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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Etiquette: Clubs and Club Etiquette

Chapter XXX.
Clubs and Club Etiquette
A CLUB, as every one knows, is merely an organization of people—men or women or both—who establish club rooms, in which they meet at specified times for specified purposes, or which they use casually and individually. A club’s membership may be limited to a dozen or may include several thousands, and the procedure in joining a club may be easy or difficult, according to the type of club and the standing of the would-be member.   1
  Membership in many athletic associations may be had by walking in and paying dues; also many country golf-clubs are as free to the public as country inns; but joining a purely social club of rank and exclusiveness is a very different matter. A man to be eligible for membership in such a club must not only be completely a gentleman, but he must have friends among the members who like him enough to be willing to propose him and second him and write letters for him; and furthermore he must be disliked by no one—at least not sufficiently for any member to object seriously to his company.   2
  There are two ways of joining a club; by invitation and by making application or having it made for you. To join by invitation means that you are invited when the club is started to be one of the founders or charter members, or if you are a distinguished citizen you may at the invitation of the governors become an honorary member, or in a small or informal club you may become an ordinary member by invitation or suggestion of the governors that you would be welcome. A charter member pays dues, but not always an initiation fee; an honorary member pays neither dues nor initiation, he is really a permanent guest of the club. A life member is one who pays his dues for twenty years or so in a lump sum, and is exempted from dues even if he lives to be a hundred. Few clubs have honorary members and none have more than half a dozen, so that this type of membership may as well be disregarded.   3
  The ordinary members of a club are either resident, meaning that they live within fifty miles of the club; or non-resident, living beyond that distance and paying less dues but having the same privileges.   4
  In certain of the London clubs, one or two New York ones, and the leading club in several other cities, it is not unusual for a boy’s name to be put up for membership as soon as he is born. If his name comes up while he is a minor, it is laid aside until after his twenty-first birthday and then put at the head of the list of applicants and voted upon at the next meeting of the governors.   5
  In all clubs in which membership is limited and much sought after, the waiting list is sure to be long and a name takes anywhere from five to more than ten years to come up.   6

  Since a gentleman is scarcely likely to want to join a club in which the members are not his friends, he tells a member of his family, or an intimate friend, that he would like to join the Nearby Club, and adds, “Do you mind putting me up? I will ask Dick to second me.” The friend says, “I’ll be very glad to,” and Dick says the same. It is still more likely that the suggestion to join comes from a friend, who says one day, “Why don’t you join the Nearby Club? It would be very convenient for you.” The other says, “I think I should like to,” and the first replies, “Let me put you up, and Dick will be only too glad to second you.”
  It must be remembered that a gentleman has no right to ask any one who is not really one of his best friends to propose or second him. It is an awkward thing to refuse in the first place, and in the second it involves considerable effort, and on occasion a great deal of annoyance and trouble.   8
  For example let us suppose that Jim Smartlington asks Donald Lovejoy to propose him and Clubwin Doe to second him. His name is written in the book kept for the purpose and signed by both proposer and seconder:
  Smartlington, James
        Proposer: Donald Lovejoy
        Seconder: Clubwin Doe
  Nothing more is done until the name is posted—meaning that it appears among a list of names put up on the bulletin-board in the club house. It is then the duty of Lovejoy and Doe each to write a letter of endorsement to the governors of the club, to be read by them when they hold the meeting at which his name comes up for election.  10
Board of Governors,
The Nearby Club.
Dear sirs:
  It affords me much pleasure to propose for membership in the Nearby Club Mr. James Smartlington. I have known Mr. Smartlington for many years and consider him qualified in every way for membership.
  He is a graduate of Yalvard, class 1916, rowed on the Varsity crew, and served in the 180th, as 1st Lieut., overseas during the war. He is now in his father’s firm (Jones, Smartlington & Co.).
Yours very truly,
Donald Lovejoy.

  Lovejoy must also at once tell Smartlington to ask about six friends who are club-members (but not governors) to write letters endorsing him. Furthermore, the candidate can not come up for election unless he knows several of the governors personally, who can vouch for him at the meeting. Therefore Lovejoy and Doe must one or the other take Smartlington to several governors (at their offices generally) and personally present him, or very likely they invite two or three of the governors and Smartlington to lunch.  12
  Even under the best of circumstances it is a nuisance for a busy man to have to make appointments at the offices of other busy men. And since it is uncertain which of the governors will be present at any particular meeting, it is necessary to introduce the candidate to a sufficient number so that at least two among those at the meeting will be able to speak for him.  13
  In the example we have chosen, Clubwin Doe, having himself been a governor and knowing most of the present ones very well, has less difficulty in presenting his candidate to them than many other members might have, who, though they have for years belonged to the club, have used it so seldom that they know few, if any, of the governors even by sight.  14
  At the leading woman’s club of New York, the governors appoint an hour on several afternoons before elections when they are in the visitors’ rooms at the club house on purpose to meet the candidates whom their proposers must present. This would certainly seem a more practicable method, to say nothing of its being easier for everyone concerned, than the masculine etiquette which requires that the governors be stalked one by one, to the extreme inconvenience and loss of time and occasionally the embarrassment of every one.  15
  As already said, Jim Smartlington, having unusually popular and well-known sponsors and being also very well liked himself, is elected with little difficulty.  16
  But take the case of young Breezy: He was put up by two not well-known members, who wrote half-hearted endorsements themselves and did nothing about getting letters from others; they knew none of the governors, and trusted that two who knew Breezy slightly “would do.” His casual proposer forgot that enemies write letters as well as friends—and that moreover enmity is active where friendship is often passive. Two men who disliked his “manner” wrote that they considered him “unsuitable,” and as he had no friends strong enough to stand up for him, he was turned down. A gentleman is rarely “black-balled,” as such an action could not fail to injure him in the eyes of the world. (The expression “black ball” comes from the custom of voting for a member by putting a white ball in a ballot box, or against him by putting in a black one.) If a candidate is likely to receive a black ball, the governors do not vote on him at all, but inform the proposer that the name of his candidate would better be withdrawn. Later on, if the objection to him is disproved or overcome, his name can again be put up.  17
  The more popular the candidate, the less work there is for his proposer and seconder. A stranger—if he is not a member of the representative club in his own city—would have need of strong friends to elect him to an exclusive one in another, and an unpopular man has no chance at all.  18
  However, in all except very rare instances events run smoothly; the candidate is voted on at a meeting of the board of governors and is elected.  19
  A notice is mailed to him next morning, telling him that he has been elected and that his initiation fee and his dues make a total of so much. The candidate thereupon at once draws his check for the amount and mails it. As soon as the secretary has had ample time to receive the check, the new member is free to use the club as much or as little as he cares to.  20

  The new member usually, but not necessarily, goes for the first time to a club with his proposer or his seconder, or at least an old member; for since in exclusive clubs visitors living in the same city are never given the privilege of the club, none but members can know their way about. Let us say he goes for lunch or dinner, at which he is host, and his friend imparts such unwritten information as: “That chair in the window is where old Gotrox always sits; don’t occupy it when you see him coming in or he will be disagreeable to everybody for a week.” Or “They always play double stakes at this table, so don’t sit at it, unless you mean to.” Or “That’s Double coming in now, avoid him at bridge as you would the plague.” “The roasts are always good and that waiter is the best in the room,” etc.
  A new member is given—or should ask for—a copy of the Club Book, which contains besides the list of the members, the constitution and the by-laws or “house rules,” which he must study carefully and be sure to obey.  22

  Country clubs are as a rule less exclusive and less expensive than the representative city clubs, but those like the Myopia Hunt, the Tuxedo, the Saddle and Cycle, the Burlingame, and countless others in between, are many of them more expensive to belong to than any clubs in London or New York, and are precisely the same in matters of membership and management. They are also quite as difficult to be elected to as any of the exclusive clubs in the cities—more so if anything, because they are open to the family and friends of every member, whereas in a man’s club in a city his membership gives the privilege of the club to no one but himself personally. The test question always put by the governors at elections is: “Are the candidate’s friends as well as his family likely to be agreeable to the present members of the Club?” If not, he is not admitted.
  Nearly all country clubs have, however, one open door—unknown to city ones. People taking houses in the neighborhood are often granted “season privileges”; meaning that on being proposed by a member and upon paying a season subscription, new householders are accepted as transient guests. In some clubs this season subscription may be indefinitely renewed; in others a man must come up for regular election at the end of three months or six or a year.  24
  Apart from what may be called the few representative and exclusive country clubs, there are hundreds—more likely thousands—which have very simple requirements for membership. The mere form of having one or two members vouch for a candidate’s integrity and good behavior is sufficient.  25
  Golf clubs, hunting clubs, political or sports clubs have special membership qualifications; all good golf players are as a rule welcomed at all golf clubs; all huntsmen at hunting clubs, and yet the Myopia would not think of admitting the best rider ever known if he was not unquestionably a gentleman. But this is unusual. As a rule, the great player is welcomed in any club specially devoted to the sport in which he excels.  26
  In many clubs a stranger may be given a three (sometimes it is six) months’ transient membership, available in some instances to foreigners only; in others to strangers living beyond a certain distance. A name is proposed and seconded by two members and then voted on by the governors, or the house committee.  27
  The best known and most distinguished club of New England has an “Annex” in which there are dining-rooms to which ladies as well as gentlemen who are not members are admitted, and this annex plan has since been followed by others elsewhere.  28
  All men’s clubs have private dining-rooms in which members can give stag dinners, but the representative men’s clubs exclude ladies absolutely from ever crossing their thresholds.  29

  Excepting that the luxurious women’s club has an atmosphere that a man rarely knows how to give to the interior of a house, no matter how architecturally perfect it may be, there is no difference between women’s and men’s clubs.
  In every State of the Union there are women’s clubs of every kind and grade; social, political, sports, professional; some housed in enormous and perfect buildings constructed for them, and some perhaps in only a room or two.  31
  When the pioneer women’s club of New York was started, a club that aspired to be in the same class as the most important men’s club, various governors of the latter were unflatteringly outspoken; women could not possibly run a club as it should be run—it was unthinkable that they should be foolish enough to attempt it! And the husbands and fathers of the founders expected to have to dig down in their pockets to make up the deficit; forgetting entirely that the running of a club is merely the running of a house on a large scale, and that women, not men, are the perfect housekeepers. To-day, no clubs anywhere are more perfect in appointment or better run than the representative women’s clubs. In fact, some of the men’s clubs have been forced to follow the lead of the foremost of them and to realize that a club in which members merely sit about and look out of the window is a pretty dull place to the type of younger members they most want to attract, and that the combination of the comfort and smartness of a perfectly run private house with every equipment for athletics, is becoming the ideal in club-life and club-building to-day.  32

  Good manners in clubs are the same as good manners elsewhere—only a little more so. A club is for the pleasure and convenience of many; it is never intended as a stage-setting for a “star” or “clown” or “monologist.” There is no place where a person has greater need of restraint and consideration for the reserves of others than in a club. In every club there is a reading-room or library where conversation is not allowed; there are books and easy chairs and good light for reading both by day and night; and it is one of the unbreakable rules not to speak to anybody who is reading—or writing.
  When two people are sitting by themselves and talking, another should on no account join them unless he is an intimate friend of both. To be a mere acquaintance, or, still less, to have been introduced to one of them, gives no privilege whatever.  34
  The fact of being a club member does not (except in a certain few especially informal clubs) grant any one the right to speak to strangers. If a new member happens to find no one in the club whom he knows, he goes about his own affairs. He either sits down and reads or writes, or “looks out of the window,” or plays solitaire, or occupies himself as he would if he were alone in a hotel.  35
  It is courteous of a governor or habitual member, on noticing a new member or a visitor, especially one who seems to be rather at a loss—to go up and speak to him, but the latter must on no account be the one to speak first. Certain New York and Boston clubs, as well as those of London, have earned a reputation for snobbishness because the members never speak to those they do not know. Through no intent to be disagreeable, but just because it is not customary, New York people do not speak to those they do not know, and it does not occur to them that strangers feel slighted until they themselves are given the same medicine in London; or going elsewhere in America, they appreciate the courtesy and kindness of the South and West.  36
  The fundamental rule for behavior in a club is the same as in the drawing-room of a private house. In other words, heels have no place on furniture, ashes belong in ash-receivers, books should not be abused, and all evidence of exercising should be confined to the courts or courses and the locker room. Many people who wouldn’t think of lolling around the house in unfit attire, come trooping into country clubs with their steaming faces, clammy shirts, and rumpled hair, giving too awful evidence of recent exertion, and present fitness for the bathtub.  37

  The perfect clubman is another word for the perfect gentleman. He never allows himself to show irritability to any one, he makes it a point to be courteous to a new member or an old member’s guest. He scrupulously observes the rules of the club, he discharges his card debts at the table, he pays his share always, with an instinctive horror of sponging, and lastly, he treats everyone with the same consideration which he expects—and demands—from them.

