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ETIQUETTE OF VISITING, ETC.
SOME knowledge of the social code of ceremonious rules and forms is
indispensable to everyone who desires to pass through the world respectably and
respected. Whether in a domestic sphere or in the more distant relations of
social life, certain occasions demand an especial line of conduct to be followed
by persons thrown into mutual contact ; and these observances cannot be
neglected without peril to personal advancement, and, what is a consideration of
more value still, peril to the preservation of sympathetic feeling so desirable
to maintain between individuals closely connected by, perchance, family ties.
Whether mere strangers be in question, or members of the same kindred, it is
most desirable that the established rules of etiquette should be observed.
With regard to the meaning of the word itself it is a pity that a more extended sense is not attached to its use. Strictly speaking, the word "etiquette" was formerly applied to a card on which court observances and required ceremomies were inscribed. From this derivation has doubtless arisen the impression that all rules for behaviour in society are of a conventional character, and devoid of hearty good-will characteristic of more intimate intercourse, when, in reality, no prescribed forms of politeness can be pleasing unless they proceed from a kindly disposition, and are proffered in a right honest spirit of cordiality. Fictitious attempts at politeness soon belie themselves upon close acquaintance.
It is, perhaps, in the shelter which the rules of society afford to persons who desire to live in a circumspect and unoffending manner towards all men, that the true value of social etiquette lies. No one needs a code of observances to live happily with well-tried friends and beloved relatives. But manifold are the circumstances under which, for instance, an acquaintanceship is hastily formed, and as speedily found unsuitable. To make desirable acquaintances, and to disengage oneself from those which are not found convenient, being wants most commonly felt, we will endeavour to describe the most effectual mode of securing both objects, according to the prescribed rules of etiquette.
At the outset the custom of being introduced by a mutual acquaintance is the first canon to be observed in making the acquaintance of a stranger. As a general rule no one is supposed to be conscious of the presence of any person without having been previously introduced, or "presented," as the more modern term is. The merest mention of the names of the assembled individuals is sufficient if the occasion on which they meet be of a casual nature. For example, on a lady entering an apartment where several persons are assembled, if strangers to her, the host or hostess need simply mention the name of the new comer, and indicate by a slight sign the persons whose acquaintance the guest might wish to make, to have complied with the required form. In a large party this step is unnecessary. The duty of the person who receives the guest is then confined to introducing the different members of the company with whom the greatest stranger is likely to be thrown into immediate contact.
Of late an attempt has been made to do away with the formal introduction of visitors to each other when the place of meeting happens to be under the roof of some mutual friend. But the new fashion has not become general; English people, especially, are not prone to make advances, even under the most auspicious circumstances, unless they are tolerably certain of their ground. At the same time, if a few friends meet upon a select occasion, such as a dinner, it would be ill-mannered to wait for a formal introduction before exchanging remarks on any matter of general conversation. Sometimes it happens that a particular introduction is for a time impossible. It should then be taken for granted that all guests present, by special invitation, are suitable for each other's acquaintance. The acquaintanceship, however, need not be renewed on a future occasion. Persons thus thrown together may meet the next day, if they please, as total strangers.
The introduction of mutual strangers at dancing parties is subject to the same rules. Parties who have danced in the same quadrille or in other dances are not expected to recognise each other afterwards, unless intimately acquainted with friends on either side. The option of recognising an acquaintance thus made rests with the lady. If on meeting her partner on a subsequent occasion she pleases to bow, there is no impropriety in her doing so. In no case must the gentleman make the first sign of recognition. Also, with regard to the meeting of persons on business matters, the mutual acquaintance need be carried no further than the intercourse which has occasioned the acquaintanceship. People who are possessed of ordinary tact, generally manage to avoid giving what is commonly termed a "direct cut" to such acquaintances, by not observing each other. If, however, direct contact ·is quite inevitable, the slightest [-111-] recognition is simple courtesy between persons of the same rank in life.
Whenever disparity of age or position exists between individuals that have been presented to each other by a mutual friend, the person superior in years or station should be the first to make the advance. If the younger or inferior should venture to take the initiative, he must be prepared for a rebuff, the more cutting, possibly, from the polite hauteur with which the expected salutation may be granted. Between equals the lady always makes the advance; but not if superiority of age and station exists on the part of the gentleman.
When it is desired to confer an honour on a person by being presented to another, somewhat of formality of manner, is usual. It is always customary to present the inferior in station to the superior individual, accompanying the act of presentation by such words as, "Allow me to present Mr., or Mrs., or Miss So-and-so;" or, if the favour has been especially asked for, the introducer may; say, "Mr. or Mrs. So-and-so is very desirous of making your acquaintance, if you will allow me to present him, or, her." When permission is given, the individual may be introduced in the usual form. The introducer having complied with the request, leaves the new acquaintances to converse on any matter of common interest to themselves.
Letters of introduction are frequently asked of friends to their acquaintances, when a stranger is about to travel abroad, or reside in a new neighbourhood. These letters should always be given into the hands of the person seeking the favour unsealed. By doing so, permission is tacitly given the recipient to read the contents, in order that he may see precisely the light in which he is presented to his future acquaintance. Letters of introduction should be closed when presented. The most usual mode of forwarding such letters to their destination is by enclosing them in an envelope containing a card bearing the name and address of the new corner. If the person; to whom the letter of introduction is addressed desires to honour his correspondent's recommendation, he loses no time in calling at the address indicated, and offering such civilities as may be expected. The most friendly forms of such offers consists in an invitation to dine; which, under ordinary circumstances, should be declined, unless the invitation be accompanied by very forcible reasons. Whether an invitation to dinner be given or not, the visit should be returned within at least three days from the time one has been received, or earlier if possible. The above rules apply equally to ladies.
On a stranger or a family arriving in a neighbourhood, it is the duty of the elder inhabitants to leave cards. If. the acquaintances thus presenting themselves are desirable, it is usual for the visit to be returned personally, or cards left, within one week. The latter rule is very; conducive to good feeling in remote neighbourhoods, where it is now-a-days mostly in force. In the suburbs. of large towns a less hospitable reception generally awaits strangers, causing acquaintanceship to be deferred till something is known of the new comers. These opportunities are of frequent occurrence, and need but a little cordiality to become occasions of forming an agreeable society. In proportion to the number of residents who are of the latter way of thinking, suburbs are more or less desirable localities to reside in.
Visitors to large towns, where their acquaintances are necessarily much scattered, usually announce their arrival by simply enclosing their address-cards to any persons whom they may wish to receive. Intimate acquaintances are not expected to wait for similar announcements, but call as soon as they learn the arrival and address of the expected visitor.
In all cases, it is the person who is the new comer that first receives offers of hospitality.
A slight acquaintanceship may be kept alive for an indefinite period, by occasional morning calls. Many valuable connections are preserved by no other means than by periodically leaving a card at a patron's house, in return for a similar civility received. Within a week of having been formally introduced to an individual, it is not unusual for cards to be left. In all cases of doubt as to who shall take the initiative, the rules above stated should be observed. Whenever death, illness, or any domestic event affecting the happiness or welfare of a family is generally known, by advertisement in the public journals or otherwise, it is customary for acquaintances to leave cards of inquiry, condolence, congratulation, and so forth. No words need be written on such cards unless it be particularly wished. A suitable message given to the servant explains the intention of the call. Cards turned down at the corner signify either that they have been sent by a servant, or that the visitor had no intention of paying a personal visit beyond the threshold of the residence.
Whenever a family is in affliction, cards of inquiry may be left daily, if desired, without the compliment being returned. At the termination of the malady, or on the decease of the sufferer, it is usual for the head of the family to acknowledge a sense of the kindness received, by sending cards or printed notes returning thanks for inquiries. Such notices having been received, it is generally understood that the family is prepared to receive visitors in the usual manner.
After death has taken place in a family, visitors are not expected to call personally beyond the door, until a week after the funeral. Distant acquaintances should defer their visits for a still longer period.
Interviews of a business nature with strangers should be: short, and the subject of conversation should be confined to matter on which the interview has been sought. It need not be mentioned that punctuality is the essence of politeness on these occasions, and that a person failing to keep an appointment is not entitled to courteous consideration.
At certain seasons of the year, complimentary visits are very properly paid by persons who have even very slight acquaintance with each other. At Christmas-time, for instance, young people may seasonably leave cards on their patrons and superiors in age and position in society. This practice has long obtained in France, where, on New Year's Day, everyone calls on friends and relatives. Except when very intimate, callers do not enter the house; the mere act of leaving a card signifies a friendly intention. Year by year this excellent and pleasant practice of keeping together one's connection, and propitiating the good offices of those who have it in their power to advance one's interest in life, is becoming more generally adopted.
People who live at a distance from their acquaintances often enclose cards. Plain visiting-cards are suitable for people of the same age and station. Elders generally send "Christmas cards" to the youthful members of their acquaintance. These picture-cards are now an extensive article of commerce, and great expense may be incurred in the purchase of such gifts. But the latter is not a necessary compliment, and those who cannot afford the outlay should not be deterred from expressing their goodwill by any consideration of the kind.
If, after having returned all visits, and made suitable acknowledgments of favours received by leaving cards, &c., the visits of an individual are not reciprocated, cessation of similar acts of courtesy should occur. At the same time, every allowance should be made for the different circumstances in life which may interfere to prevent a system of formal visiting, and no offence should be taken for what may be unavoidable, or unless some unjustifiable neglect is apparent
ETIQUETTE OF VISITING, ETC. (continued from p. 111).
IT usually happens that, after the customary calls have been exchanged
between persons recently acquainted, invitations are given to meet at each
other's house. People who keep establishments equal to the occasion generally
ask the intended guest to dinner; and if the civility be offered to an
individual in the same position of life as the host, the proffered entertainment
should be accepted. At the same time, it does not necessarily follow that such
invitations must be invariably accepted. There are many circumstances in life
which make it both right to offer and proper to refuse such acts of courtesy.
The chief reason for accepting and refusing is perhaps found in the old adage,
"Feast make, feast take." People who, as a rule, do not give formal
dinners should be careful how they accept such invitations; for, let kindhearted
folks say as they please to the contrary, persons who are always ready to dine
at a friend's table and never give a dinner in return cannot fail to appear to
disadvantage, if not in the eyes of their host and hostess, at least in the
opinion of the habitués at the same table.
Amongst the few occasions when a formal invitation can be accepted without entailing the necessity of a return of the courtesy within a reasonable time are the following:- Travellers when passing through a strange neighbourhood, and having no establishment of their own on the spot, are expected to accept such invitations. Also, when the giver of the proposed repast is the superior in station to the invited guest no similar return is looked for. Unmarried men likewise are permitted to accept all invitations without expectation of return, but from the day that bachelorhood is exchanged for the wedded state the same rule no longer applies. As married men, they are supposed to have establishments suitable to the demands on their position in life. If this happy state of things should be denied them, a sense of self-respect demands that they should decline civilities that it is impossible adequately to return. There is always a way of declining under such circumstances, showing, at the same time, a sense of the appreciation of the compliment paid. Plain candour may perhaps suggest that a simple avowal of inability to give ceremonious dinners lies at the root of the objection to accept invitations of the kind; and if consistency of action be faithfully carried out in other details of the apologiser's mode of living, no one would feel affronted by a well-meant refusal of any invitation. We shall have occasion in a subsequent paper to revert to the subject of dinner-giving at greater length; for the present we must return to the main object of the present article.
Luncheons are a less ceremonious mode of bestowing and accepting hospitality than the formalities of a dinner admit of. A luncheon party is one of the most agreeable institutions of social life. Each year, as the hour of dinner becomes later, luncheons increase in favour, and afford opportunities of receiving visitors in the most cordial and unrestrained manner. The mid-day luncheon is, in fact, now-a-days, a good plain English dinner, than which no repast is more enjoyable, wholesome, and unpretentious. This form of visiting is especially suited to ladies, who are thus able to preserve intimacies that would be in danger of becoming chilled if entirely dependent on a chance morning call or the laborious ceremony of a grand dinner. At luncheon parties the feminine clement usually largely predominates, or is relieved chiefly by the presence of the unemployed and youthful male members of the family. The gentlemen, if present, do not feel themselves compelled to bestow their presence on the company longer than the time that is actually spent at table. They need not, unless they please, appear till the repast is served, nor remain at the table after their appetite has been satisfied. When, however, the mistress of a household receives gentlemen to luncheon by invitation, the husband or head of the house is expected to be present, and to remain with his guests during the visit. Receiving gentlemen at luncheon, by invitation, and in the absence of the master of the house, is considered bad taste, and is not a recognised custom by ladies.
Unless especially invited to prolong the visit, the guest generally takes leave at the conclusion of the meal in accordance with this rule, ladies visiting at luncheon do not remove their bonnets, nor lay aside any portion of their out-of-door costume, save gloves or any loose wraps. In short, visitors are supposed to act as if going as soon as the repast is ended.
Servants do not usually wait at table during luncheon after the removal of the joint. The reason of their absence is to enable the kitchen dinner to take place during the time in the day usually most free from interruption. Before leaving the dining-room the servants should place everything likely to be wanted on the table and sideboard. The comparatively informal character of luncheon permits visitors to wait upon themselves, and every acccssory of the table should be ready at hand.
At the conclusion of the meal an opportunity is afforded for visitors desirous of retiring to take leave of the host or hostess. If solicited to remain, the company withdraw to some reception room.
The dress worn by ladies at luncheon is that of ordinary walking costume.
Tea as a formal meal is going out of fashion; still, many persons, who have neither the inclination nor the means to give set dinners, sometimes make the partaking of the favourite beverage an occasion for seeing friends in an unceremonious manner. Not unfrequently, also, a "meat tea," by invitation, is made to some extent to stand in lieu of a dinner. The repast is then generally composed of savoury cold meats, potted viands, preserves, pastry, cakes, and any description of made dish that may be easily served at table. Tea is certainly present as a beverage, but it is usually poured out at a sideboard or separate table. Light wines are placed on the table at "meat teas," to which the guests help themselves, whilst tea only is handed round in cups by the servants in attendance.
Persons when invited to tea stay longer, if so disposed, after that meal than at luncheon. The reason is obvious. In the middle of the day most persons have some daily occupations to engage their attention, and are glad to be set free by the retirement of their visitors as soon as possible, whilst after tea, the evening being advanced, people are supposed to be at leisure. This, how ever, does not render it arbitrary for a visitor to spend a whole evening at one house, unless inclined to do so. It may happen that no after amusements are provided, or that the host or hostess is engaged elsewhere. In any case, the hostess generally gives some intimation of her plans on leaving, or previous to leaving the table, and the visitor prolongs or terminates the visit accordingly.
The dress usually worn at tea may be either full morning dress or evening dress, according to the engagements that may follow, or the character of entertainment itself. At a thé dansant, for instance, i.e., a tea, with dancing for after amusement, a suitable dress for dancing would be selected - not so elaborate as a ball dress nor so plain as an ordinary walking costume.
Supper parties ate simply late dinners, shorn of fish, soup, and dessert as separate courses. At suppers most of the viands are placed on the table at the same time, and servants attend throughout the repast. If a certain hour is named at which supper is to take place guests should observe punctuality.
