GEORGE ROUTLEDGE AND SONS, 1875         Library Home       WedBlog        Forum       Blog

Etiquette for Gentlemen. 

 I.--INTRODUCTIONS. To introduce persons who are mutually unknown is to undertake a serious responsibility, and to certify to each the respectability of the other. Never undertake this responsibility without in the first place asking yourself whether the persons are likely to be agreeable to each other; nor, in the second place, without ascertaining whether it will be acceptable to both parties to become acquainted. Always introduce the gentleman to the lady--never the lady to the gentleman. The chivalry of etiquette assumes that the lady is invariably the superior in right of her sex, and that the gentleman is honored in the introduction. This rule is to be observed even when the social rank of the gentleman is higher than that of the lady.

Where the sexes are the same, always present the inferior to the superior.
Never present a gentleman to a lady without first asking her permission to do so.
When you are introduced to a lady, never offer your hand. When introduced, persons limit their recognition of each other to a bow. On the Continent, ladies never shake hands with gentlemen unless under circumstances of great intimacy.

Never introduce morning visitors who happen to encounter each other in your rooms, unless they are persons whom you have already obtained permission to make known to each other. Visitors thus casually meeting in the house of a friend should converse with ease and freedom, as if they were acquainted. That they are both friends of the hostess is a sufficient guarantee of their respectability. To be silent and stiff on such an occasion would show much ignorance and ill-breeding.

Persons who have met at the house of a mutual friend without being introduced should not bow if they afterwards meet elsewhere. A bow implies acquaintance; and persons who have not been introduced are not acquainted.

If you are walking with one friend, and presently meet with, or are joined by, a third, do not commit the too frequent error of introducing them to each other. You have even less right to do so than if they encountered each other at your house during a morning call.

There are some exceptions to the etiquette of introductions. At a ball, or evening party where there is dancing, the mistress of the house may introduce any gentleman to any lady without first asking the lady's permission. But she should first ascertain whether the lady is willing to dance; and this out of consideration for the gentleman, who may otherwise be refused. No man likes to be refused the hand of a lady, though it be only for a quadrille.

A brother may present his sister, or a father his son, without any kind of preliminary; but only when there is no inferiority on the part of his own family to that of the acquaintance.

Friends may introduce friends at the house of a mutual acquaintance; but, as a rule, it is better to be introduced by the mistress of the house. Such an introduction carries more authority with it.

Introductions at evening parties are now almost wholly dispensed with. Persons who meet at a friend's house are ostensibly upon an equality, and pay a bad compliment to the host by appearing suspicious and formal. Some old-fashioned country hosts yet persevere in introducing each new comer to all the assembled guests. It is a custom that cannot be too soon abolished, and one that places the last unfortunate visitor in a singularly awkward position. All that he can do is to make a semicircular bow, like a concert singer before an audience, and bear the general gaze with as much composure as possible.

If, when you enter a drawing-room, your name has been wrongly announced, or has passed unheard in the buzz of conversation, make your way at once to the mistress of the house, if you are a stranger, and introduce yourself by name. This should be done with the greatest simplicity, and your professional or titular rank made as little of as possible.

An introduction given at a ball for the mere purpose of conducting a lady through a dance does not give the gentleman any right to bow to her on a future occasion. If he commits this error, he must remember that she is not bound to see, or return, his salutation.


Do not lightly give or promise letters of introduction. Always remember that when you give a letter of introduction you lay yourself under an obligation to the friend to whom it is addressed. If he lives in a great city, such as Paris or London, you in a measure compel him to undergo the penalty of escorting the stranger to some of those places of public entertainment in which the capital abounds. In any case, you put him to the expense of inviting the stranger to his table. We cannot be too cautious how we tax the time and purse of a friend, or weigh too seriously the question of mutual advantage in the introduction. Always ask yourself whether the person introduced will be an acceptable acquaintance to the one to whom you present him; and whether the pleasure of knowing him will compensate for the time or money which it costs to entertain him. If the stranger is in any way unsuitable in habits or temperament, you inflict an annoyance on your friend instead of a pleasure. In questions of introduction never oblige one friend to the discomfort of another.   

Those to whom letters of introduction have been given should send them to the person to whom they are addressed, and enclose a card. Never deliver a letter of introduction in person. It places you in the most undignified position imaginable, and compels you to wait while it is being read, like a footman who has been told to wait for an answer.
There is also another reason why you should not be yourself the bearer of your introduction; i.e., you compel the other person to receive you, whether he chooses or not. It may be that he is sufficiently ill-bred to take no notice of the letter when sent, and in such case, if you presented yourself with it, he would most probably receive you with rudeness. It is, at all events, more polite on your part to give him the option, and perhaps more pleasant. If the receiver of the letter be a really well-bred person, he will call upon you or leave his card the next day, and you should return his attentions within the week. 

If, on the other hand, a stranger sends you a letter of introduction and his card, you are bound by the laws of politeness and hospitality, not only to call upon him the next day, but to follow up that attention with others. If you are in a position to do so, the most correct proceeding is to invite him to dine with you. Should this not be within your power, you have probably the _entree_ to some private collections, clubhouses, theatres, or reading-rooms, and could devote a few hours to showing him these places. If you are but a clerk in a bank, remember that only to go over the Bank of England would be interesting to a foreigner or provincial visitor. In short, etiquette demands that you shall exert yourself to show kindness to the stranger, if only out of compliment to the friend who introduced him to you.

If you invite him to dine with you, it is a better compliment to ask some others to meet him, than to dine with him _tête-à-tête_. You are thereby giving him an opportunity of making other acquaintances, and are assisting your friend in still further promoting the purpose for which he gave him the introduction to yourself. 

Be careful at the same time only to ask such persons as he will feel are at least his own social equals.

A letter of introduction should be given unsealed, not alone because your friend may wish to know what you have said of him, but also as a guarantee of your own good faith. As you should never give such a letter unless you can speak highly of the bearer, this rule of etiquette is easy to observe. By requesting your friend to fasten the envelope before forwarding the letter to its destination, you tacitly give him permission to inspect its contents.

Let your note paper be of the best quality and the proper size. Albert or Queen's size is the best for these purposes.

It has been well said that "attention to the punctilios of politeness is a proof at once of self-respect, and of respect for your friend." Though irksome at first, these trifles soon cease to be matters for memory, and become things of mere habit. To the thoroughly well-bred, they are a second nature. Let no one neglect them who is desirous of pleasing in society; and, above all, let no one deem them unworthy of a wise man's attention. They are precisely the trifles which do most to make social intercourse agreeable, and a knowledge of which distinguishes the gentleman from the boor.


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

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

A good memory for these trifles is one of the hall-marks of good breeding.
Visits of ceremony should be short. If even the conversation should have become animated, beware of letting your call exceed half-an-hour's length. It is always better to let your friends regret than desire your withdrawal.

On returning visits of ceremony you may, without impoliteness, leave your card at the door without going in. Do not fail, however, to inquire if the family be well.
Should there be daughters or sisters residing with the lady upon whom you call, you may turn down a corner of your card, to signify that the visit is paid to all. It is in better taste, however, to leave cards for each.

