This section of the book is from the "Household Companion: The Home Book Of Etiquette" book.
If the dinner is to be a large and formal one, a gentleman should receive an envelope before entering the drawing-room in which is a card bearing the name of the lady he is desired to take in to dinner. If he does not know the lady he should ask the hostess to present him to her. At small and informal dinners this is not necessary, the hostess simply mentioning to the gentleman the name of the lady he is wished to escort to the table. In fact, though still in use, the custom above named is going out of fashion, an assignment in the drawing-room being considered sufficient.
A card is generally laid at each place, giving the name of the guest who is to occupy it. This custom is also unnecessary at a small dinner. Menus, or bills of fare, are often placed before the guests at large dinners, but rarely at small ones.
When the guests have all arrived and the dinner is ready, the butler or waitress should enter the drawing-room and politely say to the lady of the house, " Dinner is served"; then he or she should return to the dining-room and stand behind the hostess until she is seated.
The gentleman of the house must offer his right arm to the lady who has been selected as the important guest of the evening, and then proceed to the table, placing her on his right, he generally taking the lower end of the table. The other guests follow, each gentleman with the lady selected for him; and finally the hostess enters with the gentleman whom she wishes to honor, he taking a seat at her right.
The remaining guests, in case their seats are not indicated by cards, will take the seats assigned to them by the host or hostess. In case no assignment is made, it should be remembered that questions of precedence, formerly so much considered, are growing to be of minor importance, particularly in this country.
Every place at a friend's table is equally a place of honor, and should be equally agreeable, so that, in the best circles, it is becoming the custom for the guests to sit in the order in which they enter the room. A little care should, however, be taken that a judicious distribution of the guests, according to their tastes, accomplishments, terms of intimacy, etc, is secured. Ladies sit on the right of gentlemen.
As soon as seated all the guests remove their gloves, and, taking the napkins from the table, open them and spread them on their knees. The napkin is not to be tucked into the waistcoat or pinned on to the front of the dress. It will usually contain a roll; that is placed on the left side of the plate.