A Bit of Etiquette from Mrs. Beeton
YOU MAY PERHAPS HAVE BEEN FAVOURED with letters of introduction from some of your friends, to persons living in the neighbourhood to which you have just come. In this case inclose the letter of introduction in an envelope with your card. Then, if the person, to whom it is addressed, calls in the course of a few days, the visit should be returned by you within the week, if possible. Any breach of etiquette, in this respect, will not readily be excused. In the event of your being invited to dinner under the above circumstances, nothing but necessity should prevent you from accepting the invitation. If, however, there is some distinct reason why you cannot accept, let it be stated frankly and plainly, for politeness and truthfulness should be ever allied. An opportunity should, also, be taken to call in the course of a day or two, in order to politely express your regret and disappointment at not having been able to avail yourself of their kindness.
IN GIVING A LETTER OF INTRODUCTION, it should always be handed to your friend, unsealed. Courtesy dictates this, as the person whom you are introducing would, perhaps, wish to know in what manner he or she was spoken of. Should you receive a letter from a friend, introducing to you any person known to and esteemed by the writer, the letter should be immediately acknowledged, and your willingness expressed to do all in your power to carry out his or her wishes.
SUCH ARE THE ONEROUS DUTIES which enter into the position of the mistress of a house, and such are, happily, with a slight but continued attention, of by no means difficult performance. She ought always to remember that she is the first and the last, the Alpha and the Omega in the government of her establishment; and that it is by her conduct that its whole internal policy is regulated. She is, therefore, a person of far more importance in a community than she usually thinks she is. On her pattern her daughters model themselves; by her counsels they are directed; through her virtues all are honoured;– "her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband, also, and he praiseth her." Therefore, let each mistress always remember her responsible position, never approving a mean action, nor speaking an unrefined word. Let her conduct be such that her inferiors may respect her, and such as an honourable and right-minded man may look for in his wife and the mother of his children. Let her think of the many compliments and the sincere homage that have been paid to her sex by the greatest philosophers and writers, both in ancient and modern times.
Let her not forget that she has to show herself worthy of Campbell's compliment when he said,– "The world was sad! the garden was a wild! And man the hermit sigh'd, till woman smiled." Let her prove herself, then, the happy companion of man, and able to take unto herself the praises of the pious prelate, Jeremy Taylor, who says,– "A good wife is Heaven's last best gift to man,– his angel and minister of graces innumerable,– his gem of many virtues,-- his casket of jewels – her voice is sweet music – her smiles his brightest day;-- her kiss, the guardian of his innocence;– her arms, the pale of his safety, the balm of his health, the balsam of his life;– her industry, his surest wealth;– her economy, his safest steward;– her lips, his faithful counsellors;– her bosom, the softest pillow of his cares; and her prayers, the ablest advocates of Heaven's blessings on his head."
Cherishing, then, in her breast the respected utterances of the good and the great, let the mistress of every house rise to the responsibility of its management; so that, in doing her duty to all around her, she may receive the genuine reward of respect, love, and affection!
Note– Many mistresses have experienced the horrors of house- hunting, and it is well known that "three removes are as good (or bad, rather) as a fire." Nevertheless, it being quite evident that we must, in these days at least, live in houses, and are sometimes obliged to change our residences, it is well to consider some of the conditions which will add to, or diminish, the convenience and comfort of our homes. –From Mrs. Beeton's Boook of Household Management, 1861
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