Unless when returning thanks for "kind inquiries," or announcing your arrival in, or departure from, town, it is not considered respectful to send round cards by a servant.
Leave-taking cards have P.P.C. _(pour prendre conge)_ written in the corner. Some use P.D.A. _(pour dire adieu)_.

It is not the fashion on the Continent for gentlemen to affix _Monsieur_ to their cards, _Jules Achard_, or _Paolo Beni_, looks more simple and elegant than if preceded by _Monsieur_, or _Monsieur le Comte_. Some English gentlemen have adopted this good custom, and it would be well if it became general.

Autographic facsimiles for visiting cards are affectations in any persons but those who are personally remarkable for talent and whose autographs, or facsimiles of them, would be prized as curiosities. A card bearing the autographic signature of Charles Dickens or George Cruikshank, though only a lithographic facsimile, would have a certain interest; whereas the signature of John Smith would be not only valueless, but would make the owner ridiculous.

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

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

When a gentleman makes a morning call, he should never leave his hat or riding-whip in the hall, but should take both into the room. To do otherwise would be to make himself too much at home. The hat, however, must never be laid on a table, piano, or any article of furniture; it should be held gracefully in the hand. If you are compelled to lay it aside, put it on the floor.

Umbrellas should invariably be left in the hall.

Never take favorite dogs into a drawing-room when you make a morning call. Their feet may be dusty, or they may bark at the sight of strangers, or, being of too friendly a disposition, may take the liberty of lying on a lady's gown, or jumping on the sofas and easy chairs. Where your friend has a favorite cat already established before the fire, a battle may ensue, and one or other of the pets be seriously hurt. Besides, many persons have a constitutional antipathy to dogs, and others never allow their own to be seen in the sitting-rooms. For all or any of these reasons, a visitor has no right to inflict upon his friend the society of his dog as well as of himself.

If, when you call upon a lady, you meet a lady visitor in her drawing-room, you should rise when that lady takes her leave, and escort her to her carriage, taking care, however, to return again to the drawing-room, though it be only for a few minutes, before taking your own leave. Not to do this would give you the appearance of accompanying the lady visitor; or might, at all events, look as if the society of your hostess were insufficient to entertain you when her friend had departed.

If other visitors are announced, and you have already remained as long as courtesy requires, wait till they are seated, and then rise from your chair, take leave of your hostess, and bow politely to the newly arrived guests. You will, perhaps, be urged to remain, but, having once risen, it is always best to go. There is always a certain air of _gaucherie_ in resuming your seat and repeating the ceremony of leave-taking.
If you have occasion to look at your watch during a call, ask permission to do so, and apologize for it on the plea of other appointments.


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. You cannot pay a finer compliment to a woman of refinement and _esprit_ than by leading the conversation into such a channel as may mark your appreciation of her superior attainments.

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.
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 of 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.

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.

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 Americanisms, and other 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.

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.

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.

Religion is a topic which should never be introduced in society. It is the one subject on which persons are most likely to differ, and least able to preserve temper.
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."

To listen well, is almost as great an art as to talk well. It is not enough _only_ to listen. You must endeavor to seem interested in the conversation of others.

It is considered extremely ill-bred when two persons whisper in society, or converse in a 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 others 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 conversation shall be carried on in his own language. If at a dinner-party, the same rule applies to those at his end of the table.

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 news and historical events of at least the last few years.

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.
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 conversing with a man of rank, do not too frequently give him his title. Only a servant interlards every sentence with "my Lord," or "my Lady." It is, however, well to show that you remember his station by now and then introducing some such phrase as--"I think I have already mentioned to your Lordship"--or, "I believe your Grace was observing"... In general, however, you should address a nobleman as you would any other gentleman. The Prince of Wales himself is only addressed as "Sir," in conversation, and the Queen as "Madam."


Notes of invitation and acceptance are written in the third person and the simplest style. The old-fashioned preliminary of "presenting compliments" is discontinued by the most elegant letter-writers.

All notes of invitation are now issued in the name of the mistress of the house only, as follows;--

"Mrs. Norman requests the honor of Sir George and Lady Thurlow's company at an evening party, on Monday, 14th of June."

Others prefer the subjoined form, which is purchasable ready printed upon either cards or note-paper, with blanks for names or dates:--

"Mrs. Norman,
"At home,
"Monday evening, June 14th inst."

An "At home" is, however, considered somewhat less stately than an evening party, and partakes more of the character of a _conversazione_.

The reply to a note of invitation should be couched as follows:--

"Mr. Berkeley has much pleasure in accepting Mrs. Norman's polite invitation for Monday evening, June the 14th inst."

Never "avail" yourself of an invitation. Above all, never speak or write of an invitation as "an invite." It is neither good breeding nor good English.

Notes of invitation and reply should be written on small paper of the best quality, and enclosed in envelopes to correspond.

A gentleman should never use sealing-wax of any color but red, nor paper of any hue but white. Fancy papers, fantastic borders, dainty colored wax, and the like elegant follies, are only admissible in the desk of a lady.

Never omit the address and date from any letter, whether of business, friendship, or ceremony.

Letters in the first person, addressed to strangers, should begin with "Sir," or "Madam," and end with "I have the honor to be your very obedient servant." Some object to this form of words from a mistaken sense of pride; but it is merely a form, and, rightly apprehended, evinces a "proud humility," which implies more condescension than a less formal phrase.

At the end of your letter, at some little distance below your signature, and in the left corner of your paper, write the name of the person to whom your letter is addressed; as "Sir James Dalhousie," or "Edward Munroe, Esquire."

It is more polite to write Esquire at full length than to curtail it to Esq.

In writing to persons much your superior or inferior, use as few words as possible. In the former case, to take up much of a great man's time is to take a liberty; in the latter to be diffuse is to be too familiar. It is only in familiar correspondence that long letters are permissible.

In writing to a tradesman, begin your letter by addressing him by name, as--
"Mr. Jones,--Sir."

A letter thus begun may, with propriety, be ended with--

"Sir, yours truly."

Letters to persons whom you meet frequently in society, without having arrived at intimacy, may commence with "Dear Sir," and end with "I am, dear Sir, yours very truly."

Letters commencing "My dear Sir," addressed to persons whom you appreciate, and with whom you are on friendly terms, may end with "I am, my dear Sir, yours very faithfully," or "yours very sincerely."

To be prompt in replying to a letter is to be polite.


A well-bred man must entertain no respect for the brim of his hat. "A bow," says La Fontaine, "is a note drawn at sight." You are bound to acknowledge it immediately, and to the full amount. The two most elegant men of their day, Charles the Second and George the Fourth, never failed to take off their hats to the meanest of their subjects. Always bear this example in mind; and remember that to nod, or merely to touch the brim of the hat, is far from courteous. True politeness demands that the hat should be quite lifted from the head.

On meeting friends with whom you are likely to shake hands, remove your hat with the left hand in order to leave the right hand free.

If you meet a lady in the street whom you are sufficiently intimate to address, do not stop her, but turn round and walk beside her in whichever direction she is going. When you have said all that you wish to say, you can take your leave.

If you meet a lady with whom you are not particularly well acquainted, wait for her recognition before you venture to bow to her.

