How and When to Make Introductions - The Etiquette Observed in Effecting Introductions Formal and Informal Tea'parties
Introductions are not always made at tea-parties; not always at dinner-parties, for that matter.
At the lesser meal the hostess uses her discretion in introducing. Having first made herself acquainted with the wishes of both parties, she introduces two whom she knows to be interested in some particular subject. To introduce casually two persons merely because they happen to be neighbours may be doing an unkindness to both. One may be a busy woman to whom time is money; the other an unoccupied person with unlimited leisure to bestow upon her acquaintance. She may be of the type which "won't keep you a moment," and talks without stopping for two hours.
It is much safer to introduce two who live miles apart. They are less likely to become enemies after a year or so of tolerating each other's proximity.
There are many ways of making introductions. A genial hostess is not likely to err on the side of punctilio, and, in fact, she often forgets to particularise the name of the person she knows best. It is a trait of human nature to imagine that because we ourselves know a fact or a circumstance very well other people must be equally familiar with it. Both names should be pronounced with careful distinctness. The name of the less important individual is mentioned first. Women are supposed to be superior socially to men. Consequently, the gentleman is introduced to the lady.
A casual introduction such as, "Mr. Jones, will you see that Mrs. Smith has some tea? Mr. Jones, Mrs. Smith " does not necessarily constitute an acquaintanceship. It is for Mrs. Smith to decide whether or not it shall do so. The next time they meet she may pass him without a sign of recognition, even if he should have given every care and attention to her wishes in the matter of tea and cakes. Or she may bow and smile, upon which he may raise his hat. Such a casual introduction as the above is on the same plane with that given to young men looking for partners at a dance. It does not count. But it may lead to a very pleasant acquaintanceship, all the same.
Introducing two ladies, the hostess presents the less important to the other by saying the name of the former first. A mutual bow forms the usual acknowledgment.
Sometimes the principal lady shakes hands. It is not for the lesser light to inaugurate the movement. The relative importance may be merely the sad one of superior age, or it may be that which marriage bestows socially. The spinster holds position as the daughter of her father. The matron's position is dependent upon that of her husband.
But if the spinster has a title, the married woman without one is presented to her. At such an informal meal as tea, minute distinctions and involved questions of precedence are less considered than at a dinnerparty. Only obvious superiority is regarded. For instance, one would not present a colonel's wife to a lieutenant's, nor a baronet's daughter to a Mrs. Somebody.
A lady does not rise from her seat when a man is introduced, nor when a much younger woman is presented to her. At a tea-party no one rises on being introduced, except young girls and men, and not even these when introduced to other girls or other men.
The hostess shakes hands with all her guests when they come and when they go. Kissing is quite going out as a form of greeting. Even relatives are giving up this form of greeting. At a wedding tea the bride's complexion, always precarious on such exciting occasions, is generally ruined by the lavish osculation bestowed on her.
Very few shake hands on being introduced. It is but the entrance-door to an acquaintance that may flourish or decay. Therefore, the friendliness of a handshake is out of place. It may have to be discounted later on, and discounting one's own actions is a disagreeable thing to have to do. The woman of the world is so well aware of this that she is very cautious in all that she does and says to a new acquaintance. The latter is, as it were, on approval. She should not, therefore, be received so warmly as to make retraction difficult.
When a room is very full at an ordinary tea, the considerate guest leaves soon after fresh arrivals have entered. Not at the very moment, for that would look as though she did not wish to meet the newcomers. Callers are expected to stay a quarter of an hour, the shortest time permissible for a formal call. Three-quarters of an hour should be the longest stay, except when special invitations have been sent out.