Monday, June 2, 2014

Manners on Monday ~ Etiquette for Calling

From -The Gentlemen's Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness by Cecil B. Hartley


A gentleman in society must calculate to give a certain portion of his time to making calls upon his friends, both ladies and gentlemen. He may extend his visiting list to as large a number as his inclination and time will permit him to attend to, but he cannot contract it after passing certain limits. His position as a man in society obliges him to call,

Upon any stranger visiting his city, who brings a letter of introduction to him;

Upon any friend from another city, to whose hospitality he has been at any time indebted;

Upon any gentleman after receiving from his hands a favor or courtesy;

Upon his host at any dinner or supper party, (such calls should be made very soon after the entertainment given);

Upon any friend whose joy or grief calls for an expression of sympathy, whether it be congratulation or condolence;

Upon any friend who has lately returned from a voyage or long journey;

Upon any lady who has accepted his services as an escort, either for a journey or the return from a ball or evening party; this call must be made the day after he has thus escorted the lady;

Upon his hostess after any party to which he has been invited, whether he has accepted or declined such invitation;

Upon any lady who has accepted his escort for an evening, a walk or a drive;

Upon any friend whom long or severe illness keeps confined to the house;

Upon his lady friends on New Year’s day, (if it is the custom of the city in which he resides;)

Upon any of his friends when they receive bridal calls;

Upon lady friends in any city you are visiting; if gentlemen friends reside in the same city, you may either call upon them or send your card with your address and the length of time you intend staying, written upon it; if a stranger or friend visiting your city sends such a card, you must call at the earliest opportunity;

Upon any one of whom you wish to ask a favor; to make him, under such circumstances call upon you, is extremely rude;

Upon any one who has asked a favor of you; you will add very much to the pleasure you confer, in granting a favor, by calling to express the gratification it affords you to be able to oblige your friend; you will soften the pain of a refusal, if, by calling, and expressing your regret, you show that you feel interested in the request, and consider it of importance.

Upon intimate friends, relatives, and ladies, you may call without waiting for any of the occasions given above.

Do not fall into the vulgar error of declaiming against the practice of making calls, declaring it a “bore,” tiresome, or stupid. The custom is a good one.

An English writer says:—

“The visit or call is a much better institution than is generally supposed. It has its drawbacks. It wastes much time; it necessitates much small talk. It obliges one to dress on the chance of finding a friend at home; but for all this it is almost the only means of making an acquaintance ripen into friendship. In the visit, all the strain, which general society somehow necessitates, is thrown off. A man receives you in his rooms cordially, and makes you welcome, not to a stiff dinner, but an easy chair and conversation. A lady, who in the ball room or party has been compelled to limit her conversation, can here speak more freely. The talk can descend from generalities to personal inquiries, and need I say, that if you wish to know a young lady truly, you must see her at home, and by day light.

“The main points to be observed about visits, are the proper occasions and the proper hours. Now, between actual friends there is little need of etiquette in these respects. A friendly visit may be made at any time, on any occasion. True, you are more welcome when the business of the day is over, in the afternoon rather than in the morning, and you must, even as a friend, avoid calling at meal times. But, on the other hand, many people receive visits in the evening, and certainly this is the best time to make them.”

Any first call which you receive must be returned promptly. If you do not wish to continue the acquaintance any farther, you need not return a second call, but politeness imperatively demands a return of the first one.

A call may be made upon ladies in the morning or afternoon; but in this country, where almost every man has some business to occupy his day, the evening is the best time for paying calls. You will gain ground in easy intercourse and friendly acquaintance more rapidly in one evening, than in several morning calls.

Never make a call upon a lady before eleven o’clock in the morning, or after nine in the evening.

Avoid meal times. If you inadvertently call at dinner or tea time, and your host is thus forced to invite you to the table, it is best to decline the civility. If, however, you see that you will give pleasure by staying, accept the invitation, but be careful to avoid calling again at the same hour.

No man in the United States, excepting His Excellency, the President, can expect to receive calls unless he returns them.

“Visiting,” says a French writer, “forms the cord which binds society together, and it is so firmly tied, that were the knot severed, society would perish.”

A ceremonious call should never extend over more than fifteen minutes, and it should not be less than ten minutes.