Staying at houses is the most intimate footing which acquaintances can be upon towards each other. An invitation to visit a friend at his or her house is generally [-212-] understood to extend over three days. The guest usually arrives in time for dinner on the first day, and leaves before dinner or after luncheon on the third. Of course, the above stay is open to the most elastic extension upon the expressed wish of the host or hostess. But as no error in social life is so seriously to be guarded against as that of outstaying one's welcome, it behoves guests to be watchful not to exceed the ordinary limits of hospitality. It is very desirable that in giving invitations the hostess should intimate the probable duration of the expected guest's visit. Thus, "Come and stay with us a few days" may mean the term above stated, whilst "Come and stay with us for a few weeks" unmistakably points to a longer period. An invitation to pass Easter, Christmas, Whitsuntide, or any holidays commemorative of Church festivals, is supposed to extend, strictly, over such time as there are special services appointed by the Church for the observance of those festivals. In a general way, a week at either of the seasons alluded to would be considered a fair length of visit.
All invitations to stay at a house, even if instigated by the host, should be given by the hostess, with her direct sanction, and in her name. If it should happen that the guest is not personally acquainted with the lady, a preliminary call is necessary on the part of the latter. Or if a personal visit be impossible, the lady should write to the intended guest, and express her regret at not being able to afford herself the pleasure of a personal acquaintance previous to the time appointed for the meeting, and enclose card.
If the house at which the guest is expected should be in the country, it is customary for the hostess either to send her own carriage or to hire a fly to convey the guest and luggage to her residence. On leaving the house the guest is generally expected to find his or her own mode of conveyance to the nearest station, provided a carriage be not kept. Even in the latter case it is well-mannered for the guest to propose sending for the required vehicle.
It is not necessary for the lady to go to a station to receive her guest. Gentlemen, if not otherwise engaged, sometimes undertake the office, but it is pleasing for the hostess to appear in the hall to welcome the newly-arrived visitor. Having caused the visitor to be conducted to his or her sleeping apartment, the host or hostess awaits in the drawing-room the re-appearance of the guest. The servant appointed to attend upon the visitor is the medium through which the latter obtains any requisite information respecting the habits of the family and the locality of the apartments. To all intents and purposes the attendant alluded to may be consulted on such matters as one's own servant, but a visitor should be careful to confine such inquiries to the most commonplace and essential matters. If the guest takes a personal attendant into the house, all information is sought exclusively through that servant. On retiring to rest it is customary for strangers to ask the hostess at what hour the family assembles for breakfast. If in reply information is given that prayers take place at a certain hour, the guest should make it a point of duty to he present at the time named. And so forth throughout the day. Whatever may be the established customs of the household of which visitors are for the time being members, the most scrupulous care should be taken to blend with the family and to fall into their ways. If the restraint be found irksome and the habits uncongenial, it is far better to draw a visit to an early close than to live in discord, so to speak, with the prevailing harmony of the domestic circle.
All expenses whilst under a host's roof are generally defrayed by the host. Travelling expenses to visit any places of interest in the neighbourhood are an exception to this rule.
As far as it is possible, guests when staying in a strange house should amuse themselves either by joining in the general pursuits of the family, or by occupying themselves during the morning hours of the day with personal employment, such as letter-writing, needlework, or reading. It is most desirable that they should give the host and hostess to understand that the latter are free to pursue their own occupations. In many well-conducted establishments the host, and not unfrequently the hostess, are invisible during the greater part of the day, and their absence is not felt. Full range is given to visitors to follow the bent of their inclinations, and ample liberty is likewise granted to the principals of the household to pursue their ordinary occupations.
On leaving a house where one has been staying, the question of feeing the servants becomes of urgency. In several large establishments of England fees to servants are openly prohibited ; in others it is to be regretted that the custom is equally encouraged. Servants in the latter case are told when engaged that their wages are a certain sum, but, as many visitors frequent the house, the "vails" are considerable. If a guest has reason to believe that in either case the principle is observed, he is in duty bound to act in accordance with the views entertained by the host. In the case of payment, the average charge for attendance at hotels will be the best guide. As a general rule, however, only the servants that are in immediate attendance, upon the visitor have a right to expect "vails."
MATRIMONIAL ENGAGEMENTS, SETTLEMENTS, ETC.
WITH the peculiar sympathy which attracts two persons to unite their hands
and hearts, and to take each other "for better or for worse," the
rules which govern social life have very little indeed to do. It is only in as
far as I outward observances may or may not influence the welfare of the devoted
pair that it is necessary to observe the customs prescribed by the code of
society. From the prominent position which every engaged couple occupies in the
eyes of their immediate circle, little acts of in-advertence are liable to be
judged with more severe criticism than, from their trivial nature, such acts
would at other times excite. It is of no avail to protest against the right of
one's acquaintances to comment on matters that are purely personal; people will
observe lovers with intense interest, and pass judgment on their conduct in
a manner that no other situation in life warrants. The only mode by which to
disarm officious meddling is in all outward forms to comply with the observances
generally approved and practised by refined and educated people. Beginning with
the engagement of two young persons. In England greater freedom in the choice of
a husband or wife exists than in any Continental society. Abroad parents
generally choose for their children, and, as mutual affection and suitability of
tastes are not always the chief considerations, it is not wonderful that very
ill-assorted unions are frequently the consequence. In France, for instance, the
amount of dower that a bride takes to her husband is considered a more important
question than the amount of love or esteem she entertains for the object of her
parents' choice. Suitable partis are bespoke, so to speak, from their
birth. Business connections and family interests are strengthened by such
marriage ties, just in the same manner that a partner in a firm is considered
more or less eligible on account of his capital or experience. Marriages of
affection are not necessarily incompatible with marriages formed from interested
motives, but mutual affection is not considered necessary as a starting point.
In England the contrary is the case. From the highest to the humblest sphere of life, English maidens, as a rule, enjoy very much greater freedom of choice in matrimony, and very rash and improvident matches are sometimes the result. At the same time, the cases are few indeed when the bride-elect marries in open defiance of her parents' wishes; a lasting and disappointed love is more often preserved when direct disapproval of a marriage is entertained by parents.
According to English custom, a gentleman generally ascertains the state of a lady's feelings towards himself before he makes a positive declaration of his love. His proposal having been conditionally received, the lady usually refers him to her father or nearest relative for sanction of the union. If all preliminary statements are satisfactory, the young couple are considered engaged, without any further formality than the exchange of rings or some similar love token. If it should happen that delay arises before the engagement can be completely effected, it is not customary for the young people to meet in the interval. The lady in such cases usually pays a visit to distant friends, or in some manner contrives to absent herself from circles where she is likely to meet her admirer. All correspondence by letter is suspended, and, in fact, the lovers live towards each other as perfect strangers for the time.
The delays which most commonly arise in the acceptance of a suitor by a lady's parents and guardians are those occasioned by marriage settlements and similar business transactions. It has long been a generally-recognised custom that, when a lady had a fortune, some portion of it should be settled on herself, for her own especial use and absolute benefit, leaving the interest which is derived from the principal of her fortune to the use of her husband. The principal was generally held under trust for the joint lives of the husband and wife, to be ultimately divided amongst the children.
One great necessity for marriage settlements has now passed away by the passage of the Married Women's Property Act in 1882. By this Act women retain ipso facto, even after marriage, all property of which they are personally possessed, or become possessed, or earn by their own exertions, even without any special provision to that effect. Previous to this, money might be left to a married woman, "free from the debts or control of her husband;" but all money now left to her personally is within her own control. Formerly all property became vested in the husband, unless otherwise provided for, and hence an absolute necessity for settlements which now does not exist.
There may still, however, be many reasons for settlements where much property is at stake on either side. Even where the actual property is all on the side of the wife, it is to be remembered that the husband undertakes many liabilities and responsibilities for her, and something may fairly be due to him on that score. Moreover, it is not always desirable to leave property wholly in the personal control of a married lady, who may sacrifice her own interests whilst under the control of her husband. And where the property is all on the side of the husband, it is often very desirable that he should settle something, whilst in his power, absolutely upon his wife. This is one very important point of view from which to regard marriage settlements. Such engagements are of an enduring nature, whatever may afterwards betide in the way of losses to the persons concerned thus, if a man is not actually under a fiat of bankruptcy at the time of making a marriage settlement, the amount of money which he settles before marriage on his future wife is reserved to her use in the event of his afterwards becoming insolvent towards other creditors. The same rule applies to women. Under every circumstance, whatever amount may be agreed on for the benefit of either party, that amount is secured in perpetuity for the individual's benefit. The instances are numberless in which the marriage settlement framed for a wife's benefit - in the view, perhaps, of providing for her use mere pin-money - has been the sole income left to a family when, by unforeseen misfortune, the bulk of income from all other sources has disappeared. On this account alone, if for no other, ladies about to marry should suffer their natural guardians or nearest friends to act in accordance with the principles of prudence and common sense observe in other transactions of daily life.
Women that have no money escape, to a certain extent, many preliminary troubles of a business nature when forming a matrimonial engagement. There is one stipulation, however, which most sensible parents make when young persons without any but precarious means of living are about to be united, namely, Insurance. The man, as the bread-winner, is usually expected to insure his life before marriage, and to settle the amount of the insurance on his wife. Of course, it becomes a matter of honour and of means to keep up the payment of the insurance premium afterwards.
Whenever it is possible, the parents of a young lady [-118-] although herself penniless, should endeavour to obtain from her future husband the promise or settlement of a certain sum of money, however small, which she may call her own, and dispose of at will. Very few women, even when happily married, like to ask their husbands for trifling sums, or to give account of every farthing expended oil their personal wants. Although not openly a confessed, the restraint is galling, and embitters many lives. Nay, the need of a certain amount of pecuniary independence frequently leads to unpleasant results - and the bond of confidence once having been broken, it is impossible to limit the breach which may ensue Money we know, is not always at the root of all conjugal discords but many owe their existence to that source alone.
The anxieties of business transactions being happily at an end, engaged couples are subject, in good society to certain restraints which are almost if not equally irksome. Lovers do not usually bear in mind that the whole period of their engagement is a period of probation. They are mutually under trial. The opportunities of sharing each other's company previously may have been few; in all that constitutes their habits of thought and living they may be totally ignorant; and it by no means follows that, because an engagement has been entered into, marriage is certain to crown the intimacy.
In no case does the old proverb, "many a slip between a cup and lip," hold good with such disappointing force as in projected marriages. The strict surveillance to which a maiden is during that time subject often constitutes the "rugged course" of which lovers so bitterly complain. For instance, no young lady who values her status in the eyes of society ever appears at theatres or other places of amusement alone with her lover, she is either attended by her mother, sister, or some other female chaperon. Neither should she frequent promenades and other places of general resort, without the companionship of a sister or friend. Retiring from a circle of friends in the same apartment, and whispering apart in conversation to each other, is also forbidden by every rule of good taste. A gentleman may pay particular attention to the lady he is about to marry, but at no time should his attentions be of a nature to excite smiles and comments on the part of others present. Whatever makes people look absurd is a violation of propriety, and should be scrupulously avoided.
Lovers' quarrels are a fertile topic, and are supposed a to be inseparable from an engaged state. What do they arise from? - generally from fickleness and jealousy.
On the one side there is too much exaction, and on the other too great a proneness to take offence. These disagreeable scenes might be avoided by two persons not imposing on each other unaccustomed restraints. If a lady, for example, objects to smoking, and a gentleman to seeing his future wife waltzing, an understanding should be arrived at from the commencement and the rule observed, or not, as may be agreed. Also, engaged people should not consider that they can henceforward live only for each other, and confine all the amenities and attentions demanded by other members of society to their individual selves. Acts of courtesy and duty towards friends and relatives should not be suddenly relinquished in favour of one person only, and it is both unreasonable and unwise to expect such sacrifices. A state of life equivalent to warm and sincere friendship is the nearest approach to perfect happiness and decorum that engaged couples can aspire to.
Invitations to visit in society are generally given jointly to engaged persons; but it is not considered good manners for either the lady or gentleman to refuse if the act of courtesy has not been extended to the other. In the case of a young lady being invited to the house of any of her future husband's friends - she herself being a stranger - it is necessary that an invitation should be given to the mother or some female relative of the bride-elect also. The escort of her lover is not, under the circumstance;. considered sufficient.
In going to or from places, on business or pleasure, engaged people, if alone, should either walk or else use public conveyances - cabs and private carriages should be avoided. In walking in the streets or promenades, the engaged lady may take the left arm of the gentleman, but it is excessively vulgar and indecorous to clasp her hands on his arm, as is sometimes seen.
It frequently happens that two persons, who upon slight acquaintance appeared to be exactly suited to each other, discover, when intimate, that they have been mistaken. The engagement is then broken off. On such occasions the parent or nearest friend is usually appointed to see that all presents and correspondence are returned, an act which it should be a point of honour to carry out most scrupulously. The best mode of proceeding is for each person to seal with his or her own hand the letters each has received. With regard to presents, things that have been worn, such as slippers, and other fancy articles, should not be sent back; they should not, however, be worn any more. Jewellery, books, and articles of furniture, if any have been presented in view of the approaching marriage, should be returned.
The character of presents given to each other by an engaged couple, should be in strict accordance with their' position in life and pecuniary means at disposal. Love should not be measured by the costliness of its tokens. A rich man may spend a little fortune on an engagement ring, whilst a poor man may only be able to afford a simple band of enchased gold, to be worn afterwards as a keeper to the wedding ring itself. There is no greater folly than making extravagance in present-giving before marriage a burden to be afterwards defrayed by stint of living and privation of necessaries. Expenses multiply enough in the ordinary course of things at the outset of housekeeping, without having to clear off obligations due to mistaken generosity. Brides that are to be propitiated only by such sacrifices are seldom found to front bravely the cares and unavoidable anxieties of real wedded life.
The absurd revelations which from time to time enliven the proceedings of certain law courts should be warning sufficient against engaged people indulging in the folly of extravagant language when writing to each other. The term "love-letter" usually means downright nonsense, and is no proof of genuine affection. Plain truth and common sense are not at all incompatible with devotedness and warmth of feeling, and, if preserved, such letters call up no feeling of self-reproach in after life, which is more than can be said of many of the foolish epistles penned before marriage.
An elopement is the crowning act of folly which some over-ardent spirits are tempted to commit during the course of their probationary state. Far from such a step being proof of devotedness towards each other, it is an act of unmitigated imprudence, and utter selfishness. A young lady who consents to such a proposal virtually throws off her right to the love and protection of her parents throughout her subsequent career, neither does she ensure the lasting respect of her husband. Except in very rare instances, such a course renders him mistrustful of his wife's constancy. The step is the last he would be inclined to sanction in a child of his own, and should, therefore, be the furthest from his wish to instigate.
