ROPERLY conducted, the dinner-party should be a pleasant affair; and if rightly managed, from the beginning to the end, it may prove a very enjoyable occasion to all in attendance, the dinner being from 5 to 8 p. m., the guests continuing at the table from one to two hours.
For a very pleasant social affair the rule is not to have the company when seated exceed twelve in number. With a party of that size the conversation can be general, and all are likely to feel more at ease than if the number be larger, provided a selection of guests is made that are congenial to each other. None of them should be conspicuously superior to the others, and all should be from the same circle of society.
Having determined upon the number of guests to be invited, the next thing in order will be the issuing of notes of invitation, by special messenger, which should be sent out ten or twelve days before the dinner is given. Their form will be -
Mr. and Mrs. L-----request the pleasure of the company of Mr. and Mrs. T----at dinner on Wednesday, the 10th of March, at six o'clock P. M. R. S. V. P.
The answer accepting the invitation may read -
Mr. and Mrs. T-------- accept with much pleasure Mr. and Mrs. L--------'s invitation for dinner on the 10th of March.
If declined, the form may be as follows:
Mr. and Mrs. T------- regret that a previous engagement (or for other reasons which may be given) will prevent their accepting Mr. and Mrs. L--------'s kind invitation for dinner on the 10th of March.
Should the invitation be declined, the declination, which should state the reason for non-acceptance of the invitation, should be sent immediately by a messenger, that the hostess may have an opportunity for inviting other guests in the place of those who decline.
Should the invitation be accepted, nothing but serious difficulty should prevent the appointment being fulfilled. Should anything happen to prevent attendance, notification should be given the hostess immediately.
It is of the utmost importance that all of the company be punctual, arriving from ten to fifteen minutes before the appointed time. To be ten minutes late, keeping the dinner waiting, is a serious offense which no one should be guilty of. The host, hostess and other members of the family should be early in.
The evidences of good breeding with a party of ladies and gentlemen seated about a table, who are accustomed to the usages of polite society, are many. Among these will be the fact that the table is very beautifully and artistically spread. This need not require much wealth, but good taste is necessary to set it handsomely.
Again, the company evince gentility by each assuming a genteel position while eating. It is not necessary that an elaborate toilet be worn at the table, but careful attention should always be given to neatness of personal appearance, however plain may be the dress which is worn.
Another evidence of good manners is the self-possession with which the company deport themselves throughout the meal. ' the drawing-room to receive guests as they arrive, each of whom should be welcomed with a warm greeting.
The hostess having determined who shall accompany each other to the table, each gentleman should be informed what lady he is expected to escort. The hour having arrived, the host offers his right arm to the most honored or possibly the eldest lady guest, and the gentleman most distinguished will escort the lady of the house.
Proceeding to the dining-room when all is in readiness, the host will take his seat at the foot of the table, and the hostess at the head, the lady escorted by the host taking her seat at his right, and the escort of the hostess sitting also at her right. The next most honored seat is at the left of the hostess.
It is fashionable to have cards laid upon the table, bearing the name, sometimes printed very beautifully upon silk, indicating where each guest shall sit, which saves confusion in being seated. The ladies having taken their places, the gentlemen will be seated, and all is in readiness for the dinner to be served, unless grace be said by a clergyman present or by the host.
Let us hope if there is any carving, it will be done before the meat is brought to the table, and the time of the company saved from this sometimes slow and tedious work. Should soup be passed, it is well for each one to take it, and also the various courses as they are served, making no special comment on the food. The gentleman will, when a dish is brought, having seen the lady he escorted provided for, help himself and pass it on; he will pay no attention to the other lady near him, but will leave that to her escort. In all cases he will be careful and attentive to the wants of the lady in his charge, ascertaining her wishes and issuing her orders to the waiters.
No polite guest will ever fastidiously smell or examine any article of food before tasting it Such conduct would be an insult to those who have invited him; neither will the host or hostess apologize for the cooking or find fault with each other, the cook or the waiters; all having done the best they could, there is nothing left to do but to make the best of everything that is provided.
Especial pains should be taken by the host and hostess, as well as all the company, to introduce topics of conversation that shall be agreeable and pleasing, that the dinner hour may be in the highest degree entertaining. When all the guests have finished their eating, the hostess, with a slight nod to one of the leading members of the party, will rise, as will all the company, and repair to the drawing-room, where, in social converse, the time should be spent for the next two or three hours. Etiquette demands that each member of the company remain at least an hour after the dinner is finished, it being impolite to hurry away immediately after rising from the table. Should he do so, however, he will ask to be excused.
Fashions continually change. It does not follow, because he does not keep up with them, that a man lacks brains; still to keep somewhere near the prevailing style, in habit, costume and general deportment, is to avoid attracting unpleasant attention.