  The informal club is often more suggestive of a fraternity than a club, in that every member speaks to every other—always. In one of the best known of this type, the members are artists, authors, scientists, sportsmen and other thinkers and doers. There is a long table set every day for lunch at which the members gather and talk, every one to every one else. There is another dining-room where solitary members may sit by themselves or bring in outsiders if they care to. None but members sit at the “round” table which isn’t “round” in the least!
  The informal club is always a comparatively small one, but the method of electing members varies. In some, it is customary to take the vote of the whole club, in others members are elected by the governors first, and then asked to join. In this case no man may ask to have his name put up. In others the conventional methods are followed.  40

  In every club in the United States a member is allowed to “introduce” a stranger (living at least fifty miles away) for a length of time varying with the by-laws of the club. In some clubs guests may be put up for a day only, in others the privilege extends for two weeks or more.
  Many clubs allow each member a certain number of visitors a year; in others visitors are unlimited. But in all city clubs the same guest can not be introduced twice within the year. In country clubs visitors may always be brought in by members in unlimited numbers.  42
  As a rule when a member introduces a stranger, he takes him to the club personally, writes his name in the visitors’ book, and introduces him to those who may be in the room at the time—very possibly asking another member whom he knows particularly well to “look out” for his guest. If for some reason it is not possible for the stranger’s host to take him to the club, he writes to the secretary of the club for a card of introduction.  43
The Town Club.
Dear Sir:
  Kindly send Mr. A. M. Strangleigh a card extending the privileges of the Club for one week.
  Mr. Strangleigh is a resident of London.
Yours very truly,
Clubwin Doe.

  The secretary then sends a card to Mr. Strangleigh:

  Mr. Strangleigh goes to the club by himself. A visitor who has been given the privileges of the club has, during the time of his visit, all the rights of a member excepting that he is not allowed to introduce others to the club, and he can not give a dinner in the private dining-room. Strict etiquette also demands, if he wishes to ask several members to dine with him, that he take them to a restaurant rather than into the club dining-room, since the club is their home and he is a stranger in it. He may ask a member whom he knows well to lunch with him in the club rooms, but he must not ask one whom he knows only slightly. As accounts are sent to the member who put him up—unless the guest arranges at the club’s office to have his charges rendered to himself, he must be punctilious to ask for his bill upon leaving, and pay it without question.  46
  Putting a man up at a club never means that the member is “host.” The visitor’s status throughout his stay is founded on the courtesy of the member who introduced him, and he should try to show an equal courtesy to every one about him. He should remember not to obtrude on the privacy of the members he does not know. He has no right to criticise the management, the rules or the organization of the club. He has, in short, no actual rights at all, and he must not forget that he hasn’t!  47

  “In a very smart London club” (the words quoted are Clubwin Doe’s) “you keep your hat on and glare about! In Paris you take your hat off and behave with such courtesy and politeness as seems to you an affectation. In New York you take your hat off and behave as though the rooms were empty; but as though you were being observed through loop-holes in the walls.”
  In New York you are introduced occasionally, but you may never ask to be introduced, and you speak only to those you have been introduced to. In London, you are never introduced to any one, but if the member who has taken you with him joins a group and you all sit down together, you talk as you would after dinner in a gentleman’s house. But if you are made a temporary member and meet those you have been talking to when you are alone the next day, you do not speak unless spoken to. In Paris, your host punctiliously introduces you to various members and you must just as punctiliously go the next day to their houses and leave your card upon each one! This is customary in the strictly French clubs only. In any one which has members of other nationalities—especially with Americans predominating, or seeming to, American customs obtain. In French clubs a visitor can not go to the club unless he is with a member, but there are no restrictions on the number of times he may be taken by the same member or another one.  49

  Failure to pay one’s debts, or behavior unbefitting a gentleman, is cause for expulsion from every club; which is looked upon in much the same light as expulsion from the Army. In certain cases expulsion for debt may seem unfair, since one may find himself in unexpectedly straitened circumstances, and the greatest fault or crime could not be more severely dealt with than being expelled from his club; but “club honor”—except under very temporary and mitigating conditions—takes no account of any reason for being “unable” to meet his obligations. He must—or he is not considered honorable.

  If a man can not afford to belong to a club he must resign while he is still “in good standing.” If later on he is able to rejoin, his name is put at the head of the waiting list, and if he was considered a desirable member, he is re-elected at the next meeting of the governors. But a man who has been expelled (unless he can show cause why his expulsion was unjust and be re-instated) can never again belong to that, or be elected to any other, club.

Post, Emily. Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1922. Bartleby.com  

Friday, February 18, 2011

Etiquette: The Fundamentals of Good Behavior

Chapter XXIX.
The Fundamentals of Good Behavior
FAR more important than any mere dictum of etiquette is the fundamental code of honor, without strict observance of which no man, no matter how “polished,” can be considered a gentleman. The honor of a gentleman demands the inviolability of his word, and the incorruptibility of his principles; he is the descendant of the knight, the crusader; he is the defender of the defenseless, and the champion of justice—or he is not a gentleman.   1

  A gentleman does not, and a man who aspires to be one must not, ever borrow money from a woman, nor should he, except in unexpected circumstances, borrow money from a man. Money borrowed without security is a debt of honor which must be paid without fail and promptly as possible. The debts incurred by a deceased parent, brother, sister, or grown child, are assumed by honorable men and women, as debts of honor.
  A gentleman never takes advantage of a woman in a business dealing, nor of the poor or the helpless.   3
  One who is not well off does not “sponge,” but pays his own way to the utmost of his ability.   4
  One who is rich does not make a display of his money or his possessions. Only a vulgarian talks ceaselessly about how much this or that cost him.   5
  A very well-bred man intensely dislikes the mention of money, and never speaks of it (out of business hours) if he can avoid it.   6
  A gentleman never discusses his family affairs either in public or with acquaintances, nor does he speak more than casually about his wife. A man is a cad who tells anyone, no matter who, what his wife told him in confidence, or describes what she looks like in her bedroom. To impart details of her beauty is scarcely better than to publish her blemishes; to do either is unspeakable.   7
  Nor does a gentleman ever criticise the behavior of a wife whose conduct is scandalous. What he says to her in the privacy of their own apartments is no one’s affair but his own, but he must never treat her with disrespect before their children, or a servant, or any one.   8
  A man of honor never seeks publicly to divorce his wife, no matter what he believes her conduct to have been; but for the protection of his own name, and that of the children, he allows her to get her freedom on other than criminal grounds. No matter who he may be, whether rich or poor, in high life or low, the man who publicly besmirches his wife’s name, besmirches still more his own, and proves that he is not, was not, and never will be, a gentleman.   9
  No gentleman goes to a lady’s house if he is affected by alcohol. A gentleman seeing a young man who is not entirely himself in the presence of ladies, quietly induces the youth to depart. An older man addicted to the use of too much alcohol, need not be discussed, since he ceases to be asked to the houses of ladies.  10
  A gentleman does not lose control of his temper. In fact, in his own self-control under difficult or dangerous circumstances, lies his chief ascendancy over others who impulsively betray every emotion which animates them. Exhibitions of anger, fear, hatred, embarrassment, ardor or hilarity, are all bad form in public. And bad form is merely an action which “jars” the sensibilities of others. A gentleman does not show a letter written by a lady, unless perhaps to a very intimate friend if the letter is entirely impersonal and written by some one who is equally the friend of the one to whom it is shown. But the occasions when the letter of a woman may be shown properly by a man are so few that it is safest to make it a rule never to mention a woman’s letter.  11
  A gentleman does not bow to a lady from a club window; nor according to good form should ladies ever be discussed in a man’s club!  12
  A man whose social position is self-made is apt to be detected by his continual cataloguing of prominent names. Mr. Parvenu invariably interlards his conversation with, “When I was dining at the Bobo Gildings’“; or even “at Lucy Gilding’s,” and quite often accentuates, in his ignorance, those of rather second-rate, though conspicuous position. “I was spending last week-end with the Richan Vulgars,” or “My great friends, the Gotta Crusts.” When a so-called gentleman insists on imparting information, interesting only to the Social Register, shun him!  13
  The born gentleman avoids the mention of names exactly as he avoids the mention of what things cost; both are an abomination to his soul.  14
  A gentleman’s manners are an integral part of him and are the same whether in his dressing-room or in a ballroom, whether in talking to Mrs. Worldly or to the laundress bringing in his clothes. He whose manners are only put on in company is a veneered gentleman, not a real one.  15
  A man of breeding does not slap strangers on the back nor so much as lay his finger-tips on a lady. Nor does he punctuate his conversation by pushing or nudging or patting people, nor take his conversation out of the drawing-room! Notwithstanding the advertisements in the most dignified magazines, a discussion of underwear and toilet articles and their merit or their use, is unpleasant in polite conversation.  16
  All thoroughbred people are considerate of the feelings of others no matter what the station of the others may be. Thackeray’s climber who “licks the boots of those above him and kicks the faces of those below him on the social ladder,” is a very good illustration of what a gentleman is not.  17
  A gentleman never takes advantage of another’s helplessness or ignorance, and assumes that no gentleman will take advantage of him.  18

  These words have been literally sprinkled through the pages of this book, yet it is doubtful if they convey a clear idea of the attributes meant.
  Unconsciousness of self is not so much unselfishness as it is the mental ability to extinguish all thought of one’s self—exactly as one turns out the light.  20
  Simplicity is like it, in that it also has a quality of self-effacement, but it really means a love of the essential and of directness. Simple people put no trimmings on their phrases, nor on their manners; but remember, simplicity is not crudeness nor anything like it. On the contrary, simplicity of speech and manners means language in its purest, most limpid form, and manners of such perfection that they do not suggest “manner” at all.  21

  The instincts of a lady are much the same as those of a gentleman. She is equally punctilious about her debts, equally averse to pressing her advantage; especially if her adversary is helpless or poor.
  As an unhappy wife, her dignity demands that she never show her disapproval of her husband, no matter how publicly he slights or outrages her. If she has been so unfortunate as to have married a man not a gentleman, to draw attention to his behavior would put herself on his level. If it comes actually to the point where she divorces him, she discusses her situation, naturally, with her parents or her brother or whoever are her nearest and wisest relatives, but she shuns publicity and avoids discussing her affairs with any one outside of her immediate family. One can not too strongly censure the unspeakable vulgarity of the woman so unfortunate as to be obliged to go through divorce proceedings, who confides the private details of her life to reporters.  23

  Nothing so blatantly proclaims a woman climber as the repetition of prominent names, the owners of which she must have struggled to know. Otherwise, why so eagerly boast of the achievement? Nobody cares whom she knows—nobody that is, but a climber like herself. To those who were born and who live, no matter how quietly, in the security of a perfectly good ledge above and away from the social ladder’s rungs, the evidence of one frantically climbing and trying to vaunt her exalted position is merely ludicrous.
  All thoroughbred women, and men, are considerate of others less fortunately placed, especially of those in their employ. One of the tests by which to distinguish between the woman of breeding and the woman merely of wealth, is to notice the way she speaks to dependents. Queen Victoria’s duchesses, those great ladies of grand manner, were the very ones who, on entering the house of a close friend, said “How do you do, Hawkins?” to a butler; and to a sister duchess’s maid, “Good morning, Jenkins.” A Maryland lady, still living on the estate granted to her family three generations before the Revolution, is quite as polite to her friends’ servants as to her friends themselves. When you see a woman in silks and sables and diamonds speak to a little errand girl or a footman or a scullery maid as though they were the dirt under her feet, you may be sure of one thing; she hasn’t come a very long way from the ground herself.

