Monday, January 26, 2015

Etiquette: More London Season of 1957

A"glamorous guest" from Sweden, above, Mrs Nina Wessel, wife of the Duchess of Bedford's, Danish half-brother, Hugo, attended one of the many balls and functions in 1957. The Queen Charlotte Ball was introduced by King George III in 1780 as a way to celebrate his wife’s birthday. The ball used to see the daughters of some of society's most prestigious families make their social debut. Historically the event was to help the ladies find a suitable husband. The tables alone, at the 2014 Queen Charlotte Ball, started at $2500.00

The Debuts Are Wonderful But Wearing

For English debutantes the round of parties, sporting events and charity flower shows is a grueling but unforgettable three-month grind. There is nothing haphazard about the organization of their time: their mothers met over at luncheon and tea months ahead and planned everything. (Asked if she were going to Henley, one debutante consulted her schedule and said, "I suppose so. What is it?")
A "Tiny Tea Party" given by Miss Tiarks, breaks the tedium and gives friends a chance to rest.
Four and five nights a week there are impressive but exhausting balls like the one at ancient Rockingham Castle.

There the 450 guests of Sir Michael Culme-Seymour arrived about 11 o'clock, consumed champagne (which the debutantes call "poo") and danced until dawn. The round of balls is so tiring that many girls set aside a week for rest just before their own debuts.

The languid look of the socially proper English blade is another hallmark of the season, and some debutantes do complain about seeing the same young men night after night. But the girls insist being a debutante is the greatest fun in the world.

The season is much less fun for the hard-pressed parents, mothers who worry about invitations to events such as the Queen's garden parties and fathers who must pay the bills. "I don't know why we try to do this season anymore," said Mrs. David Lycett Green, mother of Julia Williamson. "Most of us can hardly pay our taxes. But it was done for me and it was a wonderful experience."

The debuts may be wonderful, but these Scottish socialites look either gloomy or bored to tears.

LIFE Magazine, August, 1957

The Etiquette of a Dance

"The master of the house should see that all the ladies dance; he should take notice of those who seem to serve as drapery to the walls of the ball-room, or wall-flowers, as the familiar expression is, and should see that they are invited to dance. He must do this wholly unperceived, in order not to wound the self-esteem of the unfortunate ladies. Gentlemen whom the master of the house requests to dance with these ladies, should be ready to accede to his wish, and even appear pleased at dancing with a person thus recommended to their notice. Ladies who dance much, ought to be very careful not to boast before those who dance but little or not at all, of the great number of dances for which they are engaged in advance. They should also, without being perceived, recommend to these less fortunate ladies, gentlemen of their acquaintance. In giving the hand for ladies' chain or any figures, those dancing should wear a smile, and accompany it with a polite inclination of the head, in the manner of a salutation. At the end of the dance, the gentleman re-conducts the lady to her place, bows and thanks her for the honor which she has conferred. She also curtsies in silence, smiling with a gracious air. In these assemblies, we ought to conduct ourselves with reserve and politeness towards all present, although they may be unknown to us." From the Ladies' and Gentlemen's Book of Etiquette 1883

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

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Etiquette and the “London Season”

In 1957, LIFE Magazine readers were taken on "an intimate tour of this rich and various pageant, a magnificent relic of old world society." LIFE Magazine, August 5, 1957

"An elegant old society shows off its granduer... "

The Duke of Bedford's step-daughter, 18 year old Lorna Lyle, danced with Hon. Charles E. Cecil, at her debut in 1957

On the Queen Charlotte Ball

The ball has been running almost every year since 1780, when King George III first organised the Queen Charlotte’s Ball as a way to celebrate his wife’s birthday. 
The ceremony remained unchanged- with debutantes paying respects to a large iced cake at Buckingham Palace, overseen by the monarch- until 1958, when Prince Philip persuaded the Queen to stop receiving each year’s crop at Court.
Philip is said to have complained that the annual Ball, at which girls aged 17 and 18 were expected to meet their suitably-moneyed future husbands, was ‘bloody daft’. 
The Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret, was even more forthright, saying later ‘we had to put a stop to it . . . every tart in London was getting in!’ 
Since 1958 the ball was held sporadically at various exclusive venues in the capital to varying degrees of success before being relaunched in 2009 and held annually since, albeit without its royal seal of approval.  –From the Daily Mail, 2014
Henrietta Tiarks, a banker's daughter, was called by some London papers, the "Deb of the Year" in 1957
For a dozen generations, in and out of wars and austerity, the traditional elegance of British society has been concentrated in a unique institution known as the London season. The season, roughly embracing the months of May, June and July, is the time of debutantes: first their formal presentation at court, then the brilliant world of their coming-out parties.

