Florence Howe Hall.

A handbook of hospitality for town and country online

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think it best to do so. It is a rule of good-
breeding neither to make nor to withhold in-
troductions where this would cause awkward-
ness. Thus it is manifestly unpleasant for
one person to be presented to five or six other
guests as soon as he enters the room. He
will not know which is which, he will bow to
the wrong man or woman and the result will
be a feeling of constraint. On the other
hand, if he knows no one, he will feel ill at
ease and out of place. Therefore a wise
hostess watches her guests and introduces
them as occasion demands, endeavoring to
have no one feel neglected. The English
rule, whereby all guests feel at liberty to
speak to each other at the house of a friend,
whether they have been introduced or not,

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does not find general favor with us, although
it has been adopted to a certain extent.

If only a few friends are expected and
they come punctually, it will be possible to
sit down to table soon after the appointed
hour. If there are many guests, dinner
should be ordered fifteen minutes later
than the hour named in the invitations. The
hostess will be apt to wait ten or fifteen min-
utes longer for some one who has been de-
tained, unless the company are going after-
ward to the opera or some entertainment
which makes delay inadvisable. One must
not sacrifice the pleasure or convenience of
the punctual guests to that of late-comers.

Our hostess should tell the waitress before-
hand how many persons are expected, in
order that the latter may know when she may
announce dinner. If the dining-room ad-
joins the drawing-room, she may do this sim-
ply by throwing aside the portieres or open-
ing the folding doors, as the case may de-
mand. Or she may enter quietly and make
a slight bow to her mistress, or say " Dinner
is served.** The host oflpers his arm to the
lady in whose honor the entertainment is

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given, to the oldest or most distinguished
lady, to the wife of the most distinguished
man or to a bride. In Washington, as in
European countries, the order of precedence
is considered of great importance, and all
hostesses take great pains to give each person
his due rank. This is entirely proper because
at the seat of our national government, we
must pay due respect to the office-holders
who represent the dignity of the nation, as
well as to the representatives of foreign gov-
ernments. In other parts of the United
States, we do not pay much attention to this
matter, the theory being that in a Democratic
country all are equal. When the Governor
of a State, a United States Senator, the
Mayor of the city or other person holding
high political office, is present, the hosts wOl
be careful to give him the chief room at the
feast, however. He will come last with the
hostess, the other guests having preceded
them, going in arm in arm. As a rule the
hostess goes in with the most distinguished
man present or with the guest of honor of
the occasion, mine host escorting the wife of
the latter. At a small and informal dinner

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the ceremony of going in arm-in-arm can be
dispensed with.

In the chapter on Limcheons we have al-
ready given some hints for the arrangement
of the table.

A new and ingenious scheme of decoration
upsets all the ideas to which we have become
accustomed. Where this is used, ornamental
silver is banished to the plate chest and the
table is arranged to represent a formal gar-
den. In the centre is a miniatiu^ reproduc-
tion of a fountain at Versailles, for instance.
A mirror represents the surface of the water
which is bordered by a coping of biscuit,
majolica or other ware, by way of edge to
the basin. The projecting figures of horses,
Tritons or what not, are cut in half, thus con-
veying the impression that they are partly
concealed by the water. Some opulent hosts
have actually placed mimic fountains of sil-
ver, that of Apollo at Versailles, for in-
stance, throwing jets of real water, on their
tables, the mechanism being concealed be-
low, but this device is too troublesome as
weU as too expensive, to come into general
use. Gravelled paths (which may be made

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from sand paper) with formal box borders,
radiate from the centre and terminate in
Tanagra figurines in imitation of garden
statuary. Those made of biscuit look very
much like white marble. They may be re-
placed or supplemented by miniature orange
trees in china pots. The last-named are
made of Italian pottery and oflPer a wide
scope for the display of artistic taste and
ingenuity. Some are in the form of a beau-
tiful vase decorated with a tiny garland of
roses, others are of plain green ware. Occa-
sionally in the house of some Croesus, the
oranges themselves are illuminated by tiny
electric bulbs placed inside the fruit.