In bowing to a lady whom you are not going to address, lift your hat with that hand which is farthest from her. For instance, if you pass her on the right side, use your left hand; if on the left, use your right.

If you are on horseback and wish to converse with a lady who is on foot, you must dismount and lead your horse, so as not to give her the fatigue of looking up to your level. Neither should you subject her to the impropriety of carrying on a conversation in a tone necessarily louder than is sanctioned in public by the laws of good breeding.
When you meet friends or acquaintances in the streets, the exhibitions, or any public places, take care not to pronounce their names so loudly as to attract the attention of the passers-by. Never call across the street: and never carry on a dialogue in a public vehicle, unless your interlocutor occupies the seat beside your own.

In walking with a lady, take charge of any small parcel, parasol, or book with which she may be encumbered.

If you so far forget what is elegant as to smoke in the street, at least never omit to fling away your cigar if you speak to a lady.


A great French writer has said, with as much grace as philosophy, that the artist and man of letters needs only a black coat and the absence of all pretension to place him on the level of the best society. It must be observed, however, that this remark applies only to the intellectual workers, who, if they do occasionally commit a minor solecism in dress or manners, are forgiven on account of their fame and talents. Other individuals are compelled to study what we have elsewhere called the "by-laws of society;" and it would be well if artists and men of letters would more frequently do the same. It is not enough that a man should be clever, or well educated, or well born; to take his place in society he must be acquainted with all that this little book proposes to teach. He must, above all else, know how to enter the room, how to bow, and how to dress. Of these three indispensable qualifications, the most important, because the most observed, is the latter.

A gentleman should always be so well dressed that his dress shall never be observed at all. Does this sound like an enigma? It is not meant for one. It only implies that perfect simplicity is perfect elegance, and that the true test of taste in the toilette of a gentleman is its entire harmony, unobtrusiveness and becomingness. If any friend should say to you, "What a handsome waistcoat you have on!" you may depend that a less handsome waistcoat would be in better taste. If you hear it said that Mr. So-and-So wears superb jewelry, you may conclude beforehand that he wears too much. Display, in short, is ever to be avoided, especially in matters of dress. The toilette is the domain of the fair sex. Let a wise man leave its graces and luxuries to his wife, daughters or sisters, and seek to be himself appreciated for something of higher worth than the embroidery upon his shirt front, or the trinkets on his chain.

To be too much in the fashion is as vulgar as to be too far behind it. No really well-bred man follows every new cut that he sees in his tailor's fashion-book. Only very young men, and those not of the most aristocratic circles, are guilty of this folly.

The author of "Pelham" has aptly said that a gentleman's coat should not fit too well. There is great truth and subtlety in this observation. To be fitted _too_ well is to look like a tailor's assistant. This is the great fault which we have to find in the style of even the best bred Frenchmen. They look as if they had just stepped out of a fashion-book, and lack the careless ease which makes an English gentleman look as if his clothes belonged to him, and not he to his clothes.

In the morning wear frock coats, double-breasted waistcoats, and trousers of light or dark colors, according to the season.

In the evening, though only in the bosom of your own family, wear only black, and be as scrupulous to put on a dress coat as if you expected visitors. If you have sons, bring them up to do the same. It is the observance of these minor trifles in domestic etiquette which marks the true gentleman.

For evening parties, dinner parties, and balls, wear a black dress coat, black trousers, black silk or cloth waistcoat, white cravat, white or grey kid gloves, and thin patent leather boots. A black cravat may be worn in full dress, but is not so elegant as a white one. A black velvet waistcoat should only be worn at a dinner party.

Let your jewelry be of the best, but the least gaudy description, and wear it very sparingly. A set of good studs, a gold watch and guard, and one handsome ring, are as many ornaments as a gentleman can wear with propriety. In the morning let your ring be a seal ring, with your crest or arms engraved upon it. In the evening it may be a diamond. Your studs, however valuable, should be small.

It is well to remember in the choice of jewelry that mere costliness is not always the test of value; and that an exquisite work of art, such as a fine cameo, or a natural rarity, such as a black pearl, is a more _distingue_ possession than a large brilliant which any rich and tasteless vulgarian can buy as easily as yourself. For a ring, the gentleman of fine taste would prefer a precious antique _intaglio_ to the handsomest diamond or ruby that could be brought at Hunt and Roskell's. The most elegant gentleman with whom the author was ever acquainted--a man familiar with all the Courts of Europe--never wore any other shirt-studs in full dress than three valuable black pearls, each about the size of a pea, and by no means beautiful to look at.
Of all precious stones, the opal is one of the most lovely and the least common-place. No vulgar man purchases an opal. He invariably prefers the more showy diamond, ruby, sapphire, or emerald.

Unless you are a snuff-taker, never carry any but a white pocket-handkerchief.
If in the morning you wear a long cravat fastened by a pin, be careful to avoid what may be called _alliteration_ of color. We have seen a turquoise pin worn in a violet-colored cravat, and the effect was frightful. Choose, if possible, complementary colors, and their secondaries. For instance, if the stone in your pin be a turquoise, wear it with brown, or crimson mixed with black, or black and orange. If a ruby, contrast it with shades of green. The same rule holds good with regard to the mixture and contrast of colors in your waistcoat or cravat. Thus, a buff waistcoat and a blue tie, or brown and blue, or brown and green, or brown and magenta, green and magenta, green and mauve, are all good arrangements of color.

Very light colored cloths for morning wear are to be avoided, even in the height of summer; and fancy cloths of strange patterns and mixtures are exceedingly objectionable.

Colored shirts may be worn in the morning; but they should be small in pattern, and quiet in color.

With a colored shirt, always wear a white collar.

Never wear a cap, unless in the fields or garden; and let your hat be always black.
For a gentleman's wedding dress see the "ETIQUETTE OF COURTSHIP AND MARRIAGE."

If your sight compels you to wear spectacles, let them be of the best and lightest make, and mounted in gold or blue steel.

If you suffer from weak sight, and are obliged to wear colored glasses, let them be of blue or smoke color. Green are detestable.

Never be seen in the street without gloves; and never let your gloves be of any material that is not kid or calf. Worsted or cotton gloves are unutterably vulgar. Your gloves should fit to the last degree of perfection.

In these days of public baths and universal progress, we trust that it is unnecessary to do more than hint at the necessity of the most fastidious personal cleanliness. The hair, the teeth, the nails, should be faultlessly kept; and a soiled shirt, a dingy pocket-handkerchief, or a light waistcoat that has been worn once too often, are things to be scrupulously avoided by any man who is ambitious of preserving the exterior of a gentleman.


In riding, as in walking, give the lady the wall.

If you assist a lady to mount, hold your hand at a convenient distance from the ground, that she may place her foot in it. As she springs, you aid her by the impetus of your hand.

In doing this, it is always better to agree upon a signal, that her spring and your assistance may come at the same moment.

For this purpose there is no better form than the old dueling one of "one, two, _three_."

When the lady is in the saddle, it is your place to find the stirrup for her, and guide her left foot to it. When this is done, she rises in her seat and you assist her to draw her habit straight.

Even when a groom is present, it is more polite for the gentleman himself to perform this office for his fair companion; as it would be more polite for him to hand her a chair than to have it handed by a servant.

