Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management/Chapter I
"Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her."—Proverbs xxxi. 25–28.
The Functions of the Mistress of a House resemble those of the general of an army or the manager of a great business concern. Her spirit will be seen in the whole establishment, and if she performs her duties well and intelligently, her domestics will usually follow in her path. Among the gifts that nature has bestowed on woman, few rank higher than the capacity for domestic management, for the exercise of this faculty constantly affects the happiness, comfort and prosperity of the whole family. In this opinion we are borne out by the author of The Vicar of Wakefield, who says:—"The modest virgin, the prudent wife, and the careful matron are much more serviceable in life than petticoated philosophers, blustering heroines, or virago queans. She who makes her husband and her children happy is a much greater character than ladies described in romances, whose whole occupation is to murder mankind with shafts from the quiver of their eyes."
The Housewife.—Although this word may be used to describe any mistress of a household, it seems more fittingly applied to those who personally conduct their domestic affairs than to others who govern with the assistance of a large staff of well-trained servants. Times have changed since 1766, when Goldsmith wrote extolling home virtues; and in few things is the change more marked than in woman's sphere; but a woman should not be less careful in her management or blameless in her life because the spirit of the age gives her greater scope for her activities. Busy housewives should be encouraged to find time in the midst of domestic cares for the recreation and social intercourse which are necessary to the well-being of all. A woman's home should be first and foremost in her life, but if she allow household cares entirely to occupy her thoughts, she is apt to become narrow in her interests and sympathies, a condition not conducive to domestic happiness. To some overworked women but little rest or recreation may seem possible, but, generally speaking, the leisure to be enjoyed depends upon proper methods of work, punctuality, and early rising. The object of the present work is to give assistance to those who desire practical advice in the government of their home.
Early Rising contributes largely to good Household Management; she who practises this virtue reaps an ample reward both in health and prosperity. When a mistress is an early riser, it is almost certain that her house will be orderly and well managed. On the contrary, if she remain in bed till a late hour, then the servants, who, as we have observed, invariably acquire some of their mistress's characteristics, are likely to become sluggards. To self-indulgence all are more or less disposed, and it is not to be expected that servants are freer from this fault than the heads of houses. The great Lord Chatham gave this advice:— "I would have inscribed on the curtains of your bed, and the walls of your chamber, 'If you do not rise early, you can make progress in nothing.'" Cleanliness is quite indispensable to Health, and must be studied both in regard to the person and the house, and all that it contains. Cold or tepid baths should be employed every morning. The bathing of children will be treated of under the heads of "The Nurse" and "The Doctor." Many diseases would be less common than they are if the pores of the skin were kept open.
Frugality and Economy are Virtues without which no household can prosper. The necessity of economy should be evident to every one, whether in possession of an income barely sufficient for a family's requirements, or of a large fortune which seems to put financial adversity out of the question. We must always remember that to manage well on a small income is highly creditable. "He is a good waggoner," says Bishop Hall, "that can turn in a little room. To live well in abundance is the praise of the estate, not of the person. I will study more how to give a good account of my little than how to make it more." In this there is true wisdom, and it may be added that those who can manage small things well are probably fitted for the management of greater. Economy and frugality must never, however, be allowed to degenerate into meanness.A Judicious Choice of Friends is most essential to the happiness of a household. An acquaintance who indulges in scandal about her neighbours should be avoided as a pestilence. While ever attending to the paramount claims of home, a lady should not altogether neglect social duties. The daily round of work is much more pleasant if cheered by intercourse with friends, who are often able to give, or pleased to receive, help in the little difficulties that may occur in everyday life. Another point of view is that most women look forward to some
1.— Apricots.2.— White Cherries.3.—Black Cherries.4.— White Currants.
5.—Black Currants.6.—Red Currants.7.—Melon.8.— Strawberries.9.— Raspberries.
10.—Plums (Black Diamonds).11.— Greengages.12.— Victoria Plums.
Friendships should not be hastily formed, or the heart given to every newcomer. There are women who smile on every chance acquaintance, and who have not the courage to reprove vice or defend virtue. Addison, the greatest essayist, observes that—"A friendship which makes the least noise is very often the most useful; for which reason, I should prefer a prudent friend to a zealous one."
The advice Shakespeare makes Polonius give to his son Laertes is thoroughly sound:—
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Hospitality should be practised; but care must be taken that the love of company, for its own sake, does not become a prevailing passion; such a habit is no longer hospitality, but dissipation. Reality and sincerity in this, as in all duties of life, should be studied; for, as Washington Irving says—"There is an emanation from the heart in genuine hospitality which cannot be described, but is immediately felt, and puts the stranger at once at his ease." A lady, when she first undertakes the responsibility of a household, should not attempt to retain all the mere acquaintances of her youth. Her true and tried friends are treasures never to be lightly lost, but they, and the friends she will make by entering her husband's circle, and very likely by moving to a new locality, should provide her with ample society.
In Conversation one should never dwell unduly on the petty annoyances and trivial disappointments of the day. Many people get into the bad habit of talking incessantly of the worries of their servants and children, not realizing that to many of their hearers these are uninteresting if not wearisome subjects. From one's own point of view, also, it is well not to start upon a topic without having sufficient knowledge to discuss it with intelligence. Important events, whether of joy or sorrow, should be told to friends whose sympathy or congratulation may be welcome. A wife should never allow a word about any faults of her husband to pass her lips; and in conversation, she should keep the counsel of Cowper continually in her memory,—that it should flow naturally and not
"As if raised by mere mechanic powers."
