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 sending invitations to a family where there are parents, sons and daughters, all of whom you desire to invite, inclose an invitation full and complete to the heads of the family, one to the daughters, and one to the sons. Should there be a visitor staying with the family a distinct card must be sent, but all can be inclosed in one envelope, and addressed to the lady of the house. The invitation to each may read as follows:
(To the Parents.) Mrs. Hobart's compliments to Mr. and Mrs. Hanson, requesting the pleasure of their company at a ball on the evening of Sept. 8th, at 8 o'clock.
R. S. V. P.*
(To the Daughters.)
Mrs. Hobart's compliments to Misses Ruth and Mary Hanson, requesting the pleasure of their attendance at a ball, Sept. 8th, at 8 o'clock.
R. S. V. P. †
(To the Sons.)
Mrs. Hobart's regards to Messrs. Robert D., Henry H. and Chas. G. Hanson, soliciting their company at a ball on the evening of Sept. 8th, at 8 o'clock. R. S. V. P.
(To the Visitor.)
Mrs. Hobart's respects to Miss Williamson, desiring the pleasure of her company at a ball on the evening of Sept. 8th, at 8 o'clock. R. S. V. P.
The acceptance or regrets from each party invited should be inclosed in one envelope, and directed to the hostess, being sent by a messenger within from one to three days after the time the invitations are received.
The hostess having considered how many sets may be accommodated in the dancing-room, it may be well to invite twice that number to the entertainment, thus allowing for those who will decline and for those who will desire to rest while the others are engaged in the dance.
The requisites of a room suitable for dancing purposes are a smooth floor and good ventilation; added to these, an elaborate trimming of the room with various decorations will be appropriate. Floral embellishment gives much attraction, and if an abundance of flowers, shrubbery and evergreens are about the music-stand, concealing the musicians from view, the effect will be all the more charming.
The dressing-room should be provided with servants to receive the wraps, to each of which a card should be attached bearing the name of the owner, or checks may be provided and the same system pursued as is ordinarily observed in checking baggage.
A dressing-table in the ladies' room should be supplied with soap, water, towels, brushes, combs, pomade, face-powder, cologne, needles, thread, pins, etc. ; while water, soap, towels, brush-broom, comb, hair-brush, bootjack, and blacking-brush, with a box of blacking, should be in the gentlemen's dressing apartment.
Unlike the dinner-party, it is not absolutely necessary that each guest come promptly at a certain time; still, for the sake of regularity of sleep, it is well for each to go early and to retire early, though it will be allowable to go somewhat later than the hour appointed.
The host and hostess should be near the door to welcome arrivals, occupying any unused time in making the guests acquainted with each other by introductions. Other members of the family will also intermingle with the company, giving introductions and seeing that all are provided with partners for dancing.
It is expected that those who accept an invitation to a ball are able to dance; otherwise it is better to decline, as the wall-flower serves but to embarrass the hostess and other members of the company.
A gentleman, having arranged to accompany a lady to a ball, may very appropriately send her a bouquet of flowers in the afternoon, and in the evening he should call promptly with his carriage at the appointed hour. Upon reaching the house where the entertainment is given, he will conduct the lady immediately to the ladies' dressing-room; when, retiring to the gentlemen's apartment and putting his own toilet in order, he will return to the door of the ladies' room, meet his charge, and conduct her to the ball-room and the hostess.
Etiquette requires that the lady dance first with her escort, and afterward he should see that she is provided with partners, and that she enjoys herself, though she may dance with whom she pleases. He should conduct her to supper, and will hold himself in readiness to escort her home whenever she desires to go.
In inviting a lady to dance, various forms of invitation may be used to avoid repetition, as, "Will you honor me with your hand for the quadrille?" "May I have the honor of dancing this set with you?" "May I have the pleasure? " " Will you give me the pleasure? " etc.
A gentleman who may be at the party unattended will invite one of the ladies of the house for the first dance, but she, possibly being otherwise occupied or engaged, will quite likely introduce him to another lady, whom he must accept.
The music will first play a march, then a quadrille, a waltz, a polka, a galop, etc., interspersed with several round dances to each quadrille, usually ending with a march prior to supper, when the gentleman, presenting his arm to the lady he is dancing with at the time, unless she has come with another gentleman, will proceed to the table, where possibly a little more freedom will prevail than at the dinner-party, though essentially the same etiquette will govern it.
If any lady is without an attendant, it should be the duty of the lady of the house to see that she is provided with an escort. After supper several dances will follow, the company dispersing, let us hope, at an early, temperate hour.
Each dancer should be provided with a ball-card bearing a printed programme of the dances, having a space for making engagements upon the same, with a small pencil attached. Much care should be taken to keep each engagement. It is a great breach of etiquette to invite a lady to dance and then fail to remind her of her promise when the time comes for its fulfillment.
It is customary for the lady and gentleman who accompany each other to the ball to dance together once or twice only; to dance as partners oftener is likely to excite remark, though, if the parties be indifferent to comment, no harm will be done. To dance together continually is impolite, and will deservedly provoke severe criticism.