Sunday, February 7, 2016

More Etiquette for Ballroom Gents

If you know a young lady slightly, it is sufficient to say to her, ‘May I have the pleasure of dancing this waltz, etc., with you?’
The author of a recent work on etiquette, published in England, gives the following hints for those who go to balls. He says:—

“When inviting a lady to dance, if she replies very politely, asking to be excused, as she does not wish to dance (‘with you,’ being probably her mental reservation), a man ought to be satisfied. At all events, he should never press her to dance after one refusal. The set forms which Turveydrop would give for the invitation are too much of the deportment school to be used in practice. If you know a young lady slightly, it is sufficient to say to her, ‘May I have the pleasure of dancing this waltz, etc.., with you?’ or if intimately, ‘Will you dance, Miss A—?’ 


The young lady who has refused one gentleman, has no right to accept another for that dance; and young ladies who do not wish to be annoyed, must take care not to accept two gentlemen for the same dance. In Germany such innocent blunders often cause fatal results. Two partners arrive at the same moment to claim the fair one’s hand; she vows she has not made a mistake; ‘was sure she was engaged to Herr A—, and not to Herr B—;’ Herr B— is equally certain that she was engaged to him. 


The awkwardness is, that if he at once gives her up, he appears to be indifferent about it; while, if he presses his suit, he must quarrel with Herr A—, unless the damsel is clever enough to satisfy both of them; and particularly if there is an especial interest in Herr B—, he yields at last, but when the dance is over, sends a friend to Herr A—. 


Absurd as all this is, it is common, and I have often seen one Herr or the other walking about with a huge gash on his cheek, or his arm in a sling, a few days after a ball.

Friendship, it appears, can be let out on hire. The lady who was so very amiable to you last night, has a right to ignore your existence to-day. In fact, a ball room acquaintance rarely goes any farther, until you have met at more balls than one. In the same way a man cannot, after being introduced to a young lady to dance with, ask her to do so more than twice in the same evening. 


A man may dance four or even five times with the same partner. On the other hand, a real well-bred man will wish to be useful, and there are certain people whom it is imperative on him to ask to dance—the daughters of the house, for instance, and any young ladies whom he may know intimately; but most of all the well-bred and amiable man will sacrifice himself to those plain, ill-dressed, dull looking beings who cling to the wall, unsought and despairing. After all, he will not regret his good nature. The spirits reviving at the unexpected invitation, the wall-flower will pour out her best conversation, will dance her best, and will show him her gratitude in some way or other.

The formal bow at the end of a quadrille has gradually dwindled away. At the end of every dance you offer your right arm to your partner, (if by mistake you offer the left, you may turn the blunder into a pretty compliment, by reminding her that is le bras du coeur, nearest the heart, which if not anatomically true, is, at least, no worse than talking of a sunset and sunrise), and walk half round the room with her. 


You then ask her if she will take any refreshment, and, if she accepts, you convey your precious allotment of tarlatane to the refreshment room to be invigorated by an ice or negus, or what you will. It is judicious not to linger too long in this room, if you are engaged to some one else for the next dance. You will have the pleasure of hearing the music begin in the distant ball room, and of reflecting that an expectant fair is sighing for you like Marianna


“He cometh not,” she said.

She said, “I am a-weary a-weary,
I would I were in bed;”
which is not an unfrequent wish in some ball rooms. A well-bred girl, too, will remember this, and always offer to return to the ball room, however interesting the conversation.

“If you are prudent you will not dance every dance, nor in fact, much more than half the number on the list; you will then escape that hateful redness of face at the time, and that wearing fatigue the next day which are among the worst features of a ball. Again, a gentleman must remember that a ball is essentially a lady’s party, and in their presence he should be gentle and delicate almost to a fault, never pushing his way, apologizing if he tread on a dress, still more so if he tears it, begging pardon for any accidental annoyance he may occasion, and addressing every body with a smile. But quite unpardonable are those men whom one sometimes meets, who, standing in a door-way, talk and laugh as they would in a barrack or college-rooms, always coarsely, often indelicately. 


What must the state of their minds be, if the sight of beauty, modesty, and virtue, does not awe them into silence! A man, too, who strolls down the room with his head in the air, looking as if there were not a creature there worth dancing with, is an ill-bred man, so is he who looks bored; and worse than all is he who takes too much champagne.

“If you are dancing with a young lady when the supper-room is opened, you must ask her if she would like to go to supper, and if she says ‘yes,’ which, in 999 cases out of 1000, she certainly will do, you must take her thither. If you are not dancing, the lady of the house will probably recruit you to take in some chaperon. However little you may relish this, you must not show your disgust. In fact, no man ought to be disgusted “at being able to do anything for a lady; it should be his highest privilege, but it is not—in these modern unchivalrous days—perhaps never was so. 


Having placed your partner then at the supper-table, if there is room there, but if not at a side-table, or even at none, you must be as active as Puck in attending to her wants, and as women take as long to settle their fancies in edibles as in love-matters, you had better at once get her something substantial, chicken, pâté de foie gras, mayonnaise, or what you will. Afterwards come jelly and trifle in due course.
While the lady is supping you must stand by and talk to her, attending to every want, and the most you may take yourself is a glass of champagne when you help her. You then lead her up stairs again

“A young lady often goes down half-a-dozen times to the supper-room—it is to be hoped not for the purpose of eating—but she should not do so with the same partner more than once. While the lady is supping you must stand by and talk to her, attending to every want, and the most you may take yourself is a glass of champagne when you help her. You then lead her up stairs again, and if you are not wanted there any more, you may steal down and do a little quiet refreshment on your own account. 

As long, however, as there are many ladies still at the table, you have no right to begin. Nothing marks a man here so much as gorging at supper. Balls are meant for dancing, not eating, and unfortunately too many young men forget this in the present day. Lastly, be careful what you say and how you dance after supper, even more so than before it, for if you in the slightest way displease a young lady, she may fancy that you have been too partial to strong fluids, and ladies never forgive that."– From Cecil B. Hartley's. “The Gentlemen's Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness"


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