"Etiquette" is the one word that aptly describes life during the reign of Queen Victoria.
Before making a visit, you should be perfectly certain that your visit will be agreeable.
It is common for some people to be very cordial, and even profuse in their offers of hospitality. They unquestionably mean what they say at the time, but when they tender you an invitation to come and tarry weeks, it may seriously incommode them if you should pay them a visit of even a few days.
As a rule, a visit should never be made upon a general invitation. Should you visit a city where a friend resides, it will be best to go first to the hotel, unless you have a special invitation from the friend. From the hotel you will make a polite call, and if then you are invited, you can accept of the hospitality.
In all cases when you contemplate a visit, even with relatives, it is courtesy to write and announce your coming, giving, as nearly as possible, the day and exact time of your arrival. An invitation to visit a friend should be answered as soon as may be; stating definitely when you will come, and how long you intend to stay. When near your destination, it is well to send a prepaid telegram, stating upon what train you will arrive. As a reward for this forethought, you will probably find your friends waiting for you at the depot, and the welcome will be very pleasant.
You are expected to pleasantly accept such hospitality as your friends can afford.
If no previous understanding has been had, the visit should be limited to three days, or a week at most.
You should make your visit interfere as little as possible with the routine work of the household in which you are a guest.
You should aim to conform your action, as much as may be, to the rules of the house, as to times of eating, retiring to rest, etc.
You should state upon your arrival how long you intend to stay, that your friends may arrange their plans to entertain accordingly.
Letters and papers being received in the presence of the host, hostess and others, the guest should ask to be excused while reading them.
Furnish your own materials in doing work for yourself when you are visiting, as much as possible, and never depend upon your entertainers.
A kind courtesy, while you remain, will be to execute some work representing your own skill, to be given the hostess as a memento of the occasion.
You should in shopping or transacting business, when you desire to go alone, select the hours of the day when your friends are engaged in their own duties.
The guest should beware of making unfavorable comment about the friends of the host and hostess, or of offering unfavorable criticism upon what they are known to favor or admire.
Should you happen to injure any article or other property while visiting, you should have the same immediately repaired, and, if possible, the article put in better condition than it was before.
You should not treat your friend's house as if it was a hotel, making your calls, visiting, transacting business about the town, and coming and going at all hours to suit your own convenience.
Never invite a friend who may call upon you to remain to dinner or supper. This is a right which belongs to the hostess, and it is for her to determine whether she wishes your guest to remain or not.
The guest should aim to render efficient assistance in case of sickness or sudden trouble at the house where the visit may be made. Oftentimes the best service will be rendered by considerately taking your leave.
Invitations accepted by the lady-guest should include the hostess, and those received by the hostess should include the guest. Thus, as much as possible, at all places of entertainment hostess and guest should go together.
While husbands and wives are always expected to accompany each other, where either may be invited, it is a trespass upon the generosity of the friend to take children and servants unless they are included in the invitation.
Never invite a friend who calls upon you into any other room than the parlor, unless it is suggested by the hostess that you do so. While you may have the right to enter various rooms, you have no authority for extending the privilege to others.
Immediately upon the return to your home, after paying a visit, you should write to your hostess, thanking her for hospitality and the enjoy ment you received. You should also ask to be remembered to all of the family, mentioning each one by name.
Expenses which the friends may incur in removal and care of baggage, in repairs of wardrobe, or any other personal service requiring cash outlay, the guest should be careful to have paid. Washing and ironing should be sent elsewhere from the place where the guest is visiting.
The lady-guest should beware of receiving too many visits from gentlemen, and if invited to accompany them to places of amusement or on rides, she should consult with the hostess and learn what appointments she may have, and whether the going with others will be satisfactory to her.
Should a secret of the family come into your possession while on a visit, you should remember that the hospitality and privileges extended should bind you to absolute secrecy. It is contemptibly mean to become the possessor of a secret thus, and afterwards betray the confidence reposed in you.
Be careful that you treat with kindness and care servants, horses, carriages and other things at your friend's house which are placed at your disposal. To pluck choice flowers, to handle books roughly, to drive horses too fast, to speak harshly to servants - all this indicates selfishness and bad manners.
The visitor should beware of criticism or fault-finding with the family of the hostess. It is also in extremely bad taste for the guest to speak disparagingly of things about the home or the town where the visit is being made, being at the same time enthusiastic in praise of people and places elsewhere.
When a child is taken along, the mother should be very watchful that it does no injury about the house, and makes no trouble. It is excessively annoying to a neat housekeeper to have a child wandering about the rooms, handling furniture with greasy fingers, scattering crumbs over the carpets, and otherwise making disturbance.
