A Desk Book on the Etiquette of Social Stationery/Chapter 4
IT IS extremely bad form to ask for a letter of introduction in the social world. Such letters should be the The Letter of Introduction spontaneous prompting of a friend, unbidden. If you can make two people acquainted who are equally well known to you, who are sure to enjoy each other or who may gain mutual benefit from each other, it is charmingly courteous to offer the introductory note.
Eccentricities, failings or personalities should not be touched upon, and only the kindly phrase be used which may pave the way for the stranger, or open a social door. The friend who bears the note should know under what terms she is introduced, and it is a pretty courtesy to read the contents, or ask to have it read. The letter of introduction may follow this form, and can hardly be too cordial in tone:
This will introduce to you Miss Louise Smith of Philadelphia, whose praises I have so often sung. Miss Smith will be in your charming city for a few weeks, and I am so fond of you both that it delights me to have you meet.
With loving thoughts for you and all the family circle, Betty
The Address The envelope is addressed to the person to whom the introduction is made, not the bearer, and is, of course, unsealed, as is any message sent by friendly hand.
Presentation The bearer has two ways of delivery. She may either leave the letter in person with her visiting card, but without a request to see the person addressed, or she may enclose it in a second envelope with her card, showing temporary address, and send it by mail or messenger.
The recipient of the introductory letter should lose no time in calling on the new friend or acknowledging the letter, and should show her some attention socially, if possible. The French proverb has it, "The friends of our friends are our friends." A man receiving an introductory letter puts the visitor up at his club and shows him some courtesy after a prompt call.
Introduction by Card A line of introduction on one's visiting card is often used by busy people, and is quite correct. It savors of haste, however, and is therefore in more general use along business than social lines.
The introductory card is presented in person and reads:Actual Size The "Bread and Butter" Letter It is an act of courtesy if one has enioyed a friend's hospitality for one or more days, to write immediately a short note of appreciation. Such a line may touch upon one's safe home arrival, any little incident of the journey, and express the pleasure derived from the visit.
Invitation An invitation, no matter how informal, must be answered within a week and with certainty. Any delay, or doubtful expression that you think you can come, or will come if in town, is the height of ill breeding. Your hostess wishes to know exactly how many guests to expect, and your answer must be a positive one. The wording of acceptance or regret follows exactly that of the invitation and is addressed to the person who invites you. Invitations to informal affairs—small dinner, luncheon, or a week's end—may be written on note sheets and couched in the first person. The wording should cover only the matter in hand, be free from stiff, stock phrases, and pleasingly cordial in tone.
The House Party For the house party the hostess may begin her note of invitation:
Dear Miss Brown:
I am asking a few people out for the week's end.
She may mention some especial guest or friend to be met, and add a kindly word on the sports or festivities to be enjoyed, that her guest may know what dress is expected. An enclosed time table is a happy thought, and the exact time of arrival and departure may be stated.
The Theatre Party Informal notes are written for the theatre party. The guests should include an equal number of people, and if a man invites, the chaperon's name is mentioned in the invitation. The theatre party is followed by a supper, which is of course stated in the note, or it may succeed an informal dinner.
Invitation wording must be followed exactly and the fact kept in mind that husband and wife are one in social ways.
A dinner invitation must include the name of both host and hostess, no matter how informal, and the eldest daughter, if hostess in her father's house, includes his name when issuing a dinner invitation.
The Home Dinner The home dinner is by far the highest form of courtesy. The invitation wording may be in the third person, thus:
Mr. and Mrs. James Brown
would be happy to see
Mr. and Mrs. Franklin Smith
at dinner on Thursday, the fifth of January,
at seven o'clock.
Sixty-four Madison Avenue.
Less formal is the personal note in the first person: Will you and Mr. Brown give us the pleasure of your company? etc.
In answering, the wording should be: It gives much pleasure, not It will give.
A young girl does not invite men in her own name, but she may write informal notes on her own paper, saying that her mother or chaperon desires her to extend the invitation.
A Small Dance A small dance needs but a written line on the hostess' monogramed paper, but its wording includes her husband's name, thus:
My Dear Miss Blank:
Will you give us the pleasure of your company at a small informal dance on May 5th?
Trusting that we may see you,
Most cordially yours,
Mary Hudson Smith
Regrets or acceptance must under no circumstances be written on one's card, but take the form of a short note following the invitation wording.
The etiquette of card invitations is found in a later chapter.
Congratulations The congratulatory note should be genuinely joyous, but is more often an obligatory burden.
A birthday letter to an aged friend should have no hint of the advance of years, but rather the "touch of the spirit of youth." Kindly, friendly interest must prompt the letter of congratulation, and its true ring cannot fail to be appreciated.
Heartiest congratulations written on one's card, is sufficient to accompany gifts of flowers for the young mother, or a wedding anniversary remembrance. One offers the best of good wishes to a bride, but never congratulations—these are for the bridegroom only. A letter of congratulation to the bridegroom, if an intimate friend, is a pleasing attention. Such a letter includes well wishes for the bride.
Congratulatory telegrams are addressed to the newly wedded pair on the day of the wedding, and should be received as soon after the ceremony as possible.
Letters of Condolence Letters of condolence are by far the most difficult form of written etiquette. One shrinks from touching another's grief, and yet there is no other way of sympathetic expression. Even between closest friends the presence of death seems to draw a wordless veil and leaves one dumb and inarticulate, but this would not exist if we could realize how much the sorrowing one needs and wants our sympathy. A word coming at such a time, if but from the merest acquaintance, brings an unquestionable relief and help, for it bears the comforting touch of a human hand.
Still, a note of condolence is most difficult at times to compose, and if one cannot find satisfactory wording, the simple line Sympathy on one's visiting card is sufficient.
The written word should be short, but genuine. I am thinking of you and sending you my heartfelt sympathy has a touch of personal warmth.
The letter or card is sent or left in person, but without the request to see any member of the family.
One should give such sympathetic expressions immediate attention, and not neglect them until the funeral is over.
Notes of condolence are never written on black-bordered paper, unless the person who writes is also in mourning.
An engagement is usually announced by a Engagements tea given by the girl's mother or near relative. Engraved announcement cards are not issued, except by families of Jewish or German extraction.
A luncheon given by a friend of the engaged girl, the news coming as a surprise, is a charming form of announcement. The invitations are simple notes written in the first person.
A Shower A "shower" for the bride-elect may shortly follow the luncheon. The invitations are sent by the girl at whose house the shower is to be, and read:
Dear Miss Brown:
I am giving a linen shower for Miss Smith on Friday at four o'clock. Will you not come, and, if possible, send your remembrance to me in the morning, as I am planning a surprise?
Trusting I may see you on Friday,
- Very cordially yours,
- Frances White