I have several excerpts about ball etiquette on this blog. But given how many balls I must attend during my hectic social season, I like to keep brushed up on proper deportment. (Full disclosure, I’ve attended zero balls, and I don’t have a hectic social season … or any social season for that matter) Therefore, I’m piqued by Etiquette for Ladies: With Hints on the Preservation, Improvement, and Display of Female Beauty because it was published in 1838 in Philadelphia, which makes it a relatively early “how-to” etiquette book. If you enjoy historical romances, you probably won’t find any new information here. However, it’s still an amusing, brief read.
Please note, in the past, I’ve tried to post images that reflect the timeframe and location of what I’m excerpting. I’m no longer going to do that because, simply, it’s not fun for me. This is my Floating World, which is about pleasure, imagination, and entertainment, and there are so many wonderful images that I want to share. So going forward, I’m posting images that reflect the spirit of the text.
alls, Concerts, and Evening Parties
These amusements presuppose a fortune and good ton; the practice of society, therefore, and consequently a forgetfulness of the precepts of politeness in respect to them, would be truly preposterous.
When you wish to give a dance, you send out invitations a week beforehand, that the ladies may have time to prepare articles for their toilet.
If it is to be a simple evening party, in which we may wear a summer walking-dress, the mistress of the house gives verbal invitations, and does not omit to apprise her friends of this circumstance, or they might appear in unsuitable dresses. If, on the contrary, the soirée is to be in reality a ball, the invitations are written, or what is better, printed, and expressed in the third person.
A room appropriated for the purpose, and furnished with cloak-pins to hang up the shawls and other dresses of the ladies, is almost indispensable. Domestics should be there also, to aid them in taking off and putting on their outside garments.
We are not obliged to go exactly at the appointed hour; it is even fashionable to go an hour later. Married ladies are accompanied by their husbands; unmarried ones, by their mother, or by a chaperon. These last ladies place themselves behind the dancers; the master of the house then goes before one and another, procures seats for them, and mingles again among the gentlemen who are standing, and who form groups or walk about the room.
A lady cannot refuse the invitation of a gentleman to dance, unless she has already accepted that of another, for she would be guilty of an in civility which might occasion trouble; she would, moreover, seem to show contempt for him whom she refused, and would expose herself to receive in secret an ill compliment from the mistress of the house.
Married or young ladies, cannot leave a ballroom, or any other party, alone. The former should be accompanied by one or two other married ladies, and the latter by their mother, or by a lady to represent her.
Ladies should avoid talking too much; it will occasion remarks. It has also a bad appearance to whisper continually in the ear of your partner.
The master of the house should see that all the ladies dance; he should take notice particularly of those who seem to serve as drapery to the walls of the ball-room, (or wall-flowers, as the familiar expression is,) and should see that they are invited to dance. But he must do this wholly unperceived, in order not to wound the self-esteem of the unfortunate ladies.
Gentlemen whom the master of the house requests to dance with these ladies, should be ready to accede to his wish, and even appear pleased at dancing with a person thus recommended to their notice.
Ladies who dance much, should be very careful not to boast before those who dance but little or not at all, of the great number of dances for which they are engaged in advance. They should also, without being perceived, recommend to these less fortunate ladies, gentlemen of their acquaintance.
In giving the hand for ladies’ chain or any other figures, those dancing should wear a smile, and accompany it with a polite inclination of the head, in the manner of a salutation. At the end of the dance, the gentleman reconducts the lady to her place, bows and thanks her for the honour which she has conferred. She also bows in silence, smiling with a gracious air.
In these assemblies, we should conduct ourselves with reserve and politeness towards all present, although they may be unknown to us.
Persons who have no ear for music, that is to say, a false one, ought to refrain from dancing. Never hazard taking part in a quadrille, unless you know how to dance tolerably; for if you are a novice, or but little skilled, you would bring disorder into the midst of pleasure. Being once engaged to take part in a dance, if the figures are not familiar, be careful not to advance first. You can in this way govern your steps by those who go before you. Beware, also, of taking your place in a set of dancers more skillful than yourself. When an unpractised dancer makes a mistake, we may apprize him of his error; but it would be very impolite to have the air of giving him a lesson.
Dance with grace and modesty, neither affect to make a parade of your knowledge; refrain from great leaps and ridiculous jumps, which would attract the attention of all towards you.
In a private ball or party, it is proper to show still more reserve, and not manifest more preference for one gentleman than another; you should dance with all who ask properly.
In public balls, a gentleman offers his partner refreshments, but which she very seldom accepts, unless she is well acquainted with him. But in private parties, the persons who receive the company, send round cake and other refreshments, of which every one helps themselves. Near the end of the evening, in a well regulated ball, it is customary to have a supper; but in a soirée, without great preparation, we may dispense with a supper; refreshments are, however, necessary; and not to have them would be the greatest impoliteness.