The gentleman visitor should be certain that smoking is not offensive to the various members of the family, before he indulges too freely in the pipe and cigar about the house. For the guest, without permission, to seat himself in the parlor, and scent the room with the fumes of tobacco, is a serious impoliteness.
When you can at times render assistance to those you are visiting, in any light work, you will often make your visit more agreeable. A lady will not hesitate to make her own bed if there be few or no servants, and will do anything else to assist the hostess. If your friend, however, declines allowing you to assist her, you should not insist upon the matter further.
Guests should enter with spirit and cheerfulness into the various plans that are made for their enjoyment. Possibly some rides will be had, and some visits made, that will be tiresome, but the courteous guest should find something to admire everywhere, and thus make the entertainers feel that their efforts to please are appreciated.
Of various persons in the family where the guest may be visiting, gifts may most appropriately be given to the hostess, and the baby or the youngest child. If the youngest has reached its teens, then it may be best to give it to the mother. The visitor will, however, use discretion in the matter. Flowers and fancy needle-work will always be appropriate for the lady. Confectionery and jewelry will be appreciated by the children. Small articles of wearing apparel or money will be suitable for servants who have been particularly attentive to the guest.
Special pains should be taken by guests to adapt themselves to the religious habits of those with whom they are visiting. If daily prayers are had, or grace is said at meals, the most reverent attention should be given; though when invited to participate in any of these exercises, if unaccustomed to the same, you can quietly ask to be excused. As a rule, it is courtesy to attend church with the host and hostess. Should you have decided preferences, and go elsewhere, do so quietly and without comment, and under no circumstances should there be allowed religious discussion afterwards. You visit the home of your friends to entertain and be entertained. Be careful that you so treat their opinions that they will wish you to come again.
Take the baggage-checks, and give personal attention to having the trunks conveyed to your residence, relieving the guest of all care in the matter.
Having received intelligence of the expected arrival of a guest, if possible have a carriage at the depot to meet the friend. Various members of the family being with the carriage will make the welcome more pleasant.
Have a warm, pleasant room especially prepared for the guest, the dressing-table being supplied with water, soap, towel, comb, hair-brush, brush-broom, hat-brush, pomade, cologne, matches, needles and pins. The wardrobe should be conveniently arranged for the reception of wearing apparel. The bed should be supplied with plenty of clothing, a side-table should contain writing materials, and the center-table should be furnished with a variety of entertaining reading matter.
Arrange to give as much time as possible to the comfort of the guest, visiting places of amusement and interest in the vicinity. This should all be done without apparent effort on your part. Let your friends feel that the visit is a source of real enjoyment to you; that through their presence and company you have the pleasure of amusements and recreation that would, perhaps, not have been enjoyed had they not come. Treat them with such kindness as you would like to have bestowed upon yourself under similar circumstances.
At the close of their stay, if you would be happy to have the visitors remain longer, you will frankly tell them so. If they insist upon going, you will aid them in every way possible in their departure. See that their baggage is promptly conveyed to the train. Examine the rooms to find whether they have forgotten any article that they would wish to take. Prepare a lunch for them to partake of on their journey. Go with them to the depot. Treat them with such kindness and cordiality to the close that the recollection of their visit will ever be a bright spot in their memory. Remain with them until the train arrives. They would be very lonely waiting without you. You will ever remember with pleasure the fact that you made the last hours of their visit pleasant. And thus, with the last hand-shaking, and the last waving of adieu, as the train speeds away, keep up the warmth of hospitality with your guests to the very end. It is, perhaps, the last time you will ever see them.
If it happens to be stormy on the evening of your party, an awning erected from the carriage-landing to the house, or a large umbrella carried by a servant, will be a kind provision for the comfort of the guests as they alight from their carriages.
Suppers have wisely been dispensed with of late years at the ordinary evening party. To furnish a full, late supper is a piece of folly for various reasons; among them being the fact that it is positively injurious to the health of the company to eat it. The majority of the party, in all probability, do not desire it; and consequently it is time, labor and expense, upon the part of the hostess, worse than thrown away. She should have all of her time to devote to her company; to do which, she can provide only light refreshments, which may be passed around.
Among the methods of entertainment resorted to, aside from conversation and dancing, may be those of a literary character. Thus a debatable question may be propounded, a presiding officer selected, assisted by two, four or six others, two leading disputants appointed, debaters chosen upon each side, and the speakers given each two, three or five minutes to talk; the president and board of arbitration to decide the question according to the weight of argument. This is a pleasant and profitable way of spending the evening, if all can be enlisted and be interested in listening or have something to say.
