Kind of cards
...and manner of carrying them.

fter making the toilet with care, persons intending to make ceremonious calls, should provide themselves with cards, upon which their name is printed or well written. Gentlemen ought simply to put their cards into their pocket, but ladies may carry them in a small elegant portfolio, called a card-case. This they can hold in their hand, and it will contribute essentially (with an elegant handkerchief of embroidered cambric), to give them an air of good taste.

A lady's visiting card should be of small size, glazed, but not gilt. It should be engraved in script characters, small and neat, not in German text or old English. Never have your cards printed; a written card, though passable, is not perfectly au fait. If you write them, never first draw a line across the card to guide you; it betokens ill-breeding.

Under what circumstances cards are to be left, and how many. If the call is made in a carriage, the servant will ask if the lady you wish to see is at home. If persons call in a hired carriage, or on foot, they go themselves to ask the servants. Servants are considered as soldiers on duty; if they reply that the person has gone out, we should, by no means, urge the point, even if we were certain it was not the case; and if by chance we should see the person, we should appear not to have done so, but leave our card and retire. When the servant informs us that the lady or gentleman is unwell, engaged in business, or dining, we must act in a similar manner.

We should leave as many cards as there are persons we wish to see in the house; for example one for the husband, one for his wife, another for the aunt, etc. When admitted, we should lay aside our overshoes, umbrella, etc., in the entry, so as not to encumber the parlor with them.

Preliminary attentions to visitors. Instructions should be carefully given to servants respecting their conduct towards persons who call to inquire for you. See that they always do it in a civil and polite manner; let them lose no time, if there is occasion, in relieving your visitors of their over shoes, umbrellas, cloaks, etc.; let them go before, to save your visitors the trouble of opening and shutting the door.

When persons call, let the servant respectfully inform himself of their names, so that he may announce them to you at the time when he opens the door of the reception-room or parlor. If you are not there, the servant should offer them seats, requesting the guests to wait a moment, while he goes to call you.

When visitors take leave, domestics should manifest promptness in opening the door for them; they should hold the door by the handle, while you converse with your guests, and also assist them in readjusting their clothing.

Length of calls. If the person you call upon is preparing to go out, or to sit down at table, you ought, although she asks you to remain, to retire as soon as possible. The person visited so unseasonably, should, on her part, be careful to conceal her knowledge that the other wishes the visit ended quickly. We should always appear pleased to see a visitor and should she make a short visit, we must express to her our regret. Ceremonious visits should never be protracted.

When you make a half ceremonious call, and the person you are visiting insists upon your stopping, it is proper to do so; but after a few minutes you should rise to go; if you are urged still further, and are taken by the hands and made to sit down as it were by force, to leave immediately would be im polite, but nevertheless you must, after a short interval, get up a third time, and then certainly retire.

If, during your call, a member of the family enters the room, you need not on this account take leave, but should cordially salute them. If the person entering be a lady or elderly person you may rise; but if a gentleman, it is more proper to keep seated.

Coming in contact with other visitors. If other visitors are announced, you should adroitly leave them without saying anything. In case the gentleman of the house urges you to remain longer, you should briefly reply to him that an indispensable engagement calls you, and you must entreat him with earnestness not to detain you. You should terminate your visit by briskly shutting the door.

If, on entering the room, you find strangers engaged in conversation, content yourself with the few words which the master or mistress of the house shall address to you; stop only a few moments, make a general salutation, and conduct yourself as in the preceding case.

The staircase, taking the arm, etc. In going up the staircase, it is rigorously the custom to give precedence to those to whom you owe respect, and to yield to such persons the most convenient part of the stairs, which is that next the wall. Above all do not forget this last caution if you accompany a lady; and a well-bred gentleman, at such a time, should offer his arm. When there are many ladies, he should bestow this mark of respect on the oldest. If you meet any one on the staircase, place yourself on the side opposite to the one he occupies.

Receiving visitors. When we see persons enter, whether announced or not, we rise immediately, advance towards them, request them to sit down, avoiding however the old form of, "Take the trouble to be seated." If it is a young man, we offer him an arm-chair, or a stuffed one; if an elderly man, we insist upon his accepting the arm-chair; if a lady, we beg her to be seated upon the ottoman.

If the gentleman of the house receive the visitors, he will take a chair and place himself at a little distance from them; if, on the contrary, it is the lady of the house, and she is intimate with the lady who visits her, she will place herself near her. If several ladies come at a time, we give this last place to the one most distinguished by rank.

In winter, the most honorable places are those at the corner of the fireplace; in proportion as they place you in front of the fire, your seat is considered inferior in rank. Moreover, when it happens to be a respectable married lady, and one to whom we wish to do honor, we take her by the hand and conduct her to the corner of the fireplace. If this place is occupied by a young lady, she should rise and offer her seat to the married lady, taking for herself a chair in the middle of the circle.

If a lady who receives a half ceremonious visit is sewing, sbe ought to leave off immediately, and not resume it except at the request of the visitor. If they are on quite intimate terms, she ought herself to request permission to continue. If a person visits in an entirely ceremonious way, it would be very impolite to work even an instant. Moreover, even with friends, we should hardly be occupied with our work, but should seem to forget it on their account.

Propriety of movement and general demeanor in company. To look steadily at any one, especially if you are a lady and are speaking to a gentleman; to turn the head frequently on one side and the other during conversation; to balance yourself upon your chair; to bend forward; to strike your hands upon your knees; to hold one of your knees between your hands locked together; to cross your legs; to extend your feet on the andirons; to admire yourself with complacency in a glass; to adjust, in an affected manner, your cravat, hair, dress, or handkerchief; to remain without gloves; to fold carefully your shawl, instead of throwing it with graceful negligence upon a table; to fret about a hat which you have just left off; to laugh immoderately; to place your hand upon the person with whom you are conversing; to take him by the buttons, the collar of his cloak, the cuffs, the waist, etc.; to seize any person by the waist or arm, or to touch their person; to roll the eyes or to raise them with affectation; to take snuff from the box of your neighbor, or to offer it to strangers, especially to ladies; to play continually with your chain or fan; to beat time with the feet and hands; to whirl round a chair with your hand; to shake with your feet the chair of your neighbor; to rub your face or your hands; wink your eyes; shrug up your shoulders; stamp with your feet, etc; all these bad habits, of which we cannot speak to people, are in the highest degree displeasing.

In a circle, we should not pass before a lady; neither should we present anything by extending the arm over her, but pass round behind and present it. In case we cannot do it, we say/ask your pardon, etc. To a question which we do not fully comprehend, we never answer, "Ha?" "What?" but "Be so good as", etc. "Pardon me, I did not understand".

Return to Calling Etiquette

References: ETIQUETTE

Etiquette Politeness Parties In General
The Visiting Guest   Calling Etiquette
Conversation Etiquette   Public Amusement
Attending Balls Dinner Parties Formal Dinners

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