fashion, a fac-simile of their
initials, carefully engraved, and dashed across the corner of the
note-paper. The day of the week, also copied from their own
handwriting, is often impressed upon the square cards now so much
in use for short notes, or on the note-paper.

There is one fashion which has never changed, and will never
change, which is always in good taste, and which, perhaps, would
be to-day the most perfect of all styles, and that is, good,
plain, thick, English notepaper, folded square, put in a square
envelope, and sealed with red sealing-wax which bears the imprint
of the writer's coat of arms. No one can make any mistake who uses
such stationery as this in any part of the world. On such paper
and in such form are ambassadors' notes written; on such paper and
in such style would the Princess Louise write her notes.

However, there is no law against the monogram. Many ladies still
prefer it, and always use the paper which has become familiar to
their friends. It is, however, a past rather than a present

The plan of having all the note-paper marked with the address is
an admirable one, for it effectually reminds the person who
receives the note where the answer should be sent--information of
which some ladies forget the importance, and which should always
be written, if not printed, at the head of a letter. It also gives
a stylish finish to the appearance of the note-paper, is simple,
unpretending, and useful.

The ink should invariably be black. From the very superior,
lasting qualities of a certain purple fluid, which never became
thick in the inkstand, certain ladies, a few years ago, used the
purple and lilac inks very much. But they are not elegant; they
are not in fashion; the best note-writers do not use them. The
plain black ink, which gives the written characters great
distinctness, is the only fashionable medium.

Every lady should study to acquire an elegant, free, and educated
hand; there is nothing so useful, so sure to commend the writer
everywhere, as such a chirography; while a cramped, poor,
slovenly, uneducated, unformed handwriting is sure to produce the
impression upon the reader that those qualities are more or less
indicative of the writer's character. The angular English hand is
at present the fashion, although less legible and not more
beautiful than the round hand. We cannot enter into that great
question as to whether or not handwriting is indicative of
character; but we hold that a person's notes are generally
characteristic, and that a neat, flowing, graceful hand, and a
clean sheet, free from blots, are always agreeable to the eye. The
writer of notes, also, must carefully discriminate between the
familiar note and the note of ceremony, and should learn how to
write both.

Custom demands that we begin all notes in the first person, with
the formula of "My dear Mrs. Smith," and that we close with the
expressions, "Yours cordially," "Yours with much regard," etc. The
laws of etiquette do not permit us to use numerals, as 3, 4, 5,
but demand that we write out _three, four, five_. No abbreviations
are allowed in a note to a friend, as, "Sd be glad to see you;" one
must write out, "I should be glad to see you." The older
letter-writers were punctilious about writing the first word of
the page below the last line of the page preceding it. The date
should follow the signing of the name.

A great and very common mistake existing among careless
letter-writers is the confusion of the first and third persons; as
a child would write, "Miss Lucy Clark will be happy to come to
dinner, but I am going somewhere else." This is, of course, wildly
ignorant and improper.

A note in answer to an invitation should be written in the third
person, if the invitation be in the third person. No
abbreviations, no visible hurry, but an elaborate and finished
ceremony should mark such epistles. For instance, an acceptance of
a dinner invitation must be written in this form:

_Mr. and Mrs. Cadogan
have great pleasure in accepting the polite
invitation of
Mr. and Mrs. Sutherland
for dinner on the seventeenth inst., at seven o'clock.
18 Lombard Square.
July sixth._

One lady in New York was known to answer a dinner invitation
simply with the words, "Come with pleasure." It is unnecessary to
add that she was never invited again.

It is impossible to give persons minute directions as to the style
of a note, for that must be the outgrowth of years of careful
education, training, and good mental powers. "To write a pretty
note" is also somewhat of a gift. Some young men and young girls
find it very easy, others can scarcely acquire the power. It is,
however, absolutely necessary to strive for it.

In the first place, arrange your ideas, know what you want to say,
and approach the business of writing a note with a certain
thoughtfulness. If it is necessary to write it hastily, summon all
your powers of mind, and try to make it brief, intelligible, and

Above all things, _spell correctly_. A word badly spelled stands
out like a blot on a familiar or a ceremonious note.

Do not send a blurred, blotted, slovenly note to any one; it will
remain to call up a certain prejudice against you in the mind of
the recipient. The fashion is not now, as it once was, imperative
that a margin be left around the edge of the paper. People now
write all over the paper, and thus abolish a certain elegance
which the old letters undoubtedly possessed. But postage is a
consideration, and all we can ask of the youthful letter-writers
is that they will not _cross_ their letters. Plaid letters are the
horror of all people who have not the eyes of a hawk.

No letter or note should be written on ruled paper. To do so is
both inelegant and unfashionable, and savors of the school-room.
Every young person should learn to write without lines.

The square cards are much used, and are quite large enough for the
transmission of all that a lady ordinarily wishes to say in giving
or accepting an invitation. The day of the week and the address
are often printed on the card.

Square envelopes have also driven the long ones from the table of
the elegant note-writer, and the custom of closing all ceremonious
notes with sealing-wax is still adhered to by the most fastidious.
It would be absurd, however, to say that it is nearly as common as
the more convenient habit of moistening the gummed envelope, but
it is far more elegant, and every young person should learn how to
seal a note properly. To get a good impression from an engraved
stone seal, anoint it lightly with linseed-oil, to keep the wax
from adhering; then dust it with rouge powder to take off the
gloss, and press it quickly, but firmly, on the melted wax.

Dates and numerical designations, such as the number of a house,
may be written in Arabic figures, but quantities should be
expressed in words. Few abbreviations are respectful. A married
lady should always be addressed with the prefix of her husband's
Christian name.

In this country, where we have no titles, it is the custom to
abbreviate everything except the title of "Reverend," which we
always give to the clergy. But it would be better if we made a
practice of giving to each person his special title, and to all
returned ambassadors, members of Congress, and members of the
Legislature the title of "Honorable." The Roman Catholic clergy
and the bishops of the Episcopal and Methodist churches should be
addressed by their proper titles, and a note should be, like a
salutation, infused with respect. It honors the writer and the
person to whom it is written, while a careless letter may injure


We are often asked as to the appropriate dress to be worn at
afternoon tea, at balls, at dinners, christenings, etc.

Neatness and simple elegance should always characterize a lady,
and after that she may be as expensive as she pleases, if only at
the right time. And we may say here that simplicity and plainness
characterize many a rich woman in a high place; and one can always
tell a real lady from an imitation one by her style of dress.
Vulgarity is readily seen even under a costly garment. There
should be harmony and fitness, and suitability as to age and times
and seasons. Every one can avoid vulgarity and slovenliness; and
in these days, when the fashions travel by telegraph, one can be
_... la mode_.

French women have a genius for dress. An old or a middle-aged
woman understands how to make the best of herself in the assorting
and harmonizing of colors; she never commits the mistake of making
herself too youthful. In our country we often see an old woman
bedizened like a _Figurante_, imagining that she shall gain the
graces of youth by borrowing its garments. All this aping of
youthful dress "multiplies the wrinkles of old age, and makes its
decay more conspicuous."

For balls in this country, elderly women are not expected to go in
low neck unless they wish to, so that the chaperon can wear a
dress such as she would wear at a dinner--either a velvet or
brocade, cut in Pompadour shape, with a profusion of beautiful
lace. All her ornaments should match in character, and she should
be as unlike her charge as possible. The young girls look best in
light gossamer material, in tulle, crepe, or tarlatan, in pale
light colors or in white, while an elderly, stout woman never
looks so badly as in low-necked light-colored silks or satins,
Young women look well in natural flowers; elderly women, in
feathers and jewelled head-dresses.

If elderly women with full figure wear low-necked dresses, a lace
shawl or scarf, or something of that sort, should be thrown over
the neck; and the same advice might be given to thin and scrawny
figures. A lady writes to us as to what dress should be worn at
her child's christening. We should advise a high-necked dark silk;
it may be of as handsome material as she chooses, but it should be
plain and neat in general effect. No woman should overdress in her
own house; it is the worst taste. All dress should correspond to
the spirit of the entertainment given. Light-colored silks,
sweeping trains, bonnets very gay and garnished with feathers,
lace parasols, and light gloves, are fit for carriages at the
races, but they are out of place for walking in the streets. They
may do for a wedding reception, but they are not fit for a picnic
or an excursion. Lawn parties, flower shows, and promenade
concerts, should all be dressed for in a gay, bright fashion; and
the costumes for these and for yachting purposes may be as
effective and coquettish as possible; but for church, for
readings, for a morning concert, for a walk, or a morning call on
foot, a tailor-made costume, with plain, dark hat, is the most to
be admired. Never wear a "dressy" bonnet in the street.

The costumes for picnics, excursions, journeys; and the sea-side
should be of a strong fabric, simple cut, and plain color. Things
which will wash are better for our climate. Serge, tweed, and
piqu, are the best.

A morning dress for a late breakfast may be as luxurious as one
pleases. The modern fashion of imitation lace put on in great
quantities over a foulard or a gingham, a muslin or a cotton, made
up prettily, is suitable for women of all ages; but an old
"company dress" furbished up to do duty at a watering-place is
terrible, and not to be endured.

