WHO was it that saidin the Victorian era probably, and a man of courseThe only mechanical tool ever needed by a woman is a hair-pin? He might have added that with a hair-pin and a visiting card, she is ready to meet most emergencies.
Although the principal use of a visiting card, at least the one for which it was originally inventedto be left as an evidence of one persons presence at the house of anotheris going gradually out of ardent favor in fashionable circles, its usefulness seems to keep a nicely adjusted balance. In New York, for instance, the visiting card has entirely taken the place of the written note of invitation to informal parties of every description. Messages of condolence or congratulation are written on it; it is used as an endorsement in the giving of an order; it is even tacked on the outside of express boxes. The only employment of it which is not as flourishing as formerly is its being left in quantities and with frequency at the doors of acquaintances. This will be explained further on.
The card of a lady is usually from about 2 3/4 to 3 1/2 inches wide, by 2 to 2 3/4 inches high, but there is no fixed rule. The card of a young girl is smaller and more nearly square in shape. (About 2 inches high by 2 1/2 or 2 5/8 inches long, depending upon the length of the name.) Young girls use smaller cards than older ladies. A gentlemans card is long and narrow, from 2 7/8 to 3 1/4 inches long, and from 1 1/4 to 1 5/8 inches high. All visiting cards are engraved on white unglazed bristol board, which may be of medium thickness or thin, as one fancies. A few years ago there was a fad for cards as thin as writing paper, but one seldom sees them in America now. The advantage of a thin card is that a greater quantity may be carried easily.
The engraving most in use to-day is shaded block. Script is seldom seen, but it is always good form and so is plain block, but with the exception of old English all ornate lettering should be avoided. All people who live in cities should have the address in the lower right corner, engraved in smaller letters than the name. In the country, addresses are not important, as every one knows where every one else lives. People who have town and country houses usually have separate cards, though not necessarily a separate plate.
It is not customary for a married man to have a club address on his card, and it would be serviceable only in giving a card of introduction to a business acquaintance, under social rather than business circumstances, or in paying a formal call upon a political or business associate. Unmarried men often use no other address than that of a club; especially if they live in bachelors quarters, but young men who live at home use their home address.
To be impeccably correct, initials should not be engraved on a visiting card. A gentlemans card should read: Mr. John Hunter Titherington Smith, but since names are sometimes awkwardly long, and it is the American custom to cling to each and every one given in baptism, he asserts his possessions by representing each one with an initial, and engraves his cards Mr. John H. T. Smith, or Mr. J. H. Titherington Smith, as suits his fancy. So, although, according to high authorities, he should drop a name or two and be Mr. Hunter Smith, or Mr. Titherington Smith, it is very likely that to the end of time the American man, and necessarily his wife, who must use the name as he does, will go on cherishing initials.
And a widow no less than a married woman should always continue to use her husbands Christian name, or his name and another initial, engraved on her cards. She is Mrs. John Hunter Titherington Smith, or, to compromise, Mrs. J. H. Titherington Smith, but she is never Mrs. Sarah Smith; at least not anywhere in good society. In business and in legal matters a woman is necessarily addressed by her own Christian name, because she uses it in her signature. But no one should ever address an envelope, except from a bank or a lawyers office, Mrs. Sarah Smith. When a widows son, who has the name of his father, marries, the widow has Sr. added to her own name, or if she is the head of the family, she very often omits all Christian names, and has her card engraved Mrs. Smith, and the sons wife calls herself Mrs. John Hunter Smith. Smith is not a very good name as an example, since no one could very well claim the distinction of being the Mrs. Smith. It, however, illustrates the point.
For the daughter-in-law to continue to use a card with Jr. on it when her husband no longer uses Jr. on his, is a mistake made by many people. A wife always bears the name of her husband. To have a man and his mother use cards engraved respectively Mr. J. H. Smith and Mrs. J. H. Smith and the sons wife a card engraved Mrs. J. H. Smith, Jr., would announce to whomever the three cards were left upon, that Mr. and Mrs. Smith and their daughter-in-law had called.