Post, Emily. Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1922. Bartleby.com 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Etiquette: Longer Letters

Chapter XXVIII.
Longer Letters
THE ART of general letter-writing in the present day is shrinking until the letter threatens to become a telegram, a telephone message, a post-card. Since the events of the day are transmitted in newspapers with far greater accuracy, detail, and dispatch than they could be by the single effort of even Voltaire himself, the circulation of general news, which formed the chief reason for letters of the stage-coach and sailing-vessel days, has no part in the correspondence of to-day.   1
  Taking the contents of an average mail bag as sorted in a United States post-office, about fifty per cent. is probably advertisement or appeal, forty per cent. business, and scarcely ten per cent. personal letters and invitations. Of course, love letters are probably as numerous as need be, though the long distance telephone must have lowered the average of these, too. Young girls write to each other, no doubt, much as they did in olden times, and letters between young girls and young men flourish to-day like unpulled weeds in a garden where weeds were formerly never allowed to grow.   2
  It is the letter from the friend in this city to the friend in that, or from the traveling relative to the relative at home, that is gradually dwindling. As for the letter which younger relatives dutifully used to write—it has gone already with old-fashioned grace of speech and deportment.   3
  Still, people do write letters in this day and there are some who possess the divinely flexible gift for a fresh turn of phrase, for delightful keenness of observation. It may be, too, that in other days the average writing was no better than the average of to-day. It is naturally the letters of those who had unusual gifts which have been preserved all these years, for the failures of a generation are made to die with it, and only its successes survive.   4
  The difference though, between letter-writers of the past and of the present, is that in other days they all tried to write, and to express themselves the very best they knew how—to-day people don’t care a bit whether they write well or ill. Mental effort is one thing that the younger generation of the “smart world” seems to consider it unreasonable to ask—and just as it is the fashion to let their spines droop until they suggest nothing so much as Tenniel’s drawing in Alice in Wonderland of the caterpillar sitting on the toad-stool—so do they let their mental faculties relax, slump and atrophy.   5
  To such as these, to whom effort is an insurmountable task, it might be just as well to say frankly: If you have a mind that is entirely bromidic, if you are lacking in humor, all power of observation, and facility for expression, you had best join the ever-growing class of people who frankly confess, “I can’t write letters to save my life!” and confine your literary efforts to picture post-cards with the engaging captions “X is my room,” or “Beautiful weather, wish you were here.”   6
  It is not at all certain that your friends and family would not rather have frequent post-cards than occasional letters all too obviously displaying the meagerness of their messages in halting orthography.   7

  For most people the difficulty in letter-writing is in the beginning and the close. Once they are started, the middle goes smoothly enough, until they face the difficulty of the end. The direction of the Professor of English to “Begin at the beginning of what you have to say, and go on until you have finished, and then stop,” is very like a celebrated artist’s direction for painting: “You simply take a little of the right color paint and put it on the right spot.”

  Even one who “loves the very sight of your handwriting,” could not possibly find any pleasure in a letter beginning:
  “I have been meaning to write you for a long time but haven’t had a minute to spare.”
  “I suppose you have been thinking me very neglectful, but you know how I hate to write letters.”
  “I know I ought to have answered your letter sooner, but I haven’t had a thing to write about.”
  The above sentences are written time and again by persons who are utterly unconscious that they are not expressing a friendly or loving thought. If one of your friends were to walk into the room, and you were to receive him stretched out and yawning in an easy chair, no one would have to point out the rudeness of such behavior; yet countless kindly intentioned people begin their letters mentally reclining and yawning in just such a way.  12

  Suppose you merely change the wording of the above sentences, so that instead of slamming the door in your friend’s face, you hold it open:
  “Do you think I have forgotten you entirely? You don’t know, dear Mary, how many letters I have written you in thought.”
  “Time and time again I have wanted to write you but each moment that I saved for myself was always interrupted by—something.”
  One of the frequent difficulties in beginning a letter is that your answer is so long delayed that you begin with an apology, which is always a lame duck. But these examples indicate a way in which even an opening apology may be attractive rather than repellent. If you are going to take the trouble to write a letter, you are doing it because you have at least remembered some one with friendly regard, or you would not be writing at all. You certainly would like to convey the impression that you want to be with your friend in thought for a little while at least—not that she through some malignant force is holding you to a grindstone and forcing you to the task of making hateful schoolroom pot-hooks for her selfish gain.  15
  A perfect letter has always the effect of being a light dipping off of the top of a spring. A poor letter suggests digging into the dried ink at the bottom of an ink-well.  16
  It is easy to begin a letter if it is in answer to one that has just been received. The news contained in it is fresh and the impulse to reply needs no prodding.  17
  Nothing can be simpler than to say: “We were all overjoyed to hear from you this morning,” or, “Your letter was the most welcome thing the postman has brought for ages,” or, “It was more than good to have news of you this morning,” or, “Your letter from Capri brought all the allure of Italy back to me,” or, “You can’t imagine, dear Mary, how glad I was to see an envelope with your writing this morning.” And then you take up the various subjects in Mary’s letter, which should certainly launch you without difficulty upon topics of your own.  18

  Just as the beginning of a letter should give the reader an impression of greeting, so should the end express friendly or affectionate leave-taking. Nothing can be worse than to seem to scratch helplessly around in the air for an idea that will effect your escape.
  “Well, I guess I must stop now,” “Well, I must close,” or, “You are probably bored with this long epistle, so I had better close.”  20
  All of these are as bad as they can be, and suggest the untutored man who stands first on one foot and then on the other, running his finger around the brim of his hat, or the country girl twisting the corner of her apron.  21

  An intimate letter has no end at all. When you leave the house of a member of your family, you don’t have to think up an especial sentence in order to say good-by. Leave-taking in a letter is the same:
  “Good-by, dearest, for to-day
“Best love to you all,
  “Will write again in a day or two.
  “Luncheon was announced half a page ago! So good-by, dear Mary, for to-day.”
  The close of a less intimate letter, like taking leave of a visitor in your drawing-room, is necessarily more ceremonious. And the “ceremonious close” presents to most people the greatest difficulty in letter-writing.  26
  It is really quite simple, if you realize that the aim of the closing paragraph is merely to bring in a personal hyphen between the person writing and the person written to.  27
  “The mountains were beautiful at sunset.” It is a bad closing sentence because “the mountains” have nothing personal to either of you. But if you can add “—they reminded me of the time we were in Colorado together,” or “—how different from our wide prairies at home,” you have crossed a bridge, as it were.  28
  “We have had a wonderful trip, but I do miss you all at home, and long to hear from you soon again.”
  Or (from one at home):
  “Your closed house makes me very lonely to pass. I do hope you are coming back soon.”
  Sometimes an ending falls naturally into a sentence that ends with your signature. “If I could look up now and see you coming into the room, there would be no happier woman in the whole State than
Your devoted mother.”


  First and foremost in the category of letters that no one can possibly receive with pleasure might be put the “letter of calamity,” the letter of gloomy apprehension, the letter filled with petty annoyances. Less disturbing to receive but far from enjoyable are such letters as “the blank,” the “meandering,” the “letter of the capital I,” the “plaintive,” the “apologetic.” There is scarcely any one who has not one or more relatives or friends whose letters belong in one of these classes.
  Even in so personal a matter as the letter to an absent member of one’s immediate family, it should be borne in mind, not to write needlessly of misfortune or unhappiness. To hear from those we love how ill or unhappy they are, is to have our distress intensified in direct proportion to the number of miles by which we are separated from them. This last example, however, has nothing in common with the choosing of calamity and gloom as a subject of welcome tidings in ordinary correspondence.  33
  The chronic calamity writers seem to wait until the skies are darkest, and then, rushing to their desk, luxuriate in pouring all their troubles and fears of troubles out on paper to their friends.  34

  “My little Betty [“My little” adds to the pathos much more than saying merely “Betty”] has been feeling miserable for several days. I am worried to death about her, as there are so many sudden cases of typhoid and appendicitis. The doctor says the symptoms are not at all alarming as yet, but doctors see so much of illness and death, they don’t seem to appreciate what anxiety means to a mother,” etc.
  Another writes: “The times seem to be getting worse and worse. I always said we would have to go through a long night before any chance of daylight. You can mark my words, the night of bad times isn’t much more than begun.”  36
  Or, “I have scarcely slept for nights, worrying about whether Junior has passed his examinations or not.”  37

  Other perfectly well-meaning friends fancy they are giving pleasure when they write such “news” as: “My cook has been sick for the past ten days,” and follow this with a page or two descriptive of her ailments; or, “I have a slight cough. I think I must have caught it yesterday when I went out in the rain without rubbers”; or, “The children have not been doing as well in their lessons this week as last. Johnny’s arithmetic marks were dreadful and Katie got an E in spelling and an F in geography.” Her husband and her mother would be interested in the children’s weekly reports, and her own slight cough, but no one else. How could they be?
  If the writers of all such letters would merely read over what they have written, and ask themselves if they could find pleasure in receiving messages of like manner and matter, perhaps they might begin to do a little thinking, and break the habit of cataleptic unthinkingness that seemingly descends upon them as soon as they are seated at their desk.  39

  The writer of the “blank” letter begins fluently with the date and “Dear Mary,” and then sits and chews his penholder or makes little dots and squares and circles on the blotter—utterly unable to attack the cold, forbidding blankness of that first page. Mentally, he seems to say: “Well, here I am—and now what?” He has not an idea! He can never find anything of sufficient importance to write about. A murder next door, a house burned to the ground, a burglary or an elopement could alone furnish material; and that, too, would be finished off in a brief sentence stating the bare fact.
  A person whose life is a revolving wheel of routine may have really very little to say, but a letter does not have to be long to be welcome—it can be very good indeed if it has a message that seems to have been spoken.
  Dear Lucy:
  “Life here is as dull as ever—duller if anything. Just the same old things done in the same old way—not even a fire engine out or a new face in town, but this is to show you that I am thinking of you and longing to hear from you.”
  “I wish something really exciting would happen so that I might have something with a little thrill in it to write you, but everything goes on and on—if there were any check in its sameness, I think we’d all land in a heap against the edge of the town.”