If you see the master of the house take letters or a paper from his pocket, look at the clock, have an absent air, beat time with his fingers or hands, or in any other way show weariness or ennui, you may safely conclude that it is time for you to leave, though you may not have been five minutes in the house. If you are host to the most wearisome visitor in existence, if he stays hours, and converses only on subjects which do not interest you, in the least; unless he is keeping you from an important engagement, you must not show the least sign of weariness. Listen to him politely, endeavor to entertain him, and preserve a smiling composure, though you may long to show him the door. In case he is keeping you from business of importance, or an imperative engagement, you may, without any infringement upon the laws of politeness, inform him of the fact, and beg him to excuse you; you must, however, express polite regret at your enforced want of hospitality, and invite him to call again.

It is quite an art to make a graceful exit after a call. To know how to choose the moment when you will be regretted, and to retire leaving your friends anxious for a repetition of the call, is an accomplishment worth acquiring.

When you begin to tire of your visit, you may generally feel sure that your entertainers are tired of you, and if you do not want to remain printed upon their memory as “the man who makes such long, tiresome calls,” you will retire.

If other callers come in before you leave a friend’s parlor, do not rise immediately as if you wished to avoid them, but remain seated a few moments, and then leave, that your hostess may not have too many visitors to entertain at one time.

If you have been enjoying a tête-à-tête interview with a lady, and other callers come in, do not hurry away, as if detected in a crime, but after a few courteous, graceful words, and the interchange of some pleasant remarks, leave her to entertain her other friends.

To endeavor when making a call to “sit out” others in the room, is very rude.

When your host or hostess urges you to stay longer, after you have risen to go, be sure that that is the best time for departure. You will do better to go then, when you will be regretted, than to wait until you have worn your welcome out.

When making a visit of condolence, take your tone from your host or hostess. If they speak of their misfortune, or, in case of death, of the departed relative, join them. Speak of the talents or virtues of the deceased, and your sympathy with their loss. If, on the other hand, they avoid the subject, then it is best for you to avoid it too. They may feel their inability to sustain a conversation upon the subject of their recent affliction, and it would then be cruel to force it upon them. If you see that they are making an effort, perhaps a painful one, to appear cheerful, try to make them forget for the time their sorrows, and chat on cheerful subjects. At the same time, avoid jesting, merriment, or undue levity, as it will be out of place, and appear heartless.

A visit of congratulation, should, on the contrary, be cheerful, gay, and joyous. Here, painful subjects would be out of place. Do not mar the happiness of your friend by the description of the misery of your own position or that of a third person, but endeavor to show by joyous sympathy that the pleasure of your friend is also your happiness. To laugh with those who laugh, weep with those who are afflicted, is not hypocrisy, but kindly, friendly sympathy.

Always, when making a friendly call, send up your card, by the servant who opens the door.

There are many times when a card may be left, even if the family upon which you call is at home. Visits of condolence, unless amongst relatives or very intimate friends, are best made by leaving a card with enquiries for the health of the family, and offers of service.

If you see upon entering a friend’s parlor, that your call is keeping him from going out, or, if you find a lady friend dressed for a party or promenade, make your visit very brief. In the latter case, if the lady seems unattended, and urges your stay, you may offer your services as an escort.

Never visit a literary man, an artist, any man whose profession allows him to remain at home, at the hours when he is engaged in the pursuit of his profession. The fact that you know he is at home is nothing; he will not care to receive visits during the time allotted to his daily work.

Never take another gentleman to call upon one of your lady friends without first obtaining her permission to do so.

The calls made after receiving an invitation to dinner, a party, ball, or other entertainment should be made within a fortnight after the civility has been accepted.

When you have saluted the host and hostess, do not take a seat until they invite you to do so, or by a motion, and themselves sitting down, show that they expect you to do the same.

Keep your hat in your hand when making a call. This will show your host that you do not intend to remain to dine or sup with him. You may leave an umbrella or cane in the hall if you wish, but your hat and gloves you must carry into the parlor. In making an evening call for the first time keep your hat and gloves in your hand, until the host or hostess requests you to lay them aside and spend the evening.

When going to spend the evening with a friend whom you visit often, leave your hat, gloves, and great coat in the hall.

If, on entering a parlor of a lady friend, in the evening, you see by her dress, or any other token, that she was expecting to go to the opera, concert, or an evening party, make a call of a few minutes only, and then retire. I have known men who accepted instantly the invitation given them to remain under these circumstances, and deprive their friends of an anticipated pleasure, when their call could have been made at any other time. To thus impose upon the courtesy of your friends is excessively rude. Nothing will pardon such an acceptance but the impossibility of repeating your call, owing to a short stay in town, or any other cause. Even in this case it is better to accompany your friends upon their expedition in search of pleasure. You can, of course, easily obtain admittance if they are going to a public entertainment, and if they invite you to join their party to a friend’s house, you may without impropriety do so, as a lady is privileged to introduce you to her friends under such circumstances. It requires tact and discretion to know when to accept and when to decline such an invitation. Be careful that you do not intrude upon a party already complete in themselves, or that you do not interfere with the plans of the gentlemen who have already been accepted as escorts.

