A CERTAIN amount of entertaining is necessary, even if one goes to the extent of believing with Byron that society is only a polished horde,
Formed of two mighty tribes, the bores and bored; and to the hostess who does not try to entertain beyond her means or her strength, the bringing together of friends should be a pleasure. Too frequently the pleasure is greater on the part of guest than of hostess.
Is this because in the rush of our modern life we have lost sight of the beauty of hospitality, which from very earliest times has been a sacred thing? We recall pictures of Oriental hospitality, familiar through the pages of the Bible, so striking and beautiful that we have unconsciously made them the standard by which the relations of host and guest are to be judged for all time. The story of the woman of Shunem who constrained the prophet Elisha to eat bread "as oft as he passed by" is enshrined in the heart of every true woman.
Naturally to us the present-day oriental customs seem lavish and absurdly formal; they have, perhaps, lost the spirit of that olden time in which the bond between host and guest was scarcely less holy than that between father and son; at any rate, they do not fall in with our occidental ideas of democracy and frankness. We can cultivate the fine flower of hospitality without a multitude of senseless wrappings. The naked flower is all we want; we have all known the misery of being "made company of."
Ceremony, fortunately, is becoming more and more a thing of the past - not because people are less kind, but because the complexity of modern life makes simplicity in social relations a relief if not a necessity. A few illustrations will show the difference: It is no longer considered necessary for the guests to say that they have had a good time when taking leave of a hostess after a dinner-party or other entertainment; it is no longer customary for the hostess to accompany her lady callers to the front door; it is no longer even proper to say "Sir" or "Madam," except, perhaps, in addressing a stranger in a public place.
Elaborate entertainments and a certain degree of formality may be necessary occasionally; but one can invite one's friends and have pleasant times without a great deal of preparation and expense. Hospitality is the prime necessity, and even a twelve-course dinner is unpalatable, lacking that golden sauce.