A morning visit should be paid between the hours of two and four p.m., in winter, and two and five in summer. By observing this rule you avoid intruding before the luncheon is removed, and leave in sufficient time to allow the lady of the house an hour or two of leisure for her dinner toilette.
Be careful always to avoid luncheon hours when you pay morning visits. Some ladies dine with their children at half-past one, and are consequently unprepared for the early reception of visitors. When you have once ascertained this to be the case, be careful never again to intrude at the same hour.
A good memory for these trifles is one of the hallmarks of good breeding.
Visits of ceremony should be short. If even the conversation should have become animated, beware of letting your call exceed half-an-hour’s length. It is always better to let your friends regret than desire your withdrawal.
On returning visits of ceremony you may, without impoliteness, leave your card at the door without going in. Do not fail, however, to inquire if the family be well.
Should there be daughters or sisters residing with the lady upon whom you call, you may turn down a corner of your card, to signify that the visit is paid to all. It is in better taste, however, to leave cards for each.
Unless when returning thanks for “kind inquiries,” or announcing your arrival in, or departure from, town, it is not considered respectful to send round cards by a servant.
Leave-taking cards have P.P.C. (pour prendre conge) written in the corner. Some use P.D.A. (pour dire adieu).
It is not the fashion on the Continent for unmarried ladies to affix any equivalent to the English “Miss” to their visiting cards. Emilie Dubois, or Kaetchen Clauss, is thought more simple and elegant than if preceded by Mademoiselle or Frauelein. Some English girls have of late adopted this good custom, and it would be well if it became general.
Autographic facsimiles for visiting cards are affectations in any persons but those who are personally remarkable for talent, and whose autographs, or facsimiles of them, would be prized as curiosities. A card bearing the autographic signature of Agnes Strickland or Mary Somerville, though only a lithographic facsimile, would have a certain interest; whereas the signature of Jane Smith would be not only valueless; but would make the owner ridiculous.
Visits of condolence are paid within the week after the event which occasions them. Personal visits of this kind are made by relations and very intimate friends only. Acquaintances should leave cards with narrow mourning borders.
On the first occasion when you are received by the family after the death of one of its members, it is etiquette to wear slight mourning.
Umbrellas should invariably be left in the hall.
Never take favorite dogs into a drawing-room when you make a morning call. Their feet may be dusty, or they may bark at the sight of strangers, or, being of too friendly a disposition, may take the liberty of lying on a lady’s gown, or jumping on the sofas and easy chairs. Where your friend has a favorite cat already established before the fire, a battle may ensue, and one or other of the pets be seriously hurt. Besides, many persons have a constitutional antipathy to dogs, and others never allow their own to be seen in the sitting-rooms. For all or any of these reasons, a visitor has no right to inflict upon her friend the society of her dog as well as of herself. Neither is it well for a mother to take young children with her when she pays morning visits; their presence, unless they are unusually well trained, can only be productive of anxiety to both yourself and your hostess. She, while striving to amuse them, or to appear interested in them, is secretly anxious for the fate of her album, or the ornaments on her étagère; while the mother is trembling lest her children should say or do something objectionable.
If other visitors are announced, and you have already remained as long as courtesy requires, wait till they are seated, and then rise from your chair, take leave of your hostess, and bow politely to the newly arrived guests. You will, perhaps, be urged to remain, but, having once risen, it is best to go. There is always a certain air of gaucherie in resuming your seat and repeating the ceremony of leave-taking.
If you have occasion to look at your watch during a call, ask permission to do so, and apologize for it on the plea of other appointments.
In receiving morning visitors, it is not necessary that the lady should lay aside the employment in which she may be engaged, particularly if it consists of light or ornamental needle-work. Politeness, however, requires that music, drawing, or any occupation which would completely engross the attention, be at once abandoned.
You need not advance to receive visitors when announced, unless they are persons to whom you are desirous of testifying particular attention. It is sufficient if a lady rises to receive her visitors, moves forward a single step to shake hands with them, and remains standing till they are seated.
When your visitors rise to take leave you should rise also, and remain standing till they have quite left the room. Do not accompany them to the door, but be careful to ring in good time, that the servant may be ready in the hall to let them out.
A lady should dress well, but not too richly, when she pays a morning visit. If she has a carriage at command, she may dress more elegantly than if she were on foot.
This is taken from Routledge's Manual of Etiquette.
Copyright © D. J. McAdam· All Rights Reserved