Under Construction! Chapters 1-16 completed.

Manners, Culture and Dress of the Best American Society

by  Richard A. Wells, A.M.    Introduction by Rev. Willard E. Waterbury    King, Richardson & Co., Publishers
Springfield, Mass.         Des Moines, Iowa.    1891

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Chapters 6 - 10

Chapter Six – Conversation

The finest compliment that can be paid to a woman of refinement and esprit is to lead the conversation into such a channel as may mark your appreciation of her superior attainments.

Let your conversation be adapted as skillfully as may be to your company. Some men make a point of talking commonplaces to all ladies alike, as if a woman could only be a trifler. Others, on the contrary, seem to forget in what respects the education of a lady differs from that of a gentleman, and commit the opposite error of conversing on topics with which ladies are seldom acquainted. A woman of sense has as much right to be annoyed by the one as a lady of ordinary education by the other.

Subjects to be Avoided.

In talking with ladies of ordinary education, avoid political, scientific or commercial topics, and choose only such subjects as are likely to be of interest to them.


  Talk to People of Their Own Affairs.

Remember that people take more interest in their own affairs than in anything else which you can name. if you wish your conversation to be thoroughly agreeable, lead a mother to talk of her children, a young lady of her last ball, an author his forthcoming book, or an artist of his exhibition picture. Having furnished the topic, you need only listen; and you are sure to be thought not only agreeable, but thoroughly sensible and well-informed.


  Avoid Talking too much of their Professions.

Be careful, however, on the other hand, not always to make a point of talking to persons upon general matters relating to their professions. To show an interest in their immediate concerns is flattering; but to converse with them too much about their own arts looks as if you thought them ignorant of other topics.


Avoid Classical Quotations.

Do not use a classical quotation in the presence of ladies without apologizing for, or translating it. Even this should only be done when no other phrase would so aptly express your meaning. Whether in the presence of ladies or gentlemen, much display of learning is pedantic and out of place.



There is a certain distinct but subdued tone of voice which is peculiar to only well-bred persons. A loud voice is both disagreeable and vulgar. It is better to err by the use of too low than too loud a tone.



Remember that all “slang” is vulgar. It has become of late unfortunately prevalent, and we have known even ladies pride themselves on the saucy chique with which they adopt certain cant phrases of the day. Such habits cannot be too severely reprehended. They lower the tone of society and the standard of thought. It is a great mistake to suppose that slang is in any way a substitute for wit.


  Using Proverbs and Puns.

The use of proverbs is equally vulgar in conversation; and puns, unless they rise to the rank of witticisms, are to be scrupulously avoided. There is no greater nuisance in society than a dull and persevering punster.


  Avoid Long Arguments.

Long arguments in general company, however entertaining to the disputants, are tiresome to the last degree to all others. You should always endeavor to prevent the conversation from dwelling too long upon one topic.


Interrupting a Person while Speaking.

Never interrupt a person who is speaking. It has been aptly said that “if you interrupt a speaker in the middle of his sentence, you act almost as rudely as if, when walking with a companion, you were to thrust yourself before him, and stop his progress.”


Whispering in Society.

It is considered extremely ill-bred when two persons whisper in society, or converse in a foreign language with which all present are not familiar. If you have private matters to discuss, you should appoint a proper time and place to do so, without paying other the ill compliment of excluding them from your conversation.

If a foreigner be one of the guests at a small party, and does not understand English sufficiently to follow what is said, good-breeding demands that the conversations shall be carried on (when possible) in his own language. If at a dinner-party, the same rule applies to those at his end of the table.


  Make the Topic of Conversation Known.

If upon the entrance of a visitor you carry on the thread of a previous conversation, you should briefly recapitulate to him what has been said before he arrived.



Do not be always witty, even though you should be so happily gifted as to need the caution. To outshine others on every occasion is the surest road to unpopularity.

Always look, but never stare, at those with whom you converse.

In order to meet the general needs of conversation in society, it is necessary that a man should be well acquainted with the current new and historical events of at least the last few years.


Avoid Unfamiliar Subjects.

Never talk upon subjects of which you know nothing, unless it be for the purpose of acquiring information. Many young men imagine that because they frequent exhibitions and operas they are qualified judges of art. No mistake is more egregious or universal.


Introducing Anecdotes.

Those who introduce anecdotes into their conversation are warned that these should invariably be “short, witty, eloquent, new and not far-fetched.”

Scandal is the least excusable of all conversational vulgarities.

In conversation study to be quiet and composed. Do not talk too much, and do not inflict upon your hearers interminably long stories, in which, at the best they can have but a little interest.


  Correct Pronunciation.

Take pains to pronounce your words correctly. Some people have a strangely vulgar way of saying hos-pit-able for hos-pit-able; inter-est-ing for in-ter-esting.


  Avoid Repeating.

Some persons have an awkward habit of repeating the most striking parts of a story, especially the main point, if it has taken greatly the first time. This is in very bad taste, and always excites disgust. In most cases, the story pleased the first time, only because it was unexpected.


  Cultivating the Mind.

Your conversation can never be worth listening to unless you cultivate your mind. To talk well you must read much. A little knowledge on many subjects is soon acquired by diligent reading. One does not wish to hear a lady talk politics nor a smattering of science; but she should be able to understand and listen with interest when politics are discussed, and to appreciate, in some degree, the conversation of scientific men.



A well-bred lady of the present day is expected to know something of music besides merely playing a difficult piece. She should be able to discuss the merits of different styles of music, modestly and intelligently; a little reading on the subject, and some attention  to the intellectual character of music, will enable her to do so; and as music is becoming quite a national passion, she will find the subject brought forward very frequently by gentlemen.


“A Low Voice.”

I think one can always tell a lady by her voice and laugh—neither of which will ever be loud or course, but soft, low, and nicely modulated. Shakespeare’s unfailing taste tells us that—

“A low voice is an excellent thing in a woman.”

And we believe that the habit of never raising the voice would tend much to the comfort and happiness of many a home: as a proof of good breeding, it is unfailing.


Talk Well about Trifles.

You should endeavor to have the habit of talking well about trifles. Be careful never to make personal remarks to a stranger on any of the guests present: it is possible, nay probable, that they may be relatives, or at least friends.


Double Entendres.

I need not say that no person of decency, still less delicacy, will be guilty of a double entendre. Still, as there are persons in the world possessing neither of these characteristics who will be guilty of them in the presence of people more respectable than themselves, and as the young and inexperienced are sometimes in doubt how to receive them, it is well to make some reference to them in a book of this character. A well-bred person always refuses to understand a phrase of doubtful meaning. If the phrase may be interpreted decently, and with such interpretation would provoke a smile,  then smile to just called for by such interpretation, and no more. The prudery which sits in solemn and severe rebuke at a double entendre is only second in indelicacy to the indecency which grows hilarious over it, since both must recognize the evil intent. It is sufficient to let it pass unrecognized.


Indelicate Words and Expressions.

Not so when one hears an indelicate word or expression, which allows of no possible harmless interpretation. Then not the shadow of a smile should flit across the lips. Either complete silence should be preserved in return or the words, “I do not understand you,” be spoken. A lady will always fail to hear that which she should not hear, or, having unmistakably heard, she will not understand.

A lady was once in the streets of the city alone after dark, and a man accosted her. She replied to him in French. He followed her some distance trying to open a conversation with her; but as she persisted in replying only in French, he at last turned away, completely baffled in his efforts to understand or be understood.



A gentleman should never permit any phrase that approaches to an oath, to escape his lips in the presence of a lady. If any man employs a profane expression in the drawing-room, his pretensions to good-breeding are gone forever. The same reason extends to the society of men advanced in life; and he would be singularly defective in good taste, who should swear before old persons, however irreligious their own habits may be. The cause of profanity being offensive in these cases is that it denotes an entire absense of reverence and respect from the spirit of him who uses it.




“A dearth of words,” says Young.

 “A woman need not fear,

But ’tis task, indeed to learn to hear;

In that, the skill of conversation lies;

That shows or makes you both polite and wise.”

Listening is not only a point of good-breeding and the best kind of flattery, but it is a method of acquiring information which no man of judgment will neglect. “This is a common vice in conversation,” says Montaigue, “that instead of gathering observations from others, we make it our whole business to lay ourselves open to them, and are more concerned how to expose and set out our own commodities, than how to increase our stock by acquiring new. Silence therefore, and modesty, are very advantageous qualities in conversation.”


Give Credit for what You Learn.

But if a person gets knowledge in this way from another, he should ways give him due credit for it: and not endeavor to sustain himself in society upon the claims that really belong to another. “It is a special trick of low cunning,” says Walpole, with a very natural indignation, “to squeeze out knowledge from a modest man, who is eminent in any science; and then to use it as legally acquired, and pass the source in total silence.”


The Best kind of Conversation.

That conversation is the best which furnishes the most entertainment to the person conferred with, and calls upon him for the least exercise of mind. It is for this reason that argument and difference are studiously avoided by well-bred people; they tax and tire. It should be the aim of every one to utter his remarks in such form that the expression of assent or opposition need not follow from him he speaks with.



The interjection of such phrases as, “You know,” “You see,” “Don’t you see?” “Do you understand?” and similar ones that stimulate the attention, and demand an answer, ought to be avoided. Make your observations in a calm and sedate way, which your companion may attend to or not, as he pleases, and let them go for what they are worth.