It has been the fashion this season to wear full-dress at
weddings. The bride and her maids have appeared with low neck and
short sleeves in the cold morning air at several fashionable
churches. The groom at the same time wearing morning costume. It
is an era of low necks. The pendulum of fashion is swinging that
way. We have spoken of this before, so only record the fact that
the low neck will prevail in many summer evening dresses as well
as for morning weddings.

The very tight fashion of draping skirts should make all women
very careful as to the way they sit down. Some Frenchman said he
could tell a gentleman by his walk; another has lately said that
he can tell a lady by the way she sits down. A woman is allowed
much less freedom of posture than a man. He may change his
position as he likes, and loll or lounge, cross his legs, or even
nurse his foot if he pleases; but a woman must have grace and
dignity; in every gesture she must be "ladylike." Any one who has
seen a great actress like Modjeska sit down will know what an
acquired grace it is.

A woman should remember that she "belongs to a sex which cannot
afford to be grotesque." There should never be rowdiness or

The mania for extravagant dress on the stage, the _pieces des
robes_, is said to be one of the greatest enemies of the
legitimate drama. The leading lady must have a conspicuous display
of elaborate gowns, the latest inventions of the modistes. In
Paris these stage costumes set the fashions, and bonnets and caps
and gowns become individualized by their names. They look very
well on the wearers, but they look very badly on some elderly,
plain, middle-aged, stout woman who has adopted them.

Plain satins and velvet, rich and dark brocades, made by an
artist, make any one look well. The elderly woman should be able
to move without effort or strain of any kind; a black silk well
made is indispensable; and even "a celebrity of a by-gone day" may
be made to look handsome by a judicious but not too brilliant

The dress called "complimentary mourning," which is rather a
contradiction in terms, is now made very elegant and dressy. Black
and white in all the changes, and black bugles and bead trimming,
all the shades of lilac and of purple, are considered by the
French as proper colors and trimmings in going out of black; while
for full mourning the English still preserve the cap, weepers, and
veil, the plain muslin collar and cuffs, the crape dress, large
black silk cloak, crape bonnet and veil.

Heavy, ostentatious, and expensive habiliments are often worn in
mourning, but they are not in the best taste. The plain-surfaced
black silks are commendable.

For afternoon tea in this country the hostess generally wears a
handsome high-necked gown, often a combination of stamped or
brocaded velvet, satin, and silk. She rarely wears what in England
is called a "tea-gown," which is a semi-loose garment. For
visiting at afternoon teas no change is made from the ordinary
walking dress, unless the three or four ladies who help receive
come in handsome reception dresses. A skirt of light brocade with
a dark velvet over-dress is very much worn at these receptions,
and if made by a French artist is a beautiful dress. These dark
velvets are usually made high, with a very rich lace ruff.

The high Medicean collar and pretty Medicean cap of velvet are in
great favor with the middle-aged ladies of the present day, and
are a very becoming style of dress for the opera. The present
fashion of full dress at the opera, while it may not improve the
music, certainly makes the house look very pretty and stately.

Too many dresses are a mistake, even for an opulent woman. They
get out of fashion, and excepting for a girl going out to many
balls they are entirely unnecessary. A girl who is dancing needs
to be perpetually renewed, for she should be always fresh, and the
"wear and tear" of the cotillion is enormous. There is nothing so
poor as a dirty, faded, and patched-up ball-dress; the dancer had
better stay at home than wear such.

The fashion of sleeves should be considered. A stout woman looks
very badly in a loose sleeve of hanging lace which only reaches
the elbow. It makes the arm look twice as large. She should wear,
for a thin sleeve, black lace to the wrist, with bands of velvet
running down, to diminish the size of the arm. All those lace
sleeves to the elbow, with drops of gold, or steel trimming, or
jets, are very unbecoming; no one but the slight should wear them.

Tight lacing is also very unbecoming to those who usually adopt
it--women of thirty-eight or forty who are growing a little stout.
In thus trussing themselves up they simply get an unbecoming
redness of the face, and are not the handsome, comfortable-looking
creatures which Heaven intended they should be. Two or three
beautiful women well known in society killed themselves last year
by tight lacing. The effect of an inch less waist was not apparent
enough to make this a wise sacrifice of health and ease of

At a lady's lunch party, which is always an occasion for handsome
dress, and where bonnets are always worn, the faces of those who
are too tightly dressed always show the strain by a most
unbecoming flush; and as American rooms are always too warm, the
suffering must be enormous.

It is a very foolish plan, also, to starve one's self, or
"_bant_," for a graceful thinness; women only grow wrinkled, show
crow's-feet under the eyes, and look less young than those who let
themselves alone.

A gorgeously dressed woman in the proper place is a fine sight. A
well-dressed woman is she who understands herself and her


No one who has seen the coaching parade in New York can have
failed to observe the extraordinary change which has come over the
fashion in dress for this conspicuous occasion. Formerly ladies
wore black silks, or some dark or low-toned color in woollen or
cotton or silk; and a woman who should have worn a white dress on
top of a coach would, ten years ago, have been thought to make
herself undesirably conspicuous.

Now the brightest colored and richest silks, orange, blue, pink,
and lilac dresses, trimmed with lace flounces, dinner dresses, in
fact--all the charming confections of Worth or Piugat--are freely
displayed on the coach-tops, with the utmost graciousness, for
every passer-by to comment on. The lady on the top of a coach
without a mantle appears very much as she would at a full-dress
ball or dinner. She then complains that sometimes ill-natured
remarks float up from the gazers, and that the ladies are
insulted. The fashion began at Longchamps and at Ascot, where,
especially at the former place, a lady was privileged to sit in
her victoria, with her lilac silk full ruffled to the waist, in
the most perfect and aristocratic seclusion. Then the fast set of
the Prince of Wales took it up, and plunged into rivalry in
dressing for the public procession through the London streets,
where a lady became as prominent an object of observation as the
Lord Mayor's coach. It has been taken up and developed in America
until it has reached a climax of splendor and, if we may say so,
inappropriateness, that is characteristic of the following of
foreign fashions in this country. How can a white satin, trimmed
with lace, or an orange silk, be the dress in which a lady should
meet the sun, the rain, or the dust of a coaching expedition? Is
it the dress in which she feels that she ought to meet the gaze of
a mixed assemblage in a crowded hotel or in a much frequented
thoroughfare? What change of dress can there be left for the

We are glad to see that the Princess of Wales, whose taste seems
to be as nearly perfect as may be, has determined to set her
pretty face against this exaggerated use of color. She appeared
recently in London, on top of a coach, in a suit of navy-blue
flannel. Again, she and the Empress of Austria are described as
wearing dark, neat suits of _drap d',t,_, and also broadcloth
dresses. One can see the delicate figures and refined features of
these two royal beauties in this neat and inconspicuous dress,
and, when they are contrasted with the flaunting pink and white
and lace and orange dresses of those who are not royal, how vulgar
the extravagance in color becomes!

Our grandmothers travelled in broadcloth riding-habits, and we
often pity them for the heat and the distress which they must have
endured in the heavy, high-fitting, long-sleeved garments; yet we
cannot but think they would have looked better on top of a coach
than their granddaughters--who should remember, when they complain
of the rude remarks, that we have no aristocracy here whose
feelings the mob is obliged to respect, and that the plainer their
dress the less apt they will be to hear unpleasant epithets
applied to them. In the present somewhat aggressive Amazonian
fashion, when a woman drives a man in her pony phaeton (he sitting
several inches below her), there is no doubt much audacity
unintentionally suggested by a gay dress. A vulgar man, seeing a
lady in white velvet, Spanish lace, a large hat--in what he
considers a "loud" dress--does not have the idea of modesty or of
refinement conveyed to his mind by the sight; he is very apt to
laugh, and to say something not wholly respectful. Then the lady
says, "With how little respect women are treated in large cities,
or at Newport, or at Saratoga!" Were she more plainly dressed, in
a dark foulard or an inconspicuous flannel or cloth dress, with
her hat simply arranged, she would be quite as pretty and better
fitted for the matter she has in hand, and very much less exposed
to invidious comment. Women dress plainly enough when tempting the
"salt-sea wave," and also when on horseback. Nothing could be
simpler than the riding-habit, and yet is there any dress so
becoming? But on the coach they should not be too fine.

Of course, women can dress as they please, but if they please to
dress conspicuously they must be ready to take the consequences. A
few years ago no lady would venture into the street unless a
mantle or a scarf covered her shoulders. It was a lady-like
precaution. Then came the inglorious days of the "tied-backs," a
style of dress most unbecoming to the figure, and now happily no
more. This preposterous fashion had, no doubt, its influence on
the manners of the age.

Better far, if women would parade their charms, the courtly
dresses of those beauties of Bird-cage Walk, by St. James's Park,
where "Lady Betty Modish" was born--full, long, _bouffant_
brocades, hair piled high, long and graceful scarfs, and gloves
reaching to the elbow. Even the rouge and powder were a mask to
hide the cheek which did or did not blush when bold eyes were
fastened upon it. Let us not be understood, however, as extolling
these. The nineteenth-century beauty mounts a coach with none of
these aids to shyness. No suggestion of hiding any of her charms
occurs to her. She goes out on the box seat without cloak or
shawl, or anything but a hat on the back of her head and a gay
parasol between her and a possible thunder-storm. These ladies are
not members of an acclimatization society. They cannot bring about
a new climate. Do they not suffer from cold? Do not the breezes go
through them? Answer, all ye pneumonias and diphtherias and

There is no delicacy in the humor with which the funny papers and
the caricaturists treat these very exaggerated costumes. No
delicacy is required. A change to a quieter style of dress would
soon abate this treatment of which so many ladies complain. Let
them dress like the Princess of Wales and the Empress of Austria,
when in the conspicuous high-relief of the coach, and the result
will be that ladies, married or single, will not be subjected to
the insults of which so many of them complain, and of which the
papers are full after every coaching parade.

