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.
While upon the floor, awaiting the music, a lady and gentleman should avoid long conversations, as they are likely to interfere with the dance: but a pleasant word or two in light conversation will be appropriate if the parties are acquainted; if not, they may quietly wait. The bow should be given at the commencement and close of each dance.
When all the ladies are provided for at the table then the gentlemen may think of their own supper.
Ladies will consult their own pleasure about recognizing a ball-room acquaintance at a future meeting.
Should you make a mistake in taking a position, apologize to the party incommoded, and take another place in the set.
Any difficulty or misunderstanding at a public ball should be referred to the master of ceremonies, whose decision should be deemed final.
In tendering an invitation to the lady to dance, allow her to designate what set it shall be, and you are expected to strictly fulfill the engagement.
A gentleman who goes to a ball should dance frequently; if he does not, he will not receive many invitations afterward; he is not invited to ornament the wall and "wait for supper."
After dancing, a gentleman should conduct the lady to a seat, unless she otherwise desires; he should thank her for the pleasure she has conferred, but he should not tarry too long in intimate conversation with her.
A gentleman having taken a lady's seat during a dance must rise as soon as it is over, and invite her to come and take it again. It is not necessary to bow more than once, though you frequently meet acquaintances upon the promenade; to bow every time would be tiresome.
A ball-room engagement should not be broken.
A lady should not enter or cross the hall unattended.
No gentleman should enter the ladies' dressing-room at a ball.
No evidence of ill-nature should ever show itself at the ball.
Never lead a lady in the hall by the hand; always offer the arm.
Guests should remain at the supper-table no longer than is necessary.
A couple should not engage in a long, private, confidential talk in a ball-room.
While one dance is in progress it is not in good taste to be arranging for another.
Do not engage yourself for the last two or three dances; it may keep you too late.
Neither married nor unmarried ladies should leave a ball-room assemblage unattended.
A gentleman should not wait until the music has commenced before selecting his partner.
Do not aim to put in all the steps in the quadrille. The figures are now executed in a graceful walk.
A gentleman should not insist upon a lady continuing to dance when she has expressed a desire to sit down.
Excepting the first set, it is not etiquette for married people to dance together at either a public or private ball.
Do not contend for a position in the quadrille at either head or sides. It indicates frivolity. You should be above it.
A gentleman should not take a vacant seat beside a lady without asking permission, whether he is acquainted or not.
The lady should never accept of an invitation to dance with one gentleman immediately after having refused another.
No lady at a ball should be without an escort at the supper-table The hostess should see that she is provided with one.
A gentleman should never presume upon the acquaintance of a lady after a ball; ball-room introductions close with the dancing.
No gentleman should use his bare hand to press the waist of a lady in the waltz. If without gloves carry a handkerchief in the hand. A lady should not select a gentleman to hold her bouquet, fan and gloves during the dance, unless he be her husband, escort or a relative.
Gentlemen should never forget that ladies are first to be cared for, to have the best seats, and to always receive the most courteous attention.
A gentleman in waltzing should not encircle the waist of a lady until the dancing commences, and he should drop his arm when the music ceases.
No gentleman whose clothing or breath is tainted with the fumes of strong drink or tobacco should ever enter the presence of ladies in the dancing-room.
When the company has been divided into two different sets you should not attempt to change from one to the other, except by permission of the master of ceremonies.
A lady should not refuse to be introduced to a gentleman at a private ball. At a public ball she will use her discretion, and she can with propriety refuse any introduction.
Never eat your supper in gloves. White kids should be worn at other times throughout the dancing. It is well to have two pairs, one before supper, and one afterward.
Ladies should not be allowed to sit the evening through without the privilege of dancing. Gentlemen should be sufficiently watchful to see that all ladies present are provided with partners.
A gentleman should not invite a lady to be his partner in a dance with which he is not perfectly familiar. It is tiresome and embarrassing to a lady to have a partner who appears awkward.
No gentleman should play the clown in the ball-room. Dancing a break-down, making unusual noise, dressing in a peculiar style, swaggering, swinging the arms about, etc., are simply the characteristics of the buffoon.
The lady is not obliged to invite her escort to enter the house when he accompanies her home, and if invited he should decline the invitation. But he should request permission to call the next day or evening, which will be true politeness.
No display should be made when leaving the ball. Go quietly. It is not necessary to bid the host and hostess good-by. To do so may cause others to think it later than it is, and thus the ball may be broken up sooner than the hostess might desire.
A lady may not engage herself to two gentlemen for the same dance, excepting the waltz, the first of which may be danced with one and the last with another, she explaining the matter to her first partner, so that he may not be offended when she leaves him for the other.
The members of the family where the ball is given should not dance too frequently. It is possible that others may desire to fill their places, and they should have the opportunity. It is the duty of the family to entertain the guests and not usurp their opportunities.
The carrying on of a secret and confidential talk in a ball-room is to be avoided, as is also boisterous and loud conversation. The old adage of doing in Rome as the Romans do is particularly applicable to those who attend the ball, conduct, dress and general deportment being such as not to attract especial attention.
A gentleman should not be offended if a lady that has declined an invitation from him is seen dancing with another. Possibly she did not despise the one, but she preferred the other, or she may have simply redeemed a forgotten promise. Special evidences of partiality should, however, as much as possible be avoided at places where all should be courteous to each other.