Cheerfulness.—We cannot too strongly insist on the vital importance of always preserving an equable good temper amidst all the little cares and worries of domestic life. Many women may be heard to declare that men cannot realize the petty anxieties of a household. But a woman must cultivate that tact and forbearance without which no man can hope to succeed in his career. The true woman combines with mere tact that subtle sympathy which makes her the loved companion and friend alike of husband, children and all around her. Stevenson's prayer is worth remembering: "The day returns, and brings us the petty round of irritating concerns and duties. Help us to play the man, help us to perform them with laughter and kind faces, let cheerfulness abound with industry. Give us to go blithely on our business all this day, bring us to our resting beds weary and content and undishonoured, and grant us in the end the gift of sleep."
On the Important Subject of Dress and Fashion we cannot do better than quote: "Let people write, talk, lecture, satirize, as they may, it cannot be denied that, whatever is the prevailing mode in attire, let it intrinsically be ever so absurd, it will never look as ridiculous as another, which, however convenient, comfortable, or even becoming is totally opposite in style to that generally worn." A lady's dress should be always suited to her circumstances, and varied for different occasions. The morning dress should be neat and simple, and suitable for the domestic duties that usually occupy the early part of the day. This dress should be changed before calling hours; but it is not in good taste to wear much jewellery except with evening dress. A lady should always aim at being well and attractively dressed whilst never allowing questions of costume to establish inordinate claims on either time or purse. In purchasing her own garments, after taking account of the important detail of the length of her purse, she should aim at adapting the style of the day in such a manner as best suits the requirements of her face, figure and complexion, and never allow slavish adherence to temporary fads of fashion to overrule her own sense of what is becoming and befitting. She should also bear in mind that her different costumes have to furnish her with apparel for home wear, outdoor exercise and social functions, and try to allot due relative importance to the claims of each.
The advice of Polonius to his son Laertes, in Hamlet, is excellent; and although given to one of the male sex, will equally apply to the question of a woman's dress:—
"Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy.
Charity is a Duty and privilege that we owe to ourselves as well as to our needy neighbours. There is, we hope, hardly any one so poor, but that with a little thought he can give assistance, in works if not in goods, to others. As a poet has sung—
" Is thy cruse of comfort wasting,
Personal work, care and time are however necessary if our gifts are to have the best effect. Fortunately, the duty of visiting the poor, whether in crowded city slums or rustic villages, was never more widely recognized than at the present time. It should not be necessary to urge all who undertake this duty to lay aside any patronizing attitude, which may do untold harm. A heartfelt sense of the real dignity of honest, self-supporting poverty is one of the first essentials in such work.
Marketing.—Much information for guidance and assistance will be found in our average price lists in the chapter on "Marketing" and in the observations before the cookery sections for Fish, Meat, Poultry, Game, Vegetables, Fruit, etc. That the best articles will prove the cheapest in the long run, and that the purchase of low priced and untrustworthy substitutes for reliable articles should be avoided, may be laid down as fundamental rules for marketing. It is most desirable that whenever possible the mistress should herself purchase all stores needed for the home. Should the young wife lack knowledge upon these subjects, a little personal practice and experience will soon teach her the best articles to buy and the most reliable places to deal at.
Accounts of Household Expenditure should always be kept, and kept punctually and precisely. The best plan for keeping household accounts is to write down in a daily diary every amount, be it ever so small, spent each day; then, at the end of a week or month, let these payments be ranged under their various heads of Butcher, Baker, etc. Thus the amounts paid to each tradesman will be seen, and any week's or month's expenses can be contrasted with those of another. The housekeeping accounts should be balanced not less than once a month—once a week is better; and it should be seen that the money in hand agrees with the accounts. "My advice," said Mr. Micawber to David Copperfield, "you know. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen, nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds, ought and six, result misery. The blossom is blighted, the leaf is withered, the God of day goes down upon the dreary scene, and in short you are for ever floored." Once a month it is advisable that the mistress overlook her store of glass and china, marking any breakages on the inventory of these articles.
When a housekeeper is entrusted with these duties, the mistress should examine her accounts regularly. Then, any increase of expenditure can easily be examined, the mistress will have a regular check upon her expenditure, and the housekeeper who strives to manage her department well and economically will know that her efforts are appreciated.
Engaging Servants is one of the most important duties the mistress is called upon to perform. One of the commonest ways of procuring servants is to answer advertisements or to insert a notice, setting forth what kind of servant is required. In these advertisements it is well to state whether the house is in town or country, and indicate the wages given. There are many respectable registry-offices, where good servants may be hired. A good plan is for the mistress to tell her friends and acquaintances of the vacant place. A lady whose general relations with her domestics are friendly, and fairly permanent, will seldom need to employ any of these methods. Suitable applicants will soon present themselves to fill the vacant places, generally friends of the domestic who is obliged to leave.
We would here point out an error—and a grave one—into which some mistresses fall. They do not, when engaging a servant, tell her all the duties which she will be expected to perform. All the work which the maid will have to do should be plainly set forth by the mistress, and understood by the servant. If this plan is not carefully adhered to, misunderstanding is almost certain to occur, and may not be easily settled.
Servants' Character.—It is hardly safe to be guided by a written one from an unknown quarter; it is better to have an interview, if possible, with the former mistress. In this way you will be helped in your decision as to the fitness of the servant by the appearance of her former place. No mistress desires a needless change of servants. The proper way to obtain a personal interview with a servant's former employer is to tell the applicant for the situation to ask her former mistress to appoint a convenient time when you may call on her; this courtesy being necessary to prevent any unseasonable intrusion on the part of a stranger. Your first questions should be relative to the honesty and general morality of the servant; and if the replies are satisfactory, her other qualifications are then to be ascertained. Inquiries should be very minute, so that you may avoid disappointment and trouble, by knowing the weak points of your domestic. Your questions also should be brief, as well as to the point.
