A visitor is bound by the laws of social intercourse to conform in all respects to the habits of the house. In order to do this effectually, he should inquire, or cause his personal servant to inquire, what those habits are. To keep your friend’s breakfast on the table till a late hour; to delay the dinner by want of punctuality; to accept other invitations, and treat his house as if it were merely an hotel to be slept in; or to keep the family up till unwonted hours, are alike evidences of a want of good feeling and good breeding.
At breakfast and lunch absolute punctuality is not imperative; but a visitor should avoid being always the last to appear at table.
No order of precedence is observed at either breakfast or luncheon. Persons take their seats as they come in, and, having exchanged their morning salutations, begin to eat without waiting for the rest of the party.
If letters are delivered to you at breakfast or luncheon, you may read them by asking permission from the lady who presides at the urn.
Always hold yourself at the disposal of those in whose house you are visiting. If they propose to ride, drive, walk, or otherwise occupy the day, you may take it for granted that these plans are made with reference to your enjoyment. You should, therefore, receive them with cheerfulness, enter into them with alacrity, and do your best to seem pleased, and be pleased, by the efforts which your friends make to entertain you.
You should never take a book from the library to your own room without requesting permission to borrow it. When it is lent, you should take every care that it sustains no injury while in your possession, and should cover it, if necessary.
A guest should endeavor to amuse himself as much as possible, and not be continually dependent on his hosts for entertainment. He should remember that, however welcome he may be, he is not always wanted. During the morning hours a gentleman visitor who neither shoots, reads, writes letters, nor does anything but idle about the house and chat with the ladies, is an intolerable nuisance. Sooner than become the latter, he had better retire to the billiard-room and practice cannons by himself, or pretend an engagement and walk about the neighborhood.
Those who receive “staying visitors,” as they are called, should remember that the truest hospitality is that which places the visitor most at his ease, and affords him the greatest opportunity for enjoyment. They should also remember that different persons have different ideas on the subject of enjoyment, and that the surest way of making a guest happy is to find out what gives him pleasure; not to impose that upon him which is pleasure to themselves.
A visitor should avoid giving unnecessary trouble to the servants of the house, and should be liberal to them when he leaves.
The signal for retiring to rest is generally given by the appearance of the servant with wine, water, and biscuits, where a late dinner-hour is observed and suppers are not the custom. This is the last refreshment of the evening, and the visitor will do well to rise and wish goodnight shortly after it has been partaken of by the family.
This is taken from Routledge's Manual of Etiquette.
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