Manners and Social Usages
Mrs. John M. E. W. Sherwood
Part 5 out of 7
It occupies a prominent place in the history of hospitality, and
Lord Houghton, among others, was famous for his unceremonious
lunches. As it is understood to be an informal meal, the invitations
are generally sent only a short time before the day for which the
recipient is invited, and are written in the first person. Lord
Houghton's were apt to be simply, "Come and lunch with me to-morrow."
At our prominent places of summer resort, ladies who have
houses of their own generally give their male friends a _carte
blanche_ invitation to luncheon. They are expected to avail
themselves of it without ceremony, and at Newport the table is
always laid with the "extra knife and fork," or two or three, as may
be thought necessary. Ladies, however, should be definitely asked to
this meal as to others.
It is a very convenient meal, as it permits of an irregular number,
of a superfluity of ladies or gentlemen; it is chatty and easy, and
is neither troublesome nor expensive.
The hour of luncheon is stated, but severe punctuality is not
insisted upon. A guest who is told that he may drop in at half-past
one o'clock every day will be forgiven if he comes as late as two.
Ladies may come in their hats or bonnets; gentlemen in lawn-tennis
suits, if they wish. It is incumbent upon the hostess but not upon
the host to be present. It is quite immaterial where the guests sit,
and they go in separately, not arm-in-arm.
Either white or colored table-cloths are equally proper, and some
people use the bare mahogany, but this is unusual.
The most convenient and easy-going luncheons are served from the
buffet or side-table, and the guests help themselves to cold ham,
tongue, roast beef, etc. The fruit and wine and bread should stand
on the table.
Each chair has in front of it two plates, a napkin with bread, two
knives, two forks and spoons, a small salt-cellar, and three
glasses--a tumbler for water, a claret glass, and a sherry glass.
Bouillon is sometimes offered in summer, but not often. If served
well, it should be in cups. Dishes of dressed salad, a cold fowl,
game, or hot chops, can be put before the hostess or passed by the
servant. Soup and fish are never offered at these luncheons. Some
people prefer a hot lunch, and chops, birds on toast, or a
beefsteak, with mashed potatoes, asparagus, or green pease, are
It is proper at a country place to offer a full luncheon, or to have
a cold joint on the sideboard; and after the more serious part of
the luncheon has been removed, the hostess can dismiss the servants,
and serve the ice-cream or tart herself, with the assistance of her
guests. Clean plates, knives, and forks should be in readiness.
In England a "hot joint" is always served from the sideboard. In
fact, an English luncheon is exactly what a plain American dinner
was formerly--a roast of mutton or beef, a few vegetables, a tart,
some fruit, and a glass of sherry. But we have changed the practice
considerably, and now our luxurious country offers nothing plain.
In this country one waiter generally remains during the whole meal,
and serves the table as he would at dinner--only with less ceremony.
It is perfectly proper at luncheon for any one to rise and help
himself to what he wishes.
Tea and coffee are never served after luncheon in the drawing-room
or dining-room. People are not expected to remain long after
luncheon, as the lady of the house may have engagements for the
In many houses the butler arranges the luncheon, table with flowers
or fruit, plates of thin bread-and butter, jellies, creams, cakes,
and preserves, a dish of cold salmon _mayonnaise_, and decanters of
sherry and claret. He places a cold ham or chicken on the sideboard,
and a pitcher of ice-water on a side-table, and then leaves the
dining-room, and takes no heed of the baser wants of humanity until
dinner-time. An underman or footman takes the place of this lofty
being, and waits at table.
In more modest houses, where there is only a maid-servant or one
man, all arrangements for the luncheon and for expected guests
should be made immediately after breakfast.
If the children dine with the family at luncheon, it, of course,
becomes an important meal, and should include one hot dish and a
It is well for people living in the country, and with a certain
degree of style, to study up the methods of making salads and cold
dishes, for these come in so admirably for luncheon that they often
save a hostess great mortification. By attention to small details a
very humble repast may be most elegant. A silver bread-basket for
the thin slices of bread, a pretty cheese-dish, a napkin around the
cheese, pats of butter in a pretty dish, flowers in vases, fruits
neatly served--these things cost little, but they add a zest to the
pleasures of the table.
If a hot luncheon is served, it is not etiquette to put the
vegetables on the table as at dinner; they should be handed by the
waiter. The luncheon-table is already full of the articles for
dessert, and there is no place for the vegetables. The hot _entr,es_
or cold _entr,es_ are placed before the master or mistress, and each
guest is asked what he prefers. The whole aspect of luncheon is thus
made perfectly informal.
If a lady gives a more formal lunch, and has it served _... la Russe_,
the first _entr,e_--let us say chops and green pease--is handed by
the waiter, commencing with the lady who sits on the right hand of
the master of the house. This is followed by vegetables. Plates
having been renewed, a salad and some cold ham can be offered. The
waiter fills the glasses with sherry, or offers claret. When
champagne is served at lunch, it is immediately after the first dish
has been served, and claret and sherry are not then given unless
After the salad a fresh plate, with a dessert-spoon and small fork
upon it, is placed before each person. The ice-cream, pie, or
pudding is then placed in front of the hostess, who cuts it, and
puts a portion on each plate. After these dainties have been
discussed, a glass plate, _serviette_, and finger-bowl are placed
before each guest for fruit. The servant takes the plate from his
mistress after she has filled it, and hands it to the lady of first
consideration, and so on. When only members of the family are
present at luncheon, the mistress of the house is helped first.
Fruit tarts, pudding, sweet omelette, jellies, blancmange, and ice-
cream are all proper dessert for luncheon; also luncheon cake, or
the plainer sorts of loaf-cake.
It is well in all households, if possible, for the children to
breakfast and lunch with their parents. The teaching of table
manners cannot be begun too soon. But children should never be
allowed to trouble guests. If not old enough to behave well at
table, guests should not be invited to the meals at which they are
present. It is very trying to parents, guests, and servants.
When luncheon is to be an agreeable social repast, which guests are
expected to share, then the children should dine elsewhere. No
mother succeeds better in the rearing of her children than she who
has a nursery dining-room, where, under her own eye, her bantlings
are properly fed. It is not so much trouble, either, as one would
Table mats are no longer used in stylish houses, either at luncheon
or at dinner. The waiter should have a coarse towel in the butler's
pantry, and wipe each dish before he puts it on the table.
Menu-cards are never used at luncheon. Salt-cellars and small water
_carafes_ may be placed up and down the luncheon-table.
In our country, where servants run away and leave their mistress
when she is expecting guests, it is well to be able to improvise a
dish from such materials as may be at hand. Nothing is better than a
cod _mayonnaise_. A cod boiled in the morning is a friend in the
afternoon. When it is cold remove the skin and bones. For sauce put
some thick cream in a porcelain saucepan, and thicken it with corn-
flour which has been mixed with cold water. When it begins to boil,
stir in the beaten yolks of two eggs. As it cools, beat it well to
prevent it from becoming lumpy, and when nearly cold, stir in the
juice of two lemons, a little tarragon vinegar, a pinch of salt, and
a _soupon_ of Cayenne pepper. Peel and slice some very ripe
tomatoes or cold potatoes; steep them in vinegar, with Cayenne,
powdered ginger, and plenty of salt; lay these around the fish, and
cover with the cream sauce. This makes a very elegant cold dish for
luncheon. The tomatoes or potatoes should be taken out of the
vinegar and carefully drained before they are placed around the
Some giblets carefully saved from the ducks, geese, or chickens of
yesterday's dinner should be stewed in good beef stock, and then set
away to cool. Put them in a stewpan with dried split pease, and boil
them until they are reduced to pulp; serve this mixture hot on
toast, and, if properly flavored with salt and pepper, you have a
good luncheon dish.
Vegetable salads of beet-root, potatoes, and lettuce are always
delicious, and the careful housewife who rises early in the morning
and provides a round of cold corned beef, plenty of bread, and a
luncheon cake, need not regret the ephemeral cook, or fear the
coming city guest.
Every country housewife should learn to garnish dishes with capers,
a border of water-cresses, plain parsley, or vegetables cut into
Potatoes, eggs, and cold hashed meats, in their unadorned
simplicity, do not come under the head of luxuries. But if the
hashed meat is carefully warmed and well flavored, and put on toast,
if the potatoes are chopped and browned and put around the meat, if
the eggs are boiled, sliced, and laid around as a garnish, and a few
capers and a border of parsley added, you have a Delmonico ragout
that Brillat-Savarin would have enjoyed.
CHAPTER XXXVI. SUPPER-PARTIES.
After a long retirement into the shades, the supper-party, the
"sit-down Supper," once so dear to our ancestors, has been again revived.
Leaders of society at Newport have found that, after the hearty
lunch which everybody eats there at one or three o'clock the twelve
or fourteen course dinner at seven o'clock, is too much; that people
come home reluctantly from their ocean drive to dress; and last
summer, in consequence, invitations were issued for suppers at nine
or half-past nine. The suppers at private houses, which had
previously fallen out of fashion by reason of the convenience and
popularity of the great restaurants, were resumed. The very late
dinners in large cities have, no doubt, also prevented the supper
from being a favorite entertainment; but there is no reason (except
the disapproval of doctors) why suppers should not be in fashion in
the country, or where people dine early. In England, where
digestions are better than here, and where people eat more heavily,
"the supper-tray" is an institution, and suppers are generally
spread in every English country house; and we may acknowledge the
fact that the supper--the little supper so dear to the hearts of our
friends of the last century--seems to be coming again into fashion
here. Nothing can be more significant than that _Harper's Bazar_
receives many letters asking for directions for setting the table
for supper, and for the proper service of the meats which are to
gayly cover the cloth and enrich this always pleasant repast.
In a general way the same service is proper at a supper as at a
dinner, with the single exception of the soup-plates. Oysters on the
half-shell and bouillon served in cups are the first two courses. If
a hot supper is served, the usual dishes are sweetbreads, with green
pease, _c"telettes ... la financiere_, and some sort of game in
season, such as reed-birds in autumn, canvas-back ducks, venison, or
woodcock; salads of every kind are in order, and are often served
with the game. Then ices and fruit follow. Cheese is rarely offered,
although some _gourmets_ insist that a little is necessary with the
After each course all the dishes and knives and forks that have been
in use are replaced by fresh ones, and the order and neatness of the
table preserved to the end of the supper. We would think it
unnecessary to mention this most obvious detail of table decorum,
had not several correspondents asked to be informed concerning it.
There is, of course, the informal supper, at which the dishes are
all placed on a table together, as for a supper at a large ball.
Meats, dressed salmon, chicken _croquettes_, salads, jellies, and
ices are a part of the alarming _m,lange_ of which a guest is
expected to partake, with only such discrimination as may be
dictated by prudence or inclination. But this is not the "sit down,"
elegant supper so worthy to be revived, with its courses and its
etiquette and its brilliant conversation, which was the delight of
A large centre-piece of flowers, with fruit and candies in glass
_compotiers_, and high forms of _nougat_, and other sugar devices,
are suitable standards for an elegant supper-table. Three sorts of
wine may be placed on the table in handsome decanters--sherry, or
Madeira, and Burgundy. The guests find oysters on the half-shell,
with little fish forks, all ready for them. The napkin and bread are
laid at the side or in front of each plate. These plates being
removed, other plain plates are put in their place, and cups of
bouillon are served, with gold teaspoons. This course passed, other
plates are put before the guest, and some chicken _croquettes_ or
lobster _farci_ is passed. Sherry or Madeira should already have
been served with the Oysters. With the third course iced champagne
is offered. Then follow game, or fried oysters, salads, and a slice
of _pft, de foie gras_, with perhaps tomato salad; and subsequently
ices, jellies, fruit, and coffee, and for the gentlemen a glass of
brandy or cordial. Each course is taken away before the next is
presented. Birds and salad are served together.
