The Tact With Which Guests Are Brought Into a Social Group
Every one knows his position and his cue, and every hostess knows that part of her duty is to indicate and to give them, says Professor Barrett Wendell in Scribner’s. Perhaps the most characteristic instance of the way in which this affects social conduct is what generally happens at a dinner party. Instead of sitting at the ends of the table, where they are far apart, the host and the hostess sit opposite one another in the middle, where the table is narrowed and where they are able at once to keep in touch with each other and easily to talk with the guests on either side of each. Thus a company of twelve is at once brought into a single social group, and the outlying members of a larger party are not so far away that they cannot readily listen to the general talk or even take part in it. And the talk is always general, addressed no doubt to one or another of the company, as the tact of the hosts happens to find pleasantest, but never broken into a system of separate confidential dialogues, as is generally the case at home.
A French dinner is not noisy any more than is a French drawing room. But in either case the deeply subdued tone of voice prevalent in England and among the better sort of Americans would be almost a breach of polite manners. Every social function in France, even to the most informal, has a social character far more pronounced than ours. The individual is there to enjoy himself. But he is also there to play his part. In consequence, all social intercourse in France has a quality less personal, less confidential, somewhat more reserved, than an American is used to. Whoever, even in private places, finds himself in the presence of his fellow beings conducts himself in many ways as if he were in public. The French are in no way conscious of this phase of their manners. It is as normal to them as it is novel to an American visitor. And it results in a general and cheerful, though not quite intimate, conviviality which makes our own manners seem in contrast somewhat melancholy in their dual isolation. —Morning Tribune, 1907
Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia©️ Etiquette Encyclopedia