The miniature trees in their dainty pots
form an important part of the decorative
scheme and may be set about the table at
appropriate points, keeping in view always,
the general plan of reproducing an Italian
or French garden. The paths also may be
arranged in other ways. For simpler din-
ners, a centre piece of formal greenery, with
four cut bay trees at the comers may be used.

These decorations are pretty and charm-
ing toys for grown-up people. The whole

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scheme is highly artificial and has replaced
natural flowers and greenery to a certain
extent. It is safe to predict that the latter
will always remain in favor with many peo-
ple, especially in the sunmier season, when
it seems a pity not to use the wealth of beau-
tiful blossoms at our very doors.

A simple name card at each place is now
preferred to the elaborate affairs so fashion-
able at one time.

For dinner there must always be a cloth,
a plain white one being usually preferred.
If a lace cloth is put over this, no centre-piece
should be used. In other respects all will be
much the same as at a formal lunch, save that
soup will be served in plates instead of cups;
if butter is used, there should be small in-
dividual plates for it instead of the larger
ones used for bread and butter at lunch.
Strictly speaking, butter should not be put
on the table at dinner, but we do see it on
informal occasions where people are very
fond of it

Raw oysters or little-neck clams in their
season were at one time the usual first course
at dinner, but are not so much in favor now

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as many persons are afraid to eat them, ow-
ing to the danger of thus contracting ty-
phoid fever. Grape-fruit often replaces
them, or later in the season strawberries,
melons or other fruit. An informal dinner
often begins with soup. According to pres-
ent fashion, this is served from the pantry,
the servant bringing in a plate in either hand.
After the soup the regular order of service is
— fish, one or more entrees, the roast (filet
of beef is much hked) , salad with or without
game. Next come the sweet dishes, ices,
meringues, pudding, pie, wine jelly or what-
ever is preferred. Fruit, candies and black
coffee follow, the latter being served in the

This order of the repast has been copied
from the French, but the number of
coiirses and the consequent great amount of
plate-washing involved, make it entirely un-
suited to small establishments. In a country
like Oiirs where labor is so dear, the wisest
coiirse is to adopt the elegance of the French
only so far as it is suited to our circumstances.
Thus our hostess may copy Gallic custom
in having only one or at most two vegetables

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served with any one course. The little birds'
bath-tubs, as the annex dishes have been
nicknamed, are not at all " good form." The
fashion of having all dishes carved in the
butler's pantry or kitchen is entirely unsuited
to a family virhere only one servant is kept,
for it would delay the service too much.
Some persons prefer to carve themselves,
even where there are several servants. It
gives a certain look of hospitality to have the
traditional beef of Old England and of New
England too for that matter, smoking on a
platter of generous size set before the host
and to behold him ministering in person to
the wants of his guests.

The mistress of the house may like to dis-
pense the ice or pudding for the same reason.
Where host and hostess take no part, allow-
ing everything to be done by those in attend-
ance, the personal element of service seems
altogether wanting. According to old-fash-
ioned ideas, one might as well dine at a hotel.
One great advantage of the modem plan is
that it leaves the hosts free to give their un-
divided attention to the entertainment of the
company. Each method has its advantages.

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Wine has been going out of fashion for
some years. Many people do not take it for
fear of gout or rheumatism, while a wave of
temperance is spreading over large sections
of our country. Those who are principled
against wine in any form are not expected
to set it before their friends. In that case
the dinner should not be a long and heavy
one, for many persons hold, whether rightly
or wrongly I do not pretend to say, that wine
is a necessary aid to the digestion of such a
meal. It is the fashion to oflPer fewer vari-
eties than formerly, white wine and cham-
pagne or claret or champagne alone suffi-
cing. At dinners for married people a mild
cocktail is sometimes given. In this case
there is no wine, whiskey and water being
oflPered to the men. Apollinaris water makes
a very good beverage for dinner or limcheon.