The length of a matrimonial engagement depends entirely on the personal convenience and inclination of the engaged couple. Hasty marriages are seldom a wise step; on the other hand, a long period of courtship affords no guarantee of more perfect happiness in the married state. People who think that by an unusually long engagement they shall be enabled to "know each other better," are just as liable to be deceived as those who consider that the intimacy of a few weeks is sufficient. However [-119-] long an engagement may last, the couple usually endeavour to make themselves as pleasing as possible ; therefore, not so much the conduct of engaged people during their courtship is the true test of a disposition as the character generally displayed beforehand. Between persons who have been intimately acquainted for years, less concealment of the real temper is likely to occur. It is when strangers meet, in unfamiliar circles, that there is danger of over-hasty marriages being a source of ultimate repentance. Twelve months' engagement is considered by most people in the middle circles of society quite long enough.
It is the lady's privilege to fix the wedding day. When it is generally known amongst friends that the marriage is speedily to come off, presents are mostly the result. The nature of presents depends very much upon the style of living the young couple are about to adopt. The widest latitude is allowed in the matter, but generally something of a lasting and useful description is best approved. Plate is always presentable, so are linen, lace, and articles of furniture, musical instruments, carriages, &c. The least acceptable gifts are those which require an amount of expense and trouble to maintain them in order. Fragile articles, also, are not well adapted for wedding-presents. Some people are very fond of giving costly table-ornaments, or sets of choice china and glass. When one article of a such sets is by accident broken, the companion pieces are comparatively valueless, and the replacement, which, out of compliment to the donor, is generally thought necessary, is a tax on the purse of the recipient.
Very intimate friends and relatives may ascertain the a wishes of the future bride or bridegroom as to the form which the proposed present shall assume; and it may be also mentioned that gifts of money are not out of season when a wedding is in question. Of course, money-presents would only be bestowed by one who was the superior in age and circumstances to the bride or bridegroom elect.
In England it is not de rigueur that the affianced bride should provide any article towards house-furnishing; still, many ladies like to add something to the joint stock, and in such cases household linen is generally the favourite object.
Elegant additions to the wardrobe of the bride are very popular as presents. Even in the most affluent circles, presents of shawls, furs, silks and velvets in the piece, are in accordance with good taste. The above should be of perhaps a more costly nature than the bride would purchase at her own expense, but should be such as she can wear with propriety in whatever station of life it may be her lot to fill.
In France, when means are ample, the bridegroom s wedding gift to the bride is chiefly composed of expensive articles of attire, including jewellery, &c. In England the bridegroom is not expected to contribute anything to his future wife's wardrobe. That task rests with her parents, provided she has no fortune of her own. In selecting her wardrobe, or trousseau, as the term is, a bride's taste should be guided exclusively by common sense to choose only such articles of apparel as befit her position in society. To be meanly clad would reflect discredit on her husband, whilst to be over-dressed would be ridiculous. Good, durable materials, genuine of their kind, whether of one description or another, should be the chief aim. Cotton velvets, "faced" silks and satins, imitation lace, cheap jewellery resplendent with false stones, gaudy feathers, flimsy streamers, thin, showy boots, outrageously fashionable chignons and bonnets, should be avoided, as so many signs of a frivolous ill-regulated mind. A bride a cannot well have too much good body linen-garments of the kind suffering little from change of fashion - and she a should have at least twelve months' outfit of clothes for outward wear. It is not advisable to have all the dresses made up, as many circumstances may tend to render them a unwearable at the appropriate season. Changes from ill-health, death, and fashion, may intervene to render a good wardrobe in a very little time really useless.
Shortly before the wedding-day the bride should pay complimentary visits to her friends. The morning is the best time for calling on such occasions. The bridegroom-elect generally receives his friends in a less formal manner. His especial adieu to his intimate acquaintances is made at a supper party or some entertainment of the kind.
WEDDINGS, WEDDING-BREAKFASTS, ETC.
IT is customary for the bridal breakfast to be given at the house of the
bride's parents, and the cost is defrayed by them. If the house is not large
enough for the purpose, or any other objections exist, it is not unusual for the
breakfast to be given at some hotel that has a connection for similar
entertainments, and where as much seclusion is enjoyed as attends meetings of
the kind in private life. Some of these establishments, indeed, have lately
become quite favourite places of resort for bridal parties, and at many of them
the appointments usual in a well-conducted establishment are scrupulously
observed and carried out. The order for such entertainments should be given some
time previously, and the number of guests specified. The rate at which the
contract will be taken should be expressly understood. Having made all necessary
arrangements, the host and hostess should refrain from alterations, either in
the number of the party or the description of wines, viands, &c. It is in
these needless changes that disputable charges are liable to be made, converting
what otherwise might have been an occasion of unalloyed pleasure into a source
of unpleasant reminiscence.
Having decided on placing the management of the breakfast in the hands of competent professional purveyors, the host and hostess need have no personal trouble in the matter. All that is usual to be done on such occasions will be done, and the latest rules observed in the various details subject to the dictates of fashion.
Concerning wedding-breakfasts in private houses, some practical suggestions may not be unnecessary.
Immediately on leaving the vestry, the bride and bridegroom repair to the residence of the bride's parents, or wherever the breakfast may be appointed to take place. In the drawing-room are usually displayed the presents the young couple have received. This fashion is of questionable taste but, being in vogue, the practice cannot be dismissed without a word of comment. Some people carry the display to the extent of announcing the names of the donors of the respective gifts by having written cards affixed; or by placing the ordinary visiting-card of the donor, or the letter that may have accompanied the present by the side of the offering. Some little time is usually passed by the guests in inspecting the presents and bestowing their congratulations on the bride and bridegroom. 1f however, any period of time longer than half an hour should he required to elapse before descending to breakfast, biscuits, tea, coffee, and (if in the summer) ices should be handed round to the company. The precise time at which breakfast is to take place, as also the hour for solemnising the marriage, and the name of the church, should be written on the card of invitation. The following is the usual form of invitation:-
"Mr. and Mrs. ----- request the pleasure of a -------'s company at breakfast on ----, at ---- oclock.
St. -----' s Church, at ---- oclock."
The blanks should of course be filled in with the names, dates, &c. The address of the intended host and hostess should be written on the top of the paper.
People who wish only to go to the breakfast may please themselves without any offence being taken - religious faith and practice being beyond the control of ceremonious social observances. Many members of Protestant denominations object to entering a Roman Catholic church (and vice versa), but would be glad, nevertheless, to offer their congratulations in person at a breakfast ; to such the course is quite open.
The hour at which the breakfast takes place is generally regulated by the departure of the bride and bridegroom for the wedding-tour. It is the custom for the bride to leave the table to exchange her bridal costume for a travelling suit, and not to return to her friends' company. The earlier the departure the better, it is considered, according to present etiquette.
The order of arranging a wedding-breakfast is as follows:- Everything must be bright, clean, and in good taste. As many flowers as can be conveniently used - not to the detriment of the guests' comfort at table - should be introduced. Flowers may abound everywhere. Tea and coffee should be served from a side-table, and if required, should be handed to the guests in teacups, leaving milk and sugar to be added to taste. On the table everything intended to constitute the repast should be spread at once. No changes occur at wedding-breakfasts. The only additions not on the table are ice pudding, which should be handed round towards the end of the meal. The favourite viands for wedding-breakfasts are such as are in vogue at first-rate ball-suppers; viz., cold joints, poultry, game, lobster salads, ham, tongues, savoury patties, jellies, creams, fruit, &c. &c.
The wedding-cake is an important feature at a wedding. breakfast, and should be placed opposite the bride. At that stage of the repast when the appetite for solid fare has been satisfied on the part of the guests, the principal attendant presents a dinner knife to the bride, requesting her to cut the cake. If the cake be large and thickly iced, this is a task of no slight difficulty, and the bride's task is considered ended by simply placing the knife in the centre of the cake. The servant then removes the cake from the table, and finishes the work, cutting the cake into pieces about two inches square, and presenting them on a separate plate, accompanied by a small fork, to each guest.
The handing round of the cake, as in everything else connected with the service of the table, commences with the bride. She is throughout the most honoured guest, and is served first, although at her father's table.
Cake having been offered to every one, the business of toasts begins. This is a very tedious and unsatisfactory affair generally to every one concerned, and it is to be wished that considerable restrictions were enforced in the matter. As things stand, the usual plan is for the oldest friend of the family to propose the health of the bride and bridegroom. If he is sensible and considerate, he will not suffer the enthusiasm of the moment to inspire him with extravagant praise of the fair bride, such compliments being received by the most indulgent of friends at the precise value of their worth; allowing a bride is more interesting on her wedding-day than at any other period of her life, that should be no reason for lavishing on her eulogiums unwarranted by common sense.
In return for the above health, the bridegroom rises and tenders his thanks for the honour done. A very few well-spoken words are sufficient for this purpose, no one expecting him to make a speech upon the now so personal a matter as the excellent qualities of his wife.
Some friend on intimate terms with the family then proposes the health of the parents of the bride, to which the father, or his representative, returns thanks. A similar compliment is then paid to the parents of the bridegroom, with the same response, from the oldest friend on their side.
The clergyman's health, if he be present, is then proposed and responded to. Finally, the health of the brides. maids is proposed, generally by some familiar friend, a married man. The honour of returning thanks for this toast is reserved for the "best man," the bridegroom's friend.
The final toast having been honoured is the signal for the ladies to retire, the bride leading the way. During the progress of the toasts, a very pretty occupation properly falls to the lot of the first bridesmaid, and as it is one which is conducive to a good deal of well-timed complimentary attention, should not be suffered to fall into [-139-] oblivion. The task alluded to is the distribution of the bride's bouquet, as wedding-favours, to the assembled guests. These favours, being considered of particularly fortunate omen, are much valued. The bride having selected the flower she wishes especially to preserve as a remembrance of her wedding-day, passes the bouquet to the first bridesmaid, who forthwith begins to loosen the flowers and distribute them quietly to the assembled guests. Every one present should have a flower of some kind given. Of course the privilege of selection is reserved to the bridesmaid, and she does not give the worst to the most esteemed friend present.
The departure of the bride and bridegroom should be arranged to take place without unnecessary delay, immediately after their leaving the breakfast-table. Parents and friends wishing to take a particular and tender farewell generally contrive to enjoy a few minutes' privacy, no emotion or visible depth of feeling being considered appropriate in a scene of festive enjoyment. All agitation of the kind is very disturbing to every one, and if sincerely felt is best concealed, or indulged in out of sight of less sensitive observers. Every one can understand that parents are moved to the heart at parting with a cherished son or daughter, but it is not necessary to excite undue comment on such an occasion as a marriage.
Directly the bride and bridegroom have left, the general company are expected to disperse. Their carriages should be waiting, ready to be called immediately after the departure of the bridal pair. It is not unusual for the bride's parents to receive a larger number of friends than could have been accommodated at breakfast, to celebrate the event in the evening. The ordinary evening party is certainly the most suitable form of entertainment. Sometimes the family and most intimate friends go to some place of amusement for the rest of the day.
In another article we shall refer to the subjects of licenses and banns ; wedding dresses; cards or "no cards;" ceremonial calls, and other matters connected with the interesting event.
WEDDINGS (continued from p. 139).
MARRIAGES if performed by licence, must be solemnised in either parish
wherein one of the persons has been for the preceding fortnight resident. The
church where the marriage ceremony is to take place must be named in the
licence. The parties themselves are not obliged to take out the licence
personally, provided that whoever undertakes the office takes oath that both the
bride and bridegroom elect are of full age, and, if minors, have the consent of
their parents and guardians. Marriage licences may be taken out at the proper
office at Doctors' Commons. The cost is £2 2s. 6d. Special licences differ from
the ordinary licence in permitting the parties to be married at any place not
named, and at an hour different from that which is otherwise compulsory.
Marriages, without a special licence, can only be solemnised between the hours
of eight o'clock and twelve in the forenoon of the day.
When a licence is not obtained, the banns must be published on three successive Sundays by the officiating clergymen of the parishes where the persons reside The banns are generally read after the second lesson in the morning service. Any person knowing of an impediment to such marriages is bound to disclose it. The declaration may be made privately to the clergyman in the vestry. The marriage must be solemnised in one of the parishes where the banns were published, and the clergyman officiating at the ceremony must be furnished with a certificate of the publication of the banns in the other parish.
Nearly all dissenting places of worship are licensed for the celebration of marriages; but it is necessary that the registrar of the district should be present. Marriage, without any religious ceremony, at the registrar's office is legal, and comparatively inexpensive, the fees being small and fixed but the great majority of persons consider marriage a religious as well as a civil contract.
The number of bridesmaids chosen to attend the bride to the altar depends on the style of the wedding. If it is intended to be a very gay and brilliant affair, any number from four to six or eight bridesmaids would be appropriate. If only a quiet wedding, two bridesmaids are sufficient In the latter case it is considered complimentary to invite an unmarried sister of both bride and bridegroom to discharge the office. The principal bridesmaid is generally either a sister or a very intimate young friend of the bride. If many bridesmaids are to constitute the bridal cortege, and there be young children on either side of the family, their presence is sometimes considered an ornamental and appropriate addition to the group. In village weddings, amongst the upper classes, little children are often chosen to scatter flowers along the path of the bride as she leaves the church.
It is usual for the bridegroom to present each bridesmaid with some token of the joint regard of himself and bride, in memory of the happy event. Lockets, rings, and bracelets are the most popular emblems of the kind. Of late years, crystal lockets, set with a few plain stones, as turquoise, &c., have been in favour as bridesmaids gifts. All should be alike, and no difference of cost entailed. The bridegroom gives a bouquet to each bridesmaid, even if he does not present any gift beyond. [-148-] Bridesmaids' bouquets are composed of coloured flowers of the season. The bride's bouquet, which is also the gift of the bridegroom, should be composed exclusively of pure white flowers.
Beyond the gifts described, the bridegroom has no expenses whatever to incur in connection with the wedding. The bridesmaids' dresses are purchased at their own cost.
The selection of the bridesmaids' dresses rests with the bride. Her taste is generally guided in the matter by the pecuniary circumstances of the parents of the bridesmaids since upon the latter the expense necessarily falls. Silks are not considered appropriate for bridesmaids wear, unless the wearers be past the bloom of youth. Grenadine is a favourite material, but its expensiveness causes it to be little worn except by the wealthy classes. Plain white muslin or tarlatan are the most appropriate, least costly and generally becoming dresses worn by bridesmaids. Endless varieties of trimmings may be called into use, to vary the costume according to the fashion of the day and season of the year.
Veils are now so generally worn that very few words need be said in their favour. The rule to be observed is whether the bride wears a bonnet or veil, because the bridesmaids invariably follow her example. Veils are both inexpensive and becoming to a young girl hence their general acceptance by bridesmaids. The veil worn by the bride should cover her face ; those worn by the bridesmaids should be fastened at the back of the head and only fall over the back and shoulders. A coloured wreath of flowers, or bows composed of ribbon to match the trimmings of the dress, completes the head dress of the bridesmaids. Bridesmaids' veils may be composed of plain tulle, unhemmed, or very soft silk gauze The bride's veil, if composed of either of the above materials should be finished with a hem about one inch and a half wide, edged or not with blonde or lace, as may be chosen lace, however, is generally in favour for brides' wear and the veil thus chosen forms a useful addition to her ward robe as a shawl afterwards.
