who are enough behind the age not to be aware of this, are gradually dropt, their visits passing for nothing, and remaining unreturned. So fades away the momentary dream of sociability with which some simple-hearted people pleased themselves when they heard of reception-days.
But morning calls are not the only form of our social intercourse. We do not forget the claims of “peaceful evening.” You have read Cowper, my dear young friend?
“Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And while the bubbling and loud hissing urn
Throws up a steaming column, and the cups
That cheer, but not inebriate,” etc., etc.
And you have been at tea-parties, too, where, besides the excellent tea and coffee and cake and warm biscuits and sliced tongue, there was wealth of good-humoured chat, and, if not wit, plenty of laughter, as the hours wore on towards ten o’clock, when cloaks and hoods were brought, and the gentlemen asked to be allowed to see the ladies home, and, after a brisk walk, everybody was in bed at eleven o’clock, and felt not the worse but the better next morning. Well! we have evening parties, too! A little different, however.
The simple people among whom you have been living really enjoyed these parties. Those who gave them, and those who went to them, had social pleasure as their object. The little bustle, or, perhaps, labour of preparation was just enough to mark the occasion pleasantly. People came together in good humour with themselves and with each other. There may have been some little scandal talked over the tea when it was too strong but, on the whole, there was a friendly result, and everybody concerned would have felt it a loss to be deprived of such meetings. The very borrowings of certain articles of which no ordinary, moderate household is expected to have enough for extraordinary occasions, promoted good neighbourhood and sociability, and the deficiencies sometimes observable, were in some sense an antidote to pride.
Now all this sounds like a sentimental, Utopian, if not shabby