Note: This extract is posted true to text in the Ladies’ Book of Etiquette and Manners
ETIQUETTE FOR THE HOSTESS.
When you write to invite a friend to visit you, name a time when it will be convenient and agreeable for you to receive her, and if she accepts your invitation, so arrange your duties and engagements that they will not interfere with your devoting the principal part of your time to the entertainment of your guest. If you have certain duties which must be performed daily, say so frankly when she first arrives, and see that during the time you are so occupied she has work, reading, music, or some other employment, to pass the time away pleasantly.
Have a room prepared especially for her use, and let her occupy it alone. Many persons have a dislike to any one sleeping with them, and will be kept awake by a companion in the room or bed. Above all, do not put a child to sleep in the chamber with your guest.
The day before your friend arrives, have her room swept, dusted, and aired; put clean, fresh linen upon the bed, see that the curtains are in good order, the locks in perfect repair, and the closet or wardrobe and bureau empty for her clothes. Have upon the bureau a pin cushion well filled, hair pins, brush and comb, and two mirrors, one large, and one small for the hand, as she may wish to smooth her hair, without unpacking her own toilet articles. Upon the washstand, have two pitchers full of water, a cup, tumbler, soap-dish and soap, basin, brush-dish, and a sponge, wash rag, and plenty of clean towels.
Have both a feather bed and a mattress upon the bedstead, that she may place whichever she prefers uppermost. Two sheets, a blanket, quilt, and counterpane, should be on the bed, and there should be two extra blankets in the room, should she require more covering in the night.
On the mantel piece, place a few books that she may read, if she wishes, before sleeping. Have upon the mantel piece a box of matches, and if the room is not lighted by gas, have also a supply of candles in a box, and a candlestick.
If the room is not heated by a furnace, be careful that the fire is made every morning before she rises, and keep a good supply of fuel in the room.
Besides the larger chairs, have a low one, to use while changing the shoes or washing the feet.
Upon the table, place a full supply of writing materials, as your guest may wish to send word of her safe arrival before unpacking her own writing-desk. Put two or three postage stamps upon this table.
Be sure that bells, locks, hinges, and windows, are all in perfect order.
Before your guest arrives, go to her room. If it is in winter, have a good fire, hot water on the washstand, and see that the windows are tightly closed, and the room cheerful with sunshine, or plenty of candle or gas light. If in summer, draw the curtains, bow the shutters, open the windows, and have a fan upon the table. It is well to have a bath ready, should your guest desire that refreshment after the dust and heat of traveling.
When the time arrives at which you may expect your guest, send a carriage to the station to meet her, and, if possible, go yourself, or send some member of the family to welcome her there. After her baggage is on the carriage, drive immediately to the house, and be certain all is ready there for her comfort.
As soon as she is at your house, have her trunks carried immediately to her own room, and lead her there yourself. Then, after warmly assuring her how welcome she is, leave her alone to change her dress, bathe, or lie down if she wishes. If her journey has been a long one, and it is not the usual hour for your next meal, have a substantial repast ready for her about half an hour after her arrival, with tea or coffee.
If she arrives late at night, after she has removed her bonnet and bathed her face, invite her to partake of a substantial supper, and then pity her weariness and lead the way to her room. She may politely assert that she can still sit up and talk, but be careful you do not keep her up too long; and do not waken her in the morning. After the first day, she will, of course, desire to breakfast at your usual hour, but if she has had a long, fatiguing journey, she will be glad to sleep late the first day. Be careful that she has a hot breakfast ready when she does rise, and take a seat at the table to wait upon her.
After the chambermaid has arranged the guest-chamber in the morning, go in yourself and see that all is in order, and comfortable, and that there is plenty of fresh water and towels, the bed properly made, and the room dusted. Then do not go in again through the day, unless invited. If you are constantly running in, to put a chair back, open or shut the windows, or arrange the furniture, you will entirely destroy the pleasantest part of your guest's visit, by reminding her that she is not at home, and must not take liberties, even in her own room. It looks, too, as if you were afraid to trust her, and thought she would injure the furniture.
If you have children, forbid them to enter the room your friend occupies, unless she invites them to do so, or they are sent there with a message.
If your household duties will occupy your time for some hours in the morning, introduce your guest to the piano, book-case, or picture-folio, and place all at her service. When your duties are finished, either join her in her own room, or invite her to sit with you, and work, chatting, meanwhile, together. If you keep your own carriage, place it at her disposal as soon as she arrives.
If she is a stranger in the city, accompany her to the points of interest she may wish to visit, and also offer to show her where to find the best goods, should she wish to do any shopping.
Enquire of your visitor if there is any particular habit she may wish to indulge in, such as rising late, retiring early, lying down in the daytime, or any other habit that your family do not usually follow. If there is, arrange it so that she may enjoy her peculiarity in comfort. If there is any dish which is distasteful to her, avoid placing it upon the table during her visit, and if she mentions, in conversation, any favorite dish, have it frequently placed before her.
If she is accustomed to eat just before retiring, and your family do not take supper, see that something is sent to her room every night.
If your friend has intimate friends in the same city, beside yourself, it is an act of kindly courtesy to invite them to dinner, tea, or to pass a day, and when calls are made, and you see that it would be pleasant, invite the caller to remain to dinner or tea.
Never accept any invitation, either to a party, ball, or public entertainment, that does not include your guest. In answering the invitation give that as your reason for declining, when another note will be sent enclosing an invitation for her. If the invitation is from an intimate friend, say, in answering it, that your guest is with you, and that she will accompany you.
It is a mistaken idea to suppose that hospitality and courtesy require constant attention to a guest. There are times when she may prefer to be alone, either to write letters, to read, or practice. Some ladies follow a guest from one room to another, never leaving them alone for a single instant, when they would enjoy an hour or two in the library or at the piano, but do not like to say so.
The best rule is to make your guest feel that she is heartily welcome, and perfectly at home.
When she is ready to leave you, see that her trunks are strapped in time by the servants, have a carriage ready to take her to the station, have the breakfast or dinner at an hour that will suit her, prepare a luncheon for her to carry, and let some gentleman in the family escort her to the wharf, check her trunks, and procure her tickets.
If your guest is in mourning, decline any invitations to parties or places of amusement whilst she is with you. Show her by such little attentions that you sympathize in her recent affliction, and that the pleasure of her society, and the love you bear her, make such sacrifices of gayety trifling, compared with the sweet duty of comforting her.