The material of the bride's dress is liable to vary with change of fashion, but white is the usual shade. Elderly people and widows generally wear silver-grey, but young people should wear white. From the plain muslin to the richest moiré the range of choice may extend. Low bodices are not in much favour for a bride's dress the more becoming fashion of high-necked and long sleeved costume is daily gaining ground. In strictly private weddings greater latitude of choice exists.
If people have carriages of their own, the question of conveyance to church is easily settled. If they are not so situated, the bride's family finds the carriage for the bridesmaids and bride, and the bridegroom finds his own The carriage which conveys the bridegroom to church is used to convey the bride with himself home to breakfast. Grey horses are generally chosen for bridal occasions. Liverymen usually charge extra for wedding-parties and it is sometimes found more advantageous to hire the required conveyance for the day instead of for the ceremony only.
In going to church, the bride, with her parents and one bridesmaid, should go in the same carriage, the other bridesmaids having preceded her by some few minutes. The bridegroom goes to the church attended by his best man, and should be in the vestry some little time before the arrival of the bride. When all the party has assembled, and the officiating clergyman has taken his place at the altar, the wedding-party instantly approach the altar, the bride on her father's arm, or on that of his representative, and the bridesmaids, with the rest of the party, following. Immediately on the clergy man leaving the vestry, the bridegroom, attended by his best man, should follow to the altar, in order to be there somewhat before the bride. The bride takes her place at the altar to the left of the bridegroom, with her mirtt bridesmaid within reach at her back, and to her she con. signs her left-hand glove and bouquet during the ceremony. The bridegroom removes the glove of his right hand. Some clergymen require the bride to raise her veil during the ceremony at the altar, and it is better not to dispute the point.
On leaving the altar the bride takes the left arm of the bridegroom, and proceeds to the vestry. The signing of the register takes place in the vestry, and is usually witnessed by the bridesmaids and others desirous of signing.
The amount of fees paid to the officiating clergyman clerk, and others is decided rather by the social status of the principal persons than by legal rights. Some people pay the exact fees, and nothing beyond, others give more. The legal fees vary according to the diocese, and should be ascertained beforehand. A copy of the register should always be taken by the bride, for which the usual fee given is half-a-crown extra. All fees and charges are paid by the bridegroom's best man, from money supplied by the bridegroom for the purpose.
In returning from church the bride and bridegroom go unaccompanied in the bridegroom's carriage. They are the first to leave the church. The rest of the party follows in the best order possible, under the confusion which generally ensues in leaving church after a grand wedding.
Wedding favours are found by the bride's family, and are distributed in the vestry immediately after the ceremony. The coachmen and servants are supplied with favours outside the church during the progress of the service.
The final duty of the first bridesmaid consists in sending cards to friends of the wedded couple. The cards should be previously enclosed in envelopes and addressed. Elaborate cards, attached with silver cord and similar bridal associations, are out of fashion. Either a card is sent, bearing the name of both bride and bridegroom on one card; or two cards, with the address of the joint residence on the card of the bride only. Of late years the custom of sending cards has been generally discontinued, and when such is the case, the advertisement inserted in the public journals announcing the marriage conveys the notice of "No cards." The reason is, that certain people may not take offence at not receiving cards. As a general rule, all persons invited to the wedding-breakfast, when no cards are sent, call at the residence of the bride and bridegroom immediately on their return home from the wedding-tour. If a wedding is designed to be of a quiet nature, without breakfast, the parents of the young couple sometimes send invitations to the church only. The latter is a French fashion that is coming into vogue in England, and is found sufficient notification of good feeling towards old friends and acquaintances. All persons receiving such an invitation are expected to call on the young couple on their return home. Such calls are of course returned, in the order observed in visiting, generally.
Formal "At homes" after marriage are now almost dispensed with. The most simple and generally observed plan is for the bride, or her representative, to inscribe in her own handwriting, on the card, "At home after -----," filling in the blank with the date. The ceremony of calling is then observed just as any other morning call might take place.
A succession of entertainments generally follows upon the marriage of a young couple. At all these the bride takes precedence over ladies of superior age and station to herself. Thus, the bride would be escorted to the dinner-table by the host, and the next most distinguished lady present would be assigned to the bridegroom's care.
When the round of visiting, entertainments, &c., is at an end, it becomes the turn of the young couple to receive their friends at home.
FORMS OF INVITATION, "AT HOMES," MORNING CALLS, ETC.
INVITATIONS to formal parties are now almost invariably issued on printed
cards or note-paper, with blank spaces left for the names and addresses to be
filled in by the hostess. This plan saves a great deal of trouble, and by its
adoption, people unaccustomed to the task are spared any uncertainty as to
propriety in the matter.
At the same time, a ceremonious invitation necessarily entails a ceremonious reception, and no mere consideration of saving oneself trouble should induce a lady to adopt a form of invitation which would be calculated to mislead her guests as to the kind of entertainment that awaits them.
Every form of invitation should have for its object to clearly define the name of the person invited, the hour at which the guests are expected to assemble, and the amusements proposed for their entertainment. Last, but not least, the address of the host or hostess should not be omitted. On most of the printed forms now so generally in use, the description of the entertainment proposed is inscribed on the left-hand corner at the foot of the card or note-paper. Thus Dancing, Music, Legerdemain, &c., may signify that a ball, or concert, will take place, or that a professional or amateur prestidigitateur will exhibit his talent.
If persons prefer writing their own invitations, there are one or two common errors to guard against. For instance, it is not now-a-days necessary to present compliments in writing notes of the kind. The present fashion is to be as concise as possible. Thus:-
"Mrs. Brown requests the pleasure of Mrs. White's company at an evening party on Tuesday, May 6th."
If dancing is intended to take place, or any other special amusement, intimation will be given in the corner of the note, as described above, and the hour named. For example, "Dancing at 10 o'clock."
The names of a husband, wife, and any unmarried sons or daughters residing under their parents' roof, may be inserted in the same invitation. If married, or resident elsewhere than at home, separate invitations should be sent to the respective addresses.
Invitations to evening parties are issued in the named the hostess only. If, however, the intending host is a bachelor or a widower, and enjoys the comfort of having a sister or other female relative to reside with him, to keep his house, invitations are issued for evening parties in their joint names.
In issuing invitations to dinner, the joint names of the host and hostess are inserted. Thus:-
"Mr. and Mrs. ----- request the pleasure of Mr.and Mrs. -----s company at dinner, at 7 o'clock on Thursday, 14th inst."
On no account must people write "to" instead of "at" in notes of the above kind. The latter is an error that is very commonly committed. The mistake is not confined to autograph notes, but may frequently be seen printed on cheap note-paper invitations. Common sense should dictate that persons are invited to be present at an evening party or at dinner, and not to such entertainments.
In replying to formal invitations, conciseness of expression is to be observed. As, for example, "Mr. and Mrs. ---- regret that a previous engagement prevents their accepting Mrs. -----'s kind invitation." Or, "Mr. and Mrs.------ have much pleasure in accepting Mr. and Mrs. -----'s kind invitation for the 12th inst."
If any special reason should occur to prevent invited guests from accepting an invitation, it is well to insert such reasons in the reply. Or, if details of the kind would be inconvenient, a formal refusal of the invitation should be written in the usual manner - that is, by the writer simply regretting that he will be unable to accept the proffered invitation - and enclosing at the same time a friendly note explaining the cause which deprives him of the pleasure. A "previous engagement" is a form of excuse that is very commonly assumed when a guest really does not wish to be present at an entertainment.
To accept an invitation with the intention of not being present is a violation of good taste, which should not be tolerated. If every one did the same, it is obvious that hosts and hostesses would be put to considerable expense and inconvenience from unpardonable insincerity. 1f from unavoidable circumstances, persons are prevented from carrying their intention of accepting an invitation into effect, the earliest intimation possible should be given of their disappointment, and, if possible, the reason explained. This may be done either by letter or a personal visit before or after the party takes place.
Of late years the fashion of receiving people by mean of what are termed "At homes" has become very general. Invitations of the kind are of an elastic nature, and may either signify a formal reception of guests, or a friendly gathering together of intimate acquaintances.
The best indication of the kind of entertainment proposed will be found to consist in the manner of issuing the invitation. If a large card with broad margins be sent bearing the name of the intending hostess simply inscribed in engraved letters, and the date appointed, a grand reception maybe in prospect. Or if the lady's visiting-card only be sent, or left at the future guest's house, with the words "At home" and the date written in the hostess's own hand, in ink or pencil, a less formal meeting maybe anticipated.
"At home" cards need not be replied to, unless they contain a request for an answer. If more than one day is fixed by the hostess for being at home, invited guests need not go on every occasion. They please themselves in the matter; neither need they stay any particular length of time. In fact, having presented themselves to the hostess, and spoken to particular friends and members of the family with whom they are acquainted, they may retire as soon as convenient.
[-167-] The introduction of the French system of receiving friends on a particular day of the week, without issuing any formal invitations whatever, is growing year by year in more general favour in England. It soon becomes known amongst a circle of friends on what day, and at what hour, anybody is mostly to be found disengaged; and those who really wish to maintain a friendly footing an their own sphere of acquaintances endeavour from time to time to present themselves.
Apart from the formation of valuable acquaintances, of which the present fashion affords the readiest and most simple means, the true economy of time is in itself an important consideration. Maintained as social life now is, busy as people best worth knowing always are, and living, as most people do, at inconvenient distances from what were but a few years ago centres of society, unless some such understanding as alluded to prevails, morning calls and unceremonious visiting must cease to be observed by all who are actively employed. Few persons are able now-a-days to undertake a journey to the distant suburbs of London without serious personal inconvenience and neglect of more pressing affairs. And when at the journey's end the friend is found to be "not at home," regret for lost time is the mildest form such disappointments are apt to take.
When a hostess determines to receive her friends on a certain day of the week, and circulates intelligence to that effect, she is as much bound to stay at home on that day as though she had formed a business engagement to do so. Her house should be in order, her children prepared for visitors, and her servants freed from any household labour that is of a nature to cause them to appear in disorderly haste or untidy clothes. Household cleanliness and repose are the only arrangements needful for such receptions of visitors. If refreshments are offered at all, tea is simply handed round, or wine and biscuits, as may be preferred. Tea is made out of the room, and poured into cups, leaving the guests to add sugar and milk to taste. The ordinary length of visit is observed in morning calls of the above kind.
It sometimes happens that servants inadvertently admit visitors when the mistress or master of the house is engaged in a manner that prevents them from receiving strangers. If this should be the case, the person for whom the visit is intended should send word by the servant, that in a few minutes, or a longer time if necessary, the master or mistress will be disengaged; at the same time the visitor should be requested to be seated. It is an affront to dismiss a person who has been admitted, without an interview. No less a breach of good manners is committed when a visitor is kept waiting whilst the lady of the house, for instance, is changing her dress, ornamenting her hair, or similarly engaged. The reason for such delays is generally so obvious, that the excuse, of having been detained in presenting an appearance from any other cause, is of little avail. A lady should always be prepared to receive visitors, if at home, between the hours of three and five o'clock. If not "dressed" by that time, she should give her servant notice not to admit callers. Persons who have the ill taste to present themselves during the hours usually devoted to the duties of housekeeping should either not be offended if refused admittance or should be on a sufficiently friendly footing to be received without any ceremony.
When making a ceremonious morning call, a gentleman should take his hat with him into the drawing-room, and when there should hold it in his hand in an easy manner. If it should happen that he is obliged to place his hat out of hand, he must not put it on the floor, or under his chair, but on some piece of furniture. It is not now necessary for a gentleman to take off his gloves, if they be particularly well-fitting and of light colour. The right-hand glove of ordinary kinds may be removed whilst the gentleman ascends the staircase, but he should not keep a lady waiting whilst he is ungloving, before taking her hand.
The rules of etiquette which apply to "shaking hands" are rather complicated to the uninitiated, and may require comment - offence being apt to be taken where none is meant, from want of accurate information on the point. In the first place, the term "shaking hands" is inappropriate; the mode of salutation consisting of gentle pressure and very slight movement from the wrist. In all cases, except of the greatest intimacy, the gentleman is not the first to offer his hand: unless he be the superior of the lady in age and station, he waits till she makes the advance. Unmarried ladies do not offer their hand to gentlemen with whom they are slightly acquainted. A slight curtsey on the one side, and a lifted hat or bow are sufficient signs of personal recognition.
Foreigners rarely offer their hand, unless they have been a long time in England, and understand the custom as observed in this country.
On entering a crowded room, a well-mannered roan seeks first the hostess. He endeavours to be blind and deaf to all familiar faces and voices until he has presented himself to the lady of the house - he then bows. If on sufficiently intimate terms, the lady offers her hand. Having performed the above duty, the visitor generally makes a few trivial remarks and retires, leaving room for others to advance. A gentleman finds a chair for himself, or walks about, or stands, as he feels disposed, whilst ladies are left to the care of the hostess to provide them with seats; or, at least, she deputes others to do so. At ceremonious receptions, the lady of the house generally takes up her position for receiving her visitors at the head of the staircase leading to the reception-room, or just within the principal entrance of the room. By doing so, she saves herself and guests a great deal of trouble.
When, in paying morning calls, visitors are announced, the lady of the house need not advance to meet them, unless she wishes to offer a particularly cordial reception. She rises and waits, until the guests have advanced sufficiently near, to offer her hand. Any gentlemen that may be present rise when ladies enter the room, and remain standing till they are seated. On ladies leaving, gentlemen rise, and the most intimate gentleman accompanies them to their carriage. The position of the lady of the house should, in her own drawing-room, be near the bell, in order to give timely notice, by ringing for servants to attend in the hall. A servant should wait at the hall-door whilst visitors are descending the staircase.
When a visitor has paid a morning call of average duration, and fresh comers are announced, the former visitors should rise to take leave. Unless very urgently pressed to prolong the visit, retirement should instantly follow.
The dress worn at ceremonious calls should be plain walking costume. If ladies use their own carriage for conveyance, any wraps not to be worn in the house should be left in the carriage. Ladies who walk when paying visits should be attired in a quiet style of dress.
Frequently ladies who have carriages invite those who have not, to accompany them on a round of visits. In houses where they are mutually acquainted, ladies thus situated enter together, precedence of course being given to the superior lady in age and station. Unmarried ladies, driving with elderly or married people, take the seat with the back to the horses. A ceremonious offer of the opposite seat may be made, but should be declined. When there is only one step to the carriage, and a person intends to sit facing the horses, the left foot should be placed first on the step; when a contrary position as intended, the right foot should be placed on the step first. Unmarried gentlemen, when driving with unmarried ladies sit opposite the ladies, not side by side. Gentlemen always alight first, and assist ladies to alight.
THE rules which regulate mutual recognition by persons meeting in
public thoroughfares, promenades, or other places of public resort are much the
same as those which are observed in drawing-rooms. The first advance is always
made by the lady. In most Continental society the contrary practice obtains.
