Evening parties vary extremely. They are sometimes for cards, sometimes for music, sometimes for a conversazione with occasional singing, sometimes a friendly dance; but this should be specified in the invitation.
Evening parties commence generally at nine o'clock, but occasionally at eight, and generally end at half-past eleven.
The rooms should be prepared for the guests at least two hours previously, so that the hostess may not be hurried. Plenty of flowers should adorn them; if the evening is for conversation, etc., only, a chess table and a whist table should be placed for any persons who may prefer them. The piano should be open; choice books and prints or photographs placed on the table, and the seats arranged not round the room, but in groups, so that people may sit about it as they please.
* See "Manners and Tone of Good Society".
There should be a room for the guests to uncloak in; the same apartment sometimes serves for tea and coffee.
A long table should be covered with a white table-cloth; two neatly-dressed maids should preside over tea, coffee, cake, biscuits, and thin bread and butter, and as each group or individual finishes tea or coffee they leave the room, and the footman announces them in the drawing-room. Here the hostess receives them at the door kindly and graciously, and they pass about the rooms to greet friends, etc. etc.
The hostess, when all are arrived, should move about amongst her guests, seeing that every one is amused, and having herself a bright word and a kind smile for every one. Cards, music, and conversation should bo set afloat. Tact or an earnest desire to promote her friends' pleasure will make a good hostess. Trouble must not be spared.
Supper must be served at ten or half-past ten.
As few families possess glass, china, and plate enough for a large gathering, these as well as rout seats, if required, are to be hired at glass and china shops. If a pastrycook is employed to supply the supper, he will find also the things required.
For mere friendly suppers a pastrycook need not be employed, as the lady's taste will superintend laying the supper, which may be light and elegant merely. When space is wanting, the ladies frequently sit down to supper alone, and the gentlemen stand by them and wait on them; then the ladies leave the supper room and the gentlemen take their place. The servants in this case should be told to replace half finished or empty dishes by duplicates.
Occasionally people who wish for music or a little chat do not sit down to supper at all. A tray is brought into the drawing-room or a table spread in a corner, and everything is handed and eaten where the guest is. In this case only sandwiches, oyster patties, veal patties, lobster patties, and sweets of all kinds are served, the late dinners of the present day rendering light suppers imperative unless they follow dancing, and are very late.
During the evening, when the party is large and formal, ices and wine are occasionally handed. We give a few lists of suppers for evening parties.
The dress for these entertainments varies, but the present fashion is half toilette - not ball costume, unless dancing is specified on the card of invitation.
Sandwiches of ham, tongue, and beef. Lobster patties or oyster patties, veal patties, jelly. Blancmange or cream, tartlets and cheesecakes. Cake, biscuits. Sherry. Claret cup in summer, or mulled claret in winter.
Flower Ring, and Preserves.
Ring, and Preserves.
Claret Jelly. Strawberries. Cheesecakes. Sandwiches of Beef.
Cherries. Tartlets. Sandwiches of Ham.
Stone Cream. Cherries. Veal Patties.
Calf's Feet Jelly. Strawberries. Lobster Patties.
Cold Lamb, Fore-quarter.
Scalloped Fish (Cod).
Sandwiches. Partridges. Tartlets.
Vase of Flowers. Tipsey Cake.
Grapes. Scalloped Oysters.