Avoid Wounding the Feelings of Another.

To avoid wounding the feelings of another, is the key to almost every problem of manners that can be proposed; and he who will always regulate his sayings and doings by that principle, may chance to break some conventional rule, but will rarely violate any of the essentials of good-breeding. Judgment and attention are as necessary to fulfill this precept, as the disposition; for, by inadvertence or follow as much pain may be given as by designed malevolence.



One of the first virtues of conversation is to be perspicuous and intelligible. Those quaint and affected constructions, and high-flown, bookish phases, in which some indulge, to the embarrassment of those they talk to, are in bad taste and should be avoided. There have indeed at times appeared writers and schools of rhetoric who cultivated obscurity as a merit.


Use Plain Words.

A man of good sense will always make a point of using the plainest and simplest words that will convey his meaning; and will bear in mind that his principal or only business is to lodge his idea in the mind of his hearer. The same remark applies to distinctness of articulation; and Hannah More has justly observed that to speak so that people can hear you is one of the minor virtues.


Avoid Wit which Wounds.

Those who have generosity enough to care for the feelings of others, or self-regard enough to covet good-will, will be careful to avoid every display of wit which wound another. It is a happy circumstance for the honor of our nature, and one very characteristical of the kindness of Providence, that a display of the easiest moral virtues will generally bring us more popularity than the exhibition of the greatest talents without them.

Parts may be praised, good nature is ador’d;

Then draw your wit as seldom as your sword,

And never on the weak.

Those who scatter brilliant jibes without caring whom they wound, are as unwise as they are unkind. Those sharp little sarcasms that bear a sting in their words, rankle long, sometimes forever, in the mind, and fester often into fatal hatred never to be abated.


Proper Reserve.

Everyone should avoid displaying his mind and principles and character entirely, but should let his remarks only open glimpses to his understanding. For women this precept is still more important. They are like moss-roses, and are most beautiful in spirit and intellect, when they are but half-unfolded.


Professional Peculiarities.

When a man goes into company, he should leave behind him all peculiarities of mind and manners. That, indeed, constituted Dr. Johnson’s notion of a gentleman; and as far as negatives go, the notion was correct. It is in bad taste, particularly, to employ technical or professional terms in general conversation. Young physicians and lawyers often commit that error.

The most eminent members of those occupations are the most free from it; for the reason, that the most eminent have the most sense.



Young men often, through real modesty, put forth their remarks in the form of personal opinions; as, with the introduction of, “I think so-and-so,” or, “Now, I, for my part, have found it otherwise.” This is generally prompted by humility; and yet it has an air of arrogance. The person who employ such phrases, mean to shrink from affirming a fact into expressing a notion, but are taken to be designing to extend an opinion into an affirmance of a fact.


Conversing with Ladies.

If you are a gentleman, never lower the intellectual standard of your conversation in addressing ladies. Pay them the compliment of seeming to consider them capable of an equal understanding with gentlemen. You will, no doubt, be somewhat surprised to find in how many cases the supposition will be grounded in fact, and in the few instances where it is not the ladies will be pleased rather than offended at the delicate compliment you pay them. When you “come down” to commonplace or small-talk with an intelligent lady, one of two things is the consequence, she either recognizes the condescension and despises you, or else she accepts it as the highest intellectual effort of which you are capable, and rates you accordingly.



The foregoing rules are not simply intended as good advice. They are strict laws of etiquette, to violate any one of which justly subjects a person to the imputation of being ill-bred. But they should not be studied as mere arbitrary rules. The heart should be cultivated in the right manner until the acts of the individual spontaneously flow in the right channels.

A recent writer remarks on this subject: “Conversation is a reflex of character. The pretentious, the illiterate, the impatient, the curious, will as inevitably betray their idiosyncrasies as the modest, the even-tempered and the generous. Strive as we may, we cannot always be acting. Let us therefore, cultivate a tone of mind and a habit of life the betrayal of which need not put us to shame in the company of the pure and wise; and the rest will be easy. If we make ourselves worthy of refined and intelligent society, we shall not be rejected from it; and in such society we shall acquire by example all that we have failed to learn from precept.”



Chapter Seven – Visits and Visiting


Of visits there are various kinds, visits of congratulations, visits of condolence, visits of ceremony, visits of friendship.

Such visits are necessary, in order to maintain good feeling between the members of society; they are required by the custom of the age in which we live and must be carefully attended to.


Visits of Congratulations.

Upon the appointment of one of your friends to any office or dignity, you call upon him to congratulate, not him, but the country, community or state, on account of the honor and advantage which it derives from the appointment.

If one of your friends has delivered a public oration, call upon him when he has returned home, and render to him your thanks for the great pleasure and satisfaction for which you are indebted to him, and express your high estimation of the luminous, elegant, &c. discourse, trusting that he will be prevailed upon to suffer it published.


Visits of Ceremony or Calls.

Visits of ceremony, merging occasionally into those of friendship, but uniformly required after dining at a friend's house. Professional men are not however, in general, expected to pay such visits, because their time is preoccupied; but they form almost the only exception.


Time to Make Ceremonious Visits.

Visits of ceremony must be necessarily short. They should on no account be made before the hour, nor yet during the time of luncheon. Persons who intrude themselves at unwonted hours are never welcome; the lady of the house does not like to be disturbed when she is perhaps dining with her children; and the servants justly complain of being interrupted at the hour when they assemble for their noon-day meal. Ascertain, therefore, which you can readily do, what is the family hour for luncheon, and act accordingly.


Keep and account of Ceremonial Visits.

Keep a strict account of your ceremonial visits. This is needful, because time passes rapidly; and take note how soon your calls  are returned. You will thus be able, in most cases, to form an opinion whether or not your frequent visits are desired. Instances may however occur, when, in consequence of age of ill health, it is desirable that you should call, without any reference to your visits being returned. When desirous to act thus, remember that if possible, nothing should interrupt the discharge of this duty.


Visits of Ceremony among Friends.

Among relations and intimate friends, visits of mere ceremony are unnecessary. It  is however, needful to call at suitable times, and to avoid staying too long if your friend is engaged. The courtesies of society, as already noticed, must ever be maintained even in the domestic circle, or among the nearest friends.


Calling at an Inconvenient Hour.

Should you call by chance at an inconvenient hour, when perhaps the lady is going out, or sitting down to luncheon, retire as soon as possible, even if politely asked to remain. You need not let it appear that you feel yourself an intruder; every well-bred or even good-tempered person knows what to say on such an occasion; but politely withdraw with a promise to call again, if the lady seems to be really disappointed.


Visiting at Hotels.

If you call to see a friend who is staying at lodgings, however intimate you may be wit h him, wait below until a servant has carried up your name and returned to tell you whether you can be admitted. If you cannot find any one to announce you, you should knock gently at the chamber-door, and wait a little while before entering. If you are in to great a hurry, you might the person drawing off a night-cap. These decent formalities are necessary even in the most unreserved friendships; they preserve the “familiar” from degenerating into the “vulgar.” Disgust will very speedily arise between persons who bolt into one another’s chambers, throw open the windows and seat themselves without being desired to do so. Such intimacies are like the junction of two electrical balls, -- only the prelude of a violent separation.


Visiting the Sick.

In calling to see a person confined by illness to his room, it is not enough that you send up your name; you must wait till the servant returns.


Style of Conversation.

The style of your conversation should always be in keeping with the character of your visit. You must not talk about literature in a visit of condolence not lecture on political economy in a visit of ceremony.


Visits of Condolence.

Visits of condolence should be paid within a week after the event which occasions them; but if the acquaintance be slight, immediately after the family appear at public worship. A card should be sent up; and if your friends are able to receive you, let your manners and conversation be in harmony with the character of your visit. It is courteous to send up a mourning card; and for ladies to make their calls in black silk or plain-colored apparel. It denotes that they sympathize with the afflictions of the family; and such attentions are always pleasing.


Before Going Abroad.

When you are going abroad, intending to be absent for some time, you enclose your card in an envelope, having, first, written p.p.c. upon it;--they are the initials of the French phrase, “pour prendre conge”—to take leave, and may wit equal propriety stand for presents parting compliments.


Taking Leave of a Family.

In taking leave of a family, you send as many cards as you would if you were paying an ordinary visit. When you return from your voyage, all the persons to whom, before going, you have sent cards, will pay you the first visit.


Meeting Other Visitors.

If a gentleman call at a house when a woman is visiting there at the same time, and there is no male relation of the mistress of the house present, he should rise, when she takes leave, and accompany her to her carriage, opening the doors for her. If his visit has been of tolerable length, it were less awkward, if he were to take leave at the same time; if not, return to the parlor.


Gentlemen’s Morning Call.

Gentlemen will do well to bear in mind that, when they pay morning calls, they must carry their hats with them into the drawing-room; but on no account put them on the chairs of table. There is a graceful manner of holding a hat, which every well-bred man understands.


Returning From the Country.

In the beginning of the season, after persons have returned from the country, and at the close of it when you are about to leave town, you should call upon all your acquaintance. T is polite and pleasant to do the same on News’ day, to wish your friends the compliments of that season.


Cards for Ceremonious Visits.

