“True Christian politeness will always be the result of an unselfish regard for the feelings of others, and though you may err in the ceremonious points of etiquette, you will never be impolite.”

“If you wish to be a well-bred lady, you must carry your good manners everywhere with you. It is not a thing that can be laid aside. True politeness is uniform disinterestedness trifles, accompanied by the calm self-possession which belongs to a noble simplicity of purpose; and this must be the effect of a Christian spirit running through all you do, or say, or think; and, unless you cultivate it and exercise it, upon all occasions and towards all persons, it will never be a part of yourself.”

The Ladies Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness

Author: Florence Hartley Published: 1860


Chapter I.


Chapter II.


Chapter III.


Chapter IV.

How to Behave at a Hotel

Chapter V.

EVENING Parties--etiquette for the Hostess

Chapter VI.

EVENING Parties--etiquette for the Guest

Chapter VII.

Visiting--etiquette for the Hostess

Chapter VIII.

Visiting--etiquette for the Guest

Chapter IX.

MORNING RECEPTIONS OR Calls--etiquette for the Hostess

Chapter X.

MORNING RECEPTIONS OR Calls--etiquette for the Caller

Chapter XI.

DINNER Company--etiquette for the Hostess

Chapter XII.

DINNER Company--etiquette for the Guest

Chapter XIII.

Table Etiquette

Chapter XIV.

Conduct in the Street

Chapter XV.

Letter Writing

Chapter XVI.

Polite Deportment and Good Habits

Chapter XVII.

Conduct in Church

Chapter XVIII.

BALL ROOM Etiquette--for the Hostess

Chapter XIX.

BALL ROOM Etiquette--for the Guest

Chapter XX.

Places of Amusement

Chapter XXI.


Chapter XXII.


Chapter XXIII.

On a Young Lady's Conduct When Contemplating Marriage

Chapter XXIV.

Bridal Etiquette

Chapter XXV.

Hints on Health

Chapter XXVI.



For the Complexion




As in every other case where hospitality is extended to you by invitation, you must send your answer as soon as possible, accepting or declining the civility.

In preparing a costume for a ball, choose something very light. Heavy, dark silks are out of place in a ball room, and black should be worn in no material but lace. For a married lady, rich silk of some light color, trimmed with flowers, lace, or tulle; white silk plain, or lace over satin, make an exquisite toilette. Jewels are perfectly appropriate; also feathers in the coiffure.

For the young lady, pure white or light colors should be worn, and the most appropriate dress is of some thin material made over silk, white, or the same color as the outer dress. Satin or velvet are entirely out of place on a young lady. Let the coiffure be of flowers or ribbons, never feathers, and but very little jewelry is becoming to an unmarried lady. All ladies must wear boots or slippers of satin, white, black, or the color of the dress. White are the most appropriate; black, the most becoming to the foot. White kid gloves, full trimmed, a fine lace trimmed handkerchief, and a fan, are indispensable. Be very careful, when dressing for a ball, that the hair is firmly fastened, and the coiffure properly adjusted. Nothing is more annoying than to have the hair loosen or the head-dress fall off in a crowded ball room.

Your first duty, upon entering the room, is to speak to your hostess. After a few words of greeting, turn to the other guests.

At a private ball, no lady will refuse an introduction to a gentleman. It is an insult to her hostess, implying that her guests are not gentlemen. It is optional with the lady whether to continue or drop the acquaintance after the ball is over, but for that evening, however disagreeable, etiquette requires her to accept him for one dance, if she is disengaged, and her hostess requests it. At a public ball, it is safest to decline all introductions made by the master of ceremonies, though, as before, such acquaintances are not binding after the evening is over.

Be very careful how you refuse to dance with a gentleman. A prior engagement will, of course, excuse you, but if you plead fatigue, or really feel it, do not dance the set with another gentleman; it is most insulting, though sometimes done. On the other hand, be careful that you do not engage yourself twice for the same quadrille. In a polka or valse, you may do this, saying, "I will dance the second half with you, but have a prior engagement for the first." Then, after a few rounds with your first partner, say to him that you are engaged for the remainder of the dance, resume your seat, and your second partner will seek you.

