It is well-nigh impossible to indicate exactly the size of a visiting card… A card measuring two and five-eighths inches in lenght by one and seven-eightths inches in width is the smallest card that can be carried with dignity. A very small card appears childish and affected if carried by a woman over eighteen… The perfect card shows no decoration of any kind whatsoever.
I thought I would include an image of the two volume set, Correct Social Usage from 1906:
I intended to excerpt a quote from the following passage, but found it all so interesting that I just decided to post the whole thing. This is a run down of what to expect if visiting a house of means “across the water,” in 1906. It is meant to illustrate what the authors of the book deemed acceptable behavior in such a situation, both of hosts and guests:
On your arrival you are shown to your room and are left alone until you have had a little rest from your journey, if there is time enough, before dressing to appear from the luncheon or dinner, as the case may be, according to the hour of your arrival. A servant appears at your door to know if you have need of any service. When dressed you descend to the drawing or living room of the family to await the announcement of the meal. You are escorted to the dining-room by the host, or if there are no gentlemen in the house, your hostess leads the way. After chatting a short time after luncheon you again go to your room for a siesta before preparing for a drive or stroll, generally starting at 4 o’clock with some member or members of the family. The drive or walk ordinarily terminates by half-past 5 o’clock.
On returning, tea is served on a low table upon which a tray the the necessary appurtenances is placed, the hostess making and pouring the tea. After Tea drinking you go to your room to dress for dinner – an occasion for everyone in the house to appear and join heartily in the conversation and merriment that should always accompany a good dinner.
After adjournment to the drawing room or library, cards, music and bright conversation are supposed to finish the evening. You retire to your room, but may read, write, or got to bed at any hour that pleases you.
In the morning, the servants, with hot water for your bath, put in an appearance at the proper hour for you to rise, bringing always a cup of coffee or tea, you having been requested the evening before to signify your preference. You can have your breakfast in bed, at a later hour, if you wish. If you descend to the dining room you will find a table upon which is arranged bread, butter, fruit, and “cold joints.” Your host and hostess may or may not be there. The butler or maid brings you eggs, coffee or tea, and you help yourself to whatever you want.
After breakfast, unless some expedition has been arranged the night before, you amuse yourself in any way you like.
What I found most fascinating about this passage is that I can think of at least a dozen period dramas that show most or all of the above, from Jane Austen adaptations to Gosford Park.
P.S. I haven’t proof read the above, so sorry for any typos. I’m sure there are some.
Some people are so very constituted that to meet people of whom they have never heard, and therefore know nothing, detracts from their enjoyment. Such people are to be pitied, for they lose the pleasure of rubbing up against different mentalities; at the same time, while they are our guests we are in duty bound to respect their idiosyncrasies. We have no right to invite people and then make them unhappy or even uncomfortable.
Of course it would be very ill-bred for one at such a supper where all were drinking beer to declare his preference for champagne.
Good manners mark the gentleman. Good Manners indicate the lady.
The rudness which jostles, the selfishness which jars, whether against people or principles or opinions, are the first things ruled out and labeled ‘bad manners’ when society formultes a code.
From Our Deportment, 1881, by John H. Young; on courtship and engagements:
It is the prerogative of a man to propose and of a woman to accept or refuse, and a lady of tact and kind heart will exercise her prerogative before her her suitor is brought to the humiliation of an offer which must result in a refusal.
This reminded me (as do an inordinate number of unrelated things) of North & South (BBC), particularly the proposal scene.
[In which Margaret Hale shows her innate snobbishness in her refusal of Mr. Thornton: “I suppose I should expect no less from someone in trade.”]
Later in this section, the author advises:
A man does not like to be refused when he makes a proposal, and no man of tact will risk a refusal… A young man of sensibilities, who can take a hint when it is offered him, need not run the risk of a refusal.
[Poor Mr. Thornton didn’t pick up the hint in time.]
And so they lived unhappily for several more chapters/scenes…
The screencaps are mine, by the way. I use VLC snap, but I’m not proficient, so they may be a bit blurry. ~TDV
A gentleman who does not contemplate matrimony should not pay too exclusive attention to any one lady.
Politeness is benevolence in small things.
In the Victorian and Edwardian eras, there was a “secret code” in sending flowers. The arrangement and choice of flowers could suggest a sentiment to the recipient. In Correct Social Usage, I found the following bouquets with their secret meanings:
…a man may tastefully arange a handful of pansies around a fragrant full-blown white rose and then add to his posy a moss rosebud. To the lady receiving these flowers the pansies will say, “You occupy my thoughts;” the white rose, “I am worthy of you;” the moss-rosebud, “I now confess my love.” If the lady is willing to encourage her lover to speak more plainly, she may send him a bunch of daisies. Wild daisies will tell him, “I will think of it,” but garden disies, grown less shy, will say, “I share your sentiments.”
But what if the gentleman is rejected? He sends purple hyacinths, yellow chrysanthemums and jasimine to express, “Slighted love, separation, deep sorrow.”
For a letter, timely writ, is a rivet to the chain of affection;
And a letter, untimely delayed, is as rust to the solder.
The pen, flowing in love, or dipped black in hate,
Or tipped with delicate courtesies, or harshly edged with censure,
Ht quickened more good than the sun, more evil than the sword,
More joy than woman’s smile, more woe than frowning Fortune.
And shouldst thou ask my judgment of that which hath most profit in the world,
For answer thake thou this, the prudent penning of a letter
"At formal dinners the hostess, after the fruit has been served, glances significantly at the lady seated at the host’s right hand and rises. This signal, whereat the ladies retire tot he drawing-room, is only to be given when the hostess has assured herself that her guests have quite completed their meal. As the ladies rise, the gentlemen leave their chairs and stand until the feminine guests have quitted the room…After the cigars and coffee have been enjoyed, the host puts the motion for the gentlemen to join the ladies and leads the way. "
~From Correct Social Usage, 1906
The man or woman who in a busy street runs after a friend, or tries to attract the attention of an acquaintance by calling aloud, waving, gesticulating, or making faces, who greets relatives with hearty kisses and announces his or her intentions and opinions in a loud tone, betrays a lamentable ignorance of all the rules for good behavior in public.