It is becoming more usual for visits of ceremony to be performed by cards; it will be a happy day when that is universal.


Calling on Strangers.

If a stranger belonging to your own class of society comes to town, you should call upon him. That civility should paid even if there be no previous acquaintance; and it does not require the ceremony of an introduction. In going to another city, you should in general wait to be visited; but the etiquette id different in many cities of our country.


Engaged or not at Home.

When you call to see a person, and are informed at the door, that the party whom you ask for, is engaged, you should never persist in your attempt to be admitted, but should acquiesce at once in their arrangements which the others have made for their convenience, to protect themselves from interruption. However intimate you may be in any house, you have no right nor reason, when an order has been given to exclude general visitors, and no exception has been made of you, to violate that exclusion and declare that the party shall be at home to you. I have known several persons who have had the habit of forcing an entrance into a house, after having been thus forbidden; but whatever has been the degree of intimacy, I never knew it done without giving an offence bordering on disgust. There are many times and seasons at which a person chooses to be entirely alone, and when there is no friendship for which when would give up his occupation or his solitude.


Evening Visits.

Evening visits are paid only to those with whom we are well acquainted. They should not be very frequent even where one is intimate, nor should they be much protracted. Frequent visits will gain for a man, in any house, the reputation of tiresome, and long visits will invariable bring down the appellation of bore. Morning visits are always extremely brief, being matters of mere ceremony.


Friendly Calls.

It is not necessary to mention friendly calls, except to state, that almost all ceremony should dispense with. They are made at all house without much preparation or dressing; a too brilliant attire would be out of place, and if the engagement of the day carry you in such a costume to the house of a friend, you ought obligingly to make an explanation.


Keep Account of Visits.

With a friend of relation whom we treat as such, we do not keep an account of our visits. The one who has the most leisure calls on the one who has the least; but this privilege ought not to be abused; it is necessary to make our visits of friendship are suitable times. On the contrary, a visit of ceremony should never be made without keeping an account of it, and we should even remember the intervals at which they are returned, for it is indispensably necessary to let a similar interval elapse. People in this way give you notice whether they wish to see you often or seldom. There are some persons whom one goes to see once in a fortnight; others, once a month; and others, less frequently.


Omitting Visits.

In order not to omit visits, which are to be made, or to avoid making them form misinformation, when a preceding one has not been returned, persons who have an extensive acquaintance will do well to keep a little memorandum-book for this purpose.


Ceremonious Visits.

We cannot make ceremonious visits in a becoming manner, if we have any sight indisposition which may for the time affect our appearance or voice, which embarrass our thoughts, and render our company fatiguing.


Suitable Times for Visits.

To take a suitable time for one’s self, of for others, is indispensable in visiting, as in everything else; if you can obtain this by remembering the habits of the person you are oing to see, by making arrangements so as not to call at the time of taking meals, in moments of occupation, and when they are likely to be walking. This time necessarily varies; but as a general rule we must take care not to make ceremonious visits, either before the middle of the day or after four o’clock. To do otherwise would, on the one hand, look like importunity, be presenting one’s self too early, and on the other might interfere with arrangements that had been made for the evening.


How to treat Visitors.

A well-bred person always receives visitors at whatever time they may call, or whoever they may be; but if you are occupied and cannot afford to be interrupted by a mere ceremony, you should instruct the servant beforehand to say that you are “Engaged.” The form “not at home” sometimes employed by ladies cannot be too strongly condemned. However much one may try to justify it, the fact remains that it is a falsehood. Any lady lowers herself in her own and others estimation by resorting to prevarication, however slight. If the servant once admits a visitor within the hall, you should receive him at any inconvenience to yourself. A lady should never keep a visitor waiting more than a minute, or two at most, and if she cannot avoid doing so, must apologize on entering the drawing-room.


Taking a Seat while Visiting.

In good society, a visitor, unless he is a complete stranger, does not wait to be invited to sit down, but takes a seat at once easily. A gentleman should never take the principal place in the room, nor, on the other hand, sit at an inconvenient distance from the lady of the house. He must hold his hat gracefully, not put it on a chair or table, or, if he wants to use both hands, must place it on the floor close to his chair.


  Pay Equal Attention to All.

A well-bred lady, who is receiving two or three visitors at a time, pays equal attention to all, and attempts, as much as possible, to generalize the conversation, turning to all in succession. The last arrival, however, receives a little more attention at first than the others, and the latter, to spare her embarrassment, should leave as soon as convenient. People who out-sit two or three parties of visitors, unless they have some particular motive for doing so, come under the denomination as “bores.” A “bore” is a person who does not know when you have had enough of his or her company.


Taking a Friend with you Visiting.

Be cautious how you take an intimate friend uninvited even to the house of those with whom you may be equally intimate, as there is always a feeling of jealousy that another should share your thoughts and feelings to the same extent as themselves, although good breeding will induce them to behave civilly to your friend on your account.


Privileges of Ladies.

Ladies in the present day are allowed considerable license in paying and receiving visits; subject, however, to certain rules, which it is needful to define.


Visiting Acquaintances Alone.

Young married ladies may visit their acquaintances alone; but they may not appear in any public places unattended by their husbands or elder ladies. This rule must never be infringed, whether as regards exhibitions, or public libraries, museums, or promenades; but a young married lady is at liberty to walk with her friends of the same age, whether married or single. Gentlemen are permitted to call on married ladies at their own houses. Such calls the usa ges of society permit, but never without the knowledge and full permission of husbands.


A Lady Calling on a Gent leman.

A lady nev er calls on a gentleman, unless professionally or officially. It is not only ill-bred, but positively improper to do so. At the same time, there is a certain privilege in age, which makes it possible for an old bachelor like myself to receive a visit from any married lady whom I know very intimately, but such a call would certainly not be one of ceremony, and always presupposes a desire to consult me on some point or other. I should be guilty of shameful treachery, however, if I told any one that I had received such a visit, while I should certainly expect that my fair caller would let her husband know of it.


Preference of Seats.

When morning visitors are announced, rise and advance toward them. If a lady enters request her to be seated on a sofa; but if advanced in life, or the visitor be an elderly gentleman, insist on their accepting an easy chair, and place yourself, by them. If several ladies arrive at the same time, pay due respect to age and rank, and seat them in the most honorable places; these, in winter, are beside the fire.


Respect toward the Feeble and Aged.

Supposing that a young lady occupies such a seat, and a lady older than herself, or superior in condition, enters the room, she must rise immediately, and having courteously offered her place to the new comer, take another in a different part of the room.


Discontinuing Work.

If a lady is engaged with her needle when a visitor arrives, she ought to discontinue her work, unless requested to do otherwise; and not even then must it be resumed, unless on very intimate terms with her acquaintance. When this, however, is the case, the hostess may herself request permission to do so. To continue working during a visit of ceremony would be extremely discourteous; and we cannot avoid hinting to our lady readers, that even when a particular friend is present for only a short time, it is somewhat inconsistent with etiquette to keep their eyes fixed on a crochet or knitting-book, apparently engaged in counting stitches, or unfolding the intricacies of a pattern. We have seen this done, and are, therefore, careful to warn them on the subject. There are many kinds of light and elegant, and even useful work, which do not require close attention, and may be profitably pursued, and such we recommend to be always on the work-table at those hours which, according to established practice, are given to social intercourse.


Visiting Cards.

Visitors should furnish themselves with cards. Gentleman ought simply to put their cards into their pocket, but ladies may carry them in a small elegant portfolio, called a card-case. This they can hold in their hand and it will contribute essen tially (with an elegant handkerchief of embroidered cambric,) to give them an air of good taste.


Address on Cards.

On visiting cards, the address is usually placed under the name, towards the bottom of the card, and in smaller letters. Mourning cards are surmounted with a broad black margin; half mourning ones, with a black edge only.


Keeping Cards.

It is bad taste to keep the cards you have received around the frame of a looking-glass; such an exposure shows that you wish to make a display of the names of visitors. When from some cause or other which multiples visitors at your house; (such as a funeral or a marriage,) you are obliged to return these numerous call, it is not amiss to preserve the cards in a convenient place, and save yourself the trouble of writing a list; but if, during the year, your glass is always seen bristling with smoke-dried cards, it will be attributed, without doubt, to an ill-regulated self esteem. If the call is made in a carriage, the servant will ask if the lady you wish to see is at home. If persons call on foot, they go themselves to ask the servants.


  Laying Aside the Bonnet.

The short time devoted to a ceremonious visit, the necessity of consulting a glass in replacing the head-dress, and of being assisted in putting on the shawl, prevent ladies from accepting the invitation to lay them aside. If they are slightly familiar with the person they are visiting and wis h to be more at ease, they should ask permission, which should be granted them, at the same time rising, to assist them in taking off their hat and shawl. An arm-chair, or a piece of furniture at a distant part of the room, should receive these articles; they should not be placed upon the couch, without the mistress of the house puts them there.


Habitual Visits.

At the house of a person whom we visit habitually, we can lay them aside without a word, and a lady an even adjust her hair, &c. before the glass, provided she occupies only a few moments in doing it. If a person you call upon is preparing to go out, or to sit down at table, you should although asked to remain, to retire as soon as possible. The person visited so unseasonably, should on her part, be careful to conceal her knowledge, that the other wishes the visit ended quickly.