In giving a Character, it is scarcely necessary to say that one should be guided by a sense of strict justice. It is not right to recommend a servant one would not keep oneself. The benefit to the servant herself is of small advantage, for the failings which she possesses will increase if indulged with impunity. At the same time, a mistress should never fail to do strict and impartial justice to any merits of her late servant, and should always remember the vital value of good references to one who depends on her labour for a living.
The Treatment of Servants is of the greatest importance to both mistress and domestics. If the latter perceive that their mistress's conduct is regulated by high and correct principles, they will not fail to respect her; and if a real desire is shown to promote their comfort, while at the same time a steady performance of their duty is exacted, then well-principled servants will be anxious to earn approval, and their respect will not be unmingled with affection.
A lady should never allow herself to forget the important duty of watching over the moral and physical welfare of those beneath her roof. Without seeming unduly inquisitive, she can always learn something of their acquaintances and holiday occupation, and should, when necessary, warn them against the dangers and evils of bad company. An hour should be fixed, usually 10 or 9 p.m., after which no servant should be allowed to stay out. To permit breaches of this rule, without having good and explicit reasons furnished, is very far from being a kindness to the servant concerned. The moral responsibility for evil that may result rests largely on the employer who permits late hours. Especial care is needed with young girls. They should be given opportunities for welcoming respectable friends at their employer's house, and not be forced by absence of such provision for their comfort to spend their spare time out of doors, often in driving rain, possibly in bad company.
Wages of Servants.—The following Table of the average yearly wages paid to domestics, will serve to regulate the expenditure of an establishment. The amounts given will, of course, vary according to experience and locality, extent of duties, supply and demand. No Table could possibly be given which would not be subject to alteration under special circumstances, but taken as a general average these payments will be appropriate and form as reliable a guide as could possibly be given. In most establishments such men-servants as coachman, footman, and page, are provided with livery by their employers. This does not affect the question of wages.
Whilst writing on this subject, we would warn the young wife not to let mistaken notions of economy make her lose, for the sake of saving a trifle in wages, the services of a trusted and efficient domestic. The difference in expense between good and bad servants in a house can only be learned by experience. A really good servant can save her employers far more than her wages and keep amount to, a bad one would be a poor bargain if she gave her services for nothing.
|Groom of the Chambers||„||£45||„||£55|
|Head Gardener (not in the house)||„||£70||„||£120|
|Coachman (not in the house)||„||£70||„||£90|
|Servants' Hall Boy||„||£6||„||£12|
|WOMEN SERVANTS||Everything found, or an allowance|
for the same.
|Head Laundry Maid||„||£22||„||£30|
|Under Laundry Maid||„||£12||„||£20|
These are the wages that prevail in or near the Metropolis. The wages of under servants vary considerably according to locality; and they are often much lower in large establishments where young servants receive a good training than in middle-class households.
Number of Servants suited to different incomes.—The following is a rough scale of servants suited to various incomes. It is, however, impossible to give any general rule in these matters. Whether in a household of moderate means such as our scales deal with, a man-servant is required, will depend upon whether the house is situated in town or country, and if the possession of horses or a garden renders his services imperative. One should not forget that when heavy expenses such as those of education have to be incurred for a family, this outlay must be carefully allowed for, before committing oneself in other directions. Similarly, where two servants are kept, and a nurse is required for young children, it will probably be deemed wise to dispense with the services of the housemaid, and arrange for the nurse to give some help to the cook.
When one is considering if an extra servant is necessary or not, it is well to remember that assistance may sometimes be profitably arranged by engaging a lad for two or three hours a day to do such rough work as cleaning boots and shoes, working in the garden, etc.; and, when uncertain whether to engage a gardener, one should not forget that a man not coming more than four days a week does not render an employer liable to the duty on man servants.
About £1,000 a year. Cook, housemaid, and perhaps a man-servant.
From £750 to £500 a year. Cook, housemaid.
About £300 a year. General servant.
About £200 a year. Young girl for rough work.
Daily Duties.—Having thus indicated the general duties of a mistress in the moral government of her household, we will now give a few instructions on practical details. To do this more clearly, we will begin with the earliest duties, and set forth the occupations of the day.
Before Breakfast.—Having risen early and attended to the toilet, see that the children receive proper care, and are clean and comfortable. The first meal of the day, breakfast, will then be served, at which all the family should be punctually present, unless illness, or other circumstances, prevent. After breakfast is over, the mistress should make a round of the kitchen and other offices, to see that all is in order, and that the early morning's work has been properly performed by the various domestics. The orders for the day should then be given; and any questions which the domestics may ask should be answered, and any articles they require given out. Where a housekeeper is engaged, she will of course perform the above-named duties.
Prompt notice should be taken of the first appearance of slackness, neglect, or any faults in domestic work, so that the servant may know that her mistress is quick to detect the least disorder, and will not pass unsatisfactory work. Small faults allowed to pass unreproved quickly increase. A failing easily cured if promptly dealt with, is almost hopeless when it has been allowed to develop into a habit.