The fact that a mans name has Jr. added at the end in no way takes the place of Mr. His card should be engraved Mr. John Hunter Smith, Jr., and his wifes Mrs. John Hunter Smith, Jr. Some people have the Jr. written out, junior. It is not spelled with a capital J if written in full.
A boy puts Mr. on his cards when he leaves school though many use cards without Mr. on them while in college. A doctor, or a judge, or a minister, or a military officer have their cards engraved with the abbreviation of their title: Dr. Henry Gordon; Judge Horace Rush; The Rev. William Goode; Col. Thomas Doyle.
A woman who has divorced her husband retains the legal as well as the social right to use her husbands full name, in New York State at least. Usually she prefers, if her name was Alice Green, to call herself Mrs. Green Smith; not Mrs. Alice Smith, and on no account Mrs. Alice Greenunless she wishes to give the impression that she was the guilty one in the divorce.
That very little children should have visiting cards is not so silly as might at first thought be supposed. To acquire perfect manners, and those graces of deportment that Lord Chesterfield so ardently tried to instil into his son, training can not begin early enough, since it is through lifelong familiarity with the niceties of etiquette that much of the distinction of those to the manner born is acquired.
At the rehearsal of a wedding, the tiny twin flower girls came carrying their wedding present for the bride between them, to which they had themselves attached their own small visiting cards. One card was bordered and engraved in pink, and the other bordered and engraved in blue, and the address on each read Chez Maman.
And in going to see a new baby cousin each brought a small 1830 bouquet, and sent to their aunt their cards, on which, after seeing the baby, one had printed He is very little, and the other, It has a red face. This shows that if modern society believes in beginning social training in the nursery, it does not believe in hampering a childs natural expression.
The card on which a débutantes name is engraved under that of her mother, is used most frequently when no coming-out entertainment has been given for the daughter. Her name on her mothers card announces, wherever it is left, that the daughter is grown and eligible for invitations. In the same way a mother may leave her sons card with her own upon any of her own friendsespecially upon those likely to entertain for young people. This is the custom if a young man has been away at school and college for so long that he has not a large acquaintance of his own. It is, however, correct under any circumstances when formally leaving cards to leave those of all sons and daughters who are grown.
This is merely a visiting card, whether of a lady or a gentleman, on which the initials P. P. C. (pour prendre congéto take leave) are written in ink in the lower left corner. This is usually left at the door, or sent by mail to acquaintances, when one is leaving for the season, or for good. It never takes the place of a farewell visit when one has received especial courtesy, nor is it in any sense a message of thanks for especial kindness. In either of these instances, a visit should be paid or a note of farewell and thanks written.
When not intending to go to a tea or a wedding reception (the invitation to which did not have R. s. v. p. on it and require an answer), one should mail cards to the hostess so as to arrive on the morning of the entertainment. To a tea given for a débutante cards are enclosed in one envelope and addressed:
Not so many years ago, a lady or gentleman, young girl or youth, who failed to pay her or his party call after having been invited to Mrs. Social-Leaders ball was left out of her list when she gave her next one. For the old-fashioned hostess kept her visiting list with the precision of a bookkeeper in a bank; everyones credit was entered or cancelled according to the presence of her or his cards in the card receiver. Young people who liked to be asked to her house were apt to leave an extra one at the door, on occasion, so that theirs should not be among the missing when the new list for the season was made upespecially as the more important old ladies were very quick to strike a name off, but seldom if ever known to put one back.
