Thursday, January 21, 2016

How It Should Be

Advice on hospitality and manners from the year 1940.

If you are giving a dinner, you present a drink to every guest who arrives. The dinner should begin strictly on time as folks will probably have hunger. So you don't have to wait for someone who is late, unless this someone is the chief person for whom the dinner is given. That's why it's an offence against propriety to be late for dinner!

If there are some circumstances which prevent you from coming on time, you should in all cases give a phone call to the hostess. When you finally arrive, you apologise to her, quietly take your place and pretend that nothing happened.

Aperitifs should never be presented in the same room with the dinner table. (Rather difficult to follow this rule in modern houses without a special reception room for visitors).

A good guest first greets the lady of the house and talks to her. Then he addresses others. He shouldn't try to monopolise the attention of the hostess since there are other guests, as well. The hostess herself should be available to greet her visitors. It's also her task to introduce those who don't know each other. Normally you first introduce the gentleman to the lady, unless he is much older or a famous individual. In other cases you introduce people of lower social status to those of higher status first.

When introducing people always use Mr, Mrs, or Miss. By young people we name their Christian name and surname, the same manner of introduction is also possible in informal company.

If you have a maid to serve the drinks (who doesn't?), it makes it easier for the hostess to give more attention to her guests. If you only have a kitchen maid, then it's more passing for the host to do it as presenting drinks (and cigarets) is more of a man's job. One should have a special table for the beverages and the glasses. The half-full glasses are then placed on a special tray and the maid will go around offering them to people. You can thus choose what you wish. (It's still normally done at parties when you have a catering by). However, if the host has to do it, he will first  ask his guests what they are wishing to drink.

If the dinner is given for a big group there should be a special buffet (in the same room) where one can order his aperitif and the maid will serve it. The hostess in the meanwhile should try to bring everyone into a positive mood, thusly she shouldn't all the time disappear in the kitchen or even show that she cares at all!

Then the meal begins. Gentlemen accompany ladies to the dinner table. Not just any ladies, mind you, but those who were shown to them as their table company. Everybody sits down and the dinner begins....

(to be continued...) 

According to the article in Libelle No. 1 from 5 Jan 1940, translation mine.


  1. Housewife from FinlandJanuary 22, 2016 at 2:45 AM

    It has always amused me, when people in older films and shows ask their guests "What would you like to drink?" and whatever it is, he will get. Because naturally every middle-classed house has fully equipped bar.

    I think it is a bad thing to let guests decide what to have for aperitif. Because the meal is a ensemble that starts with the aperitif. Only the one who made the menu knows what drink suits best to the food to come. Yes, it will be finished by then but still. Of course there has to be alcohol-free option for those who do not drink. And people can always not drink if they do not like something.

    In my point of view, dinner is a show and I am the director. Therefor, I decide what is served, including the drinks. (of course I mind peoples allergies, but then everybody eats the same. Once we had hubby's vegetarian friend and we all had vegetarian food.)

    People should anyway be very careful with aperitifs. Wrong choice can really numb your tastebuds for the entire evening. I usually prefer dry sherry or dry sparkling wine. Some foods do require vodka, though. That numbs your moth very much, yes, but if you are serving russian-style food.

  2. Although entertaining is much more casual today; there is something nice about treating guests in such a way to make them feel special. We have lost some of that today.

  3. Housewife, there was time when I was crazy about martini's and I always mixed them myself. I really like gin. Sherry is OK by me, too. Can't stand vodka, even in the form of a bloody Mary or a screwdriver. However, since my last sickness, for better or worse but I've become a virtual teetotaller.

  4. Speaking of propriety, you ladies might like a lovely blog by Nancy called - A Lady's Code. (Defining Principles for Ladylike Behavior.)

    1. Linda, thank you for the link! It looks really interesting.

    2. I mean the_blog_looks very interesting.

  5. lol @
    If you have a maid to serve the drinks (who doesn't?)

    I love reading stuff like this. Thank you for the article, Sanne!

  6. Hi!!! I'm glad you are back! And you are very welcome...