We should retire incognito, in order not to disturb the master and mistress of the house; and we should make them, during the week, a visit of thanks, at which we may converse of the pleasure of the ball, and the good selection of the company.
The proprieties in deportment, which concerts require, are little different from those which are recognised in every other assembly, or in public exhibitions, for concerts partake of the one and the other, according as they are public or private. In private concerts, the ladies occupy the front seats, and the gentlemen are generally in groups behind, or at the side of them. We should observe the most profound silence, and refrain from beating time, humming the airs, applauding, or making ridiculous gestures of admiration. It often happens that a dancing soirée succeeds a concert, and billets of invitation, distributed two or three days beforehand, should give notice of it to the persons invited.
When I go for a walk, I typically wear workout clothes, which only match if I’ve done the laundry recently. I’m by myself, listening to music on my earbuds, and waving at passing dogs (and, sometimes, people.) It’s a good thing that I don’t live in Victorian England, because according to Lady Constance Howard in her 1885 volume Etiquette: What To Do, and How To Do It, I would scandalize polite society with my blatantly offensive behavior. Let’s have Lady Constance Howard explain the egregious err of my modern ways.
With regard to walking in London, a young lady would not walk out by herself ; she would be accompanied by her maid ; until she was old enough to be presented, by her governess, after she was presented, by her mother, father, brother, or some relation.
This rule should always be enforced, but now-a-days young ladies are often seen walking by themselves, but it does not look well ; it makes them liable to accusations of fastness, and etiquette requires that they should not be permitted so to break its established laws. In the country it is a different thing. In a park, village, town, suburban district, and seaside resort, a young girl would, with perfect propriety, and without any breach of etiquette, walk about alone, unattended and unaccompanied, and so go from one house to another of the friends and relations who might chance to reside in close proximity to their houses.
The rules before mentioned only apply to walking in London and in places of general assembly, public streets, and promenades at fashionable watering-places like Folkestone and Brighton, and at continental seaside towns.
Married ladies, when they are young and good looking, very often secure the companionship of a younger sister, or some lady who is a relation or friend, to walk with them, not from a sense of its being necessary that they should have someone with them, or from a feeling of propriety, but because to walk in London or a town alone is always a shy thing to do. Any lady doing so is more or less conspicuous; she is more or less noticed, and when she is well dressed and decidedly handsome and attractive in appearance, it would not always be an agreeable thing to do, whereas two ladies walking together would experience less shyness and attract less attention from those who see them.
Still, young married ladies often walk long distances alone, and if they are not shy and do not mind being stared at (those who do are, alas ! the exception), there is no reason why they should not walk alone, if it pleases them: it is quite correct etiquette that they should do so.
Married ladies, whether young or middle-aged, can at all times walk out alone and unattended; but when going to the Park or a public promenade at a fashionable seaside resort, they would nearly always ask another lady to walk with them. It does not look well to see a lady walk down Rotten Row in the height of the London season, whether in the morning or afternoon, alone.
Generally, during the season, ladies prefer the Park to the more crowded thoroughfares, such as Bond Street, Piccadilly, St James’ Street, etc. They would avoid them as much as they could, and if obliged to walk down them, would always do so accompanied by someone, either lady or gentleman.
Twelve to two o’clock are the usual hours for walking in London, especially in the summer. In the winter two-thirty to four-thirty-three to six in the summer. Both in summer and winter those who possess carriages generally drive in the afternoon, and devote the morning to walking.
The hours named are the fashionable and usual hours for walking at seaside towns and English watering-places.
If two ladies of different rank and but slightly acquainted were to meet in the Park or street, the lady of highest rank would, of course, bow first. If their rank were equal, it would not matter in the least which bowed first, so long as they acknowledged each other’s presence by this small act of courtesy.
To omit to bow would be a sign of ill-breeding, and a want of the knowledge of what is required by the laws of etiquette, that would reflect very much upon the lady neglecting this social duty.
Ladies should be careful to bow graciously. A little curt nod, a jerk of the head, a quick movement of the head, or the “inane smile’ which is all many people now vouchsafe to their acquaintances and friends by way of recognition when they meet them walking, driving, or riding, are all in the worst of possible taste.
Many ladies give an imperceptible nod to the gentlemen of their acquaintance, a decided proof of bad manners.
A bow should be a decided and graceful bend of the neck and head, indicating that it is a pleasure to the person making the bow to acknowledge her friends by so doing.
If I may be humbly permitted to say so, let people watch Her Majesty when she acknowledges the loyal salutations of her people, and see what a bow should be. It is at once dignified and most gracious, and those on whom it is bestowed feel both pleasure and a keen sense of the honour that has been accorded to them.