French gentlemen, for instance lift the hat immediately on recognising a lady of
their acquaintance, but Englishmen wait until they receive an inclination of the
lady's head, and do not commence a conversation unless the lady takes the
Although in England ladies enjoy far greater liberty of movement in public places than is permitted in Continental society, it is not considered proper for unmarried ladies to frequent promenades and the principal thoroughfares, thronged with business-men and pleasure-seekers, unless under befitting escort. If business should require them to go into the heart of the City, riding in an omnibus is even a less exposed position than walking would be. Should it happen that such journeys must be taken on foot, the dress of the pedestrians should be of studied simplicity and unobtrusive style. Instead of looking right and left to discover familiar faces they should avoid the necessity of recognition by looking in a contrary direction to that by which they may perceive an acquaintance advancing. This practice is not to be confused with "cutting," the most ill-mannered act possible to commit in society. A person can only be cut by coolly staring him in the face without any sign of recognition. Upon no consideration should a young lady stop to speak in a crowded thoroughfare. If it be absolutely impossible to pass a gentleman without speaking, the gentleman should, instantly retrace his steps, and continue walking by the lady's side for as long a time as conversation may be necessary. A lady may take the arm of a gentleman with whom she is walking in a promenade, but for a gentleman to walk between two ladies is not considered an admissible practice in good society. The second lady should walk at the side of her female companion. The same rule applies to two gentlemen when walking with one lady. The gentlemen walk side by side, the more intimate of the two offering his left arm to the lady.
When a gentleman is recognised by a lady in a promenade, he should instantly raise his hat - not touch the rim. He should then pass on his way, unless the lady advances and offers her hand. The latter custom is seldom observed in promenades, unless the lady wishes to make particular inquiries on any matter of personal interest at the moment.
The most convenient mode of raising the hat is with the left hand, the right being left free for shaking hands if desired. As a general rule, however, gentlemen in passing acquaintances at a promenade should lift the hat with the hand the farthest from the acquaintance they meet. Thus, if a gentleman meets a friend passing on the right, he should lift his hat with the left hand, and vice versa, according to the circumstance.
Persons who are liable to meet several times in the course of a promenade, as, for instance, at a flower-show or in the parks or other public resorts, need not bow each time - once is sufficient.
Gentlemen on horseback, when required to speak to ladies, should dismount and hold the horse, if there be no groom, during the conversation. In this as in every other matter when inconvenience is likely to arise from recognition, ladies should be studious not to arrest attention.
Gentlemen should not smoke when walking with ladies neither should ladies detain gentlemen in conversation when the latter are smoking, because a well-mannered man has no option in the matter save to throw away his cigar, which, if a good one, he would probably consider a sacrifice. Introductions to persons whom people meet casually, as in a promenade, are not of necessity. A certain understanding, indeed, generally prevails that people should not enter into conversation with persons to whom they have not been introduced, which makes omission of the compliment sometimes rather awkward. Tact alone will dictate what to do in the matter. If an introduction is not to take place, it is obvious that a lengthy conversation between two persons, to the tacit exclusion of the third, is in extremely bad taste. If an introduction is to be made, the name of the younger gentleman should he mentioned to the elder or superior in station. In the case of an introduction of a gentleman to a lady, the gentleman is always the one to be presented. The mere mention of the name of either person is sufficient, and conversation proceeds as usual.
Loud talking and animated discussions are out of place in public places of resort. If every one indulged in such habits, the congregating of numbers of persons in one spot would be far from an agreeable recreation. Strict reticence of speech and conduct should be observed in public.
"AT HOMES," GARDEN PARTIES, AND BALLS.
IN the foregoing articles upon some of the customs generally observed by
people in good society, the subject of entertainments has been incidentally
glanced at: it now becomes necessary to state in what respects various
entertainments essentially differ from each other.
"At homes" are the latest and most fashionable mode of receiving friends, and afford a greater latitude of choice in the amusements provided than any other description of reception. An "at home" may consist simply in a hostess remaining in her drawing-room to receive visitors on specified days; or a decided character may be given to the reception, by notifying on the cards issued the sort of amusements that will be provided. Without such notification, conversation and very slight refreshments are the only means employed to entertain people; in the latter case, arrangements will of course have to be made to carry out the entertainment successfully.
Afternoon "at homes" of late years have been frequently distinguished by the term of "kettledrum" or "drum." The latter is a revival of an old-fashioned term for assemblies much in vogue in the last century. The modern kettledrum is simply an unceremonious afternoon tea-party, at which visitors attend between the hours of four and seven o'clock. Tea, with the usual accompaniments, is generally served in the drawing-room, from an "occasional table" set aside for the purpose. Servants wait upon the company. The guests wear morning dress, and enter and leave at their convenience. Gentlemen take their hats with them into the drawing-room, and ladies wear their bonnets.
"Garden parties," during the summer months are a very fashionable form of "at homes," and are especially suited to inhabitants of suburban villas, and gentlemen's country houses. The marked preference which the highest lady of the land has shown for these entertainments has caused the fashion to extend rapidly wherever such receptions are practicable. Croquet and archery are the most popular features at such assemblies. If the house be large enough, refreshments of a light and elegant kind are served in the dining-room; if not, a marquee should be erected on the lawn for the purpose. No fixed time is appointed for taking refreshment. Tea, coffee, biscuits, ices, strawberries and cream, sandwiches, are supplied to the guests as wanted, by servants in attendance. The dress worn on such occasions should be of a kind that is suitable for a fête or flower-show. Gentlemen wear frock coats.
Successful "at homes," of whatever kind, are the result of a combination of circumstances that unknown people in society rarely enjoy. In the first place, celebrities of some kind or degree are indispensable to prove an attraction. Popular musicians, famous travellers, well-known speakers, missionaries, or persons whose names are identified with the interests of whatever section of society the host or hostess may belong to, will always be found acquisitions. In the absence of such resources, the hostess should possess a large amount of tact to put strangers on an easy footing with each other. She and the host should be unceasing in their endeavours to put people at their ease. Simply opening a suite of well-furnished, well-lighted, and gaily-decorated rooms will not answer the purpose. Desirable people should be made acquainted with each other, and topics of conversation started amongst the silent coteries always to be found in the least-frequented corners of the apartments. Except in the highest and most exclusive circles of society, personal introductions at parties are not considered so absolutely necessary before strangers address each other as was the case a few years ago. The fact of being assembled beneath the roof of a common friend or acquaintance is rightly considered sufficient guarantee of respectability, and well-mannered people adapt themselves to circumstances accordingly.
Amongst the formal modes of reception, the dinner-party and ball are the most popular. The former kind of entertainment having been fully described in some former numbers of the HOUSEHOLD GUIDE, we will proceed to describe the observances of the ball-room. Invitations should be issued at least three weeks before the time appointed. The usual form of invitation-card is best, with "dancing" in the corner. Of course, a reply to such invitations should be sent without delay. If a large company be expected, the room selected for dancing in should be cleared of every article of furniture likely to impede the movements of the dancers. Bare boards are no longer in favour, however smooth the flooring may he. Neither should people be expected to dance on a carpet. Although clean, unless a carpet be quite new, dust and, consequently, liability to soil dresses are unavoidable. The right plan is to have a linen drugget or glazed holland strained over the ordinary carpet. This effectually keeps the dust from rising, and ensures a smooth agreeable surface for the dancers. The hearth-rug and fender should be removed, and the fire-place, except in winter, filled with evergreens and flowers.
BALLS, SUPPERS, ETC. (continued from p. 195)
THE next most important arrangement is to provide plenty of light. The
ordinary chandeliers and lamps of a household are seldom sufficient for
occasions of this kind and require to be supplemented by hired candelabra or
temporary fittings. The ball-room should be furnished with "rout seats,"
or forms made of cane-work. These take up little space, and are not liable to be
displaced to the inconvenience of the company. There are, in almost all large
towns, furnishers of requisites for the ball room and to these warehouses it is
better to apply when the giving of a ball is of unusual occurrence.
Confectioners also generally contract to supply everything necessary for the
ball-room as well as the supper, if required to do so.
As soon as the number of guests expected is ascertained the hostess should bespeak any extra attendants she may want, and give the order for the supper and refreshments. As a general rule, it is better to let a confectioner find everything, at the rate of a certain sum per head for an average number. The price, of course, varies with the nature of the order given. The only things which house keepers generally find it profitable to provide for ball suppers are solid fare, such as cold joints, beef hams tongues, chickens, and lobster salads. Wines, also are mostly provided by the host. By the adoption of this plan, the confectioner is required only to set such things on the table as belong to his particular branch of business, and these articles he can generally supply at a cheaper rate than private persons can.
The most expensive contracts are those for what are termed "sit-down suppers." This is a repast at which all the guests are seated. If the company be numerous the guests have to succeed each other at intervals required for re-arranging the tables. It is imperative that any viands that have been cut should be replaced by fresh ones for succeeding visitors. To make a selection of guests to be well-cared for first, and leave the rest of the company to fare as best they can from remnants would be the height of ill-manners.
A modification of the former arrangement is for all the ladies to be seated, whilst the gentlemen of the company assist in waiting on them. Here, again, consideration is needed on the part of the hostess, lest the ladies should remain too long at table, and also lest sufficient relays of fresh viands and table requisites should not be forthcoming for the gentlemen.
It must be stated that neither of these plans is very satisfactory. A ball being essentially an entertainment suited to young people, a set supper is somewhat out of place. Lovers of dancing are generally content to sacrifice some of the pleasures of the table to that of dancing. For this reason a most convenient arrangement appears to be one by which it is understood that at, say twelve o clock, supper will be served, leaving the guests to go down with their partners just as they please. Previous to that hour the dining-room, which may throughout the evening have been devoted to light refreshments, should be closed for half an hour, to enable the attendants to prepare the more solid fare. Every available space where tables and buffets can be placed should be supplied with viands, plates, glasses, &c., leaving the company to select their own locality. As soon as the appetite of one set of the company is satisfied, others should take their place, and so on, till every one has been served. The host should stay in the dining-room as long as convenient during the period of supper. The hostess, after having been re-conducted to the drawing-room, remains there, finding escort for those who have been left behind, and seeing that no one is overlooked.
Good music is indispensable to the success of a ball. The pianoforte is not sufficient. A cornet is a valuable addition, and for most private rooms is enough. The harp is sometimes preferred, but the latter instrument possesses the disadvantage of taking up a great deal of room. If several musicians be engaged, they should be placed in some room or gallery adjoining the ball-room.
At balls all doors should be taken off their hinges except those which are to be kept closed during the evening. The keys of the latter should be removed. Muslin hangings should be suspended at the sides of the doorways whence doors have been removed. Flowers assist greatly in making a ball-room look gay, but highly-scented flowers and shrubs should be excluded.
A cloak-room should be arranged for ladies to unwrap in. Numbered tickets should be provided, and pinned on each lady's wrappers, and a corresponding ticket given to the owner. Gentlemen leave their hats and coats with the servant in the hall, unless an apartment be especially appropriated to their use. Gentlemen who wear opera-hats, however, frequently carry their hats with them the entire evening, thus avoiding the delay of getting them when leaving. It is very questionable wvhether gentlemen who do not dance should be present at all. They are certainly out of place lounging round the entrances of the room, or standing in the way of the dancers.
Strangers, when they meet at a private house, are not supposed to dance with each other without an introduction. If a gentleman should omit to seek this advantage, he should not feel surprised that a lady refuses his offer and accepts another from a more eligible partner. The ceremony of a ball-room introduction is a very slight matter. If a gentleman sees a lady with whom he would like to dance, he has only to go to any member of the family, or person that represents the host, and ask him to present him to the lady, for the form to be complied with. The introduction need not hold good for recognition afterwards unless the lady be so disposed.
Promenading in a private room after a dance is not now in fashion. On the termination of a dance the gentleman should offer his left arm to his partner, and conduct her to her seat near her chaperon. He should then make his bow and retire.
Cards, with the list of dances inscribed, are generally supplied for making engagements at balls. Once made, an engagement should not on any account be broken. If such should unavoidably be the case, the lady or gentleman whose fault it may be should not dance during the dance in question. If, for instance, two partners should claim one lady for the same quadrille or valse, the [-219-] lady, having inadvertently engaged herself to both, should decline dancing with either, but should set the gentlemen free to choose other partners.
The last dance before supper is one of great interest to partners, as the gentleman escorts the lady with whom he then dances to supper.
It is not considered well-mannered to leave a ball immediately after supper; some little time should be spent in the ball-room afterwards. Chaperons, however, who are particularly careful of their fair charges, make it a general rule to retire after the first dance after supper. The manner of retiring should be unobtrusive, in order not to set an example which might tend to break up the party.
The dress worn by young ladies at a ball should be of a light and gauzy kind, and of a length of skirt that enables the wearer to thread her way without impediment to herself and other dancers. Trains are quite out of place in a ball-room, and even if carried over the arm, are simply an encumbrance. Gentlemen wear the ordinary black suit that constitutes full evening dress, with very open waistcoat, white necktie, and light lavender or white kid gloves. A button-hole bouquet of choice flowers is now-a-days very general.
After a ball, guests call at the house of the host and hostess and leave cards, or pay a personal visit, within two or three days at the latest.
THE degree of importance which in some circles is now attached to children's
parties causes these recreations to be regarded in the light of ceremonious
entertainments. What, indeed, are the juvenile dancing-parties of modern society
but stately balls, in which young children play the part in sober earnestness of
accomplished fine ladies and gentlemen? The nearer the mimic beaux and belles
approach to an exact imitation of their elders the greater is apt to be the
delight of lookers-on, causing the little girl most elaborately dressed and
trained, to assume the coquettish airs and graces of some adult model, and to be
as much flattered as though she were queen of the assembly. The same mistake is
too frequently to be observed in cultivating what are termed "company
manners" in young boys. All the modest diffidence of honest boy-nature is
liable to be regarded as sheer awkwardness by those who think only of producing
a momentary effect.
Dancing is, beyond every other accomplishment, the one which is best suited to the age of childhood. Al the most thoughtful writers on the education of young children agree in recommending the graceful art at an age when the limbs are supple and the frame in need of change of posture. But dancing in heated rooms is the least desirable of recreations; and to invite a numbered children to perform set figures throughout an evening is after all but a dull amusement. That they are under great restraint for the time being is easily proved by a very simple experiment. For instance, during the time when the adult company in attendance on the little guests are partaking of their supper, the children are generally left to amuse themselves in the drawing-room. A peep at the party thus set free suffices, in almost every case, to show what the natural bent of a child's inclinination is. Some one of the party is instinctively chosen to be the leader during the short interval of liberty. This leader, generally one of the eldest girls present, holds a council with two or three companions about her own age, and they agree upon a series of games to be played - games of the most popular kind. "Dropping the handkerchief," "hunt the slipper," " blind man's buff," &c., are amongst the most commonly chosen, and, with bated breath and hushed mirth, lest the supping elders should be made aware of the romps, the games have full swing. The first grown-up person, however, who appears on the threshold of the drawing-room puts an end to all the impromptu mirth. The party breaks up, groups of twos and threes are formed ; vacant seats are filled with demure occupants, and the seating of the musician at the piano is the signal for the business of the evening to recommence.
A little thought expended on the natural tastes of children would enable party-givers to confer real pleasure on their youthful guests without harmful consequences. If the giving of a juvenile party is undertaken in the spirit of providing real amusement for a number of little folks, it is but a common-sense suggestion to recommend that amusements proper for their age should be provided. All children delight in novelty, mystery, and fun. They are very capable also of finding endless amusements for themselves, provided free scope and ample room be afforded them of carrying out their inclinations.