If the lady be light, you must take care not to give her too much impetus in mounting. We have known a lady nearly thrown over her horse by a misplaced zeal of this kind.
In riding with a lady, never permit her to pay the tolls.

If a gate has to be opened, we need hardly observe that it is your place to hold it open till the lady has passed through.

In driving, a gentleman places himself with his back to the horses, and leaves the best seat for the ladies.

If you are alone in a carriage with a lady, never sit beside her, unless you are her husband, father, son, or brother. Even though you be her affianced lover, you should still observe this rule of etiquette. To do otherwise, would be to assume the unceremonious air of a husband.

When the carriage stops, the gentleman should alight first, in order to assist the lady.
To get in and out of a carriage gracefully is a simple but important accomplishment. If there is but one step, and you are going to take your seat facing the horses, put your left foot on the step and enter the carriage with your right in such a manner as to drop at once into your seat. If you are about to sit with your back to the horses, reverse the process. As you step into the carriage, be careful to keep your back towards the seat you are about to occupy, so as to avoid the awkwardness of turning when you are once in.

A gentleman cannot be too careful to avoid stepping on ladies' dresses when he gets in or out of a carriage. He should also beware of shutting them in with the door.


The morning party is a modern invention; it was unknown to our fathers and mothers, and even to ourselves, till quite lately. A morning party is seldom given out of the season--that is to say, during any months except those of May, June, and July. It begins about two o'clock and ends about five, and the entertainment consists for the most part of conversation, music, and (if there be a garden) croquet, lawn billiards, archery, &c. "Aunt Sally" is now out of fashion. The refreshments are given in the form of a _dejeuner a la fourchette_.

Elegant morning dress, general good manners, and some acquaintance with the topics of the day and the games above named, are all the qualifications especially necessary to a gentleman at a morning party.

An evening party begins about nine o'clock, p.m., and ends about midnight, or somewhat later. Good breeding neither demands that you should present yourself at the commencement, nor remain till the close of the evening. You come and go as may be most convenient to you, and by these means are at liberty, during the height of the season when evening parties are numerous, to present yourself at two or three houses during a single evening.

Always put your gloves on before entering the drawing-room, and be careful that there is no speck of mud upon your boots or trousers.

When your name is announced, look for the lady of the house and pay your respects to her before you even seem to see any other of your friends who may be in the room. At very large and fashionable receptions, the hostess is generally to be found near the door. Should you, however, find yourself separated by a dense crowd of guests, you are at liberty to recognize those who are near you, and those whom you encounter as you make your way slowly through the throng.

General salutations of the company are now wholly disused. In society, a man only recognizes his own friends and acquaintances.

If you are at the house of a new acquaintance and find yourself among entire strangers, remember that by so meeting under one roof you are all in a certain sense made known to one another, and should therefore converse freely, as equals. To shrink away to a side-table and affect to be absorbed in some album or illustrated work; or, if you find one unlucky acquaintance in the room, to fasten upon him like a drowning man clinging to a spar, are _gaucheries_ which no shyness can excuse. An easy and unembarrassed manner, and the self-possession requisite to open a conversation with those who happen to be near you, are the indispensable credentials of a well-bred man.

At an evening party, do not remain too long in one spot. To be afraid to move from one drawing-room to another is the sure sign of a neophyte in society.

If you have occasion to use your handkerchief, do so as noiselessly as possible. To blow your nose as if it were a trombone, or to turn your head aside when using your handkerchief, are vulgarities scrupulously to be avoided.

Never stand upon the hearth-rug with your back to the fire, either in a friend's house or your own. We have seen even well-bred men at evening parties commit this selfish and vulgar solecism.

Never offer any one the chair from which you have just risen, unless there be no other disengaged.

If when supper is announced no lady has been especially placed under your care by the hostess, offer your arm to whichever lady you may have last conversed with.

If you possess any musical accomplishments, do not wait to be pressed and entreated by your hostess, but comply immediately when she pays you the compliment of inviting you to play or sing. Remember, however, that only the lady of the house has the right to ask you. If others do so, you can put them off in some polite way; but must not comply till the hostess herself invites you.

If you sing comic songs, be careful that they are of the most unexceptionable kind, and likely to offend neither the tastes nor prejudices of the society in which you find yourself. At an evening party given expressly in honor of a distinguished lady of color, we once heard a thoughtless amateur dash into the broadly comic, but terribly appropriate nigger song of "Sally come up." Before he had got through the first verse, he had perceived his mistake, and was so overwhelmed with shame that he could scarcely preserve sufficient presence of mind to carry him through to the end.
If the party be of a small and social kind, and those games called by the French _les jeux innocents_ are proposed, do not object to join in them when invited. It may be that they demand some slight exercise of wit and readiness, and that you do not feel yourself calculated to shine in them; but it is better to seem dull than disagreeable, and those who are obliging can always find some clever neighbor to assist them in the moment of need. The game of "consequences" is one which unfortunately gives too much scope to liberty of expression. If you join in this game, we cannot too earnestly enjoin you never to write down one word which the most pure-minded woman present might not read aloud without a blush. Jests of an equivocal character are not only vulgar, but contemptible.

Impromptu charades are frequently organized at friendly parties. Unless you have really some talent for acting and some readiness of speech, you should remember that you only put others out and expose your own inability by taking part in these entertainments. Of course, if your help is really needed and you would disoblige by refusing, you must do your best, and by doing it as quietly and coolly as possible, avoid being awkward or ridiculous.

Should an impromptu polka or quadrille be got up after supper at a party where no dancing was intended, be sure not to omit putting on gloves before you stand up. It is well always to have a pair of white gloves in your pocket in case of need; but even black are better under these circumstances than none.

Even though you may take no pleasure in cards, some knowledge of the etiquette and rules belonging to the games most in vogue is necessary to you in society. If a fourth hand is wanted at a rubber, or if the rest of the company sit down to a round game, you would be deemed guilty of an impoliteness if you refused to join.

The games most commonly played in society are whist, loo, _vingt-et-un_, and speculation.

Whist requires four players.[A] A pack of cards being spread upon the table with their faces downwards, the four players draw for partners. Those who draw the two highest cards and those who draw the two lowest become partners. The lowest of all claims the deal.

Married people should not play at the same table, unless where the party is so small that it cannot be avoided. This rule supposes nothing so disgraceful to any married couple as dishonest collusion; but persons who play regularly together cannot fail to know so much of each other's mode of acting, under given circumstances, that the chances no longer remain perfectly even in favor of their adversaries.

Never play for higher stakes than you can afford to lose without regret. Cards should be resorted to for amusement only; for excitement, never.

No well-bred person ever loses temper at the card-table. You have no right to sit down to the game unless you can bear a long run of ill luck with perfect composure, and are prepared cheerfully to pass over any blunders that your partner may chance to make.
If you are an indifferent player, make a point of saying so before you join a party at whist. If the others are fine players they will be infinitely more obliged to you for declining than accepting their invitation. In any case you have no right to spoil their pleasure by your bad play.

Never let even politeness induce you to play for very high stakes. Etiquette is the minor morality of life; but it never should be allowed to outweigh the higher code of right and wrong.