Never make a third upon such occasions. Neither one of a couple who propose spending the evening abroad together, will thank the intruder who spoils their tête-à-tête.

When you find, on entering a room, that your visit is for any reason inopportune, do not instantly retire unless you have entered unperceived and can so leave, in which case leave immediately; if, however, you have been seen, your instant retreat is cut off. Then endeavor by your own graceful ease to cover any embarrassment your entrance may have caused, make but a short call, and, if you can, leave your friends under the impression that you saw nothing out of the way when you entered.

Always leave a card when you find the person upon whom you have called absent from home.

A card should have nothing written upon it, but your name and address. To leave a card with your business address, or the nature of your profession written upon it, shows a shocking ignorance of polite society. Business cards are never to be used excepting when you make a business call.

Never use a card that is ornamented in any way, whether by a fancy border, painted corners, or embossing. Let it be perfectly plain, tinted, if you like, in color, but without ornament, and have your name written or printed in the middle, your address, in smaller characters, in the lower left hand corner. Many gentlemen omit the Mr. upon their cards, writing merely their Christian and surname; this is a matter of taste, you may follow your own inclination. Let your card be written thus:—

Henry C. Pratt

No. 217 L. street.

A physician will put Dr. before or M.D. after the name, and an officer in the army or navy may add his title; but for militia officers to do so is absurd.

If you call upon a lady, who invites you to be seated, place a chair for her, and wait until she takes it before you sit down yourself.

Never sit beside a lady upon a sofa, or on a chair very near her own, unless she invites you to do so.

If a lady enters the room where you are making a call, rise, and remain standing until she is seated. Even if she is a perfect stranger, offer her a chair, if there is none near her.

You must rise if a lady leaves the room, and remain standing until she has passed out.

If you are engaged in any profession which you follow at home, and receive a caller, you may, during the daytime, invite him into your library, study, or the room in which you work, and, unless you use your pen, you may work while he is with you.

When you receive a visitor, meet him at the door, offer a chair, take his hat and cane, and, while speaking of the pleasure the call affords you, show, by your manner, that you are sincere, and desire a long call.

Do not let your host come with you any farther than the room door if he has other visitors; but if you are showing out a friend, and leave no others in the parlor, you should come to the street door.

A few hints from an English author, will not be amiss in this place. He says:—

“Visits of condolence and congratulation must be made about a week after the event. If you are intimate with the person on whom you call, you may ask, in the first case, for admission; if not, it is better only to leave a card, and make your ‘kind inquiries’ of the servant, who is generally primed in what manner to answer them. In visits of congratulation you should always go in, and be hearty in your congratulations. Visits of condolence are terrible inflictions to both receiver and giver, but they may be made less so by avoiding, as much as consistent with sympathy, any allusion to the past. The receiver does well to abstain from tears. A lady of my acquaintance, who had lost her husband, was receiving such a visit in her best crape. She wept profusely for some time upon the best of broad-hemmed cambric handkerchiefs, and then turning to her visitor, said: ‘I am sure you will be glad to hear that Mr. B. has left me most comfortably provided for.’ Hinc illæ lacrymæ. Perhaps they would have been more sincere if he had left her without a penny. At the same time, if you have not sympathy and heart enough to pump up a little condolence, you will do better to avoid it, but take care that your conversation is not too gay. Whatever{86} you may feel, you must respect the sorrows of others.

“On marriage, cards are sent round to such people as you wish to keep among your acquaintance, and it is then their part to call first on the young couple, when within distance.

“Having entered the house, you take up with you to the drawing-room both hat and cane, but leave an umbrella in the hall. In France it is usual to leave a great-coat down stairs also, but as calls are made in this country in morning dress, it is not necessary to do so.