Amongst the most enjoyable amusements that can be provided is that of conjuring. If an amateur in the circle of the party-giver can be induced to render his assistance, so much the better. The example of a private gentleman having successfully acquired the art sets before his admiring audience the possibility of performing the same tricks themselves. If an amateur is not forthcoming, a professional conjurer's services can be secured for a trifling sum. We find from two to four guineas is the average expense of such pleasures as children mostly delight in - for example, Magic and Mystery; Punchinello and Dog Toby; Dissolving Views, illustrative of Fairy Tales ; Magic Lanterns, &c. The sum is small enough, and capable of procuring novel and interesting amusement for a large number of children.
After the entertainment the most pleasing event is invariably supper. An evening party without the feature of a well-spread supper-table would be sadly wanting in one of its most popular elements. After supper, round games find an appropriate place. Dancing and such games as are admissible in a drawing-room become then a pleasant change.
At certain seasons of the year special amusements for children's parties suggest themselves. Thus, at Christmas the fir-tree laden with trifles for presents has become quite an established institution amongst us. Much the same kind of mirth may be excited by the suspension of the New Year's Bag. The latter game is of French origin, and is derived from the great respect entertained in France for the New Year. If we call the bag a "Lucky Bag" instead of a New Year's Bag, the pleasure may be enjoyed all the year round. A large bag is made, containing a little present for each child-guest. The bag should be made of glazed calico, of bright colours, ornamented with bows, artificial flowers, and such like. When suspended in a doorway or between folding-doors, a wand is placed in the hand of a child who has been previously blindfolded, and, having been made to turn round three times, the child is told to hit the bag. Being blindfolded, this is not a very easy matter, consequently three or four trials are allowed. If the child hits the bag, a ticket is given entitling the owner to something out of the bag. When all the company have tried to hit the bag, the surplus articles may be drawn for, or distributed by some other means. Both in the Lucky Bag and in the Christmas-tree the pleasure of anticipation, always keen in young children, finds play; and collecting the articles, numbering them, and the like, gives plenty of employment of an enjoyable kind to the children of the party-givers.
Another seasonable game, especially suited to springtime, and appropriate for garden parties of juveniles, is Easter Nests. As the name implies, the latter game is appropriate at Easter, and affords the chance of out-of-door rambles in the woods and around grounds attached. so country houses that far surpass indoor games in fine weather. In Germany and in Italy the game is a well-established favourite, and deserves to be commonly known amongst ourselves. Baskets resembling nests are made of cardboard, wickerwork, and similar materials. These are filled with hard-boiled eggs, stained in various colours. Boxes in the form of eggs, made to open, and capable of' containing any little trinket or article, as a thimble, marble, or sugarplums, are very popular. The nests, when filled, are hidden in bushes, perched on trees, or concealed in the grass. The juvenile company is then dismissed to ramble within given limits in search of the nests. Each nest when found is brought into the house, and given to the lady who presides over the festivity. When all the nests are brought in they are distributed. All children delight in taking something home with them after a party; and in such games that pleasure may be gratified at trifling cost.
Whatever kind of amusements may be provided for children's parties, there are none that are so objectionable as card-playing. Very few children can bear losses of any description without the display of ill-temper, or, at least, acute disappointment. Still less do they understand losing such tangible gains as heaps of nuts, sugar-plums, or gay counters represent. Nor is the exultant triumph of the winner more edifying. There is scarcely a passion of our frail nature which may not be called into action over a game of cards. Grown people are not exempt from showing great weakness under similar excitement, and can scarcely expect that little children should be superior to themselves. The game also most frequently chosen for the amusement of children is that of Speculation - a game in which the desire to gain, and reap large profits by greedy promptings, is apt to become disagreeably apparent.
The refreshments at juvenile parties should be of a varied kind, and of digestible nature. Partaken of at an unusually late hour, and under considerable excitement, food that at other times might be but slightly indigestible cannot fail to be unhealthy. Medical men tell us that at Christmas their attendance is more in request amongst juveniles than at any other season of the year. It must be so. With cakes, sweetmeats, highly seasoned viands, and the almost unrestrained liberty to take as much of anything and everything as the young guests please, it would be a marvel if headaches, sickness, and general depression did not follow upon such revels. As a general rule, home-made confectionery, pastry, and beverages are preferable to those obtained at shops. Wine is a very injudicious addition to a juvenile supper-table; still, as comparatively few persons like wine to be absent from a festivity of any kind, it may be inconvenient to dispense with it altogether. It is easy to place the wine on the sideboard, and not on the table. If any one wishes for wine it is there; and only those of the guests who are of an age to know what is good for them should be permitted to assist themselves or serve wine. Lemon, orange, and cherryade are best suited as the beverage for little children. Orgeat, from being a greater novelty in England, is also to be recommended. Fresh fruit and home-made sponge-cakes should present a marked feature at summer parties ; likewise those most convenient and ever popular dishes-sandwiches.
It is a great diminution of a hostess's responsibility if some adult member of each family of young children be present at juvenile parties. The latter exercise a tranquil influence of surveillance very much needed at times. The grown people, however, should not trench on the attentions due to the little guests they should conspire only to amuse. At supper, when such allies are present, they should have the entire control of the little guests, preventing undue mixtures of food, and prohibiting whatever is known not to agree with any of their charges. Attendants of the kind, whether relatives or not, should themselves assist the children when at table.
Of all entertainments for juveniles, none are so suitable as picnics. As this enjoyment, however, is appreciated by many adult pleasure-seekers, suggestions relative to the getting-up of picnics may be reserved for a future occasion.
OPEN-AIR PARTIES, PICNICS, ETC.
DURING the height of summer the most attractive indoor amusements naturally
fail to induce people to assemble together in crowded rooms with good will.
Balls, concerts, and dinner-parties of every kind are apt to be regarded as an
infliction rather than a recreation, and a less formal meal with congenial
companions in pure air, is found more enjoyable than the most elaborate
entertainment planned by hospitable party-givers in a heated atmosphere.
Garden-parties, as we have already observed, are at the present time the most agreeable and fashionable of all summer entertainments. To those who have not the means at command, in the very essential matter of a garden, a picnic is generally easy of accomplishment.
In the vicinity of most large towns, either some gentleman's seat, "show place," or other interesting feature in natural scenery, affords the desired place of meeting. Permission to make use of such spots is generally granted by the owners of the land, and the usual mode is to apply to the steward of the proprietor's household to be allowed to picnic in the grounds. The instances are very rare when such a request is denied.
When more public sites are in question, the intending host should previously "spy out the land," choose the most suitable spot, and ascertain whether any restrictions or impediments are likely to prevent the contemplated party from taking place. As a general rule, the landlord of the principal hotel or inn of the neighbourhood will be found the best informant as to the necessary measures to be taken in carrying out the desired plan. His interest in promoting the wishes of the intending host will, of course, consist in being himself engaged to supply the commodities in which he deals. Bitter ale, stout, soda-water, and, in most instances, the use of plates, dishes, knives, forks, spoons, glasses, and similar table requisites, are best contracted for under one charge. The plan suggested saves a great amount of trouble, the packing and conveyance of such articles being an onerous and expensive one in undertakings of this kind, and one, moreover, which few persons volunteer to undertake.
In open-air parties, by invitation, the host is subject to the same responsibilities as though he gave a cold collation under his own roof, or in the grounds attached to his house - a garden-party, in fact. Invitations should be issued in the joint names of himself and his wife, just as invitations to dinner are sent out. The time, place, and means of conveyance to the selected spot should be specified on the card of invitation. As a general rule, arrangements may be made with the railway company whose line is adjacent to the chosen site, to convey a certain number of passengers at a reduced rate. Excursion or "saloon carriages" are usually provided by the company for parties of the kind, and every facility is afforded to prevent inconvenience to the pleasure-seekers. The guests are in such cases expected to find their own conveyance to the station whence the party starts, and the host provides conveyances from the station at the end of the journey to the site chosen for the picnic. Local jobmasters and liverymen are the right people to apply to for accommodation of this kind. Mostly, however, the hotel-keeper who supplies the table requisites includes carriages to and from the station in his list of charges.
There is also an arrangement of a provisional nature which it is desirable to effect with the landlord in question, namely, with respect to the use of his house in the event of the weather not being suitable to dining out of doors. The chief drawback to open-air parties lies in the all-pervading doubt as to the weather. On this account it is advisable to be provided with a place of resort in case of unexpected change. Next to a picnic in the open air a dinner of an impromptu kind is the most amusing, and the novelty of the guests having to assist in the arrangements is generally not the least enjoyable part of the entertainment.
In order to secure the comfort of enterprising guests, the host should make ample provision for their entertainment, let the weather be foul or fair. Having done so, the cards of invitation should specify where the party will meet in the event of unfavourable weather.
The usual plan at the outset of arrangements for parties of this kind is for three or four persons to form themselves into a committee. The first point to ascertain is the number of persons to be asked to join. Having learnt how many may be expected, the next matter of importance is to settle the locality, and, if in private grounds, to obtain permission in the manner already described. The question of conveyance to and fro should also be [-256-] decided on. In all preliminary matters of the above kind the expenses incurred by the committee are borne by themselves. The guests pay only their own share of the expenses incurred for travelling, viands, wine, &c. The labour on the part of the volunteers in the service is of a purely honorary nature, and their reward is supposed to lie in the gratification obtained by their forethought and painstaking.
The mode generally adopted in dividing the expenses of the whole party is for each individual, or family, to provide sufficient provision for their own numbers. It rests, however, with the committee to state what kinds of food will be most acceptable, in order that everyone may con-i tribute something towards a change.
The committee should draw up a list of the articles of' which the dinner is intended to consist. Fowls, ham, tongue, ribs of beef; salted silver-side, fore-quarter of lamb, raised or game pies in jars, and lobsters and crabs, are amongst the dishes in most general deman4 at picnic parties. To these should be added fruit pasties, cheese-cakes, puffs of preserved fruit, sponge, plum, and pound cakes, biscuits, dinner rolls, butter, and Stilton cheese. Fresh fruit is indispensable. Strawberries, stone fruits in season, nuts, &c., to which should be added some bonbon crackers for the amusement of the young men and maidens at dessert. Bottled ale and effervescing beverages are usually in great request, equally so is ice. Some one should be appointed to provide a huge block of Wenham Lake ice; it can be had far cheaper in large quantities than in small, It should also be the business of the committee to employ some one on the spot to supply an unlimited quantity of water during the presence of the party. Ladies and young people generally are often inconvenienced at picnic parties from the circumstance of no adequate provision having been made to gratify their need for a refreshing and unstimulating beverage. Iced water, or water in which ice has been melted, affords the most grateful beverage. Syrup of orgeat, orange flower, or raspberries, may be added if desired. Plenty of fresh lemons are a capital addition. In the absence of these a bottle of prepared lemon-juice, and some loaf sugar, will be found always welcome.
In deciding what each family, or section of the party, shall be requested to contribute, the following rules are generally observed. The maternal heads of the party are generally expected to contribute the solid fare, such as meat, poultry, lobsters, &c. The unmarried people contribute fruit, pastry, and sweetmeats, and the gentlemen find the wine, bottled ale, soda-water, and effervescing draughts. The latter items are generally procured from one wine merchant, and the cost is defrayed by the gentlemen.
When a picnic party is tolerably large, it is a good plan to have all the provisions that can be packed the evening previous sent to the residence of the chief promoter of the I affair. On the morning of the day a tradesman's cart - the greengrocer that supplies the family is the best person to apply to - should be hired to take all the hampers and parcels at one time to the place chosen. Even the ice may be sent in this way, provided it be properly packed, i.e., in plenty of flannel and woollen wrappers. The usual mode of sending out ice is to cover it freely with sawdust. The only drawback to this plan is, that the sawdust requires a considerable quantity of water to remove it effectually, and water is scarce usually in country places. Before packing the ice in the cart the block should be placed under a water tap, and it afterwards should be - completely enveloped in flannel. A clean old blanket is a very useful covering for the purpose. The ice should be placed in the bottom of the cart, and articles that are of a perishable nature should be placed nearest in - packing. Almost everything eatable may in this way be successfully conveyed to the scene of action.
It should be understood that whoever provides the joints and other viands, provides also the usual accompaniments thus, the fore-quarter of lamb should be accompanied by a bottle of mint sauce; lettuces and lobsters, by mixed dressing of oil and vinegar; cucumbers, by pepper; beef; by mixed mustard and shred horse-radish; and strawberries and other fresh fruits by sifted sugar. If everyone takes salt there will be a prospect of plenty of this indispensable seasoning, but if the task is left to chance the probability is that "No salt!" will be the cry of dismay heard on all sides when appetites are let loose on the tempting fare.
The best plan of conveying butter is to cut out all the crumb of fresh rolls, and fill the vacant space with fresh butter. If the rolls be cut in half; and each portion neatly filled with butter, the rolls themselves form the best butter-dish. Butter, when removed from the rolls, does not look inviting.
The first part of the entertainment on the arrival of the party at the place of destination is generally a light refreshment in the shape of cake, biscuits, wine, or iced drinks. The party then usually disperses to visit any scene of special attraction, whilst the cloth is being spread. The hour at which everyone is expected to return should be distinctly made known before separating, and those who fail to keep time should not be waited for. In the absence of the ramblers, the servants of the families, if any be present (and it is desirable that some should be there) should lay the cloth under the superintendence of the chief promoter of the picnic. This is a task which people unused to the work seldom perform with intelligence; and besides, assisting in waiting at a picnic affords a great deal of pleasure to servants, and is looked upon by them as a reward for good service. Some utensil for washing spoons, forks, &c., is an indispensable addition to the contents of the cart which conveys the provisions. A large galvanised zinc bowl, or a new pail, is the most useful article for the purpose. Plenty of clean glass-cloths should also be provided.
A picnic party occasionally attracts a good many loungers and lookers-on of a doubtful class. The only way to prevent these people from encroaching in dangerous proximity to the plate, &c., is to secure the attendance of a police-officer in the grounds, within easy call, if not in sight. This protection can always be had on payment of a trifle at the police-office for especial service.
At the end of the repast all the fragments and viands left from the meal should be distributed amongst the poor. The lodge-keeper, if the picnic have taken place in private grounds, will be found the best medium for this description of gift. Wine, spirits, and bottled drinks should be re-packed, and the value deducted from the amount of the bill, if any be returned to the wine merchant, or taken at valuation by those who care to buy them afterwards.
Music is always an agreeable feature at picnic parties. Wind instruments especially are suitable.
if dancing on the grass be part of the after-dinner amusement, tea is generally in request. The easiest way of obtaining this refreshment is for some one to provide a large kettle in which water can be boiled by a spirit lamp. Tea for a large party is best made in a tea-urn. The tea should previously to infusion be tied in a piece of white muslin. At most places, however, some cottager or lodge-keeper will gladly undertake to provide boiling water at a trifling cost.