Be scrupulous to observe silence when any of the company are playing or singing. Remember that they are doing this for the amusement of the rest; and that to talk at such a time is as ill-bred as if you were to turn your back upon a person who was talking to you, and begin a conversation with some one else.

If you are yourself the performer, bear in mind that in music, as in speech, "brevity is the soul of wit." Two verses of a song, or four pages of a piece, are at all times enough to give pleasure. If your audience desire more they will ask for more; and it is infinitely more flattering to be encored than to receive the thanks of your hearers, not so much in gratitude for what you have given them, but in relief that you have left off. You should try to suit your music, like your conversation, to your company. A solo of Beethoven's would be as much out of place in some circles as a comic song at a Quakers' meeting. To those who only care for the light popularities, of the season, give Balfe and Verdi, Glover and Jullien. To connoisseurs, if you perform well enough to venture, give such music as will be likely to meet the exigencies of a fine taste. Above all, attempt nothing that you cannot execute with ease and precision.

In retiring from a crowded party it is unnecessary that you should seek out the hostess for the purpose of bidding her a formal good night. By doing this you would, perhaps, remind others that it was getting late, and cause the party to break up.

If you meet the lady of the house on your way to the drawing-room door, take your leave of her as unobtrusively as possible, and slip away without attracting the attention of her other guests.

[Footnote A: For a succinct guide to whist, loo, _vingt-et-un_, speculation, &c., &c., &c., see Routledge's "Card-player," by G.F. Pardon, price _sixpence_.]


To be acquainted with every detail of the etiquette pertaining to this subject is of the highest importance to every gentleman. Ease, _savoir faire_, and good breeding are nowhere more indispensable than at the dinner-table, and the absence of them are nowhere more apparent. How to eat soup and what to do with a cherry-stone are weighty considerations when taken as the index of social status; and it is not too much to say, that a man who elected to take claret with his fish, or ate peas with his knife, would justly risk the punishment of being banished from good society. As this subject is one of the most important of which we have to treat, we may be pardoned for introducing an appropriate anecdote related by the French poet Delille:--

Delille and Marmontel were dining together in the month of April, 1786, and the conversation happened to turn upon dinner-table customs. Marmontel observed how many little things a well-bred man was obliged to know, if he would avoid being ridiculous at the tables of his friends.

"They are, indeed, innumerable," said Delille; "and the most annoying fact of all is, that not all the wit and good sense in the world can help one to divine them untaught. A little while ago, for instance, the Abbe Cosson, who is Professor of Literature at the College Mazarin, was describing to me a grand dinner to which he had been invited at Versailles, and to which he had sat down in the company of peers, princes, and marshals of France.

"'I'll wager, now,' said I, 'that you committed a hundred blunders in the etiquette of the table!'

"'How so?' replied the Abbe, somewhat nettled. 'What blunders could I make? It seems to me that I did precisely as others did.'

"'And I, on the contrary, would stake my life that you did nothing as others did. But let us begin at the beginning, and see which is right. In the first place there was your table-napkin--what did you do with that when you sat down at table?'

"'What did I do with my table-napkin? Why, I did like the rest of the guests: I shook it out of the folds, spread it before me, and fastened one corner to my button-hole.'

"'Very well, _mon cher_; you were the only person who did so. No one shakes, spreads, and fastens a table-napkin in that manner. You should have only laid it across your knees. What soup had you?'


"'And how did you eat it?'

"'Like every one else, I suppose. I took my spoon in one hand, and my fork in the other--'

"'Your fork! Good heavens! None but a savage eats soup with a fork. But go on. What did you take next?'

"'A boiled egg.'

"'Good and what did you do with the shell?'

"'Not eat it certainly. I left it, of course, in the egg-cup.'

"'Without breaking it through with your spoon?'

"'Without breaking it.'

"'Then, my dear fellow, permit me to tell you that no one eats an egg without breaking the shell and leaving the spoon standing in it. And after your egg?'

"'I asked for some _bouilli_.'

"'For _boulli_! It is a term that no one uses. You should have asked for beef--never for _boulli_. Well, and after the _bouilli_?'

"'I asked the Abbe de Radonvillais for some fowl.'

"'Wretched man! Fowl, indeed! You should have asked for chicken or capon. The word "fowl" is never heard out of the kitchen. But all this applies only to what you ate; tell me something of what you drank, and how you asked for it.'

"'I asked for champagne and Bordeaux from those who had the bottles before them.'

"'Know then, my good friend, that only a waiter, who has no time or breath to spare, asks for champagne or Bordeaux. A gentleman asks for _vin de Champagne_ and _vin de Bordeaux_. And now inform me how you ate your bread?'

"'Undoubtedly like all the rest of the world. I cut it up into small square pieces with my knife.'

"'Then let me tell you that no one cuts bread. You should always break it. Let us go on to the coffee. How did you drink yours?'

"'Pshaw! At least I could make no mistake in that. It was boiling hot, so I poured it, a little at a time, in the saucer, and drank it as it cooled.'

"'_Eh bien_! then you assuredly acted as no other gentleman in the room. Nothing can be more vulgar than to pour tea or coffee into a saucer. You should have waited till it cooled, and then have drank it from the cup. And now you see, my dear cousin, that, so far from doing precisely as others did, you acted in no one respect according to the laws prescribed by etiquette.'"

An invitation to dine should be replied to immediately, and unequivocally accepted or declined. Once accepted, nothing but an event of the last importance should cause you to fail in your engagement.

To be exactly punctual is the strictest politeness on these occasions. If you are too early, you are in the way; if too late, you spoil the dinner, annoy the hostess, and are hated by the rest of the guests. Some authorities are even of opinion that in the question of a dinner-party "never" is better than "late;" and one author has gone so far as to say, if you do not reach the house till dinner is served, you had better retire to a restaurateur's, and thence send an apology, and not interrupt the harmony of the courses by awkward excuses and cold acceptance.

When the party is assembled, the mistress or master of the house will point out to each gentleman the lady whom he is to conduct to table. If she be a stranger, you had better seek an introduction; if a previous acquaintance, take care to be near her when the dinner is announced, offer your arm, and go down according to precedence of rank. This order of precedence must be arranged by the host or hostess, as the guests are probably unacquainted, and cannot know each other's social rank.

When the society is of a distinguished kind, the host will do well to consult Debrett or Burke, before arranging his visitors.

When rank is not in question, other claims to precedence must be considered. The lady who is the greatest stranger should be taken down by the master of the house, and the gentleman who is the greatest stranger should conduct the hostess. Married ladies take precedence of single ladies, elder ladies of younger ones, and so forth.

When dinner is announced, the host offers his arm to the lady of most distinction, invites the rest to follow by a few words or a bow, and leads the way. The lady of the house should then follow with the gentleman who is most entitled to that honor, and the visitors follow in the order that the master of the house has previously arranged. The lady of the house frequently remains, however, till the last, that she may see her guests go down in their prescribed order; but the plan is not a convenient one. It is much better that the hostess should be in her place as the guests enter the dining-room, in order that she may indicate their seats to them as they come in, and not find them all crowded together in uncertainty when she arrives.

