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.
Fashions continually change. It does not foll6w, because he does not keep up with them, that a man lacks brains; still to keep somewhere near the prevailing style, in habit, costume and general deportment, is to avoid attracting unpleasant attention.
Fashions change in modes of eating. Unquestionably primitive man conveyed food to his mouth with his fingers. In process of time he cut it with a sharpened instrument, and held it, while he did so, with something pointed. In due time, with the advancement of civilization, there came the two-tined fork for holding and the broad-bladed knife for cutting the food and conveying it to the mouth. As years have passed on, bringing their changes, the three and four-tined forks have come into use, and the habit of conveying food with them to the mouth; the advantage being that there is less danger to the mouth from using the fork, and food is less liable to drop from it when being conveyed from the plate. Thus the knife, which is now only used for cutting meat, mashing potatoes, and for a few other purposes at the table, is no longer placed to the mouth by those who give attention to the etiquette of the table.
Set the table as beautifully as possible. Use only the snowiest of linen, the brightest of cutlery, and the cleanest of china. The setting of the table (Fig. 9) will have fruit-plates, castors and other dishes for general use, conveniently placed near the center. The specific arrangement (Fig. 10) of plate, knife, fork, napkin, goblet and salt-cup, is shown in the accompanying illustration.
It is customary for the gentleman who is the head of the household, in the ordinary family circle, to sit at the side of the table, in the center, having plates at his right hand, with food near by. When all the family are seated, and all in readiness, he will serve the guests who may be present; he will next serve the eldest lady of the household, then the ladies and gentlemen as they come in order. The hostess will sit opposite her husband, and preside over the tea, sauces, etc.