It is the same with all our Royal Family, and people in general would do well to profit by the example set to them.
The degree of empressement exhibited by a gentleman when he meets a lady whom he knows, would be entirely regulated by the fact of their acquaintance being a slight one or their being very old friends. In the latter case, he would take his hat quite off; in the former, he would only slightly raise it off his head, and his bow should be of the most ceremonious and respectful description, their acquaintanceship not warranting more cordiality on the part of the gentleman.
If he bowed in any other way than these two, he would either seem to be too familiar, or to look as if he wished to avoid the lady altogether, only rendering her the least courtesy possible under the circumstances.
It is a mistake to be too gushing and empressé in manner; it is equally a mistake to snub people unmercifully: no gentleman or lady would ever be guilty of either.
A gentleman cannot, of course, bow to a lady with whom he is unacquainted, nor do gentlemen raise their hats to each other when they meet in the Park or street; they would say, ‘How are you, B.?’ or nod, or say ‘Glad to see you, Charley,’ and would then pass on.
The only occasion on which a gentleman would raise his hat to another gentleman would be, if two gentlemen met in the Park or street who knew each other, and one was walking with ladies or a lady with whom the other gentleman was unacquainted; he would raise his hat to his friend, instead of speaking to him or nodding.
This would be simply done as a mark of civility and respect to the ladies or lady with whom his friend was walking ; it would not be looked upon as a bow to the ladies or lady, as the gentleman had not been introduced to them; nor would it constitute an acquaintanceship between them ; nor could the gentleman meeting the same ladies or lady in future bow to them, or show that he had seen them before, unless he was first of all introduced to them by some mutual friend, or by the friend with whom he had seen them walking.
In the same way, no lady could, under any circumstances, bow to a lady or gentleman, without a previous introduction to them, even if she had known them by sight for years,-knew their names and all about them, from constantly seeing them with friends of her own, and meeting them at different balls and réunions in society.
Etiquette permits no bows to be exchanged, except between those who have already been presented to each other.
On the Continent, the rule of bowing is the exact contrary to that which is observed in England,—that is to say, the gentleman bows first instead of the lady.
In England, when bowing to friends or acquaintances, it is a lady’s privilege to bow first.
The gentleman would then take off his hat to the lady who had given him this sign of recognition; he would, as a general rule, not bow until the lady had bowed to him ; on most occasions both would bow at the same moment, as the lady would be sure beforehand that the gentleman would return her courteous bow, or she would not take the initiative and bow to him.
In the case of a lady meeting a gentleman with whom she is acquainted, walking with a gentleman who was a stranger to her, she would at once bow to the gentleman who had been introduced to her ; she would do the same (except under particular circumstances) were he walking with a lady whose acquaintance she had not made.
Many husbands and wives, when taking a ramble together, walk arm-in-arm. It is a good old fashion, and should always be observed.
The same applies in the case of a mother and son, father and daughter, daughter or son-in-law with their mother or father-in-law, and in all cases where the lady is lame, or not very young, it is a proof of civility that every lady has a right to expect from the gentleman walking with her, more especially at dangerous crossings in London, which are a source of unfeigned terror to most ladies.
It is not necessary for a lady when walking with a gentleman to introduce any other gentleman she may meet, to him, unless she has a special reason for doing so, or thinks they both wish for the introduction.
If she were walking with her husband or father, she would of course do so, but in the case of her brother, nephew, cousin, or the husband of any lady in whose house she was staying, it would be unnecessary and not expected, except under the circumstances before mentioned.
The rule with regard to introductions between a guest and her hostess, with regard to the ladies they meet when out walking, would be that the guest would present the friends or relations she met during the walk to her hostess, which civility the hostess would also show her, if they stopped and had a conversation sufficiently prolonged to admit of such an introduction being effected.
If the friend of either lady was antagonistic to the other, no introductions would be made, and after the hostess and her guest had continued their walk, matters would be duly explained and discussed, and the true reasons given for the course pursued.
Ladies would not exclude any ladies from the conversation; it would be very rude to do so, and would make the lady so treated very uncomfortable she would feel snubbed and ignored.
If two ladies meet out walking, and take a walk together, and other ladies join them in the course of their walk, no introductions, except with special reasons, or expressed wishes that such should be the case, would be made by any of them to any of the others.
At fashionable watering-places, sea-side resorts, on the Continent, etc., gentlemen meeting ladies with whom they are acquainted, walk about with them for some time, get them a chair if there happens to be a band playing, and show them any courtesy in their power, while the ladies, on their part, introduce the gentlemen to those ladies or gentlemen belonging to their party, whose acquaintance they have reason to believe will be pleasant and acceptable to them.
Two ladies walking together would not walk arm-in-arm-it would be very vulgar to do so; also, no lady should put on her gloves while walking in the street, she should put them on before she leaves the house.
