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What to do and what to avoid when visiting

Page history last edited by Mark Burlingame 11 years, 5 months ago


Hints to the Host and Hostess

Hill's Manual, issue unknown.

From The Gingerbread Age: A View of Victorian America by John Maas, 1982, p. 19.


     "Take the baggage-checks, and give personal attention to having the trunks conveyed to your residence, relieving the guest of all care in the matter.

     "Having received intelligence of the expected arrival of a guest, if possible have a carriage at the depot to meet the friend.  Various members of the family being with the carriage will make the welcome more pleasant.

     "Have a warm, pleasant room especially prepared for the guest, the dressing-table being supplied with water, soap, towel, comb, hair-brush, brush-broom, hat-brush, pomade, cologne, matches, needles and pins.  The wardrobe should be conveniently arranged for the reception of wearing apparel.  The bed should be supplied with plenty of clothing, a side-table should contain writing materials, and the center-table should be furnished with a variety of entertaining reading matter.

     "Arrange to give as much time as possible to the comfort of the guest, visiting places of amusement and interest in the vicinity.  This should all be done without apparent effort on your part.  Let your friends feel that the visit is a source of real enjoyment to you; that through their presence and company you have the pleasure of amusements and recreation that would, perhaps, not have been enjoyed had they not come.  Treat them with such kindness as you would like to have bestowed upon yourself under similar circumstances.

     "At the close of their stay, if you would be happy to have the visitors remain longer, you will frankly tell them so.  If they insist upon going, you will aid them in every way possible in their departure.  See that their baggage is promptly conveyed to the train.  Examine the rooms to find whether they have forgotten any article that they would wish to take.  Prepare a lunch for them to partake of on their journey.  Go with them to the depot.  Treat them with such kindness and cordiality to the close that the recollection of their visit will ever be a bright spot in their memory.  Remain with them until the train arrives.  They would be very lonely waiting without you.  You will ever remember with pleasure the fact you made the last hours of their visit pleasant.  And thus, with the last hand-shaking, and the last waving of adieu, as the train speeds away, keep up the warmth of hospitality with your guests to the very end.  It is, perhaps, the last time you will ever see them."



Comments (3)

Mark Burlingame said

at 12:58 am on Feb 21, 2009

This excerpt from a book of manners leaves me no choice but to compare our own established ways of entertaining guests--which leads promptly to the acute insight that we are entirely lacking in the common-notions-of-civility department. Nor is there any "we" that can be justifiably generalized; every community will deal with its guests in a different manner, and every guest will respond to his or her own highly specific treatment in a unique and unpredictable way. Our cultural inheritance of diversity and individualism renders this comparison--to me at least--disheartening: for where can such a program of hospitality be found here? Who, after the more convivial days of high school and college, ever visits for more than an evening, and enjoys the slightest bit of imagination, let alone order, en route to having a good time?

Imagine taking a plane to visit a non-family member for as long as it would take to merit a fully-equipped guest room, with pleasant reading materials, writing materials, and all that fancy stuff for your toilette; or suffering your hosts to remain pleasant at all costs, to take you to new places as a matter of course, to have an itinerary based on your interests and the locality's offerings; imagine not feeling bogged down by such a well-directed stay, to never worry overmuch about TV-and-Couch-induced ennui, and to be thoroughly unimpressed if the only outings are desultory nights about the town culminating in a visit to a movie theater or, if you're lucky, to a bar with a wondrous array of beers, both foreign and local!

Mark Burlingame said

at 12:59 am on Feb 21, 2009

But I'm thinking of the higher society as compared to middle-class America, which is supposed to comprise the great majority of us. The falling away of class boundaries promotes the freedom to do with your guests what you will, and to dispose of higher notions of courtesy, for they smell faintly of authoritarian directives of what one ought to do in one's private affairs. It's all so anachronistic--but such is the charm of Victorian studies for a 21st century American, inundated by commercial mediocrity--as good as enforced--and the tragically pervasive "bad air" which made Nietzsche so sick--forgive me for skipping over to the Continent.

Mark Burlingame said

at 1:00 am on Feb 21, 2009

BTW: this Wiki's clock is an hour fast. This assignment has been submitted on time!

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