But about twenty years ago the era of informality set in and has been gaining ground ever since. In certain cities old-fashioned hostesses, it is said, exclude delinquents. But New York is too exotic and intractable, and the too exacting hostess is likely to find her tapestried rooms rather empty, while the younger world of fashion flocks to the crystal-fountained ballroom of the new Spendeasy Westerns. And then, too, life holds so many other diversions and interests for the very type of youth which of necessity is the vital essence of all social gaiety. Society can have distinction and dignity without youthbut not gaiety. The country with its outdoor sports, its freedom from exacting conventions, has gradually deflected the interest of the younger fashionables, until at present they care very little whether Mrs. Toplofty and Mrs. Social-Leader ask them to their balls or not. They are glad enough to go, of course, but they dont care enough for invitations to pay dull visits and to live up to the conventions of manners that old-fashioned hostesses demand. And as these rebels are invariably the most attractive and the most eligible youths, it has become almost an issue; a hostess must in many cases either invite none but older people and the few young girls and men whose mothers have left cards for them, or ignore convention and invite the rebels.
In trying to find out where the present indifference started, many ascribe it to Bobo Gilding, to whom entering a great drawing-room was more suggestive of the daily afternoon tea ordeal of his early nursery days, than a voluntary act of pleasure. He was long ago one of the first to rebel against old Mrs. Toploftys exactions of party calls, by saying he did not care in the least whether his great-aunt Jane Toplofty invited him to her stodgy old ball or not. And then Lucy Wellborn (the present Mrs. Bobo Gilding) did not care much to go either if none of her particular men friends were to be there. Little she cared to dance the cotillion with old Colonel Bluffington or to go to supper with that odious Hector Newman.
And so, beginning first with a few gilded youths, then including young society, the habit has spread until the obligatory paying of visits by young girls and men has almost joined the once universal day at home as belonging to a past age. Do not understand by this that visits are never paid on other occasions. Visits to strangers, visits of condolence, and of other courtesies are still paid, quite as punctiliously as ever. But within the walls of society itself, the visit of formality is decreasing. One might almost say that in certain cities society has become a family affair. Its walls are as high as ever, higher perhaps to outsiders, but among its own members, such customs as keeping visiting lists and having days at home, or even knowing who owes a visit to whom, is not only unobserved but is unheard of.
But because punctilious card-leaving, visiting, and days at home have gone out of fashion in New York, is no reason why these really important observances should not be, or are not, in the height of fashion elsewhere. Nor, on the other hand, must anyone suppose because the younger fashionables in New York pay few visits and never have days at home, that they are a bit less careful about the things which they happen to consider essential to good-breeding.
The best type of young men pay few, if any, party calls, because they work and they exercise, and whatever time is left over, if any, is spent in their club or at the house of a young woman, not tête-a-tête, but invariably playing bridge. The Sunday afternoon visits that the youth of another generation used always to pay, are unknown in this, because every man who can, spends the week-end in the country.
It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that not alone men, but many young married women of highest social position, except to send with flowers or wedding presents, do not use a dozen visiting cards a year. But there are circumstances when even the most indifferent to social obligations must leave cards.
Etiquette absolutely demands that one leave a card within a few days after taking a first meal in a ladys house; or if one has for the first time been invited to lunch or dine with strangers, it is inexcusably rude not to leave a card upon them, whether one accepted the invitation or not.
One must also unfailingly return a first call, even if one does not care for the acquaintance. Only a real cause can excuse the affront to an innocent stranger that the refusal to return a first call would imply. If one does not care to continue the acquaintance, one need not pay a second visit.
Also a card is always left with a first invitation. Supposing Miss Philadelphia takes a letter of introduction to Mrs. NewportMrs. Newport, inviting Miss Philadelphia to her house, would not think of sending her invitation without also leaving her card. Good form demands that a visit be paid before issuing a first invitation. Sometimes a note of explanation is sent asking that the formality be waived, but it is never disregarded, except in the case of an invitation from an older lady to a young girl. Mrs. Worldly, for instance, who has known Jim Smartlington always, might, instead of calling on Mary Smith, to whom his engagement is announced, write her a note, asking her to lunch or dinner. But in inviting Mrs. Greatlake of Chicago she would leave her card with her invitation at Mrs. Greatlakes hotel.
