|Diane's Antique Book Collection|
Part 3 – FASHIONABLE BALLS, VISITING, CARD ETIQUETTE, ETC.
Receiving visitors.-When we see persons enter, whether announced or not, we rise immediately, advance towards them, request them to sit down, avoiding however the old form of, “Take the trouble to be seated.” If it is a young man, we offer him an arm-chair, or a stuffed one; if an elderly man, we insist upon his accepting the arm-chair; if a lady, we beg her to be seated upon the ottoman.
If the gentleman of the house receive the visitors he will take a chair and place himself at a little distance from them; if, on the contrary, it is the lady of the house, and she is intimate with the lady who visits her, she will place herself near her. If several ladies come at a time, we give this last place to the one most distinguished by rank.
In winter, the most honorable places are those at the corner of the fireplace; in proportion as they place you in front of the fire, your seat is considered inferior in rank. Moreover, when it happens to be a respectable married lady, and one to whom we wish to do honor, we take her by the hand and conduct her to the corner of the fireplace. If this place is occupied by a young lady, she should rise and offer her seat to the married lady, taking for herself a chair in the middle of the circle.
If a lady who receives a half ceremonious visit is sewing, she ought to leave off immediately, and not resume it except at the request of the visitor. If they are on quite intimate terms, she ought herself to request permission to continue. If a person visits in an entirely ceremonious way, it would be very impolite to work even an instant. Moreover, even with friends, we should hardly be occupied with our work, but should seem to forget it on their account.
Propriety of movement and general demeanor in company.-To look steadily at any one, especially if you are a lady and are speaking to a gentleman;; to turn the head frequently on one side and the other during conversation; to balance yourself upon your chair; to bend forward; to strike your hands upon your knees; to hold one of your knees between your hands locked together; to cross your legs; to extend your feet on the andirons; to admire yourself with complacency in a glass; to adjust, in an affected manner, your cravat, hair, dress, or handkerchief; to remain without gloves; to fold carefully your shawl, instead of throwing it with graceful negligence upon a table; to fret about a hat which you have just left off; to laugh immoderately; to place your hand upon the person with whom you are conversing; to take him by the buttons, the collar of his cloak, the cuffs, the waist, etc.; to seize any person by the waist or arm, or to touch their person; to roll the eyes or to raise them with affectation; to take snuff from the box of your neighbor, or to offer it to strangers, especially to ladies; to play continually with your chain or fan; to beat time with the feet and hands; to whirl round a chair with your hand; to shake with your feet the chair of your neighbor; to rub your face or your hands; wink your eyes; shrug up your shoulders; stamp with you feet; etc. – all these bad habits, of which we cannot speak to people, are in the highest degree displeasing.
In a circle, we should not pass before a lady, neither should we present anything by extending the arm over her, but pass round behind and present it. In case we cannot do it, we say, I ask your pardon, etc. To a question, which we do not fully comprehend, we never answer, Ha! What? But, Be so good as, etc. Pardon me, I did not understand.
Thornwell, Emily, THE LADY’S GUIDE TO COMPLETE ETIQUETTE, New York, Belford,
Clarke & Company, 1884