Lady riders are seldom obliged to complain of the incivility of a
passer-by. Theirs are modest figures, and, as a general thing
nowadays, they ride well. A lady can alight from her horse and
walk about in a crowded place without hearing an offensive word:
she is properly dressed for her exercise.

Nor, again, is a young lady in a lawn-tennis suit assailed by the
impertinent criticisms of a mixed crowd of by-standers. Thousands
play at Newport, Saratoga, and other places of resort, with
thousands looking on, and no one utters a word of rebuke. The
short flannel skirt and close Jersey are needed for the active
runner, and her somewhat eccentric appearance is condoned. It is
not considered an exhibition or a show, but a good, healthy game
of physical exercise. People feel an interest and a pleasure in
it. It is like the old-fashioned merry-making of the May-pole, the
friendly jousts of neighbors on the common play-ground of the
neighborhood, with the dances under the walnut-trees of sunny
Provence. The game is an invigorating one, and even those who do
not know it are pleased with its animation. We have hitherto
neglected that gymnastic culture which made the Greeks the
graceful people they were, and which contributed to the
cultivation of the mind.

Nobody finds anything to laugh at in either of these costumes; but
when people see a ball-dress mounted high on a coach they are very
apt to laugh at it; and women seldom come home from a coaching
parade without a tingling cheek and a feeling of shame because of
some comment upon their dress and appearance. A young lady drove
up, last summer, to the Ocean House at Newport in a pony phaeton,
and was offended because a gentleman on the piazza said, "That
girl has a very small waist, and she means us to see it." Who was
to blame? The young lady was dressed in a very conspicuous manner:
she had neither mantle nor jacket about her, and she probably did
mean that her waist should be seen.

There is a growing objection all over the world to the hour-glass
shape once so fashionable, and we ought to welcome it as the best
evidence of a tendency towards a more sensible form of dress, as
well as one more conducive to health and the wholesome discharge
of a woman's natural and most important functions. But if a woman
laces herself into a sixteen-inch belt, and then clothes herself
in brocade, satin, and bright colors, and makes herself
conspicuous, she should not object to the fact that men, seeing
her throw aside her mantle, comment upon her charms in no measured
terms. She has no one to blame but herself.

We might add that by this over-dressing women deprive themselves
of the advantage of contrast in style. Lace, in particular, is for
the house and for the full-dress dinner or ball. So are the light,
gay silks, which have no fitness of fold or of texture for the
climbing of a coach. If bright colors are desired, let ladies
choose the merinos and nuns' veilings for coaching dresses; or,
better still, let them dress in dark colors, in plain and
inconspicuous dresses, which do not seem to defy both dust and sun
and rain as well. On top of a coach they are far more exposed to
the elements than when on the deck of a yacht.

Nor, because the fast set of the Prince of Wales do so in London,
is there any reason why American women should appear on top of a
coach dressed in red velvet and white satin. Let them remember the
fact that the Queen had placed Windsor Castle at the disposal of
the Prince for his use during Ascot week, but that when she
learned that two somewhat conspicuous American beauties were
expected, she rescinded the loan and told the Prince to entertain
his guests elsewhere.


We are all aware of the value of a costume, such as the dress of
the Pompadour era: the Swiss peasant's bodice, the Normandy cap,
the _faldetta_ of the Maltese, the Hungarian national dress, the
early English, the Puritan square-cut, the Spanish mantilla, the
Roman scarf and white cap--all these come before us; and as we
mention each characteristic garment there steps out on the canvas
of memory a neat little figure, in which every detail from shoe to
head-dress is harmonious.

No one in his wildest dreams, however, could set out with the
picture of a marquise, and top it off with a Normandy cap. Nor
could he put powder on the dark hair of the jaunty little
Hungarian. The beauty of these costumes is seen in each as a
whole, and not in the parts separately. The marquise must wear
pink or blue, or some light color; she must have the long waist,
the square-cut corsage, the large hoop, the neat slipper, with
rosette and high heel, the rouge and patches to supplement her
powdered hair, or she is no marquise.

The Swiss peasant must have the short skirt, the white chemisette,
the black velvet bodice, the cross and ribbon, the coarse shoes,
and the head-dress of her canton; the Normandy peasant her dark,
striking dress, her high-heeled, gold-buckled shoe, and her white
apron; the Hungarian her neat, military scarlet jacket, braided
with gold, her scant petticoat and military boot, her high cap and
feather. The dress of the English peasant, known now as the
"Mother Hubbard" hat and cloak, very familiar to the students of
costumes as belonging to the countrywomen of Shakspeare's time,
demands the short, bunched-up petticoat and high-heeled, high-cut
shoes to make it perfect.

We live in an age, however, when fashion, irrespective of artistic
principle, mixes up all these costumes, and borrows a hat here and
a shoe there, the effect of each garment, diverted from its
original intention, being lost.

If "all things by their season seasoned are," so is all dress (or
it should be) seasonable and comprehensive, congruous and
complete. The one great secret of the success of the French as
artists and magicians of female costume is that they consider the
_entire figure_ and its demands, the conditions of life and of
luxury, the propriety of the substance, and the needs of the
wearer. A lady who is to tread a velvet carpet or a parqueted
floor does not need a wooden shoe; she needs a satin slipper or
boot. Yet in the modern drawing-room we sometimes see a young lady
dancing in a heavy Balmoral boot which is only fitted for the bogs
and heather of a Scotch tramp. The presence of a short dress in a
drawing-room, or of a long train in the street, is part of the
general incongruity of dress.

The use of the ulster and the Derby hat became apparent on English
yachts, where women learned to put themselves in the attitude of
men, and very properly adopted the storm jib; but, if one of those
women had been told that she would, sooner or later, appear in
this dress in the streets of London, she would have been shocked.

In the days of the French emigration, when highborn ladies escaped
on board friendly vessels in the harbor of Honfleur, many of them
had on the long-waisted and full-skirted overcoats of their
husbands, who preferred to shiver rather than endure the pain of
seeing their wives suffer from cold. These figures were observed
by London tailors and dress-makers, and out of them grew the
English pelisse which afterwards came into fashion. On a stout
Englishwoman the effect was singularly absurd, and many of the
early caricatures give us the benefit of this incongruity; for
although a small figure looks well in a pelisse, a stout one never
does. The Englishwoman who weighs two or three hundred pounds
should wear a sacque, a shawl, or a loose cloak, instead of a
tight-waisted pelisse. However, we are diverging. The sense of the
_personally becoming_ is still another branch of the great subject
of dress. A velvet dress, for instance, demands for its trimmings
expensive and real lace. It should not be supplemented by Breton
or imitation Valenciennes. All the very pretty imitation laces are
appropriate for cheap silks, poplins, summer fabrics, or dresses
of light and airy material; but if the substance of the dress be
of the richest, the lace should be in keeping with it.

So, also, in respect to jewellery: no cheap or imitation jewellery
should be worn with an expensive dress. It is as foreign to good
taste as it would be for a man to dress his head and body in the
most fashionable of hats and coats, and his legs in white duck.
There is incongruity in the idea.

The same incongruity applies to a taste for which our countrymen
have often been blamed--a desire for the magnificent, A woman who
puts on diamonds, real lace, and velvets in the morning at a
summer watering-place is decidedly incongruous. Far better be
dressed in a gingham, with Hamburg embroidery, and a straw hat
with a handkerchief tied round it, now so pretty and so
fashionable. She is then ready for the ocean or for the mountain
drive, the scramble or the sail. Her boots should be strong, her
gloves long and stout. She thus adapts her attire to the occasion.
In the evening she will have an opportunity for the delicate boot
and the trailing gauze or silk, or that deft combination of all
the materials known as a "Worth Costume."

In buying a hat a woman should stand before a long Psyche glass,
and see herself from head to foot. Often a very pretty bonnet or
hat which becomes the face is absolutely dreadful in that wavy
outline which is perceptible to those who consider the effect as a
whole. All can remember how absurd a large figure looked in the
round poke hat and the delicate Fanchon bonnet, and the same
result is brought about by the round hat. A large figure should be
topped by a Gainsborough or Rubens hat, with nodding plumes. Then
the effect is excellent and the proportions are preserved.

Nothing can be more incongruous, again, than a long, slim,
aesthetic figure with a head-gear so disproportionately large as
to suggest a Sandwich-Islander with his head-dress of mats. The
"aesthetic craze" has, however, brought in one improvement in
costume. It is the epauletted sleeve, which gives expansion to so
many figures which are, unfortunately, too narrow. All
physiologists are speculating on the growing narrowness of chest
in the Anglo-Saxon race. It is singularly apparent in America. To
remedy this, some ingenious dress-maker devised a little puff at
the top of the arm, which is most becoming. It is also well
adapted to the "cloth of gold" costume of the days of Francis I.,
which modern luxury so much affects. It is a Frond sort of
costume, this nineteenth-century dress, and can well borrow some
of the festive features of the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries, if they be not incongruous. We, like those rich nobles
and prosperous burghers, have lighted on piping times of peace; we
have found a new India of our own; our galleons come laden with
the spoils of all countries; we are rich, and we are able to wear
velvet and brocade.