It seems scarcely necessary to add that anyone not entirely heartless must leave a card on, or send flowers to, an acquaintance who has suffered a recent bereavement. One should also leave cards of inquiry or send flowers to sick people.
Books on etiquette seem agreed that sending an invitation does not cancel the obligation of paying a visitwhich may be technically correctbut fashionable people, who are in the habit of lunching or dining with each other two or three times a season, pay no attention to visits whatever. Mrs. Norman calls on Mrs. Gilding. Mrs. Gilding invites the Normans to dinner. They go. A short time afterward Mrs. Norman invites the Gildingsor the Gildings very likely again invite the Normans. Some evening at all events, the Gildings dine with the Normans. Someday, if Mrs. Gilding happens to be leaving cards, she may leave them at the Normansor she may not. Some people leave cards almost like the hares in a paper chase; others seldom if ever do. Except on the occasions mentioned in the paragraph before this, or unless there is an illness, a death, a birth, or a marriage, people in society invite each other to their houses and dont leave cards at all. Nor do they ever consider whose turn it is to invite whom.
When a servant at a door says Not at home, this phrase means that the lady of the house is Not at home to visitors. This answer neither signifies nor impliesnor is it intended tothat Mrs. Jones is out of the house. Some people say Not receiving, which means actually the same thing, but the not at home is infinitely more polite; since in the former you know she is in the house but wont see you, whereas in the latter case you have the pleasant uncertainty that it is quite possible she is out.
To be told Mrs. Jones is at home but doesnt want to see you, would certainly be unpleasant. And to beg to be excusedexcept in a case of illness or bereavementhas something very suggestive of a cold shoulder. But not at home means that she is not sitting in the drawing room behind her tea tray; that and nothing else. She may be out or she may be lying down or otherwise occupied. Nor do people of the world find the slightest objection if a hostess, happening to recognize the visitor as a particular friend, calls out, Do come in! I am at home to you! Anyone who talks about this phrase as being a white lie either doesnt understand the meaning of the words, or is going very far afield to look for untruth. To be consistent, these over-literals should also exact that when a guest inadvertently knocks over a tea cup and stains a sofa, the hostess instead of saying It is nothing at all! Please dont worry about it, ought for the sake of truth to say, See what your clumsiness has done! You have ruined my sofa! And when someone says How are you? instead of answering Very well, thank you, the same truthful one should perhaps take an hour by the clock and mention every symptom of indisposition that she can accurately subscribe to.
While not at home is merely a phrase of politeness, to say I am out after a card has been brought to you is both an untruth and an inexcusable rudeness. Or to have an inquiry answered, I dont know, but Ill see, and then to have the servant, after taking a card, come back with the message Mrs. Jones is out can not fail to make the visitor feel rebuffed. Once a card has been admitted, the visitor must be admitted also, no matter how inconvenient receiving her may be. You may send a message that you are dressing but will be very glad to see her if she can wait ten minutes. The visitor can either wait or say she is pressed for time. But if she does not wait, then she is rather discourteous.
Therefore, it is of the utmost importance always to leave directions at the door such as, Mrs. Jones is not at home. Miss Jones will be home at five oclock, Mrs. Jones will be home at 5.30, or Mrs. Jones is at home in the library to intimate friends, but not at home in the drawing-room to acquaintances. It is a nuisance to be obliged to remember either to turn an in and out card in the hall, or to ring a bell and say, I am going out, and again, I have come in. But whatever plan or arrangement you choose, no one at your front door should be left in doubt and then repulsed. It is not only bad manners, it is bad housekeeping.