  As its name implies, the meandering letter is one which dawdles through disconnected subjects, like a trolley car gone down grade off the track, through fences and fields and flower-beds indiscriminately. “Mrs. Blake’s cow died last week, the Governor and his wife were on the Reception Committee; Mary Selfridge went to stay with her aunt in Riverview; I think the new shade called Harding blue is perfectly hideous.”
  Another that is almost akin to it, runs glibly on, page after page of meaningless repetition and detail. “I thought at first that I would get a gray dress—I think gray is such a pretty color, and I have had so many blue dresses. I can’t decide this time whether to get blue or gray. Sometimes I think gray is more becoming to me than blue. I think gray looks well on fair-haired people—I don’t know whether you would call my hair fair or not? I am certainly not dark, and yet fair hair suggests a sort of straw color. Maybe I might be called medium fair. Do you think I am light enough to wear gray? Maybe blue would be more serviceable. Gray certainly looks pretty in the spring, it is so clean and fresh looking. There is a lovely French model at Benson’s in gray, but I can have it copied for less in blue. Maybe it won’t be as pretty though as the gray,” etc., etc. By the above method of cud-chewing, any subject, clothes, painting the house, children’s school, planting a garden, or even the weather, need be limited only by the supply of paper and ink.  44

  The letter of the “capital I” is a pompous effusion which strives through pretentiousness to impress its reader with its writer’s wealth, position, ability, or whatever possession or attribute is thought to be rated most highly. None but unfortunate dependents or the cringing in spirit would subject themselves to a second letter of this kind by answering the first. The letter which hints at hoped-for benefits is no worse!

  The letter written by a person with an apologetic habit of mind, is different totally from the sometimes necessary letter of genuine apology. The former is as senseless as it is irritating:
  “It was so good of you to come to my horrid little shanty. [The house and the food she served were both probably better than that of the person she is writing to.] I know you had nothing fit to eat, and I know that everything was just all wrong! Of course, everything is always so beautifully done at everything you give, I wonder I have the courage to ask you to dine with me.”

  A pitfall that those of sharp wit have to guard against is the thoughtless tendency toward writing ill-natured things. Ridicule is a much more amusing medium for the display of a subject than praise, which is always rather bromidic. The amusing person catches foibles and exploits them, and it is easy to forget that wit flashes all too irresistibly at the expense of other people’s feelings, and the brilliant tongue is all too often sharpened to rapier point. Admiration for the quickness of a spoken quip, somewhat mitigates its cruelty. The exuberance of the retailer of verbal gossip eliminates the implication of scandal, but both quip and gossip become deadly poison when transferred permanently to paper.

  For all emotions written words are a bad medium. The light jesting tone that saves a quip from offense can not be expressed; and remarks that if spoken would amuse, can but pique and even insult their subject. Without the interpretation of the voice, gaiety becomes levity, raillery becomes accusation. Moreover, words of a passing moment are made to stand forever.
  Anger in a letter carries with it the effect of solidified fury; the words spoken in reproof melt with the breath of the speaker once the cause is forgiven. The written words on the page fix them for eternity.  49
  Love in a letter endures likewise forever.  50
  Admonitions from parents to their children may very properly be put on paper—they are meant to endure, and be remembered, but momentary annoyance should never be more than briefly expressed. There is no better way of insuring his letters against being read than for a parent to get into the habit of writing irritable or fault-finding letters to his children.  51

  Do you ever see a man look through a stack of mail, and notice that suddenly his face lights up as he seizes a letter “from home”? He tears it open eagerly, his mouth up-curving at the corners, as he lingers over every word. You know, without being told, that the wife he had to leave behind puts all the best she can devise and save for him into his life as well as on paper!
  Do you ever see a man go through his mail and see him suddenly droop—as though a fog had fallen upon his spirits? Do you see him reluctantly pick out a letter, start to open it, hesitate and then push it aside? His expression says plainly: “I can’t face that just now.” Then by and by, when his lips have been set in a hard line, he will doggedly open his letter to “see what the trouble is now.”  53
  If for once there is no trouble, he sighs with relief, relaxes, and starts the next thing he has to do.  54
  Usually, though, he frowns, looks worried, annoyed, harassed, and you know that every small unpleasantness is punctiliously served to him by one who promised to love and to cherish and who probably thinks she does!  55

  The letter we all love to receive is one that carries so much of the writer’s personality that she seems to be sitting beside us, looking at us directly and talking just as she really would, could she have come on a magic carpet, instead of sending her proxy in ink-made characters on mere paper.
  Let us suppose we have received one of those perfect letters from Mary, one of those letters that seem almost to have written themselves, so easily do the words flow, so bubbling and effortless is their spontaneity. There is a great deal in the letter about Mary, not only about what she has been doing, but what she has been thinking, or perhaps, feeling. And there is a lot about us in the letter—nice things, that make us feel rather pleased about something that we have done, or are likely to do, or that some one has said about us. We know that all things of concern to us are of equal concern to Mary, and though there will be nothing of it in actual words, we are made to feel that we are just as secure in our corner of Mary’s heart as ever we were. And we finish the letter with a very vivid remembrance of Mary’s sympathy, and a sense of loss in her absence, and a longing for the time when Mary herself may again be sitting on the sofa beside us and telling us all the details her letter can not but leave out.  57

  The mails carry letters every day that are so many packages of TNT should their contents be exploded by falling into wrong hands. Letters that should never have been written are put in evidence in court rooms every day. Many can not, under any circumstances, be excused; but often silly girls and foolish women write things that sound quite different from what they innocently, but stupidly, intended.
  Few persons, except professional writers, have the least idea of the value of words and the effect that they produce, and the thoughtless letters of emotional women and underbred men add sensation to news items in the press almost daily.  59
  Of course the best advice to a young girl who is impelled to write letters to men, can be put in one word, don’t!  60
  However, if you are a young girl or woman, and are determined to write letters to an especial—or any other—man, no matter how innocent your intention may be, there are some things you must remember—remember so intensely that no situation in life, no circumstances, no temptation, can ever make you forget. They are a few set rules, not of etiquette, but of the laws of self-respect:  61
  Never send a letter without reading it over and making sure that you have said nothing that can possibly “sound different” from what you intend to say.  62
  Never so long as you live, write a letter to a man—no matter who he is—that you would be ashamed to see in a newspaper above your signature.  63
  Remember that every word of writing is immutable evidence for or against you, and words which are thoughtlessly put on paper may exist a hundred years hence.  64
  Never write anything that can be construed as sentimental.  65
  Never take a man to task about anything; never ask for explanations; to do so implies too great an intimacy.  66
  Never put a single clinging tentacle into writing. Say nothing ever, that can be construed as demanding, asking, or even being eager for, his attentions!  67
  Always keep in mind and never for one instant forget that a third person, and that the very one you would most object to, may find and read the letter.  68
  One word more: It is not alone “bad form” but laying yourself open to every sort of embarrassment and danger, to “correspond with” a man you slightly know.  69

  If you are engaged, of course you should write love letters—the most beautiful that you can—but don’t write baby-talk and other sillinesses that would make you feel idiotic if the letter were to fall into strange hands.
  On the other hand, few can find objection to the natural, friendly and even affectionate letter from a young girl to a young man she has been “brought up” with. It is such a letter as she would write to her brother. There is no hint of coquetry or self-consciousness, no word from first to last that might not be shouted aloud before her whole family. Her letter may begin “Dear——” or even “Dearest Jack.” Then follows all the “home news” she can think of that might possibly interest him; about the Simpsons’ dance, Tom and Pauline’s engagement, how many trout Bill Henderson got at Duck Brook, how furious Mrs. Davis was because some distinguished visitor accepted Mrs. Brown’s dinner instead of hers, how the new people who have moved onto the Rush farm don’t know the first thing about farming, and so on.  71
  Perhaps there will be one “personal” line such as “we all missed you at the picnic on Wednesday—Ollie made the flap-jacks and they were too awful! Every one groaned: ‘If Jack were only here!’“ Or, “we all hope you are coming back in time for the Towns’ dance. Kate has at last inveigled her mother into letting her have an all-black dress which we rather suspect was bought with the especial purpose of impressing you with her advanced age and dignity! Mother came in just as I wrote this and says to tell you she has a new recipe for chocolate cake that is even better than her old one, and that you had better have a piece added to your belt before you come home. Carrie will write you very soon, she says, and we all send love.

  One of the fundamental rules for the behavior of any man who has the faintest pretension to being a gentleman, is that never by word or gesture must he compromise a woman; he never, therefore, writes a letter that can be construed, even by a lawyer, as damaging to any woman’s good name.
  His letters to an unmarried woman may express all the ardor and devotion that he cares to subscribe to, but there must be no hint of his having received especial favors from her.  74

  Never typewrite an invitation, acceptance, or regret.
  Never typewrite a social note.  76
  Be chary of underscorings and postcripts.  77
  Do not write across a page already written on.  78
  Do not use unmatched paper and envelopes.  79
  Do not write in pencil—except a note to one of your family written on a train or where ink is unprocurable, or unless you are flat on your back because of illness.  80
  Never send a letter with a blot on it.  81
  Never sprinkle French, Italian, or any other foreign words through a letter written in English. You do not give an impression of cultivation, but of ignorance of your own language. Use a foreign word if it has no English equivalent, not otherwise unless it has become Anglicized. If hesitating between two words, always select the one of Saxon origin rather than Latin. For the best selection of words to use, study the King James version of the Bible.

Post, Emily. Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1922. Bartleby.com 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Etiquette: Notes and Shorter Letters

Chapter XXVII.
Notes and Shorter Letters
IN writing notes or letters, as in all other forms of social observance, the highest achievement is in giving the appearance of simplicity, naturalness and force.   1
  Those who use long periods of flowered prolixity and pretentious phrases—who write in complicated form with meaningless flourishes, do not make an impression of elegance and erudition upon their readers, but flaunt instead unmistakable evidence of vainglory and ignorance.   2
  The letter you write, whether you realize it or not, is always a mirror which reflects your appearance, taste and character. A “sloppy” letter with the writing all pouring into one corner of the page, badly worded, badly spelled, and with unmatched paper and envelope—even possibly a blot—proclaims the sort of person who would have unkempt hair, unclean linen and broken shoe laces; just as a neat, precise, evenly written note portrays a person of like characteristics. Therefore, while it can not be said with literal accuracy that one may read the future of a person by study of his handwriting, it is true that if a young man wishes to choose a wife in whose daily life he is sure always to find the unfinished task, the untidy mind and the syncopated housekeeping, he may do it quite simply by selecting her from her letters.   3

  Some people are fortunate in being able easily to make graceful letters, to space their words evenly, and to put them on a page so that the picture is pleasing; others are discouraged at the outset because their fingers are clumsy, and their efforts crude; but no matter how badly formed each individual letter may be, if the writing is consistent throughout, the page as a whole looks fairly well.
  You can make yourself write neatly and legibly. You can (with the help of a dictionary if necessary) spell correctly; you can be sure that you understand the meaning of every word you use. If it is hard for you to write in a straight line, use the lined guide that comes with nearly all stationery; if impossible to keep an even margin, draw a perpendicular line at the left of the guide so that you can start each new line of writing on it. You can also make a guide to slip under the envelope. Far better to use a guide than to send envelopes and pages of writing that slide up hill and down, in uncontrolled disorder.


  Suitability should be considered in choosing note paper, as well as in choosing a piece of furniture for a house. For a handwriting which is habitually large, a larger sized paper should be chosen than for writing which is small. The shape of paper should also depend somewhat upon the spacing of the lines which is typical of the writer, and whether a wide or narrow margin is used. Low, spread-out writing looks better on a square sheet of paper; tall, pointed writing looks better on paper that is high and narrow. Selection of paper whether rough or smooth is entirely a matter of personal choice—so that the quality be good, and the shape and color conservative.
  Paper should never be ruled, or highly scented, or odd in shape, or have elaborate or striking ornamentation. Some people use smaller paper for notes, or correspondence cards, cut to the size of the envelopes. Others use the same size for all correspondence and leave a wider margin in writing notes.   7
  The flap of the envelope should be plain and the point not unduly long. If the flap is square instead of being pointed, it may be allowed greater length without being eccentric. Colored linings to envelopes are at present in fashion. Thin white paper, with monogram or address stamped in gray to match gray tissue lining of the envelope is for instance, in very best taste. Young girls may be allowed quite gay envelope linings, but the device on the paper must be minute, in proportion to the gaiety of the color.

