December 7, 2012

Martha Louise Rayne's Etiquette for Being a Gracious Guest

written by Rosa Morgan

Fair reader,
Presently, I may not be a household name, but I was a pioneer in journalism, interviewing such notables as President Cleveland and Longfellow. One of my greatest coups was talking with Mary Todd Lincoln during her confinement in an insane asylum. I wrote for the Chicago Tribune, and penned several books, but it is my seminal work, “Gems of Deportment and Hints of Etiquette”, published in 1880, I wish to bring attention to. You see, I was doling out advice long before dear Miss Emily Post.

There is a plethora of manuals for being the perfect host, but little guidance for the guest. Respectfully, I attempt to fill the void.PunctualityCome at the hour invited, neither sooner nor later, and leave precisely when your term of invitation expires. Conform to the customs of the house. If the hostess announces, "Breakfast is at eight o'clock sharp”, you are bound to obey. On your departure, do not dawdle at the front door, allowing your host to catch his death of cold.

Conversation: Bright and easy talk does not demand great mental gifts, only alertness and carefully cultivated habit.
Dinner is a social hour, where conversation is the only expected amusement. Please leave newspapers, cheap literature, and mechanical contraptions at home. Gentlemen shouldn't gather in knots to discuss the races, nor ladies gossip in corners. It's advisable not to criticize works of art in private houses in order to prove familiarity. Conversing a whole evening with one person is tactless, as is expressing every thought which arises in your mind. -->
Congeniality:An ill tempered guest complaining about the weather or family pet is as welcome as sour milk. Most inducive to harmony is to take a hand at euchre, or join in any amusement your hostess suggests. If the guest-chamber lacks some element, say nothing unless it is indispensable. If however, your hostess has not made sufficient preparations for your comfort, make your excuses and depart gracefully, avoiding her invitations in future, and keeping your discomfiture locked in your own bosom.
Gratitude: Be conscientious of hosts, who must by necessity of economy, employ only one servant or none at all. They will appreciate your helping-hand as well as a heartfelt show of gratitude. Appropriate thank you gifts would be a spittoon for the man of the house and perhaps a yard of fine ribbon for the woman's tresses.
With sincere fondness,
Mrs. Martha Louise Rayne
P.S. I hope my advice has not been too harsh. My only intention, dear guest, is for you to enjoy many happy returns.


  1. OK, now I know not to form a knot with my male friends and discuss the races. Ms. Rayne's writing reminds me of a book I have in my library titled "Vivalore, The pathway to mental and physical perfection, the twentieth century book for every woman" published in 1905.

  2. Fantastic suggestion, Robert! You can expect Dr. Melendy will be blogging here in the future. We of the fairer sex need all the guidance we can get to achieve perfection.