Another intellectual and pleasant mode of spending an evening is for each member of the company to read or recite something that shall interest, amuse, instruct and entertain the audience. To do this rightly, some one should be appointed to act as master of ceremonies for the evening, being assisted by two or three others, who will make suggestions. It will be the duty of the presiding officer, at these parlor recitations, to ascertain in the beginning what each one will recite, make out a programme, and then announce the various readers and speakers of the evening, as they come in turn, having the exercises suitably interspersed with music. The pleasure of the occasion will much depend upon having every piece upon the programme short, and clearly announced by the presiding officer.
Parlor-theatricals and parlor-concerts are a pleasant means of entertaining an evening gathering - a company of six, eight, or more, thoroughly mastering a play and giving it to an audience that may assemble in the parlors. To have an entertainment of this kind pass smoothly through, some competent person must take upon himself or herself the duties of manager. Each player should be consulted before parts are assigned, and it is of the utmost importance that the players be each prompt in rendering their parts. It is the province of the hostess to act the part of stage-manager, unless she appoints some one from the audience to conduct the exercises.
Croquet parties are very fashionable, and are a healthful, pleasant means of diversion.
The essentials necessary to make the game pleasant are good grounds that can be shaded, and clean, comfortable, cool seats. A table may be set in the shade, and refreshments served thereon; or they may be passed to the guests as they sit in their seats.
On all occasions when a number of people convene together, whether indoors or out, the laws of courtesy should be obeyed. It is the duty of the gentlemen to be ever attentive to the ladies. If it be a picnic, the gentlemen will carry the luncheon, erect the swings, construct the tables, bring the water, provide the fuel for boiling the tea, etc. On the fishing excursion they will furnish the tackle, bait the hooks, row the boats, carry the fish, and furnish comfortable seats for the ladies. In gathering nuts, they will climb the trees, do the shaking, carry the nuts, and assist the ladies across the streams and over the fences. If possible, in crossing the fields, go through the bars or gateway, and avoid the necessity of compelling the ladies to clamber over the fences. Should it be necessary to climb them, it is etiquette for the gentleman to go over first, and when the lady is firmly on the top, he will gently help her down.
It should ever be the rule, with both ladies and gentlemen, upon all such occasions, to render every assistance possible to entertain the company. Self should be forgotten. More or less assistance is all the time required by the managers of the outdoor gatherings, and labor is continually necessary to make the occasion pleasant. To aid in rendering the affair agreeable by needed assistance will very likely give you more pleasure than to be entertained yourself.
Should dancing form a principal feature of the entertainment, and the piano be used to furnish music, the hostess or one of the family should play the instrument. One of the guests should not be depended upon to furnish all of the music. If the hostess cannot play, a pianist for the occasion should be engaged. Either a lady or gentleman-guest may with propriety volunteer to play, if they choose; but the hostess cannot expect that music, thus voluntarily offered, will be cheerfully furnished for more than one dance.
It is courtesy, while anyone is playing an instrument, or singing, to preserve as much stillness as possible. Should you converse, do it so quietly as not to be heard by those near the piano. Should your conversation be animated, it is well to retire to another room.
Amateur performers upon the piano should thoroughly commit to memory a few pieces to play independently of notes, as to take sheet-music to a party is a hint that they expect to be invited to play. If possible, have the voice in good condition also, so as not to be obliged to complain of a cold. To eat a small amount of horse-radish just previous to reading, singing or speaking, will quite effectually remove hoarseness.
Any lady-guest being invited to play the piano, it is courtesy for the gentleman nearest her to offer his arm and escort her to the instrument. While she is playing he will hold her bouquet, fan and gloves, and should also turn the leaves if he can readily read music, but he should not attempt it otherwise.
When a guest is invited by another guest to play the piano, it will be well to wait until the request is seconded by others; and even then the guest may not play unless it should meet the favor of the hostess, and it is believed to be the pleasure of the majority of the company. If certain that the playing will be acceptable, it is well to suggest to the hostess to invite your friend.
It is very impolite to speak disparagingly of the piano, however much it may be out of tune, or however inferior it may be. More especially is it a breach of etiquette to draw unfavorable comparisons between the instrument and another elsewhere.Cassells Household Guide, New and Revised Edition (4 Vol.) c.1880s - Etiquette Of Visiting
|Attending Balls||Politeness||Parties In General|
|The Visiting Guest||Calling Etiquette|
|Conversation Etiquette||Public Amusement Places|
|Dinner Party Conduct||Etiquette||Formal Dinners|
|Dance||Influence of Dance||Guests|
|Music||French Terms||Order of Dances|
|Ladies Toilette||Gentlemen Guide||Refreshments|
|Round Dances||Spanish Dance||Square Dances|