Let your manner in a ball room be quiet. It looks very badly to see a lady endeavoring to attract attention by her boisterous manner, loud talking, or over-active dancing. Do not drag through dances as if you found them wearisome; it is an insult to your partner, but while you are cheerful and animated, be lady-like and dignified in your deportment.

At the end of each dance, your partner will offer his arm, and conduct you to a seat; then bow, and release him from further attendance, as he may be engaged for the next dance.

When invited to dance, hand your ball card to the gentleman, who will put his name in one of the vacant places.

If you wish to go to the supper-room, accept the invitation that will be made, after the dances whilst it is open, but do not remain there long. You may be keeping your escort from other engagements.

If you are accompanied by a gentleman, besides your father or brother, remember he has the right to the first dance, and also will expect to take you in to supper. Do not let any one else interfere with his privilege.

If you wish, during the evening, to go to the dressing-room to arrange any part of your dress, request the gentleman with whom you are dancing to escort you there. He will wait for you at the door, and take you back to the ball-room. Do not detain him any longer than is necessary. Never leave the ball room, for any such purpose, alone, as there are always gentlemen near and round the door, and it looks very badly to see a lady, unattended, going through a crowd of gentlemen.

It is best at a ball, to dance only every other dance, as over-fatigue, and probably a flushed face, will follow too much dancing. Decline the intermediate ones, on the plea of fatigue, or fear of fatigue.

Never go into the supper-room with the same gentleman twice. You may go more than once, if you wish for an ice or glass of water, (surely no lady wants two or three suppers,) but do not tax the same gentleman more than once, even if he invites you after each dance.

No lady of taste will carry on a flirtation in a ball room, so as to attract remark. Be careful, unless you wish your name coupled with his, how you dance too often with the same gentleman.

If you are so unfortunate as, forgetting a prior engagement, to engage yourself to two gentlemen for the same dance, decline dancing it altogether, or you will surely offend one of them.

Never press forward to take the lead in a quadrille, and if others, not understanding the figures, make confusion, try to get through without remark. It is useless to attempt to teach them, as the music, and other sets, will finish the figure long before you can teach and dance it. Keep your temper, refrain from all remark, and endeavor to make your partner forget, in your cheerful conversation, the annoyances of the dance.

There is much that is exhilarating in the atmosphere of a ball room. The light, music, company, and even dancing itself, are all conducive to high spirits; be careful that this flow of spirits does not lead you into hoydenism and rudeness. Guard your actions and your tongue, that you may leave the room as quietly and gracefully as you enter it.

Avoid confidential conversation in a ball room. It is out of season, and in excessively bad taste.

Be modest and reserved, but avoid bashfulness. It looks like a school-girl, and is invariably awkward.

Never allow your partner, though he may be your most intimate friend, to converse in a low tone, or in any way assume a confidential or lover-like air at a ball. It is in excessively bad taste, and gives annoyance frequently, as others suppose such low-toned remarks may refer to them.

Dance as others do. It has a very absurd look to take every step with dancing-school accuracy, and your partner will be the first one to notice it. A quadrille takes no more steps than a graceful walk.

Never stand up to dance in a quadrille, unless you are perfectly familiar with the figures, depending upon your partner to lead you through. You will probably cause utter confusion in the set, annoy the others forming it, and make yourself appear absurd.

No young lady should go to a ball, without the protection of a married lady, or an elderly gentleman.

Never cross a ball room alone.

Never remain in a ball room until all the company have left it, or even until the last set. It is ill-bred, and looks as if you were unaccustomed to such pleasures, and so desirous to prolong each one. Leave while there are still two or three sets to be danced. Do not accept any invitation for these late dances, as the gentleman who invites you may find out your absence too late to take another partner, and you will thus deprive him of the pleasure of dancing.

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