Dining Room— A-D

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avoid cutting

No gentleman will refuse to recognize a lady after she has recognized him, under any circumstances. A young lady should, under no provocation, “cut” a married lady. It is the privilege of age to first recognize those who are younger in years. No young man will fail to recognize an aged one after he has met with recognition. “Cutting” is to be avoided if possible. There are other ways of convincing a man that you do not know him, yet, to young ladies, it is sometimes the only means available to rid them of troublesome acquaintances. “Cutting” consists in returning a bow or recognition with a stare, and is publicly ignoring the acquaintance of the person so treated. It is sometimes done by words in saying, “Really I have not the pleasure of your acquaintance.”

our deportment, published 1882, p. 154


bowing during public promenades

Bowing once to a person upon a public promenade or drive is all that civility requires. If the person is a friend, it is in better form, the second and subsequent passings, should you catch his or her eye, to smile slightly instead of bowing repeatedly. If an, acquaintance, it is best to avert the eyes.

our deportment, published 1882, p. 48

bowing to strangers with friends

If a gentleman meets a friend, and the latter has a. stranger with him, all three should bow. If the gentleman stops his friend to speak to him, he should apologize to the stranger for detaining him. If the stranger is a lady, the same deference should be shown as if she were an acquaintance.

our deportment, published 1882, p. 148


calls, see visits or calls

carriages— where to sit

The choicest seat in a double carriage is the one facing the horses, and gentlemen should always yield this seat to the ladies. If only one gentleman and one lady are riding in a two-seated carriage, the gentleman must sit opposite the lady, unless she invites him to a seat by her side. The place of honor is on the right hand of the seat facing the horses. This is also the seat of the hostess, which she never resigns. If she is not driving, it must be offered to the most distinguished lady. A person should enter a carriage with the back to the seat, so as to prevent turning round in the carriage. A gentleman must be careful not to trample upon or crush a lady’s dress. In driving, one should always remember that the rule of the road in meeting and passing another vehicle is to keep to the right.

our deportment, published 1882, p. 177

conversations— cultivating the mind

Your conversation can never be worth listening to unless you cultivate your mind. To talk well you must read much. A little knowledge on many subjects is soon acquired by diligent reading. One does not wish to hear a lady talk politics nor a smattering of science; but she should be able to understand and listen with interest when politics are discussed, and to appreciate, in some degree, the conversation of scientific men.

Decorum, published 1883, p. 60

conversations— impertinent questions

Never ask impertinent questions. Some authorities in etiquette even go so far as to say that all questions are strictly tabooed. Thus, if you wished to inquire after the health of the brother of your friend, you would say, “I hope your brother is well,” not, “How is your brother’s health?”

our deportment, published 1882, p. 99

conversations— to people of their own affairs

Remember that people take more interest in their own affairs than in anything else which you can name. If you wish your conversation to be thoroughly agreeable, lead a mother to talk of her children, a young lady of her last ball, an author of his forthcoming book, or an artist of his exhibition picture. Having furnished the topic, you need only listen; and you are sure to be thought not only agreeable, but thoroughly sensible and well-informed.

Decorum, published 1883, p. 56

conversations— slang

Remember that all “slang” is vulgar. It has become of late unfortunately prevalent, and we have known even ladies pride themselves on the saucy chique with which they adopt certain cant phrases of the day. Such habits cannot be too severely reprehended. They lower the tone of society and the standard of thought. It is a great mistake to suppose that slang is in any way a substitute for wit.

Decorum, published 1883, p. 57

conversation— subjects to be avoided

In talking with ladies of ordinary education, avoid political, scientific, or commercial topics, and choose only such subjects as are likely to be of interest to them.

Decorum, published 1883, p. 55


dinner— general rules for eating

When the plate of each course is set before you, with the knife and fork upon it, remove the knife and fork at once. This matter should be carefully attended to, as the serving of an entire course is delayed by neglecting to remove them.

Greediness should not be indulged in. Indecision must be avoided. Do not take up one piece and lay it down in favor of another, or hesitate.

Never allow the servant, or the one who pours, to fill your glass with wine that you do not wish to drink. You can check him by touching the rim of your glass.

Cheese is eaten with a fork and not with a knife.

If you have occasion to speak to a servant, wait until you can catch his eye, and then ask in a low tone for what you want.