But we should be as true as they to the proprieties of dress. In
the ancient burgher days the richest citizen was not permitted to
wear velvet; he had his own picturesque collar, his dark-cloth
suit, his becoming hat. He had no idea of aping the cian, with his
long hat and feather. We are all patricians; we can wear either
the sober suit or the gay one; but do let us avoid incongruity.

A woman, in dressing herself for an evening of festivity, should
remember that, from her ear-rings to her fan, all must suggest and
convey the idea of luxury. A wooden fan is very pretty in the
morning at a watering-place, but it will not do in the evening.
None of the modern _chftelaine_ arrangements, however ornamental,
are appropriate for evening use. The _chftelaine_ meant originally
the chain on which the lady of the house wore her keys; therefore
its early association of usefulness remains: it is not luxurious
in intention, however much modern fashion may have adorned it.

Many a fashion has, it is true, risen from a low estate. The Order
of the Garter tells of a monarch's caprice; the shoe-buckle and
the horseshoe have crept up into the highest rank of ornaments.
But as it takes three generations to make a gentleman, so does it
take several decades to give nobility to low-born ornament. We
must not try to force things.

A part of the growing and sad incongruity of modern dress appears
in the unavoidable awkwardness of a large number of bouquets. A
belle cannot leave the insignia of belledom at home, nor can she
be so unkind as to carry Mr. Smith's flowers and ignore Mr.
Brown's; so she appears with her arms and hands full, to the
infinite detriment of her dress and general effect. Some
arrangement might be devised whereby such trophies could be
dragged in the train of the high-priestess of fashion.

A little reading, a little attention to the study of costume (a
beautiful study, by-the-way), would soon teach a young woman to
avoid the incongruous in dress. Some people have taste as a
natural gift: they know how to dress from a consultation with
their inner selves. Others, alas! are entirely without it. The
people who make hats and coats and dresses for us are generally
without any comprehension of the history of dress. To them the hat
of the Roundhead and that of the Cavalier have the same meaning.
To all people of taste and reading, however, they are very
different, and all artists know that the costumes which retain
their hold on the world have been preferred and have endured
because of their fitness to conditions of climate and the grace
and ease with which they were worn.


There is no possibility of touching upon the subject of death and
burial, and the conditions under which funerals should be
conducted, without hurting some one's feelings. The Duke of
Sutherland's attempt in England to do away with the dreadful shape
which causes a shudder to all who have lost a friend--that of the
coffin--was called irreverent, because he suggested that the dead
should be buried in wicker-work baskets, with fern-leaves for
shrouds, so that the poor clay might the more easily return to
mother earth. Those who favor cremation suffer again a still more
frantic disesteem; and yet every one deplores the present gloomy
apparatus and dismal observances of our occasions of mourning.

Death is still to the most Christian and resigned heart a very
terrible fact, a shock to all who live, and its surroundings, do
what we will, are painful. "I smell the mould above the rose,"
says Hood, in his pathetic lines on his daughter's death.
Therefore, we have a difficulty to contend with in the wearing of
black, which is of itself, to begin with, negatory of our
professed belief in the resurrection. We confess the logic of
despair when we drape ourselves in its gloomy folds. The dress
which we should wear, one would think, might be blue, the color of
the sky, or white, in token of light which the redeemed soul has

Custom, which makes slaves of us all, has decreed that we shall
wear black, as a mark of respect to those we have lost, and as a
shroud for ourselves, protesting against the gentle ministration
of light and cheerfulness with which our Lord ever strives to
reach us. This is one side of the question; but, again, one word
as to its good offices. A mourning dress does protect a woman
while in deepest grief against the untimely gayety of a passing
stranger. It is a wall, a cell of refuge. Behind a black veil she
can hide herself as she goes out for business or recreation,
fearless of any intrusion.

The black veil, on the other hand, is most unhealthy: it harms the
eyes and it injures the skin. As it rubs against the nose and
forehead it is almost certain to cause abrasions, and often makes
an annoying sore. To the eyes enfeebled by weeping it is sure to
be dangerous, and most oculists now forbid it.

The English, from whom we borrow our fashion in funeral matters,
have a limitation provided by social law which is a useful thing.
They now decree that crape shall only be worn six months, even for
the nearest relative, and that the duration of mourning shall not
exceed a year. A wife's mourning for her husband is the most
conventionally deep mourning allowed, and every one who has seen
an English widow will agree that she makes a "hearse" of herself.
Bombazine and crape, a widow's cap; and a long; thick veil--such
is the modern English idea. Some widows even have the cap made of
black _cr^pe lisse_, but it is generally of white. In this country
a widow's first mourning dresses are covered almost entirely with
crape, a most costly and disagreeable material, easily ruined by
the dampness and dust--a sort of penitential and self-mortifying
dress, and very ugly and very expensive. There are now, however,
other and more agreeable fabrics which also bear the dead black,
lustreless look which is alone considered respectful to the dead,
and which are not so costly as crape, or so disagreeable to wear.
The Henrietta cloth and imperial serges are chosen for heavy
winter dresses, while for those of less weight are tamise cloth,
Bayonnaise, grenadine, nuns' veiling, and the American silk.

Our mourning usages are not overloaded with what may be called the
pomp, pride, and circumstance of woe which characterize English
funerals. Indeed, so overdone are mourning ceremonies in
England--what with the hired mutes, the nodding plumes, the costly
coffin, and the gifts of gloves and bands and rings, etc.--that
Lady Georgiana Milnor, of Nunappleton, in York, a great friend of
the Archbishop, wrote a book against the abuse, ordered her own
body to be buried in a pine coffin, and forbade her servants and
relatives to wear mourning. Her wishes were carried out to the
letter. A black, cloth-covered casket with silver mountings is
considered in the best taste, and the pall-bearers are given at
most a white scarf and a pair of black gloves. Even this is not
always done. At one time the traffic in these returned bands and
gloves was quite a fortune to the undertaker. Mourning is very
expensive, and often costs a family more than they can well
afford; but it is a sacrifice that even the poorest gladly make,
and those who can least afford it often wear the best mourning, so
tyrannical is custom. They consider it--by what process of
reasoning no one can understand, unless it be out of a hereditary
belief that we hold in the heathen idea of propitiating the manes
of the departed--an act of disrespect to the memory of the dead if
the living are not clad in gloomy black.

However, our business is with the etiquette of mourning. Widows
wear deep mourning, consisting of woollen stuffs and crape, for
about two years, and sometimes for life, in America. Children wear
the same for parents for one year, and then lighten it with black
silk, trimmed with crape. Half-mourning gradations of gray,
purple, or lilac have been abandoned, and, instead, combinations
of black and white are used. Complimentary mourning is black silk
without crape. The French have three grades of mourning--deep,
ordinary, and half mourning. In deep mourning, woollen cloths only
are worn; in ordinary mourning, silk and woollen; in half
mourning, gray and violet. An American lady is always shocked at
the gayety and cheerfulness of French mourning. In France,
etiquette prescribes mourning for a husband for one year and six
weeks--that is, six months of deep mourning, six of ordinary, and
six weeks of half mourning. For a wife, a father, or a mother, six
months--three deep and three half mourning; for a grandparent, two
months and a half of slight mourning; for a brother or a sister,
two months, one of which is in deep mourning; for an uncle or an
aunt, three weeks of ordinary black. In America, with no fixity of
rule, ladies have been known to go into deepest mourning for their
own relatives or those of their husbands, or for people, perhaps,
whom they have never seen, and have remained as gloomy monuments
of bereavement for seven or ten years, constantly in black; then,
on losing a child or a relative dearly loved, they have no
extremity of dress left to express the real grief which fills
their lives--no deeper black to go into. This complimentary
mourning should be, as in the French custom, limited to two or
three weeks. The health of a delicate child has been known to be
seriously affected by the constant spectacle of his mother in deep

The period of a mourner's retirement from the world has been very
much shortened of late. For one year no formal visiting is
undertaken, nor is there any gayety in the house. Black is often
worn for a husband or wife two years, for parents one year, and
for brothers and sisters one year; a heavy black is lightened
after that period. Ladies are beginning to wear a small black
gauze veil over the face, and are in the habit of throwing the
heavy crape veil back over the hat. It is also proper to wear a
quiet black dress when going to a funeral, although this is not
absolutely necessary.

Friends should call on the bereaved family within a month, not
expecting, of course, to see them. Kind notes expressing sympathy
are most welcome to the afflicted from intimate friends, and gifts
of flowers, or any testimonial of sympathy, are thoughtful and
appropriate. Cards and note-paper are now put into mourning by
those who desire to express conventionally their regret for the
dead; but very broad borders of black look like ostentation, and
are in undoubted bad taste. No doubt all these things are proper
enough in their way, but a narrow border of black tells the story
of loss as well as an inch of coal-black gloom. The fashion of
wearing handkerchiefs which are made with a two-inch square of
white cambric and a four-inch border of black may well be
deprecated. A gay young widow at Washington was once seen dancing
at a reception, a few months after the death of her soldier
husband, with a long black veil on, and holding in her
black-gloved hand one of these handkerchiefs, which looked as if
it had been dipped in ink. "She should have dipped it in blood,"
said a by-stander. Under such circumstances we learn how much
significance is to be attached to the grief expressed by a
mourning veil.

