Note: This extract is posted true to text in the Ladies’ Book of Etiquette and Manners
ETIQUETTE FOR THE GUEST.
a first rule with regard to paying a visit, the best one is, never to accept a general invitation.
Instances are very common where women (I cannot say ladies) have, upon a slight acquaintance, and a
"When you are in C—— I should be very happy to have you visit me,"
actually gone to C—— from their own home, and, with bag and baggage, quartered
themselves upon the hospitality of their newly made friend, for weeks at a
Even where there is a long standing friendship it is not well to visit uninvited. It is impossible for you, in another city, to know exactly when it will be convenient for your friend to have you visit her, unless she tells you, and that will, of course, be a special invitation.
If your friends are really desirous to have you pay them a visit, they will name a time when it will be convenient and agreeable to have you come, and you may accept the invitation with the certainty that you will not incommode them.
Self-proposed visits are still worse. You, in a manner, force an invitation from your friend when you tell her that you can come at a certain time, unless you have previously arranged to let her know when you can be her guest. In that case, your own time is understood to be the most agreeable for her.
If, whilst traveling, you pass through a town where you have friends whom you wish to visit, and who would be hurt if you omitted to do so, go first to a hotel, and either call or send word that you are there. Then, it is optional with them to extend their hospitality or not. Do not be offended if it is not done. The love for you may be undiminished, and the desire to entertain you very great, yet family reasons may render such an invitation as you expect, impossible. Your friend may have engagements or duties at the time, that would prevent her making the visit pleasant for you, and wish to postpone the invitation until she can entertain you as she wishes.
To drive, trunks and all, in such a case, to your friend's house, without a word of warning, is unkind, as well as ill-bred. You force her to invite you to stay, when it may be inconvenient, and, even if she is really glad to see you, and wishes you to make a prolonged visit, you may feel certain she would have preferred to know you were coming. If she really loves you, her natural desire would be to have everything ready to give you a comfortable reception, and not have to leave you, perhaps with your traveling costume on, for an hour or two, while she prepares a room for you. It is not enough to say, at such a time, "Don't mind me," or, "Treat me as one of the family." However much her politeness or love may conceal annoyance, be sure, in her secret heart she does mind you, and remember you are not one of her private family.
To take the liberty of going to the house of a mere acquaintance, for a night or two, while traveling, without invitation, is making a convenience of them, and wears the appearance of wishing to save the customary hotel-bill, so, while it is extremely ill-bred and impertinent, it is also excessively mean.
In case of relationship, or long intimate friendship, an unexpected visit may be pardoned and give pleasure, but it is better to avoid it, as the pleasure will surely be increased if your relative or friend has time to prepare for your reception as her love will prompt, and arrange her duties and engagements to really enjoy your company.
When you receive an invitation by letter to visit a friend, answer it immediately, thanking her for her proffered hospitality, and say decidedly then whether you can accept or decline.
If you accept the invitation, state in your letter by what train, and at what hour you will arrive, that she may meet you, and let nothing but positive necessity keep you from being punctually at the time and place appointed. To linger by the way, for mere pleasure, and make her come several times to meet you, is unkind, as well as ill-bred. If you are unavoidably detained, write to her, state the reason that will prevent your keeping the appointment, and name another time when you can come.
It is well in answering a letter of invitation, to state the limits of your visit, and then to keep them. If she is unwilling to let you go, and you are tempted to stay, that very fact promises well for the pleasure of a second visit. It is better to leave while all will regret you, than to linger on until you have worn out your welcome.
Inquire, as soon as possible after your arrival, what are the regular habits of the family; the hours for rising, for meals, and for retiring, and then be punctual in your attendance. Many ladies are very ceremonious about waiting for a guest, and by delay in your room, or inattention to the time, when you are out, you will keep the whole family waiting.
If you do not wake early enough for the usual breakfast hour, request the chambermaid to knock at your door in time for you to be ready to go down with the family. Before you leave your room in the morning, take the clothes off your bed, throw the upper bed over the foot-board, and then open all the windows (unless it storms), that room and bed may be thoroughly aired before you sit there again.
After breakfast, ask your hostess if you can be of any assistance to her in the household duties. If she declines your services, do not follow her from room to room whilst she is thus engaged, but take your work, books, or music to the sitting room or parlor, until your own room is ready for you. By thus proving that you can occupy yourself pleasantly, while she is away, you make it less annoying to her to feel the obligation to leave you.
As soon as you see that she is ready to sew and chat, leave your book, or, if in your own room, come to the sitting room, where she is, and work with her. It is polite and kind, if you see that she has a large supply of family sewing, to offer to assist her, but if she positively declines your aid, then have some work of your own on hand, that you may sew with her. Many pleasant mornings may be spent while visiting, by one lady reading aloud whilst the other sews, alternating the work.
It is a pretty compliment to repay the hospitality of your hostess, by working whilst with her upon some piece of fancy work, a chair cover, sofa cushion, or pair of ottomans, presenting them to her when finished, as a keepsake. They will be duly appreciated, and remind her constantly of the pleasures of your visit.
If you pass the morning out of the house, remember your time is hers, and have no engagement to interfere with the plans she has laid for entertaining you. Observe this rule during your whole visit, and do not act independent of her plans. By constantly forming engagements without her knowledge, going out without her, or staying in when she has made some excursion or party for your pleasure, you insult her, by intimating that her house is no more to you than a hotel, to sleep and eat in, while your pleasures lie elsewhere.