There is a much simpler supper possible, which is often offered by a
hospitable hostess after the opera or theatre. It consists of a few
Oysters, a pair of cold roast chickens, a dish of lobster or plain
salad, with perhaps a glass of champagne, and one sort of ice-cream,
and involves very little trouble or expense, and can be safely said
to give as much pleasure as the more sumptuous feast. This informal
refreshment is often placed on a red table-cloth, with a dish of
oranges and apples in the centre of the table, and one servant is
sufficient. There should be, however, the same etiquette as to the
changing of plates, knives, and forks, etc., as in the more
The good house-keeper who gives a supper every evening to her hungry
family may learn many an appetizing device by reading English books
of cookery on this subject. A hashed dish of the meat left from
dinner, garnished with parsley, a potato salad, a few slices of cold
corned beef or ham, some pickled tongues, bread, butter, and cheese,
with ale or cider, is the supper offered at nearly every English
house in the country.
The silver and glass, the china and the fruit, should be as
carefully attended to as for a dinner, and everything as neat and as
elegant as possible, even at an informal supper.
Oysters, that universal food of the American, are invaluable for a
supper. Fried oysters diffuse a disagreeable odor through the house,
therefore they are not as convenient in a private dwelling as
scalloped oysters, which can be prepared in the afternoon, and which
send forth no odor when cooking. Broiled oysters are very delicate,
and are a favorite dish at an informal supper. Broiled birds and
broiled bones are great delicacies, but they must be prepared by a
very good cook. Chicken in various forms hashed, fried, cold, or in
salad--is useful; veal may be utilized for all these things, if
chicken is not forthcoming. The delicately treated chicken livers
also make a very good dish, and mushrooms on toast are perfect in
their season. Hot vegetables are never served, except green pease
with some other dish.
Beef, except in the form of a fillet, is never seen at a "sit-down"
supper, and even a fillet is rather too heavy. Lobster in every form
is a favorite supper delicacy, and the grouse; snipe, woodcock,
teal; canvasback, and squab on toast, are always in order.
In these days of Italian warehouses and imported delicacies, the
pressed and jellied meats, _pft,s_, sausages, and spiced tongues
furnish a variety for a cold supper. No supper is perfect without a
The Romans made much of this meal, and among their delicacies were
the ass, the dog, and the snail, sea-hedgehogs, oysters, asparagus,
venison, wild boar, sea-nettles, fish, fowl, game, and cakes. The
Germans to-day eat wild boar, head-cheese, pickles, goose's flesh
dried, sausages, cheese, and salads for supper, and wash down with
beer. The French, under Louis XIV., began to make the supper their
most finished meal. They used gold and silver dishes, crystal cups
and goblets, exquisite grapes crowned the _,pergne_, and choicest
fruits were served in golden dishes. The cooks sent up piquant
sauces for the delicately cooked meats, the wines were drunk hot and
spiced. The latter are taken iced now. Many old house-keepers,
however, serve a rich, hot-mulled port for a winter supper. It is a
delicious and not unhealthy beverage, and can be easily prepared.
The doctors, as we have said, condemn a late supper, but the pros
and cons of this subject admit of discussion. Every one, indeed,
must decide for himself.
Few people can undergo excitement of an evening--an opera or play or
concert, or even the pleasant conversation of an evening party--
without feeling hungry. With many, if such an appetite is not
appeased it will cause sleeplessness. To eat lightly and to drink
lightly at supper is a natural instinct with people if they expect
to go to bed at once; but excitement is a great aid to digestion,
and a heavy supper sometimes gives no inconvenience.
Keats seems to have had a vision of a modern supper-table when he
"soft he set A table, and ...threw thereon A cloth of woven
crimson, gold, and jet; ...from forth the closet brought a heap Of
candied apple, quince, and plum, and gourd, With jellies soother
than the creamy curd, And lucent syrops, tinct with cinnamon, Manna
and dates: ...spiced dainties every one."
The supper being a meal purely of luxury should be very dainty.
Everything should be tasteful and appetizing; the wines should be
excellent, the claret not too cool, the champagne _frapp,_, or
almost so, the Madeira and the port the temperature of the room, and
the sherry cool. If punch is served, it should be at the end of the
Many indulgent hostesses now allow young gentlemen to smoke a
cigarette at the supper-table, after the eating and drinking is at
an end, rather than break up the delicious flow of conversation
which at the close of a supper seems to be at its best. This,
however, should not be done unless every lady at the table
acquiesces, as the smell of tobacco-smoke sometimes gives women an
Suppers at balls and parties include now all sorts of cold and hot
dishes, even a haunch of venison, and a fillet of beef, with
truffles; a cold salmon dressed with a green sauce; oysters in every
form except raw--they are not served at balls; salads of every
description; boned and truffled turkey and chicken; _pft,s_ of game;
cold partridges and grouse; _pft, de foie gras_; our American
specialty, hot canvas-back duck; and the Baltimore turtle, terrapin,
oyster and game patties; bonbons, ices, biscuits, creams, jellies,
and fruits, with champagne, and sometimes, of later years, claret
and Moselle cup, and champagne-cup--beverages which were not until
lately known in America, except at gentlemen's clubs and on board
yachts, but which are very agreeable mixtures, and gaining in favor.
Every lady should know how to mix cup, as it is convenient both for
supper and lawn-tennis parties, and is preferable in its effects to
the heavier article so common at parties--punch.
CHAPTER XXXVII. SIMPLE DINNERS.
To achieve a perfect little dinner with small means at command is
said to be a great intellectual feat. Dinner means so much--a French
cook, several accomplished servants, a very well-stocked china
closet, plate chest, and linen chest, and flowers, wines, bonbons,
and so on. But we have known many simple little dinners given by
young couples with small means which were far more enjoyable than
the gold and silver "diamond" dinners.
Given, first, a knowledge of _how to do it_; a good cook (not a
_cordon bleu_); a neat maid-servant in cap and apron--if the lady
can carve (which all ladies should know how to do); if the gentleman
has a good bottle of claret, and another of champagne--or neither,
if he disapproves of them; if the house is neatly and quietly
furnished, with the late magazines on the table; if the welcome is
cordial, and there is no noise, no fussy pretence--these little
dinners are very enjoyable, and every one is anxious to be invited
But people are frightened off from simple entertainments by the
splendor of the great luxurious dinners given by the very rich. It
is a foolish fear. The lady who wishes to give a simple but good
dinner has first to consult what is _seasonable_. She must offer the
dinner of the season, not seek for those strawberries in February
which are always sour, nor peaches in June, nor pease at Christmas.
Forced fruit is never good.
For an autumnal small dinner here is a very good _menu_:
Sherry./Oysters on the half-shell./Chablis, Soupe ... la Reine.
Blue-fish, broiled./Hock, Filet de Boeuf aux Champignons./Champagne
Roast Beef or Mutton./Claret. Roast Partridges./ Burgundy, or Sherry
Salad of Tomatoes. Cheese./Liqueurs
Of course, in these days, claret and champagne are considered quite
enough for a small dinner, and one need not offer the other wines.
Or, as Mrs. Henderson says in her admirable cook-book, a very good
dinner maybe given with claret alone. A table claret to add to the
water is almost the only wine drunk in France or Italy at an
every-day dinner. Of course no wine at all is expected at the tables
of those whose principles forbid alcoholic beverages, and who
nevertheless give excellent dinners without them.
A perfectly fresh white damask table-cloth, napkins of equally
delicate fabric, spotless glass and silver, pretty china, perhaps
one high glass dish crowned with fruit and flowers--sometimes only
the fruit--chairs that are comfortable, a room not too warm, the
dessert served in good taste, but not overloaded--this is all one
needs. The essentials of a good dinner are but few.
The informal dinner invitations should be written by the lady
herself in the first person. She may send for her friends only a few
days before she wants them to come. She should be ready five minutes
before her guests arrive, and in the parlor, serene and cool,
"mistress of herself, though china fall." She should see herself
that the dinner-table is properly laid, the champagne and sherry
thoroughly cooled, the places marked out, and, above all, the guests
"Ay, there's the rub." To invite the proper people to meet each
other, to seat them so that they can have an agreeable conversation,
that is the trying and crucial test. Little dinners are social;
little dinners are informal; little dinners make people friends. And
we do not mean _little_ in regard to numbers or to the amount of
good food; we mean _simple_ dinners.
All the good management of a young hostess or an old one cannot
prevent accident, however. The cook may get drunk; the waiter may
fall and break a dozen of the best plates; the husband may be kept
down town late, and be dressing in the very room where the ladies
are to take off their cloaks (American houses are frightfully
inconvenient in this respect). All that the hostess can do is to
preserve an invincible calm, and try not to care--at least not to
show that she cares. But after a few attempts the giving of a simple
dinner becomes very easy, and it is the best compliment to a
stranger. A gentleman travelling to see the customs of a country is
much more pleased to be asked to a modest repast where he meets his
hostess and her family than to a state dinner where he is ticketed
off and made merely one at a banquet.
Then the limitations of a dinner can be considered. It is not kind
to keep guests more than an hour, or two hours at the most, at
table. French dinners rarely exceed an hour. English dinners are too
long and too heavy, although the conversation is apt to be
brilliant. At a simple dinner one can make it short.
It is better to serve coffee in the drawing-room, although if the
host and hostess are agreed on this point, and the ladies can stand
smoke, it is served at table, and the gentlemen light their
cigarettes. In some houses smoking is forbidden in the dining-room.
The practice of the ladies retiring first is an English one, and the
French consider it barbarous. Whether we are growing more French or
not, we seem to be beginning to do away with the separation after
It is the custom at informal dinners for the lady to help the soup
and for the gentleman to carve; therefore the important dishes are
put on the table. But the servants who wait should be taught to have
sidetables and sideboards so well placed that anything can be
removed immediately after it is finished. A screen is a very useful
adjunct in a dining-room.
Inefficient servants have a disagreeable habit of running in and out
of the dining-room in search of something that should have been in
readiness; therefore the lady of the house had better see beforehand
that French rolls are placed under every napkin, and a silver basket
full of them ready in reserve. Also large slices of fresh soft bread
should be on the side table, as every one does not like hard bread,
and should be offered a choice.
The powdered sugar, the butter, the caster, the olives, the
relishes, should all be thought of and placed where each can be
readily found. Servants should be taught to be noiseless, and to
avoid a hurried manner. In placing anything on or taking anything
off a table a servant should never reach across a person seated at
table for that purpose. However hurried the servant may be, or
however near at hand the article, she should be taught to walk
quietly to the left hand of each guest to remove things, while she
should pass everything in the same manner, giving the guest the
option of using his right hand with which to help himself. Servants
should have a silver or plated knife-tray to remove the gravy-spoon
and carving knife and fork before removing the platter. All the
silver should be thus removed; it makes a table much neater.
Servants should be taught to put a plate and spoon and fork at every
place before each course.