After this General Superintendence of her servants, the mistress will probably have a certain number of letters to write, possibly some marketing or shopping to do, besides numberless small duties which are better done early in the day, such as arranging the flowers for drawing-room and dinner-table, etc. If she be the mother of a young family there may be some instruction to give them, or some of their wardrobes to inspect, and needlework to be done. Time should also be allotted for reading and harmless recreation.
If a lady does much plain needlework a sewing-machine is indispensable. With its help she can make and mend many articles used by her children and herself, and this without undue fatigue. The assistance of such an appliance is invaluable in every home, especially to a mother of daughters. Hand-sewing is slow and laborious, and unless provided with a sewing-machine, there is little inducement for any one to practise home-dressmaking. Apart from the valuable experience gained in cutting-out, fitting, altering and re-making, a great saving may be effected.
Luncheon.—In establishments where an early dinner is served, that meal will, of course, take the place of the luncheon. In many houses, where a nursery dinner is provided for the children about one o'clock, the elder members of the family usually make their luncheon at the same time. If circumstances are not strongly against the arrangement, the children of the house should take their dinner with their mother. It is far better for children to have their principal meal in the company of their mother and other members of the family, as soon as they are able to feed themselves properly. Many little vulgar habits and faults of speech and manner are avoided by this companionship. The mother can thus better watch over her children's health, and see that their food is properly cooked, served, and suited to them. Children who are accustomed to the society of their seniors at their meals will not be awkward or shy with visitors, or when they are staying from home. The nurse, likewise, by this plan is released, for a short period, from the care of her little charges, and, while she enjoys her dinner with her fellow-servants, "waiting on the nurse," a great objection with many housemaids, is avoided.
Visiting.—After luncheon, morning calls and visits may be made and received. These may be divided under three heads; those of ceremony, friendship, and congratulation or condolence. Visits of ceremony or courtesy, which occasionally merge into those of friendship, are to be paid under various circumstances. Thus, they are uniformly required after dining at a friend's house, or after a ball, picnic, or any other party. These visits should be short, a stay of from fifteen to twenty minutes being quite sufficient.
When other visitors are announced, it is well to leave as soon as possible, taking care not to give the impression that your departure has been hastened by the arrival of the new guest. When they are quietly seated, and the bustle of their entrance is over, rise from your chair, taking a kind leave of the hostess, and bowing politely to the guests. Should you call at an inconvenient time, not having ascertained the luncheon hour, or from any other inadvertence, retire as soon as possible without, however, showing that you feel yourself an intruder. It is not difficult to make suitable excuses on such an occasion, and a promise can be made to call again, if the lady you have called on appear really sorry that circumstances have caused you to shorten your visit.
Visits of Friendship need not be so formal as those of ceremony. It is, however, advisable to call at suitable times, and to avoid staying too long if your friend is engaged. Courtesy and consideration for others are safe rules in these every-day matters. During visits manners should be easy and unstrained, and conversation natural and unforced.
It is not advisable to take pet dogs into another lady's house, for there are people who have an absolute dislike to animals; besides this, there is always a chance of the animal breaking something, to the annoyance of the hostess. Except in the case of close friends or special invitation, little children should not accompany a lady in making morning calls. Where a lady, however, pays her visits in a carriage, the children can be taken, remaining in the carriage when the caller enters her friend's house.
It has now become general for the mistress of a house to set aside one day in every week, fortnight or month, as the case may be, on which she is at home to receive callers. Wherever this is known to be the case, casual visitors should make it a rule to call on that day. It is hardly necessary to add that a lady should always be prepared for guests on "at home" days. If any circumstance obliges her to be from home on such a day, she must carefully inform all her acquaintances in good time, that they may be spared a fruitless journey.
When a lady has fixed her "At Home" day and cards have been issued as, for example, "Mrs. A— At Home on Wednesdays from 4 to 7," afternoon tea should be provided by the hostess, fresh supplies of it, with thin bread-and-butter, fancy sandwiches, sweets, cakes, etc., being forthcoming as fresh guests arrive.
Morning Calls demand good but neat attire; a costume much more elaborate than that which you generally wear will be out of place. As a general rule, it may be said, both in reference to this and all other occasions, it is better to be under than overdressed.
A strict account should be kept of ceremonial visits, and notice be taken how soon your visits have been returned. An opinion may thus be formed as to whether your frequent visits are, or are not, desirable. There are, naturally, instances in which the circumstances of old age or ill-health will preclude any return of a call; but when this is the case, it must not interrupt the discharge of the duty by those who have no such excuses to make.
In all visits, if your acquaintance or friend be not at home, a card should be left. If you are in a carriage, the servant will answer your inquiry and receive your card without waiting for you to alight; if paying your visits on foot, give your card to the servant who answers the door. The form of words, "Not at home," may be understood in different senses; but the only courteous way is to receive them as being perfectly true. You may imagine that the lady of the house is really at home, and that she would make an exception in your favour, or you may think that your call is not desired; but, in either case, not the slightest word is to escape you which would suggest, on your part, such an impression.
Visits of Condolence should be paid within a week after the event which occasions them. If the acquaintance, however, is but slight, they should not be made until immediately after the family has appeared in public. A lady should send in her card, and, if her friends be able to receive her, the visitor's manner and conversation should be subdued, and in harmony with the character of her visit. Visitors paying visits of condolence should be dressed in black, or at any rate very quietly. Sympathy with the affliction of the family is thus expressed.
Receiving Morning Calls.—The foregoing description of the etiquette to be observed in paying them will apply to the receiving of calls. It is to be added, however, that, generally speaking, all occupations should be suspended on the entrance of morning visitors. If a lady, however, be engaged with light needlework, she may continue it quietly during conversation, particularly if the visit be protracted.