Fashions change in modes of eating. Unquestionably primitive man conveyed food to his mouth with his fingers. In process of time he cut it with a sharpened instrument, and held it, while he did so, with something pointed. In due time, with the advancement of civilization, there came the two-tined fork for holding and the broad-bladed knife for cutting the food and conveying it to the mouth. As years have passed on, bringing their changes, the three and four-tined forks have come into use, and the habit of conveying food with them to the mouth; the advantage being that there is less danger to the mouth from using the fork, and food is less liable to drop from it when being conveyed from the plate. Thus the knife, which is now only used for cutting meat, mashing potatoes, and for a few other purposes at the table, is no longer placed to the mouth by those who give attention to the etiquette of the table.
Herewith is shown a fault common with many people of holding knife and fork above the hand when mashing potatoes, cutting meat, etc. The position is not only unfavorable for obtaining a good command of knife and fork, but it is likewise ungraceful. The contrasting illustration represents an easy, graceful posture for hands, when eating. The habit of holding the hands thus in correct positions can be acquired as easily as any other.
It is well to become accustomed to eating with the left hand, so as to avoid the necessity of changing the fork from the left to the right hand frequently when eating meat. When no knife is required for spreading, mashing or cutting, lay it aside entirely and eat only with the fork, holding it with the right hand.
Formerly it was the fashion to pour tea into the saucer; not so now. Tea should be gently sipped from the spoon or cup, taking cup and spoon in hand when drinking, as shown in the accompanying diagram.
The spoon should never be removed from the cup when the guest is satisfied with its contents. Should the cup be empty, and more be desired, to take the spoon out and place it beside the cup in the saucer is an intimation to the waiter to have it refilled. If not empty, and the spoon is placed thus beside the cup, it is an intimation to the waiter that you want the tea or coffee changed. Do not call for "milk;" call for and speak only of "cream." Never set your teacup upon the table-cloth. In taking sugar, use only the sugar-spoon.
THE dinner-hour will completely test the refinement, the culture and good breeding which the individual may possess. To appear advantageously at the table, the person must not only understand the laws of etiquette, but he must have had the advantage of polite society. It is the province of this chapter to show what the laws of the table are. It will be the duty of the reader, in the varied relations of life, to make such use of them as circumstances shall permit.
Set the table as beautifully as possible. Use only the snowiest of linen, the brightest of cutlery, and the cleanest of china. The setting of the table will have fruit-plates, castors and other dishes for general use, conveniently placed near the center. The specific arrangement of plate, knife, fork, napkin, goblet and salt-cup, is shown in the accompanying illustration.
It is customary for the gentleman who is the head of the household, in the ordinary family circle, to sit at the side of the table, in the center, having plates at his right hand, with food near by. When all the family are seated, and all in readiness, he will serve the guests who may be present; he will next serve the eldest lady of the household, then the ladies and gentlemen as they come in order. The hostess will sit opposite her husband, and preside over the tea, sauces, etc.
Sit upright, neither too close nor too far away from the table.
Open and spread upon your lap or breast a napkin, if one is provided - otherwise a handkerchief.
Do not be in haste; compose yourself; put your mind into a pleasant condition, and resolve to eat slowly.
Keep the hands from the table until your time comes to be served. It is rude to take knife and fork in hand and commence drumming on the table while you are waiting.
Possibly grace will be said by some one present, and the most respectful attention and quietude should be observed until the exercise is passed.
It is the most appropriate time, while you wait to be served, for you to put into practice your knowledge of small talk and pleasant words with those whom you are sitting near. By interchange of thought, much valuable information may be acquired at the table.
Do not be impatient to be served. "With social chitchat and eating, the meal-time should always be prolonged from thirty minutes to an hour.
Taking ample time in eating will give you better health, greater wealth, longer life and more happiness. These are what we may obtain by eating slowly in a pleasant frame of mind, thoroughly masticating the food.
If soup comes first, and you do not desire it, you will simply say, "No, I thank you," but make no comment; or you may take it and eat as little as you choose. The other course will be along soon. In receiving it you do not break the order of serving; it looks odd to see you waiting while all the rest are partaking of the first course. Eccentricity should be avoided as much as possible at the table.
The soup should be eaten with a medium-sized spoon, so slowly and carefully that you will drop none upon your person or the table-cloth. Making an effort to get the last drop, and all unusual noise when eating, should be avoided.
If asked at the next course what you desire, you will quietly state, and upon its reception you will, without display, proceed to put your food in order for eating. If furnished with potatoes in small dishes, you will put the skins back into the dish again; and thus where there are side-dishes all refuse should be placed in them - otherwise potato-skins will be placed upon the table-cloth, and bones upon the side of the plate. If possible, avoid putting waste matter upon the cloth. Especial pains should always be taken to keep the table-cover as clean as may be.