After the meats and before the pie, pudding, or ices, the table
should be carefully cleared of everything but fruit and flowers--all
plates, glasses, carafes, salt-cellars, knives and forks, and
whatever pertains to the dinner should be removed, and the table-
cloth well cleared with brush or crumb-scraper on a silver waiter,
and then the plates, glasses, spoons, and forks laid at each plate
for the dessert. If this is done every day, it adds to a common
dinner, and trains the waitress to her work.
The dinner, the dishes, and the plates should all be hot. The
ordinary plate-warmer is now superseded by something far better, in
which a hot brick is introduced. The most _recherch,_ dinner is
spoiled if hot mutton is put on a cold plate. The silver dishes
should be heated by hot water in the kitchen, the hot dinner plates
must be forthcoming from the plate-warmer, nor must the roasts or
_entr,es_ be allowed to cool on their way from the kitchen to the
dining-room. A servant should have a thumb napkin with which to hand
the hot dishes, and a clean towel behind the screen with which to
wipe the platters which have been sent up on the dumb-waiter. On
these trifles depend the excellence of the simple dinner.
CHAPTER XXXVIII. THE SMALL-TALK OF SOCIETY.
One of the cleverest questions asked lately is, "What shall I talk
about at a dinner-party?" Now if there is a woman in the world who
does not know what to talk about, is it not a very difficult thing
to tell her? One can almost as well answer such a question as, "What
shall I see out of my eyes?"
Yet our young lady is not the first person who has dilated of late
years upon the "decay of conversation," nor the only one who has
sometimes felt the heaviness of silence descend upon her at a modern
dinner. No doubt this same great and unanswerable question has been
asked by many a traveller who, for the first time, has sat next an
Englishman of good family (perhaps even with a handle to his name),
who has answered all remarks by the proverbial but unsympathetic
"Oh!" Indeed, it is to be feared that it is a fashion for young men
nowadays to appear listless, to conceal what ideas they may happen
to have, to try to appear stupid, if they are not so, throwing all
the burden of the conversation on the lively, vivacious, good-
humored girl, or the more accomplished married woman, who may be the
next neighbor. Women's wits are proverbially quick, they talk
readily, they read and think more than the average young man of
fashion is prone to do; the result is a quick and a ready tongue.
Yet the art of keeping up a flow of agreeable and incessant small-
talk, not too heavy, not pretentious or egotistical, not scandalous,
and not commonplace, is an art that is rare, and hardly to be prized
It has been well said that there is a great difference between a
brilliant conversationalist and a ready small-talker. The former is
apt to be feared, and to produce a silence around him. We all
remember Macaulay and "his brilliant flashes of silence." We all
know that there are talkers so distinguished that you must not ask
both of them to dinner on the same day lest they silence each other,
while we know others who bring to us just an average amount of tact,
facility of expression, geniality, and a pleasant gift at a
quotation, a bit of repartee; such a person we call a ready small-
talker, a "most agreeable person," one who frightens nobody and who
has a great popularity. Such a one has plenty of small change, very
useful, and more easy to handle than the very large cheek of the
conversationalist, who is a millionaire as to his memory, learning,
and power of rhetoric, but who cannot and will not indulge in small-
talk. We respect the one; we like the other. The first point to be
considered, if one has no inspiration in regard to small-talk, would
seem to be this; try to consider what subject would most interest
the person next to you. There are people who have no other talent,
whom we never call clever, but who do possess this instinct, and who
can talk most sympathetically, while knowing scarcely anything about
the individual addressed. There are others who are deficient in this
gift, who can only say "Really" and "Indeed." These "Really" and
"Indeed" and "Oh" people are the despair of the dinner-giver. The
gay, chatty, light-hearted people who can glide into a conversation
easily, are the best of dinner-table companions, even if they do
sometimes talk too much about the weather and such commonplaces.
It is a good plan for a shy young person, who has no confidence in
her own powers of conversation, to fortify herself with several
topics of general interest, such as the last new novel, the last
opera, the best and newest gallery of pictures, or the flower in
fashion; and to invent a formula, if words are wanting in her
organization, as to how these subjects should be introduced and
handled. Many ideas will occur to her, and she can silently arrange
them. Then she may keep these as a reserve force, using them only
when the conversation drops, or she is unexpectedly brought to the
necessity of keeping up the ball alone. Some people use this power
rather unfairly, leading the conversation up to the point where they
wish to enter; but these are not the people who need help--they can
take care of themselves. After talking awhile in a perfunctory
manner, many a shy young person has been astonished by a sudden rush
of brilliant ideas, and finds herself talking naturally and well
without effort. It is like the launching of a ship; certain blocks
of shyness and habits of mental reserve are knocked away, and the
brave frigate _Small-Talk_ takes the water like a thing of life.
It demands much tact and cleverness to touch upon the ordinary
events of the day at a mixed dinner, because, in the first place,
nothing should be said which can hurt any one's feelings, politics,
religion, and the stock market being generally ruled out; nor should
one talk about that which everybody knows, for such small-talk is
impertinent and irritating. No one wishes to be told that which he
already understands better, perhaps, than we do. Nor are matters of
too private a nature, such as one's health, or one's servants, or
one's disappointments, still less one's good deeds, to be talked
Commonplace people also sometimes try society very much by their own
inane and wholly useless criticisms. Supposing we take up music, it
is far more agreeable to hear a person say, "How do you like
Nilsson?" than to hear him say, "I like Nilsson, and I have these
reasons for liking her." Let that come afterwards. When a person
really qualified to discuss artists, or literary people, or artistic
points, talks sensibly and in a chatty, easy way about them, it is
the perfection of conversation; but when one wholly and utterly
incompetent to do so lays down the law on such subjects he or she
becomes a bore. But if the young person who does not know how to
talk treats these questions interrogatively, ten chances to one,
unless she is seated next an imbecile, she will get some very good
and light small-talk out of her next neighbor. She may give a modest
personal opinion, or narrate her own sensations at the opera, if she
can do so without egotism, and she should always show a desire to be
answered. If music and literature fail, let her try the subjects of
dancing, polo-playing, and lawn-tennis. A very good story was told
of a bright New York girl and a very haw-haw-stupid Englishman at a
Newport dinner. The Englishman had said "Oh," and "Really," and
"Quite so," to everything which this bright girl had asked him, when
finally, very tired and very angry, she said, "Were you ever thrown
in the hunting-field, and was your head hurt?" The man turned and
gazed admiringly. "Now you've got me," was the reply. And he talked
all the rest of the dinner of his croppers. Perhaps it may not be
necessary or useful often to unlock so rich a _r,pertoire_ as this;
but it was a very welcome relief to this young lady not to do all
the talking during three hours.
After a first introduction there is, no doubt, some difficulty in
starting a conversation. The weather, the newspaper, the last
accident, the little dog, the bric-...-brac, the love of horses, etc.,
are good and unfailing resources, except that very few people have
the readiness to remember this wealth of subjects at once. To
recollect a thing apropos of the moment is the gift of ready-witted
people alone, and how many remember, hours after, a circumstance
which would have told at that particular moment of embarrassment
when one stood twiddling his hat, and another twisted her
handkerchief. The French call "_l'esprit d'escalier_"--the "wit of
the staircase"--the gift of remembering the good thing you might
have said in the drawing-room, just too late, as you go up-stairs.
However, two new people generally overcome this moment of
embarrassment, and then some simple offer of service, such as, "Can
I get you a chair?" "Is that window too cold?" "Can I bring you some
tea?" occurs, and then the small-talk follows.
The only curious part of this subject is that so little skill is
shown by the average talker in weaving facts and incidents into his
treatment of subjects of everyday character, and that he brings so
little intelligence to bear on his discussion of them. It is not
given to every one to be brilliant and amusing, but, with a little
thought, passing events may always give rise to pleasant
conversation. We have lately been visited by a succession of
brilliant sunsets, concerning which there have been various
theories. This has been a charming subject for conversation, yet at
the average dinner we have heard but few persons mention this
interesting topic. Perhaps one is afraid to start a conversation
upon celestial scenery at a modern dinner. The things may seem too
remote, yet it would not be a bad idea.
Gossip may promote small-talk among those who are very intimate and
who live in a narrow circle. But how profoundly uninteresting is it
to an outsider!--how useless to the real man or woman of the world!
That is, unless it is literary, musical, artistic gossip. Scandal
ruins conversation, and should never be included even in a
definition of small-talk. Polite, humorous, vivacious, speculative,
dry, sarcastic, epigrammatic, intellectual, and practical people all
meet around a dinner-table, and much agreeable small-talk should be
the result. It is unfortunately true that there is sometimes a
failure in this respect. Let a hostess remember one thing: there is
no chance for vivacity of intellect if her room is too warm; her
flowers and her guests will wilt together. There are those also who
prefer her good dishes to talking, and the old gentleman in _Punch_
who rebuked his lively neighbor for talking while there were "such
_entr,es_ coming in" has his counterparts among ourselves.
Some shy talkers have a sort of empirical way of starting a subject
with a question like this: "Do you know the meaning and derivation
of the term 'bric-...-brac?'" "Do you believe in ghosts?" "What do you
think of a ladies' club?" "Do you believe in chance?" "Is there more
talent displayed in learning the violin than in playing a first-rate
game of chess?" etc.
These are intellectual conundrums, and may be repeated indefinitely
where the person questioned is disposed to answer. With a flow of
good spirits and the feeling of case which comes from a knowledge of
society, such questions often bring out what Margaret Fuller called
But if your neighbor says "Oh," "Really," "Indeed," "I don't know,"
then the best way is to be purely practical, and talk of the chairs
and tables, and the existing order of things, the length of trains,
or the shortness of the dresses of the young ladies at the last
ball, the prevailing idea that "ice-water is unhealthy," and other
such extremely easy ideas. The sound of one's own voice is generally
very sweet in one's own ears; let every lady try to cultivate a
pleasant voice for those of other people, and also an agreeable and
accurate pronunciation. The veriest nothings sound well when thus
spoken. The best way to learn how to talk is, of course, to learn
how to think: from full wells one brings up buckets full of clear
water, but there can be small-talk without much thought. The fact
remains that brilliant thinkers and scholars are not always good
talkers, and there is no harm in the cultivation of the art of
conversation, no harm in a little "cramming," if a person is afraid
that language is not his strong point. The merest trifle generally
suffices to start the flow of small-talk, and the person who can use
this agreeable weapon of society is always popular and very much
CHAPTER XXXIX. GARDEN-PARTIES.
Many of our correspondents ask us, "What shall we order for a
garden-party?" We must answer that the first thing to order is a
fine day. In these fortunate days the morning revelations of Old
Probabilities give us an almost exact knowledge of what of rain or
sunshine the future has in store.
A rain or tornado which starts from Alaska, where the weather is
made nowadays, will almost certainly be here on the third day; so
the hostess who is willing to send a hasty bidding can perhaps avoid
rain. It is the custom, however, to send invitations for these
garden-parties a fortnight before they are to occur. At Newport they
are arranged weeks beforehand, and if the weather is bad the
entertainment takes place in-doors.
When invitations are given to a suburban place to which people are
expected to go by rail or any public means of conveyance, a card
should also be sent stating the hours at which trains leave, which
train or boat to take, and any other information that may add to the
comfort of the guest. These invitations are engraved, and printed on
note-paper, which should be perfectly plain, or bear the family
crest in water-mark only, and read somewhat as follows:
_Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Smith request the pleasure of Mr. and Mrs.