  Writing paper for a man should always be strictly conservative. Plain white or gray or granite paper, large in size and stamped in the simplest manner. The size should be 5 3/4 x 7 1/2 or 6 x 8 or 5 1/8 x 8 1/8 or thereabouts.   9
  A paper suitable for the use of all the members of a family has the address stamped in black or dark color, in plain letters at the top of the first page. More often than not the telephone number is put in very small letters under that of the address, a great convenience in the present day of telephoning. For example:


  As there is no such thing as heraldry in America, the use of a coat of arms is as much a foreign custom as the speaking of a foreign tongue; but in certain communities where old families have used their crests continuously since the days when they brought their device—and their right to it—from Europe, the use of it is suitable and proper. The sight of this or that crest on a carriage or automobile in New York or Boston announces to all those who have lived their lives in either city that the vehicle belongs to a member of this or that family. But for some one without an inherited right to select a lion rampant or a stag couchant because he thinks it looks stylish, is as though, for the same reason, he changed his name from Muggins to Marmaduke, and quite properly subjects him to ridicule. (Strictly speaking, a woman has the right to use a “lozenge” only; since in heraldic days women did not bear arms, but no one in this country follows heraldic rule to this extent.)

  It is occasionally the fancy of artists or young girls to adopt some especial symbol associated with themselves. The “butterfly” of Whistler for instance is as well-known as his name. A painter of marines has the small outline of a ship stamped on his writing paper, and a New York architect the capital of an Ionic column. A generation ago young women used to fancy such an intriguing symbol as a mask, a sphinx, a question mark, or their own names, if their names were such as could be pictured. There can be no objection to one’s appropriation of such an emblem if one fancies it. But Lilly, Belle, Dolly and Kitten are Lillian, Isabel, Dorothy and Katherine in these days, and appropriate hall-marks are not easily found.

  In selecting paper for a country house we go back to the subject of suitability. A big house in important grounds should have very plain, very dignified letter paper. It may be white or tinted blue or gray. The name of the place should be engraved, in the center usually, at the top of the first page. It may be placed left, or right, as preferred. Slanting across the upper corners or in a list at the upper left side, may be put as many addresses as necessary. Many persons use a whole row of small devices in outline, the engine of a train and beside it Ardmoor, meaning that Ardmoor is the railroad station. A telegraph pole, an envelope, a telephone instrument—and beside each an address. These devices are suitable for all places, whether they are great or tiny, that have different addresses for railroad, post-office, telephone [or] telegraph.

For the Little House

  On the other hand, farmhouses and little places in the country may have very bright-colored stamping, as well as gay-lined envelopes. Places with easily illustrated names quite often have them pictured; the “Bird-cage,” for instance, may have a bright blue paper with a bird-cage in supposed red lacquer; the “Bandbox,” a fantastically decorated milliner’s box on oyster gray paper, the envelope lining of black and gray pin stripes, and the “Doll’s House” might use the outline of a doll’s house in grass green on green-bordered white paper, and white envelopes lined with grass green. Each of these devices must be as small as the outline of a cherry pit and the paper of the smallest size that comes. (Envelopes 3 1/2 x 5 inches or paper 4 x 6 and envelopes the same size to hold paper without folding.)

  It is foolish perhaps to give the description of such papers, for their fashion is but of the moment. A jeweler from Paris has been responsible for their present vogue in New York, and his clientèle is only among the young and smart. Older and more conservative women (and, of course, all men) keep to the plain fashion of yesterday, which will just as surely be the fashion of to-morrow.  15

  Persons who are in mourning use black-edged visiting cards, letter paper and envelopes. The depth of black corresponds with the depth of mourning and the closeness of relation to the one who has gone, the width decreasing as one’s mourning lightens. The width of black to use is a matter of personal taste and feeling. A very heavy border (from 3/8 to 7/16 of an inch) announces the deepest retirement.

  Usually the date is put at the upper right hand of the first page of a letter, or at the end, and to the left of the signature, of a note. It is far less confusing for one’s correspondent to read January 9, 1920, than 1-9-20. Theoretically, one should write out the date in full: the ninth of January, Nineteen hundred and twenty-one. That, however, is the height of pedantry, and an unswallowable mouthful at the top of any page not a document.
  At the end of a note “Thursday” is sufficient unless the note is an invitation for more than a week ahead, in which case write as in a letter, “January 9” or “the ninth of January.” The year is not necessary since it can hardly be supposed to take a year for a letter’s transportation.  18

  If a note is longer than one page, the third page is usually next, as this leaves the fourth blank and prevents the writing from showing through the envelope. With heavy or tissue-lined envelopes, the fourth is used as often as the third. In letters one may write first, second, third, fourth, in regular order; or first and fourth, then, opening the sheet and turning it sideways, write across the two inside pages as one. Many prefer to write on first, third, then sideways across second and fourth. In certain cities—Boston, for instance—the last word on a page is repeated at the top of the next. It is undoubtedly a good idea, but makes a stuttering impression upon one not accustomed to it.

  As to whether a letter is folded in such a way that the recipient shall read the contents without having to turn the paper, is giving too much importance to nothing. It is sufficient if the paper is folded neatly, once, of course, for the envelope that is half the length of the paper, and twice for the envelope that is a third.

  If you use sealing wax, let us hope you are an adept at making an even and smoothly finished seal. Choose a plain-colored wax rather than one speckled with metal. With the sort of paper described for country houses, or for young people, or those living in studios or bungalows, gay sealing wax may be quite alluring, especially if it can be persuaded to pour smoothly like liquid, and not to look like a streaked and broken off slice of dough. In days when envelopes were unknown, all letters had to be sealed, hence when envelopes were made, the idea obtained that it was improper to use both gum-arabic and wax. Strictly speaking this may be true, but since all envelopes have mucilage, it would be unreasonable to demand that those who like to use sealing wax have their envelopes made to order.

  The most formal beginning of a social letter is “My dear Mrs. Smith.” (The fact that in England “Dear Mrs. Smith” is more formal does not greatly concern us in America.) “Dear Mrs. Smith,” “Dear Sarah,” “Dear Sally,” “Sally dear,” “Dearest Sally,” “Darling Sally,” are increasingly intimate.
  Business letters begin:
Smith, Johnson & Co.,
    20 Broadway,
        New York.
Dear Sirs:
  Or if more personal:
John Smith & Co.,
    20 Broadway,
        New York.
My Dear Mr. Smith:

  The close of a business letter should be “Yours truly,” or “Yours very truly.” “Respectfully” is used only by a tradesman to a customer, an employee to an employer, or by an inferior, never by a person of equal position. No lady should ever sign a letter “respectfully,” not even were she writing to a queen. If an American lady should have occasion to write to a queen, she should conclude her letter “I have the honor to remain, Madam, your most obedient.” (For address and close of letters to persons of title, see table at the end of this chapter.)

  It is too bad that the English language does not permit the charming and graceful closing of all letters in the French manner, those little flowers of compliment that leave such a pleasant fragrance after reading. But ever since the Eighteenth Century the English-speaking have been busy pruning away all ornament of expression; even the last remaining graces, “kindest regards,” “with kindest remembrances,” are fast disappearing, leaving us nothing but an abrupt “Yours truly,” or “Sincerely yours.”
Closing a Formal Note

  The best ending to a formal social note is, “Sincerely,” “Sincerely yours,” “Very sincerely,” “Very sincerely yours,” “Yours always sincerely,” or “Always sincerely yours.”
  “I remain, dear madam,” is no longer in use, but “Believe me” is still correct when formality is to be expressed in the close of a note.
  Believe me
        Very sincerely yours,
  Believe me, my dear Mrs. Worldly,
        Most sincerely yours,
  This last is an English form, but it is used by quite a number of Americans—particularly those who have been much abroad.  29
Appropriate for a Man

  “Faithfully” or “Faithfully yours” is a very good signature for a man in writing to a woman, or in any uncommercial correspondence, such as a letter to the President of the United States, a member of the Cabinet, an Ambassador, a clergyman, etc.
The Intimate Closing

  “Affectionately yours,” “Always affectionately,” “Affectionately,” “Devotedly,” “Lovingly,” “Your loving” are in increasing scale of intimacy.
  “Lovingly” is much more intimate than “Affectionately” and so is “Devotedly.”  32
  “Sincerely” in formal notes and “Affectionately” in intimate notes are the two adverbs most used in the present day, and between these two there is a blank; in English we have no expression to fit sentiment more friendly than the first nor one less intimate than the second.  33
Not Good Form

  “Cordially” was coined no doubt to fill this need, but its self-consciousness puts it in the category with “residence” and “retire,” and all the other offenses of pretentiousness, and in New York, at least, it is not used by people of taste.
  “Warmly yours” is unspeakable.  35
  “Yours in haste” or “Hastily yours” is not bad form, but is rather carelessly rude.  36
  “In a tearing hurry” is a termination dear to the boarding school girl; but its truth does not make it any more attractive than the vision of that same young girl rushing into a room with her hat and coat half on, to swoop upon her mother with a peck of a kiss, and with a “——by, mamma!” whirl out again! Turmoil and flurry may be characteristic of the manners of to-day; both are far from the ideal of beautiful manners which should be as assured, as smooth, as controlled as the running of a high-grade automobile. Flea-like motions are no better suited to manners than to motors.  37
Other Endings

  “Gratefully” is used only when a benefit has been received, as to a lawyer who has skilfully handled a case; to a surgeon who has saved a life dear to you; to a friend who has been put to unusual trouble to do you a favor.
  In an ordinary letter of thanks, the signature is “Sincerely,” “Affectionately,” “Devotedly”—as the case may be.  39
  The phrases that a man might devise to close a letter to his betrothed or his wife are bound only by the limit of his imagination and do not belong in this, or any, book.  40

  Abroad, the higher the rank, the shorter the name. A duke, for instance, signs himself “Marlborough,” nothing else, and a queen her first name “Victoria.” The social world in Europe, therefore, laughs at us for using our whole names, or worse yet, inserting meaningless initials in our signatures. Etiquette in accord with Europe also objects strenuously to initials and demands that names be always engraved, and, if possible, written in full, but only very correct people strictly observe this rule.
  In Europe all persons have so many names given them in baptism that they are forced, naturally, to lay most of them aside, selecting one, or at most two, for use. In America, the names bestowed at baptism become inseparably part of each individual, so that if the name is overlong, a string of initials is the inevitable result.  42
  Since, in America, it is not customary for a man to discard any of his names, and John Hunter Titherington Smith is far too much of a pen-full for the one who signs thousands of letters and documents, it is small wonder that he chooses J. H. T. Smith, instead, or perhaps, at the end of personal letters, John H. T. Smith. Why shouldn’t he? It is, after all, his own name to sign as he chooses, and in addressing him deference to his choice should be shown.  43
  A married woman should always sign a letter to a stranger, a bank, business firm, etc., with her baptismal name, and add, in parenthesis, her married name. Thus:
        Very truly yours,
                Sarah Robinson Smith.
(Mrs. J. H. Titherington Smith.)
  Never under any circumstances sign a letter “Mr.”, “Mrs.”, or “Miss” (except a note written in the third person). If, in the example above, Sarah Robinson Smith were “Miss” she would put “Miss” in parenthesis to the left of her signature:
        (Miss) Sarah Robinson Smith.