The number of guests at a dinner-party should always be determined by the size of the table. When the party is too small, conversation flags, and a general air of desolation pervades the table. When they are too many, every one is inconvenienced. A space of two feet should be allowed to each person. It is well to arrange a party in such wise that the number of ladies and gentlemen be equal.

It requires some tact to distribute your guests so that each shall find himself with a neighbor to his taste; but as much of the success of a dinner will always depend on this matter, it is worth some consideration. If you have a wit, or a particularly good talker, among your visitors, it is well to place him near the centre of the table, where he can be heard and talked to by all. It is obviously a bad plan to place two such persons in close proximity. They extinguish each other. Neither is it advisable to assign two neighboring seats to two gentlemen of the same profession, as they are likely to fall into exclusive conversation and amuse no one but themselves. A little consideration of the politics, religious opinions, and tastes of his friends, will enable a judicious host to avoid many quicksands, and establish much pleasant intercourse on the occasion of a dinner party.

The lady of the house takes the head of the table. The gentleman who led her down to dinner occupies the seat on her right hand, and the gentleman next in order of precedence, that on her left. The master of the house takes the foot of the table. The lady whom he escorted sits on his right hand, and the lady next in order of precedence on his left.

The gentlemen who support the lady of the house should offer to relieve her of the duties of hostess. Many ladies are well pleased thus to delegate the difficulties of carving, and all gentlemen who accept invitations to dinner should be prepared to render such assistance when called upon. To offer to carve a dish, and then perform the office unskillfully, is an unpardonable _gaucherie_. Every gentleman should carve, and carve well.

As soon as you are seated at table, remove your gloves, place your table napkin across your knees, and remove the roll which you find probably within it to the left side of your plate.

The soup should be placed on the table first. Some old-fashioned persons still place soup and fish together; but "it is a custom more honored in the breach than the observance." Still more old-fashioned, and in still worse taste is it to ask your guests if they will take "soup or fish." They are as much separate courses as the fish and the meat; and all experienced diners take both. In any case, it is inhospitable to appear to force a choice upon a visitor, when that visitor, in all probability, will prefer to take his soup first and his fish afterwards. All well-ordered dinners begin with soup, whether in summer or winter. The lady of the house should help it and send it round, without asking each individual in turn. It is as much an understood thing as the bread beside each plate, and those who do not choose it, are always at liberty to leave it untasted.
In eating soup, remember always to take it from the side of the spoon, and to make no sound in doing so.

If the servants do not go round with wine the gentlemen should help the ladies and themselves to sherry or sauterne immediately after the soup.

You should never ask for a second supply of either soup or fish; it delays the next course, and keeps the table waiting.

Never offer to "assist" your neighbors to this or that dish. The word is inexpressibly vulgar--all the more vulgar for its affectation of elegance. "Shall I send you some mutton?" or "may I help you to grouse?" is better chosen and better bred.

As a general rule, it is better not to ask your guests if they will partake of the dishes; but to send the plates round, and let them accept or decline them as they please. At very large dinners it is sometimes customary to distribute little lists of the order of the dishes at intervals along the table. It must be confessed that this gives somewhat the air of a dinner at an hotel; but it has the advantage of enabling the visitors to select their fare, and, as "forewarned is forearmed," to keep a corner, as the children say, for their favorite dishes.

If you are asked to take wine, it is polite to select the same as that which your interlocutor is drinking. If you invite a lady to take wine, you should ask her which she will prefer, and then take the same yourself. Should you, however, for any reason prefer some other vintage, you can take it by courteously requesting her permission.
As soon as you are helped, begin to eat; or, if the viands are too hot for your palate, take up your knife and fork and appear to begin. To wait for others is now not only old-fashioned, but ill-bred.

Never offer to pass on the plate to which you have been helped. This is a still more vulgar piece of politeness, and belongs to the manners of a hundred years ago. The lady of the house who sends your plate to you is the best judge of precedence at her own table.

In helping soup, fish, or any other dish, remember that to overfill a plate is as bad as to supply it too scantily.

Silver fish-knives will now always be met with at the best tables; but where there are none, a piece of crust should be taken in the left hand, and the fork in the right. There is no exception to this rule in eating fish.

We presume it is scarcely necessary to remind the reader that he is never, under any circumstances, to convey his knife to his mouth. Peas are eaten with the fork; tarts, curry, and puddings of all kinds with the spoon.

Always help fish with a fish-slice, and tart and puddings with a spoon, or, if necessary, a spoon and fork.

Asparagus must be helped with the asparagus-tongs.

In eating asparagus, it is well to observe what others do, and act accordingly. Some very well-bred people eat it with the fingers; others cut off the heads, and convey them to the mouth upon the fork. It would be difficult to say which is the more correct.
In eating stone fruit, such as cherries, damsons, &c., the same rule had better be observed. Some put the stones out from the mouth into a spoon, and so convey them to the plate. Others cover the lips with the hand, drop them unseen into the palm, and so deposit them on the side of the plate. In our own opinion, the last is the better way, as it effectually conceals the return of the stones, which is certainly the point of highest importance. Of one thing we may be sure, and that is, that they must never be dropped from the mouth to the plate.

In helping sauce, always pour it on the side of the plate.

If the servants do not go round with the wine (which is by far the best custom), the gentlemen at a dinner-table should take upon themselves the office of helping those ladies who sit near them. Ladies take more wine in the present day than they did fifty years ago, and gentlemen should remember this, and offer it frequently. Ladies cannot very well ask for wine, but they can always decline it. At all events, they do not like to be neglected, or to see gentlemen liberally helping themselves, without observing whether their fair neighbors' glasses are full or empty. Young ladies seldom drink more than three glasses of wine at dinner; but married ladies, professional ladies, and those accustomed to society, and habits of affluence, will habitually take five or even six, whether in their own homes or at the tables of their friends.

The habit of taking wine with each other has almost wholly gone out of fashion. A gentleman may ask the lady whom he conducted down to dinner; or he may ask the lady of the house to take wine with him. But even these last remnants of the old custom are fast falling into disuse.

Unless you are a total abstainer, it is extremely uncivil to decline taking wine if you are invited to do so. In accepting, you have only to pour a little fresh wine into your glass, look at the person who invited you, bow slightly, and take a sip from the glass.
It is particularly ill-bred to empty your glass on these occasions.

Certain wines are taken with certain dishes, by old-established custom--as sherry, or sauterne, with soup and fish; hock and claret with roast meat; punch with turtle; champagne with whitebait; port with venison; port, or burgundy, with game; sparkling wines between the roast and the confectionery; Madeira with sweets; port with cheese; and for dessert, port, tokay, Madeira, sherry, and claret. Red wines should never be iced, even in summer. Claret and burgundy should always be slightly warmed; claret-cup and champagne-cup should, of course, be iced.

Instead of cooling their wines in the ice-pail, some hosts have of late years introduced clear ice upon the table, broken up in small lumps, to be put inside the glasses. This is an innovation that cannot be too strictly reprehended or too soon abolished. Melting ice can but weaken the quality and flavor of the wine. Those who desire to drink _wine and_ _water_ can asked for iced water if they choose, but it savors too much of economy on the part of a host to insinuate the ice inside the glasses of his guests, when the wine could be more effectually iced outside the bottle.

A silver knife and fork should be placed to each guest at dessert.

