At balls of a public character the "party", of whatever number it may consist, enters the room unobtrusively, the gentlemen conducting the ladies to convenient seats.
In a private ball, or party, the lady of the house will linger near the door by which her guests enter (at least until supper-time, or till all have arrived), in order to receive them with a smile, an inclination of the body, a passing remark, or a grasp of the hand, according to degrees of intimacy.
The gentleman of the house and the sons should not be far distant, so as to be able to introduce to the lady any of his or their friends on their arrival. It is not necessary that the daughters should assist in the ceremony of reception.
Guests are announced by name at a private party. As they reach the reception-room door, (after coming from the dressing room,) the servant calls out, "Mr. and Mrs. -"; "Mr. Adolphus -"; "the Misses -".
On entering the room they at once proceed to pay their respects to the lady of the house, and may then acknowledge the presence of such friends as they find around them.
A programme of dancing is given to the guests on their arrival; and this example should be followed in any thing more than a mere "carpet dance".
Beadle's dime ball-room companion and guide to dancing, 1868
In the days when bows were made down to an angle of 45, and it took two minutes to sink and two to rise in a curtsey, the givers of balls must have been punished for their entertainment by a stiffness the next day quite as trying as that of the young gentleman who has followed the hounds for the first time in his life. As for the worthy Prefect and Madame la Prefecte de la Seine, they would have been carried away lifeless with fatigue before the half of the thousands had had their bow in the receiving-room of the Hotel de Ville at Paris. In the present day the muscles of the mouth are brought more into requisition, and for the time being the worst of Xantippes must turn into an angel of amiability if she gives a ball, lady of the house must, in short, linger till supper-time in the neighborhood of the door by which her guests enter the rooms; she must have a pleasant smile for everybody; and, if possible, she should know everybody's name, and how many they are in family. To a large ball you ask a great number of people with whom you have a slight acquaintance, and of course a number of gentlemen arrive who may be your husband s or son s friend s or recruits levied by an ami de la malson. To these a bow rather more inclined than to your own friends, and a particularly amiable smile, is necessary; but in order to put them quite at their ease, you should be able to come forward and say some little polite phrase or other. "Are we not to have the pleasure of seeing more of your party?" perhaps you ask, when a mamma and one daughter are announced. But if there are no more of them to come, how awkward for you and them! So too it is wise to avoid asking after relations, unless you are quite sure about their existence. What can the bereaved widower say or look, when in the excess of your amiability you inquire "How is Mrs.?" The master of the house, too, if he is not gone out of town "on business," for that night, should be in the neighborhood of his spouse, in order to introduce to her any of his own recruits. The sons will hang about the same quarter for the same purpose, but the daughters will be otherwise occupied.
It is their duty to see that the dances are formed, and a well-bred young lady does not dance till she has found partners for all the young ladies or as many of them as can be supplied from the ranks of the recruits present. Now and then you will see her dart anxiously out upon the landing, to press into the service those languid loungers who are sure to be hanging about the doors. She has the right to ask a gentleman to dance without having a previous acquaintance, but she must be careful how she uses it. I have known a case where a distinguished young man having declined her invitation to dance, but being pressed by "I can't make up the Lancers without you," somewhat reluctantly accepted, performed his part so well, that his partner was quite eprisc with him, and even ventured on a little flirtation. You can imagine her dismay, when later in the evening she saw her charming acquaintance carrying up a pile of plates from the kitchen to the supper-room. For the first time in her life she had danced with an occasional waiter. The genus wall-flower is one that grows well in every ball-room, but a young lady, however plain, however stupid, can if she dances well always have some partners. The great thing is to secure the first, who, on retiring, will say to some of his friends, "I'll tell you who dances well; that girl in pink, Miss A, I advise you to get introduced to her." The right of introducing rests mainly with the ladies and gentlemen of the house, but a chaperon may present a gentleman to her charge; or if you, being a man, are intimate with a young lady, you may ask her permission to introduce some friend. It is in very bad taste to refuse this permission, but if a lady has an insuperable objection to the person in question, she may decline to dance altogether, or refer the applicant to her chaperon. In France, as I have said, no introduction is needed, though English young ladies generally expect it even at French parties. At any rate, if a gentleman comes up to her and asks her to dance, she must not reply, as a celebrated English beauty once did at the Tuileries, "I have not the pleasure of your acquaintance," by which she acquired the reputation of very bad breeding.
The Habits of Good Society: A Handbook of Etiquette for Ladies and Gentleman; James Hogg (London), 1859
Martine's Hand-Book of Etiquitte: Etiquette of the Ball and Assembly Room. Evening Parties. 1860. [As written]
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