Friday, October 19, 2012
The Calling Card - a lesson in social history
The leaving of cards was primarily "an activity of ladies" and generally took place in the morning. The protocol went like this: "At each house, the footman took a small card bearing your name and two cards of your husband's ... and gave them to the butler, who would put them on a salver inside the front hall, or, in less fancy establishments, perhaps on the mantlepiece. Visitors then had the chance to see whom the family numbered among its social circle and be suitably impressed." The idea was to renew - or solicit - acquaintance.
Now, if you were a bold person, you might forgo the card and simply call upon the person. However, by doing so, "you took a risk of rejection" since it was easy enough for the lady of the house to have a peek at you and then decide whether or not she'd see you. If she did, your visit was to be short and any conversation would be "light and touch on safe, general topics like weather." If this was someone you did not know well the call would made in the late afternoon and if "you were somewhat better acquainted, between five and six. These were all referred to as morning calls," even though they never took place in the morning and in fact "no one but a great intimate would presume to actually call in the real morning, i.e., before one o'clock."
These are my kind of people.
* according to WHAT JANE AUSTIN ATE AND WHAT CHARLES DICKENS KNEW by Daniel Pool