The dress worn at picnics should be of the most simple and inexpensive nature. Plain white or coloured muslins are most suitable to young ladies; barége dresses to the more elderly, and the usual morning dress for gentlemen. Very thin boots are unsuitable; they do not protect the feet from damp grass, or from the hard, pointed stones which render walking in some country roads a painful exercise.
BOUQUETS, FLORAL DECORATIONS, ETC.
IT is hardly possible to attach too much importance to the minor arts of
pleasing practised in all highly civilised society. Whether the expression
assume one form or another it little matters, provided certain acts be
understood to convey the desired intention of goodwill. Present-giving, in all
climes and at all times, has been the channel through which propitiatory
greetings have been effected; [-286-] and enormous
sums of money are sometimes expended in the East upon the merest stranger,
provided the object of his mission to foreign parts be of a nature to demand
unmistakable assurances of cordiality. In the cold calculating West, costly
presents to strangers are liable to be regarded as bribes, and are consequently
not in general favour; but no people are more sensibly flattered than ourselves
by those unassuming and graceful acts of courtesy which some of our Continental
neighbours bestow with so much tact on suitable occasions. In such gifts
expensiveness is not the chief consideration; the aim is rather to gratify a
personal taste entertained by the intended recipient.
Flowers, from the universal fondness with which they are regarded by all persons of refinement, are particularly adapted to express the wishes desired to be conveyed by actual token ; hence the custom of giving bouquets upon every occasion which marks an epoch in the life of those with whom we are acquainted.
The bouquets at present in most general use are those in which the flowers of the season are skilfully arranged according to their colours. Fragrance is made to be subservient to colour; and, provided a bouquet looks well, very little attention is paid to the nature of the flowers of which it is composed. There are, it is true, conventional observances in the selection of flowers for certain occasions, and the fashion of the bouquet is seriously considered by bouquet-makers; but beyond these rules the art of making bouquets is most simple, and may be acquired with ease by any one not absolutely devoid of taste.
To begin at the beginning. Having collected the flowers to be used, each kind should be sorted, and laid on a good-sized table or tray. All superfluous leaves should be stripped from the stem, leaving only sufficient stalk to meet the required need. The bouquetiere should then discover, by placing the flowers beside each other, what colours are likely to blend well, and decide on the order in which they would be most advantageously displayed. Every collection of flowers should be designed in accordance with its contemplated surroundings.
First, with regard to garden nosegays, such as one friend commonly sends to another, either by hand or some other mode of conveyance. If intended to consist of various kinds of flowers, a nosegay of this kind should be made up flat, to admit of being laid down during the journey, without injury to the blossoms. It is not inappropriate to remark that a good amount of green sprays, or similar "backing, should be gathered before commencing the task of putting the flowers together. With plenty of well-selected foliage, a very few flowers may be made to produce a charming effect, whilst, without such assistance, the best assorted flowers may fail to show to advantage, owing to the sudden contrast in which rival shades are forced to appear. As a general rule, the foliage of each flower supplies its own most suitable surrounding, but with a little ingenuity other leaves and sprays may be made to do duty with good effect. Sprays of lilac, tender boughs of chestnut, twigs of bay, lavender, or southern-wood - commonly called "old man"- are to be found in most gardens, and form a very useful contribution. Even some branches of fruit shrubs, such as currant bushes, are suitable; and, best of all, for quite the back is a large-leaved stemn of rhubarb. The leaf of the latter plant may serve, not only to keep the flowers cool and fresh on the journey, but it may also be used as an envelope, to exclude the air and light of a summer day.
An accustomed hand at making up garden nosegays finds no difficulty in accomplishing her graceful art whilst chatting with, perhaps, the friend for whom the gift is intended. A very prettily-shaped and portable bouquet may be made up in the garden in the following way:- Choose a smooth woody piece of a branch, or even a small stick of ordinary firewood will answer the purpose; tie p it the end of a good-sized ball of wool; then begin to fasten on the flowers by continually winding the wool round the stem of each flower, as, one by one, they ate added to the bouquet. Flowers that have the shortest stems should be placed at the top of these kinds of bouquets, reserving those of which the stalks are longer for the base. A plentiful gathering of foliage should be kept for finishing the bouquet. Before enveloping the nosegay in paper, all the stalks should be evenly cut off, When finished, the bouquet described should present the appearance of a tiny May-pole.
In garden-bouquet making, it should be borne in mind that the flowers will in all probability be taken apart and placed in vases, on reaching their destination; care should therefore be exercised not to injure the flowers by packing them too closely together, still less by winding the thread too tightly round the stems. People who are very thoughtful in the latter respect use bass in preference to cotton; but as the latter is seldom to be obtained of very great length, it is better to have lamp-cotton at hand for the purpose. The latter (sold in balls) retains the moisture of the plants, and does not cut the stems. Flowers that are intended to be sent any distance should not be sprinkled with water; the effect of doing so is to cause the blossoms to shed their leaves.
In making bouquets to be placed in halls and on staircase landings, the flowers chosen should be of the most effective kind, surrounded by plenty of foliage. Lilac. branches are especially useful for hail decorations, and afford excellent contrast to such flowers as peony-buds,; laburnum-sprays, &c. Strongly-scented and aromatic flowers and shrubs are appropriately placed in halls; the perfume is then wafted through the house, and is agreeable without being overpowering. Such shrubs as lilac and syringa, when in bloom, are inadmissible in sitting- rooms The same may be said of wall-flowers. Few persons can bear the odour of such plants without inconvenience in a close apartment, although they may enjoy the fragrance when blended with outer air.
The vases in which flowers are placed should be in accordance with the surroundings of the situation. For instance, terra-cotta, Wedgwood, and majolica ware arc most suitable for halls and staircases ; whilst delicate biscuit-ware, fine porcelain, and Bohemian glass, are better adapted to drawing-rooms, and clear crystal to the dinner-table.
Sideboard decorations are most appropriate when corn- posed of flowers growing in their own pots, concealed by either a cache-pot made of paper or woodwork, now in such general use, or sunk in ornamental china-ware or majolica. Bronze ornaments, made expressly to contain flowers, are very suitable as sideboard decorations. Vines growing in pots are the most elegant addition to a sideboard, but are not in place on a dinner-table, although frequently inappropriately placed there.
Drawing-room floral decorations should be of the choicest and most studied kind-choice, because most exposed to close observation, and studied, because the suitability of the flowers to the purpose depends rather upon the design, material, and form of the receptacle, than on the actual quality and fragrance of the flowers themselves. People may say, "roses are always beautiful, and the violet is always sweet." Whilst accepting to the fullest extent the truth of the assertion, it must be admitted that roses, violets, and most kinds of flowers are capable of having their inherent charms increased by judicious juxtaposition. The violet, for instance, would show to disadvantage in a vase of brilliant Bohemian; blue; and the glory of the red rose would be diminished in a basket of coral-work. Happily common sense dictates that such attempts would be a violation of good taste; but a similar offence is too often committed after a minor fashion [-287-] when a number of flowers are crowded together into a vase, without any regard being paid to the order in which they are placed, or the style and colour of the vase itself. One frequently sees the most extravagant use made of choice flowers, through sheer thoughtlessness. Taking roses as the most familiar example, nothing is more general than to see masses of roses thrust into a vase, with little or no foliage to relieve the contrast of shades. Now roses, as a rule, never show to so little advantage as when seen~ together in large quantities; at the same time, few flowers are equally beautiful when examined separately. On this account it is desirable that a sparing use as to numbers should be made of the rose, and greater pains taken to display the characteristic beauties of each.
When it is desired to show any number of roses in one group, as much of their own foliage as can be obtained should be made use of. When mixed with maiden-hair fern, and a similar class of green spray, their beauty is greatly enhanced.
The decking of an epergne for the dinner-table is a piece of handiwork in which most ladies of late years have had considerable experience. The times are gone by when bon-bons and whipped cream were considered the most appropriate use to be made of handsome centre-pieces. Flowers are now-a-days as indispensable a part of a feast as choice viands. So long also as flowers do not trench on the comfort and ease of guests at a dinner- table, the substitution is a decided improvement on past practices ; but, unfortunately, a tendency is too often displayed to make flowers the leading feature at the dinner- table, and to place a bouquet, not only in the centre of the table, but at the corners likewise, in the middle of salt-cellars, and in all kinds of vases at every open space not peremptorily demanded by the service of the table. Nor is the perfume of a large mass of flowers taken into consideration. Many of the most highly-scented kinds that are delightful to look upon are very distressing to the olfactory sense, especially when combined with the fumes of highly-seasoned viands and aromatic fruits. The mixture of odours at many modern dinner-tables, is a far more severe trial of strength than the digestion of the fare provided, and should be taken into merciful consideration by kind-hearted hosts and hostesses.
The chief considerations which should influence the decision respecting the amount of floral decorations employed for the dinner-table, should he the space at disposal. Whether much or little, the first requisite is to leave sufficient room for plates to be removed, bread to be broken, and glasses filled, without making each movement an effort of the mind to guard against accidents. If a dinner strictly a la Russe be in contemplation, of course greater space is at disposal. Even in the latter case it would be well if the hostess, before deciding on the number of flower-vases she would place on the table, first took the precaution of having the necessary plates, knives, forks, and phalanx of wine-glasses set out in their appointed places, and afterwards made up her mind as to the amount of room left for the display of flowers and vases.
The extravagant use of flowers which characterised the recent revival of floral table decorations is now considerably lessened. The height, also, of table ornaments is much reduced, and wide-spreading trays, mounted on slender stems, are no longer considered in good taste. The base of the epergne is now the principal scene of the bouquet-maker's art, the most approved designs being those epergnes in which the summit is adapted to the reception of a few flowers only. Epergnes in the form of a mirror-frame, composed entirely of glass, are coining into favour, and are considered most appropriate. The idea is open to imitation in light rustic work. The bases of the above epergnes are of tray-like form, and were the chief receptacle of flowers. A small saucer on the top, completes the design. From the smallness of the space to be filled, none but the choicest flowers should be placed in vases of this kind. It is indispensable, also, that the foliage should droop over the sides of the receptacle to the table-cloth. For this purpose, the common brake fern will be found the most useful, relieved by sprays of fuchsia in bloom, or similar flowers. The effect is as pleasing as need be desired.
The base of most epergnes, especially if composed of zinc, should be filled with wet sand.
FLORAL TABLE DECORATIONS, BOUQUET-MAKING, ETC.
(concluded from p. 287.)
IN one form of table decorations the base of the epergne
.assumes the style of the ribbon borders, so prominent a feature in most
ornamental gardening. The most simple mode of carrying out the plan Consists in
the use of variegated leaves, interspersed with blossoms remarkable (or
harmonious colouring. The perfection to which the culture of the variegated
coleus and geranium leaves has been brought is being emulated in many other
descriptions of plants.
The base of an epergne is a fitting place for the display of these productions. Some drooping grasses and a fern-leaves should be arranged to fall over the sides of the epergne, of a sufficient length to just touch the table-cloth. The usual mode is then to place the largest leaves and those of the darkest shades in the outer circle of the stand, reserving the smaller ones and those of the palest tints for use nearest the stem. A few blades of either tussock or ribbon grass, placed in the sand, and fastened mid-way up the stein of the epergne, leaving the tops of the grass to fall over in a palm-like manner, produce a very pretty effect.
If flowers are introduced in the base of an epergne composed of variegated foliage, the tints should bear some resemblance to the colours of the leaves. This is not a difficult matter, now that rose and various shades of yellow and brown are so frequently seen on one geranium leaf. In the absence, however, of these tints, the double bachelor's button, or golden drop, choice French man-golds, small tufts of scarlet lychnis, and similar well-known blossoms, are very suitable for throwing in the required effect.
If the top of the epergne consists of a tray-like vase, precisely the same kind of drooping grasses should be contrived to fall over the sides as at the base. Unless the vase be made of zinc, admitting of the use of sand, stems of grass will require to be kept in their place by being covered with flat pebbles. A few sprays of fuchsia are a very pleasing addition to the drooping foliage used for the summit of an epergne. If it be desired to produce a raised eminence in the centre, some kind of vase or basin - should be placed in the tray, care being exercised to conceal its presence by flowers and foliage. Meadow-sweet is now-a-days the favourite flower for the summit of epergnes. Any flowers of a feathery or light branching kind, would be equally appropriate.
It is to be regretted that a more general use is not made of our lovely field flowers for purposes of table decoration. Although unfit for hand-bouquets, on account of the great amount of moisture they stand in need of, they are admirably adapted for the above purpose. Even the most skilful and professed bouquet-makers know of no substitute for the common "totter," or quaker grass, and introduce its shimmering hues wherever they desire to tone down the too glowing colours of the rose and calceolaria. With the exception of the maiden-hair. fern, no cultivated grass answers the purpose equally well. The ragged robin, scarlet poppy, wild clematis, butterfly orchis hone) suckle, lady's mantle, "shoes and stockings," blue bells wild anemones, and the ever-welcome daisy, together with numberless less common, but equally beautiful "gifts of nature," in the truest sense of the term, abound wherever there are green fields and hedgerows. Whatever may be thought in mansions and palaces of our lowly favourites, there are many spheres of life in which the claim of wild flowers, beyond dispute, merits to be recognised. It is in nurseries, and in the simple village homes of middle-class life, that these floral treasures repay tenfold the care bestowed on their gathering. Little children are great gainers by being taught to value and make use of the bounties which come naturally within the sphere of their use and observation; and the unpretending home of the lowly mechanic may be adorned by the refining influence of flowers at small cost of labour, by preserving the handful culled at random in an evening walk, and kept from day to day to gladden the eyes of those whom daily toil debars from out-door pleasures.
But to return once more to the subject immediately connected with the design of the present paper. The appropriateness of bouquets as complimentary gifts is so generally acknowledged, that we scarcely need refer to it, beyond stating that on special occasions a conventional form and significance are to be observed in similar offerings. As the manner of making up all flowers for bouquets is in most cases the same, we will begin by describing the process. The materials required for the work are, a pair of tolerably large, and a pair of small-sized scissors, some soft cotton or silk, some fine wire, such as is used by artificial flower-makers, and some cotton wool in sheet. The bouquetière should begin by sorting the flowers as already described, contrasting the hues, and removing all superfluous foliage. Not a particle of anything likely to be useful should be thrown away until the bouquet is completed, because it is impossible to tell what may not be wanted; and sometimes - the foliage least effective, when seen by itself, enhances marvellously the beauty of showy and attractive flowers in combination.
[-315-] As a general rule, the most useful flowers for bouquet purposes are those which are culled from flowering shrubs. The fibrous nature of the stems renders this class of plants more lasting in warm rooms than soft-stemmed plants. The latter kind require a considerable amount of moisture to preserve their freshness, and are, therefore, better adapted for the decoration of vases where water can be freely used than for carrying in the hand. The use of many gems of the flower borders is thus denied the bouquet-maker; as, for instance, the rich pansy and early primrose and violet. When used in clusters of considerable numbers, however, the violet, although soft-stemmed, is available.