Conway Brown's company on Tuesday, the thirtieth of July, at four
Garden Party. Yonkers, New York._
Then, on the card enclosed, might be printed,
_Carriages will meet the 3.30 train from Grand Central Depot._
If the invitation is to a country place not easy of access, still
more explicit directions should be given.
The garden-party proper is always held entirely in the open air. In
England the refreshments are served under a _marquee_ in the
grounds, and in that inclement clime no one seems to think it a
hardship if a shower of rain comes down, and ruins fine silks and
beautiful bonnets. But in our fine sunshiny land we are very much
afraid of rain, and our malarious soil is not considered always
safe, so that the thoughtful hostess often has her table in-doors,
piazzas filled with chairs, Turkey rugs laid down on the grass, and
every preparation made that the elderly and timid and rheumatic may
enjoy the garden-party without endangering their health.
A hostess should see that her lawn-tennis ground is in order, the
croquet laid out, and the archery tools all in place, so that her
guests may amuse themselves with these different games. Sometimes
balls and races are added to these amusements, and often a platform
is laid for dancing, if the turf be not sufficiently dry. A band of
musicians is essential to a very elegant and successful garden-
party, and a varied selection of music, grave and gay, should be
rendered. Although at a dinner-party there is reason to fear that an
orchestra may be a nuisance, at a garden-party the open air and
space are sufficient guarantees against this danger.
If the hostess wishes her entertainment to be served out-of-doors,
of course all the dishes must be cold. Salads, cold birds, and ham,
tongue, and _pft, de foie gras_, cold _pft,s_, and salmon dressed
with a green sauce, jellies, Charlottes, ices, cakes, punch, and
champagne, are the proper things to offer. A cup of hot tea should
be always ready in the house for those who desire it.
At a garden-party proper the hostess receives out on the lawn,
wearing her hat or bonnet, and takes it for granted that the party
will be entirely out-of-doors. The carriages, however, drive up to
the door, and the ladies can go up-stairs and deposit their wraps
and brush off the dust, if they wish. A servant should be in
attendance to show the guests to that part of the grounds in which
the lady is receiving.
At Newport these parties are generally conducted on the principle of
an afternoon tea, and after the mistress of the house has received
her guests, they wander through the grounds, and, when weary, return
to the house for refreshment. _Pft, de foie gras_, sandwiches, cold
birds, plates of delicious jellied tongue, lobster salad, and
sometimes hot cakes and hot broiled chicken, are served at these
high teas. Coffee and tea and wine are also offered, but these are
at mixed entertainments which have grown out of the somewhat unusual
hours observed at Newport in the season.
There is a sort of public garden-party in this country which
prevails on semi-official occasions, such as the laying of a
foundation-stone for a public building, the birthday of a prominent
individual, a Sunday-school festival, or an entertainment given to a
public functionary. These are banquets, and for them the invitations
are somewhat general, and should be officially issued. For the
private garden-party it is proper for a lady to ask for an
invitation for a friend, as there is always plenty of room; but it
should also be observed that where this request is not answered
affirmatively, offence should not be taken. It is sometimes very
difficult for a lady to understand why her request for an invitation
to her friend is refused; but she should never take the refusal as a
discourtesy to herself. There may be reasons which cannot be
Ladies always wear bonnets at a garden-party, and the sensible
fashion of short dresses has hitherto prevailed; but it is rumored
that a recent edict of the Princess of Wales against short dresses
at her garden-parties will find followers on this side of the water,
notably at Newport, which out-Herods Herod in its respect to English
Indeed, a long dress is very pretty on the grass and under the
trees. At Buckingham Palace a garden-party given to the Viceroy of
Egypt several years ago presented a very Watteau-like picture.
Worth's handsomest dresses were freely displayed, and the lovely
grounds and old trees at the back of the palace were in fine full
dress for the occasion.
In fact, England is the land for garden-parties, with its turf of
velvet softness, its flowing lime-trees, its splendid old oaks, and
its finished landscape gardening. There are but few places as yet in
America which afford the clipped-box avenues, the arcades of
blossoming rose-vines, the pleached alleys, the finely kept and
perfect gravel-walks, or, Better than all, the quiet, old-fashioned
gardens, down which the ladies may walk, rivals of the flowers.
But there are some such places; and a green lawn, a few trees, a
good prospect, a fine day, and something to eat, are really all the
absolute requirements for a garden-party. In the neighborhood of New
York very charming garden-parties have been given: at the Brooklyn
Navy-yard and the camp of the soldier, at the head-quarters of the
officers of marines, and at the ever-lovely Governor's Island.
Up the Hudson, out at Orange (with its multitudinous pretty
settlements), all along the coast of Long Island, the garden-party
is almost imperatively necessary. The owner of a fine place is
expected to allow the unfortunates who must stay in town at least
one sniff of his roses and new-mown hay.
Lawn-tennis has had a great share in making the garden-party
popular; and in remote country places ladies should learn how to
give these parties, and, with very little trouble, make the most of
our fine climate. There is no doubt that a little awkwardness is to
be overcome in the beginning, for no one knows exactly what to do.
Deprived of the friendly shelter of a house, guests wander forlornly
about; but a graceful and ready hostess will soon suggest that a
croquet or lawn-tennis party be formed, or that a contest at archery
be entered upon, or that even a card-party is in order, or that a
game of checkers can be played under the trees.
Servants should be taught to preserve the proprieties of the feast,
if the meal be served under the trees. There should be no piles of
dishes, knives, forks, or spoons, visible on the green grass;
baskets should be in readiness to carry off everything as soon as
used. There should be a sufficient quantity of glass and china in
use, and plenty of napkins, so that there need be no delay. The
lemonade and punch bowls should be replenished from the dining-room
as soon as they show signs of depletion, and a set of neat maid-
servants can be advantageously employed in watching the table, and
seeing that the cups, spoons, plates, wine-glasses, and forks are in
sufficient quantity and clean. If tea is served, maid-servants are
better than men, as they are careful that the tea is hot, and the
spoons, cream, and sugar forthcoming. Fruit is an agreeable addition
to a garden-party entertainment, and pines, melons, peaches, grapes,
strawberries, are all served in their season. Pains should be taken
to have these fruits of the very best that can be obtained.
Claret-cup, champagne-cup, and soda-water, brandy and shandy-gaff,
are provided on a separate table for the gentlemen; Apollinaris
water, and the various aerated waters so fashionable now, are also
provided. Although gentlemen help themselves, it is necessary to
have a servant in attendance to remove the wine-glasses, tumblers,
and goblets as they are used, and to replenish the decanters and
pitchers as they are emptied, and to supply fresh glasses. Many
hospitable hosts offer their guests old Madeira, sherry, and port.
The decanters are placed on the regular luncheon-table, and glasses
of wine are carried by servants, on silver trays, to the ladies who
are sitting on the piazzas and under the trees. Small thin tumblers
are used for the claret and champagne cup, which should be held in
silver or glass pitchers.
If strawberries and cream are served, a small napkin should be put
between the saucer and plate, and a dessert spoon and fork handed
with each plate.
The servants who carry about refreshments from the tent or the table
where they are served should be warned to be very careful in this
part of the service, as many a fine gown has been spoiled, by a dish
of strawberries and cream or a glass of punch or lemonade being
overturned, through a servant's want of care.
Ices are now served at garden-parties in small paper cups placed on
ice-plates--a fashion which is very neat, and which saves much of
the _mussiness_ which has heretofore been a feature of these
entertainments. Numbers of small tables should be brought with the
camp-stools, and placed at convenient intervals, where the guests
can deposit their plates.
A lady should not use her handsome glass or china at these _al
fresco_ entertainments. It is sure to be broken. It is better to
hire all the necessary glass, silver, and china from the caterer, as
it saves a world of counting and trouble.
No doubt the garden-party is a troublesome affair, particularly if
the refreshments are out-of-doors, but it is very beautiful and very
amusing, and worth all the trouble. It is just as pleasant, however,
if the table is in-doors.
CHAPTER XL. SILVER WEDDINGS AND OTHER WEDDING ANNIVERSARIES.
A very sensible reform is now being attempted in the matter of
silver weddings. It was once a demand on the purse of at least fifty
dollars to receive an invitation to a silver wedding, because every
one was expected to send a piece of silver. Some very rich houses in
New York are stocked with silver with the elaborate inscription,
"Silver Wedding." To the cards of to-day is appended, "No presents
received," which is a relief to the impecunious.
These cards are on plain white or silver-gray paper, engraved in
silver letters, with the name of the lady as she was known before
marriage appended below that of her husband; the date of the
marriage is also added below the names.
The entertainment for a silver wedding, to be perfect, should occur
at exactly the hour at which the marriage took place; but as that
has been found to be inconvenient, the marriage hour is ignored, and
the party takes place in the evening generally, and with all the
characteristics of a modern party. The "bridal pair" stand together,
of course, to receive, and as many of the original party of the
groomsmen and bridesmaids as can be got together should be induced
to form a part of the group. There can be no objection to the
sending of flowers, and particular friends who wish can, of course,
send other gifts, but there should be no _obligation_. We may say
here that the custom of giving bridal gifts has become an outrageous
abuse of a good idea. From being a pretty custom which had its basis
in the excellent system of our Dutch ancestors, who combined to help
the young couple by presents of bed and table linen and necessary
table furniture and silver, it has now sometimes degenerated into a
form of ostentation, and is a great tax on the friends of the bride.
People in certain relations to the family are even expected to send
certain gifts. It has been known to be the case that the bride
allowed some officious friend to suggest that she should have
silver, or pearls, or diamonds; and a rich old bachelor uncle is
sure to be told what is expected from him. But when a couple have
reached their silver wedding, and are able and willing to celebrate
it, it may be supposed that they are beyond the necessity of
appealing to the generosity of their friends; therefore it is a good
custom to have this phrase added to the silver-wedding invitation,
"No presents received."
The question has been asked if the ceremony should be performed over
again. We should say decidedly not, for great danger has accrued to
thoughtless persons in thus tampering with the wedding ceremony. Any
one who has read Mrs. Oliphant's beautiful story of "Madonna Mary"
will be struck at once with this danger. It is not safe, even in the
most playful manner, to imitate that legal form on which all
society, property, legitimacy, and the safety of home hang.
Now as to the dress of the bride of twenty-five years, we should
say, "Any color but black." There is an old superstition against
connecting black with weddings. A silver gray, trimmed with steel
and lace, has lately been used with much success as a second bridal
dress. Still less should the dress be white; that has become so
canonized as the wedding dress of a virgin bride that it is not even
proper for a widow to wear it on her second marriage. The shades of
rose-color, crimson, or those beautiful modern combinations of
velvet and brocade which suit so many matronly women, are all
appropriate silver-wedding dresses.
Ladies should not wear jewelry in the morning, particularly at their
own houses; so if the wedding is celebrated in the morning, the
hostess should take care not to be too splendid.