If you are asked to prepare fruit for a lady, be careful to do so, by means of the silver knife and fork only, and never to touch it with your fingers.

It is wise never to partake of any dish without knowing of what ingredients it is composed. You can always ask the servant who hands it to you, and you thereby avoid all danger of having to commit the impoliteness of leaving it, and showing that you do not approve of it.

Never speak while you have anything in your mouth.

Be careful never to taste soups or puddings till you are sure they are sufficiently cool; as, by disregarding this caution, you may be compelled to swallow what is dangerously hot, or be driven to the unpardonable alternative of returning it to your plate.

When eating or drinking, avoid every kind of audible testimony to the fact.

Finger-glasses, containing water slightly warmed and perfumed, are placed to each person at dessert. In these you may dip the tips of your fingers, wiping them afterwards on your table-napkin. If the finger-glass and d'Oyley are placed on your dessert-plate, you should immediately remove the d'Oyley to the left of your plate, and place the finger-glass upon it. By these means you leave the right for the wine-glasses.

Be careful to know the shapes of the various kinds of wine-glasses commonly in use, in order that you may never put forward one for another. High and narrow, and very broad and shallow glasses, are used for champagne; large, goblet-shaped glasses for burgundy and claret; ordinary wine-glasses for sherry and Madeira; green glasses for hock; and somewhat large, bell-shaped glasses, for port.

Port, sherry, and Madeira, are decanted. Hocks and champagnes appear in their native bottles. Claret and burgundy are handed round in a claret-jug.

Coffee and liqueurs should be handed round when the dessert has been about a quarter of an hour on the table. After this, the ladies generally retire.

Should no servant be present to do so, the gentleman who is nearest the door should hold it for the ladies to pass through.

When the ladies leave the dining-room, the gentlemen all rise in their places, and do not resume their seats till the last lady is gone.

The servants leave the room when the dessert is on the table.

If you should unfortunately overturn or break anything, do not apologize for it. You can show your regret in your face, but it is not well-bred to put it into words.

Should you injure a lady's dress, apologize amply, and assist her, if possible, to remove all traces of the damage.

To abstain from taking the last piece on the dish, or the last glass of wine in the decanter, only because it is the last, is highly ill-bred. It implies a fear that the vacancy cannot be supplied, and almost conveys an affront to your host.

In summing up the little duties and laws of the table, a popular author has said that--"The chief matter of consideration at the dinner-table--as, indeed, everywhere else in the life of a gentleman--is to be perfectly composed and at his ease. He speaks deliberately; he performs the most important act of the day as if he were performing the most ordinary. Yet there is no appearance of trifling or want of gravity in his manner; he maintains the dignity which is so becoming on so vital an occasion. He performs all the ceremonies, yet in the style of one who performs no ceremonies at all. He goes through all the complicated duties of the scene as if he were 'to the manner born.'"

To the giver of a dinner we have but one or two remarks to offer. If he be a bachelor, he had better give his dinner at a good hotel, or have it sent in from Birch's or Kuehn's. If a married man, he will, we presume, enter into council with his wife and his cook. In any case, however, he should always bear in mind that it is his duty to entertain his friends in the best manner that his means permit; and that this is the least he can do to recompense them for the expenditure of time and money which they incur in accepting his invitation.

"To invite a friend to dinner," says Brillat Savarin, "is to become responsible for his happiness so long as he is under your roof." Again:--"He who receives friends at his table, without having bestowed his personal supervision upon the repast placed before them, is unworthy to have friends."

A dinner, to be excellent, need not consist of a great variety of dishes; but everything should be of the best, and the cookery should be perfect. That which should be cool should be cool as ice; that which should be hot should be smoking; the attendance should be rapid and noiseless; the guests well assorted; the wines of the best quality; the host attentive and courteous; the room well lighted; and the time punctual.
Every dinner should begin with soup, be followed by fish, and include some kind of game. "The soup is to the dinner," we are told by Grisnod de la Regniere, "what the portico is to a building, or the overture to an opera."

To this aphorism we may be permitted to add that a _chasse_ of cognac or curacoa at the close of the dinner is like the epilogue at the end of a comedy.

One more quotation and we have done:--"To perform faultlessly the honors of the table is one of the most difficult things in society. It might indeed he asserted without much fear of contradiction, that no man has as yet ever reached exact propriety in his office as host, or has hit the mean between exerting himself too much and too little. His great business is to put every one entirely at his ease, to gratify all his desires, and make him, in a word, absolutely contented with men and things. To accomplish this, he must have the genius of tact to perceive, and the genius of finesse to execute; ease and frankness of manner; a knowledge of the world that nothing can surprise; a calmness of temper that nothing can disturb; and a kindness of disposition that can never be exhausted. When he receives others he must be content to forget himself; he must relinquish all desire to shine, and even all attempts to please his guests by conversation, and rather do all in his power to let them please one another. He behaves to them without agitation, without affectation; he pays attention without an air of protection; he encourages the timid, draws out the silent, and directs conversation without sustaining it himself. He who does not do all this is wanting in his duty as host--_he who does, is more than mortal_."

In conclusion, we may observe that to sit long in the dining-room after the ladies have retired is to pay a bad compliment to the hostess and her fair visitors; and that it is a still worse tribute to rejoin them with a flushed face and impaired powers of thought. A refined gentleman is always temperate.


Invitations to a ball are issued at least ten days in advance; and this term is sometimes, in the height of the season, extended to three weeks, or even a month.

An invitation should be accepted or declined within a day or two of its reception.
Gentlemen who do not dance should not accept invitations of this kind. They are but encumbrances in the ball-room, besides which, it looks like a breach of etiquette and courtesy to stand or sit idly by when there are, most probably, ladies in the room who are waiting for an invitation to dance.

A ball generally begins about half-past nine or ten o'clock.

A man who stands up to dance without being acquainted with the figures, makes himself ridiculous, and places his partner in an embarrassing and unenviable position. There is no need for him to know the steps. It is enough if he knows how to walk gracefully through the dance, and to conduct his partner through it like a gentleman. No man can waltz too well; but to perform steps in a quadrille is not only unnecessary but _outre_.

A gentleman cannot ask a lady to dance without being first introduced to her by some member of the hostess's family.

Never enter a ball-room in other than full evening dress, and white or light kid gloves.
A gentleman cannot be too careful not to injure a lady's dress. The young men of the present day are inconceivably thoughtless in this respect, and often seem to think the mischief which they do scarcely worth an apology. Cavalry officers should never wear spurs in a ball-room.

Bear in mind that all _Casino_ habits are to be scrupulously avoided in a private ball-room. It is an affront to a highly-bred lady to hold her hand behind you, or on your hip, when dancing a round dance. We have seen even aristocratic young men of the "fast" genus commit these unpardonable offences against taste and decorum.

Never forget a ball-room engagement. It is the greatest neglect and slight that a gentleman can offer to a lady.

At the beginning and end of a quadrille the gentleman bows to his partner, and bows again on handing her to a seat.

After dancing, the gentleman may offer to conduct the lady to the refreshment-room.
Should a lady decline your hand for a dance, and afterwards stand up with another partner, you will do well to attribute her error to either forgetfulness or ignorance of the laws of etiquette. Politeness towards your host and hostess demands that you should never make any little personal grievance the ground of discomfort or disagreement.