The bouquet-maker having selected her flowers, it seems hard to say that the work of destruction should be the first task; but the modern bouquet is simply an artistic production, and the bouquetiere must be ruthless in her treatment of the lovely materials. In the matter of foliage, gardeners provide usually, but sparingly, the kind belonging to the blossoms, knowing full well that blossoms are most needed. Any rose-leaves, or green sprays of azalea that may be attached to the blossom are mores useful when separated from the stem; therefore all foliage of the kind should be attached to fine wire, to be made use of as occasion may require during the making of the bouquet.
The process of wiring flowers likely to shed their leaves should then commence. This is done by passing pieces of wire through the calyces of the flowers. Wire from six to seven inches in length, for a fair-sized bouquet, should be at hand for the purpose. The end of the wire that has been passed through the flower should be bent down on the opposite side and fastened closely to the stem of the plant with some fine green cotton. It does not matter how short the stems of the blossoms may be, as - the wire may supply the necessary length of stalk. The flowers that require the greatest care in wiring are roses, carnations, pinks, azaleas, gardenias, camellias, and others of the same kind. Flowers that are devoid of any stem may be used for bouquets by making use of wire in the manner described.
Most amateur bouquet-makers crowd the flowers too much together. This is partly owing to not using wire, and partly because they do not know how to fill in the spaces left between the flowers when spread apart. This is best done by introducing ferns, grasses, or any similar foliage, as a finish. The most beautiful rose bouquet the writer has seen was composed in the following manner. Every rose was a choice specimen, and to all appearance each spray was put into place in the same state as that in which it had left the bush. On taking the bouquet to pieces, however, it was found that not only had every blossom been wired, but every leaf detached and wired also. Except that the roses were natural, their various parts had been subjected to precisely the same treatment as is observed in making up artificial flowers. The spaces between the rose sprays, were filled in with maiden-hair fern, wired also. The charm in the bouquet consisted in the air of looseness with which the flowers had been put together, instead of the compact masses of blossom which too often constitute the modern bouquet.
A very slender piece of wood is necessary for the centre of a bouquet. Upon this the work of fastening the flowers is carried on as stated in a foregoing article on the subject. If the character of the intended bouquet be of the present fashionable shape, a rose of a large kind should be placed at the summit. The Gloire de Dijon, Souvenir de Malmaison, or climbing Devoniensis, are the best kinds for this position. Around the rose may be placed small kinds of flowers in tufts, all of one kind, and of a colour that contrasts well with the rose. Thus tiny bunches of violets are effective against a white rose, and the same arrangement of mignonette is suitable for roses of a full red tone. Lines of the same flowers as form the upper circle, are very much used to form a section-like division of colours. These lines or stripes should always be in strong contrast to the rest of the flowers.
Before finishing the bouquet with the customary paper frill, grasses or light ferns should be plentifully used. In the absence of choicer kinds, the striped ribbon-grass forms a very pretty finish. All the blades should be of equal length, and fastened end to end, the middle thus representing a loop. Two or three rows of loops of grass are very effective, and infinitely preferable to the ruchings of blonde, tulle, and Brussels net, which are often seen round handsome bouquets. Still less should silken cord and silver tassels be used as a finish. A great improvement in bouquet papers is noticeable. The papers may be had of the principal florists. They consist in a cardboard backing and handle in the same piece, thus dispensing with the clumsy arrangement of loose papers frequently in use.
It is usual to present bouquets of different kinds on various occasions. Fashion also decrees that the bouquets should be of a characteristic kind. For instance, the recurrence of a birthday affords a suitable occasion for paying a compliment of a more marked character than mere words express. Birthday bouquets intended as offerings to young people, are most appropriate when composed of spring flowers-wild if possible. Daisies, dog-roses, forget-me-nots, violets, primroses, and meadowsweet, are especially eloquent of the attributes connected with the dawn of life. In similar offerings to aged people, foliage, berries, and flowering shrubs should constitute the principal feature. Sad occasions also there are in life when flowers may be made as expressive of our sympathies as they are typical of rejoicing. Thus the daily-increasing custom of consigning to the last resting-place of beloved friends and relatives mementoes of affectionate regard in the form of garlands and emblematical designs, affords opportunity for the use of such flowers as the simple heart's-ease, the sorrowful yew, and the constant bay-leaf. The lily as typical of innocence, the Michaelmas daisy of farewell, the hare-bell of submission, and the marigold of grief are equally appropriate.
The bride's bouquet is essentially an artistic production, in which purity is typified in the representative flowers of spotless whiteness. Strictly speaking a bridal bouquet should be composed of nought but white flowers, stripped of even their green foliage. Lilies of the valley, white lilac, white violets, gardenias, camellias, white roses (especially the boule de neige), jessamine, and white carnations, and orange-blossom, are amongst the most popular flowers for the purpose. Widows, when contracting a second marriage, receive also a bouquet from the hands of their intended husbands, and upon such occasions, although white flowers largely predominate, shaded flowers, and those of subdued tints, such as orchids, are generally used.
Bridesmaids' bouquets are the gift of the bridegroom to the bridesmaids, and should be of the same predominant shade as seen in their dresses for the occasion. Thus, if blue be the principal colour, the ragged robin, forget-me-not, heather-bell, or some similar flower should be introduced in combination with plenty of white blossoms. If rose be chosen, rose-coloured flowers in season should be made use of. In any case, simplicity should be observed in selecting flowers for bridesmaids' bouquets, the tints being especially subject to the style and colour of the dresses worn.
As offerings to people somewhat advanced in life, the bouquet should be made to assume richness of colour and variety of selection. Following this rule, full-coloured flowers are most suitable as gifts to ladies of mature years.
EVENING ENTERTAINMENTS: PRIVATE CONCERTS, MUSIC PARTIES, ETC.
IN proportion as musical knowledge extends throughout
England, vocal and instrumental performances gain favour as amusements for
evening parties. Amongst the higher classes of society music has always been
considered one of the most refined modes of entertainment for invited guests,
and almost fabulous sums have at times been paid to secure the services of artistes
of renown at private concerts. Indeed, the expensiveness of such
entertainments has been the great drawback to their more general adoption.
The musical amateurs of England are not now confined to one section of society. The family circle of most households must indeed be backward in modern attainments if one member, at least, is not a creditable performer on some instrument, or, more commonly still, a tolerably good vocalist. Thus, with abundant means on all sides, there need be no difficulty in bringing people together in the common cause of doing honour to the art they love, and, at the same time, conferring pleasure on their audience. To be enjoyable, however, the arrangements for a music party should be as carefully studied as those for a more elaborate kind of reception.
Firstly, with regard to private concerts for which professional assistance is secured. The usual plan is to place all matters connected with the engagement of the articles and the making of the programme in the hands of a member of the musical profession accustomed to similar undertakings. Most professors of music of standing are competent to discharge the task; and, in enlisting such aid, the host will find that he has incurred very slight additional expense, and has been relieved from a large amount of anxiety. Concert-givers, who are unacquainted with the nice distinctions of artistic rank, had better leave the marshalling of such forces to experienced leaders, who, knowing the rightful position that each is entitled to claim in a programme, is absolute in his function of conductor.
Whenever a professional conductor is engaged for a private concert, he takes all responsibility off the hands of the intending host or hostess. He ascertains the amount the concert-giver intends to expend, and submits a list of performers whose talent may be secured for the sum stated. On the evening of performance, or within a few days after the concert has taken place, the conductor pays the artistes.
The arrangement of the programme is also the conductor's business. Most people leave professional performers to select their own music ; and it is policy to do so, as they know the music best suited to their own powers better than strangers can dictate.
As a general rule, what is termed chamber music is best suited for drawing-room audiences. Charming glees, ballads, duets, and trios, in endless numbers, constitute the repertoire of successful public performers and from the list that each performer presents to the conductor it is easy to make a good selection. The next preliminary arrangement is to procure the words of the songs - provided it be intended to print the words. The artistes supply the conductor with the words for the programme, and he corrects the printer's proofs.
On the evening of performance the conductor should be the first member of the professional party to arrive at the residence of the concert-giver. If it should happen that the performers are not personally known to the host or hostess, it is the conductor's duty to present them. Seats are generally arranged for the artistes near the pianoforte, in order that the company may not be disturbed, and unnecessary delays occasioned by passing to and fro during the concert. The artistes mingle with the general company when the concert is over, and partake of supper or not as they may feel disposed. At the termination of the concert the conductor's duty towards the artistes is at an end, and the host and hostess act towards them as towards other guests. It is a compliment to ask artistes to partake of any amusements that may follow on the termination of the concert. If the company disperses immediately afterwards, the latter duty is obviously unnecessary.
The above are the rules generally observed at formal concerts given at private houses. Amateur performances of music require a little modification.
Here it is not out of place to comment on the character of entertainments in which music forms a part, and not the whole of the evening's amusement, if people are invited to a musical entertainment, they naturally expect that order will be observed in the arrangements. Nothing is more disappointing than to find that the music is of a haphazard description, and that the performances are dependent on the whim of the moment that may happen to influence the expected performers. All the considerations as to whether an amateur friend will sing or play or not should be settled between the hostess and the amateur before the company is assembled ; the exhibition of a hostess going from one member of the company to another, asking in vain for the assistance which their talent would afford, is, to say the least of it, far from edifying. The example of one person refusing is quite sufficient in itself to induce others to decline, and it is not until some good-natured person, not the most capable, perchance, of acquitting himself creditably, goes to the piano and breaks through the ice, that the chill is taken off the assembly.
If people determine to make music the principal feature in an evening entertainment, and announce the party as a music-party, they should be at the same pains to secure success as they take to make balls or dinner-parties successful. A great deal of the discomfort experienced at evening parties where music is a principal feature arises from the nondescript nature of the preceding arrangements. A large number of persons are brought together, the majority capable probably, as amateurs, of adding to the amusements provided for the company, but unprovided with music, from not having been previously asked to assist. Unless this condition be [-327-] complied with, none except those upon most intimate terms with the hose or hostess would venture to take music, or musical instruments to a party. It would look too much like wishing to perform, they argue; and, rather than appear obtrusive of their talent, they prefer making its display an impossibility.
Nor is the nondescript nature of the parties alluded to unsatisfactory to amateur performers only. The guests, not knowing what the order of the evening is to be, betake themselves for amusement according to the bent of their y inclination. Some look at engravings, others talk-very loudly sometimes - and pay no deference whatever to the occasional exertions of a performer to be heard above buzz and laughter going on in all parts of the room. The talkers, having once gained the ascendency, no amount of frowns and hushings on the part of the hostess can quell their loquacity. Every one can talk, or thinks he can talk; consequently, restraint seems like trenching on personal independence, and is liable to be resisted, even in what is emphatically termed good society. In nine cases out of ten, evening parties of the latter kind are a great disappointment, and a serious annoyance to every one. The hostess is vexed because her amateur friends will not oblige her by singing or playing; those who do perform are displeased because their efforts to amuse are not welcomed; and the talkers are made angry by being reproved for indulging in conversation. Every one is more or less censured as being ill-mannered, rude, &c. Such wounds rankle.
In fashionable society, where the necessity of receiving large numbers is met by adequately numerous apartments, suites of rooms, galleries, and so forth, all conversation is not restrained when music commences only those within earshot of the performers are compelled by courtesy to keep silence. In the adjoining rooms conversation has full sway, and although the distant murmur may penetrate to the music-room, listeners are not supposed to be disturbed by it.
It is in houses of smaller dimensions, and amongst persons less accustomed to the habits of society, that the disagreeables complained of abound, and often render amateur music an annoyance instead of pleasure. There is no denying the fact that amateur musicians at a party are frequently principally attractive to each other. The first plunge having been made, and the chill of nervousness having given place to the love of exercising a fascinating art the amateurs are apt to vie with each other in getting possession of the pianoforte, and singing or playing to their hearts' content. In the meanwhile the host and hostess are liable to mistake their duty towards the majority of the company, by enforcing strict silence upon persons who, perhaps, are but lukewarm admirers of music under the best of circumstances, and especially indifferent to amateur attempts.
The right thing to do is for a host or hostess to indicate his or her wishes as to the character of the entertainment in such a manner as to render a doubtful course of action impossible. In issuing invitations, as we have in a pre ceding article observed, the character of the entertainment should be plainly indicated. If in the left-hand corner of the card of invitation to an evening party the word "Music," "Cards," or " Dancing," be written, guests should go prepared to take part in such amusements, or fall into the restraints which such pleasures impose on all non-assistants. Thus, if people do not dance, they should decline invitations to balls; if they object to cards, they had better stay away from card-parties and if they prefer talking to listening to music, they are out of place at a musical party.
On the hostess's part, every accommodation should be provided. For instance, in the rooms appropriated to music, sufficient chairs should be placed in rows to seat the number of guests invited. If the number of invitations issued be more than the room can accommodate, the places nearest the piano or orchestra should he assigned to the earliest arrivals. It is presumable that those guests who are most punctual will be those who care most about music. If any space be left out of hearing of the performers, people may stand about and talk at will, provided their conversation be carried on in a subdued tone. The landings and staircases leading to the music-room afford a fair opportunity for general conversation.
At evening parties at which music is only an occasional feature, greater liberty of action is allowable to the general company. Those who like music generally find places for themselves near the piano; and, except in the immediate neighbourhood of the performers, a hostess should not impose silence on the general company. Good taste dictates to most people that loud remarks and laughter are never more ill-timed than during the performance of music.
With regard to the selection of music for amateur concerts, sacred music is not generally considered appropriate at evening parties. If, however, some be preferred, it is better to confine the selection to one part - the first part - leaving the second part for secular music.
All performances of music are best commenced by either a duet, trio, or some other piece of concerted music ; glees are very suitable for opening pieces, likewise for the finale of the acts. The best situations in the programme are those which come in the middle of the concert.
At most private concerts the music is given in one part only, followed afterwards by supper or light refreshments. Ices, biscuits, &c., are handed round between the parts, if a division of the concert be made. It is not considered polite, in a private house, to leave before the termination of the concert, unless an interval be allowed for refreshments. Neither should guests enter the room during the performance of music; they should wait till the piece is ended, and time their movements to take their places before the appearance of the next performer.
The rustling of programmes and tapping of fans is the only applause ladies are supposed to bestow. On no account must they say bravo to a lady performer. That term, although sometimes indiscriminately used by persons unacquainted with Italian, for expressing their approval of one or many performers, without reference to either numbers or sex, is properly only applicable to a single male performer. Persons who know the Italian language do not commit the error, but observe the following correctness of expression :-Bravo is an expression of praise applied to one male performer, bravi to several of the masculine gender, or several performers, male and female ; brava is applicable to a single female performer and brave to two or several females.
The mode of receiving company at music parties the same as at other evening entertainments. The hostess remains near the door, or at the head of the staircase leading to the principal apartment, till the majority of the guests have arrived. In the absence of a professional conductor, the master of the house, or some one who represents him, is generally appointed to see that the course of the concert is not interrupted by delays or any other avoidable circumstance. Programmes used at amateur concerts are precisely in the form of those at which professional artistes assist, with the exception that the names of the amateurs are not usually printed. The name of the piece and of the composer alone are given. The address of a the host or hostess, and the date of the concert, are generally printed at the head of the programme.
Guests on alighting should inquire at what hour the carriages are ordered, as in most cases visitors do not return to the drawing-room after supper.
Full dress is worn at evening music parties.
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