Evening weddings are, in these anniversaries, far more agreeable,
and can be celebrated with more elaborate dressing. It is now so
much the fashion to wear low-necked dresses (sleeveless dresses were
worn by bridesmaids at an evening wedding recently) that the bride
of twenty-five years can appear, if she chooses, in a low-cut short-
sleeved dinner dress and diamonds in the evening. As for the groom,
he should be in full evening dress, immaculate white tie, and pearl-
colored kid gloves. He plays, as he does at the wedding, but a
secondary part. Indeed, it has been jocosely said that he sometimes
poses as a victim. In savage communities and among the birds it is
the male who wears the fine clothes; in Christian society it is the
male who dresses in black, putting the fine feathers on his wife. It
is to her that all the honors are paid, he playing for the time but
a secondary part. In savage communities she would dig the earth,
wait upon her lord, and stand behind him while he eats; in the
modern silver wedding he helps her to fried oysters and champagne,
and stands while she sits.
Now as to who shall be invited. A correspondent writes asking if a
silver wedding celebrated in a new home would not be a good
opportunity for making the "first onset of hospitality," inviting
those neighbors who were not known before, or at least who were not
visiting acquaintances. We should think it a very happy idea. It is
a compliment to ask one's friends and neighbors to any ceremony or
anniversary in which our own deep feelings are concerned, such as a
christening, a child's wedding, and the celebration of a birthday.
Why not still more when a married pair have weathered the storms of
twenty-five years? People fully aware of their own respectability
should never be afraid to bow first, speak first, or call first.
Courtesy is the most cosmopolitan of good qualities, and politeness
is one of the seven capital virtues. No people giving such an
invitation need be hurt if it is received coldly. They only thus
find out which of their new neighbors are the most worth
cultivating. This sort of courtesy is as far as possible from the
dreadful word "pushing." As dress was made to dignify the human
body, so a generous courtesy clothes the mind. Let no one be afraid
of draping the spirit with this purple and gold.
And in all fresh neighborhoods the new-comers should try to
cultivate society. There is something in its attrition which
stimulates the mind. Society brightens up the wits, and causes the
dullest mind to bring its treasures to the surface.
The wedding anniversaries seem to begin with the fifth one--the
wooden wedding. Here unique and appropriate presents seem to be very
cheap. Cedar tubs and bowls and pails, wooden baskets filled with
flowers, Shaker rocking-chairs and seats for the veranda, carved
tables, cabinets of oak, wall brackets, paintings on wood, water-
colors framed in wood-carvings in bog oak, and even a load of
kindling wood, have been acceptably offered. The bride can dress as
gayly as she pleases at this early anniversary. Then comes the tin
wedding, which now is very much welcomed for the pretty tin
candlesticks that it brings, fresh from London furnishers.
We hear of gorgeous silver weddings in California, that land of gold
and silver, where the display of toilettes each represented a large
fortune. But, after all, _the sentiment_ is the thing,
"As when, amid the rites divine, I took thy troth, and plighted mine
To thee, sweet wife, my second ring A token and a pledge I bring.
This ring shall wed, till death us part, Thy riper virtues to my
heart--Those virtues which, before untried, The wife has added to
The golden wedding is a rare festivity--the great marriage bell made
of wheat fully ripe; sheaves of corn; roses of the pure gold-color
(the Marshal Niel is the golden-wedding flower _par excellence_). We
can well imagine the parlors beautifully decorated with autumn
leaves and evergreens, the children grouped about the aged pair,
perhaps even a great-grandchild as a child bridesmaid, a bridal
bouquet in the aged white hand. We can fancy nothing more poetical
and pathetic than this festivity.
Whether or not a ring should be given by the husband to the wife on
this occasion we must leave to the individual taste of the parties.
No doubt it is a pleasant occasion for the gift,
"If she, by merit since disclosed,
Proved twice the woman I supposed,"
there is no doubt that she deserves another ring. We have read
somewhere of a crown-diamond wedding; it is the sixty-fifth
anniversary. Iron weddings are, we believe, the fifteenth
anniversary. With silver, golden, and diamond weddings we are
tolerably familiar, but, so far as we know, a crown-diamond wedding
such as was celebrated a short time ago at Maebuell, in the island
of Alsen, is a ceremony altogether without precedent in matrimonial
annals. Having completed their sixty-fifth year of conjugal bliss,
Claus Jacobsen and his venerable spouse were solemnly blessed by the
parson of their parish, and went, for the fifth time in their long
wedded life, through the form of mutual troth-plighting before the
altar at which they had for the first time been united before the
battle of Waterloo was fought. The united age of this crown-
diamantine couple amount to _one hundred and seventy-eight years_!
We doubt if this constant pair needed any ring to remind them of
their wedded duty. It is strange that the origin of the wedding ring
is lost in obscurity. The "fyancel," or wedding ring, is doubtless
of Roman origin, and was originally given at the betrothal as a
pledge of the engagement. Juvenal says that at the commencement of
the Christian era a man placed a ring on the finger of the lady whom
he betrothed. In olden times the delivery of a signet-ring was a
sign of confidence. The ring is a symbol of eternity and constancy.
That it was placed on the woman's left hand denotes her subjection,
and on the ring finger because it pressed a vein which communicates
directly with the heart. So universal is the custom of wearing the
wedding ring among Jews and Christians that no married woman is ever
seen without her plain gold circlet, and she regards the loss of it
as a sinister omen; and many women never remove it. This is,
however, foolish, and it should be taken off and put on several
times at first, so that any subsequent removal or loss need not jar
painfully on the feelings.
The bride-cake cut by the bride, with the wedding ring for some
fortunate future spouse, seems to be still potent. The twenty-five-
year-old bride should cut a few pieces, then leave others to pass
it; it is a day on which she should be waited upon.
Some persons, in celebrating their twenty-fifth wedding day, also
repeat their wedding journey, and we know a very pleasant little
route in England called the "silver-wedding journey," but this is,
of course, a matter so entirely personal that it cannot be
The most graceful silver-wedding custom is for the bride and
bridegroom to receive the greetings of their friends at first
formally, then to leave the marriage bell or canopy of flowers and
to go about among the company, becoming again host and hostess. They
should spare their children, friends, and themselves tears and sad
recollections. Some opulent brides and bridegrooms make it a silver
wedding indeed by sending substantial presents to those who started
in life with them but have been less fortunate than themselves.
CHAPTER XLI. SPRING AND SUMMER ENTERTAINMENTS.
As the season advances and the country bursts into glorious sudden
spring, the garden party, the country dinner, the horseback
excursions, and the asparagus parties, the hunts and the yacht
voyages, the lawn-tennis and archery, the visits to the polo ground,
and the delights of a visit to the friends who live within an hour
of the city, at Orange and at Morristown, on the seagirt shore of
Long Island or up the Hudson, begin to loom up before the city-bound
worthy, and to throw a "rose hue o'er his russet cares."
Now the first question with the neophyte who would go to the hunts
(for they "break the ice" in more senses than one), as the first of
the spring out-of-door entertainments, is, What does a young girl
require who would "ride to hounds"? for "pale Diana," chaste and
fair, no longer hunts on foot, as she did in the days of Acteon.
She must have two thorough-bred hunters. She must have a groom, an
English habit, a carefully-considered outfit, and she must be a
perfect and a fearless horsewoman, and not mind a "cropper." One of
the young riders at the Meadow Brook Hunt was thrown over her
horse's head into a ditch last spring, and got up declaring she was
not even bruised. Yes, she must learn even how to fall off her horse
without breaking her ribs or her nose. It is an expensive amusement
to be Diana nowadays. The result, however, of long practice on
horseback seems to be that a woman becomes almost a centaur, and
more fearless than a man. Then the hunt includes as its adjuncts to
the young ladies certain men in pink. They "form" on a roadside, and
the master of the hunt says, "Ladies and gentlemen, will you hunt?"
and he motions to the whipper-in--a gallant creature in pink also--
to "throw off the dogs."
Then the prettiest forty dogs, all spotted, start on their mad
career. It is a beautiful sight, with the red-coated huntsmen
following, and it looks as if the real fox would be attainable after
a time, instead of the farce of an anise-seed bag which now serves
to make the ghost of a scent. The low, soft hat is a favorite with
our young riders, but there is this to say for the hard hat, it does
break a fall. Many a fair forehead has been saved from a terrible
scar by the resistant hard hat.
The habit of riding every day and of getting thoroughly accustomed
to one's seat should precede the daring attempt at a break-neck
"jump." No one should pretend to hunt who has not a good seat, a good
horse, and plenty of nerve. Much less should an incompetent rider
venture on a friend's horse. It has been said in England that "a man
will forgive you for breaking his own neck, but not that of his
As the day for driving has come, many correspondents write to ask
what is the best style of equipage for a young man. We can only say
that a tilbury and one horse is very showy, that a dog-cart is the
most "knowing," that a high chariot is very stately, but that the
two-seated Park wagon is the most appropriate in which to take out a
lady. There should always be a servant behind. The art of driving is
simple enough, but requires much practice. The good driver should
understand his horse well, and turn his curves gently and slowly; he
must know how to harness and unharness a horse, and be ready to mend
any trifling disarrangement if there is a break.
Now as to driving in a carriage with ladies, a correspondent writes
to ask the etiquette which should govern a gentleman's conduct. He
takes his seat with his back to the horses, opposite the ladies, nor
should he assume to sit beside a lady unless requested to do so.
When the carriage stops, he should jump out and assist her to
alight, walking with her up her own steps, and ringing the bell. In
entering the carriage he should put his left foot on the step, and
enter the carriage with his right foot. This is, however, supposing
that he sits facing the horses; if he sits with his back to the
horses, he reverses the process. A gentleman should avoid treading
on ladies' dresses, or shutting them in the door. Ladies who have
country-houses should learn to drive as well as to ride. Indeed, in
these days when young women drive alone in the Park in their pony
phaetons and little carts, we need hardly advise that they should
learn to drive well.
As to boating, which is practised so largely by men, we hear of but
few ladies who pull the oar about New York; but doubtless it will be
done on inland streams and lakes. One gentleman should stay in the
boat and help to steady it, unless the oarswomen are very expert.
Short dresses and round hats should be worn, with no superincumbent
drapery, As the seat of honor in a boat is that occupied by the
stroke oar, it is etiquette for the owner of the boat to offer it to
his friend if he be a rower.
The asparagus party is a sort of a long picnic, in which a party of
friends join, and drive or ride out to some convenient inn where a
good dinner can be served, with the advantage of the early vegetable
cut directly from the ground. As Long Island is famous for its
asparagus, these parties from New York generally select some
convenient locality there, near enough to the city to be not too
fatiguing a drive.
The new passion for driving a coach has now become so much of an
American taste that we need not describe the pastime here. At least
four coaches will start from New York for some neighboring town-New
Rochelle, Yonkers, etc.--during the summer, and there is no better
way of spending a May day than on top of one. As for _al fresco_
entertainments, game pie, patties, cold beef, pressed tongue, potted
meats, sandwiches, _pft, de foie gras_, champagne, are all taken out
in hampers, and served on top of the coach by the obedient valets at
the races, for those parties who go out with four horses and a
London coach to see the favorite run.
We are often asked what would be the appropriate costume for a lawn
party, and we can only answer that the costumes for these parties
should be of a useful character. If it is a lawn party at a very
elegant house, at Newport or up the Hudson, it may be, however, of a
delicacy and elegance not proper if one is asked out in the country
merely to "have a good time," when a person would be exposed to the
weather, the wear and tear of games, and of a long day in the sun,
Thick boots are indispensable. But if one is invited to a wedding in
the country, even if the "lawn" is to play a decided part in the
entertainment, one must dress very handsomely. At the regular lawn
party the lady of the house and her daughters should receive on the
lawn in their bonnets.