It is doubtful if the present generation of New Yorkers knows what a day at home is! But their mothers, at least, remember the time when the fashionable districts were divided into regular sections, wherein on a given day in the week, the whole neighborhood was at home. Friday sounds familiar as the day for Washington Square! And was it Monday for lower Fifth Avenue? At all events, each neighborhood on the day of its own, suggested a local fête. Ladies in visiting dresses with trains and bonnets and nose-veils and tight gloves, holding card cases, tripped demurely into this house, out of that, and again into another; and there were always many broughams and victorias slowly exercising up and down, and very smart footmen standing with maroon or tan or fur rugs over their arms in front of Mrs. Wellborns house or Mrs. Oldnames, or the big house of Mrs. Toplofty at the corner of Fifth Avenue. It must have been enchanting to be a grown person in those days! Enchanting also were the C-spring victorias, as was life in general that was taken at a slow carriage pace and not at the motor speed of to-day. The day at home is still in fashion in Washington, and it is ardently to be hoped that it also flourishes in many cities and towns throughout the country or that it will be revived, for it is a delightful customthough more in keeping with Europe than America, which does not care for gentle paces once it has tasted swift. A certain young New York hostess announced that she was going to stay home on Saturday afternoons. But the men went to the country and the women to the opera, and she gave it up.
There are a few old-fashioned ladies, living in old-fashioned houses, and still staying at home in the old-fashioned way to old-fashioned friends who for decades have dropped in for a cup of tea and a chat. And there are two maiden ladies in particular, joint chatelaines of an imposingly beautiful old house where, on a certain afternoon of the week, if you come in for tea, you are sure to meet not alone those prominent in the world of fashion, but a fair admixture of artists, scientists, authors, inventors, distinguished strangersin a word Best Society in its truest sense. But days at home such as these are not easily duplicated; for few houses possess a salon atmosphere, and few hostesses achieve either the social talent or the wide cultivation necessary to attract and interest so varied and brilliant a company.
MODERN CARD LEAVING: A QUESTIONABLE ACT OF POLITENESS
The modern New York fashion in card-leaving is to dash as fast as possible from house to house, sending the chauffeur up the steps with cards, without ever asking if anyone is home. Some butlers announce Not at home from force of habit even when no question is asked. There are occasions when the visitors must ask to see the hostess (see X¶54); but cards are left without asking whether a lady is at home under the following circumstances:
Cards are also left after any formal invitation. Having been asked to lunch or dine with a lady whom you know but slightly you should leave your card whether you accepted the invitation or not, within three days if possible, or at least within a week, of the date for which you were invited. It is not considered necessary (in New York at least) to ask if she is at home; promptness in leaving your card is, in this instance, better manners than delaying your party call and asking if she is at home. This matter of asking at the door is one that depends upon the customs of each State and city, but as it is always wiser to err on the side of politeness, it is the better policy, if in doubt, to ask Is Mrs. Blank at home? rather than to run the risk of offending a lady who may like to see visitors.
A card is usually left with a first invitation to a stranger who has brought a letter of introduction, but it is more politeeven though not necessaryto ask to be received. Some ladies make it a habit to leave a card on everyone on their visiting list once a season.
It is correct for the mother of a débutante to leave her card as well as her daughters on every lady who has invited the daughter to her house, and a courteous hostess returns all of these pasteboard visits. But neither visit necessitates closer or even further acquaintance.
Paying visits differs from leaving cards in that you must ask to be received. A visit of condolence should be paid at once to a friend when a death occurs in her immediate family. A lady does not call on a gentleman, but writes him a note of sympathy.
If a relative announces his engagement, you must at once go to see his fiancée. Should she be out, you do not ask to see her mother. You do, however, leave a card upon both ladies and you ask to see her mother if received by the daughter.
With sympathy or With deepest sympathy is written on your visiting card with flowers sent to a funeral. This same message is written on a card and left at the door of a house of mourning, if you do not know the family well enough to ask to be received.