But the season is even more than this, for it encompasses a series of splendor social functions possible only in England. These gorgeous affairs are climaxed by the Queen's garden party at Buckingham Palace and by the Royal Ascot race meeting, where it is a social must for everybody who is anybody to be bidden to the royal enclosure - or even to that social holy of holies, the Queen's lawn. Other hallowed events include the royal regatta at Henley on the Thames and the Eton- Harrow match at Lord's Cricket Ground.

This year the season has been even more brilliant -and more costly - than any with in recent memory. Well over 100 young ladies like the Duke of Bedford's stepdaughter, are being launched at debut parties costing an average of $4,000 each. In these times of inflation and ruinous taxes such openhanded spending is an expensive privilege reserved for Britain's wealthiest view, and even they must make hard sacrifices to preserve the tradition. - LIFE Magazine

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

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Etiquette and Pushing One's Culture On Another

A Japanese woman pictured in a 1980's etiquette book, expressly written for Japanese housewives.

"People Won't Like Us if We Try to Make Them Over"

"About eight years ago, in Japan, I was serving as Assistant Chief of Education for Japanese Women. I knew that Japanese women were regarded as inferior to men. Still, I was shocked when I saw a shabbily dressed "tsuma" (wife) in Tokyo, harnessed to a wagon filled with fertilizer. Beside her strutted her husband in his finest Sunday kimono. He was holding a parasol high over her head to protect her from the blazing sun.

I was outraged at the thought of a woman being used as a beast of burden. So were the other American girls with me, who would watch the incident from the windows of the Kanda Kai Kan Hotel. We held a one-minute indignation meeting, and then rushed out and told the man off. To teach him a lesson, we harnessed him to the wagon and his wife to walk along beside him, holding the parasol to shield him from the sun.

The couple did as we ordered. No matter how much American orders were resented, they were always followed back in 1945. At the time, we thought we were doing a pretty fine thing, teaching the Japanese male the importance of treating his wife as an equal.

But I shall never forget that woman's face as she walked beside her husband, with their roles completely reversed. She had been content with her lot when she had drawn the wagon. Now she looked unhappy and confused. All sense of pride was gone. Her husband's loss of face distressed her far more than the weight of the wagonload had done.

Today I realize how wrong we were. We had considered the couple solely from our point of view - not from theirs. Until we interfered, that woman had felt she had a very fine husband. It wasn't every sujin who protected his working wife lovingly from the hot sun. But we had degraded him in her eyes.

Americans can't make the world over by forcing it to conform to our traditions. The best we can do is make our point of view so alluring that others will want to do things our way. At Nippon University, where I taught Advanced English, many Japanese boys wrote compositions saying that women should be limited to hibachi, kodomo, hataki- the stove, the children, and the paddy field. I corrected their compositions for English and spelling, but not for their point of view. By that time I realized that everyone has the right to his own point of view. I did hope, however, that democratic practices would in time appeal to them.

To influence others, Americans should first understand the other fellow's point of view -whether the subject is democracy or equal rights for women. But many of us, when we enter a new community, at home or abroad, bring with us the standards of our own community and attempt to impose them on the inhabitants. We must always ask ourselves, 'How does it look to them?' If we don't, we'll make more enemies than friends."

An editorial by Beryl Kent, for The Saturday Evening POST, January 1954

Friday, January 16, 2015

Old Etiquette "Don'ts" for Dining, That Are Still Good Today

It is always a law of politeness to incommode one's self rather than incommode others...
Don't leave your knife and fork on your plate when you send it for a second supply. (This rule is disputed by the English. The logic of the question, however, proves the correctness of the rule for it is not easy to place food up on the plate already occupied by a knife and fork. It is always a law of politeness to incommode one's self rather than incommode others, so the problem of what to do with your dinner tools should be your own problem, rather than that of the hosts. The handles of knives and forks are leaded so that the blades or tines will not soil the cloth when rested upon the table. Or, one may with a little skill hold his knife and fork without awkwardness.)

Don't reject bits of bone or other substances by spitting them back into the plate. Quietly eject them upon your fork, holding it to your lips and place them up on the plate. Fruit stones may be removed with the fingers.
Don't trowel butter across an unbroken slice of bread.
Don't bite your bread: break it with your hand.

Don't trowel butter across an unbroken slice of bread.

Don't stretch across another's plate to reach anything.