  Formal invitations are always addressed to Mr. Stanley Smith; all other personal letters may be addressed to Stanley Smith, Esq. The title of Esquire formerly was used to denote the eldest son of a knight or members of a younger branch of a noble house. Later all graduates of universities, professional and literary men, and important landholders were given the right to this title, which even to-day denotes a man of education—a gentleman. John Smith, esquire, is John Smith, gentleman. Mr. John Smith may be a gentleman; or may not be one. And yet, as noted above, all engraved invitations are addressed “Mr.”
  Never under any circumstances address a social letter or note to a married woman, even if she is a widow, as Mrs. Mary Town. A widow is still Mrs. James Town. If her son’s wife should have the same name, she becomes Mrs. James Town, Sr., or simply Mrs. Town.  47
  A divorced woman, if she was the innocent person, retains the right if she chooses, to call herself Mrs. John Brown Smith, but usually she prefers to take her own surname. Supposing her to have been Mary Simpson, she calls herself Mrs. Simpson Smith. If a lady is the wife or widow of “the head of a family” she may call herself Mrs. Smith, even on visiting cards and invitations.  48
  The eldest daughter is Miss Smith; her younger sister, Miss Jane Smith.  49
  Invitations to children are addressed, Miss Katherine Smith and Master Robert Smith.  50
  Do not write “The Messrs. Brown” in addressing a father and son. “The Messrs. Brown” is correct only for unmarried brothers.  51
  Although one occasionally sees an envelope addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. Jones,” and “Miss Jones” written underneath the names of her parents, it is better form to send a separate invitation addressed to Miss Jones alone. A wedding invitation addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Jones and family is not in good taste. Even if the Jones children are young, the Misses Jones should receive a separate envelope, and so should Master Jones.  52

  Write the name and address on the envelope as precisely and as legibly as you can. The post-office has enough to do in deciphering the letters of the illiterate, without being asked to do unnecessary work for you!

  Business letters written by a private individual differ very little from those sent out from a business house. A lady never says “Yours of the 6th received and contents noted,” or “Yours to hand,” nor does she address the firm as “Gentlemen,” nor does she ever sign herself “Respectfully.” A business letter should be as brief and explicit as possible. For example:
Tuxedo Park
New York

May 17, 1922

I. Paint & Co.,
    22 Branch St.,
      New York.
Dear Sirs:
  Your estimate for painting my dining-room, library, south bedroom, and dressing-room is satisfactory, and you may proceed with the work as soon as possible.
  I find, on the other hand, that wainscoting the hall comes to more than I had anticipated, and I have decided to leave it as it is for the present.
Very truly yours,
C. R. Town

(Mrs. James Town)

  There should be no more difficulty in writing a social note than in writing a business letter; each has a specific message for its sole object and the principle of construction is the same:
* Date

Address (on business letter only)
  The statement of whatever is the purpose of the note.
Complimentary close,

* Or date here
  The difference in form between a business and a social note is that the full name and address of the person written to is never put in the latter, better quality stationery is used, and the salutation is “My dear ——” or “Dear ——” instead of “Dear Sir:”  56
350 Park Avenue

Dear Mrs. Robinson:
  I am enclosing the list I promised you—Luberge makes the most beautiful things. Mower, the dressmaker, has for years made clothes for me, and I think Revaud the best milliner in Paris. Leonie is a “little milliner” who often has pretty blouses as well as hats and is very reasonable.
  I do hope the addresses will be of some use to you, and that you will have a delightful trip,
Very sincerely,
Martha Kindhart.



Dear Mrs. Town:
  I do deeply apologize for my seeming rudeness in having to send the message about Monday night.
  When I accepted your invitation, I stupidly forgot entirely that Monday was a holiday and that all of my own guests, naturally, were not leaving until Tuesday morning, and Arthur and I could not therefore go out by ourselves and leave them!
  We were too disappointed and hope that you know how sorry we were not to be with you.
Very sincerely,
Ethel Norman.

Tuesday morning.

Dear Mrs. Neighbor:
  My gardener has just told me that our chickens got into your flower beds, and did a great deal of damage.
  The chicken netting is being built higher at this moment and they will not be able to damage anything again. I shall, of course, send Patrick to put in shrubs to replace those broken, although I know that ones newly planted cannot compensate for those you have lost, and I can only ask you to accept my contrite apologies.
Always sincerely yours,
Katherine de Puyster Eminent.


  In the following examples of letters intimate and from young persons, such profuse expressions as “divine,” “awfully,” “petrified,” “too sweet,” “too wonderful,” are purposely inserted, because to change all of the above enthusiasms into “pleased with,” “very,” “feared,” “most kind,” would be to change the vitality of the “real” letters into smug and self-conscious utterances at variance with anything ever written by young men and women of to-day. Even the letters of older persons, although they are more restrained than those of youth, avoid anything suggesting pedantry and affectation.
  Do not from this suppose that well-bred people write badly! On the contrary, perfect simplicity and freedom from self-consciousness are possible only to those who have acquired at least some degree of cultivation. For flagrant examples of pretentiousness (which is the infallible sign of lack of breeding), see VIII¶9. For simplicity of expression, such as is unattainable to the rest of us, but which we can at least strive to emulate, read first the Bible; then at random one might suggest such authors as Robert Louis Stevenson, E. S. Martin, Agnes Repplier, John Galsworthy and Max Beerbohm. E. V. Lucas has written two novels in letter form—which illustrate the best type of present day letter-writing.  61

  Although all wedding presents belong to the bride, she generally words her letters of thanks as though they belonged equally to the groom, especially if they have been sent by particular friends of his.
To Intimate Friends of the Groom

Dear Mrs. Norman:
  To think of your sending us all this wonderful glass! It is simply divine, and Jim and I both thank you a thousand times!
  The presents are, of course, to be shown on the day of the wedding, but do come in on Tuesday at tea time for an earlier view.
  Thanking you again, and with love from us both,


Dear Mrs. Gilding:
  It was more than sweet of you and Mr. Gilding to send us such a lovely clock. Thank you, very, very much.
  Looking forward to seeing you on the tenth,
Very sincerely,
Mary Smith.

  Sometimes, as in the two examples above, thanks to the husband are definitely expressed in writing to the wife. Usually, however, “you” is understood to mean “you both.”  65

Dear Mrs. Worldly:
  All my life I have wanted a piece of jade, but in my wanting I have never imagined one quite so beautiful as the one you have sent me. It was wonderfully sweet of you and I thank you more than I can tell you for the pleasure you have given me.
Mary Smith.


Dear Mrs. Eminent:
  Thank you for these wonderful prints. They go too beautifully with some old English ones that Jim’s uncle sent us, and our dining-room will be quite perfect—as to walls!
  Hoping that you are surely coming to the wedding,
Very sincerely,
Mary Smith.

To a Friend Who Is in Deep Mourning

Dear Susan:
  With all you have on your heart just now, it was so sweet and thoughtful of you to go out and buy me a present, and such a beautiful one! I love it—and your thought of me in sending it—and I thank you more than I can tell you.

Very Intimate

Dear Aunt Kate:
  Really you are too generous—it is outrageous of you—but, of course, it is the most beautiful bracelet! And I am so excited over it, I hardly know what I am doing. You are too good to me and you spoil me, but I do love you, and it, and thank you with all my heart.


Dear Mrs. Neighbor:
  The tea cloth is perfectly exquisite! I have never seen such beautiful work! I appreciate your lovely gift more than I can tell you, both for its own sake and for your kindness in making it for me.
  Don’t forget, you are coming in on Tuesday afternoon to see the presents.

  Sometimes pushing people send presents, when they are not asked to the wedding, in the hope of an invitation. Sometimes others send presents, when they are not asked, merely through kindly feeling toward a young couple on the threshold of life. It ought not to be difficult to distinguish between the two.  71

My Dear Mrs. Upstart:
  Thank you for the very handsome candlesticks you sent us. They were a great surprize, but it was more than kind of you to think of us.
Very sincerely,
Mary Smith.


Dear Mrs. Kindly:
  I can’t tell you how sweet I think it of you to send us such a lovely present, and Jim and I both hope that when we are in our own home, you will see them often at our table.
  Thanking you many times for your thought of us,
Very sincerely,
Mary Smith.

For a Present Sent After the Wedding

Dear Mrs. Chatterton:
  The mirror you sent us is going over our drawing-room mantel just as soon as we can hang it up! It is exactly what we most needed and we both thank you ever so much.
  Please come in soon to see how becoming it will be to the room.
Yours affectionately,
Mary Smith Smartlington.


Dear Lucy:
  I really think it was adorable of you to have a chair like yours made for me. It was worth adding a year to my age for such a nice birthday present. Jack says I am never going to have a chance to sit in it, however, if he gets there first, and even the children look at it with longing. At all events, I am perfectly enchanted with it, and thank you ever and ever so much.

Dear Uncle Arthur:
  I know I oughtn’t to have opened it until Christmas, but I couldn’t resist the look of the package, and then putting it on at once! So I am all dressed up in your beautiful chain. It is one of the loveliest things I have ever seen and I certainly am lucky to have it given to me! Thank you a thousand—and then more—times for it.

Dear Kate:
  I am fascinated with my utility box—it is too beguiling for words! You are the cleverest one anyway for finding what no one else can—and every one wants. I don’t know how you do it! And you certainly were sweet to think of me. Thank you, dear.


Dear Mrs. Kindhart:
  Of course it would be! Because no one else can sew like you! The sacque you made the baby is the prettiest thing I have ever seen, and is perfectly adorable on her! Thank you, as usual, you dear Mrs. Kindhart, for your goodness to
Your affectionate,

Dear Mrs. Norman:
  Thank you ever so much for the lovely afghan you sent the baby. It is by far the prettiest one he has; it is so soft and close—he doesn’t get his fingers tangled in it.
  Do come in and see him, won’t you? We are both allowed visitors (especial ones) every day between 4 and 5.30!
Affectionately always,


  When you have been staying over Sunday, or for longer, in some one’s house, it is absolutely necessary that you write a letter of thanks to your hostess within a few days after the visit.
  “Bread and butter letters,” as they are called, are the stumbling-blocks of visitors. Why they are so difficult for nearly every one is hard to determine, unless it is that they are often written to persons with whom you are on formal terms, and the letter should be somewhat informal in tone. Very likely you have been visiting a friend, and must write to her mother, whom you scarcely know; perhaps you have been included in a large and rather formal house party and the hostess is an acquaintance rather than a friend; or perhaps you are a bride and have been on a first visit to relatives or old friends of your husband’s, but strangers, until now, to you.  81
  As an example of the first, where you have been visiting a girl friend and must write a letter to her mother, you begin “Dear Mrs. Town” at the top of a page, and nothing in the forbidding memory of Mrs. Town encourages you to go further. It would be easy enough to write to Pauline, the daughter. Very well, write to Pauline then—on an odd piece of paper, in pencil, what a good time you had, how nice it was to be with her. Then copy your note composed to Pauline off on the page beginning “Dear Mrs. Town.” You have only to add, “love to Pauline, and thanking you again for asking me,” sign it “Very sincerely,” and there you are!  82
  Don’t be afraid that your note is too informal; older people are always pleased with any expressions from the young that seem friendly and spontaneous. Never think, because you can not easily write a letter, that it is better not to write at all. The most awkward note that can be imagined is better than none—for to write none is the depth of rudeness, whereas the awkward note merely fails to delight.  83
From a Young Woman to a Formal Hostess After a House Party

Dear Mrs. Norman:
  I don’t know when I ever had such a good time as I did at Broadlawns. Thank you a thousand times for asking me. As it happened, the first persons I saw on Monday at the Towns’ dinner were Celia and Donald. We immediately had a threesome conversation on the wonderful time we all had over Sunday.
  Thanking you again for your kindness to me,
Very sincerely yours,
Grace Smalltalk.