In going to see a friend who is visiting a lady whom you do not know, whether you should leave a card on the hostess as well as on your friend depends upon the circumstances; if the hostess is one who is socially prominent and you are unknown, it would be better taste not to leave a card on her, since your card afterward found without explanation might be interpreted as an uncalled-for visit made in an attempt for a place on her list. If, on the other hand, she is the unknown person and you are the prominent one, your card is polite, but unwise unless you mean to include her name on your list. But if she is one with whom you have many interests in common, then you may very properly leave a card for her.
In leaving a card on a lady stopping at a hotel or living in an apartment house, you should write her name in pencil across the top of your card, to insure its being given to her, and not to some one else.
Turning down a corner of a visiting card is by many intended to convey that the visit is meant for all the ladies in the family. Other people mean merely to show that the card was left at the door in person and not sent in an envelope. Other people turn them down from force of habit and mean nothing whatever. But whichever the reason, more cards are bent or dog-eared than are left flat.
Someone somewhere asked whether or not to answer an engraved card announcing an engagement. The answer can have nothing to do with etiquette, since an engraved announcement is unknown to good society. (For the proper announcement of an engagement see XX¶19.)
Five oclock is the informal hour when people are at home to friends. The correct hour for leaving cards and paying formal visits is between 3.30 and 4.30. One should hesitate to pay a visit at the tea hour unless one is sure of ones welcome among the intimates likely to be found around the hostesss tea-table.
For instance, instead of ringing her door-bell, Mrs. Norman calls Mrs. Kindhart on the telephone: I havent seen you for weeks! Wont you come in to tea, or to lunchjust you. Mrs. Kindhart answers, Yes, Id love to. I can come this afternoon; and five oclock finds them together over the tea-table.
In the same way young Struthers calls up Millicent Gilding, Are you going to be in this afternoon? She says, Yes, but not until a quarter of six. He says, Fine, Ill come then. Or she says, Im so sorry, Im playing bridge with Paulinebut Ill be in tomorrow! He says, All right, Ill come to-morrow.
The younger people rarely ever go to see each other without first telephoning. Or since even young people seldom meet except for bridge, most likely it is Millicent Gilding who telephones the Struthers youth to ask if he cant possibly get uptown before five oclock to make a fourth with Mary and Jim and herself.
In very large cities, neighbors seldom call on each other. But if strangers move into a neighborhood in a small town or in the country, or at a watering-place, it is not only unfriendly but uncivil for their neighbors not to call on them. The older residents always call on the newer. And the person of greatest social prominence should make the first visit, or at least invite the younger or less prominent one to call on her; which the younger should promptly do.
Or two ladies of equal age or position may either one say, I wish you would come to see me. To which the other replies I will with pleasure. More usually the first one offers I should like to come to see you, if I may. And the other, of course, answers I shall be delighted if you will.
Everyone invited to a wedding should call upon the bride on her return from the honeymoon. And when a man marries a girl from a distant place, courtesy absolutely demands that his friends and neighbors call on her as soon as she arrives in her new home.
On the hall table in every house, there should be a small silver, or other card tray, a pad and a pencil. The nicest kind of pad is one that when folded, makes its own envelope, so that a message when written need not be left open. There are all varieties and sizes at all stationers.
When the door-bell rings, the servant on duty, who can easily see the chauffeur or lady approaching, should have the card tray ready to present, on the palm of the left hand. A servant at the door must never take the cards in his or her fingers.
When the visitor herself rings the door-bell and the message is not at home, the butler or maid proffers the card tray on which the visitor lays a card of her own and her daughters for each lady in the house and a card of her husbands and sons for each lady and gentleman. But three is the greatest number ever left of any one card. In calling on Mrs. Town, who has three grown daughters and her mother living in the house, and a Mrs. Stranger staying with her whom the visitor was invited to a luncheon to meet, a card on each would need a packet of six. Instead, the visitor should leave threeone for Mrs. Town, one for all the other ladies of the house, and one for Mrs. Stranger. In asking to be received, her query at the door should be Are any of the ladies at home? Or in merely leaving her cards she should say For all of the ladies.
