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Etiquette Hints for the Mid-Ninteenth Century Ball Room
Compiled by Patri & Barbara Pugliese

Entering a Ball-Room
On entering a ball-room, all thought of self should be dismissed. The petty ambition of endeavoring to create a sensation by either dress, loud talking, or unusual behavior, is to be condemned; also the effort to monopolize a certain part of the room during the evening, or of forming exclusive circles when unanimity and good feeling should prevail, are, to say the least, exceptionable.

(Hillgrove, A Complete Practical Guide to the Art of Dancing, New York: 1863, p. 24.)

The Effect of Dress
Ladies should remember that men look to the effect of dress in setting off the figure and countenance of a lady, rather than to its cost. Few men form estimates of the value of ladies’ dress. This is a subject for female criticism. Beauty of person and elegance of manners in woman will always command more admiration from the other sex than costliness of clothing.

(Hillgrove, p. 18.)

Dressing for a Ball
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.

(Florence Hartley, The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette, and Manual of Politeness. Boston: 1860, p. 167.)

Draw on your gloves (white or yellow) in the dressing-room, and do not be for one moment with them off in the dancing-rooms. At supper take them off; nothing is more preposterous than to eat in gloves.

(Henry P. Willis, Etiquette, and the Usages of Society. New York: 1860, p. 22.)

Invitation to Dance
In inviting a lady to dance with you, the words, ’Will you honor me with your hand for a quadrille?’ or ’Shall I have the honor of dancing this set with you?’ are more used now than ’Shall I have the pleasure?’ or ’Will you give me the pleasure of dancing with you?’

(Cecil B. Hartley, The Gentlemen’s Book of Etiquette. Philadelphia: 1860, p. 93.)

Refusal of a Dance
A young lady should be very careful how she refuses to dance with a gentleman; and above all she must take care not to accept two gentlemen for one dance. Many duels have resulted from this thoughtlessness.

(Mrs. Hale, Manners; or, Happy Homes and Good Society. Boston: 1868, p. 286.)

Handling of Bouquets & Fans
If your partner has a bouquet, handkerchief, or fan in her hand, do not offer to carry them for her. If she finds they embarrass her, she will request you to hold them for her, but etiquette requires you not to notice them, unless she speaks of them first.

(Cecil B. Hartley, p.96.)

Correcting Others When in the Ball-Room
When an unpracticed dancer makes a mistake, we may apprise him of his error; but it would be very impolite to have the air of giving him a lesson.

(Willis, p. 23.)

Escorting your Partner after Dancing
When the dance is over, offer your arm to your partner, and enquire whether she prefers to go immediately to her seat, or wishes to promenade. If she chooses the former, conduct her to her seat, stand near her a few moments, chatting, then bow, and give other gentlemen an opportunity of addressing her. If she prefers to promenade, walk with her until she expresses a wish to sit down. Enquire, before you leave her, whether you can be of any service, and, if the supper-room is open, invite her to go in there with you.

(Cecil B. Hartley, p. 93.)

Escorting a Lady to the Supper-Room
Every gentleman should escort a lady to the supper-room, and after attending to her wants or tastes, never forget to return with her to the ball or drawing rooms, for nothing can be more impolite than to leave an ’unprotected female’ to shift for herself amid the tumult of a crowd of modern party-guzzlers.

(Anon., Bazar Book of Decorum. New York: 1870, p. 228.)

Choosing Partners Throughout a Dance
At private parties ladies and gentlemen should not dance exclusively with the same partners, if by so doing they exclude others from desirable company. We may, however, without impropriety ask a lady to join us the second time in a dance. We should treat all courteously; and, not manifesting preference for any one in particular, be ready to dance with whoever may need a partner.

(Hillgrove, p. 21.)

Queen Victoria’s Royal Drawing-Room or Levee

queen victoriaA ROYAL DRAWING-ROOM.—A fair correspondent asks us what is meant when it is said, ’the Queen held a drawing-room.’ We reply that it is a levee, held by Queen Victoria, to receive the nobility and gentry. The ceremonies are as follows. On the arrival of the Queen at St. James’s Palace, she is received by the Lord Chamberlain, &c., and proceeds to the royal closet, where special presentations take place. When these are over, the Queen passes from the closet to the throne-room, attended by the ladies-in-waiting, cabinet ministers, &c. When her majesty is seated, the doors are thrown open, and the company from the ante-rooms advance. On the occasion of a lady (not a peeress) being presented, she comes to the door of the throne-room, takes off her right glove, and lets down her train, which, until that moment, she had carried over her arm; then, upon her name being called, she walks up to the sovereign, kneels on her right knee, and kisses her majesty's hand. She then rises and walks away, facing her majesty as long as she can, and makes her exit by a different door to that at which she entered.

From Peterson's Magazine, September 1859
Excerpt, courtesy of Katy Bishop,

The Hazards of Travelling to a Presentation at Court

getting in the carriage
getting out of the carriage



From Godey's Lady's Book

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