The mourning which soldiers, sailors, and courtiers wear has
something pathetic and effective about it. A flag draped with
crape, a gray cadet-sleeve with a black band, or a long piece of
crape about the left arm of a senator, a black weed on a hat,
these always touch us. They would even appear to suggest that the
lighter the black, the more fully the feeling of the heart is
expressed. If we love our dead, there is no danger that we shall
forget them. "The customary suit of solemn black" is not needed
when we can wear it in our hearts.

For lighter mourning jet is used on silk, and there is no doubt
that it makes a very handsome dress. It is a singular fact that
there is a certain comfort to some people in wearing very handsome
black. Worth, on being asked to dress an American widow whom he
had never seen, sent for her photograph, for he said that he
wished to see "whether she was the sort of woman who would relish
a becoming black."

Very elegant dresses are made with jet embroidery on crape--the
beautiful soft French crape--but lace is never "mourning." Even
the French, who have very light ideas on the subject, do not trim
the most ornamental dresses with lace during the period of even
second mourning, except when they put the woolen yak lace on a
cloth cloak or mantilla. During a very dressy half mourning,
however, black lace may be worn on white silk; but this is
questionable. Diamond ornaments set in black enamel are allowed
even in the deepest mourning, and also pearls set in black. The
initials of the deceased, in black brilliants or pearls, are now
set in lockets and sleeve-buttons, or pins. Gold ornaments are
never worn in mourning.

White silk, embroidered with black jet, is used in the second
stage of court mourning, with black gloves. Deep red is deemed in
England a proper alternative for mourning black, if the wearer be
called upon to go to a wedding during the period of the first
year's mourning. At St. George's, Hanover Square, therefore, one
may often see a widow assisting at the wedding of a daughter or a
son, and dressed in a superb red brocade or velvet, which,
directly the wedding is over, she will discard for her solemn

The question of black gloves is one which troubles all who are
obliged to wear mourning through the heat of summer. The black kid
glove is painfully warm and smutty, disfiguring the hand and
soiling the handkerchief and face. The Swedish kid glove is now
much more in vogue, and the silk glove is made with such neatness
and with such a number of buttons that it is equally stylish, and
much cooler and more agreeable.

Mourning bonnets are worn rather larger than ordinary bonnets. In
England they are still made of the old-fashioned cottage shape,
and are very useful in carrying the heavy veil and in shading the
face. The Queen has always worn this style of bonnet. Her widow's
cap has never been laid aside, and with her long veil of white
falling down her back when she appears at court, it makes the most
becoming dress that she has ever worn. For such a grief as hers
there is something appropriate and dignified in her adherence to
the mourning-dress. It fully expresses her sad isolation: for a
queen can have no near friends. The whole English nation has
sympathized with her grief, and commended her black dress. Nor can
we criticise the grief which causes a mother to wear mourning for
her children. If it be any comfort to her to wrap herself in
crape, she ought to do so. The world has no right to quarrel with
those who prefer to put ashes on their heads.

But for the mockery, the conventional absurdities, and the
affectations which so readily lend themselves to caricature in the
name of mourning, no condemnation can be too strong. There is a
ghoul-like ghastliness in talking about "ornamental," or
"becoming," or "complimentary" mourning. People of sense, of
course, manage to dress without going to extremities in either
direction. We see many a pale-faced mourner whose quiet
mourning-dress tells the story of bereavement without giving us
the painful feeling that crape is too thick, or bombazine too
heavy, for comfort. Exaggeration is to be deprecated in mourning
as in everything.

The discarding of mourning should be effected by gradations. It
shocks persons of good taste to see a light-hearted young widow
jump into colors, as if she had been counting the hours. If black
is to be dispensed with, let its retirement be slowly and
gracefully marked by quiet costumes, as the feeling of grief,
yielding to the kindly influence of time, is shaded off into
resignation and cheerfulness. We do not forget our dead, but we
mourn for them with a feeling which no longer partakes of anguish.

Before a funeral the ladies of a family see no one but the most
intimate friends. The gentlemen, of course, must see the clergyman
and officials who manage the ceremony. It is now the almost
universal practice to carry the remains to a church, where the
friends of the family can pay the last tribute of respect without
crowding into a private house. Pallbearers are invited by note,
and assemble at the house of the deceased, accompanying the
remains, after the ceremonies at the church, to their final
resting-place. The nearest lady friends seldom go to the church or
to the grave. This is, however, entirely a matter of feeling, and
they can go if they wish. After the funeral only the members of
the family return to the house, and it is not expected that a
bereaved wife or mother will see any one other than the members of
her family for several weeks.

The preparations for a funeral in the house are committed to the
care of an undertaker, who removes the furniture from the
drawing-room, filling all the space possible with camp-stools. The
clergyman reads the service at the head of the coffin, the
relatives being grouped around. The body, if not disfigured by
disease, is often dressed in the clothes worn in life, and laid in
an open casket, as if reposing on a sofa, and all friends are
asked to take a last look. It is, however, a somewhat ghastly
proceeding to try to make the dead look like the living. The body
of a man is usually dressed in black. A young boy is laid out in
his every-day clothes, but surely the young of both sexes look
more fitly clad in the white cashmere robe.

The custom of decorating the coffin with flowers is a beautiful
one, but has been, in large cities, so overdone, and so purely a
matter of money, that now the request is generally made that no
flowers be sent.

In England a lady of the court wears, for her parent, crape and
bombazine (or its equivalent in any lustreless cloth) for three
months. She goes nowhere during that period. After that she wears
lustreless silks, trimmed with crape and jet, and goes to court if
commanded. She can also go to concerts without violating
etiquette, or to family weddings. After six months she again
reduces her mourning to black and white, and can attend the
"drawing-room" or go to small dinners. For a husband the time is
exactly doubled, but in neither case should the widow be seen at a
ball, a theatre, or an opera until after one year has elapsed.

In this country no person in mourning for a parent, a child, a
brother, or a husband, is expected to be seen at a concert, a
dinner, a party, or at any other place of public amusement, before
three months have passed, After that one may be seen at a concert.
But to go to the opera, or a dinner, or a party, before six months
have elapsed, is considered heartless and disrespectful. Indeed, a
deep mourning-dress at such a place is an unpleasant anomaly. If
one choose, as many do, not to wear mourning, then they can go
unchallenged to any place of amusement, for they have asserted
their right to be independent; but if they put on mourning they
must respect its etiquette, By many who sorrow deeply, and who
regard the crape and solemn dress as a mark of respect to the
dead, it is deemed almost a sin for a woman to go into the street,
to drive, or to walk, for two years, without a deep crape veil
over her face. It is a common remark of the censorious that a
person who lightens her mourning before that time "did not care
much for the deceased;" and many people hold the fact that a widow
or an orphan wears her crape for two years to be greatly to her

Of course, no one can say that a woman should not wear mourning
all her life if she choose, but it is a serious question whether
in so doing she does not injure the welfare and happiness of the
living. Children, as we have said, are often strangely affected by
this shrouding of their mothers, and men always dislike it.

Common-sense and common decency, however, should restrain the
frivolous from engaging much in the amusements and gayeties of
life before six months have passed after the death of any near
friend. If they pretend to wear black at all, they cannot be too
scrupulous in respecting the restraint which it imposes.


Nothing in our country is more undecided in the public mind than
the etiquette of mourning. It has not yet received that hereditary
and positive character which makes the slightest departure from
received custom so reprehensible in England. We have not the
mutes, or the nodding feathers of the hearse, that still form part
of the English funeral equipage; nor is the rank of the poor clay
which travels to its last home illustrated by the pomp and
ceremony of its departure. Still, in answer to some pertinent
questions, we will offer a few desultory remarks, beginning with
the end, as it were--the return of the mourner to the world.

When persons who have been in mourning wish to re-enter society,
they should leave cards on all their friends and acquaintances, as
an intimation that they are equal to the paying and receiving of
calls. Until this intimation is given, society will not venture to
intrude upon the mourner's privacy. In eases where cards of
inquiry have been left, with the words "To inquire" written on the
top of the card, these cards should be replied to by cards with
"Thanks for kind inquiries" written upon them; but if cards for
inquiry had not been left, this form can be omitted.

Of course there is a kind of complimentary mourning which does not
necessitate seclusion--that which is worn out of respect to a
husband's relative whom one may never have seen. But no one
wearing a heavy crape veil should go to a gay reception, a
wedding, or a theatre; the thing is incongruous. Still less should
mourning prevent one from taking proper recreation: the more the
heart aches, the more should one try to gain cheerfulness and
composure, to hear music, to see faces which one loves: this is a
duty, not merely a wise and sensible rule. Yet it is well to have
some established customs as to visiting and dress in order that
the gay and the heartless may in observing them avoid that which
shocks every one--an appearance of lack of respect to the memory
of the dead--that all society may move on in decency and order,
which is the object and end of the study of etiquette.