O NOT speak disrespectfully to the waiters, nor apologize to them for making them trouble; it is their business to bring forward the food called for. It is courtesy, however, when asked if you desire a certain article, to reply, "If you please;" "Not any, I thank you," etc.; when calling for an article, to say, "Will you please bring me," etc.; and 'when the article has been furnished, to say, "Thank you."
Never eat very fast.
Never fill the mouth very full.
Never open your mouth when chewing.
Never make noise with the mouth or throat.
Never attempt to talk with the mouth full.
Never leave the table with food in the mouth.
Never soil the table-cloth if it is possible to avoid it.
Never carry away fruits and confectionery from the table.
Never encourage a dog or cat to play with you at the table.
Never use anything but fork or spoon in feeding yourself.
Never explain at the table why certain foods do not agree with you.
Never introduce disgusting or unpleasant topics for conversation.
Never pick your teeth or put your hand in your mouth while eating.
Never cut bread; always break it, spreading with butter each piece as you eat it.
Never come to the table in your shirt-sleeves, with dirty hands or disheveled hair.
Never express a choice for any particular parts of a dish, unless requested to do so.
Never hesitate to take the last piece of bread or the last cake; there are probably more.
Never call loudly for the waiter, nor attract attention to yourself by boisterous conduct.
Never hold bones in your fingers while you eat from them. Cut the meat with a knife.
Never use your own knife when cutting butter. Always use a knife assigned to that purpose.
Never pare an apple, peach or pear for another at the table without holding it with a fork.
Never wipe your fingers on the table-cloth, nor clean them in your mouth. Use the napkin.
Never allow butter, soup or other food to remain on your whiskers. Use the napkin frequently.
Never wear gloves at the table, unless the hands from some special reason are unfit to be seen.
Never, when serving others, overload the plate nor force upon them delicacies which they decline.
Never pour sauce over meat and vegetables when helping others. Place it at one side, on the plate.
Never make a display of finding fault with your food. Very quietly have it changed if you want it different.
Never pass your plate with knife and fork on the same. Remove them, and allow them to rest upon a piece of bread.
Never make a display when removing hair, insects or other disagreeable things from your food. Place them quietly under the edge of your plate.
Never make an effort to clean your plate or the bones you have been eating from too clean; it looks as if you left off hungry.
Never tip back in your chair nor lounge upon the table; neither assume any position that is awkward or ill-bred.
Never, at one's own table or at a dinner-party elsewhere, leave before the rest have finished without asking to be excused. At a hotel or boarding house this rule need not be observed.
Never feel obliged to cut off the kernels with a knife when eating green corn; eaten from the cob, the corn is much the sweetest.
Never eat so much of any one article as to attract attention, as some people do who eat large quantities of butter, sweet cake, cheese or other articles.
Never expectorate at the table; also avoid sneezing or coughing. It is better to arise quietly from the table if you have occasion to do either. A sneeze is prevented by placing the finger firmly on the upper lip.
Never spit out bones, cherry pits, grape skins, etc., upon your plate. Quietly press them from your mouth upon the fork, and lay them upon the side of your plate.
Never allow the conversation at the table to drift into anything but chit-chat; the consideration of deep and abstruse principles will impair digestion.
Never permit yourself to engage in a heated argument at the table. Neither should you use gestures, nor illustrations made with a knife or fork on the table-cloth.
Never pass forward to another the dish that has been handed to you, unless requested to do so; it may have been purposely designed for you, and passing it to another may give him or her what is not wanted.
Never put your feet so far under the table as to touch those of the person on the opposite side; neither should you curl them under nor at the side of your chair.
Never praise extravagantly every dish set before you; neither should you appear indifferent. Any article may have praise.
l. Tips back his chair.
2. Eats with his mouth too full.
3. Feeds a dog at the table.
4. Holds his knife improperly.
5. Engages in violent argument at the meal-time.
6. Lounges upon the table.
7. Brings a cross child to the table.
8. Drinks from the saucer, and laps with his tongue the last drop from the plate.
9. Comes to the table in his shirt-sleeves, and puts his feet beside his chair.
10. Picks his teeth with his fingers.
11. Scratches her head and is frequently unnecessarily getting up from the table.
As in all the affairs of life, common sense must always rise superior to fashion or forms of etiquette. In this chapter on "The Table" we have aimed to give the leading outlines which should govern conduct in the dining-room. Much judgment will be required to always understand where these rules should be applied. Certainly to meet a company of people at the table, appear to advantage, carry forward an intelligent conversation, be agreeable and finish the meal, having eaten, in kind and quantity, sufficient to preserve health and vigor, requires much wisdom and experience.As written: may contain OCR errors
|Etiquette||Politeness||Parties In General|
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|Conversation Etiquette||Public Amusement|
|Attending Balls||Dinner Parties||Formal Dinners|
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|Music||French Terms||Order of Dances|
|Round Dances||Spanish Dance||Square Dances|