Formerly the custom was to accompany all departing visitors to the door of the house, and there take leave of them; but modern society, which dispenses with a great deal of this kind of ceremony, now merely requires that the lady of the house should rise from her seat, shake hands, or bow, and ring the bell to summon the servant to attend them and open the door. In making a first call, either upon a newly-married couple or on persons newly arrived in the neighbourhood, a lady should leave her husband's card, together with her own, at the same time stating that the profession or business in which he is engaged has prevented him from having the pleasure of paying the visit with her. It is a custom with many ladies, when on the eve of an absence from their neighbourhood to leave or send their own and husband's cards, with the letters P. P. C. in the right-hand corner. These letters are the initials of the French words Pour prendre congé, meaning "To take leave."
Visiting Cards and Invitations.—The fashion of visiting cards used to vary much, some being made extremely thin, but those of medium thickness are now usually preferred. When calling at a house, it used to be customary to turn up the lower right-hand corner of the card, to denote that a personal call had been made, but this is not general any longer. Tennis and croquet invitations are issued with the word at the bottom right-hand corner. For Soirées, "At Homes," Conversaziones, Dinners and Balls, invitation cards are used; but for Weddings the invitations are issued upon notepaper. Gilt edges and gilt decorations are not often used nowadays, nor is the monogram, or crest, or both frequently embossed at the head of the paper.
It is customary at many houses during summer to give tennis or croquet teas. The meal is very informal, and often served out of doors. Iced tea, coffee, claret-cup, etc., are served, with sandwiches, pastry, cakes and other light viands. The tables are set under shady trees, and a couple of servants or members of the family are in attendance at them, the visitors themselves going to the table for what they may want. The following is a form for wedding invitations:—
Mr. and Mrs. A—— request the pleasure of Mr.
and Mrs. B——'s company on the occasion of
the marriage of their daughter Alice with
Ceremony on Wednesday, 14 June, at ——
The morning calls having been paid or received, and their etiquette properly attended to, the next great event of the day in most establishments is "The Dinner"; and we will only make a few general remarks on this important subject here, as in future pages the whole "Art of Dining" will be thoroughly considered, with reference to its economy, comfort and enjoyment.
Invitations for Dinner.—In giving these it is usual to give from a fortnight's to three weeks' notice, and formal ones are sent on printed cards, such as the following—
company at dinner
on .... the .... at ....o'clock.
In accepting an invitation the form of words used is—
while in declining one it is usual to say—
regret they are unavoidably prevented [or that a
previous engagement prevents them] from
Before the Dinner.—A dinner-party, in an establishment where such an event is of rare occurrence, is apt to cause great anxiety to the inexperienced hostess, particularly when she cannot place full reliance in the training and capabilities of her servants. But, whatever her fears of disaster may be, she must meet her guests with a bright and cheery welcome.
In giving any entertainment of this kind, the hostess should endeavour to make the guests enjoy the time spent under her roof, and the guests themselves should remember that they have come with the object of mutual entertainment. An opportunity is thus given to all for innocent pleasure and intellectual intercourse, in the course of which pleasant and valuable friendships may be formed and information acquired that may prove useful through life. Many celebrated men and women have been great talkers; and one may recall the genial Sir Walter Scott, who would speak freely to any one, and was wont to say that he never did so without learning something.
With respect to the number of guests, it has often been said, that a private dinner-party should consist of not less than the number of the Graces, or more than that of the Muses. A party of ten or twelve is, perhaps, as a general rule, sufficient for enjoyment. Gloves are worn by ladies at dinner-parties, but should be taken off before the actual meal begins.
Going to Dinner.—Dinner having been announced, the host offers his arm to, and places on his right hand at the dinner-table, the lady to whom he desires to pay most respect, either on account of her age, position, or because she is the greatest stranger in the party. If this lady be married and her husband present, the latter takes the hostess—who always enters the dining-room last—to her place at table, and seats himself at her right hand. The rest of the company follow the host in couples, as specified by the master or mistress of the house, the whole party being arranged according to their rank and other circumstances which may be known to the host and hostess.
Guest Cards.—It will be found of great assistance to the placing of a party at the dinner-table, to have the names of the guests neatly written on small cards called "Guest cards" and placed at that part of the table where it is desired the several guests should sit. It is a matter of taste what cards should be used for this purpose; small plain ones are perfectly admissible, but those with gold, silver or coloured borders are more effective and show more distinctly, laid as they are upon either white table cloths or serviettes. Some with floral ornamentation are frequently used. Sometimes the menu card is a double one, which folds like a ball programme, and upon the outside of this the guest's name is written.
The Dinner à la Russe, introduced into England about the middle of the nineteenth century, has now largely taken the place of the old custom of having all the dishes served from the table. The service of dinner is fully dealt with in subsequent pages.
Dessert.—When dinner is finished, the dessert is placed on the table, accompanied by finger-glasses, in which the tips of the fingers are dipped after the fruit or sweetmeats of this course have been taken.
Leaving the Dinner Table.—When fruit has been taken, and a glass or two of wine passed round, the time will have arrived when the hostess, after catching the eye of the lady first in precedence, rises, and gives her guests the signal to retire to the drawing-room. The gentlemen will rise at the same time, and the one nearest the door open it for the ladies, all courteously standing until the last lady has withdrawn.
In former times, when the bottle circulated freely amongst the guests, the ladies retired earlier than they do at present. Thanks, however, to the changes time has wrought, strict moderation is now invariable amongst gentlemen, and they now take but a brief interval for tobacco, talk, and coffee, before they rejoin the ladies.