A heartless wife who, instead of being grieved at the death of her
husband, is rejoiced at it, should be taught that society will not
respect her unless she pays to the memory of the man whose name
she bears that "homage which vice pays to virtue," a commendable
respect to the usages of society in the matter of mourning and of
retirement from the world. Mourning garments have this use, that
they are a shield to the real mourner, and they are often a
curtain of respectability to the person who should be a mourner
but is not. We shall therefore borrow from the best English and
American authorities what we believe to be the most recent usages
in the etiquette of mourning.

As for periods of mourning, we are told that a widow's mourning
should last eighteen months, although in England it is somewhat
lightened in twelve. For the first six months the dress should be
of crape cloth, or Henrietta cloth covered entirely with crape,
collar and cuffs of white crape, a crape bonnet with a long crape
veil, and a widow's cap of white crape if preferred. In America,
however, widows' caps are not as universally worn as in England.
Dull black kid gloves are worn in first mourning; after that
_gants de Suede_ or silk gloves are proper, particularly in
summer. After six months' mourning the crape can be removed, and
grenadine, copeau fringe, and dead trimmings used, if the smell of
crape is offensive, as it is to some people. After twelve months
the widow's cap is left off, and the heavy veil is exchanged for a
lighter one, and the dress can be of silk grenadine, plain black
gros-grain, or crape-trimmed cashmere with jet trimmings, and
cr^pe lisse about the neck and sleeves.

All kinds of black fur and seal-skin are worn in deep mourning.

Mourning for a father or mother should last one year. During half
a year should be worn Henrietta cloth or serge trimmed with crape,
at first with black tulle at the wrists and neck. A deep veil is
worn at the back of the bonnet, but not over the head or face like
the widow's veil, which covers the entire person when down. This
fashion is very much objected to by doctors, who think many
diseases of the eye come by this means, and advise for common use
thin nun's-veiling instead of crape, which sheds its pernicious
dye into the sensitive nostrils, producing catarrhal disease as
well as blindness and cataract of the eye. It is a thousand pities
that fashion dictates the crape veil, but so it is. It is the very
banner of woe, and no one has the courage to go without it. We can
only suggest to mourners wearing it that they should pin a small
veil of black tulle over the eyes and nose, and throw back the
heavy crape as often as possible, for health's sake.

Jet ornaments alone should be worn for eighteen months, unless
diamonds set as mementoes are used. For half-mourning, a bonnet of
silk or chip, trimmed with crape and ribbon. Mourning flowers, and
cr^pe lisse at the hands and wrists, lead the way to gray, mauve,
and white-and-black toilettes after the second year.

Mourning for a brother or sister may be the same; for a stepfather
or stepmother the same; for grandparents the same; but the
duration may be shorter. In England this sort of respectful
mourning only lasts three months.

Mourning for children should last nine months, The first three the
dress should be crape-trimmed, the mourning less deep than that
for a husband. No one is ever ready to take off mourning;
therefore these rules have this advantage--they enable the friends
around a grief-stricken mother to tell her when is the time to
make her dress more cheerful, which she is bound to do for the
sake of the survivors, many of whom are perhaps affected for life
by seeing a mother always in black. It is well for mothers to
remember this when sorrow for a lost child makes all the earth
seem barren to them.

We are often asked whether letters of condolence should be written
on black-edged paper. Decidedly not, unless the writer is in
black. The telegraph now flashes messages of respect and sympathy
across sea and land like a voice from the heart. Perhaps it is
better than any other word of sympathy, although all who can
should write to a bereaved person. There is no formula possible
for these letters; they must be left to the individual's good
taste, and perhaps the simplest and least conventional are the
best. A card with a few words pencilled on it has often been the
best letter of condolence.

In France a long and deeply edged mourning letter or address,
called a _faire part_, is sent to every one known to the family to
advise them of a death. In this country that is not done, although
some mention of the deceased is generally sent to friends in
Europe who would not otherwise hear of the death.

Wives wear mourning for the relatives of their husbands precisely
as they would for their own, as would husbands for the relatives
of their wives. Widowers wear mourning for their wives two years
in England; here only one year. Widowers go into society at a much
earlier date than widows, it being a received rule that all
gentlemen in mourning for relatives go into society very much
sooner than ladies.

Ladies of the family attend the funeral of a relative if they are
able to do so, and wear their deepest mourning. Servants are
usually put in mourning for the head of the family--sometimes for
any member of it. They should wear a plain black livery and weeds
on their hats; the inside lining of the family carriage should
also be of black.

The period of mourning for an aunt or uncle or cousin is of three
months' duration, and that time at least should elapse before the
family go out or into gay company, or are seen at theatres or
operas, etc.

We now come to the saddest part of our subject, the consideration
of the dead body, so dear, yet so soon to leave us; so familiar,
yet so far away--the cast-off dress, the beloved clay. Dust to
dust, ashes to ashes!

As for the coffin, it is simpler than formerly; and, while lined
with satin and made with care, it is plain on the outside--black
cloth, with silver plate for the name, and silver handles, being
in the most modern taste. There are but few of the "trappings of
woe." At the funeral of General Grant, twice a President, and
regarded as the saviour of his country, there was a gorgeous
catafalque of purple velvet, but at the ordinary funeral there are
none of these trappings. If our richest citizen were to die
to-morrow, he would probably be buried plainly. Yet it is touching
to see with what fidelity the poorest creature tries to "bury her
dead dacent." The destitute Irish woman begs for a few dollars for
this sacred duty, and seldom in vain. It is a duty for the rich to
put down ostentation in funerals, for it is an expense which comes
heavily on those who have poverty added to grief.

In dressing the remains for the grave, those of a man are usually
"clad in his habit as he lived." For a woman, tastes differ: a
white robe and cap, not necessarily shroudlike, are decidedly
unexceptionable. For young persons and children white cashmere
robes and flowers are always most appropriate.

The late cardinal, whose splendid obsequies and whose regal "lying
in state" were in keeping with his high rank and the gorgeous
ceremonial of his Church, was strongly opposed to the profuse use
of flowers at funerals, and requested that none be sent to deck
his lifeless clay. He was a modest and humble man, and always on
the right side in these things; therefore let his advice prevail.
A few flowers placed in the dead hand, perhaps a simple wreath,
but not those unmeaning memorials which have become to real
mourners such sad perversities of good taste, such a misuse of
flowers. Let those who can afford to send such things devote the
money to the use of poor mothers who cannot afford to buy a coffin
for a dead child or a coat for a living one.

In the course of a month after a death all friends of the deceased
are expected to leave cards on the survivors, and it is
discretionary whether these be written on or not. These cards
should be carefully preserved, that, when the mourner is ready to
return to the world, they may be properly acknowledged.


Probably no branch of the epistolary art has ever given to
friendly hearts so much perplexity as that which has to do with
writing to friends in affliction. It is delightful to sit down and
wish anybody joy; to overflow with congratulatory phrases over a
favorable bit of news; to say how glad you are that your friend is
engaged or married, or has inherited a fortune, has written a
successful book, or has painted an immortal picture. Joy opens the
closet of language, and the gems of expression are easily found;
but the fountain of feeling being chilled by the uncongenial
atmosphere of grief, by the sudden horror of death, or the more
terrible breath of dishonor or shame, or even by the cold blast of
undeserved misfortune, leaves the individual sympathizer in a mood
of perplexity and of sadness which is of itself a most
discouraging frame of mind for the inditing of a letter.

And yet we sympathize with our friend: we desire to tell him so.
We want to say, "My friend, your grief is my grief; nothing can
hurt you that does not hurt me. I cannot, of course, enter into
all your feelings, but to stand by and see you hurt, and remain
unmoved myself, is impossible." All this we wish to say; but how
shall we say it that our words may not hurt him a great deal more
than he is hurt already? How shall we lay our hand so tenderly on
that sore spot that we may not inflict a fresh wound? How can we
say to a mother who bends over a fresh grave, that we regret the
loss she has sustained in the death of her child? Can language
measure the depth, the height, the immensity, the bitterness of
that grief? What shall we say that is not trite and
commonplace--even unfeeling? Shall we be pagan, and say that "whom
the gods love die young," or Christian, and remark that "God does
not willingly afflict the children of men?" She has thought of
that, she has heard it, alas! often before--but too often, as she
thinks now.

Shall we tell her what she has lost--how good, how loving, how
brave, how admirable was the spirit which has just left the flesh?
Alas! how well she knows that! How her tears well up as she
remembers the silent fortitude, the heroic patience under the pain
that was to kill! Shall we quote ancient philosophers and modern
poets? They have all dwelt at greater or less length upon death
and the grave. Or shall we say, in simple and unpremeditated
words, the thoughts which fill our own minds?

