Saturday, February 16, 2008

Oh, for simplier times. . . ;o)

Thought I'd share some excerpts from Lillian Eichler's Book of Etiquette. I don't think I'd ever really looked at it before this weekend, but some of it is amusing and/or interesting. Here are some snippets:

From the section on visiting cards:
The Chance Call

If a married woman calls in return for some hospitality shown her and her husband, she leaves two of her own cards and two of his. But if it is just a social call, she leaves only her own card. In this latter case, she asks at the door to see the ladies. If she is informed that they are not at home, she gives the card to the maid and departs. On the other hand, if the ladies are at home, the card is placed on the tray in the hall, and the caller goes into the drawing-room to be welcomed by her friends.

If the maid does not know whether or not the ladies are at home, and says she will see, the caller gives her own card and goes into the drawing-room to wait further word from the maid. Should the ladies be out, she leaves two of her husband's cards on the card tray in the hall before leaving. If the ladies are at home, she does not deposit her husband's cards in the tray until her departure.

Very often a lady will call on a very good friend, more for a friendly little talk and for companionship than for social duty. In this case, she is privileged to send up only one card; and leave it behind, whether that lady is out or in, without any other cards.
Mm-hmmmm. . . Well, obviously. ;o)
. . . Why would you ever need to leave two cards?

Backtracking a bit, I find that there are pages devoted to calling cards-- what size they should be (for ladies, no larger than two and seven-eighths inches in length and two and one-eight inches in width-- but no smaller than two and one-half inches long by one and seven-eighths wide-- unless you want to be the gossip in Town (g))-- what font they should use (nothing too fancy)-- what material they should be-- what information they should include-- how your name should be formatted (no nicknames, please)-- and so on.

There's also a part describing when more than one card should be left. . . But I still don't see an explanation as to why more than one is necessary. (Maybe so both husband and wife would have a copy?) As you might expect, there are rules about when a woman may or may not leave a card for a man. Even a married woman shouldn't leave her husband's card for an unmarried daughter in the house she visits!

Here's something more about the multiple card issue:
In many instances it may seem more courteous to leave more than one card, but a woman calling alone should never leave more than three. It has not been many years since she was almost compelled to leave half a dozen or more but common sense intervened and this custom like most others has been simplified.
Well, thank goodness for that! ;o)

There's a whole section on children, too. For instance. . .
A child should never seat himself until those older than he are in place though not even this should be ostentatious. As soon as the mother or whoever is presiding at the table indicates that it is time for them to be seated they all should take their places almost simultaneously.
Such formality! Sounds more like a military display than a family meal. . .
In addressing elders the child should know exactly the correct forms to use. For instance, it is no longer considered good form for anyone except servants or tradespeople to use the expressions "Yes, ma'am," and "Yes, sir." Still there is some deference due parents and elders, and the correct method of address is, "Yes, mother," or "No, father," or "Thank you, Mr. Gray." The manner of the child is just as important as the form of expression; a courteous, respectful manner should always be used towards elders.
Only "servants and tradespeople" say "sir" and "ma'am"? Even when I was growing up in the early 80s, polite children addressed adults as "sir" and "ma'am" unless instructed otherwise. (Maybe it's a Southern thing? Or maybe my parents were weird? (g)) I still catch myself doing it, sometimes, if I'm talking to a certain type of person-- if they're quite a bit older, not someone I know very well (family/friend), and if they're polite, themselves. I'm not sure how some people will feel about it, and I feel a bit awkward saying it, these days, but sometimes it just pops right out.

There are a couple of pages devoted to mourning dress-- down to such details as jewelry and handkerchiefs! ("Handkerchiefs may have a black border or they may be pure white.") Here are a few paragraphs from those pages:
The length of the mourning period depends upon the tie which existed between the deceased and the bereaved. Except for an elderly woman whose husband has died and who never intends taking off black the longest period is usually two years, the first in deep mourning, the next in "second mourning" during which time gray, lavender, purple and black-and-white may be worn. This may be shortened at discretion to six months of deep mourning followed by six months of semi-mourning or three months of deep mourning and six of half mourning. The change from black to colors should never be so abrupt as to be startling.

A girl does not wear mourning for her fiance except under extenuating circumstances. If he died on the eve of the wedding it is permissible but if the date for the wedding had not been set or if the engagement had not been announced it is questionable form for her to go into mourning for him. It is a very delicate matter and the final court of appeals is the young lady herself. But she should remember that the garments of mourning are after all only a symbol of grief and she should hesitate a long time before assuming them. Her mourning outfit is like that of a widow and she wears it for the same length of time.

Children should never wear black. Upon the death of a parent they may wear white perhaps relieved by lavender for six months or so. They do not use mourning stationery and they do not carry black bordered handkerchiefs. A girl fifteen or sixteen may wear delicate grays, lavenders, and mixed goods as well as white, but she should not wear black.
This bit made the act of "going into mourning" seem a little more logical (to me, at least): "It is a sort of protection, for strangers and thoughtless friends will not be so likely to make remarks that will wound, if they have a black dress to remind them of the bereavement. . ." I still think the extremely structured nature of mourning dress an odd thing, but maybe it's true that it would help others not to speak thoughtlessly. On the other hand, wouldn't the unusual clothing be a constant reminder of the loss-- to the mourner, as well? It seems like it might make it even harder not to dwell on it. . .

I guess it makes sense in a book of this sort that there's a lot about introductions, but somehow it grates on my nerves. In a section on the subject of "speaking without introduction", the author starts out well enough, indicating that it is ridiculous for people to be "indignant when addressed by someone to whom they have not been introduced." However, she goes on to say that "a lady, of course, may not on any condition address a gentleman whom she does not know, nor may a gentleman address a lady who is a stranger to him." Really? Even in the 1920s in America?? It must have been very difficult for "civilized" people to meet one another, if they were not so fortunate as to have a built-in system of friends and family to introduce them! (What percentage of the people do you think truly followed these "rules"?)

Though it's "ok" for one man to talk to another without introduction, it's vital that you know the following: "If a friendship is to be developed later, a formal introduction may be sought; but for the present, though they have never been presented to each other, the men may enjoy a conversation without feeling that they are trespassing beyond the boundaries of etiquette." How reassuring!

Then there's a section on letters of introduction, but I doubt many of you are still reading, at this point, so I'll call it quits. (g)

If you are hungry for more, you'll be happy to know that the ebook is available online. It's free! Enjoy! ;o)