Friday, November 28, 2008

The Fine Art Of Introductions

I thought it might be appropriate, considering that I am probably one of few armed with Routledge's Manual of Etiquette (1887), to assist you through the intricacies of polite society during the winter social season. You will soon be receiving numerous invitations and calling cards from friends and acquaintances, and of course you are obligated yourself to host several affairs during the long winter months. These may including teas, dinner parties, soirees, at homes, morning calls, balls, caudles, drums, kettledrums, leevees, matinees and weekends at country estates. Nothing is more abhorrent than committing a faux pas in the presence of polite society, so you would do yourself well to pull up a chair and pay close attention.
I will begin with a quote by another author, only because this one is more likely to incite a riot than any by Routledge.
"High birth and good breeding are the privileges of the few; but the habits and manners of a gentleman may be acquired by all. Nor is their acquirement attended with difficulty. Etiquette is not an art requiring the study of a life-time; on the contrary, its principles are simple, and their practical application involves only ordinary care, tact and sagacity....We are not all equally civilized; some of us are scarcely more than savage by nature and training, or rather lack of training. Yet we all wish to put on the regalia of civilization that we may be recognized as belonging to the guild of ladies and gentlemen in the world." Richard A Wells, A.M.

Let us begin with introductions. This seems to be an important subject among the various authors, as it appears that this is a very serious responsibility, and one must be careful not to impose oneself or one's acquaintances upon the sensibilities of respectable society if one is not of equally high birth and good breeding.
Here are a few basic rules, Cut this out and affix it to your refrigerator with one of your Homer Simpson magnets:
Before introducing:
  • Consider the respectability of each and the likelihood of agreeability of each to the other.
  • Never introduce a male to a female without permission from the lady
  • Always introduce the gentleman to the lady
  • When introducing two people of the same sex, present the inferior to the superior.
  • Never introduce morning visitors who happen to encounter each other in your drawing room.
  • While walking with a friend, if you encounter another person, do not introduce them. You have less right to do so than if they encountered each other at your home during a morning call.
  • A person may not introduce a sibling, parent or other family member if they are inferior to the 3rd party. (that's cold!)
  • Leave it to the mistress of the house to make introductions in her home. Such an introduction carries more authority
  • The hostess may not introduce a gentleman to a lady without first ascertaining the lady wishes to dance. (No man likes to be refused the hand of a lady, though it be only for a quadrille)

While being introduced:

  • Ladies never offer their hand to a gentleman.
  • Limit recognition to each other to a bow
  • Ladies on the Continent, never shake hands with a gentleman

After introductions or not:

  • People who have not been introduced are not acquainted
  • Persons who have met without being introduced should not bow if they afterwards meet elsewhere. A bow implies acquaintance.
  • An introduction given at a ball for the mere purpose of conducting a lady through a dance does not give the gentleman any right to bow to her on a future occasion, If he commits this error, she may remember she is not bound to see or return his salutation.

In addition, if when you enter a drawing room and your name has wrongly been announced, i.e. Moose-Swings, or has passed unheard in the buzz of conversation, make your way at once to the mistress of the house, if you are a stranger, and introduce yourself by name. This should be done with the greatest simplicity and your rank made as little of as possible.

So, that said, if you are taking a friend along to an affair and you feel their stature is such that they should not be introduced, just let them know ahead of time that they are too ill bred for introductions and they are to sit quietly in the parlor with the chaperons and may not partake of any refreshments other than perhaps tea and a biscuit. But just one biscuit - without frosting or sprinkles on it. They are not to make crumbs or otherwise make a spectacle of themselves. Let them hold your coat and hat if no provisions for such have been made by the hostess. Tell them they are responsible for flagging down a hansom cab just prior to the end of the soiree so you don't have to stand out in the cold night air in your new velvet wrap. Tell them you'll be back in just a few hours, after you have dined and danced all of the quadrilles on your dance card.

Over the next several weeks I shall be posting additional information about proper etiquette to carry you through the Winter Season. Sit up a little straighter in that chair next time, and bring some light work with you such as tatting or knitting. Idle hands, you know...


Lavinia said...

Allow me to "introduce" you to a winner...over at the birdbath!

MuseSwings said...

How exciting! Pop over to Lavinia's and see who won her antiquities contest!

Blicky Kitty said...

Hi Cynthia! Blicky found the dance routine he had planned out for the Mr. ( I hope there wasn't any need and there was plenty of the dark meat.

I'm pretty sure, from what I can gather by flipping past mtv and vh1, that the younger generation follows Mr. Routledge's advice to the letter and has no need for his advice.

Debby said...

Muse Swings: Too many rules. I'll be the same old ill bred poppet I've always been. You can roll your eyes and refuse to introduce me to anyone. In fact, don't introduce me to yourself or Lavinia either one, since making that acquaintance seems to lead to big problems. (Where's my credit card? she gasped, clutching frantically at her reticule.)

Sparky ♥ ∞ said...

Excellent post! That was fun. :o)

Actually, several of those rules are good guide lines to live by. We should try to be more civil and recapture our Western culture. You can tell we've lost a lot of our civility in a very short period of time (I blame socialism for this). Today's society is *too* casual and has become dangerous because of it. Just my never-to-be-humble opinion. ♥ ∞

MuseSwings said...

Yes, Blick, and My Space is yet another excellent indication of the manners and mores of our whippersnappers. Love the dance link! I did manage to hide most of the dark meat in the safe. The Mister just thinks the turky was in a bit of an accident out on the farm.

Debbie, you poppet, stop grasping at your reticule and just look in the top drawer of Lovie's bureau - the one with her Tant's pen on it.

The Western culture, Sparky? Are you talking like a Fistfull of Dollars and High Noon here? I gotta get me a six-gun now.

steviewren said...

As always Muse, I come to your blog first whenever I have a question as to how I must behave in proper society. I brought a lovely gentleman with me today, but I'm afraid you are too lowly born for me to make him known to you....ah, there's Madame Ladyslipper, we'll go speak with her.

Janeen said...

Oh my the rules of the day! Reminds me of the movie... A Room with a View. So many social rules for women and men and then you get a rebel in there! ha ha

MuseSwings said...

Stevie Wren, And whence did you come upon my family tree and see all of the broken branches there?

Janeen - Yeah - a rebel! Lots of them here in bloggyland!