|Diane's Antique Book Collection|
Manner of going to the dinner-table, on special occasions.- The table should be ready, and the mistress of the house in the drawing-room, to receive the guests. When they are all assembled, a domestic announces that the dinner is served up; at this signal we rise immediately, and wait until the gentleman of the house requests us to pass into the dinner-room, whither he conducts us by going before.
It is quite common for the lady of the house to act as guide, while he offers his hand to the lady of most distinction. The guests also give their arms to ladies, whom they conduct as far as the table, and to the place which they are to occupy. Take care, if you are not the principal guest, not to offer your hand to the handsomest, for it is a great impoliteness.
Proper disposition of guests at the dinner-table.- Having arrived at the table, each guest respectfully salutes the lady whom he conducts, and who, in her turn, bows also.
It is one of the first and most difficult things properly to arrange the guests, and to place them in such a manner that the conversation may always be general during the entertainment; we should, as much as possible, avoid putting next one another two persons of the same profession, as it would necessarily result in an aside conversation, which would injure the general conversation, and consequently the gaiety of the occasion.
The two most distinguished gentlemen are placed next the mistress of the house; the two most distinguished ladies next the master of the house; the right hand is especially the place of honor. If the number of gentlemen is nearly equal to that of ladies, we should take care to intermingle them; we should separate husbands from their wives, and remove near relations as far from one another as possible, because, being always together, they ought not to converse among themselves in a general party. The younger guests, or those of less distinction, are placed at the lower end of the table.
In order to be able to watch the course of the dinner, and to see that nothing is wanting to their guests, the lady and gentleman of the house usually seat themselves in the centre of the table, opposite each other.
Thornwell, Emily, THE LADY’S GUIDE TO COMPLETE ETIQUETTE, New York, Belford, Clarke & Company, 1884