After-dinner Invitations, by which we mean invitations for the evening, may be given. The time of arrival of these visitors will vary according to their engagements, or sometimes will be varied in obedience to the caprices of fashion. Guests invited for the evening are, however, generally considered at liberty to arrive whenever it will best suit themselves—usually between nine and twelve, unless earlier hours are specifically named. By this arrangement, those who have numerous engagements to fulfil, can contrive to make their appearance at two or three parties in the course of one evening.
Ball or Evening Party Etiquette.—The etiquette of the dinner-party table being disposed of, let us now enter into that of an evening party or ball. The invitations for these are usually on "At Home" cards, filled in with the name and address of the sender and the date of the invitation, with the word "Dancing" or "Music," as the case may be, in one corner. They should be sent out about three weeks before the day fixed for the event, and should be replied to within a week of their receipt. By attention to these courtesies, the guests will have time to consider their engagements, and prepare their dresses, and the hostess will learn in good time the number of guests likely to be present.
Short or verbal invitations, except to relatives or close friends, are not, formally speaking, correct, but, of course, very much depends on the circumstances under which the invitation is given. Social forms, while never allowed to become a fetish, should not be altogether neglected even among close friends and relatives, for unintentional neglect of a customary formality may be misunderstood and strain a valued friendship.
Arrival of Guests.—Visitors on arrival should be shown to a room exclusively provided for their reception; and in that set apart for the ladies, attendants should be in waiting to assist those ladies who may require help. It will be found convenient, where the number of guests is large, to provide numbered tickets, so that they can be attached to the cloaks and wraps of each visitor; a duplicate of the ticket should be handed to the guest. Tea and coffee is provided in an ante-room, for those who would like to partake of it.
Introductions.—The lady of the house usually stands at the door of the drawing-room to receive her guests. She may introduce some of them to others, where she may imagine mutual acquaintance will be suitable and agreeable. It is very often the practice of the master of the house to introduce one gentleman to another, but occasionally the lady performs this office.
The custom of non-introduction is very much in vogue in many houses, and guests are thus left to discover for themselves the position and qualities of the people around them. The servant, indeed, calls out the names of all the visitors as they arrive, but, in many instances, mispronounces them; so that it will not be well to follow this information, as if it were an unerring guide. But the gentleman is, of course, introduced by either host or hostess to the lady whom he is to take in to dinner.
Refreshments.—A separate room or buffet should be set apart for refreshments. A supper is also often provided at private parties; and this requires, on the part of the hostess, a great deal of attention and supervision. It usually takes place between the first and second parts of the dances arranged. Programmes of these dances are printed in various forms, and have pencils attached. The monogram of the hostess, or the name of the house, with the date of the party, frequently heads these programmes.
At Private Parties, a lady should not refuse the invitation of a gentleman to dance, unless she be previously engaged. The hostess must be supposed to have asked to her house only those persons whom she knows to be of good character, as well as fairly equal position; hence to decline the offer of any gentleman present would be a tacit reflection on the master and mistress of the house. It may be mentioned here that an introduction at balls or evening parties does not necessarily involve a subsequent acquaintanceship, no introduction, at these times, giving a gentleman a right afterwards to address a lady. She is consequently free next morning to pass her partner at a ball of the previous evening without the slightest recognition, if she prefers to do so.
Dancing.—The ball is generally opened by the lady of the house. Whilst the host will usually lead off the dance with the lady highest in rank of those present or the greatest stranger, it will be well for the hostess, even if she is an ardent and accomplished dancer, not to indulge in the art to an unlimited extent, as the duties of entertaining make considerable demands on her attention and time. A few dances will suffice to show that she shares in the pleasures of the evening.
The hostess and host, during the progress of a ball, will chat with their friends, and take care the ladies are furnished with seats, and that those who wish to dance are provided with partners. A gentle hint from the hostess that a lady lacks a partner during several dances, is certain not to be neglected by any gentleman. In this way the comfort and enjoyment of the guests can be promoted, and no lady will experience the sensation of being a wallflower throughout the evening. Beside her other cares, the mistress has frequently the added duties of a chaperon either of her own or some friend's daughters. Without making vexatious regulations, or preventing the enjoyment of her charges, she must be able to ensure their doing nothing that is either outré or in bad form. At a ball she will take special care that her charges always know where to find her, though no reasonable chaperon will expect a girl to be always with her.
Departure.—When any of the carriages are announced, or the time for the departure of the guests arrives, they should bid farewell to the hostess, without attracting the attention of the other guests to their departure. If this cannot be done, without creating too much bustle, it will be better for the visitors to retire quietly without taking their leave. Within a week of the entertainment, the hostess should receive from every guest a call, where possible, or cards expressing the gratification experienced from her entertainment. To neglect such an obvious duty is an offence against all social rules
Having shortly treated different forms of social gatherings, we now return to the ordinary routine of the household, though all the details we have given of dinner parties, balls, etc., belong to the department of the mistress. Without a knowledge of the etiquette to be observed on these occasions, a mistress would be unable to enjoy and appreciate those friendly meetings which, giving a pleasant change, make the quiet, happy life of an English gentlewoman the more enjoyable. In their proper places, all that is necessary to be known respecting the dishes and appearance of the breakfast, dinner, tea, and supper tables will be set forth in this work.