Don't apply to your neighbor to pass articles when the servant is at hand.

Don't finger articles: don't play with your napkin or your goblet or your fork or with anything.

Don't mop your face or beard with a napkin. Draw it across your lips neatly.
Don't forget that the lady sitting at your side...
Don't turn your back to one person for the purpose of talking with another; don't talk across the one seated next to you.
Don't forget that the lady sitting at your side has the first claim upon your attention. A lady at your side must not be neglected, whether you have been introduced to her or not.

Don't talk when your mouth is full.

–From "Don't: A Manual of Mistakes and Improprieties more or less prevalent in Conduct and Speech" by Oliver Bell Bunce 1884

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

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Etiquette and the Ceremonial Observances of Society

Polite conduct is not necessarily more exclusive than correct speaking.

It is quite a mistake to suppose that the ceremonial observances of society are merely a set of edicts arbitrarily established by the capricious tyrant, Fashion, for the government only of her slavish subjects. Polite conduct is not necessarily more exclusive than correct speaking. The laws of the one are indeed, like those of the other, founded upon the usage of the refined few, but there is no better reason why these should enjoy a monopoly of good manners than of good grammar. 

There are many, however, who seem to think that social ceremonies are so many frivolous afiectations by which the wealthy or fashionable strive to raise themselves to a factious elevation above others, and consequently refuse all observance of them with scorn. It is an unfortunate thing for general culture when the many acquire such a prejudice against the few that in their aversion to their pretentious superiority they reject their real excellence. 

The small class of the rich and refined have time to cultivate the elegancies of life; and although, in the excess of their leisure, they superadded a variety of frivolous ceremonies, their example in what is practically useful should be followed. Wesley used to say, when advocating the adaptation of the music of the opera and theatre to the sacred songs of the Church, that he did not know why the devil should have all the best tunes. We may ask, with equal reason, why Fashion should have all the good manners, and elevation above others, and consequently refuse all observance of them with scorn. 

It would be easy to show that many ceremonious observances which appear at first sight frivolous are founded upon a solid basis of common sense. Consider, for example, that rule of the dinner-table, "Do not ask twice for soup," This appears at first sight both silly and arbitrary. It is, however, a very sensible ordinance, and is to be justified by the laws of health, and the general comfort and convenience. The soup, being a fluid substance, can easily be absorbed in small quantities, and, thus taken, is a good reason for ceremony, and preparative for the solidities of the dinner. 

If, however, the stomach is deluged with it, the appetite and digestion become weakened, and there is neither the inclination to eat nor the power to digest the more substantial food essential to the due nutrition of the body. As for the convenience or comfort of the single-plate rule, no one can deny it who has ever looked upon an array of hungry guests whose eager appetite for the coming roast has been forced to an impatient delay by some social monster capable of asking twice for soup. The cook in the meantime is, of course, thrown out in his calculations, and the dish, when it does come at last, is either spoiled by overcooking, or cold from being withdrawn so long from the fire. The guests thus are not only tried in temper by a protracted expectation, but balked of their anticipated enjoyment.

The advantage of not putting the knife in the mouth will be obvious, we suppose, to all who are conscious that the one can cut and the other is capable of being cut. There is an excellent chemical reason for that other table rule which forbids the use of a knife of steel with the fish, the ordinary sauces of which combine with the metal, and produce a composition neither wholesome nor appetizing.

A sampling from Bazaar's "Book of Decorum"

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Etiquette from Brillat Savarin's “The Physiology of Taste"

A French born lawyer and politician, (1783-1833) writer Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin gained his fame as an epicure and gastronome and helped found the genre of the gastronomic essay. He made famous the aphorism, "Tell me what you eat, and I'll tell you who you are." He believed that food defined a nation. 



"The Creator, when he obliges man to eat, invites him to do so by appetite, and rewards him by pleasure."
I. The universe would be nothing were it not for life and all that lives must be fed.

II. Animals fill themselves; man eats. The man of mind alone knows how to eat.

III. The destiny of nations depends on the manner in which they are fed.

IV. Tell me what kind of food you eat, and I will tell you what kind of man you are.

V. The Creator, when he obliges man to eat, invites him to do so by appetite, and rewards him by pleasure.

VI. Gourmandise is an act of our judgment, in obedience to which, we grant a preference to things which are agreeable, over those which have not that quality.
The drunkenness of Noah :"Those persons who suffer from indigestion, or who become drunk, are utterly ignorant of the true principles of eating and drinking."
VII. The pleasure of the table belongs to all ages, to all conditions, to all countries, and to all areas; it mingles with all other pleasures, and remains at last to console us for their departure.