Ladies cannot be too particular when out walking; an exaggerated style of dress, gaudy colours, much jewellery, painted faces, a walk that makes people turn round and stare, in a word, anything that attracts attention in the public streets, more especially from gentlemen, is in the worst possible taste; no real lady would ever commit such a breach of recognised etiquette and the fitness of things; no true lady would court the stares and exclamations her appearance so dressed would attract; to be the object of such so-called admiration, would be a direct insult to the title of honour she ought to hold,—that of being ‘a lady !’
Black dresses, quietly made, and simply trimmed ‘gown’ become a lady when out walking, in a way befitting her claim to the name.
Let her dress herself with any other view except that of receiving respect from all passers-by, and she is no longer what she wishes the world to believe her to be-a true lady.
Gentlemen when out walking together generally walk ‘bras dessus-bras dessous. It is more sociable altogether to do so.
No gentleman swings his stick or umbrella about when walking, as he would be in danger of bestowing a gratuitous and unexpected blow on a passer-by, who might make him rue his carelessness and rudeness.
If a gentleman passes a lady when he is walking, and the pavement is crowded, so that one or other of them must step into the road to make room for the other to pass, the gentleman would not permit the lady to be the one to do this; he should walk along the road until the crowd lessened.
He would pursue this course whether he were acquainted with the lady or not; to do otherwise would exhibit a great want of good manners, a total absence of knowledge as to what is due to a lady. When a lady and gentleman are walking together, the lady would take the gentleman’s left arm, otherwise, if he met any lady of his acquaintance, he would not be able to take off his hat to her.
If a gentleman is escorting his two sisters out walking, they would walk on either side of him. Neither of them (unless one was not strong) would take his arm; and on no account would they each take an arm, and so walk in the Park or street.
A lady walking with a gentleman, whether taking his arm or not, would usually walk on his left hand.
A muff and umbrella in winter, and a parasol in summer, are the only articles usually carried by ladies when out walking ; but let me assure them that there will be no loss of dignity on their part, should it fall to their lot to carry a brown paper parcel through the streets of London.
People whose opinion is worth having will admire them for their absence of false pride. A lady would not, perhaps, do it from choice, but if the parcel has to be carried, she can do it with impunity.
s the number of guests at a dinner-party is regulated by the size of the table, so should the number of invitations to a ball be limited by the proportions of the ball-room. A prudent hostess will always invite a few more guests than she really desires to entertain, in the certainty that there will be some deserters when the appointed evening comes round; but she will at the same time remember that to overcrowd her room is to spoil the pleasure of those who love dancing, and that a party of this kind when too numerously attended is as great a failure as one at which too few are present.
A room which is nearly square, yet a little longer than it is
broad, will be found the most favourable for a ball. It admits of two quadrille
parties, or two round dances, at the same time. In a perfectly square room this
arrangement is not so practicable or pleasant. A very long and narrow room is
obviously of the worst shape for the purpose of dancing, and is fit only for
quadrilles and country dances.
The top of the ball-room is the part nearest the orchestra. In a private room, the top is where it would be if the room were a dining-room. It is generally at the farthest point from the door. Dancers should be careful to ascertain the top of the room before taking their places, as the top couples always lead the dances.
A good floor is of the last importance in a ball-room. In a
private house. nothing can be better than a smooth, well-stretched holland,
with the carpet beneath.
Abundance of light and free ventilation are indispensable to
the spirits and comfort of the dancers.
Good music is as necessary to the prosperity of a ball as good wine to the excellence of a dinner. No hostess should tax her friends for this part of the entertainment. It is the most injudicious economy imaginable. Ladies who would prefer to dance are tied to the pianoforte; and as few amateurs have been trained in the art of playing dance music with that strict attention to time and accent which is absolutely necessary to the comfort of the dancers, a total and general discontent is sure to result. To play dance music thoroughly well is a branch of the art which requires considerable practice. It is as different from every other kind of playing as whale fishing is from fly fishing. Those who give private balls will do well ever to bear this in mind, and to provide skilled musicians for the evening. For a small party, a piano and cornopean make a very pleasant combination. Unless where several instruments are engaged, we do not recommend the introduction of the violin : although in some respects the finest of all solo instruments, it is apt to sound thin and shrill when employed on mere inexpressive dance tunes, and played by a mere dance player.
Invitations to a ball should be issued in the
name of the lady of the house, and written on small note paper of the best
quality. Elegant printed forms, some of them printed in gold or silver, are to
be had at every stationer’s by those who prefer them. The paper may be
gilt-edged, but not coloured. The sealing-wax used should be of some delicate
hue. An invitation to a ball should be sent out at least ten days before the
evening appointed. A fortnight, three weeks, and even a month may be allowed in
the way of notice.
