The fault of the girls born and brought up in the Victorian age was that few of them had a way" different from the rest. They were all moulded in strictest etiquette, in strong contrast to the girl of to-day.
The very idea of a girl going alone on a visit would have caused her "people" to swoon all round had it been mooted in the conventional society of the sixties. But now, so far from being unusual, it is usual for a girl and her mother to go alone on a series of visits, each to a different set of houses, quite as often as they go together."
Very young girls are supposed to keep under their mother's wing - certainly for a couple of seasons after their introduction to Society. But even this is not a rigid rule In aristocratic circles girls are still kept in cotton-wool, chaperoned and guarded until they are, say, twenty-five or twenty-six. The girl of the upper middle-class has her freedom much earlier. She makes her own friends, goes to stay with them, even if her mother is not personally acquainted with them, has her own visiting cards, makes calls alone, entertains her intimates at luncheon or tea at restaurants, joins theatre parties, and is in almost every respect socially emancipated.
Hostesses living in dull country houses had discovered that, unless there happened to be very good shooting and an extra good chef attached to the establishment, it was a matter of difficulty to get men to join their parties.
A bevy of pretty young girls proves sufficiently attractive in many cases to make male visitors blind, or, at least, shortsighted, with regard to defects in other particulars. Consequently, it became and continues fashionable for the unmarried to be invited without what are regarded as encumbrances, a possibly "heavy" father or mother.
There are few things pleasanter than visits to friends who surround themselves with cheery people and enjoy filling their houses with a judicious mixture of the young and "not-too-old." The girl who makes herself appreciated in the capacity of visitor is she who can be unselfish on occasion, though careful to avoid the extreme of being amazingly self-sacrificing, so that her hostess can never find out what she really likes or wants to do.
Exaggerated Virtues are Vices •
Just as Uriah Heep allowed humility to run to seed and, like many other exaggerated virtues, lean to vice's side, such a girl as this may be intensely aggravating, sometimes even actually selfish, in her incessant display of her voluntary self-effacement. There is a touch of officiousness in it, and that is a thing detested by the hostesses. What they like is a girl who frankly enjoys herself, and yet, on occasion, is willing to give up some pleasure if it should prove inconvenient to let her have it.
Another quality that is very endearing in a girl visitor is the phase of selflessness that makes her tactful and helpful with bores or persons of difficult disposition. There are almost always one or two, at least, of these in every party. It is as impossible to exclude them as it is to prevent the dust coming into our houses. To keep them harmless and well amused is a gift possessed by some girls. Sometimes the host himself is a bore of the first water, a man whose brain seems strewn with old jokes, antiquated compliments, ancient similes and verbal squibs, in the shape of puns, etc., that may once have been fireworks, but are now merely the sticks.
An immense amount of tact is needed in dealing with a man like this. He thinks himself a good talker, humorous, perhaps even witty, and a master in the art of turning compliments. He expects everything he says to be received with attention and appreciation. Sometimes he is deaf, in addition to mental shortcomings. Still, he is there, and someone has to be good to him. Often and often one hears a hostess say: "We must invite Miss So-and-so. She amuses your father, and keeps him in good humour." The daughter will probably reply: "She is really awfully good to him. Let's have her, by all means."
There is not much fun in listening to a dull man's talk, but it is a kind thing to do - kind to him, kind to his wife, kind to the other guests. The girl who is sufficiently altruistic to be friendly towards him when he is shunned by all the rest is "a good sort," and acknowledged to be so by everyone.
In small establishments where there are occasional domestic crises, girl visitors have fine chances of being useful. It is an odd thing that the lower one goes in the various social strata, the more unwilling does one find the young woman visitor to do anything whatever to help her hostess in housekeeping matters. What a girl of the cultured classes will do willingly, laughingly, regarding it as " quite a bit of fun," the other will consider beneath her dignity. For instance, in the unexpected absence of a servant, there may be beds to make, rooms to dust, the table to lay for a meal.
I once heard this curious difference explained in the following way: "When a girl of the humbler classes goes on a visit she wears her best gown all the time, and cannot afford to replace it. Therefore she cannot undertake to do anything that would damage it." This may be the real reason, or it is possibly because she has to perform such tasks as these when in her home, and considers that she should have a respite from them when on a visit. They have become monotonous drudgery to her, whereas they offer amusing variety to the girl whose daily programme does not include such tasks. Point of view accounts for everything. Allowance should always be made for it.