This section is from the book "Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: A Guide To Correct Writing", by Thos. E. Hill. Also available from Amazon: Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: The How-To-Do-Everything Book Of Victorian America.
In making a formal call, a lady does not remove her bonnet or wraps.
Unless there be a certain evening set apart for receiving, the formal call should be made in the morning.
It is customary, according to the code of etiquette, to call all the hours of daylight morning, and after nightfall evening.
Calls may be made in the morning or in the evening. The call in the morning should not be made before 12 m., nor later than 5 p. m.
A gentleman, making a formal call in the morning, must retain his hat in his hand. He may leave umbrella and cane in the hall, but not his hat and gloves. The fact of retaining hat indicates a formal call.
When a gentleman accompanies a lady at a morning call (which is seldom), he assists her up the steps, rings the bell, and follows her into the reception-room. It is for the lady to determine when they should leave.
All uncouth and ungraceful positions are especially unbecoming among ladies and gentlemen in the parlor. Thus (Fig. 6), standing with the arms akimbo, sitting astride a chair, wearing the hat, and smoking in the presence of ladies, leaning back in the chair, standing with legs crossed and feet on the chairs - all those acts evince lack of polished manners.
If possible, avoid calling at the lunch or dinner hour. Among society people the most fashionable hours for calling are from 12 m. to 3 p. m. At homes where dinner or lunch is taken at noon, calls may be made from 2 to 5 p. M.
Should other callers be announced, it is well, as soon as the bustle attending the new arrival is over, to arise quietly, take leave of the hostess, bow to the visitors, and retire, without apparently doing so because of the new arrivals. This saves the hostess the trouble of entertaining two sets of callers.
To say bright and witty things during the call of ceremony, and go so soon that the hostess will desire the caller to come again, is much the more pleasant. No topic of a political or religious character should be admitted to the conversation, nor any subject of absorbing interest likely to lead to discussion.
A lady engaged upon fancy sewing of any kind, or needlework, need not necessarily lay aside the same during the call of intimate acquaintances. Conversation can flow just as freely while the visit continues.
During the visits of ceremony, however, strict attention should be given to entertaining the callers.
Gentlemen may make morning calls on the following occasions: To convey congratulations or sympathy and condolence, to meet a friend who has just returned from abroad, to inquire after the health of a lady who may have accepted his escort on the previous day. (He should not delay the latter more than a day.) He may call upon those to whom letters of introduction are given, to express thanks for any favor which may have been rendered him, or to return a call. A great variety of circumstances will also determine when at other times he should make calls.
Evening calls should never be made later than 9 P. m., and never prolonged later than 10 P. m.
In making a formal call in the evening, the gentleman must hold hat and gloves, unless invited to lay them aside and spend the evening.
In making an informal call in the evening, a gentleman may leave hat, cane, overshoes, etc., in the hall, provided he is invited to do so, and the lady may remove her wraps.
The evening call should not generally be prolonged over an hour. With very intimate friends, however, it may be made a little longer; but the caller should be very careful that the visit be not made tiresome.
Calls from people living in the country are expected to be longer and less ceremonious than from those in the city.
When it has been impossible to attend a dinner or a social gathering, a call should be made soon afterwards, to express regret at the inability to be present.
A gentleman, though a stranger, may with propriety escort an unattended lady to the carriage, and afterwards return and make his farewell bow to the hostess.
Should a guest arrive to remain for some time with the friend, those who are intimate with the family should call as soon as possible, and these calls should be returned at the earliest opportunity.
Unless invited to do so, it is a violation of etiquette to draw near the fire for the purpose of warming one's self. Should you, while waiting the appearance of the hostess, have done so, you will arise upon her arrival, and then take the seat she may assign you.
When a lady has set apart a certain evening for receiving calls, it is not usual to call at other times, except the excuse be business reasons.
Fig. 6. UNGRACEFUL POSITIONS.
No. 1. Stands with arms akimbo.
"2. Sits with elbows on the knees.
"3. Sits astride the chair, and wears his hat in the parlor.
"4. Stains the wall paper by pressing against it with his hand; eats an apple alone, and stands with his legs crossed. No. 5. Rests his foot upon the chair-cushion. "6. Tips back his chair, Boils the wall by resting his head against it, and smokes in the presence of ladies.