Not more than two or three days should be permitted
to elapse before you reply to an invitation of this kind. The reply should
always be addressed to the lady of the house, and should be couched in the same
person as the invitation. The following are the forms generally in use :—
The old form of “presenting compliments” is now
out of fashion.
The lady who gives a ball (It
will be understood that we use the word “ball” to signify a private party,
where there is dancing, as well as a public ball) should endeavour to secure an
equal number of dancers of both sexes. Many private parties are spoiled by the
preponderance of young ladies, some of whom never get partners at all, unless
they dance with each other.
A room should in all cases be
provided for the accommodation of the ladies. In this room there ought to be
several looking-glasses; attendants to assist the fair visitors in the
arrangement of their hair and dress; and some place in which the cloaks and
shawls can be laid in order, and found at a moment’s notice. It is well to
affix tickets to the cloaks, giving a duplicate at the same time to each lady,
as at the public theatres and concert-rooms. Needles and thread should also be
at hand, to repair any little accident incurred in dancing.
Another room should be devoted to refreshments, and kept amply supplied with coffee, lemonade, ices, wine, and biscuits during the evening. Where this cannot be arranged, the refreshments should be handed round between the dances.
The question of supper is one
which so entirely depends on the means of those who give a ball or evening
party, that very little can be said upon it in a treatise of this description.
Where money is no object, it is of course always preferable to have the whole
supper, “with all appliances and means to boot,” sent in from some first-rate
house. It spares all trouble whether to the entertainers or their servants, and
relieves the hostess of every anxiety. Where circumstances render such a course
imprudent, we would only observe that a home-provided supper, however simple, should
be good of its kind, and abundant in quantity. Dancers are generally hungry
people, and feel themselves much aggrieved if the supply of sandwiches proves
unequal to the demand.
Great inconvenience is often
experienced through the difficulty of procuring cabs at the close of an evening
party. Gentlemen who have been dancing, and are unprepared for walking, object
to go home on foot, or seek vehicles for their wives and daughters. Female
servants who have been in attendance upon the visitors during a whole evening
ought not to be sent out. If even men-servants are kept, they may find it
difficult to procure as many cabs as are necessary. The best thing that the
giver of a private ball can do under these circumstances, is to engage a
policeman with a lanthorn to attend on the pavement during the evening, and to
give notice during the morning at a neighbouring cab-stand, so as to ensure a
sufficient number of vehicles at the time when they are likely to be required.
A ball generally begins about
half-past nine or ten o’clock.
To attempt to dance without a
knowledge of dancing is not only to make one’s self ridiculous, but one’s
partner also. No lady has a right to place a partner in this absurd position.
Never forget a ball-room engagement. To do so is
to commit an unpardonable offence against good breeding.
On entering the ball-room, the visitor should at
once seek the lady of the house, and pay her respects to her. Having done this,
she may exchange salutations with such friends and acquaintances as may be in
No lady should accept an invitation to dance
from a gentleman to whom she has not been introduced. In case any gentleman
should commit the error of so inviting her, she should not excuse herself on the
plea of a previous engagement, or of fatigue, as to do so would imply that she
did not herself attach due importance to the necessary ceremony of
introduction. Her best reply would be to the effect that she would have much
pleasure in accepting his invitation, if he would procure an introduction to
her. This observation may be taken as applying only to public balls. At a
private party the host and hostess are sufficient guarantees for the
respectability of their guests; and although a gentleman would show a singular
want of knowledge of the laws of society in acting as we have supposed, the
lady who should reply to him as if he were merely an impertinent stranger in a
public assembly-room would be implying an affront to her entertainers. The mere
fact of being assembled together under the roof of a mutual friend is in itself
a kind of general introduction of the guests to each other.
An introduction given for the mere purpose of enabling a lady and gentleman to go through a dance together does not constitute an acquaintanceship. The lady is at liberty to pass the gentleman in the park the next day without recognition.
It is not necessary that a lady should be
acquainted with the steps, in order to walk gracefully and
easily through a quadrille. An easy carriage and a knowledge of the figure is
all that is requisite. A round dance, however, should on no account be
attempted without a thorough knowledge of the steps, and some previous
practice. No person who has not a good ear for time and tune need hope to dance
No lady should accept refreshments from a
stranger at a public ball; for she would thereby lay herself under a pecuniary
obligation. For these she must rely on her father, brothers, or old friends.
Good taste forbids that a lady should dance too
frequently with the same partner at either a public or private ball. Engaged persons should be careful not to commit this
Engagements for one dance
should not be made while the present dance is yet in progress.
Never attempt to take a place
in a dance which has been previously engaged.
Withdraw from a private
ball-room as quietly as possible, so that your departure may not be observed by
others, and cause the party to break up. If you meet the lady of the house on
your way out, take your leave of her in such a manner that her other guests may
not suppose you are doing so ; but do not seek her out for that purpose.