We should always appear delighted to receive visitors; and should they make a short visit, you must express your regret.


Short Visits.

Ceremonious visits should be short; if the conversation ceases without being again continued by the person you have come to see, and if she gets up from her seat under any pretext whatever, custom requires you to make your salutation and withdraw. If before this tacit invitation to retire, other visitors are announced, you should adroitly leave them without saying much. If, while you are present, a letter is brought to the person you are visiting, and she should lay it down without opening it, you must entreat her to read it; she will probably not do so, and this circumstance will warn you to shorten your visit.


Unintentional Intrusions.

In most families in this country, evening calls are the most usual. Should you chance to visit a family, and find that they have a party, present yourself, and converse for a few minutes with an unembarrassed air; after which you may retire, unless urged to remain. A slight invitation, given for the sake of courtesy, ought not to be accepted. Make no apology for your unintentional intrusion; but let it be known, in the course of a few days, that you were not aware that your friends had company.


True Hospitality.

In receiving guests, your first object should be to make them feel at home. Begging them to make themselves feel at home is not sufficient. You should display a genuine unaffected friendliness. Whether you are mistress of a mansion or a cottage, and invite a friend to share your hospitality, you must endeavor, by every possible means, to render the visit agreeable. This should be done without apparent effort, that the visitor may feel herself to be a partaker in your home enjoyments, instead of finding that you put yourself out of the way to procure extraneous pleasures. It is right that you seek to make the time pass lightly; but if, on the other hand, you let a visitor perceive that the whole tenor of your daily concerns is altered on her account a degree of depression will be felt, and the pleasant anticipations which she most probably entertained will fail to be recognized. Let your friend be assured, from your manner, that her presence is a real enjoyment to you, an incentive to recreations which otherwise would not be thought of in the common routine of life. Observe your own feelings when you happen to be the guest of a person who, though he may be very much your friend, and really glad to see you, seems not to know what to do either with you or himself; and again, when in the house of another you feel as much at ease as in your own. Mark the difference, more easily felt than described, between the manners of the two, and deduce there from a lesson for your own improvement.


Treatment of Guests.

If you have guests in your house, you are to appear to feel that they are all equal for the time, for they all have an equal claim upon your courtesies. Those of the humblest condition will receive full as much attention as the rest, in order that you shall not painfully make them feel their inferiority.

Offer your guests the best that you have in the way of food and rooms, and express no regrets and make no excuses that you have nothing better to give them.

Try to make your guests feel at home; and do this, not by urging them in empty words to do so but by making their stay as pleasant as possible, at the same time being careful to put out of sight any trifling trouble of inconvenience they may cause you.

Devote as much time as is consistent with other engagements to the amusement and entertainment of your guests.


Duties of the Visitor.

On the other hand, the visitor should try to conform as much as possible to the habits of the house which temporarily shelters him. He should nev er object to the hours at which meals are served, nor should he ever allow the family to be kept waiting on his account.

It is a good rule for a visitor to retire to his own apartment in the morning, or at least seek out some occupation of his own, without seeming to need the assistance or attention of host or hostess; for it is undeniable that these have certain duties which must be attended to at this portion of the day, in order to leave the balance of the time free for the entertainment of their guests.

If any family matters of a private or unpleasant nature come to the knowledge of the guest during his stay, he must seem both blind and dead, and nev er refer to them unless the parties interested speak of them first. Still more is he under moral obligations nev er to repeat to other what he may have been forced to see and hear.

The rule on which a host and hostess should act is to make their guests as much as possible; that on which a visitor with the ordinary routine of the house.

It is not required that a hostess should spend her whole time in the entertainment of her guests. The latter may prefer to be left to their own devices for a portion of the day. On the other hand it shows the worst of breeding for a visitor to seclude himself from the family and seek his own amusements and occupations regardless of their desire to join in them or entertain him. Such a guest had better go to a hotel, where he can live as ind ependently as he chooses.

Give as little trouble as possible when a guest, but at the same time nev er think of apologizing for any little additional trouble which your visit may occasion. It would imply that you thought your friends incapable of entertaining you without some inconvenience to themselves.

Keep your room as neat as possible, and leave no articles of dress or toilet around to give trouble to servants.

 A lady will not hesitate to make her own bed if few or no servants are kept; and in the latter case she will do whatever else she can to lighten the labors of her hostess as a return for the additional exertion her visit occasions.



Upon taking leave express the pleasure you have experienced in your visit. Upon returning home it is an act of courtesy to write and inform your friends of your safe arrival, at the same time repeating your thanks.

A host and hostess should do all they can to make the visit of a friend agreeable; they should ur ge him to stay as long as is consistent with his own plans, and at the same time convenient to themselves. But when the time for departure has been finally fixed upon, no obstacles should placed in the way of leavetaking. Help him in every possible way to depart, at the same time giving him a general invitation to renew the visit at some future period.

“Welcome the coming, speed the parting, guest,”

expresses the true spirit of hospitality.


Chapter Eight – Dinner-Parties and Balls.

Dinner has been pronounced by Dr. Johnson, to be, in civilized life, the most important hour of the twenty-four. The etiquette of the dinner-table has a prominence commensurate with the dignity of the ceremony. Like the historian of Peter Bell, we commence at the commencement, and thence proceed to the moment when you take leave officially, or vanish unseen.



In order to dine, the first requisite is—to be invited. The length of time which the invitation precedes the dinner is always proportioned to the grandeur of the occasion, and varies from two days to two weeks.


Reply to Invitation.

You reply to a note of invitation immediately, and in the most direct and unequivocal terms. If you accept, you arrive at the house rigorously at the hour specified. It is equally inconvenient to be too late and to be too early. If you fall into the latter error, you find every thing in disorder; the master of the house is in his dressing-room, changing his waistcoat; the lady is still in the pantry; the fire not yet lighted in the parlor. If by accident or thoughtlessness you arrive too soon, you may pretend that you called to inquire the exact hour at which they dine, having mislaid the note, and then retire to walk for an appetite.


Arriving too Late.

If you are too late, the evil is still greater, and indeed almost without remedy. Your delay spoils the dinner and destroys the appetite and temper of the guests; and you yourself are so much embarrassed at the inconvenience you have occasioned, that you commit a thousand errors at table. If you do not reach the house until dinner is served, you had better retire to a restaurant, and thence send an apology, and not interrupt the harmony of the courses by awkward excuses and cold acceptances.


Manners at Table.

Nothing indicates the good breeding of a gentleman so much as his manners at table. There are a thousand little points to be observed, which, although not absolutely necessary, distinctly stamp the refined and well-bred man. A man may pass muster by dressing well, and may sustain himself tolerably in conversation; but if he be not perfectly “au faitdinner will betray him.


Dress Neatly for Dinner Party.

Always go to dinner as neatly dressed as possible. The expensiveness of you apparel is not of much importance, but its freshness and cleanliness are indispensable. The hands and finger-nails require especial attention. It is a great insult to every lady at the table for a man to sit down to dinner with his hands in a bad condition.


How Long to Remain after Dinner.

Politeness demands that you remain at least an hour in the parlor, after dinner; and, if you can dispose of an entire evening, it would be well to devote it to the person who has entertained you. It is excessively rude to leave the house as soon as dinner is over.


Congenial Company.

The utmost care should be taken that all the company will be congenial to one another, and with a similarity of taste and acquirements, so that there shall be a common ground upon which they may meet.


Number of Guests.

The number of guests should not be too large. From six to ten form the best number, being neither too large nor too small. By no means let the number at table count thirteen, for certain people have a superstition about this number; and though it is a very foolish and absurd one, it is courteous to respect it.


Manner of Writing Invitations.

The invitations should be written on small note-paper, which may have the initial letter or monogram stamped upon it, but good taste forbids anything more. The envelope should matched the sheet of paper.

The invitation should be issued in the name of the host and hostess.

The form of invitation should as follows:

“Mr. and Mrs. Ford request the pleasure [or favor] of Mr. and Mrs. Harper’s company at dinner on Thursday, the 13th of December, at 5 o’clock.”

An answer should be returned at once, so that if the invitation is declined the hostess may modify her arrangements accordingly.


Invitation Accepted.

An acceptance may be given in the following form:

“Mr. and Mrs. Harper have much pleasure in accepting Mr. and Mrs. Ford’s invitation for December 13th.”


Invitation Declined.

The invitation is declined in the following manner:

“Mr. and Mrs. Harper regret that a previous engagement (or whatever the cause may be) will prevent them from having the pleasure of accepting Mr. and Mrs. Ford’s invitation for December 13th.”


“Mr. and Mrs. Harper regret extremely that owing to [whatever the preventing cause may be,] they cannot have the pleasure of dining with Mr. and Mrs. Ford on Thursday, December 13th.”

Whatever the cause for declining may be, it should be stated briefly yet plainly, that there may be no occasion for misunderstanding or hard feelings.


Invitation to Tea-party.

The invitation to a tea-party may be less formal. It may take the form of a friendly note, something in this manner:


Dear Miss Patterson,”

“We have some friends coming to drink tea with us to-morrow: will you give us the pleasure of your company also? We hope you will not disappoint us.”

One should always say “drink tea,” not “take tea,” which is a vulgarism.


Reception of Guests.

