Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Table Etiquette

In order to appear perfectly well-bred at table when in company, or in public, as at a hotel, you must pay attention, three times a day, to the points of table etiquette. If you neglect these little details at home and in private, they will be performed awkwardly and with an air of restraint when you are in company. By making them habitual, they will become natural, and appear easily, and sit gracefully upon you.

Even when eating entirely alone, observe these little details, thus making the most finished and elegant manners perfectly familiar, and thus avoiding the stiff, awkward air you will wear if you keep your politeness only for company, when you will be constantly apprehensive of doing wrong.

At breakfast or tea, if your seat is at the head of the table, you must, before taking anything upon your own plate, fill a cup for each one of the family, and pass them round, being careful to suit each one in the preparation of the cup, that none may return to you for more tea, water, sugar, or milk. If you have a visitor, pass the cup with the tea or coffee alone in it, and hand with the[106] cup the sugar bowl and cream pitcher, that these may be added in the quantity preferred.

After all the cups have been filled and passed round, you may take the bread, butter, and other food upon your own plate. Train your children, so that they will pass these things to you as soon as they see you are ready to receive them.

If you are yourself at the side of the table, pass the bread, butter, etc., to the lady at the head, when you see that she has sent the cups from the waiter before her, to those seated at the table.

If you occupy the place of head of the table, you must watch the cups, offer to fill them when empty, and also see that each one of the family is well helped to the other articles upon the table.

Avoid making any noise in eating, even if each meal is eaten in solitary state. It is a disgusting habit, and one not easily cured if once contracted, to make any noise with the lips when eating.

Never put large pieces of food into your mouth. Eat slowly, and cut your food into small pieces before putting it into your mouth.

Use your fork, or spoon, never your knife, to put your food into your mouth. At dinner, hold in your left hand a piece of bread, and raise your meat or vegetables with the fork, holding the bread to prevent the pieces slipping from the plate.

If you are asked at table what part of the meat you prefer, name your favorite piece, but do not give such information unless asked to do so. To point out any especial part of a dish, and ask for it, is ill-bred. To answer, when asked to select a part, that "it is a matter of indifference," or, "I can eat any part," is annoying to the carver, as he cares less than yourself certainly, and would prefer to give you the piece you really like best.

Do not pour coffee or tea from your cup into your saucer, and do not blow either these or soup. Wait until they cool.

Use the butter-knife, salt-spoon, and sugar-tongs as scrupulously when alone, as if a room full of people were watching you. Otherwise, you may neglect to do so when the omission will mortify you.

Never put poultry or fish bones, or the stones of fruit, upon the table-cloth, but place them on the edge of your plate.

Do not begin to eat until others at the table are ready to commence too.

Sit easily in your chair, neither too near the table, nor too far from it, and avoid such tricks as putting your arms on the table, leaning back lazily in your chair, or playing with your knife, fork, or spoon.

Never raise your voice, when speaking, any higher than is necessary. The clear articulation and distinct pronunciation of each word, will make a low tone more agreeable and more easily understood, than the loudest tone, if the speech is rapid or indistinct.

Never pass your plate with the knife or fork upon it, and when you pass your cup, put the spoon in the saucer.

Never pile up the food on your plate. It looks as if you feared it would all be gone before you could be helped again, and it will certainly make your attempts to cut the food awkward, if your plate is crowded.

If there is a delicacy upon the table, partake of it sparingly, and never help yourself to it a second time.

If you wish to cough, or use your handkerchief, rise from the table, and leave the room. If you have not time to do this, cover your mouth, and turn your head aside from the table, and perform the disagreeable necessity as rapidly and quietly as possible.

Avoid gesticulation at the table. Indeed, a well-bred lady will never gesticulate, but converse quietly, letting the expression and animation of her features give force to her words.

Never, when at the home table, leave it until the other members of the family are also ready to rise.

Source: Hartley, Florence. The Ladies' Book of Etiquette, and Manual of Politeness. (Boston: G.W. Cottrell, 1860) 105-108.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Visiting, Morning Calls, Cards

A morning visit should be paid between the hours of two and four p.m., in winter, and two and five in summer. By observing this rule you avoid intruding before the luncheon is removed, and leave in sufficient time to allow the lady of the house an hour or two of leisure for her dinner toilette.

Be careful always to avoid luncheon hours when you pay morning visits. Some ladies dine with their children at half-past one, and are consequently unprepared for the early reception of visitors. When you have once ascertained this to be the case, be careful never again to intrude at the same hour.

A good memory for these trifles is one of the hall-marks of good breeding.

Visits of ceremony should be short. If even the conversation should have become animated, beware of letting your call exceed halfan-hour's length. it is always better to let your friends regret than desire your withdrawal.

On returning visits of ceremony you may, without impoliteness, leave your card at the door without going in. Do not fail, however, to inquire if the family be well.

Should there be daughters or sisters residing with the lady upon whom you call, you may turn down a corner of your card, to signify that the visit is paid to all. It is in better taste, however, to leave cards for each.

Unless when returning thanks for 'kind inquiries', or announcing your arrival in, or departure from, town, it is not considered respectful to send round cards by a servant.

Leave-taking cards have P.P.C. (pour prendre congé) written in the corner. Some use P.D.A. (pour dire adieu).

It is not the fashion on the Continent for unmarried ladies to affix any equivalent to the English 'Miss'  to their visiting cards. Emilie Dubois, or Kätchen Clauss, is thought more simple and elegant than if preceded by Mademoiselle or Fraülein. Some English girls have of late adopted this good custom, and it would be well if it became general.