Never be seen without gloves
in a ball-room, though it were for only a few moments. Ladies who dance much
and are particularly soigné in matters relating to the
toilette, take a second pair of gloves to replace the first when soiled.
A thoughtful hostess will
never introduce a bad dancer to a good one, because she has no right to punish
one friend in order to oblige another.
It is not customary for married persons to dance together in society.
The season for garden parties is almost here. Soon your mailbox will be overflowing with invitations. You must get a jump on your party planning, because as the anonymous author of Party-Giving On Every Scale writes, “The ladies of each county consider it incumbent upon them to entertain their neighbors at least once or twice during the summer months.” You must come up with menus, erect tents, and find a military band to play at your party. And, if you’re like me, you don’t have a household staff to take care of the trifling domestic matters. Luckily, keeping you from social disgrace is Party-Giving On Every Scale, published in 1880. This lovely volume contains the secrets to throwing a wildly successful Victorian garden party, which is sure to make you the envy of your friends and neighbors.
Garden Party is a popular and not expensive form of entertainment, as hospitality can be shown to a large circle of guests at a very modest cost. These afternoon garden parties take place from four to seven, but are only held as a matter of course from June to October. Garden parties are fashionable entertainments, and are frequently given on a very large scale. Royalty itself leads the way by giving afternoon parties to which from 800 to 1000 guests are invited, which is more or less followed by all ranks of society, including bishops in their palaces, officers in barracks, and members of yachting clubs on the lawns of the club houses, while in the suburbs of London these entertainments are very general, and in the country itself, garden parties are an institution in every county, and the young ladies are able to count their invitations to them by the score. The ladies of each county consider it incumbent upon them to entertain their neighbours at least once or twice during the summer months, and those who have extensive grounds find that a garden party, of all entertainments, entails the least trouble and expense.
At large garden parties, where the guests assemble by hundreds instead of by tens, there is generally one or two military bands in attendance; if given by a regiment, assaults of arms take place at intervals for the amusement of the company.
these entertainments are invariably served indoors; but in the country
refreshments at smaller garden parties are sometimes served in a tent, or on
tables placed under the trees. At large garden parties tents of various sizes
are erected on the lawn, and fitted up with seats in addition to the numerous
chairs and garden seats that are indispensable, these are placed in rows in the
vicinity of the band, and in all available shady spots.
At suburban or country garden parties rugs and Persian carpets are spread on the lawn under the trees, upon which seats are placed, so that should the grass be damp the guests need not fear taking cold.
The guests usually arrive from half-past four to five, and are received by their entertainers either on the lawn itself or in a tent, the names of the guests being announced by the butler or by the head-waiter.
Guests on their arrival usually inform their
servants at what hour they purpose taking their
departure, and expect their footmen to be in readiness at the time named to
call up their carriages.
The usual run of garden parties given on a small
scale averages from forty to one hundred guests, and in giving the details of
the expenses consequent upon providing for a garden party, it is purposed to
take the medium number, seventy-five; that in calculating the expenses for a
larger or smaller number of guests it may be arrived at by adding to or
deducting from this given number.
Lawn-tennis is now generally played at garden
parties, so much so that garden parties are often designated lawn-tennis
parties. In town and in the suburbs a military band is generally engaged to
play from four to seven; in town a military band means the bands of
the 1st or 2nd Life Guards, or that of the Royal Horse Guards Blue, and the
bands of the Grenadier, Coldstream, or Scots Guards. These fine bands are a
great attraction at a garden party, and a band belonging to either of these
regiments can be obtained at the following barracks: Hyde Park, Regent’s Park,
Wellington, and Chelsea Barracks, and at the Tower. The permission of the
colonel of the regiment, or that of the “president of the band,” has to be
solicited as a matter of courtesy or form, when the bandmaster is applied to
for his band, subject to this permission being granted. The cost of the band is
regulated by the strength of its numbers, the charge ranging from 10s to 15s.
People who reside within twelve miles or so of
London when they require a band to play at a garden party, usually apply to the
nearest regiment quartered in their vicinity, such as Hampton Court or
Hounslow, while those who reside in the neighbourhood of garrison towns, such
as Woolwich, Chatham, Portsmouth, Dover, etc., have quite a choice of bands,
and the cost of these averages 8s. to 10s. per man, and five guineas is the
usual price to pay for twelve performers.
Those who reside at a considerable distance from a town where a regiment is quartered fall back upon the band of the county militia, yeomanry cavalry, or local volunteers; the cost of which bands average also from 8s. to 10s. per man, exclusive of railway fares and refreshments.
The usual refreshments provided for a band at a
garden party consist of cold meat, ale, or sherry, or claret, as the bandmaster
may prefer:—the cost of which would amount from 25s. to 30s.