Home Gatherings are more frequent and more important than social entertainments. Both, however, have to be studied with a view to efficiency, enjoyment and economy. These points will be dealt with in the pages on "Cookery." Here we will only say, that for both mistress and servants, it will be found wise to cook and serve the dinner, and to lay the tablecloth and the sideboard, with the same cleanliness, neatness and scrupulous exactitude, whether it be for the family, or for "company." If this be strictly adhered to, the details of work will become as second nature to all energies, and the trifling extra trouble entailed is amply repaid by the increased efficiency of servants, the feeling that one is always prepared for any chance callers, and the moral stimulus that is given by having all things done decently and in order.
Evenings at Home should form a pleasant, improving and restful portion of the daily round. Few hours of the day present more opportunities for forming and strengthening good habits and tendencies among the young. In many homes this is the only time when the busy father has the opportunity, and the mother the leisure, to share in the pursuits and pastimes of their children. If children do not find pleasure at home they will seek it elsewhere, often in undesirable directions. Hence it should form part of the settled domestic policy of every parent to make children feel that home is one of the happiest places in the world, thus cultivating in them an attachment to home interests that may prove an invaluable safeguard in the crucial years of their youth. With this object in view all innocent games and pastimes should be encouraged; the young collector, naturalist, carpenter or engineer should be helped in his interesting and instructive hobbies. Games of skill, like chess and draughts, which have an educational value, should be introduced and opportunity given for cricket, cycling, walking, hockey and healthy sport, whilst children who show any talent for music, drawing, modelling, composition, etc., should know that a keen interest is taken in their pursuits.
Fancy needlework often forms a portion of the evening's recreation for the ladies of the household, and this may be made more pleasant by reading aloud some standard work, whether of instruction, humour, or romance, and there is no greater safeguard against those low-class and pernicious publications, which, alas! abound, than an early acquaintance with the real masterpieces of literature.
Retiring for the Night.—It is well to remember that early rising is almost impossible if retiring to rest at a late hour is the practice of the household. The younger members of a family should go early and at regular hours to their beds, and the domestics as soon as possible after a reasonably appointed hour. Either the master or the mistress of a house should, after all have gone to their separate rooms, see that all is right with respect to lights and fires below; and no servants should on any account be allowed to remain up after the heads of the house have retired.
Having thus dealt with daily routine from rising at morning to retiring at night, there remain only now to be considered a few matters, respecting which the mistress of the house may be glad to receive information.
When taking a House in a new locality, it will be etiquette for the mistress to wait until the older inhabitants of the neighbourhood call upon her, thus evincing a desire, on their part, to become acquainted with the new-comer. It may be, that the mistress will desire an intimate acquaintance with but few of her neighbours; but it is to be specially borne in mind that all visits, whether of ceremony, friendship, or condolence, should be punctiliously returned, though some time may be allowed to elapse in the case of undesirable acquaintance.
Letters of Introduction.—You may perhaps have been favoured with letters of introduction from some of your friends, to persons living in the neighbourhood to which you have just come. In this case, enclose the letter of introduction in an envelope, with your card. Then, if the person to whom it is addressed call in the course of a few days, the visit should be returned by you within the week, if possible. It is now more usual to write by the post and introduce a friend, instead of leaving everything to be said by the letter that is given.
In the event of your being invited to dinner under the above circumstances, nothing but necessity should prevent you from accepting the invitation. If, however, there is some distinct reason why you cannot accept, let it be stated frankly and plainly. An opportunity should, also, be taken to call in the course of a day or two, in order to express your regret that untoward circumstances have made it impossible for you to be present.
In Giving a Letter of Introduction, it should always be handed to your friend unsealed. Courtesy dictates this, as the person whom you are introducing would, perhaps, wish to know in what manner he or she was spoken of. Should you receive a letter from a friend, introducing to you any person known to and esteemed by the writer, the letter should be immediately acknowledged, and your willingness expressed to do all in your power to carry out his or her wishes.
Order and Punctuality are so important to the comfort and happiness of the household that every mistress should fix stated hours for meals, etc., which ought to be strictly observed by every member of the family.
|ORDER OF THE HOUSEHOLD
Morning Prayers, 8.45 a.m.
"Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together.
Post Arrives 8 a.m.
"Kind words in which we feel the pressure of a hand."
Post Departs. 8.30a.m. & 6 p.m.
"A timely written letter is a rivet in the chain of affection."
Pleasures and Duties in due order linked.
Evening Papers, 10. p.m.
The specimen card of order of the household will guide the mistress in drawing up a set of rules adapted to the special requirements of her own home.
Furnishing a House is an anxious and onerous undertaking, involving far more ramifications, details and difficulties than can be dealt with here. A few useful elementary rules to be observed are as follows: before purchasing a single article, the future abode should be carefully inspected, and a careful plan made with exact measurements of the height, length and breadth of every room and of all recesses contained in them, for a few inches difference more or less will render quite impossible or useless for your room a suite or article of furniture fancied by you, or recommended by the plausible salesman, who has never seen the house to be furnished. Then, still, before any purchases are made, a list of the articles desired and necessary for the new house should be made, re-made, altered and considered, priced and re-priced, estimated and re-estimated. No trouble or care can be considered excessive in this task, for to most people, furnishing from cellar to attic, as the phrase goes, is a task that comes to us but once in our existence, and some of the articles selected may have to last for a lifetime. Should money be limited, the sum that can be devoted to this purpose should be carefully fixed, and if the amount is not found sufficient for all requirements, the expenditure on all strictly necessary articles should be estimated and allowed for, before letting the fancy stray after superfluities and luxuries. This may seem a very obvious rule, but it is one often neglected. The scarcity of vile dross that prevents us from ordering all we think we need for our new establishment, may be a blessing in disguise, for many of those quaint and interesting articles that lend so much individuality and artistic charm to a dwelling can never be purchased in bulk, but must be acquired by a combination of good luck, good taste and loving search. The time required for an exciting hunt after articles of beauty, quaint ugliness, or romantic interest, will not be grudged by many young couples, for each treasure thus acquired tends to give fresh interest in the beautifying of a home. These rules considered, rival catalogues compared, and the advantages and drawbacks of old and new furniture weighed, the prospective householder will be prepared to face the allurements of Tottenham Court Road and elsewhere. Every possible information about kitchen furniture and utensils, with carefully compiled price lists, will be found in a later chapter. It is now usual for the landlord to allow the incoming tenant to choose the wall papers, and we would advise our readers not to mind taking considerable trouble in this respect. It is well to think whether the rooms require light or dark papers; the furniture and carpets with which they are to be associated should also be considered. In few things are loving care and taste better repaid than in such careful choice, and we would recommend our readers not to rest content with the sample books furnished by their landlord, but to inspect the designs of the best known and most artistic firms.