“It is not usual to introduce people at morning calls in large towns; in the country it is sometimes done, not always. The law of introductions is, in fact, to force no one into an acquaintance. You should, therefore, ascertain beforehand whether it is agreeable to both to be introduced; but if a lady or a superior expresses a wish to know a gentleman or an inferior, the latter two have no right to decline the honor. The introduction is of an inferior [which position a gentleman always holds to a lady] to the superior. You introduce Mr. Smith to Mrs. Jones, or Mr. A. to Lord B., not vice versa. In introducing two persons, it is not necessary to lead one of them up by the hand, but it is sufficient simply to precede them. Having thus brought the person to be introduced up to the one to whom he is to be presented, it is the custom, even when the consent has been previously obtained, to say, with a slight bow, to the superior personage: ‘Will you allow me to introduce Mr. ——?’ The person addressed replies by bowing to the one introduced, who also bows at the same time, while the introducer repeats their names, and then retires, leaving them to converse. Thus, for instance, in presenting Mr. Jones to Mrs. Smith, you will say, ‘Mrs. Smith, allow me to introduce Mr. Jones,’ and while they are engaged in bowing you will murmur, ‘Mrs. Smith—Mr. Jones,’ and escape. If you have to present three or four people to said Mrs. Smith, it will suffice to utter their respective names without repeating that of the lady.

“A well-bred person always receives visitors at whatever time they may call, or whoever they may be; but if you are occupied and cannot afford to be interrupted by a mere ceremony, you should instruct the servant beforehand to say that you are ‘not at home.’ This form has often been denounced as a falsehood, but a lie is no lie unless intended to deceive; and since the words are universally understood to mean that you are engaged, it can be no harm to give such an order to a servant. But, on the other hand, if the servant once admits a visitor within the hall, you should receive him at any inconvenience to yourself.”

He also gives some admirable hints upon visits made to friends in another city or the country.

He says:—

“A few words on visits to country houses before I quit this subject. Since a man’s house is his castle, no one, not even a near relation, has a right to invite himself to stay in it. It is not only taking a liberty to do so, but may prove to be very inconvenient. A general invitation, too, should never be acted on. It is often given without any intention of following it up; but, if given, should be turned into a special one sooner or later. An invitation should specify the persons whom it includes, and the person invited should never presume to take with him any one not specified. If a gentleman cannot dispense with his valet, he should write to ask leave to bring a servant; but the means of your inviter, and the size of the house, should be taken into consideration, and it is better taste to dispense with a servant altogether. Children and horses are still more troublesome, and should never be taken without special mention made of them. It is equally bad taste to arrive with a wagonful of luggage, as that is naturally taken as a hint that you intend to stay a long time. The length of a country visit is indeed a difficult matter to decide, but in the present day people who receive much generally specify the length in their invitation—a plan which saves a great deal of trouble and doubt. But a custom not so commendable has lately come in of limiting the visits of acquaintance to two or three days. This may be pardonable where the guest lives at no great distance, but it is preposterous to expect a person to travel a long distance for a stay of three nights. If, however, the length be not specified, and cannot easily be discovered, a week is the limit for a country visit, except at the house of a near relation or very old friend. It will, however, save trouble to yourself, if, soon after your arrival, you state that you are come “for a few days,” and, if your host wishes you to make a longer visit, he will at once press you to do so.

“The main point in a country visit is to give as little trouble as possible, to conform to the habits of your entertainers, and never to be in the way. On this principle you will retire to your own occupations soon after breakfast, unless some arrangement has been made for passing the morning otherwise. If you have nothing to do, you may be sure that your host has something to attend to in the morning. Another point of good-breeding is to be punctual at meals, for a host and hostess never sit down without their guest, and dinner may be getting cold. If, however, a guest should fail in this particular, a well-bred entertainer will not only take no notice of it, but attempt to set the late comer as much at his ease as possible. A host should provide amusement for his guests, and give up his time as much as possible to them; but if he should be a professional man or student—an author, for instance—the guest should, at the commencement of the visit, insist that he will not allow him to interrupt his occupations, and the latter will set his visitor more at his ease by accepting this arrangement. In fact, the rule on which a host should act is to make his visitors as much at home as possible; that on which a visitor should act, is to interfere as little as possible with the domestic routine of the house.

“The worst part of a country visit is the necessity of giving gratuities to the servants, for a poor man may often find his visit cost him far more than if he had stayed at home. It is a custom which ought to be put down, because a host who receives much should pay his own servants for the extra trouble given. Some people have made by-laws against it in their houses, but, like those about gratuities to railway-porters, they are seldom regarded. In a great house a man-servant expects gold, but a poor man should not be ashamed of offering him silver. It must depend on the length of the visit. The ladies give to the female, the gentlemen to the male servants. Would that I might see my friends without paying them for their hospitality in this indirect manner!”
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