VIII. The table is the only place where one does not suffer, from ennui during the first hour.

IX. The discovery of a new dish confers more happiness on humanity, than the discovery of a new star.

X. Those persons who suffer from indigestion, or who become drunk, are utterly ignorant of the true principles of eating and drinking.

"A dessert without cheese is like a beautiful woman who has lost an eye."
XI. The order of food is from the most substantial to the lightest.

XII. The order of drinking is from the mildest to the most foamy and perfumed.

XIII. To say that we should not change our drinks is a heresy; the tongue becomes saturated, and after the third glass yields but an obtuse sensation.

XIV. A dessert without cheese is like a beautiful woman who has lost an eye.

XV. A cook may be taught, but a man who can roast, is born with the faculty.

XVI. The most indispensable quality of a good cook is promptness. It should also be that of the guests.

XVII. To wait too long for a dilatory guest, shows disrespect to those who are punctual.

XVIII. He who receives friends and pays no attention to the repast prepared for them, is not fit to have friends.

XIX. The mistress of the house should always be certain that the coffee be excellent; the master that his liquors be of the first quality.

XX. To invite a person to your house is to take charge of his happiness as long as he be beneath your roof.

From Brillat Savarin's “The Physiology of Taste," 1825

Friday, January 2, 2015

Etiquette and "Pink Teas"

Many times, suffragettes who were protesting for the right to vote, were arrested, but not always. Photographs were compiled on those women to watch out for, so that they could be spied upon by the police.

What were "Pink Teas"?

Gatherings called "Pink Teas" were held by women at the turn of the century when they needed to meet secretly for discussions of any radical issues, such as womens voting rights. In the event of any possible, potential confrontations they were able to swiftly turn their conversations to polite discussions about non-controversial and somewhat tame issues, like complimenting one another’s hats, or calmly sipping tea or nibbling on tea sandwiches. Besides, any men who planned to disrupt women’s political meetings were very hesitant to attend an event called "A Pink Tea," so these were just one of many popular strategies.

Miss Manners on Civil Disobedience and Politely Protesting

Protest, like every other human activity, requires etiquette. 

The saddest thing about using rude tactics is that they damage the causes for which they are used. Rather than the targets thinking that they are being shown a way in which the world would be improved, they focus on the immediate way in which they are being mistreated. These people may claim to want to make the world better, their victims conclude, but are actively making it worse.

Miss Manners would think it obvious that in order to persuade people about an issue of justice they had not considered, you must open their minds to your arguments. People who are humiliated shut down and turn defensive.

But when they see orderly picket lines or sit-ins, or hear speeches or read leaflets and articles by people who seem to be well-intentioned and reasonable, they just might stop to think.

"Miss Manners" is Judith Martin of the Washington Post

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

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Etiquette and Talkers in the Theatre

A Letter To the "Dramatic Editor" of the New York Times, Regarding Talkers in the Theatre ...
Will she and the whispering playgoer please leave the room!

"Please take up the matter of ushers ~ generally girl ushers ~ and theater employees generally who hold pink teas at the rear of the orchestra rows during performances. I consider this a greater nuisance than talkers in the audience. The latter at least have paid to enjoy themselves, but the ushers are paid to serve the best interests of the theatre patrons and not to hold social reunions every performance.

This actually happened to me at Wallack's during the performance of "The Doctor's Dilemma." A girl usher entertained a young man "follower," chatting so loudly that it was impossible to concentrate on the play. I was seated on the right I'll and the conversation was going on in the rear of the left, so you can see how loud it was. I asked my usher to kindly request the two talkers to see us during the play. The message came back that they would talk all they pleased. "She won't stop." Said my usher; "It's the head usher's day off, and no one else can stop her. You can change your seat and take one near her if she disturbs you." "But" I said "surely an usher is not allowed to disturb an audience, especially in a play that is all dialogue, no action. I will report her at the box office if she does not cease. I shall not change my seat." This message in due time reached the usher, and this is one she sent back to me: "Go and report me at the box office all you please. It won't do you any good." 

Meanwhile, 'Arry and 'Arriet were looking daggers at me and openly showing their scorn. A manager came in, and then my usher went to him and explained the situation. Then she came to me "He has asked her to keep quiet." she said "and I guess she will for him; she likes him. Gee, it's fierce the way she and that fellow talk and laugh during the performance! But what can you do?"