When guests are announced, the lady of the house advances a few steps to meet them; gives them her hand and welcomes them cordially.


Introduction of Guests.

If there are strangers in the company, it is best to introduce them to all present, that they may feel no embarrassment.


Proceeding to Dinner.

When they are all assembled, a domestic announces that the dinner is served up; at this signal we rise immediately, and wait until the amster of the house requests us to pass into the dining-room, whither he conducts us be going before. It is quite common for the lady of the house to act as guide to the guests, while the master offers his arm to the lady of most distinction. The guests also give their arms to the ladies, whom they conduct as far as the table, and to the places which they are to occupy. Having arrived at the table, each guest respectfully bows to the lady whom he conducts, and who in her turn bows also.


Arranging Guests at Table.

It is one of the first and most difficult things, properly to arrange the guests, and to place them in such a manner, that the conversation may always be general during the entertainment; we should, as much as possible, avoid putting next  to one another, two persons of the same profession, as it would necessarily result in an aside dialogue, which would injure the general conversation, and consequently the gaiety of the occasion. The two most distinguished gentlemen ought to be placed next the mistress of the house; and the two most distinguished ladies next to the master of the house; and right hand especially the place of honor.


Intermingling Guests.

If the number of gentleman is nearly equal to that of the ladies, we should take care to intermingle them; we should separate husbands from their wives, and remove near relations as far from one another as possible; because being always together, they ought not to converse among themselves in a general party.

At table, as well as at all other places, the lady always takes precedence of the gentleman.


Asking the Waiter for Anything.

If you ask the waiter for anything, you will be careful to speak to him gently in the tone of request, and not of command. To speak to a waiter in a driving manner will create, among well-bred people, the suspicion that you were sometime a servant yourself, and are putting on airs at the thought of your promotion. Lord Chesterfield says: “If I tell a footman to bring me a glass of wine, in a rough, insulting manner, I should expect that, in obeying me, he would contrive to spill some of it upon me, and I am sure I should deserve it.:


Praising Every Dish.

It is not good taste to praise extravagantly every dish that is set before you; but if there are some things that are really very nice, it is well to speak in their praise. But, above all things, avoid seeming indifferent to the dinner that is provided for you, as that might be construed into a dissatisfaction with it.


Picking Your Teeth at the Table.

Avoid picking your teeth, if possible, at the table, for however agreeable such a practice might be to yourself, it may be offensive to others. The habit which some have of holding one hand over the mouth, does not avoid the vulgarity of teeth-picking at table.


Selecting a Particular Dish.

Unless you are requested to do so, never select any particular dish; but if your host asks you what part you prefer, name some part, as in this case the incivility would consist in making your host choose as well as carve for you.


Duties of Host and Hostess.

The lady and gentleman of the house, are of course helped last, and they are very particular to notice, every minute, whether the waiters are attentive to every guest. But they do not press people either to eat more than they appear to want, not insist upon their partaking of any particular dish. It is allowable for you to recommend, so far as to say that it is considered “excellent,” but remember that tastes differ, and dishes which suit you, may be unpleasant to others; and that, in consequence of your urgency some modest people might feel themselves compelled to partake of what is disagreeable to them.


  Paring Fruit for a Lady.

Never pare an apple or a pear for a lady unless she desire you, and then be careful to use your fork to hold it; you may sometimes offer to divide a very large pear with or for a person.


Dipping Bread Into Preserves.

It is considered vulgar to dip a piece of bread into the preserves or gravy upon your plate and then bite it. If you desire to eat them together, it is much better to break the bread into smaller pieces, and convey these to your mouth with your fork.



Soup is the first course. All should accept it even if they let it remain untouched, because it is better to make a pretence of eating until the next course is served than to sit waiting or compel the servants to serve one before the rest.

Soup should be eaten with the side of the spoon, not from the point, and there should be noise of sipping while eating it. It should not be called for a second time.



Fish follows soup, and must be eaten with a fork, unless fish-knives are provided. Put the sauce, when it is handed to you, on the side of your plate.

Fish may be declined, but must not be called for a second time.


General Rules Regarding Dinner.

After soup and fish, come the side-dishes, which must be eaten with fork only, though the knife may be used in cutting anything too hard for a fork.

Never apologize to a waiter for requiring him to wait upon you; that is his business. Neither reprove him negligence or improper conduct, that is the business of the host.

Never take up a piece of asparagus or the bones of fowl of bird with your fingers to suck them, possibly making the remark that “fingers were made before forks.” These things should always be cut with a knife and eaten with a fork. If fingers were made before forks, so were wooden trenchers before the modern dinner service. Yet it would rather startle these advocates of priority to be invited to a dinner-party where the dining-table was set with a wooden trencher in the center, into which all the guests were expected to dip with their fingers.

Bread should be broken, not bitten. This is, of course, taken with the fingers.

Be careful to remove the bones from fish before eating it. If a bone get inadvertently into the mouth, the lips must be covered with the napkin in removing it.

Cherry-stones should be removed from the mouth as unobtrusively as possible and deposited on the side of the plate. A good way is to watch how others are doing and follow their example. A better way still is for the hostess to have her cherries stoned before they are made into pies and puddings, and thus save her guests this dilemma.

If it is an informal dinner, and the guests pass the dishes to one another instead of waiting to be helped by a servant, you should always help yourself from the dish, if you desire to do so at all, before passing it on to the next.

A guest should nev er find fault with the dinner or with any part of it.

When you are helped, begin to eat without waiting for other to be served.

A knife should never, on any account, be put into the mouth. Many even well-bred people in other particulars think this an unnecessary regulation; but when we consider that it is a rule of etiquette, and that its violation causes surprise, and disgust to many people, it is wisest to observe it;

As an illustration of this point, I will quote from a letter from the late Wm. M. Thackeray, addressed to a gentleman in Philadelphia : “The European continent swarms with your people. They are not all as polished as Chester field . I wish some of them spoke French a little better. I saw five of them at supper at Basle the other night with their knives down their throats. It was awful! My daughter saw it, and I was obliged to say, ‘My dear, your great-great grandmother, one of the finest ladies of the old school I ever saw, always applied cold steel to her wittles. It’s no crime to eat with a knife,’ which is all very well; but I wish five of ’em at a time wouldn’t.”


  Watching how Others do.

Speaking of watching how others are doing, and following their example, reminds us of an anecdote told us not long since by the lady who played the principal part in it.

She was visiting at the house of a friend, and one day there was upon the dinner-table some sweet corn cooked on the ear. Not knowing exactly how to manage it so as not to give offense, she concluded to observe how the others did. Presently two of the members of the family took up their ears of corn in their fingers and ate the grain directly from the cob. So Miss Mary thought she might venture to eat hers in the same manner. Scarcely had she begun, however, when her hostess turned to her little boy and said, “I am going to let you eat your corn just like a little pig to-day.”

“How is that, momma?” questioned the boy.

“Look at Miss Mary,” was the reply. “I am going to let you eat it just as Miss Mary is eating hers.”

The mixed state of Miss Mary’s feeling can be better imagined than described.

Never use a napkin in the place of a handkerchief by wiping the forehead or blowing the nose with it.

Do not scrape your plate or tilt it to get the last drop of anything it may contain, or wipe it out with a piece of brea d.

Pastry should be eaten with a fork. Everything that can be cut without a knife, should be cut with a fork alone.

Eat slowly.

Pudding may be eaten with a fork or spoon. Ice requires a spoon.

Cheese must be eaten with a fork.

Talk in a low tone to your next neighbor, but not in so low a tone but that your remarks may become general. Never speak with the mouth full.

Never lay your hand or play with your fingers upon the table. Neither toy with your knife, fork or spoon, make pills of your brea d nor draw imaginary lines upon the table-cloth.

Never bite fruit. An apple, pear or peach should be peeled with a silver knife, and all fruit should be broken or cut.


  Urging Guests to Eat.

  A mistress of a house ought never to appear to pride herself regarding what is on her table, nor confuse herself with apologies for the bad cheer which she offers you; it is much better for her to observe silence in this respect, and leave it to her guests to pronounce eulogiums on the dinner; neither is it in good taste to urge guests to eat nor to load their plate against their inclination.


 Waiting on Others.

If a gentleman is seated by the side of a lady on elderly person, politeness requires him to save them all the trouble of pouring out for themselves to drink, or procuring anything to eat, and of obtaining whatever they are in want of at the table and he should be eager to offer them what he thinks to be most to their taste.


Monopolizing Conversation.

It would be impolite to monopolize a conversation which ought to be general. If the company is too large we should converse with our neighbors, raising the voice only loud enough to make ourselves heard.


Signal for Leaving the Table.

Is it for the mistress of the house to give the signal to leave the table; all the guests then rise, and, offering their arms to the ladies, wait upon them to the door.

You should not leave the table before the end of the entertainment, unless from ur gent necessity.

We are glad to say that the English habit of gentleman remaining at the table, after the ladies have retired, to ind ulge in wine, coarse conversation and obscene jokes, has nev er been received into popular favor in this country. The very words “after-dinner jokes” suggest something ind ecent. We take our manners from Paris instead of London , and ladies and gentlemen retire together from the dining-table instead of the one sex remaining to pander to their baser appetites, and the other departing with all their del icate sentiments in a state of outrage if their pause to think of the cause of their dismissal.