For a small and friendly occasion, the bill-
of-fare may comprise soup, a roast of some
sort with one or two vegetables, lettuce or
other salad with French dressing, a nice
homemade dessert and coffee. Soup is an
important part of dinner except in hot
weather when it is almost too heating. In


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summer we espedaUy enjoy salads, fruit and
other articles of food that are cooling.^

The hostess will remember to give the sign
for rising to the lady seated at her husband's
right hand. The men may prefer to linger
awhile at table after the departure of the
ladies, and mine host will not forget to have
a supply of cigars on hand for their use.
With the more temperate habits of our day,
it is customary for men to make only a short
delay before joining the ladies in the draw-
ing-room. A little music, not too serious in
character, makes a pleasant ending to the
evening, unless some other progranmie has
been arranged or unless the guests are ** go-
ing on '' to another entertainment.


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E love of dancing seems to
^ innate in the heart of Man.
ret the most wretched hand-
rgan begin to play and at
ice the children of the neigh-
borhoody be it rich or poor,
will fall to capering about in time to the
music, if they are allowed to do as they
please. Thus did primitive men dance, first
as an act of worship and later for the pure
joy of the rhythmic motion. All young peo-
ple, all who have music in their souls at least,
are fond of this form of amusement, although
they may hesitate to take part in it in pub-
lic, unless they have acquired some knowl-
edge of the art of dancing beforehand.
Girls, most of whom seem to "dance by
nature," are inclined to be critical of the sal-
tatory efforts of young men, and the be-
ginner is all the more awkward in his gyra^


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tions because he is keenly aware of this fem-
inine criticism, even if no word of it is
spoken. When he has once mastered the
Terpsichorean Art a magnificent revenge is
in his power. Cannot he refuse to dance
with any of the girls who have smiled at his
humble beginnings, and so reduce them to
despair? Next to being the head boy at
sdiool, there is no prouder position in human
society than that of the accomplished and
fashionable leader of the german.

The hostess who plans giving a dance can
usually count on the cordial interest and co-
operation of the young women of her ac-
quaintance, provided she can secure the at-
tendance of a sufficient number of '' Dancing
Men." Indeed many girls will carry their
disinterestedness so far as to be willing to
give lessons, in the seclusion of their own
drawing-rooms, to ambitious but awkward
swains. Many a young fellow has been thus
coached into a sufficient semblance of grace
to enable him to appear passably in public,
after a few lessons, perhaps supplemented
by waltzing with a chair in the privacy of his
own apartment.


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The men who refuse to enter the lists at
a dance without preliminary practice are en-
tirely in the right, for an unskilful dancer
makes his partner appear awkward as well
as himself, besides running the risk of pain-
ful and disastrous collisions with other
couples. Unfortunately those who have not
the excuse of inexperience sometimes stand
looking idly on, instead of joining the dan-
cers. Perhaps they cannot secure the part-
ners they prefer, or they are not in the mood.
In a word, ^their behavior is a survival of the
manners of boys at dancing school, manners
that are so sadly familiar to all mothers who
have dragged unwilling sons to dancing
classes, only to see them decorate the benches
on the masculine side of the hall. It is a part
of the hostess' duty to try to overcome this
vis inertiae of the young men and in this her
whole family, husband, sons and daughters,
should assist her. A cheerful yet resolute
attitude of mind will be found of great as-

When a lady has invitfsd a number of
young men and maidens to dance and have
a good time at her house, she has a right to

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assume that they mean to do their share
toward the success of the entertamment, and
to show by her manner that she expects them
to enter into the spirit of the occasion. The
hostess gives the tone to all festivities and
if she is amiable^ gay and energetic, most
of her guests will have the courtesy and good
feeling to respond in the same key. It goes
without saying that she must not appear mas-
terful nor be too persistent. Her eflForts
must be tactful and she should be cheerfully
persuasive rather than dictatorial. Men in-
stinctively resent the assumption of a tone
of mastery by a woman, while they are usu-
aUy glad to respond to an appeal to their
chivalry and courtesy.