Unless a garden party is given on the most
economical scale, and it is desirable to spend next to nothing upon it, it is
always advisable to engage a band, as the expense is small in comparison with
the pleasure derived from it; but when a garden party is merely a small
friendly gathering of from five-and-twenty to forty guests, the expense of a
band is considered unnecessary, and its presence rather pretentious than not.
In providing garden seats and chairs for the
accommodation of guests at a garden party, seats for one-third the number of
those invited would be sufficient, in addition to the seats in the
drawing-rooms, tea-room, and elsewhere.
Various descriptions of tents are usually erected at garden
parties, umbrella tents, round wall tents, canopy tents, and small marquees.
The cost of hire of these tents and marquees ranges from £1 10s. to £20,
according to size and description of tent.
Bright-looking Persian rugs for spreading on lawns can be bought from 9s. 6d. to 70s. each; the cheaper ones, although of coarser and commoner materials, answer the purpose equally well; although our transatlantic neighbours, with their usual disregard of expense, make a grand display of handsome Persian rugs at their fashionable garden parties; but this comfortable custom may be followed without going to any considerable expense in the matter of rugs, always bearing in mind that old and faded hearth-rugs and mats have not an inviting appearance, and that squares of carpet do not offer sufficient resistance unless of the thickest texture—velvet-pile, Turkey, or Axminster. The ubiquitous crimson drugget, although available at all other entertainments, putting as it does a bright face upon much that is dingy in the way of carpets in corridors, landings, cloak-rooms, etc., is at a discount at a garden party.
The refreshments are almost invariably served in the house itself,
for several reasons—it entails far less trouble to serve refreshments in a
tea-room, where all conveniences are at hand, than to arrange a buffet on the lawn under the trees. When it is desirable, however,
that refreshments should not be served in the house from want of space, or some
equally good reason, a large tent or marquee is hired for the purpose, the cost
of the hire of which, say one 20 feet square, ranges from £3 and
upwards; but, unless the guests number over one hundred, the expense of a tent
for refreshments is seldom incurred, besides which a marquee is by no means a
cool retreat on a sultry August afternoon, and a dining-room of a house, well
ventilated and kept cool by the exclusion of hot air, is a far pleasanter
resort for a large party of guests. Again, guests at a garden party find the
change from the gardens to the house rather an agreeable one, and for this
reason the reception rooms of a house or mansion are thrown open at a garden
party, including drawing-rooms, library, billiard-room, or picture gallery if
the house boasts of one.
The largest ground-floor room of a house, with the exception of
the drawing-room, is usually converted into a tea-room, in which tea is served
on dining tables in the centre of the room, or from a buffet at the upper end
of the room, as at an afternoon dance or five o’clock tea. Trays with
refreshments are carried on to the lawn by the men-servants in attendance
during the afternoon, and handed to the guests,—one servant carrying a tray
with cups of tea and coffee, another a tray with glasses of sherry or ices.
The refreshments indispensable at a garden party are tea and
coffee, sherry and claret cup, cake, and biscuits.
Fruit and ices are given in addition to these refreshments when a saving of
expense is not of paramount importance to the giver of an entertainment.
For a party of seventy-five guests, 1 lb. of tea would be used, 1 1/2 lbs. of coffee. This quantity of tea and coffee would make 3 gallons of each, allowing a little over 5 ozs. of tea to the gallon, and 8 ozs. of coffee to the gallon. Tea should be made as required, in an urn holding 1 gallon, while the whole quantity of coffee is made in a 3 gallon coffee-kettle or copper; half this quantity should be served hot, and half as iced coffee in glass jugs, prepared with the proper quantity of milk and sugar, the coffee having been placed in ice some hours before required for serving.
Iced claret cup is also made as required, and 2 gallons is usually
found sufficient for this number of guests, allowing 8 bottles of claret and 8
bottles of soda-water for the quantity of cup, in addition to about 2 lbs. of
loaf sugar; the cost of this claret, at 18s. the dozen, would amount to 12s.;
the price of soda-water, as has been before said, ranges from 1 1/2d. to 3d. per
bottle, according to where it is purchased.
Badminton averages the same as does claret cup. Champagne cup and
Moselle cup are but seldom given, but when provided, sweet champagne or
sparkling Moselle, the former at 42s., and the latter at 36s. per dozen, would
be good enough for this purpose. The same quantity
of either of these wines would be required for this as for claret cup, viz.: 8
bottles of wine to 8 bottles of soda-water, but the quantity of cup drunk at a
garden party depends upon the number of gentlemen present, and also whether
they are players of lawn-tennis, in which case there would probably be a run
upon iced cups; thus less than 2 gallons, or more than two gallons, would be
drunk, according to circumstances. When matches of lawn-tennis are played at a
garden party, a table is placed on the lawn, with iced drinks, sherry and
seltzer-water, for the benefit of the gentlemen. Sherry and seltzer is rather a
favourite drink with men in general, and 6 to 8 bottles of sherry would
probably be drunk, or even less, according to the number of gentlemen present;
thus, from 1 1/2 to 3 dozen seltzer-water would be required, but, as has been
before said, it entirely depends upon how many gentlemen are present.