To a Formal Hostess After an Especially Amusing Week-End

Dear Mrs. Worldly:
  Every moment at Great Estates was a perfect delight. I am afraid my work at the office this morning was down to zero in efficiency; so perhaps it is just as well, if I am to keep my job, that the average week-end in the country is different—very. Thank you all the same, for the wonderful time you gave us all, and believe me
Faithfully yours,
Frederick Bachelor.

Dear Mrs. Worldly:
  Every time I come from Great Estates, I realize again that there is no house to which I always go with so much pleasure, and leave on Monday morning with so much regret.
  Your party over this last week-end was simply wonderful! And thank you ever so much for having included me.
Always sincerely,
Constance Style.

From a Young Couple

Dear Mrs. Town:
  We had a perfect time at Tuxedo over Sunday and it was so good of you to include us. Jack says he is going to practise putting the way Mr. Town showed him, and maybe the next time he plays in a foursome he won’t be such a handicap to his partner.
  Thanking you both for the pleasure you gave us,
Affectionately yours,
Sally Titherington Littlehouse

From a Bride to Her New Relatives-in-Law

  A letter that was written by a bride after paying a first visit to her husband’s aunt and uncle won for her at a stroke the love of the whole family.
  This is the letter:
Dear “Aunt Annie”:
  Now that it is all over, I have a confession to make! Do you know that when Dick drove me up to your front door and I saw you and Uncle Bob standing on the top step—I was simply paralyzed with fright!
  “Suppose they don’t like me,” was all that I could think. Of course, I knew you loved Dick—but that only made it worse. How awful, if you couldn’t like me! The reason I stumbled coming up the steps was because my knees were actually knocking together! You remember, Uncle Bob sang out it was good I was already married, or I wouldn’t be this year? And then—you were both so perfectly adorable to me—and you made me feel as though I had always been your niece—and not just the wife of your nephew.
  I loved every minute of our being with you, dear Aunt Annie, just as much as Dick did, and we hope you are going to let us come soon again.
  With best love from us both,
Your affectionate niece,

  The above type of letter would not serve perhaps if Dick’s aunt had been a forbidding and austere type of woman; but even such a one would be far more apt to take a new niece to her heart if the new niece herself gave evidence of having one.  90
After Visiting a Friend

Dear Kate:
  It was hideously dull and stuffy in town this morning after the fresh coolness of Strandholm. The back yard is not an alluring outlook after the wide spaces and delicious fragrance of your garden.
  It was good being with you and I enjoyed every moment. Don’t forget you are lunching here on the 16th and that we are going to hear Kreisler together.
Devotedly always,

From a Man Who Has Been Ill and Convalescing at a Friend’s House

Dear Martha:
  I certainly hated taking that train this morning and realizing that the end had come to my peaceful days. You and John and the children, and your place, which is the essence of all that a “home” ought to be, have put me on my feet again. I thank you much—much more than I can say for the wonderful goodness of all of you.

From a Woman Who Has Been Visiting a Very Old Friend

  I loved my visit with you, dear Mary; it was more than good to be with you and have a chance for long talks at your fireside. Don’t forget your promise to come here in May! I told Sam and Hettie you were coming, and now the whole town is ringing with the news, and every one is planning a party for you.
  David sends “his best” to you and Charlie, and you know you always have the love of
Your devoted

To an Acquaintance

  After a visit to a formal acquaintance or when some one has shown you especial hospitality in a city where you are a stranger:
My dear Mrs. Duluth:
  It was more than good of you to give my husband and me so much pleasure. We enjoyed, and appreciated, all your kindness to us more than we can say.
  We hope that you and Mr. Duluth may be coming East before long and that we may then have the pleasure of seeing you at Strandholm.
  In the meanwhile, thanking you for your generous hospitality, and with kindest regards to you both, in which my husband joins, believe me,
Very sincerely yours,
Katherine de Puyster Eminent.


  An engraved card of thanks is proper only when sent by a public official to acknowledge the overwhelming number of congratulatory messages he must inevitably receive from strangers, when he has carried an election or otherwise been honored with the confidence of his State or country. A recent and excellent example follows:

  An engraved form of thanks for sympathy, also from one in public life, is presented in the following example:

  But remember: an engraved card sent by a private individual to a personal friend, is not “stylish” or smart, but rude. (See also engraved acknowledgment of sympathy, XXIV¶87.)  97

  A letter of business introduction can be much more freely given than a letter of social introduction. For the former it is necessary merely that the persons introduced have business interests in common—which are much more easily determined than social compatibility, which is the requisite necessary for the latter. It is, of course, proper to give your personal representative a letter of introduction to whomever you send him.
  On the subject of letters of social introduction there is one chief rule:  99
  Never ask for letters of introduction, and be very sparing in your offers to write or accept them. 100
  Seemingly few persons realize that a letter of social introduction is actually a draft for payment on demand. The form might as well be: “The bearer of this has (because of it) the right to demand your interest, your time, your hospitality—liberally and at once, no matter what your inclination may be.” 101
  Therefore, it is far better to refuse in the beginning, than to hedge and end by committing the greater error of unwarrantedly inconveniencing a valued friend or acquaintance. 102
  When you have a friend who is going to a city where you have other friends, and you believe that it will be a mutual pleasure for them to meet, a letter of introduction is proper and very easy to write, but sent to a casual acquaintance—no matter how attractive or distinguished the person to be introduced—it is a gross presumption. 103

Dear Mrs. Marks:
  Julian Gibbs is going to Buffalo on January tenth to deliver a lecture on his Polar expedition, and I am sending him a card of introduction to you. He is very agreeable personally, and I think that perhaps you and Mr. Marks will enjoy meeting him as much as I know he would enjoy knowing you.
  With kindest regards, in which Arthur joins,
Very sincerely,
  Ethel Norman.

  If Mr. Norman were introducing one man to another he would give his card to the former, inscribed as follows:
  Also Mr. Norman would send a private letter by mail, telling his friend that Mr. Gibbs is coming, as follows:
Dear Marks:
  I am giving Julian Gibbs a card of introduction to you when he goes to Buffalo on the tenth to lecture. He is an entertaining and very decent fellow, and I think possibly Mrs. Marks would enjoy meeting him. If you can conveniently ask him to your house, I know he would appreciate it; if not, perhaps you will put him up for a day or two at a club.
Arthur Norman.


Dear Claire:
  A very great friend of ours, James Dawson, is to be in Chicago for several weeks. Any kindness that you can show him will be greatly appreciated by
Yours as always,
Ethel Norman.

  At the same time a second and private letter of information is written and sent by mail:
Dear Claire:
  I wrote you a letter to-day introducing Jim Dawson. He used to be on the Yalvard football team, perhaps you remember. He is one of the best sort in the world and I know you will like him. I don’t want to put you to any trouble, but do ask him to your house if you can. He plays a wonderful game of golf and a good game of bridge, but he is more a man’s than a woman’s type of man. Maybe if Tom likes him, he will put him up at a club as he is to be in Chicago for some weeks.
Affectionately always,

  Another example:
Dear Caroline:
  A very dear friend of mine, Mrs. Fred West, is going to be in New York this winter, while her daughter is at Barnard. I am asking her to take this letter to you as I want very much to have her meet you and have her daughter meet Pauline. Anything that you can do for them will be the same as for me!
Yours affectionately,
Sylvia Greatlake.

  The private letter by mail to accompany the foregoing:
Dearest Caroline:
  Mildred West, for whom I wrote to you this morning, is a very close friend of mine. She is going to New York with her only daughter—who, in spite of wanting a college education, is as pretty as a picture, with plenty of come-hither in the eye—so do not be afraid that the typical blue-stocking is to be thrust upon Pauline! The mother is an altogether lovely person and I know that you and she will speak the same language—if I didn’t, I wouldn’t give her a letter to you. Do go to see her as soon as you can; she will be stopping at the Fitz-Cherry and probably feeling rather lost at first. She wants to take an apartment for the winter and I told her I was sure you would know the best real estate and intelligence offices, etc., for her to go to.
  I hope I am not putting you to any trouble about her, but she is really a darling and you will like her I know.
Devotedly yours,

  Directions for procedure upon being given (or receiving) a letter of introduction will be found at II¶71. 111

  In other days when even verbal messages began with the “presenting of compliments,” a social note, no matter what its length or purport, would have been considered rude, unless written in the third person. But as in a communication of any length the difficulty of this form is almost insurmountable (to say nothing of the pedantic effect of its accomplishment), it is no longer chosen—aside from the formal invitation, acceptance and regret—except for notes to stores or subordinates. For example:
Will B. Stern & Co. please send (and charge) to Mrs. John H. Smith, 2 Madison Avenue,
  1 paper of needles No. 9
  2 spools white sewing cotton No. 70
  1 yard of material (sample enclosed).
January 6.
  To a servant:
  Mrs. Eminent wishes Patrick to meet her at the station on Tuesday the eighth at 11.03. She also wishes him to have the shutters opened and the house aired on that day, and a fire lighted in the northwest room. No provisions will be necessary as Mrs. Eminent is returning to town on the 5.16.
  Tuesday, March 1.
  Letters in the third person are no longer signed unless the sender’s signature is necessary for identification, or for some action on the part of the receiver, such as
  Will Mr. Cash please give the bearer six yards of material to match the sample enclosed, and oblige,
Mrs. John H. Smith. *

[*A note in 3rd person is the single occasion when a married woman signs “Mrs.” before her name.]

  A letter of recommendation for membership to a club is addressed to the secretary and should be somewhat in this form:
To the Secretary of the Town Club.
My dear Mrs. Brown:
  Mrs. Titherington Smith, whose name is posted for membership, is a very old and close friend of mine. She is the daughter of the late Rev. Samuel Eminent and is therefore a member in her own right, as well as by marriage, of representative New York families.
  She is a person of much charm and distinction, and her many friends will agree with me, I am sure, in thinking that she would be a valuable addition to the club.
Very sincerely,
Ethel Norman.


  Although the written recommendation that is given to the employee carries very little weight, compared to the slip from the employment agencies where either “yes” or “no” has to be answered to a list of specific and important questions, one is nevertheless put in a trying position when reporting on an unsatisfactory servant.
  Either a poor reference must be given—possibly preventing a servant from earning her living—or one has to write what is not true. Consequently it has become the custom to say what one truthfully can of good, and leave out the qualifications that are bad (except in the case of a careless nurse, where evasion would border on the criminal). 117
  That solves the poor recommendation problem pretty well; but unless one is very careful this consideration for the “poor” one, is paid for by the “good.” In writing for a very worthy servant therefore, it is of the utmost importance in fairness to her (or him) to put in every merit that you can think of, remembering that omission implies demerit in each trait of character not mentioned. All good references should include honesty, sobriety, capability, and a reason, other than their unsatisfactoriness, for their leaving. The recommendation for a nurse can not be too conscientiously written. 118
  A lady does not begin a recommendation: “To whom it may concern,” nor “This is to certify,” although housekeepers and head servants writing recommendations use both of these forms, and “third person” letters, are frequently written by secretaries. 119
  A lady in giving a good reference should write:
Two Hundred Park Square.

  Selma Johnson has lived with me for two years as cook.
  I have found her honest, sober, industrious, neat in person as well as her work, of amiable disposition a very good cook.
  She is leaving to my great regret because I am closing my house for the winter.
  Selma is an excellent servant in every way and I shall be glad to answer personally any inquiries about her.
Josephine Smith.

(Mrs. Titherington Smith)
October, 1921.
  The form of all recommendations is the same:
  .... has lived with me .... months/years as .... I have found him/her .... He/She is leaving because ....
  (Any special remark of added recommendation or showing interest)

(Mrs. ....)