Yachting is a favorite "summer entertainment," and for those who
love the sea it is unparalleled for its excitement, Yachting dresses
should be made of serge or tweed, and possess warmth and durability,
and young women can trim them according to taste with the name and
insignia of their favorite yacht.
For a lawn-tennis party the players dress in flannels made for the
purpose, and for a lady the jersey is indispensable, as giving so
much freedom to the arms. These parties begin in May at all the
country-houses and country parks about our larger towns, and
certainly furnish as much healthful amusement as anything can do.
Archery has not yet become acclimated in America, but there are
clubs in certain circles which promise a future for this game.
Now for those who go to country-houses to stay "over Sunday," as is
the fashion about New York, let us give one word of advice. Always
hold yourself at the disposal of those at whose house you are
staying. If they propose a plan of action for you, fall in with it.
If your visit is prolonged for a week, endeavor to amuse yourself as
much as possible. Do not let your hostess see that you are dependent
on her for amusement. Remember, however welcome you may be, you are
not always wanted. A good hostess also learns when to let her guests
alone. A gentleman visitor who neither shoots, fishes, boats, reads,
writes letters, nor does anything but hang about, letting himself be
"amused," is an intolerable nuisance. He had better go to the
billiard-room and practice caroms by himself, or retire to the
stables and smoke.
A lady visitor should show a similar tact in retiring to her own
room to read or write letters, allowing her hostess to have her
mornings or her afternoons to herself, as she pleases. Some people
are "born visitors." They have the genius of tact to perceive, the
genius of finesse to execute, case and frankness of manner, a
knowledge of the world that nothing can surprise, a calmness of
temper that nothing can disturb, and a kindness of disposition that
can never be exhausted. Such a visitor is greatly in demand
A good-natured host and hostess place everything at the disposal of
a visitor--their horses, carriages, books, and grounds. And here the
utmost delicacy should be observed. Never ride a horse too fast or
too far. Never take the coachman beyond his usual limits. Never
pluck a flower in the ornamental grounds without asking permission,
for in these days of ornamental and fanciful gardening it is
necessary to be careful and remember that each flower is a tint in a
well-considered picture. Never dog's-ear or disfigure the books, or
leave them lying about; if you take them from their shelves, put
them back. Be thoughtful in your treatment of the servants, and give
those who immediately wait upon you some small gratuity. And if
family prayers are read, always try to be present.
So much for the possibility of a "summer entertainment" at a
country-house, one of the most agreeable of all, if the apple-
blossoms are just out, and the charm of spring is over the whole
We hear of a "rustic masquerade" as one of the spring entertainments
at a country-house in Orange. This, it would seem, might be very
suitable all over the country, if woods and water are near enough
for the shepherds and shepherdesses. A copy of the garden parties
which made Boucher the painter that he was, and in which we almost
hear the wind rustling through the sedge, the refreshing murmur of
the fountain, and see the gayly dressed marquise put her violet
slipper on the turf, and the elegant and stately gentlemen as they
light up the neighboring arbor with their fine silk coats in his
pictures--a copy of such garden parties as those which made
Watteau's fame (he has put them all on the fans, and the young
people have only to copy them)--this would indeed be a "rustic
masquerade," which might amuse and "draw" for a charity. Many of our
country towns on the borders of lakes, many of the places near New
York in their own fine grounds, would offer a terrestrial paradise
for such a garden party.
To drive out to Jerome Park to breakfast, to get the early
strawberry and the delicious cream--this is a spring entertainment
which many of our business men indulge in, coming back to their work
in New York refreshed and invigorated. The men of pleasure of this
period have, as they have always had, an ample provision of
amusement--not always the most useful, it is true--yet we are glad
to see that the out-of-door excitements begin to distance the
excitements of the gaming-table. Betting on the turf is not carried
to the ruinous extent here that it is in England, while the polo,
the base-ball, the boating, and the "riding to hounds "--open to
ridicule as it is, in some ways of looking at it--are all healthful.
The spring season has its little dinners, lunches, and weddings, but
very few evening entertainments.
After a young girl has ransacked the fashionable world all winter,
and been at all the f^tes and balls, concerts, operas, and suppers,
she does not care for parties in May. Such infatuated ardor for
amusement would make sad havoc of her charms if she did. It is quite
enough if she finishes her exciting winter with a fancy dance or
private theatricals at some charitable entertainment.
A high tea is served in courses like a dinner, excepting with less
formality. The lady sits at one end of the table with the silver
tea-tray before her, while the gentleman has before him cold
chicken, or even, perhaps, a hot dish like roast partridges, to
carve. Frequently scalloped oysters are passed, and always salads,
so that those who are in the habit of dining at that hour have a
solid meal. There are hot cakes and biscuits and sweetmeats on the
table, so that it is really the old-fashioned tea of our
grandmothers re-enforced by some solid dishes. It is intended to
save the servants trouble on Sunday evening, but it is really more
trouble to them as now served, as it gives the waiter additional
dishes to wash, and quite as much service. It saves the cook,
CHAPTER XLII. FLORAL TRIBUTES AND DECORATIONS.
When every steamer leaving these shores goes out laden with people
who are weighed down with flowers, it cannot but be a severe tax on
the ingenuity of the florist to devise novel and appropriate forms
for the typical basket that shall say _bon voyage_ in a thousand new
ways. Floral ships, anchors, stars, crosses, mottoes, monograms, and
even the national flag, have been used for these steamer
But the language of flowers, so thoroughly understood among the
Persians that a single flower expresses a complete declaration of
love, an offer of marriage, and, presumably, a hint at the
settlement, is, with our more practical visionaries and enthusiasts
of the nineteenth century, rather an echo of the stock market than a
poetical fancy. We fear that no prima donna looks at her flowers
without a thought of how much they have cost, and that the belle
estimates her bouquet according to the commercial value of a lily-
of-the-valley as compared with that of a Jacqueminot rose, rather
than as flowers simply. It is a pity that the overwhelming luxury of
an extravagant period involves in its all-powerful grasp even the
flowers of the field, those generous gifts of sunshine and of rain.
But so it is. It is a well-known fact that the lady who will give
her order three months in advance for the flowers needed for her
daughter's wedding, or for any other grand ceremonial, can, by
offering a sufficiently large amount of money, command any flower
she wishes. Even daisies and buttercups, red clover and white, the
delicate forget-me-not of the garden, nasturtiums and marigolds, the
shy and tender anemone, the dandelion and lilacs and lilies-of-the-
valley, may be forced into unnatural bloom in January. It is a
favorite caprice to put the field-flowers of June on a lunch-table
This particular table is the greatest of all the consumers of
flowers, therefore we may begin by describing some of the new
fancies developed by that extraordinarily luxurious meal. A lady's
lunch must show not only baskets of magnificent flowers up and down
the table; but it must also bear a basket or a bouquet for each
One of the most regal lunches, given to twenty-eight ladies, set the
fashion for using little gilt baskets, with covers opening on either
side of the handle--the kind of basket, of a larger size, in which,
in New England and in Old England, Dame Trot carried her
multifarious parcels home from market. These pretty and useful
baskets had on each side a bunch of flowers peeping out through the
open cover, and on the gilt handle was tied a ribbon corresponding
in color to the flowers. One of them, having soft pink rosebuds of
exceeding size and loveliness on one side and a bunch of lilies-of-
the-valley on the other, with a bow of pink satin ribbon on the
handle, was as pretty a picture as ever Kate Greenaway devised.
Another, showing the strong contrast of purple pansies and yellow
daffodils, and tied with a lovely purple satin ribbon, was a dream
of rich color.
The stiff, formal, flat bouquets of yellow daffodils and bunches of
violets, tied with purple ribbon, make a very fine effect laid in
regular order at each plate. Repetition of a favorite idea in
flowers is not ugly, although it seems at first very far from the
primeval and delicious confusion in which nature throws her bouquets
down upon upland and meadow.
In the arrangement of roses the most varied and whimsical fancies
may be displayed, although the most gorgeous effect is produced,
perhaps, by massing a single color or group. A basket of the pink
Gloire de Paris, however, with its redundant green foliage,
alternated with deep-red Jacqueminots, is a very splendid fancy, and
will fill a room with fragrance. In February these roses cost two
dollars apiece, and it was no rare sight to see four or six baskets,
each containing forty roses, on one table during the winter of 1884.
We advise all ladies going into the country to purchase some of the
little "Dame Trot" baskets, as they will be lovely when filled with
wild-flowers during the summer. Indeed, the gilt basket, fitted with
a tin pan to hold earth or water, is such a cheap and pretty
receptacle for either growing or cut flowers that it ought to be a
belonging of every dinner-table.
From the lunch-table, with its baskets and floral fancies, we come
to the dinner-table. Here the space is so valuable that the floral
bag, an ingenious plan by which roses may be hung at the side of the
wearer, has been invented. This is a novel and very pretty way of
wearing flowers. The roses or other flowers are tied together with
wires, in the shape of a reticule, and a ribbon and pin provided, so
that the lady may fasten her floral trophy at her side. The baskets
of flowers and the adornments of the _,pergne_ for a dinner are very
apt to be all of one flower. If mixed, they are of two sorts, as
yellow roses and red ones, or white and pink, or, may be, half of
lilacs and half of roses, or purple pansies and bright yellow
flowers. Some tables are set with scarlet carnations alone, and the
effect is very fine.
For wedding decorations, houses are now filled with palm-trees in
pots and orange-trees in full bearing. An entire suite of rooms is
made into a bower of large-leaved plants. Mirrors are covered with
vines, wreaths, and climbing roses, trained across a trellis of
wire. The bride stands under a floral umbrella, which juts out into
the room. The monograms of bride and bridegroom are put in floral
shields against the wall, like the _cartouche_ on which the names
and the titles of an Egyptian king are emblazoned in the solitude of
the Pyramids. The bouquets carried by brides and bridesmaids are now
extraordinarily large, measuring a foot or more across the top.
Tulips have always been favorite ornaments for the dinner-table.
These flowers, so fine in drawing and so splendid in color, produce
an extremely brilliant effect in large masses. As Easter approaches,
lilies come in for especial notice, and the deep Japan cup-lily,
grouped with the stately callas, and the garden-lily, with its long
yellow stamens and rich perfume, worthily fill the _,pergnes_.
Hyacinths are lovely harbingers of spring, and are beautiful in
color; but there is a strong objection to this flower as a
decoration, its heavy perfume being unpleasant to some people.
A fish-basket filled with bunches of lilies, mignonette, deep pink
moss-roses shaded to the pale tints of the rose known as the
Baroness de Rothschild, with a glowing centre of warm red
Jacqueminots and a fringe of purple pansies and Mar,chal Niels, was
one of many beautiful floral ornaments on a magnificent dinner-
In spite of the attempt to prevent the extravagant use of flowers at
funerals, we still see on those sad occasions some new and rather
poetic ideas expressed by floral emblems. One of these, called the
"Gates Ajar," was very beautiful: the "gates" panelled with lilies,
and surmounted by doves holding sprays of passion-vines in their
Palms crossed, and clasped by roses and ribbons, an oblique cross of
roses lying on a bed of ivy, a basket made of ivy and autumn leaves,
holding a sheaf of grain and a sickle of violets, an ivy pillow with
a cross of flowers on one side, a bunch of pansies held by a knot of
ribbon at one corner, a cross made of ivy alone, a "harvest-field"
made of ears of wheat, are some of the many new funereal designs
which break the monotony of the dreadful white crosses, crowns, and
anchors, hearts and wreaths, of the past.