After retiring to the drawing-room the guests should intermingle in a social manner, and the time until the hour of taking leave may be spent either in conversation or in various entertaining games. It is expected the guests will remain two or three hours after the dinner.



Lord Chesterfield, in his letters to his son, says: “Dancing is, in itself, a very trifling and silly thing: but it is one of those established follies to which people of sense are sometimes obliged to conform; and then they should be able to do it well. And though I would not have you a dancer, yet, when you do dance, I would have you dance well, as I would have you do everything you do well.” In another letter, he writes: “Do you mind your dancing while your dancing master is with you? As you will be often under the necessary of dancing a minuet, I would have you dance it very well. Remember that the graceful motion of the arms, the giving of your hand, and the putting off and putting on of your hat genteelly, are the material parts of a gentleman’s dancing. But the greatest advantage of dancing well is, that it necessarily teaches you to present yourself, to sit, stand, and walk genteelly; all of which are of real importance to a man of fashion.”


Giving a Ball.

If you cannot afford to give a ball in good style, you had better not attempt it at all.

Having made up your mind to give a ball and to do justice to the occasion, and having settled upon the time, the next thing is to decide whom and how many to invite. In deciding upon the number a due regard must be paid to the size of the rooms; and after making allowance for a reasonable number who may not accept the invitation, there should be no more invited than can find comfortable accommodations, both sitting and standing-room being taken into account, and at the same time have the floor properly free for dancing. The more guests you have the more brilliant, and the fewer you have the most enjoyable, will the occasion be.

Any number over a hundred guests constitutes a ‘large ball:’ under fifty it is merely a “dance.”


Choice of Guests.

As dancing is the amusement of the evening, due regard should be paid to the dancing qualifications of the proposed guests.


  Issuing Invitations.

The invitations issued and accepted for an evening party will be written in the same style as those already described for a dinner-party. They should be sent out at least from seven to ten days before the day fixed for the event, and should be replied to within a week of their receipt, accepting or declining with regrets. By attending to these courtesies, the guests will have time to consider their engagements and prepare their dresses, and the hostess will also know what will be the number of her party.


Prejudices against Dancing.

One should be scrupulous and not wound the prejudices of a friend by sending her an invitation to a ball when it is well known she is conscientiously opposed to dancing.


Notes of Interrogation.

No one now sends a note of interrogation to a dance; cards are universally employed. The form of an invitation to a tea-party differs from that to a dance, in respect that the one specifies that you are invited to tea, the other does not, but merely requests the pleasure of your company on such an evening, a perhaps names the hour.


Variety of Toilet.

Vary your toilet as much as possible, for fear that idlers and mali gnant wits, who are always a majority in the world, should amuse themselves by making your dress the description of your person.


Choice of Attire.

Certain fashionables seek to gain a kind of reputation by the odd choice of their attire, and by their eagerness to seize upon the first caprices of the fashions. Propriety with difficulty tolerates these fancies of a spoiled child; but it applauds a woman of sense and taste, who is not in a hurry to follow the fashions, and asks how long they will last, before adopting them; finally, who selects and modifies them with success according to her size and figure.


Evening Party.

If it is to be a simple evening party, in which we may wear a summer walking-dress, the mistress of the house gives verbal invitations, and does not omit to apprise her friends of this circumstance, or they might appear in unsuitable dresses. If, on the contrary the soiree is to be in reality a ball, the invitations are written, or what is better, printing and expressing in the third person.


The Cloak Room.

A room appropriate for the purpose, and furnished with cloak-pins to hand up the shawls and other dresses of the ladies, is almost indispensable. Domestics should be there also, to aid them in taking off and putting on their outside garments.


When to Arrive.

We are not obligated to go exactly at the appointed hour; it is even fashionable to go an hour later. Married ladies are accompanied by their husbands: unmarried ones, by their mother, or by an escort.


Refusing to Dance.

A lady cannot refuse the invitation of a gentleman to dance, unless she has already accepted that of another, for she would be guilty of an incivility which might occasion trouble; she would, moreover, seem to show contempt for him whom she refused, and would expose herself to receive in secret an ill compliment from the mistress of the house.


Giving a Reason for not Dancing.

When a young lady declines dancing with a gentleman, it is her duty to give him a reason why, although some thoughtless ones do not. No matter how frivolous it may be, it is simply an act of courtesy to offer him an excuse; while, on the other hand, no gentleman ought so far to compromise his self-respect as to take the slightest offense at seeing a lady by whom he has just been refused, dance immediately after with some one else.


How to Ask a Lady to Dance.

In inviting a lady to dance with you, the words, “Will you honor me with your hand for a quadrille?” or, “Shall I have the honor of dancing this et with you?” are more used now than “Shall I have the pleasure?” or, “Will you give me the pleasure of dancing with you?”

Leaving a Ball Room.

Married or young ladies, cannot leave a ball-room, or any other party, alone. The former should be accompanied by one or two other married ladies, and the latter by their mother, or by a lady to represent her.


Talking too Much.

Ladies should avoid talking too much; it will occasion remarks. It has also a bad appearance to whisper continually in the ear of your partner.


Wall Flowers.

The master of the house should see that all the ladies dance; he should take notice, particularly of those who seem to serve as drapery to the walls of the ball-room, (or wall-flowers, as the familiar expression is,) and should see that they are invited to dance. But he must do this wholly unperceived, in order not to wound the self-esteem of the unfortunate ladies.


Duties of Gentlemen.

Gentlemen whom the master of the house requests to dance with these ladies, should be ready to accede to his wish, and even appear pleased at dancing with a person thus recommended to their notice.


Duties of Ladies.

Ladies who dance much, should be very careful not to boast before those who dance but little or not at all, of the great number of dances for which they are engaged in advance. They should also, without being perceived, recommend to these less fortunate ladies, gentlemen of their acquaintance.


While Dancing.

In giving the hand for ladies chain or any other figures, those dancing should wear a smile, and accompany it with a polite inclination of the head, in the manner of a salutation. At the end of the dance, the gentleman reconducts the lady to her place, bows and thanks her for the honor which she has conferred. She also bows in silence, smiling with a gracious air.


Reserve and Politeness.

In these assemblies, we should conduct ourselves with reserve and politeness towards all present, although they may be unknown to us.


When not to Dance.

Never hazard taking part in a quadrille, unless you know how to dance tolerably; for if you are a novice, or but little skilled, you would bring disorder into the midst of pleasure. Being once engaged to take part in a dance, if the figures are not familiar, be careful not to advance first. You can in this way govern your steps by those who go before you. Beware, also, of taking your place in a set of dancers more skillful than yourself. When an unpracticed dancer makes a mistake, we may apprize him of his error; but it would be very impolite to have the air of giving him a lesson.


Grace and Modesty.

Dance with grace and modesty, neither affect to make a parade of your knowledge; refrain from great leaps and ridiculous jumps, which would attract the attention of all towards you.


Private Party.

In a private ball or party, it is proper for a lady to show still more reserve, and not manifest more preference for one gentleman than another; she should dance with all who ask properly.


Public Balls.

In public balls, a gentleman offers his partner refreshment, but which she seldom accepts, unless she is well acquainted with him. But in private parties, the persons who receive the company, send round cake and other refreshments, of which everyone helps themselves. Near the end of the evening, in a well regulated ball, it is customary to have a supper; but in a soiree, without great preparation, we may dispense with a supper; refreshments are, however, necessary, and not to have them would be the greatest impoliteness.


Visit of Thanks.

We should retire incognito, in order not to disturb the master and mistress of the house; and we should make them, during the week, a visit of thanks, at which we may converse of the pleasure of the ball and the good selection of the company.


Deportment in Public Places.

The proprieties in deportment, which concerts require, are little different from those which are recognized in every other assembly, or in public exhibitions, for concerts partake of the one and the other, according as they are public or private. In private concerts, the ladies occupy the front seats, and the gentlemen are generally in groups behind, or at the side of them. We should observe the most profound silence, and refrain from beating time, humming the airs, applauding, or making ridiculous gestures of admiration. It often happens that a dancing soiree succeeds a concert, and billets of invitation, distributed two or three days before hand should give notice of it to the persons invited.


General Rules for a Ball-room.

A lady will not cross a ball-room unattended.

A gentleman will not take a vacant seat next to a lady who is a stranger to him. If she is an acquaintance, he may do so with her permission.

White kid gloves should be worn at a ball, and only be taken off at supper-time.

In dancing quadrilles do not make any attempt to take steps. A quiet walk is all that is required.

When a gentleman escorts a lady home from a ball, she should not invite him to enter the house; and even if she does so, he should by all means decline the invitation. He should call upon her during the next day or evening.

As the guests enter the room, it is not necessary for the lady of the house to advance each time toward the door, but merely to rise from her seat to receive their courtesies and congratulations. If, ind eed, the hostess wis hes to show particular favor to some particularly honored guests, she may introduce them to others, whose acquaintances she may imagine will be especially suitable and agreeable.

When entering a private ball or party, the visitor should invariably bow to the company. No well-bred person would omit this courtesy in entering a drawing-room; although the entrance to a large assembly may be unnoticed.

