Friday, May 19, 2017

Dinner Seating Etiquette, 1895

Dinner tables of society hostesses, in the latter part of the Victorian Era, featured unique and ornate silver patterns. The more silver laid on a dining table, the better. Silver reflected candlelight, illuminating dining rooms that were not yet fitted with electric lights.

A New Dinner Table Fashion!

The new heraldry, or rather etiquette, for large public dinners, annual​ dinners and the like—to which more and more​ frequently ladies are invited—places the wife at the table by her husband's side. She has for some years sat side by side with bim on the box seat when he drives his four-in-hand, and now it is the recognized thing, even in London,where innovations come slowly, to have this arrangement at dinner. 

"It seems very odd," writes an English woman, describing the annual dinner of the Newsvendors Benevolent and Provident Institution at the Grand Hotel, "very odd to go down with Richard, this being one of the particulars in which the public banquet differs from the private dinner. Opposite us were a husband and wife, to the left of us another couple, and a little further off another married pair. None of us quarreled with each other. 

Richard talked to his friend, who occasionally threw me a crumb of the conversation, and I made friends with my other neighbor, admired the lovely tulips on the table and made energetic efforts to see what Lady E_____ looked like. She sat beside the chairman, her husband, her father, the Earl of Arran, supporting her on the right. So you see it was intensely British​, a family arrangement of the most pronounced kind." 

The first time that such an arrangement was tried in Philadelphia was at the dinner given to Dr. James Mac Allister by Mr. Edward T. Steel and a number of other friends. There, husbands sat by their wives, and the novelty and ease of this arrangement was very much enjoyed. Since then the arrangement has become quite a general one for public functions, when other placing of the body of guests would be awkward or impossible. — Philadelphia Public Ledger, 1895

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