It is no longer necessary to exclude color from these tributes to
the dead. Indeed, some of the most beautiful designs noticed at
recent funerals have been composed of colored flowers.
For a christening, a floral cradle or swinging hammock, a bowl, a
silver cup full of the tiniest flowers, are all favorite designs. A
large table of flowers, with the baby's initials in the centre, was
sent to one happy young mother on a recent auspicious occasion; and
far more lovely was a manger of flowers, with the "Star of the East"
hanging above it, all made of that pretty white flower the Star of
Strange contrasts of flowers have been made: purple lilacs and the
blue forget-me-nots were a favorite combination--"stylish, not
pretty," was the whispered criticism.
The yellow marigold, a sort of small sunflower, has been the
favorite "caprice" for _bouquets de corsage_. This is as near to an
actual sunflower as the aesthetes have ventured to approach. With
us, perhaps, there is no more splendid yellow than this marigold,
and it admirably sets off a black or sage green dress.
An extravagant lady, at a ball, wore around her white dress skirt a
fringe of real violets. Although less effective than the artificial
ones, they had a pretty appearance until they drooped and faded.
This adornment cost one hundred and fifty dollars.
A rainbow has been attempted in flowers, but with poor success. It
will look like a ribbon--a very handsome ribbon, no doubt; but the
_arc-en-ciel_ evades reproduction, even in the transcendent
prismatic colors of flowers.
Ribbons have been used with flowers, and add much to their effect;
for, since the Arcadian days of Rosalind and Celia, a flower, a
ribbon, and a pretty girl, have been associated with each other in
prose, poetry, painting, and romance.
The hanging-baskets, filled with blooming plants, trailers, and
ferns, have been much used at weddings to add to the bower-like
appearance of the rooms; and altars and steps of churches have been
richly adorned with flowering plants and palm-trees and other
The prices paid for flowers have been enormous. One thousand dollars
for the floral decorations for a single dinner has not been an
uncommon price. But the expenditure of such large sums for flowers
has not been unprofitable. The flowers grow finer every day, and, as
an enterprising florist, who had given a "rose tea" to his patrons,
remarked, "Every large order inspires us to produce a finer flower."
CHAPTER XLIII. THE FORK AND THE SPOON.
A correspondent writes, "How shall I carry my fork to my mouth?" The
fork should be raised laterally to the mouth with the right hand;
the elbow should never be crooked, so as to bring the hand round at
a right angle, or the fork directly opposite the mouth. The mother
cannot begin too early to inculcate good manners at the table, and
among the first things that young children should learn is the
proper use of the fork.
Again, the fork should not be overloaded. To take meat and
vegetables and pack them on the poor fork, as if it were a beast of
burden, is a common American vulgarity, born of our hurried way of
eating at railway-stations and hotels. But it is an unhealthy and an
ill-mannered habit. To take but little on the fork at a time, a
moderate mouthful, shows good manners and refinement. The knife must
never be put into the mouth at any time--that is a remnant of
Another correspondent asks, "Should cheese be eaten with a fork?" We
say, decidedly, "Yes," although good authorities declare that it may
be put on a morsel of bread with a knife, and thus conveyed to the
mouth. Of course we refer to the soft cheeses--like Gorgonzola,
Brie, cream-cheese, Neufchatel, Limburger, and the like--which are
hardly more manageable than butter. Of the hard cheeses, one may
convey a morsel to the month with the thumb and forefinger; but, as
a general rule, it is better to use the fork.
Now as to the spoon: it is to be used for soup, for strawberries and
cream, for all stewed fruit and preserves, and for melons, which,
from their juiciness, cannot be conveniently eaten with a fork.
Peaches and cream, all the "wet dishes," as Mrs. Glasse was wont to
call them, must be eaten with a spoon. Roman punch is always eaten
with a spoon.
On elegant tables, each plate or "cover" is accompanied by two large
silver knives, a small silver knife and fork for fish, a small fork
for the oysters on the half-shell, a large table-spoon for soup, and
three large forks. The napkin is folded in the centre, with a piece
of bread in it. As the dinner progresses, the knife and fork and
spoon which have been used are taken away with the plate. This saves
confusion, and the servant has not to bring fresh knives and forks
all the time. Fish should be eaten with silver knife and fork; for
if it is full of bones, like shad, for instance, it is very
difficult to manage it without the aid of a knife.
For sweetbreads, cutlets, roast beef, etc., the knife is also
necessary; but for the _croquettes_, _rissoles_, _bouch,es ... la
Reine_, _timbales_, and dishes of that class, the fork alone is
needed. A majority of the made dishes in which the French excel are
to be eaten with the fork.
After the dinner has been eaten, and the dessert reached, we must
see to it that everything is cleared off but the table-cloth, which
is now never removed. A dessert-plate is put before each guest, and
a gold or silver spoon, a silver dessert spoon and fork, and often a
queer little combination of fork and spoon, called an "ice-spoon."
In England, strawberries are always served with the green stems, and
each one is taken up with the fingers, dipped in sugar, and thus
eaten. Many foreigners pour wine over their strawberries, and then
eat them with a fork, but this seems to be detrimental to the
natural flavor of the king of berries.
Pears and apples should be peeled with a silver knife, cut into
quarters, and then picked up with the fingers. Oranges should be
peeled, and cut or separated, as the eater chooses. Grapes should be
eaten from behind the half-closed hand, the stones and skin falling
into the fingers unobserved, and thence to the plate. Never swallow
the stones of small fruits; it is extremely dangerous. The pineapple
is almost the only fruit which requires both knife and fork.
So much has the fork come into use of late that a wit observed that
he took everything with it but afternoon tea. The thick chocolate,
he observed, often served at afternoon entertainments, could be
eaten comfortably with a fork, particularly the whipped cream on top
A knife and fork are both used in eating salad, if it is not cut up
before serving. A large lettuce leaf cannot be easily managed
without a knife, and of course the fork must be used to carry it to
the mouth. Thus, as bread, butter, and cheese are served with the
salad, the salad knife and fork are really essential. Salt-cellars
are now placed at each plate, and it is not improper to take salt
with your knife.
Dessert-spoons and small forks do not form a part of the original
"cover;" that is, they are not put on at the beginning of the
dinner, but are placed before the guests according as they are
needed; as, for instance, when the Roman punch arrives before the
game, and afterwards when the plum-pudding or pastry is served
before the ices.
The knives and forks are placed on each side of the plate, ready for
For the coffee after dinner a very small spoon is served, as a large
one would be out of place in the small cups that are used. Indeed,
the variety of forks and spoons now in use on a well-furnished table
One of our esteemed correspondents asks, "How much soup should be
given to each person?" A half-ladleful is quite enough, unless it is
a country dinner, where a full ladleful may be given without
offence; but do not fill the soup-plate.
In carving a joint of fowl the host ought to make sure of the
condition of both knife and fork. Of course a good carver sees to
both before dinner. The knife should be of the best cutlery, well
sharpened, and the fork long, strong, and furnished with a guard.
In using the spoon be very careful not to put it too far into the
mouth. It is a fashion with children to polish their spoons in a
somewhat savage fashion, but the guest at a dinner-party should
remember, in the matter of the dessert-spoon especially (which is a
rather large implement for the mouth), not to allow even the
clogging influences of cabinet pudding to induce him to give his
spoon too much leeway; as in all etiquette of the table, the spoon
has its difficulties and dangers. Particularly has the soup-spoon
its Scylla and Charybdis, and if a careless eater make a hissing
sound as he eats his soup, the well-bred diner-out looks round with
There are always people happy in their fashion of eating, as in
everything else. There is no such infallible proof of good-breeding
and of early usage as the conduct of a man or woman at dinner. But,
as every one has not had the advantage of early training, it is well
to study these minute points of table etiquette, that one may learn
how to eat without offending the sensibility of the well-bred.
Especially study the fork and the spoon. There is, no doubt, a great
diversity of opinion on the Continent with regard to the fork. It is
a common German fashion, even with princes, to put the knife into
the month. Italians are not always particular as to its use, and
cultivated Russians, Swedes, Poles, and Danes often eat with their
knives or forks indiscriminately.
But Austria, which follows French fashions, the Anglo-Saxon race in
England, America, and the colonies, all French people, and those
elegant Russians who emulate French manners, deem the fork the
proper medium of communication between the plate and the mouth.
CHAPTER XLIV. NAPKINS AND TABLE-CLOTHS.
The elegance of a table depends essentially upon its napery. The
plainest of meals is made a banquet if the linen be fresh, fine, and
smooth, and the most sumptuous repast can be ruined by a soiled and
crumpled table-cloth. The housewife who wishes to conduct her house
in elegance must make up her mind to use five or six sets of
napkins, and to have several dozens of each ready for possible
A napkin should never be put on the table a second time until it has
been rewashed; therefore, napkin-rings should be abandoned--
relegated to the nursery tea-table.
Breakfast napkins are of a smaller size than dinner napkins, and are
very pretty if they bear the initial letter of the family in the
centre. Those of fine, double damask, with a simple design, such as
a snow-drop or a mathematical figure, to match the table-cloth, are
also pretty. In the end, the economy in the wear pays a young house-
keeper to invest well in the best of napery--double damask, good
Irish linen. Never buy poor or cheap napkins; they are worn out
almost immediately by washing.
Coarse, heavy napkins are perhaps proper for the nursery and
children's table. If children dine with their parents, they should
have a special set of napkins for their use, and some very careful
mammas make these with tapes to tie around the youthful necks. It is
better in a large family, where there are children, to have heavy
and coarse table-linen for every-day use. It is not an economy to
buy colored cloths, for they must be washed as often as if they were
white, and no color stands the hard usage of the laundry as well as
Colored napery is, therefore, the luxury of a well-appointed country
house, and has its use in making the breakfast and luncheon table
look a little unlike the dinner. Never use a parti-colored damask
for the dinner-table.
Those breakfast cloths of pink, or yellow, or light-blue and white,
or drab, are very pretty with napkins to match; but after having
been washed a few times they become very dull in tint, and are not
as agreeable to the eye as white, which grows whiter with every
summer's bleaching. Ladies who live in the city should try to send
all their napery to the country at least once a year, and let it lie
on the grass for a good bleaching. It seems to keep cleaner
For dinner, large and handsome napkins, carefully ironed and folded
simply, with a piece of bread inside, should lie at each plate.
These should be removed when the fruit course is brought, and with
each finger-bowl should be a colored napkin, with which to dry the
Pretty little fanciful doyleys are now also put under the finger-
bowl, merely to be looked at. Embroidered with quaint designs, these
little three-inch things are very ornamental; but the real and
serviceable doyley should not be forgotten, and may be laid either
beside or over the top of the finger-bowl.
Many ladies are so extravagant that they have a second napkin of
small size put on for that part of the dessert which precedes the
fruit, but this involves so much trouble to both the guest and the
waiter that it is not ordinarily done.