After dinner, retire for an hour to your own room, that your hostess may lie down if she is accustomed to do so. If the hours kept are later than you have been accustomed to, or if the gayety of the family keeps you out at party or opera, it is best to sleep after dinner, even if you do not always do it. To give signs of weariness in the evening will be excessively rude, implying want of enjoyment, and making your hostess feel hurt and annoyed.
If you have shopping to do, find out where the best stores are, and then go to them alone, unless your hostess will accompany you upon similar business of her own. Do not tax her good nature to go, merely for the sake of aiding you as guide. If one of the children in the family is familiar with the stores and streets, ask her to accompany you, and be careful to acknowledge the kindness by buying something especially for the child whilst she is out with you, if it is only some cakes or bonbons. Choose an hour when you are certain your hostess has made no other engagement for you, or while she is busy in her domestic duties, for these shopping excursions. Offer, when you are going, to attend to any shopping she may want, and ask if there is any commission you can execute for her while you are out.
While on a visit to one friend, do not accept too many invitations from others, and avoid spending too much time in paying calls where your hostess is not acquainted. You owe the greater portion of your time and society to the lady whose hospitality you are accepting, and it is best to decline invitations from other houses, unless they inclose one for your hostess also.
Avoid paying any visits in a family not upon good terms with your hostess. If such a family are very dear friends of your own, or you can claim an acquaintance, pleasant upon both sides, with them, write, and state candidly the reason why you cannot visit them, and they will appreciate your delicacy.
If, while on a visit to one friend, you receive an invitation to spend some time with another friend in the same place, accept it for the period which you have named as the termination of your first visit. You insult your hostess by shortening your visit to her to accept another invitation, and quite as much of an insult is it, to take the time from the first visit to go to pay another, and then return to your first hostess, unless such an arrangement has been made immediately upon your arrival.
Never invite any friend who may call upon you to stay to dinner or tea; you will be taking a most unwarrantable liberty in so doing. This is the right of your hostess, and if, by her silence, she tacitly declines extending this courtesy, you will be guilty of impertinence in usurping her privilege.
Never take any one who calls upon you into any room but the parlor, unless invited to do so by your hostess. You have, of course, the entrée of other rooms, but you have no right to extend this privilege to others.
If you have many gentlemen visiters, check too frequent calls, and make no appointments with them. If they show you any such attention as to offer to drive you to places of interest, or visit with you picture galleries or public places, always consult your hostess before accepting such civilities, and decline them if she has made other engagements for you. If you receive an invitation to visit any place of public amusement, decline it, unless one of the family with whom you are staying is also invited. In that case you may accept. If the gentleman who invites you is a stranger to the family, introduce him to your hostess, or mention her name in conversation. He will then, if he really desires you to accept his proffered attention, include her in the invitation.
When visiting in a family where the members are in mourning, decline all invitations to parties or places of public amusement. It is an insult to them to leave them to join in pleasure from which their recent affliction excludes them. Your visit at such a time will be prompted by sympathy in their trouble, and for the time it is thoughtful and delicate to make their sorrows yours.
If sudden sickness or family trouble come to your friend whilst you are with her, unless you can really be useful, shorten your visit. In time of trouble families generally like to be alone, all in all to each other; and a visitor is felt a constant restraint.
If death comes while you are with your friend, endeavor to take from her as much of the care as you can, a really sympathizing friend is an inexpressible comfort at such a time, as the trying details which must be taken in charge by some one, will be less trying to her than to a member of the family. Do the necessary shopping for your friend, and relieve her of as much family care as you can. Let her feel that you are really glad that you are near her in her affliction, and repay the hospitality she offered in her season of joy by showing her that her sorrow makes her still more dear, and that, while you can enjoy the gayety of her house, you will not flee from its mourning. When your presence can be of no further service, then leave her.
Put out your washing and ironing when on a visit. It is annoying and ill-bred to throw your soiled clothes into the family wash.
Take with you, from home, all the writing and sewing materials you may require while paying your visit. It is annoying to be constantly requested by a visitor to lend her scissors, pins, needles, or paper; no lady should be without her own portfolio and work-box.
Be very careful not to injure any article of furniture in your sleeping apartment, and if, unfortunately, anything suffers from your carelessness, have the accident repaired, or the article replaced, at your own expense.
When your visit is over, give a present to each of the servants, varying its value, according to the length of your visit or the services you may have required. You will add to the pleasure by presenting such gifts yourself, with a few pleasant words.
Never compare the house you may be visiting with your own, or any other you may visit. Avoid also speaking of any house where you may have been a guest in terms of overpraise, giving glowing pictures of its splendor. Your hostess may imagine you are drawing comparisons unfavorable to your present residence. Also avoid speaking unfavorably of any former visit, as your hostess will naturally conclude that her turn for censure will come as soon as your visit is over.
If any family secret comes to your knowledge while you are on a visit in that family, remember the hospitality extended to you binds you to the most inviolable secrecy. It is mean, contemptible, rude, and ill-bred to make your entertainers regret their hospitality by betraying any such confidence; for it is as sacred a confidence as if you were bound over to silence in the most solemn manner.
After paying a visit, you should write to your hostess as soon as you reach home again; thank her in this letter for her hospitality, speak warmly of the enjoyment you have had in your recent visit, and mention by name every member of the family, desiring to be remembered to all.