Since the hostess cannot leave her place
so long as her guests are arriving, she usu-
aUy asks two or more friends to help her
receive and to make the necessary introduc-
tions at a large dance. These assistant host-
esses should be ladies of social tact and ex-
perience, who know most of those present.
A number of young men possessing similar
qualifications are sometimes asked to see that
all are provided with partners and to intro-

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duce people. It is a part of their duty to
see that the men who can not dance at least
make themselves agreeable by talking, wait-
ing on the ladies at supper-time, etc
Whether a man can dance or not, he can
promenade with a partner between the num-
bers and he can escort some lady in to supper.
It is so dreary for a young girl to be obliged
to sit quiet while her companions are having
a delightful time, it becomes so mortifying
if she is left long in this painful position, that
the hosts and their assistants should make
every effort to prevent their guests from
lapsing into the condition of wall-flowers, A
girl may be a good dancer, indeed she may
be very charming in every way, but if she
knows few of the men present, she must in-
evitably sit still unless someone comes to her
assistance and introduces partners to her. All
this requires a certain delicacy of manage-
ment. No girl of proper spirit likes to be
considered an object of social charity. If a
good-natured but tactless hostess should say
within her hearing, " I wish you would let
me introduce you to Miss G — . She has
been sitting alone for several dances and she

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is really a very charming girl," Miss G —
would feel mortified, and the yomig man
might hesitate to make the acquaintance
of a seemingly unpopular person. Whereas
if the lady of the house says: " I want you
to meet Miss G — ; she dances beautifully,
but she knows very few people here to-
night," or " She is a great favorite with
all who know her," the young man will be
mudi more inclined to make her acquaint-

These awkward moments axe not so likely
to arise where the mothers are invited with
their daughters. If a girl is not dancing
she can sit quietly beside her mother until
her next partner comes to claim her. Un-
fortunately most private houses are too small
to accommodate many persons in addition
to the dancers. If our hostess does not in-
vite the mothers, she should at least ask a
number of older ladies to be present and act
as chaperones, whenever this is necessary.
Seats should of coiu-se be provided for those
who do not dance and a few for those who
do, but who may wish to rest from time to


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It has been said that the invitations for
a dance should include ten per cent more men
than women, but this would often be im-
possible in a small place. A hostess should
endeavor to have the number as nearly even
as possible, with a slight preponderance of
men. Where the latter are greatly in ex-
cess, they are apt to gather in a solenm
black-coated group near the door or at some
coign of vantage. Once assembled together,
they remember the power that lies in mere
numbers and too often resist idl efforts to
dislodge them, whereas singly they would be
as meek as lambs.

Some of the merriest dances are im-
promptu affairs got up on the spur of the
moment, at the end of a dinner or some other
entertainment. If the girls outnmnber the
men, they will be willing to dance together
at such a frolic, while even the man with a
Quaker foot will be tempted to join in the
lively Virginia Reel.

In addition to a sufficient number of
youths and maidens to give spirit to the oc-
casion, the most important requisites for a
successful dance are a good floor, a large

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and well-ventilated room or haU, enough
light to be cheerful but not dazzling, and
last but not least, good music. A hard-wood
floor, well waxed or oiled but not made too
slippery, is the best for dancing. All small
mats should be removed from this, for there
is nothing so treacherous as a woolen or fur
rug on a smooth floor. Linen crash may be
stretched over a carpeted room, but it must
be tightly drawn and securely fastened
down. An ordinary floor, if it is well laid,
is sometimes used for dancing. The old
fashion was to relieve the bareness by draw-
ing ornaments in chalk. I have seen the
floor of the Naval Academy at Newport
thus adorned with mathematical designs.