Any presentation to a lady in a public ball-room, for the mere purpose of dancing, does not entitle you to claim her acquaintance afterwards; therefore, should you meet her, at most her, at most you may lift your hat; but even that is better avoided—unless, indeed, she first bow—as neither she nor her friends can know who or what you are.

Never wait until the signal is given to take a partner, for nothing is more impolite than to invite a lady hastily, and when the dancers are already in their places; it can be allowed only when the set is incomplete.

In private parties, a lady is not to refuse the invitation of a gentleman to dance, unless she be previously engaged. The hostess must be supposed to have asked her house only those persons whom she knows to be perfectly respectable and of unblemished character, as well as pretty equal in position; and thus, to decline the offer of any gentleman present, would be a tacit reflection on the gentleman or lady of the house.



There is a custom which is sometimes practiced both in the assembly room and at private parties, which cannot be too strongly reprehended; we allude to the habit of ridicule and ungenerous criticism of those who are ungraceful or otherwise obnoxious to censure, which is indulged in by the thoughtless, particularly among the dancers. Of its gross impropriety and vulgarity we need hardly express an opinion; but there is such an utter disregard for the feelings of others implied in this kind of negative censorship, that we cannot forbear to warn out young readers to avoid it. The “Koran” says: “Do not mock—the mocked may be better than the mocker.” Those you condemn may not have had the same advantages as yourself in acquiring grace or dignity, while they may be infinitely superior in purity  of heart and mental accomplishments. The advice of Chester field to his son, in his commerce with society, to do as you would be done by, is founded on the Christian precept, and worthy of commendation. Imagine yourself the victim of another’s ridicule, and you will cease to indulge in a pastime which only gains for you the hatred of those you satirize, if they chance to observe you, and the contempt of others who have noticed your violation of politeness, and abuse of true society.


Chapter Nine – Street Etiquette.

Meeting a lady on the street, it is not customary in England for a gentleman to recognize or speak to her unless she first smiles or bows. But on the continent of Europe the rule is reversed, and no lady, however intimate you may be with her, will acknowledge you in the street unless you first honor her with a bow of recognition. The America n fashion is not like either of them. For here the really well-bred man always politely and respectfully bows to every lady he knows, and, if she is a well-bred woman, she acknowledges the respect paid her. If she expects no further acquaintance, her bow is a mere formal, but always respectful, recognition of the good manners which have been shown her, and no gentleman ever takes advantage of such politeness to push a further acquaintance uninvited. But why should a lady and gentleman, who know each other, scornfully and doggedly pass each other in the streets as though they were enemies? There is no good reason for such impoliteness, in the practice of politeness. As compared with the English, the French or continental fashion is certainly more consonant with the rules of good breeding. But the America n rule is better than either, for it is based upon the acknowledged general principle, that it is every gentleman’s and lady’s duty to be polite in all places. Unless parties have done something to forfeit the respect dictated by the common rules of politeness, there should be no deviation from this practice. It is a ridiculous idea that we are to practice ill-manners in the name of etiquette.


Recognizing Friends on the Street.

While walking the street no one should be absent-minded as to neglect to recognize his friends. If you do not stop, you should always bow, touch your hat, or bid your friends good day. If you stop, you can offer your hand without removing your glove. If you stop to talk, retire on one side of the walk. If your friend has a stranger with him and you have anything to say, you should apologize to the stranger. Never leave your friend abruptly to see another person without asking him to excuse your departure. If you meet a gentleman of your acquaintance walking with a lady whom you do not know, lift your hat as you salute them. If you know the lady you should salute her first.

Never fail to raise your hat politely to a lady acquaintance; nor to a male friend who may be walking with a lady—it is a courtesy to the lady.


  Omitting to Recognize Acquaintances.

A gentleman should never omit a punctilious observance of the rules of politeness to his recognized acquaintances, from an apprehension that he will not be met with reciprocal marks of respect. For instance, he should not refuse to raise his hat to an acquaintance who is accompanied by a lady, lest her escort should, from ignorance or stolidity, return his polite salutation with a nod of the head. It is better not to see him, that to set the example of a rude and indecorous salutation. In all such cases, and in all cases, he who is most courteous has the advantage, and should never feel that he has made a humiliating sacrifice of his personal dignity. It is for the party whose behavior has been boorish to have a consciousness of inferiority.


  Shaking Hands with a Lady.

Never offer to shake hands with a lady in the street if you have dark gloves, as you may soil her white ones. If you meet a lady friend with whom you wish converse, you must not stop, but turn and walk along with her; and should she be walking with a gentleman, first assure yourself that you are not intruding before you attempt to join the two in their walk.


Young Ladies Conduct on the Street.

After twilight, a young lady would not be conducting herself in a becoming manner, by walking alone; and if she passes he evening with any one, she ought, beforehand, to provide some one to come for her at a stated hour; but if this is not practicable, she should politely ask of the person whom she is visiting, to permit a servant to accompany her. But, however much this may be considered proper, and consequently an obligation, a married lady, well educated, will disregard it if circumstances prevent her being able, without trouble, to find a conductor.


Accompanying Visitors.

If the host wishes to accompany you himself, you must excuse yourself politely for giving him so much trouble but finish, however, by accepting. On arriving at your house, you should offer him your thanks. In order to avoid these two inconveniences, it will be well to request your husband, or some one of your relatives, to come and wait upon you; you will, in this way, avoid all inconveniences, and be entirely free from that harsh criticism which is sometimes indulged in, especially in small towns, concerning even the most innocent acts.


Fulfilling an Engagement.

If, when on your way to fulfill an engagement, a friend stops you in the street, you may, without committing any breach of etiquette, tell him of your appointment, and release yourself from a long talk, but do so in a courteous manner, expressing regret for the necessity.


Conduct while Shopping.

In inquiring for goods at a store, do not say, I want so and so, but say to the clerk—show me such an article, if you please—or use some other polite form of address. If you are obliged to examine a number of articles before you are suited, apologize to him for the trouble you give him. If, after all, you cannot suit yourself, renew your apologies when you go away, If you make only small purchases, say to him—I am sorry for having troubled you for so trifling a thing.


Taking off Your Glove.

You need not stop to pull off your glove to shake hands with a lady or gentleman. If it is warm weather it is more agreeable to both parties that the glove should be on—especially if it is a lady with whom you shake hands, as the perspiration of your bare hand would be very like ly to soil her glove.


Asking Information.

If a lady addresses an inquiry to a gentleman on the street, he will lift his hat, or at least touch it respectfully, as he replies. If he cannot give the information required, he will express his regrets.


Crossing a Muddy Street.

When tripping over the pavement, a lady should gracefully raise her dress a little above her ankle. With her right hand she should hold together the folds of her gown and draw them toward the right side. To raise the dress on both sides, and with both hands, is vulgar. This ungraceful practice can be tolerated only for a moment when the mud is very deep.


Expensive Dresses in the Street.

Most America n ladies in our cities wear too rich and expensive dresses in the street. Some, indeed, will sweep the side-walks with costly stuffs only fit for a drawing-room or a carriage. This is in bad taste, and is what ill-natured people would term snobbish.


Carriage of a Lady in Public.

A lady walks quietly through the streets, seeing and hearing nothing that she ought not to see and hear, recognizing acquaintances with a courteous bow and friends with words of greeting. She is always unobtrusive. She nev er talks loudly or laughs boisterously, or does anything to attract the attention of the passers by. She simply goes about her business in her own quiet, lady-like way, and by her preoccupation is secure from all the annoyance to which a person of less perfect breeding might be subjected.


Forming Acquaintances in Public.

A lady, be she young or old, never forms an acquaintance upon the streets or seeks to attract the attention or admiration of persons of the other sex.  To do so would render false her claims to ladyhood, if it did not make her liable to far graver charges.


Demanding Attentions.

A lady never demands attentions and favors from a gentleman, but always accepts them gracefully and graciously and with expressed thanks.


Meeting a Lady Acquaintance.

A gentleman meeting a lady acquaintance on the street, should not presume to join her in her walk without ascertaining that his company would be entirely agreeable. It might be otherwise, and she should frankly say so. A married lady usually leans upon the arm of her husband; but single ladies do not, in the day, take the arm of the gentleman, unless they are willing to acknowledge an engagement. Gentlemen always give place to ladies, and gentlemen accompanying ladies, in crossing the street.


Stopping a Lady on the Street.

If you have anything to say to a lady whom you may happen to meet in the street, however intimate you may be, do not stop her, but turn round and walk in company; you take leave at the end of the street.


Crowding Before Another.

If stormy weather has made it necessary to lay a plank across the gutters, which has become suddenly filled with water, it is not proper to crowd before another, in order to pass over the frail bridge.


Giving the Arm.

In walking with a lady, it is customary to give her the right arm; but where circumstances render it more convenient to give her the left, it may properly be done. If you are walking with a lady on a crowded street, like State or Madison , by all means give her the outside, as that will prevent her from being perpetually jostled and run against by the hurrying crowd.


When to Offer Your Arm.

You should offer your arm to a lady with who you are walking whenever her safety, comfort, or convenience may seem to require such attention on your part. At night your arm should always be tendered, and also when ascending the steps of a public building. In walking with any person you should keep step with military precision, and with ladies and elderly people you should always accommodate your speed to theirs.


Returning a Salute.