The napkins made at Berlin, with drawn thread and knotted fringe and
lace effects, are very handsome. They are also made at the South
Kensington schools, and in Paris, and by the Decorative Art Society
in New York, and are beautifully wrought with monogram and crest in
red, white, and blue thread. But no napkin is ever more thoroughly
elegant than the very thick, fine, and substantial plain damask,
which becomes more pure and smooth every time that it is cleansed.
However, as one of our great dinner-givers in New York has ordered
twenty-four dozen of the handsome, drawn-thread napkins from one
establishment at Berlin, we must conclude that they will become the
When breakfast is made a formal meal--that is, when company is
invited to come at a stated hour-_-serviettes_, or large dinner-
napkins, must be placed at each plate, as for a dinner. But they are
never used at a "stand-up" breakfast, nor are doyleys or finger-
If any accident happens, such as the spilling of a glass of wine or
the upsetting of a plate, the _d,bris_ should be carefully cleared
away, and the waiter should spread a clean napkin over the
desecrated table-cloth. Large, white napkins are invariably used at
luncheon, and the smaller ones kept for breakfast and tea. Some
ladies like the little, fringed napkins for tea, but to look well
these must be very carefully washed and ironed.
Never fasten your napkin around your neck; lay it across your knees,
convenient to the hand, and lift one corner only to wipe the mouth.
Men who wear a mustache are permitted to "saw" the mouth with the
napkin, as if it were a bearing-rein, but for ladies this would look
Napkins at hotels are now folded, in a half-wet condition, into all
sorts of shapes: a goose, a swan, a ship, a high boot, are all
favorite and fanciful designs; but this is a dirty fashion,
requiring the manipulation of hands which are not always fresh, and
as the napkin must be damp at the folding, it is not always dry when
shaken out. Nothing is so unhealthy as a damp napkin; it causes
agony to a delicate and nervous lady, a man with the rose-cold, a
person with neuralgia or rheumatism, and is offensive to every one.
Never allow a napkin to be placed on the table until it has been
well aired. There is often a conspiracy between the waiter and the
laundress in great houses, both wishing to shirk work, the result of
which is that the napkins, not prepared at the proper time, are put
on the table damp.
A house-keeper should have a large chest to contain napery which is
not to be used every day. This reserved linen should be washed and
aired once a year at least, to keep it from moulding and becoming
Our Dutch ancestors were very fond of enriching a chest of this
kind, and many housewives in New York and Albany are to-day using
linen brought from Holland three hundred years ago.
The napery made in Ireland has, however, in our day taken the place
of that manufactured in other countries. It is good, cheap, and
sometimes very handsome, and if it can be bought unadulterated with
cotton it will last many years.
Very little starch should be put in napkins. No one wishes to wipe a
delicate lip on a board, and a stiff napkin is very like that
At dinner-parties in England, in the days of William the Fourth, a
napkin was handed with each plate. As the guest took his plate and
new napkin, he allowed the one which he had used to fall to the
floor, and when he went away from the table he left a snowy pile of
napery behind him.
The use of linen for the table is one of the oldest of fashions, The
early Italian tables were served with such beautiful lace-worked
napkins that we cannot equal them to-day. Queen Elizabeth's napkins
were edged with lace made in Flanders, and were an important item of
expense in her day-book.
Fringed, embroidered, and colored napkins made of silk are used by
Chinese and Japanese magnates. These articles may be washed, and are
restored to their original purity by detergent agents that are
unknown to us. The Chinese also use little napkins of paper, which
are very convenient for luncheon baskets and picnics.
One of our correspondents asks us if she should fold her napkin
before leaving the table. At a fashionable meal, no. At a social tea
or breakfast, yes, if her hostess does so. There is no absolute law
on this subject.
At a fashionable dinner no one folds his napkin. He lets it drop to
the floor, or lays it by the side of his plate unfolded. When the
fruit napkin is brought he takes it from the glass plate on which it
is laid, and either places it at his right hand or across his knee,
and the "illuminated rag," as some wit called the little embroidered
doyley, which is not meant for use, is, after having been examined
and admired, laid on the table, beside the finger-bowl. These pretty
little trifles can serve several times the purpose of ornamenting
Napkins, when laid away in a chest or drawer, should have some
pleasant, cleanly herb like lavender or sweet-grass, or the old-
fashioned clover, or bags of Oriental orris-root, put between them,
that they may come to the table smelling of these delicious scents.
Nothing is more certain to destroy the appetite of a nervous
dyspeptic than a napkin that smells of greasy soap. There is a
laundry soap now in use which leaves a very unpleasant odor in the
linen, and napkins often smell so strongly of it as to take away the
desire for food.
Perhaps the influence of Delmonico upon the public has been in
nothing more strongly shown than in the effect produced by his
always immaculate napery. It was not common in American eating-
houses, when he began, to offer clean table-cloths and clean
napkins. Now no decent diner will submit to any other than a clean
napkin. Every lady, therefore, who aspires to elegant housekeeping,
should remember that she must never allow the same napkin to be put
on her table twice. Once used, it must be sent to the laundry before
it is put on the table again.
CHAPTER XLV. SERVANTS, THEIR DRESS AND DUTIES.
As we read that a West Point hotel-keeper has recently dismissed all
his waiters who would not shave off their mustaches, we must begin
to believe that the heretofore heedless American is considering the
appearance of his house and carriage-servants. In the early days of
the republic, before Thomas Jefferson tied his horse's rein to the
palings of the fence and sauntered into the Capitol to be
inaugurated, the aristocrats of the various cities had a livery for
their servants. But after such a dash of cold water in the face of
established usage by the Chief Magistrate of the Country, many of
the old forms and customs of Colonial times fell into disuse, and
among others the wearing of a livery by serving-men. A constantly
declining grade of shabbiness was the result of this, as the driver
of the horses wore a coat and hat of the same style as his master,
only less clean and new. Like many of our American ideas so good in
theory, the outcome of this attempt at "Liberty, Equality, and
Fraternity," was neither conducive to neatness nor elegance.
But so strongly was the prejudice against liveries instilled into
the public mind that only seven years ago a gentleman of the most
aristocratic circle of aristocratic Philadelphia declared that he
refrained from having a liveried servant behind his carriage from
fear of shocking public opinion. In New York the presence of a
large, foreign, social element long ago brought about a revulsion of
opinion in this matter, and now most persons who desire a neat,
plain, and appropriate style of dress for their coachmen and footmen
put them in a livery, for which the master pays. Those who are
particular in such matters do not allow a waiter or a footman to
wear a mustache, and require all men-servants to be clean-shaven,
except the coachman, who is permitted to wear whiskers. Each must
have his hair cut short, and the waiter must wear white gloves while
waiting at table or when handing refreshments; even a glass of water
on a silver salver must be brought with a gloved hand.
Many ladies have much trouble in impressing upon their men-servants
the necessity for personal neatness. The ordinary attire of a butler
is a black dress-coat, with white cravat and white cotton gloves. A
waiter who attends the door in a large establishment, and who is one
of many servants, is usually in a quiet livery--a frock-coat with
brass buttons, and a striped waistcoat. Some families affect the
scarlet waistcoat for their footman, which, indeed, may be used with
very good effect for the negro servant.
Neatness is indispensable; a slovenly and inattentive servant
betrays a slovenly household. Yet servants often do their employers
great injustice. They are slow to respond to the bell, they give
uncivil answers, they deny one person and admit another, they fail
to deliver notes, they are insolent, they neglect the orders of the
mistress when she is out. We cannot expect perfection in our
domestic service, but it is possible, by painstaking and patient
teaching, to create a respectable and helpful serving class.
Servants are very apt to take their tone from their employers--to be
civil if they are civil, and insolent if they are insolent. The head
of the house is very apt to be copied by his flunkies. One primal
law we must mention--a hostess should never reprove her servants in
the presence of her guests; it is cruel both to guest and servant,
and always shows the hostess in an unamiable light. Whatever may go
wrong, the lady of the house should remain calm; if she is
anguished, who can be happy?
We have not here, nominally, that helpful treasure known in England
as the parlor-maid. We call her a waitress, and expect her to do all
the work of one floor. Such a person can be trained by a good
housekeeper to be a most admirable servant. She must be told to rise
early, to attend to the sweeping of the door-steps, to open the
blinds, to light the fires, and to lay the breakfast-table. She must
appear in a neat calico dress, white apron and cap, and wait upon
the family at breakfast. After breakfast, the gentlemen will expect
her to brush their hats, to bring overcoats and overshoes, and to
find the umbrellas. She must answer the door-bell as well, so should
be nimble-footed and quick-witted. When breakfast is over, she must
remove the dishes and wash them, clean the silver, and prepare for
the next meal. In well-regulated households there is a day for
sweeping, a day for silver cleaning, a clay for mirror-polishing,
and another for making bright and neat the fireplaces; but each one
of these duties requires a certain share of attention every day. The
parlor must be dusted, and the fires attended to, of course, so the
parlor-maid, or the waitress, in a large family has much to do. The
best girls for this arduous situation are English, but they are very
difficult to procure. The Germans are not apt to remain long with
one family. The best available parlor-maids are Irishwomen who have
lived some time in this country.
A servant often sins from ignorance, therefore time spent in
teaching her is not wasted. She should be supplied with such
utensils as facilitate work, and one very good house-keeper declares
that the virtue of a waitress depends upon an infinity of crash. And
there is no doubt that a large supply of towels is a constant
suggestion of cleanliness that is a great moral support to a
In these days, when parlors are filled with bric-...-brac, a parlor-
maid has no time to do laundry-work, except such part of it as may
pertain to her personally. The best of all arrangements is to hire a
laundress, who will do all the washing of the house. Even in a very
economical household this has been found to be the best plan,
otherwise there is always an unexplained delay when the bell rings.
The appearance at the door of a dishevelled maid, with arms covered
with soapsuds, is not ornamental. If a cook can be found who will
also undertake to do the washing and ironing, it is a better and
more satisfactory arrangement. But in our growing prosperity this
functionary has assumed new and extraordinary importance, and will
do nothing but cook.
A young house-keeper beginning her life in a great city finds
herself frequently confronted with the necessity of having four
servants--a cook, a laundress, a waiter or parlor-maid (sometimes
both), and a chamber-maid. None of these excellent auxiliaries is
willing to do the other's work: they generally quarrel. So the first
experience of house-keeping is not agreeable. But it is possible to
find two servants who, if properly trained, will do all the service
of a small family, and do it well.
The mistress must carefully define the work of each, or else hire
them with the understanding that neither shall ever say, "This is
not my work." It is sometimes quite impossible to define what is the
exact duty of each servant. Our house-keeping in this country is so
chaotic, and our frequent changes of house and fortune cause it to
partake so much of the nature of a provisional government, that
every woman must be a Louis Napoleon, and ready for a _coup d',tat_
at any moment.
The one thing which every lady must firmly demand from her servants
is respect. The harassed and troubled American woman who has to cope
with the worst servants in the world--the ill-trained, incapable,
and vicious peasantry of Europe, who come here to be "as good as
anybody," and who see that it is easily possible to make a living in
America whether they are respectful or not--that woman has a very
arduous task to perform.
But she must gain at least outward respect by insisting upon having
it, and by showing her servants that she regards it as even a
greater desideratum than the efficient discharge of duties. The
mistress must not lose her temper. She must be calm, imperturbable,
and dignified, always. If she gives an order, she must insist, at
whatever personal cost, that it shall be obeyed. Pertinacity and
inflexibility on this point are well bestowed.
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