The butler or maid must stand with the front door open until a visitor re-enters her motor, or if she is walking, until she has reached the sidewalk. It is bad manners ever to close the door in a visitors face.
When the door is opened by a waitress or a parlor-maid and the mistress of the house is in the drawing-room, the maid says This way, please, and leads the way. She goes as quickly as possible to present the card tray. The guest, especially if a stranger, lags in order to give the hostess time to read the name on the card.
The maid meanwhile moves aside, to make room for the approaching visitor, who goes forward to shake hands with the hostess. If a butler is at the door, he reads the card himself, picking it up from the tray, and opening the door of the drawing-room announces: Mrs. Soandso, after which he puts the card on the hall table.
The duration of a formal visit should be in the neighborhood of twenty minutes. But if other visitors are announced, the first oneon a very formal occasionmay cut her visit shorter. Or if conversation becomes especially interesting, the visit may be prolonged five minutes or so. On no account must a visitor stay an hour!
A hostess always rises when a visitor enters, unless the visitor is a very young woman or man and she herself elderly, or unless she is seated behind the tea-table so that rising is difficult. She should, however, always rise and go forward to meet a lady much older than herself; but she never rises from her tea-table to greet a man, unless he is quite old.
If the lady of the house is at home but upstairs, the servant at the door leads the visitor into the reception room, saying Will you take a seat, please? and then carries the card to the mistress of the house.
On an exceptional occasion, such as paying a visit of condolence or inquiring for a convalescent, when the question as to whether he will be received is necessarily doubtful, a gentleman does not take off his coat or gloves, but waits in the reception room with his hat in his hand. When the servant returning says either Will you come this way, please? or Mrs. Town is not well enough to see any one, but Miss Alice will be down in a moment, the visitor divests himself of his coat and gloves, which the servant carries, as well as his hat, out to the front hall.
As said before, few men pay visits without first telephoning. But perhaps two or three times during a winter a young man, when he is able to get away from his office in time, will make a tea-time visit upon a hostess who has often invited him to dinner or to her opera box. Under ordinary circumstances, however, some woman member of his family leaves his card for him after a dinner or a dance, or else it is not left at all.
A gentleman paying visits, always asks if the hostess is at home. If she is, he leaves his hat and stick in the hall and also removes and leaves his glovesand rubbers should he be wearing them. If the hour is between five and half-past, the hostess is inevitably at her tea-table, in the library, to which, if he is at all well known to the servant at the door, he is at once shown without being first asked to wait in the reception room. A gentleman entering a room in which there are several people who are strangers, shakes hands with his hostess and slightly bows to all the others, whether he knows them personally or not. He, of course, shakes hands with any who are friends, and with all men to whom he is introduced, but with a lady only if she offers him her hand.
To know how to enter a drawing-room is supposed to be one of the supreme tests of good breeding. But there should be no more difficulty in entering the drawing-room of Mrs. Worldly than in entering the sitting-room at home. Perhaps the best instruction would be like that in learning to swim. Take plenty of time, dont struggle and dont splash about! Good manners socially are not unlike swimmingnot the crawl or overhand, but smooth, tranquil swimming. (Quite probably where the expression in the swim came from anyway!) Before actually entering a room, it is easiest to pause long enough to see where the hostess is. Never start forward and then try to find her as an afterthought. The place to pause is on the thresholdnot half-way in the room. The way not to enter a drawing-room is to dart forward and then stand awkwardly bewildered and looking about in every direction. A man of the world stops at the entrance of the room for a scarcely perceptible moment, until he perceives the most unencumbered approach to the hostess, and he thereupon walks over to her. When he greets his hostess he pauses slightly, the hostess smiles and offers her hand; the gentleman smiles and shakes hands, at the same time bowing. A lady shakes hands with the hostess and with every one she knows who is nearby. She bows to acquaintances at a distance and to strangers to whom she is introduced.