  If a lady with whom you are walking receives the salute of a person who is a stranger to you, you should return it, not for yourself, but for her.


Passing Before a Lady.

When a lady whom you accompany wishes to enter a store, you should hold the door open and allow her to enter first, if practicable; for you must never pass before a lady anywhere, if you can avoid it, or without an apology.


Corner Loafers.

No gentleman will stand in the doors of hotels, nor on the corners of the street, gazing impertinently at the ladies as they pass. That is such an unmistakably sign of a loafer, that one can hardly imagine a well-bred doing such a thing.



Never speak to your acquaintances from one side of the street to the other. Shouting is a certain sign of vulgarity. First approach, and then make your communication to your acquaintance or friend n a moderately loud tone of voice.


Gentleman Walking with a Lady.

When two gentleman are walking with a lady in the street, they should not be both upon the same side of her, but one of them should walk upon the outside and the other upon her inside.


Crossing the Street with a Lady.

If you are walking with a woman who has your arm, and you cross the street, it is better not to disengage your arm, and go round upon the outside. Such effort evinces a palpable attention to form, and that is always to be avoided.


General Rules.

A lady should nev er take the arms of two men, one being upon either side; nor should a man carry a woman upon each arm. The latter of these iniquities is practiced only in Ireland ; the former perhaps in Kamtskatcha. There are, to be sure, some cases in which it is necessary for the protection of the women; that they should both take his arm, as in coming home from a concert, or in passing, on any occasion, through the crowd.


Passing Through a Crowd.

In walking in the street with a woman, if at any place, by reason of the crowd, or from other cause you are compelled to proceed singly, you should always procede [sic] your companion.

In passing a lady in the street, who is accompanied by a gentleman on the outside, there is the same reason for your taking the inside that there would be for you to walk on that side if you were with them. You should take that side, then, unless you would pay the gentleman, if he were alone, the compliment of giving him the wall.


  Saluting a Lady.

When you salute a lady or a gentleman to whom you wish to show particular respect, in the street, you should take your hat entirely off and cause it to describe a circle of at least ninety degrees from its original resting place.


  Ascending a Mountain.

If you are walking with a woman in the country,--ascending a mountain or strolling by the back of a river, -- and your companion being fatigued, should choose to sit upon the ground, on no account allow yourself to do the same, but remain rigorously standing. To do otherwise would be flagrantly indecorous and she would probably resent it as the greatest insult.

In mounting a pair of stairs in company with a woman, run up before her; in coming down, walk behind her.


Meeting on the Street.

If, in walking, you meet a friend, accompanied by one whom you do not know, speak to both. Also, if you are walking with a friend who speaks to a friend whom you are not acquainted with, you should speak to the person; and with as much respect and ease as if you knew the party. If you meet a man whom you have met frequently before, who knows your name, and whose name you know, it is polite to salute him.


Intrusive Inquires on Meeting.

If you meet or join or are visited by a person who has a book or box, or any article whatever, under his arm or in his hand, and he does not offer to show to you, you should not, even if he be your most intimate friend, take it from him and look at it. There may be many reasons why he would not like you to see it, or be obliged to answer the inquiries or give the explanations connected to it. That intrusive curiosity is very inconsistent with the delicacy of a well-bred man, and always offends in some degree.


Smoking while Walking.

In walking with a lady, never permit her to encumber herself with a book, parcel, or anything of that kind, but always offer to carry it. As to smoking, it certainly is not gentlemanly to smoke while walking with ladies; but modern notions on the tobacco question are growing very lax, and when by the seaside or in the country, or in any but fashionable quarters, if your fair companion does not object to a cigar, but never a pipe, you will not compromise yourself very much by smoking one.


Taking off Your Hat.

If there is any man whom you wish to conciliate, you should make a point of taking off your hat to him as often as you meet him. People are always gratified by respect, and they generally conceive a good opinion of the understanding of one who appreciates their excellence so much as to respect it. Such is the irresistible effect of an habitual display of this kind of manner, that perseverance in it will often conquer enmity and obliterate contempt.


Chapter Ten – Riding and Driving.

In these days of fast locomotion, etc., the very delightful recreation and exercise of riding on horseback is partaken of too little. This is to be regretted for nothing is better calculated to develop the physical health and animal spirits, nothing is more conducive to pleasure of a rational character than the ride on horseback upon every pleasant day.


Etiquette of Riding.

The etiquette of riding is very exact and important. Remember that your left when in the middle is called the near side, and your right the off side, and that you always mount on the near side. In doing this put your left food in the stirrup, your left hand on the saddle, then, as you take a spring, throw your right leg over the animal’s back. Remember, also, that the rule of the road, both in riding and driving, is, that you keep to the left, or near side in meeting; and to the right, or off side in passing.


Riding in Public.

Never appear in public on horseback unless you have mastered the inelegance attending a first appearance in the saddle. A novice make an exhibition of himself, and brings ridicule on his friends. Having got a “seat” by a little practice, bear in mind the advice conveyed in the old rhyme—

“Keep your head and your heart,”

Your hands and your heels keep down,

Press your knees close to your horse’s sides,

And your elbows close to your own.”

This may be called the whole art of riding, in one lesson.


Riding with Ladies.

In riding with ladies, recollect that it is your duty to see them in their saddles before you mount. And the assistance they require must not be rendered by a groom; you must assist them yourself.


Assisting a Lady to Mount.

The lady will place herself on the near side of the horse, her skirt gath ered up in her left hand, her right hand on the pommel, keeping her face towards the horse’s head. You stand at his shoulder, facing her, and stooping hold your hand so that she may place her left foot in it; then lift it as she springs, so as to aid her, but not to give such an impetus that, like “vaulting ambition,” she looses her balance and “falls o’ the other side.” Next, put her foot in the stirrup, and smooth the skirt of her habit. Then you are at liberty to mount yourself.


Pace in Riding.

The lady must always decide upon the pace. It is ungenerous to ur ge her or incite her horse to a faster gait that she feels competent to undertake.

Keep to the right of the lady or ladies riding with you.

Open all gates and pay all tolls on the road.


Meeting Friends on Horseback.

If you meet friends on horseback do not turn back with them; if you overtake them do not thrust your company on them unless you feel assured that it is agreeable to them for you to do so.


Meeting a Lady.

If, when riding out, you meet a lady with whom you are acquainted, you may bow and ride on; but you cannot with propriety carry on a conversation with her while you retain your seat on horseback. If very anxious to talk to her, it will be your duty to alight, and to lead your horse.


Assisting a Lady to Alight from a Horse.

After the ride the gentleman must assist his companion to alight. She must first free her knee from the pommel and be certain that her habit is entirely disengaged. He must then take her left hand in his right and offer his left hand as a step for her foot. He must lower this hand gently and allow her to reach the ground quietly without springing. A lady should not attempt to spring from the saddle.


Entering a Carriage.

If you enter a carriage with a lady, let her first take her place on the seat facing the horses; then sit opposite, and on no account beside her, unless you are her husband or other near relative. Enter a carriage so that your back is toward the seat you are to occupy; you will thus avoid turning round in the carriage, which is awkward. Take care that you do not trample the ladies’ dresses, or shut them in as you close the door.


Alighting from a Carriage.

The rule in all cases is this: You quit the carriage first and hand the lady out.

It is quite an art to descend from a carriage properly. More attention is paid to this matter in England than in America . We are told an anecdote by M. Mercy d’Argenteau illustrative of the importance of this. He says: “The princess of Hesse-Darmstadt, having been desired by the empress of Austria to bring her three daughters to court in order that Her Imperial Majesty might choose one of them for a wife to one of her sons, drove up in her coach to the palace gate. Scarcely had they entered her presence when, before even speaking to them, the empress went up the second daughter, and taking her by the hand said,

‘I choose this young lady.’

“The mother, astonished at the suddenness of her choice, inquired what had actuated her.

“ ‘I watched the young ladies get out of their carriage,’ said the empress. ‘You eldest daughter stepped on her dress, and only saved herself from falling by an awkward scramble. The youngest jumped from the coach to the ground without touching the steps. The second, just lifting her dress in the front as she descended, so as to show the point of her shoe, calmly stepped from carriage to the ground neither hurriedly nor stiffly, but with grace and dignity. She is fit to be an empress. The eldest sister is too awkward, the youngest too wild.'"

If you are driving in company with another who holds the reins, you should most carefully abstain from even the slightest interference, by word or act, with the province of th e driver. Any comment, advice, or gesture of control, implies a reproof which is very offensive. If there be any point of imminent danger, where you think his conduct wrong, you may suggest a change, but it must be done with great del icacy and must be prefaced by an apology. During the ordinary course of the drive, you should resign yourself wholly to his control, and be entirely passive.

If you do not approve of his manner, or have not confidence in his skill, you need not drive with him again; but while you are with him, you should yield implicitly.


Assisting a Lady into a Carriage.

A gentleman in assisting a lady into a carriage will take care that the skirt of her dress is not allowed to hand outside. It is best to have a carriage-robe to protect it entirely from the mud of dust of the road. He should provide her with her parasol, fan and shawl before he seats himself, and make certain that she is in every way comfortable.

If a lady has occasion to leave the carriage before the gentleman accompanying her, he must alight to assist her out; and if she wis hes to resume her seat in the carriage, he must again alight to help her to do so.