Choosing a House.—Many mistresses have experienced the horrors of house-hunting, and it is well known that "three removes are as good (or bad, rather) as a fire."
The choice of a house must depend on various circumstances with different people, and to give any specific directions on this head would be impossible and useless, yet it will be desirable to point out some of the general features as to locality, soil, aspect, etc., which all house-hunters should carefully consider.
Regarding the locality, we may say, speaking more particularly of a town house, that it is important to the health and comfort of a family that the neighbourhood of all factories producing unwholesome or offensive emanations or odours should be strictly avoided. Neither is it well to take a house in the immediate vicinity of a noisy trade, lest it should prove a constant annoyance.
Before taking a house on lease, get a competent surveyor to inspect the state of the building—drainage, walls, roof, gutters, etc. Do not rely upon the statements of an agent, or any one interested in letting the house. When circumstances permit, it is well to stay for some time in the neighbourhood to ascertain if it suits your health and taste before removing there.
Referring to soils: it is held as a rule, that a gravel soil is best, as the rain drains through it very quickly, and it is consequently less damp than clay, upon which water rests a far longer time. Sand, chalk, and clay soils all possess their respective merits, but the latter should be avoided by those subject to rheumatic affections.
The aspect of the house should be well considered, remembering that the more sunlight comes into the house the healthier is the habitation. A house with a south or south-west aspect is lighter, warmer, drier, and consequently more healthy, than one facing the north or north-east.
Great advances have been made of late in sanitary knowledge, and the first point to inspect in a house is its drainage, as it has been proved in thousands of cases that bad or defective drainage is as certain to destroy health as the taking of poison. This arises from its injurious effect upon the atmosphere, which renders the air we breathe unwholesome and dangerous. Let us remember, then, that unless the drainage of a house is perfect, the health of its inhabitants is sure to suffer; and they will be susceptible to diphtheria, typhoid and all kinds of fevers and disease. A damp house also fosters rheumatism, ague, etc.
The importance of a good water supply can scarcely be over estimated. No house, however suitable in other respects, should be taken if this important source of health and comfort is in the slightest degree scarce or impure. We cannot take too much care in seeing that it is pure and good, as well as plentiful, knowing as we do its constant influence on the health of a household.
Ventilation is another feature which must not be overlooked. To ensure efficient ventilation both inlet and outlet openings must be provided; the former, as near the floor as possible, without producing a draught; the latter, close to the ceiling. The lower part of the window may be used as an inlet for air when the room is not in use. Iron gratings and perforated bricks fitted into the outer wall, and valves opening into the chimney, can all serve as outlets for foul air. Failing these, the upper sash of the window may be lowered; but this method of ventilation is apt to cause an unpleasant draught, whereas the above-named devices admit and carry off air without any perceptible change of temperature.
Before committing themselves to any agreement for a house, inexperienced readers are advised to consult our "Legal Memoranda," given later on.
Rent.—Some authorities say one-tenth, others one-eighth, of the total income should be spent in rent, but so many circumstances—such as the size of the family, its position, and the locality in which it is necessary to reside affect—this estimate, we are disposed to think it is a question best left for careful consideration in each individual case. When facing the problem of taking a new and larger house, one should bear in mind that the mere increase in rent does not represent the whole of the extra expense that will have to be borne, for besides rates, which of course increase proportionately, a larger house seems invariably to increase expenses all round. Yet it is not easy to give explicit reasons for this undoubted tendency.
The Responsibilities or Duties of the mistress of a house are, though onerous and important, by no means difficult if given careful and systematic attention. She ought always to remember that she rules the household; and by her conduct its whole internal policy is regulated. She is, therefore, a person of far-reaching importance. Her daughters model themselves on her pattern, and are directed by her counsels:—"Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her." Therefore let each wife, remembering her responsibilities, see that her conduct is such as to earn the love and reverence of her children and her husband.
Let her remember the sincere homage paid to the good wife and mother by the great philosophers and writers of all ages. Jeremy Taylor says: "A good wife is Heaven's last best gift to man; his angel and minister of graces innumerable; his gem of many virtues; his casket of jewels. Her voice is sweet music; her smiles his brightest day; her kiss the guardian of his innocence; her arms, the pale of his safety; the balm of his health, the balsam of his life; her industry, his surest wealth; her economy, his safest steward; her lips, his faithful counsellors; her bosom, the softest pillow of his cares; and her prayers, the ablest advocates of Heaven's blessings on his head."