Saturday, January 19, 2013

Georgian Era Etiquette Guide

Balls; Where one could meet new people.

New Acquaintances –Women

New acquaintances should not be invited to entertainments unless agreeable to all concerned. An entertainment can be given to meet new acquaintances if there be some special reason for so doing. Elderly persons and professional people can send their cards to younger persons if they wish to continue acquaintance.

Newcomers – Ball Invitations

It is allowable for a new- comer wishing to give a ball to borrow the visiting list of some friend; but she should enclose in each invitation a calling card of this friend, so that the invited ones may know that the friend is acting as a sponsor.

Duty of Newcomers

No effort should be made to obtain recognition of older residents. Visits from neighbors should be returned within a week. If from any reason a newcomer is unable to call, a note stating the reason should be sent. If visit of neighbor's male relative is desired, a woman may send him a written or verbal invitation; but if visit is not desired, no notice is taken of his card, in the event of one having been left.

Residents' Duty to Men

When calling, kinswoman leaves cards of all the male members of family who are in society. If these cards left by kinswoman are not followed by an invitation to call, it is presumed that the acquaintance is not desired. Men can not call upon women of the
family of new resident, unless invited to do so by either verbal or written message.

Residents' Duty to Women

The newcomer receives the first call from the older resident, which should be made within a reasonable time. Women making the first call, leave their own card and those of the male members of the family. It is unnecessary to be introduced in the absence of letters of introduction. Visits should be of short duration.
Olives were eaten with the fingers, but they were served with ornate silver servers. 



Olives are eaten with the fingers.

After the fork was provided for eating oranges, came the invention of "orange spoons."


Oranges are served in divided sections, sweetened, and the seeds removed, should be eaten with the fork. If served whole, cut into suitable portions. Remove seed and skin.


The organist is selected by the bride, but the fee is paid by the groom.


When making a formal or brief call, the overcoat should be left in the hall.


These letters--standing for Pour prende conge (To take leave)-- are written in the lower left-hand corner of the visiting-card. These cards are used as a formal farewell to such friends and acquaintances whose friendship it is desired to continue. They may be left in person, or sent upon departure from city or winter or summer resort. They are rarely used in brief visits, and should only be used at the close of a season. Care should be exercised in sending them, as an oversight in so doing may cause the loss of good friends.


At the wedding, if pages are present, they are usually dressed in satin court costumes, and carry the bride's train.


It is not good taste to ask relatives to be pall-bearers.  The usual number is six to eight elderly men for elderly person, and of young men for a young man. Six young women in white would be a suitable number to act as pall-bearers for a young woman. Pall-bearers should be asked either by note or by a representative of the head of the family of the deceased. The pall-bearers assemble at the house at the appointed hour, and there take the carriages reserved for them. They disperse after the church service. Except in the case of young women, carriages are not sent to bring pall-bearers to the house.


After accepting an invitation to act as a pall-bearer, a man should call at the house of the bereaved and leave his card. A few days after the funeral he should call again and leave his card. If he wishes, he may simply ask at the door after the women of the family.


The pall-bearers wear black frock coat, trousers, and waistcoat, a black silk hat with a mourning band, black shoes, and black kid gloves. The linen should be white.


Unless there has been a request not to send flowers, a pall-bearer may do so after his first call. If he wishes, a few days after the funeral he may send flowers to the women of the family with his card, on which should be written: With the compliments of -----.


The invitation should be promptly accepted or declined, and if accepted only illness or unavoidable absence from the city would excuse a man from attending.


The first wedding anniversary is called the paper wedding, and is not usually celebrated. If, however, it is celebrated, the invitations may bear the words: No presents received. Congratulations should be extended in accepting or declining the invitations. Any article of paper would be an appropriate gift. An entertainment should follow.


These are less formal than balls. They generally begin at nine or nine-thirty, with dancing at ten-thirty or eleven. The supper precedes the dancing. Those who do not take part in the dancing may leave before it begins.


These are engraved, giving hour for beginning in lower left-hand corner, and should be sent two weeks in advance. One envelope only need be used. They should be answered promptly.

With a patroness like this, who needs overbearing and bossy snobs as friends? Judi Dench as Lady Catherine De Bourgh, Patroness of Mr. Collins in Pride & Prejudice.


It is customary for the management of any institution giving a public ball to formally invite six, eight, or more married women to act as patronesses, and for their names to appear on the invitations. If badges are worn, each patroness is sent one or given one at the ball-room. The patronesses, after being welcomed at the ball by the management committees, take their places, ready to receive the guests. The Committee of Arrangements should look after the patronesses, introduce distinguished guests to them, escort them to supper and finally to their carriages.

PEACHES Peaches should be quartered and the quarters peeled, then taken up by the fingers and eaten.

Peas are eaten with a fork.

Plums and grapes should be eaten one by one, and the pits allowed to fall noiselessly into the half-closed hand and then transferred to the plate.


It is wise to restrict the use of postals to impersonal communications; but if they must be used, the message should be brief with an apology for its use. It is a good plan in addition to omit the usual My dear, and to sign with the initials only and the full surname.