Dear Mary:
  While we are not altogether surprized, we are both delighted to hear the good news. Jim’s family and ours are very close, as you know, and we have always been especially devoted to Jim. He is one of the finest—and now luckiest, of young men, and we send you both every good wish for all possible happiness.
Ethel Norman.

  Just a line, dear Jim, to tell you how glad we all are to hear of your happiness. Mary is everything that is lovely and, of course, from our point of view, we don’t think her exactly unfortunate either! Every good wish that imagination can think of goes to you from your old friends.
Ethel and Arthur Norman.

  I can’t tell you, dearest Mary, of all the wishes I send for your happiness. Give Jim my love and tell him how lucky I think he is, and how much I hope all good fortune will come to you both.
Aunt Kate.


My dear Mrs. Brown:
  We have just heard of the honors that your son has won. How proud you must be of him! We are both so glad for him and for you. Please congratulate him for us, and believe me,
Very sincerely,
Ethel Norman.

Dear Mrs. Brown:
  We are so glad to hear the good news of David’s success; it was a very splendid accomplishment and we are all so proud of him and of you. Please give him our love and congratulations, and with full measure of both to you,
Martha Kindhart.


Dear John:
  We are overjoyed at the good news! For once the reward has fallen where it is deserved. Certainly no one is better fitted than yourself for a diplomat’s life, and we know you will fill the position to the honor of your country. Please give my love to Alice, and with renewed congratulations to you from us both.
Yours always,
Ethel Norman.

  Another example:
Dear Michael:
  We all rejoice with you in the confirmation of your appointment. The State needs just such men as you—if we had more of your sort the ordinary citizen would have less to worry about. Our best congratulations!
John Kindhart.


  Intimate letters of condolence are like love letters, in that they are too sacred to follow a set form. One rule, and one only, should guide you in writing such letters. Say what you truly feel. Say that and nothing else. Sit down at your desk, let your thoughts dwell on the person you are writing to.
  Don’t dwell on the details of illness or the manner of death; don’t quote endlessly from the poets and Scriptures. Remember that eyes filmed with tears and an aching heart can not follow rhetorical lengths of writing. The more nearly a note can express a hand-clasp, a thought of sympathy, above all, a genuine love or appreciation of the one who has gone, the greater comfort it brings. 130
  Write as simply as possible and let your heart speak as truly and as briefly as you can. Forget, if you can, that you are using written words, think merely how you feel—then put your feelings on paper—that is all. 131
  Supposing it is a young mother who has died. You think how young and sweet she was—and of her little children, and, literally, your heart aches for them and her husband and her own family. Into your thoughts must come some expression of what she was, and what their loss must be! 132
  Or maybe it is the death of a man who has left a place in the whole community that will be difficult, if not impossible, to fill, and you think of all he stood for that was fine and helpful to others, and how much and sorely he will be missed. Or suppose that you are a returned soldier, and it is a pal who has died. All you can think of is “Poor old Steve—what a peach he was! I don’t think anything will ever be the same again without him.” Say just that! Ask if there is anything you can do at any time to be of service to his people. There is nothing more to be said. A line, into which you have unconsciously put a little of the genuine feeling that you had for Steve, is worth pages of eloquence. 133
  A letter of condolence may be abrupt, badly constructed, ungrammatical—never mind. Grace of expression counts for nothing; sincerity alone is of value. It is the expression, however clumsily put, of a personal something which was loved, and will ever be missed, that alone brings solace to those who are left. Your message may speak merely of a small incident—something so trifling that in the seriousness of the present, seems not worth recording, but your letter and that of many others, each bringing a single sprig, may plant a whole memory-garden in the hearts of the bereaved. 134

  As has been said above, a letter of condolence must above everything express a genuine sentiment. The few examples are inserted merely as suggestive guides for those at a loss to construct a short but appropriate note or telegram.
Conventional Note to an Acquaintance

  I know how little the words of an outsider mean to you just now—but I must tell you how deeply I sympathize with you in your great loss.
Note or Telegram to a Friend

  All my sympathy and all my thoughts are with you in your great sorrow. If I can be of any service to you, you know how grateful I shall be.
Telegram to a Very Near Relative or Friend

  Words are so empty! If only I knew how to fill them with love and send them to you.
  If love and thoughts could only help you, Margaret dear, you should have all the strength of both that I can give.
Letter Where Death Was Release

  The letter to one whose loss is “for the best” is difficult in that you want to express sympathy but can not feel sad that one who has long suffered has found release. The expression of sympathy in this case should not be for the present death, but for the illness, or whatever it was that fell long ago. The grief for a paralysed mother is for the stroke which cut her down many years before, and your sympathy, though you may not have realized it, is for that. You might write:
  Your sorrow during all these years—and now—is in my heart; and all my thoughts and sympathy are with you.

If you are speaking, you say:Envelope addressed:Formal beginning of a letter:Informal beginning:Formal close:Informal close:Correct titles in introduction:
The PresidentMr. President And occasionally throughout a conversation, Sir.The President of the United States or merely The President, Washington, D. C. (There is only one “President”)Sir:My dear Mr. President:I have the honor to remain, Most respectfully yours, or I have the honor to remain, sir, Your most obedient servant.I have the honor to remain, Yours faithfully, or, I am, dear Mr. President, Yours faithfully,The President.
The Vice-PresidentMr. Vice-President and then, Sir.The Vice-President, Washington, D. C.Sir:My dear Mr. Vice-President:Same as for PresidentBelieve me, Yours faithfully,The Vice-President.
Justice of Supreme CourtMr. JusticeThe Hon. William H. Taft, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Washington, D. C.Sir:Dear Mr. Justice Taft:Believe me, Yours very truly, or I have the honor to remain, Yours very truly,Believe me, Yours faithfully,The Chief Justice or, if an Associate Justice, Mr. Justice Holmes.
Member of the President’s CabinetMr. SecretaryThe Secretary of Commerce, Washington, D. C. or: The Hon. Herbert Hoover, Secretary of Commerce, Washington, D. C.Dear Sir: or Sir:My dear Mr. Secretary:Same as above.Same as above.The Secretary of Commerce.
United States (or State) SenatorSenator LodgeSenator Henry Cabot Lodge, Washington, D. C. or a private letter: Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, (His house address)Dear Sir: or Sir:Dear Senator Lodge:Same as above.Same as above.Senator Lodge. On very formal and unusual occasions, Senator Lodge of Massachusetts.
Member of Congress (or Legislature)Mr. Bell, or, you may say CongressmanThe Hon. H. C. Bell, Jr., House of Representatives, Washington, D. C. or: State Assembly, Albany, New York.Dear Sir: or Sir:Dear Mr. Bell: or Dear Congressman:Believe me, Yours very truly,Yours faithfully,Mr. Bell.
GovernorGovernor Miller (The Governor is not called Excellency when spoken to and very rarely when he is announced. But letters are addressed and begun with this title of courtesy.)His Excellency The Governor, Albany, New York.Your Excellency:Dear Governor Miller:I have the honor to remain, Yours faithfully,Believe me, Yours faithfully,The Governor (in his own state) or, (out of it,) The Governor of Michigan.
MayorMr. MayorHis Honor the Mayor, City Hall, Chicago.Dear Sir: or Sir:Dear Mayor Rolph:Believe me, Very truly yours,Yours faithfully,Mayor Rolph.
CardinalYour EminenceHis Eminence John Cardinal Gibbons, Baltimore, Md.Your Eminence:Your Eminence:I have the honor to remain, Your Eminence’s humble servant.Your Eminence’s humble servant.His Eminence.
Roman Catholic Archbishop (There is no Protestant Archbishop in the United States.)Your GraceThe Most Reverend Michael Corrigan, Archbishop of New York.Most Reverend and dear Sir:Most Reverend and Dear Sir:I have the honor to remain, Your humble servant,Same as formal close.The Most Reverend The Archbishop.
Bishop (Whether Roman Catholic or Protestant.)Bishop ManningTo the Right Reverend William T. Manning, Bishop of New York,Most Reverend and dear Sir:My Dear Bishop Manning:I have the honor to remain, Your obedient servant, or, to remain, Respectfully yours,Faithfully yours,Bishop Manning.
PriestFather or Father DuffyThe Rev. Michael Duffy,Reverend and dear Sir:Dear Father Duffy:I beg to remain, Yours faithfully,Faithfully yours,Father Duffy.
Protestant ClergymanMr. Saintly (If he is D.D. or LL.D., you call him Dr. Saintly.)The Rev. Geo. Saintly, (If you do not know his first name, write The Rev. .... Saintly, rather than the Rev. Mr. Saintly.)Sir: or My dear Sir:Dear Dr. Saintly: (or Dear Mr. Saintly if he is not a D.D.)Same as above.Faithfully yours, or Sincerely yours,Dr. (or Mr.) Saintly
RabbiRabbi Wise (If he is D.D. or LL.D., he is called Dr. Wise.)Dr. Stephen Wise, or Rabbi Stephen Wise, or Rev. Stephen Wise,Dear Sir:Dear Dr. Wise:I beg to remain, Yours sincerely,Yours sincerely,Rabbi Wise
AmbassadorYour Excellency or Mr. AmbassadorHis Excellency The American Ambassador, * American Embassy, London.Your Excellency:Dear Mr. Ambassador:I have the honor to remain, Yours faithfully, or, Yours very truly, or, Yours respectfully, or very formally: I have the honor to remain, sir, your obedient servant.Yours faithfully,The American Ambassador.
Minister PlenipotentiaryIn English he is usually called “Mr. Prince,” though it is not incorrect to call him “Mr. Minister.” The title “Excellency” is also occasionally used in courtesy, though it does not belong to him.
In French he is always called Monsieur le Ministre.
The Hon. J. D. Prince, American Legation, Copenhagen, or (more courteously) His Excellency, The American Minister, Copenhagen, Denmark.Sir: is correct but, Your Excellency: is sometimes used in courtesy.Dear Mr. Minister: or Dear Mr. Prince:Same as above.Yours faithfully,Mr. Prince, the American Minister, or merely, The American Minister as everyone is supposed to know his name or find it out.
CounsulMr. Smith.If he has held office as assemblyman or commissioner, so that he has the right to the title of “Honorable” he is addressed: The Hon. John Smith, otherwise: John Smith, Esq., American Consul, Rue Quelque Chose, Paris.Sir: or My dear Sir:Dear Mr. Smith:I beg to remain, Yours very truly,Faithfully,Mr. Smith.
[* Although our Ambassadors and Ministers represent the United States of America, it is customary both in Europe and Asia to omit the words United States and write to and speak of the American Embassy and Legation. In addressing a letter to one of our representatives in countries of the Western Hemisphere, “The United States of America” is always specified by way of courtesy to the Americans of South America.]

  Foreign persons of title are not included in the foregoing diagram because an American (unless in the Diplomatic Service) would be unlikely to address any but personal friends, to whom he would write as to any others. An envelope would be addressed in the language of the person written to: “His Grace, the Duke of Overthere (or merely The Duke of Overthere), Hyde Park, London”; “Mme. la Princess d’Acacia, Ave. du Bois, Paris”; “Il Principe di Capri, Cusano sul Seveso”; “Lady Alwin, Cragmere, Scotland,” etc. The letter would begin, Dear Duke of Overthere (or Dear Duke), Dear Princess, Dear Countess Aix, Dear Lady Alwin, Dear Sir Hubert, etc., and close, “Sincerely,” “Faithfully,” or “Affectionately,” as the case might be.

  Should an American have occasion to write to Royalty he would begin: “Madam” (or Sir), and end: “I have the honor to remain, madam (or Sir), your most obedient.” (“Your most obedient servant” is a signature reserved usually for our own President—or Vice-President.)

Post, Emily. Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1922. Bartleby.com 

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