Having shaken hands with the hostess, the visitor, whether a lady or a gentleman, looks about quietly, without hurry, for a convenient chair to sit down upon, or drop into. To sit gracefully one should not perch stiffly on the edge of a straight chair, nor sprawl at length in an easy one. The perfect position is one that is easy, but dignified. In other days, no lady of dignity ever crossed her knees, held her hands on her hips, or twisted herself sideways, or even leaned back in her chair! To-day all these things are done; and the only etiquette left is on the subject of how not to exaggerate them. No lady should cross her knees so that her skirts go up to or above them; neither should her foot be thrust out so that her toes are at knee level. An arm a-kimbo is not a graceful attitude, nor is a twisted spine! Everyone, of course, leans against a chair back, except in a box at the opera and in a ballroom, but a lady should never throw herself almost at full length in a reclining chair or on a wide sofa when she is out in public. Neither does a gentleman in paying a formal visit sit on the middle of his backbone with one ankle supported on the other knee, and both as high as his head.
The proper way for a lady to sit is in the center of her chair, or slightly sideways in the corner of a sofa. She may lean back, of course, and easily; her hands relaxed in her lap, her knees together, or if crossed, her foot must not be thrust forward so as to leave a space between the heel and her other ankle. On informal occasions she can lean back in an easy chair with her hands on the arms. In a ball dress a lady of distinction never leans back in a chair; one can not picture a beautiful and high-bred woman, wearing a tiara and other ballroom jewels, leaning against anything. This is, however, not so much a rule of etiquette as a question of beauty and fitness.
A lady never calls on another under the sponsorship of a gentlemanunless he is her husband or father. A young girl can very properly go with her fiancé to return visits paid to her by members or friends of his family; but she should not pay an initial visit unless to an invalid who has written her a note asking her to do so.
If, when arriving at a ladys house, you find her motor at the door, you should leave your card as though she were not at home. If she happens to be in the hall, or coming down the steps, you say I see you are going out, and I wont keep you!
If she insists on your coming in, you should stay only a moment. Do not, however, fidget and talk about leaving. Sit down as though your leaving immediately were not on your mind, but after two or three minutes say Good-by and go.
A young man may go to see a young girl as often as he feels inclined and she cares to receive him. If she continually asks to be excused, or shows him scant attention when he is talking to her, or in any other way indicates that he annoys or bores her, his visits should cease.
It is well to remember that nothing more blatantly stamps an ill-bred person than the habit of patting, nudging or taking hold of people. Keep your hands to yourself! might almost be put at the head of the first chapter of every book on etiquette.
Be very chary of making any such remarks as I am afraid I have stayed too long, or I must apologize for hurrying off, or I am afraid I have bored you to death talking so much. All such expressions are self-conscious and stupid. If you really think you are staying too long or leaving too soon or talking too muchdont!
It is not necessary that an invalid make any attempt to return the visits to her friends who are attentive enough to go often to see her. But if a stranger calls on herparticularly a stranger who may not know that she is always confined to the house, it is correct for a daughter or sister or even a friend to leave the invalids card for her and even to pay a visit should she find a hostess at home. In this event the visitor by proxy lays her own card as well as that of the invalid on the tray proffered her. Upon being announced to the hostess, she naturally explains that she is appearing in place of her mother (or whatever relation the invalid is to her) and that the invalid herself is unable to make any visits.
A lady never pays a party call on a gentleman. But if the gentleman who has given a dinner has his mother (or sister) staying with him and if the mother (or sister) chaperoned the party, cards should of course be left upon her.
When a gentleman, whose wife is away, accepts some ones hospitality, it is correct for his wife to pay the party call with (or for) him, since it is taken for granted that she would have been included had she been at home.
In other days a hostess thought it necessary to change quickly into a best dress if important company rang her door-bell. A lady of fashion to-day receives her visitors at once in whatever dress she happens to be wearing, since not to keep them waiting is the greater courtesy.