Note: This extract is posted true to text in the Ladies’ Book of Etiquette and Manners.
Upon receiving an invitation for an evening party, answer it immediately, that your hostess may know for how many guests she must provide. If, after accepting an invitation, any unforeseen event prevents your keeping the engagement, write a second note, containing your regrets. The usual form is:—
Miss G—— accepts with pleasure Miss S——'s polite invitation for Monday next;
Miss G—— regrets that a prior engagement will prevent her accepting Miss S——'s kind invitation for Monday evening.
Punctuality is a mark of politeness, if your invitation states the hour at which your hostess will be ready to welcome you. Do not be more than half an hour later than the time named, but if unavoidably detained, make no apology when you meet your hostess; it will be in bad taste to speak of your want of punctuality.
When you arrive at your friend's house, do not stop to speak to any one in the hall, or upon the stairs, but go immediately to the dressing room. The gentleman who accompanies you will go to the door of the lady's room, leave you, to remove his own hat and over-coat, and then return to the door to wait for you.
In the dressing-room, do not push forward to the mirror if you see that others are before you there. Wait for your turn, then perform the needful arrangements of your toilette quickly, and re-join your escort as soon as possible. If you meet friends in the lady's-room, do not stop there to chat; you keep your escort waiting, and your friends will join you in the parlor a few moments later.
Avoid all confidential communications or private remarks in the dressing-room. You may be overheard, and give pain or cause annoyance by your untimely conversation.
When you enter the parlor, go immediately to your hostess, and speak to her; if the gentleman attending you is a stranger to the lady of the house, introduce him, and then join the other guests, as by delaying, to converse too long with your hostess, you may prevent her speaking to others who have arrived later than yourself.
If you have no escort, you may with perfect propriety send for the master of the house, to wait upon you from the dressing-room to the parlor, and as soon as you have spoken to the hostess, thank your host and release him, as the same attention may be required by others. Again, when alone, if you meet a friend in the dressing-room, you may ask the privilege of entering the parlor with her and her escort; or, if she also is alone, there is no impropriety in two ladies going into the room unattended by a gentleman.
While you maintain a cheerful deportment, avoid loud talking and laughing, and still more carefully avoid any action or gesture that may attract attention and make you conspicuous.
When dressing for a party, while you show that you honor the occasion by a tasteful dress, avoid glaring colors, or any conspicuous ornament or style of costume.
Avoid long tête-à-tête conversations; they are in bad taste, and to hold confidential communication, especially with gentlemen, is still worse.
Do not make any display of affection for even your dearest friend; kissing in public, or embracing, are in bad taste. Walking with arms encircling waists, or such demonstrative tokens of love, are marks of low breeding.
Avoid crossing the room alone, and never run, even if you feel embarrassed, and wish to cross quickly.
If you are a musician, and certain that you will confer pleasure by a display of your talents, do not make a show of reluctance when invited to play or sing. Comply gracefully, and after one piece, leave the instrument. Be careful to avoid the appearance of wishing to be invited, and, above all, never hint that this would be agreeable. If your hostess has requested you to bring your notes, and you are dependent upon them, bring them, and quietly place them on the music stand, or, still better, send them in the afternoon. It is a better plan, if you are called upon frequently to contribute in this way to the evening's amusement, to learn a few pieces so as to play them perfectly well without notes.
Never attempt any piece before company, unless you are certain that you can play it without mistake or hesitation. When you have finished your song or piece, rise instantly from the piano stool, as your hostess may wish to invite another guest to take the place. If you have a reason for declining to play, do so decidedly when first invited, and do not change your decision.
If your hostess or any of the family play for the guests to dance, it is both polite and kind to offer to relieve them; and if truly polite themselves, they will not take advantage of the offer, to over tax your good nature.
When others are playing or singing, listen quietly and attentively; to laugh or talk loudly when there is music in the room, is rude, both toward the performer and your hostess. If you are conversing at the time the music begins, and you find that your companion is not disposed to listen to the performer at the harp or piano, converse in a low tone, and take a position at some distance from the instrument.
If the rooms are not large enough for all the guests to dance at one time, do not dance every set, even if invited. It is ill-bred and selfish.
If you are obliged to leave the company at an earlier hour than the other guests, say so to your hostess in a low tone, when you have an opportunity, and then stay a short time in the room, and slip out unperceived. By a formal leave-taking, you may lead others to suppose the hour later than it is in reality, and thus deprive your hostess of other guests, who, but for your example, would have remained longer. French leave is preferable to a formal leave-taking upon such occasions.
If you remain until the usual hour for breaking up, go to your hostess before you leave the room, express the pleasure you have enjoyed, and bid her farewell.
Within the next week, you should call upon your hostess, if it is the first party you have attended at her house. If she is an intimate friend, the call should be made within a fortnight.