The person who has to write this letter may be a ready writer, who
finds fit expression at the point of his pen, and who overflows
with the language of consolation--such a one needs no advice; but
to the hundreds who do need help we would say that the simplest
expressions are the best. A distant friend, upon one of these
occasions, wrote a letter as brief as brief might be, but of its
kind altogether perfect. It ran thus: "I have heard of your great
grief, and I send you a simple pressure of the hand." Coming from
a gay and volatile person, it had for the mourner great
consolation; pious quotations, and even the commonplaces of
condolence, would have seemed forced. Undoubtedly those persons do
us great good, or they wish to, who tell us to be resigned--that
we have deserved this affliction; that we suffer now, but that our
present sufferings are nothing to what our future sufferings shall
be; that we are only entering the portals of agony, and that every
day will reveal to us the magnitude of our loss. Such is the
formula which certain persons use, under the title of "letters of
condolence." It is the wine mixed with gall which they gave our
Lord to drink; and as He refused it, so may we. There are, no
doubt, persons of a gloomy and a religious temperament combined
who delight in such phrases; who quote the least consolatory of
the texts of Scripture; who roll our grief as a sweet morsel under
their tongues; who really envy the position of chief mourner as
one of great dignity and considerable consequence; who consider
crape and bombazine as a sort of royal mantle conferring
distinction. There are many such people in the world. Dickens and
Anthony Trollope have put them into novels--solemn and ridiculous
Malvolios; they exist in nature, in literature, and in art. It
adds a new terror to death when we reflect that such persons will
not fail to make it the occasion of letter-writing.

But those who write to us strongly and cheerfully, who do not
dwell so much on our grief as on our remaining duties--they are
the people who help us. To advise a mourner to go out into the
sun, to resume his work, to help the poor, and, above all, to
carry on the efforts, to emulate the virtues of the deceased--this
is comfort. It is a very dear and consoling thing to a bereaved
friend to hear the excellence of the departed extolled, to read
and re-read all of the precious testimony which is borne by
outsiders to the saintly life ended--and there are few so
hard-hearted as not to find something good to say of the dead: it
is the impulse of human nature; it underlies all our philosophy
and our religion; it is the "stretching out of a hand," and it
comforts the afflicted. But what shall we say to those on whom
disgrace has laid its heavy, defiling hand? Is it well to write to
them at all? Shall we not be mistaken for those who prowl like
jackals round a grave, and will not our motives be misunderstood?
Is not sympathy sometimes malice in disguise? Does not the phrase
"I am so sorry for you!" sometimes sound like "I am so glad for
myself?" Undoubtedly it does; but a sincere friend should not be
restrained, through fear that his motive may be mistaken, from
saying that he wishes to bear some part of the burden. Let him
show that the unhappy man is in his thoughts, that he would like
to help, that he would be glad to see him, or take him out, or
send him a book, or at least write him a letter. Such a wish as
this will hurt no one.

Philosophy--some quaint and dry bit of old Seneca, or modern
Rochefoucauld--has often helped a struggling heart when disgrace,
deserved or undeserved, has placed the soul in gyves of iron.
Sympathetic persons, of narrow minds and imperfect education,
often have the gift of being able to say most consolatory things.
Irish servants, for instance, rarely hurt the feelings of a
mourner. They burst out in the language of Nature, and, if it is
sometimes grotesque, it is almost always comforting. It is the
educated and conscientious person who finds the writing of a
letter of condolence difficult.

Perhaps much of our dread of death is the result of a false
education, and the wearing of black may after all be a mistake. At
the moment when we need bright colors, fresh flowers, sunshine,
and beauty, we hide ourselves behind crape veils and make our
garments heavy with ashes; but as it is conventional it is in one
way a protection, and is therefore proper. No one feels like
varying the expressions of a grief which has the Anglo-Saxon
seriousness in it, the Scandinavian melancholy of a people from
whom Nature hides herself behind a curtain of night. To the sunny
and graceful Greek the road of the dead was the Via Felice; it was
the happy way, the gate of flowers; the tombs were furnished as
the houses were, with images of the beloved, and the veriest
trifles which the deceased had loved. One wonders, as the tomb of
a child is opened on the road out of Tanagra, near Athens, and the
toys and hobby-horse and little shoes are found therein, if, after
all, that father and mother were not wiser than we who, like
Constance, "stuff out his vacant garments with his form." Is there
not something quite unenlightened in the persistence with which we
connect death with gloom?

Our correspondents often ask us when a letter of condolence should
be written? As soon as possible. Do not be afraid to intrude on
any grief, It is generally a welcome distraction; to even the most
morbid mourner, to read a letter; and those who are So stunned by
grief as not to be able to write or to read will always have some
willing soul near them who will read and answer for them.

The afflicted, however, should never be expected to answer
letters, They can and should receive the kindest and the most
prompt that their friends can indite, Often a phrase on which the
writer has built no hope may be the airy-bridge over which the
sorrowing soul returns slowly and blindly to peace and
resignation. Who would miss the chance, be it one in ten thousand,
of building such a bridge? Those who have suffered and been
strong, those whom we love and respect, those who have the honest
faith in human nature which enables them to read aright the riddle
of this strange world, those who by faith walk over burning
ploughshares and dread no evil, those are the people who write the
best letters of condolence. They do not dwell on our grief, or
exaggerate it, although they are evidently writing to us with a
lump in the throat and a tear in the eye--they do not say so, but
we feel it. They tell us of the certain influence of time, which
will change our present grief into our future joy. They say a few
beautiful words of the friend whom we have lost, recount their own
loss in him in a few fitting words of earnest sympathy which may
carry consolation, if only by the wish of the writer. They beg of
us to be patient. God has brought life and immortality to light
through death, and to those whom "he has thought worthy to
endure," this thought may ever form the basis of a letter of

"Give me," said the dying Herder, "a great thought, that I may
console myself with that." It is a present of no mean value, a
great thought; and if every letter of condolence could bear with
it one broad phrase of honest sympathy it would be a blessed
instrumentality for carrying patience and resignation, peace and
comfort, into those dark places where the sufferer is eating his
heart out with grief, or where Rachel "weeps for her children, and
will not be comforted, because they are not."


It is strange that the Americans, so prone to imitate British
customs, have been slow to adopt that law of English society which
pronounces a chaperon an indispensable adjunct of every unmarried
young woman.

The readers of "Little Dorrit" will recall the exceedingly witty
sketch of Mrs. General, who taught her young ladies to form their
mouths into a lady-like pattern by saying "papa, potatoes, prunes,
and prism." Dickens knew very little of society, and cared very
little for its laws, and his ladies and gentlemen were pronounced
in England to be as great failures as his Little Nells and Dick
Swivellers were successes; but he recognized the universality of
chaperons. His portrait of Mrs. General (the first luxury which
Mr. Dorrit allowed himself after inheriting his fortune) shows how
universal is the necessity of a chaperon in English society, and
on the Continent, to the proper introduction of young ladies, and
how entirely their "style" depends upon their chaperon. Of course
Dickens made her funny, of course he made her ridiculous, but he
put her there. An American novelist would not have thought it
worth mentioning, nor would an American papa with two motherless
daughters have thought it necessary, if he travelled with them, to
have a chaperon for his daughters.

Of course, a mother is the natural chaperon of her daughters, and
if she understand her duties and the usages of society there is
nothing further to be said. But the trouble is that many American
mothers are exceedingly careless on this point. We need not point
to the wonderful Mrs. Miller--Daisy's mother--in Henry James,
Jr.'s, photograph of a large class of American matrons--a woman
who loved her daughter, knew how to take care of her when she was
ill, but did not know in the least how to take care of her when
she was well; who allowed her to go about with young men alone, to
"get engaged," if so she pleased, and who, arriving at a party
after her daughter had appeared, rather apologized for coming at
all. All this is notoriously true, and comes of our crude
civilization. It is the transition state. Until we learn better,
we must expect to be laughed at on the Pincian Hill, and we must
expect English novelists to paint pictures of us which we resent,
and French dramatists to write plays in which we see ourselves
held up as savages.

Europeans have been in the habit of taking care of young girls, as
if they were the precious porcelain of human clay. The American
mamma treats her beautiful daughter as if she were a very common
piece of delft indeed, and as if she could drift down the stream
of life, knocking all other vessels to pieces, but escaping injury
to herself.

Owing to the very remarkable and strong sense of propriety which
American women innately possess--their truly healthy love of
virtue, the absence of any morbid suspicion of wrong--this rule
has worked better than any one would have dared hope. Owing, also,
to the exceptionally respectful and chivalrous nature of American
men, it has been possible for a young lady to travel unattended
from Maine to Georgia, or anywhere within the new geographical
limits of our social growth. Mr. Howells founded a romance upon
this principle, that American women do not need a chaperon. Yet we
must remember that all the black sheep are not killed yet, and we
must also remember that propriety must be more attended to as we
cease to be a young and primitive nation, and as we enter the
lists of the rich, cultivated, luxurious people of the earth.

Little as we may care for the opinion of foreigners we do not wish
our young ladies to appear in their eyes in a false attitude, and
one of the first necessities of a proper attitude, one of the
first demands of a polished society, is the presence of a
chaperon. She should be a lady old enough to be the mother of her
charge, and of unexceptionable manner. She must know society
thoroughly herself, and respect its laws. She should be above the
suspicion of reproach in character, and devoted to her work. In
England there are hundreds of widows of half-pay
officers--well-born, well-trained, well-educated women--who can be
hired for money, as was Mrs. General, to play this part. There is
no such class in America, but there is almost always a lady who
will gladly perform the task of chaperoning motherless girls
without remuneration.

It is not considered proper in England for a widowed father to
place an unmarried daughter at the head of his house without the
companionship of a resident chaperon, and there are grave
objections to its being done here. We have all known instances
where such liberty has been very bad for young girls, and where it
has led to great scandals which the presence of a chaperon would
have averted.