The mouth should always be kept closed in eating, and both eating and drinking should be noiseless.

Bread is broken at dinner. Vegetables are eaten with a fork.

Asparagus can be taken up with the fingers, if preferred. Olives and artichokes are always so eaten. Fruit is eaten with silver knives and forks.

You are at liberty to refuse a dish that you do not wish to eat. If any course is set down before you that you do not wish, do not touch it. Never play with food, nor mince your bread, nor handle the glass and silver near you unnecessarily.

Never reprove a waiter for negligence or improper conduct; that is the business of the host.

When a dish is offered you, accept or refuse at once, and allow the waiter to pass on. A gentleman will see that the lady whom he has escorted to the table is helped to all she wishes, but it is officiousness to offer to help other ladies who have escorts.

If the guests pass the dishes to one another, instead of being helped by a servant, you should always help yourself from the dish, if you desire it at all, before passing it on to the next.

A knife should never, on any account, be put into the mouth. Many people, even well-bred in other respects, seem to regard this as an unnecessary regulation; but when we consider that it is a rule of etiquette, and that its violation causes surprise and disgust to many people, it is wisest to observe it.

Be careful to remove the bones from fish before eating. If a bone inadvertently should get into the mouth, the lips must be covered with the napkin in removing it. Cherry stones and grape skins should be removed from the mouth as unobtrusively as possible, and deposited on the side of the plate.

Never use a napkin in place of a handkerchief for wiping the forehead, face or nose.

Pastry should be eaten with a fork. Everything that can be cut without a knife should be eaten with the fork alone. Pudding may be eaten with a fork or spoon.

Never lay your hand, or play with your fingers, upon the table. Do not toy with your knife, fork or spoon, make crumbs of your bread, or draw imaginary lines upon the table cloth.

Never bite fruit. An apple, peach or pear should be peeled with a knife, and all fruit should be broken or cut.

our deportment, published 1882, p. 115-117

dinner— praising dishes

A hostess should not express pride regarding what is on her table, nor make apologies if everything she offers you is not to her satisfaction. It is much better that she should observe silence in this respect, and allow her guests to eulogize her dinner or not, as they deem proper. Neither is it in good taste to urge guests to eat, nor to load their plates against their inclination.

our deportment, published 1882, p. 117

dinner-party, dress for a

At all dinner-parties the ladies and gentlemen are expected to present themselves in full evening costume. Delicate hosts and hostesses, particularly when the occasion is not a very formal one, will take care to keep their own dresses in due subordination, lest they may possibly outshine too evidently some of their guests, and unnecessarily put them to the blush. Thus a fastidious host will not seldom keep to his frock-coat and black cravat, with a nice consideration for some invited person who may by chance have neglected to put on the swallow-tail and white choker de rigueur.

the bazar book of decorum, 1870, p. 209

dinner-party, entering the dining room

When the dinner is announced, which should be done by the servant simply saying “The dinner is served,” a procession is at once formed. The host gives his right arm to the female guest who has the precedence from age, rank, or strangeness, and leads her to a place at the dinner-table on his right, he being at the head or at one side. Next comes the most distinguished male guest with the hostess. She seats herself at the other extremity, or at the opposite side of the table, with her cavalier on her right. The rest follow in couples, ranked generally according to age, and as they enter the dining-room are placed so that the host may be flanked on either side by a dame, and the hostess by a cavalier. The rest of the guests are arranged in successive couples, so that each cavalier will be between two dames, and each dame between two cavaliers, provided the sexual proportions of the party allow of such an arrangement. It is usual to separate the husband from his wife, and temporarily sever other domestic relations. This does not seem flattering to the conjugal and family ties, but the practical effect is undoubtedly good.

the bazar book of decorum, 1870, p. 210-211

dinner-party, number for a

The number of persons at a dinner-party, according to an old saying, should never be “more than the Muses [nine], or less than the Graces” [three].

the bazar book of decorum, 1870, p. 206

dinner-party, punctuality for a

Punctuality is essential to the perfection of dining, as it is to the proper performance of every other social duty. A half hour’s grace used to be allowed, and it was not “the thing” to arrive at the exact time appointed. Fashion, however, now sanctions what common sense has always inculcated, and men of society are expected, alike with men of business, to be exact in their engagements.

the bazar book of decorum, 1870, p. 209