The question of space is very important.
Americans dance weU and rapidly. Their
style of movement, easy, graceful and along
large lines, corresponds one may fancy, to
the long distances and great open spaces of
an immense and sparsely settled continent.
The Englishman, belonging to a large popu-
lation set compactly down on a small island,
does not expect to move in the same broad
free way. He is quite content to revolve


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mildly and slowly in the midst of a crowd,
turning around always in the same direction,
because there is not room to do anything
else. The American moves with more dash
and he despises monotony — he knows how
to reverse when dancing and he requires the
space necessary to do so. Hence he enjoys
dances given in an assembly room or in a
large hall more than those in a private house,
unless the latter is exceptionally spacious.
Many hostesses in large cities hire assembly
rooms when they give a baU. This is in-
finitely better than overcrowding one's
dwelling and making everybody uncom-
fortable, although an entertainment in a pri-
vate house has an atmosphere of hospitality
which is hard to replace in a ptiblic or semi-
public hostelry.

If oiu* hostess decides to give a dance at
her own residence, she must be careful to
invite only so many people as her rooms
will accommodate comfortably. She will use
every available inch of space, removing
all superfluous furniture and especially all
bric-a-brac and light objects liable to be
overturned by the rapidly moving dancers.


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She may^ if she likes^ provide a card-room
for the elders, but experience shows that few
persons can be persuaded to remain away
from the main scene of action. The pleas-
ure of watching others dance comes next to
that of dancing one's self. The whole house
should be well aired before the arrival of
the guests^ and the rooms should be cool
rather than warm at the beginning of the
evening, as they will heat up rapidly with
the lights and the presence of many people.
Electricity is preferable to gas because it is
less heating, and the lights should be placed
high in order that they may not be dazzling
to the eyes. Flowers add much to the beauty
of the occasion, but it is in better taste to have
a moderate display rather than one which
will excite a great deal of comment. The
furniture of a lady's house, like her dress,
should be in proportion to her means, with
a leaning to simplicity rather than to osten-
tation. Neither should be so showy as to
attract particular attention.

The number of musicians must depend on
the size of the rooms and the formality of
the occasion. For a small informal dance,

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the piano alone is often used. A profes-
sional player should be employed or at least
some one who is accustomed to playing dance
music The time must be carefully mariced
and the music must be loud enough to be
distinctly audible but not deafening. A vio-
lin, comet, harp or 'cello may accompany
the piano. The effect is more agreeable
where only stringed instruments are used,
perhaps with a comet in addition, a group
of from three to six musicians being seated
in some convenient alcove screened oflF by
palms or other greenery. The presence of
the performers behind this " bosquet," as a
wit laughingly called it, gives an air of fes-
tivity to any occasion, it must be confessed.
If there is to be a german, chairs should
be hired for it unless, as in some large es-
tablishments, there is a supply of light
chairs, all of the same pattern and suitable
alike for a " Cotillion " or a " Musical." A
set of numbered cards in duplicate should
also be procured. The chairs should be tied
together in couples and arranged against
the wall while the guests are at supper, as
the german usually begins immediately af-


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terwards. Each pair should have a number
attached to it, the duplicate numbers being
given to the gentlemen who are to take part
in the cotillion* The distribution is usually
made by the leader of the german or the
guests may draw the cards from a basket.

The hostess should also provide several
sets of f avorSy as these add much to the in-
terest and picturesqueness of the dance. A
great variety of them can now be procured,
something new being always liked if it is
pretty. The lady of the house will do well
to consult with the leader of the german
before she lays in a stock of these dainty
trifles. She should engage his services in
plenty of time beforehand, taking care to
select a person accustomed to fulfill the deli-
cate duties of the position, and asking him
to call and see her in order to arrange the
details of the dance. We have already in-
timated that a popular leader is a person of
great consequence and it is usually wise to
entrust the reins to his competent hands.

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Online LibraryFlorence Howe HallA handbook of hospitality for town and country → online text (page 7 of 14)