The duties of a chaperon are very hard and unremitting, and
sometimes very disagreeable. She must accompany her young lady
everywhere; she must sit in the parlor when she receives
gentlemen; she must go with her to the skating-rink, the ball, the
party, the races, the dinners, and especially to theatre parties;
she must preside at the table, and act the part of a mother, so
far as she can; she must watch the characters of the men who
approach her charge, and endeavor to save the inexperienced girl
from the dangers of a bad marriage, if possible. To perform this
feat, and not to degenerate into a Spanish duenna, a dragon, or a
Mrs. General--who was simply a fool--is a very difficult task.

No doubt a vivacious American girl, with all her inherited hatred
of authority, is a troublesome charge. All young people are
rebels. They dislike being watched and guarded. They have no idea
what Hesperidean fruit they are, and they object to the dragon

But a wise, well-tempered woman can manage the situation. If she
have tact, a chaperon will add very much to the happiness of her
young charge. She will see that the proper men are introduced;
that her young lady is provided with a partner for the german;
that she is asked to nice places; that she goes well dressed and
properly accompanied; that she gives the return ball herself in
handsome style.

"I owe," said a wealthy widower in New York, whose daughters all
made remarkably happy marriages--"I owe all their happiness to
Mrs. Constant, whom I was so fortunate as to secure as their
chaperon. She knew society (which I did not), as if it were in her
pocket. She knew exactly what girls ought to do, and she was so
agreeable herself that they never disliked having her with them.
She was very rigid, too, and would not let them stay late at
balls; but they loved and respected her so much that they never
rebelled, and now they love her as if she were really their

A woman of elegant manners and of charming character, who will
submit to the slavery--for it is little less--of being a chaperon,
is hard to find; yet every motherless family should try to secure
such a person. In travelling in Europe, an accomplished chaperon
can do more for young girls than any amount of fortune. She has
the thing they want--that is, knowledge. With her they can go
everywhere--to picture-galleries, theatres, public and private
balls, and into society, if they wish it. It is "etiquette" to
have a chaperon, and it is the greatest violation of it not to
have one.

If a woman is protected by the armor of work, she can dispense
with a chaperon. The young artist goes about her copying
unquestioned, but in society, with its different laws, she must be
under the care of an older woman than herself.

A chaperon is indispensable to an engaged girl. The mother, or
some lady friend, should always accompany a young _fianc,e_ on her
journeys to the various places of amusement and to the

Nothing is more vulgar in the eyes of our modern society than for
an engaged couple to travel together or to go to the theatre
unaccompanied, as was the primitive custom. This will, we know,
shock many Americans, and be called a "foolish following of
foreign fashions." But it is true; and, if it were only for the
"looks of the thing," it is more decent, more elegant, and more
correct for the young couple to be accompanied by a chaperon until
married. Society allows an engaged girl to drive with her _fianc,_
in an open carriage, but it does not approve of his taking her in
a close carriage to an evening party.

There are non-resident chaperons who are most popular and most
useful. Thus, one mamma or elderly lady may chaperon a number of
young ladies to a dinner, or a drive on a coach, a sail down the
bay, or a ball at West Point. This lady looks after all her young
charges, and attends to their propriety and their happiness. She
is the guardian angel, for the moment, of their conduct. It is a
care which young men always admire and respect--this of a kind,
well-bred chaperon, who does not allow the youthful spirits of her
charges to run away with them.

The chaperon, if an intelligent woman, and with the sort of social
talent which a chaperon ought to have, is the best friend of a
family of shy girls. She brings them forward, and places them in a
position in which they can enjoy society; for there is a great
deal of tact required in a large city to make a retiring girl
enjoy herself. Society demands a certain amount of handling, which
only the social expert understands. To this the chaperon should be
equal. There are some women who have a social talent which is
simply Napoleonic. They manage it as a great general does his
_corps de bataille_.

Again, there are bad chaperons. A flirtatious married woman who is
thinking of herself only, and who takes young girls about merely
to enable herself to lead a gay life (and the world is full of
such women), is worse than no chaperon at all. She is not a
protection to the young lady, and she disgusts the honorable men
who would like to approach her charge. A very young chaperon, bent
on pleasure, who undertakes to make respectable the coaching
party, but who has no dignity of character to impress upon it, is
a very poor one. Many of the most flagrant violations of
propriety, in what is called the fashionable set, have arisen from
this choice of young chaperons, which is a mere begging of the
question, and no chaperonage at all.

Too much champagne is drunk, too late hours are kept, silly
stories are circulated, and appearances are disregarded by these
gay girls and their young chaperons; and yet they dislike very
much to see themselves afterwards held up to ridicule in the pages
of a magazine by an Englishman, whose every sentiment of
propriety, both educated and innate, has been shocked by their

A young Frenchman who visited America a few years ago formed the
worst judgment of American women because he met one alone at an
artist's studio. He misinterpreted the profoundly sacred and
corrective influences of art. It had not occurred to the lady that
if she went to see a picture she would be suspected of wishing to
see the artist. Still, the fact that such a mistake could be made
should render ladies careful of even the appearance of evil.

A chaperon should in her turn remember that she must not open a
letter, She must not exercise an unwise surveillance. She must not
_suspect_ her charge. All that sort of Spanish _espionage_ is
always outwitted. The most successful chaperons are those who love
their young charges, respect them, try to be in every way what the
mother would have been. Of course, all relations of this sort are
open to many drawbacks on both sides, but it is not impossible
that it may be an agreeable relation, if both parties exercise a
little tact.

In selecting a chaperon for a young charge, let parents or
guardians be very particular as to the past history of the lady.
If she has ever been talked about, ever suffered the bad
reputation of flirt or coquette, do not think of placing her in
that position. Clubs have long memories, and the fate of more than
one young heiress has been imperilled by an injudicious choice of
a chaperon. If any woman should have a spotless record and
admirable character it should be the chaperon. It will tell
against her charge if she have not. Certain needy women who have
been ladies, and who precariously attach to society through their
families, are always seeking for some young heiress. These women
are very poor chaperons, and should be avoided.

This business of chaperonage is a point which demands attention on
the part of careless American mothers. No mother should be
oblivious of her duty in this respect. It does not imply that she
doubts her daughter's honor or truth, or that she thinks she needs
watching, but it is proper and respectable and necessary that she
should appear by her daughter's side in society. The world is full
of traps. It is impossible to be too careful of the reputation of
a young lady, and it improves the tone of society vastly if an
elegant and respectable woman of middle age accompanies every
young party. It goes far to silence the ceaseless clatter of
gossip; it is the antidote to scandal; it makes the air clearer;
and, above all, it improves the character, the manners, and
elevates the minds of the young people who are so happy as to
enjoy the society and to feel the authority of a cultivated, wise,
and good chaperon.


A brisk correspondent writes to us that she finds our restrictions
as to the etiquette which single women should follow somewhat
embarrassing. Being now thirty-five, and at the head of her
father's house, with no intention of ever marrying, she asks if
she requires a chaperon; if it is necessary that she should
observe the severe self-denial of not entering an artist's studio
without a guardian angel; if she must never allow a gentleman to
pay for her theatre tickets; if she must, in short, assume a
matron's place in the world, and never enjoy a matron's freedom.

From her letter we can but believe that this young lady of
thirty-five is a very attractive person, and that she does "not
look her age." Still, as she is at the head of her father's house,
etiquette does yield a point and allows her to judge for herself
as to the proprieties which must bend to her. Of course with every
year of a woman's life after twenty-five she becomes less and less
the subject of chaperonage. For one thing, she is better able to
judge of the world and its temptations; in the second place, a
certain air which may not be less winning, but which is certainly
more mature, has replaced the wild grace of a giddy girlhood. She
has, with the assumption of years, taken on a dignity which, in
its way, is fully the compensation for some lost bloom. Many
people prefer it.

But we must say here that she is not yet, in European opinion,
emancipated from that guardianship which society dispenses with
for the youngest widow. She must have a "companion" if she is a
rich woman; and if she is a poor one she must join some party of
friends when she travels. She can travel abroad with her maid, but
in Paris and other Continental cities a woman still young-looking
had better not do this. She is not safe from insult nor from
injurious suspicion if she signs herself "Miss" Smith, and is
without her mother, an elderly friend, a companion, or party.

In America a woman can go anywhere and do almost anything without
fear of insult. But in Europe, where the custom of chaperonage is
so universal, she must be more circumspect.

As to visiting an artist's studio alone, there is in art itself an
ennobling and purifying influence which should be a protection.
But we must not forget that saucy book by Maurice Sand, in which
its author says that the first thing he observed in America was
that women (even respectable ones) went alone to artists' studios.
It would seem wiser, therefore, that a lady, though thirty-five,
should be attended in her visits to studios by a friend or
companion. This simple expedient "silences envious tongues," and
avoids even the remotest appearance of evil.

In the matter of paying for tickets, if a lady of thirty-five
wishes to allow a gentleman to pay for her admission to
picture-galleries and theatres she has an indisputable right to do
so. But we are not fighting for a right, only defining a law of
etiquette, when we say that it is not generally allowed in the
best society, abroad or here. In the case of young girls it is
quite unallowable, but in the case of a lady of thirty-five it may
be permitted as a sort of _camaraderie_, as one college friend may
pay for another. The point is, however, a delicate one. Men, in
the freedom of their clubs, recount to each other the clever
expedients which many women of society use to extort from them

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