In some remote counties, for instance, the gentlemen at a garden
party are represented by three or four young curates and two or three old
gentlemen, while the ladies perhaps muster from forty to fifty, in which case
very little wine is drunk. When garden parties are held in or near London, or
in the home counties, or in or near cathedral cities, in or near university
towns, and garrison towns, &c., the numbers are more equal, and generally
one-third of the guests are gentlemen ; therefore, a hostess, when providing
wine for a garden party, naturally takes this into consideration.
Susanna’s note: The author breaks out the amounts of ices and strawberries required and their respective costs. She refers to other sections in the book for the expenses of cakes, biscuits, and china rental. If you are writing or researching or merely curious about these topics, do peruse the sections of the chapter I have omitted.
Refreshments are served from 4 to 7—from the commencement to the termination of a garden-party. Two women-servants should pour out the tea and coffee; a third should serve either ices, or strawberries and cream, when given, while the guests help themselves to all other refreshments on the tables, whether to fruit, wine, or cup, etc. One man-servant should also be in attendance in the tea-room to offer any assistance in the way of opening soda-water or pouring out wine. An attendant is hardly required in the cloakroom, unless the party is a very large one, as ladies are not always shown into the cloak-room on their arrival at a garden-party, and many ladies prefer to leave their wraps and dust cloaks in their carriages.
Today I’m excerpting from the chapter on introductions in The Laws Of Etiquette; Or, Short Rules And Reflections For Conduct In Society, by A Gentleman, published in 1836 in Philadelphia. I had created a draft of this post and then dashed off on an errand. I smiled when my car playlist appropriately started playing Meghan’s Trainor’s “No”, which is about a woman shutting down a rando guy when he approaches her.
You may find some of the Gentleman’s advice to be hopelessly antiquated or mildly offensive (as usual, I’ve edited out the more egregious passages.) However, some of his counsel is still applicable today.
A gentleman should not be presented to a lady without her permission being previously asked and granted. This formality is not necessary between men alone; but, still, you should not present any one, even at his own request, to another, unless you are quite well assured that the acquaintance will be agreeable to the latter. You may decline upon the ground of not being sufficiently intimate yourself. A man does himself no service with another when he obliges him to know people whom he would rather avoid.
If you are walking down the street in company with another person, and stop to say something to one of your friends, or are joined by a friend who walks with you for a long time, do not commit the too common, but most flagrant error, of presenting such persons to one another. Never present morning visitors to one another, who happen to meet in your parlour without being acquainted. If you should be so presented, remember that the acquaintance afterwards goes for nothing; you have not the slightest right to expect that the other will ever speak to you. But observe, that in all such cases you should converse with the stranger as if you knew him perfectly well; you are to consider him an acquaintance for the nonce.
When two Americans, who “have not been introduced,” meet in some public place, as in a theatre, a stagecoach, or a steamboat, they will sit for an hour staring in one another’s faces, but without a word of conversation. This form of unpoliteness has been adopted from the English, and it is as little worthy of imitation as the form of their government. Good sense and convenience are the foundations of good breeding; and it is assuredly vastly more reasonable and more agreeable to enjoy a passing gratification when no sequent evil is to be apprehended than to be rendered uncomfortable by an ill-founded pride. It is, therefore, better to carry on an easy and civil conversation. A snuff-box, or some polite accommodation rendered, may serve for an opening. Talk only about generalities, – the play, the roads, the weather. Avoid speaking of persons or politics, for, if the individual is of the opposite party to yourself, you will be engaged in a controversy: if he holds the same opinions, you will be overwhelmed with a flood of vulgar intelligence, which may soil your mind. Be reservedly civil while the colloquy lasts, and let the acquaintance cease with the occasion.
see a lady whom you do not know, unattended, and wanting the assistance of a
man, offer your services to her immediately. Do it with great courtesy, taking
off your hat and begging the honour of assisting her. This precept, although
universally observed in France, is constantly
violated in England and America by the demi-bred, perhaps by all but the
thorough-bred. The “mob of gentlemen” in this country seem to act in these
cases as if a gentleman ipso facto ceased to be a MAN, and as if the
form of presentation was established to prevent intercourse and not to increase
it. Charles Lamb’s phrase, “a human gentleman,” was, after all, no great tautology.
Check it out! This book was owned by William Smith in 1837.