Visits of condolence are paid within the week after the event which occasions them. Personal visits of this kind are made by relations and very intimate friends only. Acquaintances should leave cards with narrow mourning borders.

On the first occasion when you are received by the family after the death of one of its members, it is etiquette to wear slight mourning.

Umbrellas should invariably be left in the hall.

Never take favourite dogs into a drawing-room when you make a morning call. Their feet may be dusty, or they may bark at the sight of strangers, or, being of too friendly a disposition, may take the liberty of lying on a lady's gown, or jumping on the sofas and easy chairs. Where your friend has a favourite cat already established before the fire, a battle may ensue, and one or other of the pets be seriously hurt. Besides, many persons have a constitutional antipathy to dogs, and other never allow their own to be seen in the sitting-rooms. For all or any of these reasons, a visitor has no right to inflict upon her friend the society of her dog as well as of herself. Neither is it well for a mother to take young children with her when she pays morning visits; their presence, unless they are unusually well trained, can only be productive of anxiety to both yourself and your hostess. She, while striving to amuse them or to appear interested in them is secretly anxious for the fate of her album, or the ornaments on her étagére; while the mother is trembling lest her children should say or do something objectionable.

If other visitors are announced, and you have already remained as long as courtesy requires, wait till they are seated, and then rise from your chair, take leave of your hostess, and bow politely to the newly arrived guests. You will, perhaps, be urged to remain, but, having once risen, it is best to go. There is always a certain air of gaucherie in resuming your seat and repeating the ceremony of leave-taking.

If you have occasion to look at your watch during a call, ask permission to do so, and apologise for it on the plea of other appointments.

In receiving morning visitors, it is not necessary that the lady should lay aside the employment in which she may be engaged, particularly if it consists of light or ornamental needle-work. Politeness, however, requires that music, drawing, or any occupation which completely engross the attention, be at once abandoned.

You need not advance to receive visitors when announced, unless they are persons to whom you are desirous of testifying particular attention. It is sufficient if a lady rises to receive her visitors, moves forward a single step to shake hands with them, and remains standing till they are seated.

When your visitors rise to take leave you should rise also, and remain standing till they have quite left the room. Do not accompany them to the door, but be careful to ring in good time, that the servant may be ready in the hall to let them out.

A lady should dress well, but not too richly, when she pays a morning visit. If she has a carriage at command, she may dress more elegantly than if she were on foot.

Source: Routledge, George. The Well-Bred Person's Book of Etiquette. (Gloucestershire: The History Press, 1891), 16-19.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Promenade

In England, a lady may accept the arm of a gentleman with whom she is walking, even though he be only an acquaintance. This is not the case either in America or on the Continent. There a lady can take the arm of no gentleman who is not either her husband, lover, or near relative.

If a lady has been making purchases during her walk, she may permit the gentleman who accompanies her to carry any small, parcel that she may have in her own hand; but she should not burthen with more than one under any circumstances whatever.

Two ladies may without impropriety take each one arm of a single cavalier; but one lady cannot, with either grace or the sanction of custom take the arms of two gentlemen at the same time.

When a lady is walking with a gentleman in a park, or public garden, or through the rooms of an exhibition, and becomes fatigued, it is the gentleman's duty to find her a seat. If, however, as is very frequently the case, he is himself obliged to remain standing, the lady should make a point of rising as soon as she is sufficiently rested, and not abuse either the patience or politeness of her companion.

It is the place of the lady to bow first, if she meets a gentleman of her acquaintance. When you meet friends or acquaintances in the streets, the exhibitions, or any public places, be careful not to pronounce their names so loudly as to attract the attention of bystanders. Never call across the street, or attempt to carry on a dialogue in a public vehicle, unless your interlocutor occupies the seat beside your own.

Source: Routledge, George. The Well-Bred Person's Book of Etiquette. (Gloucestershire: The History Press, 1891), 27-28.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Models and Plans for Various Letters and Notes II

Invitation to a picnic party.

Mr Dear Miss Welby:
              I am endeavouring to form a small party to visit Lenox on Tuesday next. We propose to make the trip by water, and have engaged a boat of good capacity with an excellent awning. Some of the gentlemen who are already engaged to join our party, have promised to row, and our boat will be amply furnished with a cold collation.
              On reaching Lenox, we purpose to repair to the wood or park, and then on "Nature's verdant carpet," to spread out our chickens, and hams, and pastries, and fancy we are leading a sylvan life. Should you have no prior engagement, will you do us the favor of forming one of the party? Your company will indeed be most welcome. Mrs. M and your friend Jennie, with a few others, will be of the party. Should the weather permit, we shall start as early as nine o'clock, by which hour we expect our party will all be assembled at Mrs. Sibley's, that place having been decided upon as being most convenient.
                     Your affectionate friend,
                                      Frank Wallis.

A lady to her friend in town, inviting her to spend a month in the country.

My Dear Friend;
              I need scarcely tell you what you must have observed, that I always feel a pleasure in your society, and am selfish enough, on the present occasion, to covet it for a month, or for a longer period should it suit your convenience. If, therefore, you are not so wedded to the attractions of a New York life, as to be unwilling to leave them for a time, and will do us the favor of making our humble and rural retreat your temporary abode, your presence will enliven our family circle, and be a real enjoyment to
                     Your sincere friend,
                                      Marion Willis.

Source: Thornwell, Emily. The Lady's Guide to Perfect Gentility. (New York: Derby & Jackson, 1857), 163-164.