A gentleman conducts his last partner to supper; waits upon her till she has had as much refreshment as she desires, and then re-conducts her to the ball-room.
However much pleasure you may take in the society of any particular lady, etiquette forbids that you should dance with her too frequently. Engaged persons would do well to bear this maxim in mind.

It is customary to call upon your entertainers within a few days after the ball.[A]

[Footnote A: For a more detailed account of the laws and business of the ball, see the chapters entitled "The Ball-room Guide."]


A visitor is bound by the laws of social intercourse to conform in all respects to the habits of the house. In order to do this effectually, he should inquire, or cause his personal servant to inquire, what those habits are. To keep your friend's breakfast on the table till a late hour; to delay the dinner by want of punctuality; to accept other invitations, and treat his house as if it were merely an hotel to be slept in; or to keep the family up till unwonted hours, are alike evidences of a want of good feeling and good breeding.

At breakfast and lunch absolute punctuality is not imperative; but a visitor should avoid being always the last to appear at table.

No order of precedence is observed at either breakfast or luncheon. Persons take their seats as they come in, and, having exchanged their morning salutations, begin to eat without waiting for the rest of the party.

If letters are delivered to you at breakfast or luncheon, you may read them by asking permission from the lady who presides at the urn.

Always hold yourself at the disposal of those in whose house you are visiting. If they propose to ride, drive, walk, or otherwise occupy the day, you may take it for granted that these plans are made with reference to your enjoyment. You should, therefore, receive them with cheerfulness, enter into them with alacrity, and do your best to seem pleased, and be pleased, by the efforts which your friends make to entertain you.

You should never take a book from the library to your own room without requesting permission to borrow it. When it is lent, you should take every care that it sustains no injury while in your possession, and should cover it, if necessary.

A guest should endeavor to amuse himself as much as possible, and not be continually dependent on his hosts for entertainment. He should remember that, however welcome he may be, he is not always wanted. During the morning hours a gentleman visitor who neither shoots, reads, writes letters, nor does anything but idle about the house and chat with the ladies, is an intolerable nuisance. Sooner than become the latter, he had better retire to the billiard-room and practice cannons by himself, or pretend an engagement and walk about the neighborhood.

Those who receive "staying visitors," as they are called, should remember that the truest hospitality is that which places the visitor most at his ease, and affords him the greatest opportunity for enjoyment. They should also remember that different persons have different ideas on the subject of enjoyment, and that the surest way of making a guest happy is to find out what gives him pleasure; not to impose that upon him which is pleasure to themselves.

A visitor should avoid giving unnecessary trouble to the servants of the house, and should be liberal to them when he leaves.

The signal for retiring to rest is generally given by the appearance of the servant with wine, water, and biscuits, where a late dinner-hour is observed and suppers are not the custom. This is the last refreshment of the evening, and the visitor will do well to rise and wish good-night shortly after it has been partaken of by the family.


In entering a morning exhibition, or public room, where ladies are present, the gentleman should lift his hat.

In going upstairs the gentleman should precede the lady; in going down, he should follow her.

If you accompany ladies to a theatre or concert-room, precede them to clear the way and secure their seats.

Do not frequently repeat the name of the person with whom you are conversing. It implies either the extreme of _hauteur_ or familiarity. We have already cautioned you against the repetition of titles. Deference can always be better expressed in the voice, manner, and countenance than in any forms of words.

If when you are walking with a lady in any crowded thoroughfare you are obliged to proceed singly, always precede her.

Always give the lady the wall; by doing so you interpose your own person between her and the passers by, and assign her the cleanest part of the pavement.

At public balls, theatres, &c., a gentleman should never permit the lady to pay for refreshments, vehicles, and so forth. If she insists on repaying him afterwards, he must of course defer to her wishes.

Never speak of absent persons by only their Christian or surnames; but always as Mr. ---- or Mrs. ----. Above all, never name anybody by the first letter of his name. Married people are sometimes guilty of this flagrant offence against taste.

If you are smoking and meet a lady to whom you wish to speak, immediately throw away your cigar.

Do not smoke shortly before entering the presence of ladies.

A young man who visits frequently at the house of a married friend may be permitted to show his sense of the kindness which he receives by the gift of a Christmas or New Year's volume to the wife or daughter of his entertainer. The presentation of _Etrennes_ is now carried to a ruinous and ludicrous height among our French neighbors; but it should be remembered that, without either ostentation or folly, a gift ought to be worth offering. It is better to give nothing than too little. On the other hand, mere costliness does not constitute the soul of a present; on the contrary, it has the commercial and unflattering effect of repayment for value received.

A gift should be precious for something better than its price. It may have been brought by the giver from some far or famous place; it may be unique in its workmanship; it may be valuable only from association with some great man or strange event. Autographic papers, foreign curiosities, and the like, are elegant gifts. An author may offer his book, or a painter a sketch, with grace and propriety. Offerings of flowers and game are unexceptionable, and may be made even to those whose position is superior to that of the giver.

If you present a book to a friend, do not write his or her name in it, unless requested. You have no right to presume that it will be rendered any the more valuable for that addition; and you ought not to conclude beforehand that your gift will be accepted.
Never refuse a present unless under very exceptional circumstances. However humble the giver, and however poor the gift, you should appreciate the goodwill and intention, and accept it with kindness and thanks. Never say "I fear I rob you," or "I am really ashamed to take it," &c., &c. Such deprecatory phrases imply that you think the bestower of the gift cannot spare or afford it.

Never undervalue the gift which you are yourself offering; you have no business to offer it if it is valueless. Neither say that you do not want it yourself, or that you should throw it away if it were not accepted. Such apologies would be insults if true, and mean nothing if false.

No compliment that bears insincerity on the face of it is a compliment at all.

To yawn in the presence of others, to lounge, to put your feet on a chair, to stand with your back to the fire, to take the most comfortable seat in the room, to do anything which shows indifference, selfishness, or disrespect, is unequivocally vulgar and inadmissible.

If a person of greater age or higher rank than yourself desires you to step first into a carriage, or through a door, it is more polite to bow and obey than to decline.
Compliance with, and deference to, the wishes of others is the finest breeding.
When you cannot agree with the propositions advanced in general conversation, be silent. If pressed for your opinion, give it with modesty. Never defend your own views too warmly. When you find others remain unconvinced, drop the subject, or lead to some other topic.

Look at those who address you.

Never boast of your birth, your money, your grand friends, or anything that is yours. If you have traveled, do not introduce that information into your conversation at every opportunity. Any one can travel with money and leisure. The real distinction is to come home with enlarged views, improved tastes, and a mind free from prejudice.

Give a foreigner his name in full, as Monsieur de Vigny--never as _Monsieur_ only. In speaking of him, give him his title, if he has one. Foreign noblemen are addressed _viva voce_ as Monsieur. In speaking of a foreign nobleman before his face, say Monsieur le Comte, or Monsieur le Marquis. In his absence, say Monsieur le Comte de Vigny.

Converse with a foreigner in his own language. If not competent to do so, apologize, and beg permission to speak English.


Page Last Updated February 11, 2008