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Gilded Age Table Manners

Gilded Age patent and design from 1878 for stemware, with a cherub poised atop, to pull back a cover revealing the area to drink from on the glass – Etiquette below is from “Decorum; A Practical Treatise on Etiquette and Dress of the Best American Society” from 1883

Table Etiquette:

Breakfast is the least ceremonious meal of the day. Where the corps of servants is large, so that the arrangements of the day are not disturbed thereby, it is customary to let the members of the family breakfast at their own proper hour. Each one comes in without ceremony whenever it pleases him or her to do so. In smaller households a good deal of inconvenience would attend such a course, and it is well to insist upon punctuality at a reasonable hour. Nevertheless, at this first meal of the day a certain amount of freedom is allowed which would be unjustifiable at any other time. The head of the house may read his morning paper and the other members of the family may look over their correspondence if they choose. And each may rise and leave the table when business or pleasure dictates, without waiting for a general signal.

The Breakfast-Table:

The breakfast-table should be simply decorated, yet it may be made extremely attractive, with its snowy cloth and napkins, its array of glass, and its ornamentation of flowers and fruit.

Queen Victoria has set the fashion of placing the whole loaf of bread upon the table with a knife by its side, leaving the bread to be cut as it is desired. However, the old style of having the bread already cut when it is placed upon the table will still recommend itself to many. In eating, bread must always be broken, never cut, and certainly not bitten.

Fruit should be served in abundance at the breakfast-table. There is an old adage which declares that "fruit is golden in the morning, silver at noon and leaden at night."

General Rules for Behavior at Table

Tea and coffee should never be poured into a saucer.

If a person wishes to be served with more tea or coffee, he should place his spoon in the saucer. If he has had sufficient, let it remain in the cup.

If anything unpleasant is found in the food, such as a hair in the bread or a fly in the coffee, remove it without remark. Though your own appetite be spoiled, it is well not to spoil that of others.

Never if possible, cough or sneeze at the table. If you feel the paroxysm coming on, leave the room. It may be worth while to know that a sneeze may be stifled by placing the finger firmly upon the upper lip.

Fold your napkin when you are done with it and place it in your ring, when at home. If you are visiting, leave your napkin unfolded beside your plate.

Never hold your knife and fork upright on each side of your plate while you are talking.

Do not cross your knife and fork upon your plate until you have finished.

When you send your plate to be refilled, place your knife and fork upon one side of it or put them upon your piece of bread.

Eat neither too fast nor too slow.

Never lean back in your chair nor sit too near or too far from the table.

Keep your elbows at your side, so that you may not inconvenience your neighbors. Do not find fault with the food.

The old-fashioned habit of abstaining from taking the last piece upon the plate is no longer observed. It is to be supposed that the vacancy can be supplied if necessary.

If a plate is handed you at table, keep it yourself instead of passing it to a neighbor. If a dish is passed to you, serve yourself first, and then pass it. Luncheon.

Luncheon is a recognized institution in our large cities, where business forbids the heads of families returning to dinner until a late hour.

There is much less formality in the serving of lunch than of dinner. Whether it consists of one or more courses, it is all set upon the table at once. When only one or two are to lunch, the repast is ordinarily served upon a tray.


We have already spoken at some length of ceremonious dinners, so that all we need speak of in this place is the private family dinner. This should always be the social hour of the day. Then parents and children meet together, and the meal should be of such length as to allow of the greatest sociality. Remember the old proverb that "chatted food is half digested."

It may not be out of place to quote here an anecdote from the French, which will illustrate, in most respects, the correct etiquette of the dining-table.

The abbe Casson, a professor in the College Mazarin, and an accomplished litterateur, dined one day at Versailles with the abbe de Radonvilliers, in company with several courtiers and marshals of France. After dinner, when the talk ran upon the etiquette and customs of the table, the abbe Casson boasted of his intimate acquaintance with the best dining out usages of society.

The abbe Delille listened to his account of his own good manners for a while, but then interrupted him and offered to wager that at the dinner just served he had committed numberless errors or improprieties.

"How is it possible!" demanded the abbe. "I did exactly like the rest of the company."

"Nonsense!" exclaimed the other. "You did a hundred things which no one else did. First, when you sat down at the table, what did you do with your napkin?"

"My napkin? Why, just what everybody else did: I unfolded it and fastened it to my buttonhole."

"Ah, my dear friend," said Delille, "you were the only one of the party who did that. No one hangs his napkin up in that style. They content themselves with placing it across their knees. And what did you do when you were served to soup?"

"Like the others, surely. I took my spoon in my right hand and my fork in the left—"

"Your fork! Who ever saw any one eat bread out of a soup-plate with a fork before? After your soup what did you eat?"

"A fresh egg."

"And what did you do with the shell? "Handed it to the servant." "Without breaking it?"

"Yes, without breaking it up, of course." "Ah, my dear abbe, nobody ever eats an egg with out breaking the shell afterward," exclaimed Abbe Delille. "And after your egg?"

"I asked the abbe Radonvilliers to send me a piece of the hen near him."

"Bless my soul! A piece of the hen. One should never speak of hens out of the hennery. You should have asked for a piece of fowl or chicken. But you say nothing about your manner of asking for wine."

"Like the others, I asked for claret and champagne."

"Let me inform you that one should always ask for claret wine and champagne wine. But how did you eat your bread?"

"Surely I did that properly. I cut it with my knife into small mouthfuls and ate it with my fingers."

"Bread should never be cut, but always broken with the fingers. But the coffee—how did you manage that?"

"It was rather too hot, so I poured a little of it into my saucer and drank it."

"Well, then, you committed the greatest error. You should never pour either coffee or tea into your saucer, but always let it cool and drink it from the cup."

It is unnecessary to say that the abbe was deeply mortified at his evident ignorance of the usages of polite society.

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia