Bookworm Hienrichs: I think we’ll get started now. And please excuse me if I fall silent – I may freeze up while talking.
Welcome to this month’s Aether Salon! Today, Lord Mayor Perryn Peterson of Mieville has come to give us some insights into the world of manners and etiquette. Also, please get your web browsers ready, as our speaker will be using web-based visual aids.
And now, to introduce our speaker. Lord Mayor Perryn Peterson has been in charge of the successful commercial city of Mieville for nearly six years. He teaches several classes weekly on a variety of topics, which makes him eminently suitable to instruct us free-wheeling Babbagers. *grin* He also runs the yearly Steam and Silk Road hunts, both of which are very popular. Please welcome our esteemed speaker!
Perryn Peterson: Thank you, Miss Bookworm.
Good afternoon/evening, everyone, it is an honour to join you today. A few short remarks before we begin the lecture proper. You will have noticed that it is extremely laggy here. Therefore please avail yourself of Miss Bookworm’s wearable chairs, remove all possible lag monsters you may be wearing, and be prepared to enjoy! This talk will be in TEXT, not voice. Please have a page of your browser ready as there will be piccies.
I would draw your attention to the sign at my right. It asks that you type “@” if you wish to ask a question or make a comment. A question will naturally end with “?” but if a comment please type “#” at the end so that we all know you have completed your remarks. Thank you.
And now… I am going to introduce you to the Etiquette of the Victorian Calling Card!
By the beginning of the 19th century, the etiquette of calling was a firmly established ritual in society, and the calling card an essential part of introductions, invitations and visits. There were hundreds of books, pamphlets and magazine articles with instructions for those not already in the know.
This particular example dates from the American Civil War. Calling cards evolved in England as a way for people to get into the elite social circle, and for those already there to keep out the unwanted. Calling cards could keep social aspirants at a distance until they could be properly screened.
Mingling with the Victorian elite, the aristocracy, was the social goal of the enterprising middle class. Desiring to introduce themselves to the aristocrats, the morning call became (with luck) one way to further one’s step up the ladder.
The engraving was in simple type, small and without flourishes, although script became far more elaborate as the century went on. A simple ‘Mr.’ Or ‘Mrs.’ before the name was sufficient, except in the case of acknowledgement of rank (Earl, Viscount, etc.).
Early Victorian cards bore only a person’s title and name, with the name of their house or district sometimes added. By the end of the century, the address was added to the card, and when applicable, a lady’s reception day.
During her husband’s lifetime, a married lady’s card should read “Mrs., John Doe”, and the prefix “Mrs.” must never be omitted. A widow’s card, however, should read “Mrs. Sarah Doe”. Young unmarried ladies must attach the prefix “Miss” to their names on their cards, and nicknames are never allowed. However, a few acceptable abbreviations such as “Wm.” for “William” (especially if a middle name) were occasionally used.
A mother with a daughter just entering society may share the same card with both names appearing: the mother’s on top; the daughter’s directly below. A young lady may have a card of her own after having been in society for one year.
Visiting card cases were made of a variety of materials, including silver, ivory and papier-mache. Their lids during the 1830s often depicted views of castles, such as Warwick or Winsdor. By the 1840s, after Queen Victoria’s purchase of Balmoral (an entire lecture in itself!) Scottish views became popular.
Victorians preferred ivory, tortoiseshell and woodwork. Because gold and other metals were expensive, only the wealthy could afford cases made of these substances. Victorian cards were larger than their earlier counterparts, so only a few were carried at a time.
A reciprocal card could be given to the caller, but if not presented formally, that usually meant there was no desire to further the acquaintance. If, however, a formal call was returned with a formal call, there was hope for the relationship to grow.
Cards from visitors were placed on a silver salver in the entry hall–the more impressive names displayed on top. The trays had a pie-crust rim so the cards would not slip off. In less wealthy households, unimpressive china bowls were used to hold cards.
For a first call, one was wise to simply leave the card without inquiring as to whether or not the mistress was “at home”. She would then take the next step. A newcomer waited until she received cards from neighbours. It was then good manners to call on those neighbours who left cards.
By mid-century, a wife could leave her husband’s card for him. She left her own card, plus two of her husband’s–one for the mistress of the house, and one for the master. The names of grown-up daughters could be printed on her card when they accompanied her on a call as long as they were still living at home.
A turned-down corner indicated that the card had been delivered in person, rather than by a servant. Some elaborate cards had the words Visite, Felicitation, Affaires, and Adieu imprinted on the reverse side, on the corners. So whichever corner was turned up, one of those messages appeared and explained the reason for the visit. (And if you think *this* is complicated, it is as nothing compared to the Victorian “Language of Flowers”, another lecture of mine.)
The meaning of the folds were as follows:
A folded top left corner meant the visitor had come in person; this corner unfolded meant a servant was sent.
A folded bottom left corner signified a farewell
A folded top right corner meant congratulations
A folded bottom right corner expressed condolence.
Calls should be made only on At Home days. Later in the era, days and times for these were engraved on visiting cards.
Formal calls were made following ceremonial events such as marriage or childbirth, and also as acknowledgement of hospitality. Calls for condolence and congratulations were made about a week after the event. If intimate, a visitor could ask for admission. If not, they inquired of the servant as to the person’s well-being.
Jaz Beverly: What if a lady wished to make a condolence or other call on another whose “at home” day was the same as her own?
Perryn Peterson: Bingo! First problem. Times were allocated for each type of call. ‘Morning calls’ were confusingly made in the afternoon. ‘Ceremonial calls’ were made between three and four o’clock, semi-ceremonial between four and five, and intimate calls between five and six–but never on Sunday, the day reserved for close friends and relatives.
In short, without visiting or calling cards, it seems that Victorian society would have entirely fallen apart. One may be grateful for indoor plumbing and other modern conveniences, but we must mourn the falling away of this mannerly tradition.
Tepic Harlequin raises his hand….
Bookworm Hienrichs: Tepic, your question?
Tepic Harlequin: errr…. do i have ter be introduced before i can ask a question?
Perryn Peterson winks to Tepic whom he has not seen in donkey’s years
Bookworm Hienrichs: I don’t think it’s necessary, Tepic. *chuckle*
Perryn Peterson waits for Tepic’s question
Tepic Harlequin: errrr……. that were the question!
Bookworm Hienrichs laughs.
Perryn Peterson: Ah-hah!
Tristizia Demonista: sounded like a lot of “work” for the upper class 😉
Seth Stratten: @
Jaz Beverly: Was there any significance to which day one chose to be “at home?”
Perryn Peterson: We did not get into the gorgeous cards that came later in “our” period… with all sorts of decorations and even little tabs hiding the name, which were naturally called “hidden name” cards.
Perryn Peterson: Indeed, Miss Demonista.
Seth Stratten: So business cards were probably evolved from calling cards .
Perryn Peterson: No, I think ladies just chose whichever day they wished… however, if there were a “leader” of their particular society, they’d avoid HER day.
Perryn Peterson: Probably, Mr S, although they seemed to evolve alongside the calling cards… called trade cards.
Perryn Peterson: And that is a whole nother lecture too!
Seth Stratten: ooOooo
Garnet Psaltery: A question – did ladies of the night have scarlet-edged calling cards?
Tepic Harlequin: heheh bet that’s why visiting cards got all fancy, so they wern’t confused with mere trade ones!
Perryn Peterson chuckles
Lia V: no wonder half the forests in the UK vanished during the victorian era, all these cards being made =o
Perryn Peterson: If not, they should have done!
Garnet Psaltery: 😀
Polly: printers must have made a killing
Garnet Psaltery: Indeed
Perryn Peterson: They surely did!
Elleon Bergamasco grins
Perryn Peterson: It was a good time to be a printer.
Jaz Beverly: Was there an etiquette to how long one could keep a prestigous calling card on the top of one’s bowl?
Garnet Psaltery: :o)
Perryn Peterson: Ha! A good question! I dunno!
Perryn Peterson: How long could one keep the Kaiser’s card? Ha ha ha!
Beryl Strifeclaw imagines someone might frame an important enough one.
Garnet Psaltery: Name -dropping -oops I just dropped this prestigious card in front of everyone
Perryn Peterson: Forever, obviously, as these cards have survived a good 150 years… so far!
Polly: I wonder if social climbers pinched the more prestigious cards from other ladies’ bowls
Jaz Beverly: strategic!
Lily Cavendish: ha, i bet it happend
Perryn Peterson: I wonder whether they did, Miss Ellsmere!
Professor Julia V. Sheehan: I suppose the urchins and rascals might have made a few shillings selling “prestigious” cards for the social climber to show….
Miss Suzanne Super Sweet: ((At a party last night noticed a miniature letter press on my host’s office shelf. I should ask her about it))
Beryl Strifeclaw: If they chose their guests poorly perhaps. =3
Avariel Falcon ponders if it would be Miss Falcon or Dr Falcon
Garnet Psaltery: Dr Miss?
Polly: Professor Falcon, surely?
Avariel Falcon: Yes, that is possible
Perryn Peterson: All of this was quite serious, you realise. If a lady didn’t pass muster, she might as well be dead in that town, for she would have zero friends.
Stereo Nacht: Miss Pr. Avariel Falcon… I think?
Avariel Falcon nods
Tepic Harlequin: ah! rules of precedent!
Polly: Mme Professeur
Garnet Psaltery: Title before rank, I think
Bookworm Hienrichs: Indeed, Mayor Peterson.
Perryn Peterson: Oh, my goodness, the rules of precedence would surely put all of you to sleep in short order!
Bookworm Hienrichs laughs.
Wildstar Beaumont: 🙂
Avariel Falcon: ^_^
Jaz Beverly: Share just a few, perhaps?
Beryl Strifeclaw giggles
Perryn Peterson: It was not only stultifying but incredibly important!
Polly: how did one ever get to the dinner table without knowing who was to lead the way?
Tepic Harlequin: me!
Garnet Psaltery laughs
Perryn Peterson: Well, in America, it was easy. The richest people had precedence. And the richer a woman’s husband was, the more status she held.
Stereo Nacht slaps Mr. Harlequin’s hands: “Wash your hands and face, first!” 😉
Perryn Peterson: But in Great Britain, oh, my slings and arrows! It was SO complicated.
Tristizia Demonista: WAS ? 😉
Seth Stratten: I would think in England, it would be tied to court standing
Perryn Peterson just recently gave a lesson to his class about the English Peerage
Garnet Psaltery: Buck Palace is still stiflingly rule-bound
Seth Stratten: Great lecture
Beryl Strifeclaw: =3
Perryn Peterson: Each rank has so many pearls on his or her coronet, etc. etc. Sheesh.
Bookworm Hienrichs: Any more questions for our speaker?
Polly: how did the ladies know whose husband was richest?
Lia V: Lords, Ladies, Barons, Baronesses, Dukes, Duchesses…. etc etc etc
Seth Stratten: hahahaa
Perryn Peterson: Believe me, they knew.
Seth Stratten: by their clothes
Garnet Psaltery: Feeling in their pockets?
Stereo Nacht: What if a woman “marries down”? Does she keep using her title (if she has one), or does she goes with her husband’s title?#
Perryn Peterson: Oh, that’s a whole nother lecture yet again!
Seth Stratten: husbands
Stereo Nacht: Ah… Complex, I see. Thank you!
Perryn Peterson: Very.
Bookworm Hienrichs: Thank you for coming! Please be sure to join us next month, when I do believe the Boiler Elf will be… gracing us with his presence again!