Now, this is written just as it happened. I did not report it to Mr. Barker, who has spent so much time and thought on giving us ideal performances too much time to be at the mercy of chattering girls ushers ~ because I knew the season was almost over and the theater would be torn down over the chatterer's head. That is one way I thought to get rid of an annoying usher ~ tear down the theatre! At Forbes-Robertson's "Hamlet" I heard more about the latest styles in hats and the latest beaux from the ushers in back of me than I did the "melancholy Dane." The next time I attended a performance there I asked the man in the box office which was to have the right of way, "The Passing of the Third Floor Rack" or the girl ushers? Upon his assurance that Forbes-Robertson was what I was paying to hear, and that the ushers would perform another day at cheaper prices, I gave that theatre another trial.

The other night at the Standard there was a constant noise of loud voices in the foyer and much slamming of doors and arguments at the rear of the orchestra seats. In this instance the ushers were well-behaved. It was the men connected with the business end of the theatre who offended. Take almost any vaudeville house and you will see that there is a constant chattering between the ushers, the clean-up boys, the coat-room boys, the firemen and allcomers.

It has always been a mystery to me why even first-class New York theatres permit this display of disregard of their patrons and bad manners in their house employees. The rear seats in the orchestra cost just as much as the forward ones. I generally attend the Saturday matinee, paying $2.00 for a rear orchestra seat. If those who occupy the rear rows in the orchestra are encroaching upon the pink teas and kaffee klatches of the ushers and their admirers, why not give us a rebate? Give us noise checks.

It's really a shame, I think, for playwrights, managers, and players to spend so much time, thought, and money on the splendid productions of our New York theatres to have the whole effect spoiled by the untutored "enemies" of their own house staff. We have schools for sales persons, why not schools for ushers? The average usher from the movie house to the most exclusive temple of the drama seems to feel that the theatre is his private palace and we of the audience his ladies-in-waiting and his humble retainers and pensioners.

I haven't anything against the girl usher personally. I have the greatest sympathy and spirit of helpfulness toward any person working his or her way: but I do feel that here is something so unjust and so glaring in its offense against courtesy that it should be scored. And, since you have taken up the cudgels for those who suffer from talkers in the audience, won't you come to the rescue of those at the rear of the orchestra Who are forced to endure the things of which I complain?"

New York, April 7, 1916, Sincerely, L. A. S.

 Some Theatre Manners of the Day

“Very Inconsiderate To Giggle And Talk"
Nothing shows less consideration for others than to whisper and rattle programmes and giggle and even make audible remarks throughout a performance. Very young people love to go to the theater in droves called theater parties and absolutely ruin the evening for others who happen to sit in front of them. If Mary and Johnny and Susy and Tommy want to talk and giggle, why not arrange chairs in rows for them in a drawing-room, turn on a phonograph as an accompaniment and let them sit there and chatter!
If those behind you insist on talking it is never good policy to turn around and glare. If you are young they pay no attention, and if you are older—most young people think an angry older person the funniest sight on earth! The small boy throws a snowball at an elderly gentleman for no other reason! The only thing you can do is to say amiably: "I'm sorry, but I can't hear anything while you talk." If they still persist, you can ask an usher to call the manager.
The sentimental may as well realize that every word said above a whisper is easily heard by those sitting directly in front, and those who tell family or other private affairs might do well to remember this also.
As a matter of fact, comparatively few people are ever anything but well behaved. Those who arrive late and stand long, leisurely removing their wraps, and who insist on laughing and talking are rarely encountered; most people take their seats as quietly and quickly as they possibly can, and are quite as much interested in the play and therefore as attentive and quiet as you are. A very annoying person at the "movies" is one who reads every "caption" out loud.”
From Emily Post's 1922 book “Etiquette” 

“It ought to be superfluous to say that talking aloud, or continuous whispering during the progress of a play or opera or concert, usually on topics foreign to the occasion, is a rudeness to the performers and a bold impertinence to the rest of the audience. Some people are guilty of this insolence wittingly and unblushingly. For such we have no word of advice. Such instances should be met by something more effective than "gentle influence." But many, especially young people, talk and laugh thoughtlessly, and from mere exuberance of animal spirits. It is to be hoped that on pausing to reflect they will carefully avoid forming a habit of public misbehavior that will ultimately rank them in the social scale as confirmed vulgarians. An intelligent listener never interrupts. Between the scenes of a play, or the successive numbers of a concert programme, there are pauses long enough for a brief exchange of comment between two friends who are sharing an entertainment, and they may enjoy the pleasure of thus comparing notes without once disturbing the order of the time and place.
 From Agnes H. Morton's 1919 book “Etiquette”