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THERE is something wonderfully primitive | mality, dissimulation, weariness, and vanity, and simple in the fundamental idea of visiting. which it is not easy to subject to any test withYou leave your own place and your chosen out resolving it at once into its unwholesome employments, your slipshod ease and privileged elements. Yet why must it be so? Would it plainness, and sally forth, in special trim, with require daring equal to that which dashed into your mind emptied, as far as possible, of what the enchanted wood of Ismeno, or that which ever has been engrossing it, to make a descent exterminated the Mamelukes, to fall back upon upon the domicile of another, under the idea first principles, and let inclination have somethat your presence will give him pleasure, and, thing to do with offering and returning visits ? remotely, yourself. Can anything denote more A coat of mail is, strangely enough, the first amiable simplicity? or, according to a certain requisite when we have a round of calls to favourite vocabulary, can anything be more make; not the “silver arms” fair Clorinda, intensely green? What a confession of the but the unlovely, oyster-like coat of Pride, need of human sympathy! What bonhommie in the helmet of Indifference, the breastplate of the conviction that you will be welcome! What Distrust, the barred visor of Self-Esteem, the reckless self-committal in the whole affair! shield of “gentle Dulness ;" while over all floats Let no one say this is not a good-natured the gaudy, tinsel scarf of Fashion. Whatever world, since it still keeps up a reverence for else be present or lacking, Pride, defensive, if the fossil remains of what was once the heart not offensive, must clothe us all over. The of its oyster.
eyes must be guarded, lest they mete out too Not to go back to the creation (some proof much consideration to those who bear no stamp. of self-denial, in these days of research), what the neck must be stiffened, lest it bend beyond occasioned the first visit, probably? Was it the haughty angle of self-reservation in the the birth of a baby, or a wish to borrow some- acknowledgment of civilities. The mouth is what for the simple householdry, or a cause of bound to keep its portcullis ever ready to fall complaint about some rural trespass; a de on a word which implies unaffected pleasure or to share superabundant grapes with a neigh-surprise. Each motion must have its motive; bour who abounded more in pomegranates; a every civility its well-weighed return in prostwilight fancy for gossip about a stray kid, or pect. Subjects of conversation must be any a wound from “the blindboy's butt-shaft?" but those which naturally present themselves Was the delight of visiting, like the succulence to the mind. If a certain round is not preof roast pig, discovered by chance; or was it, scribed, we feel that all beyond it is proscribed. like the talk which is its essence, an instinct? | O, the unutterable weariness of this worse than This last we particularly doubt, from present dumbshow! No wonder we groan in spirit manifestations. Instincts do not wear out; when there are visits to be made! they are as fresh as in the days when visiting But some fair, innocent face looks up at us, began—but where is visiting ?
out of a forest home, perhaps, or in a wide, A curious semblance of the old rite now unneighboured prairie,—and asks what all this serves us, a mere Duessa—& form of snow, means. “Is not a visit always a delightful impudently pretending to vitality. We are put thing—full of good feeling—the cheerer of solioff with this congelation, a compound of for- I tude—the lightener of labour—the healer of
differences—the antidote of life's bitterness ?” as fast as dignity will allow, in order that we Ah, primitive child! it is so, indeed, to you. may do as much execution as possible with the The thought of a visit makes your dear little stone thus carefully smoothed. Arrived at the heart beat. If one is offered, or expected at first house (which is always the one farthest your father's, with what cheerful readiness do off, for economy of time), we stop—the servant you lend your aid to the preparations! How inquires for the lady for whom our civility is your winged feet skim along the floor, or sur- intended, while we take out a card and hold it mount the stairs; your brain full of ingenious prominent on the carriage door, that not a devices and substitutes, your slender fingers moment may be lost in case a card is needed. loaded with plates and glasses, and a tidy apron “Not at home?” Ah then, with what pleased depending from your taper waist! Thoughts alacrity we commit the scrap of pasteboard to of dress give you but little trouble, for your John, after having turned down a corner for choice is limited to the pink ribbon and the each lady, if there are several, in this kind and blue one; what the company will wear is of propitious house. But if the answer is “ At still less moment, so they only come! It would home,” all wears a different aspect. The card be hard to make you believe that we invite slips sadly back again into its silver citadel; people and then hope they will not come! If we sigh, and say “Oh dear!” if nothing worse you omit anybody, it will be the friend who / -and then, alighting with measured step, enter possesses too many acres, or he who has been the drawing-room all smiles, and with polite sent to the legislature from your district, lest words ready on our lips. Ten minutes of the dignity should interfere with pleasure; we, on weather—the walking—the opera—family illthe contrary, think first of the magnates, even nesses-on-dits, and a little spice of scandal, or though we know that the gloom of their gran- at least a shrug and a meaning look or twodeur will overshadow the mirth of everybody and the duty is done. We enter the carriage else, and prove a wet blanket to the social fire. again—urge the coachman to new speed, and You will, perhaps, be surprised to learn that go through the same ceremonies, hopes, regrets, we keep a debtor and creditor account of visits, and tittle-tattle, till dinner-time, and then bless and talk of owing a call, or owing an invita- our stars that we have been able to make twenty tion, as your father does of owing a hundred calls—“so many people were out!" dollars at the store, for value received. When But this is only one side of the question. we have made a visit and are about departing, How is it with us when we receive visits? We we invite a return, in the choicest terms of enter here upon a deep mystery. Dear simple affectionate, or, at least, cordial interest; but child of the woods and fields, did you ever hear if our friend is new enough to take us at our of reception-days? If not, let us enlighten you word, and pay the debt too soon, we complain, a little. and say, “Oh dear! there's another call to The original idea of a reception-day is a make!” Our whole system of morning visiting charmingly social and friendly one. It is that will amuse you, doubtless; and for the sake of the many engagements of city life, and the those who shall be the happy owners of a distances which must be traversed in order to bound volume of our Magazine in 1900,- by visit several friends in one day, make it pecuwhich date we opine some new light will have liarly desirable to know when we are sure to dawned upon our social world, causing old find each at home. It may seem strange that abuses to be forgotten,-we will just give you this idea should have occurred to people who a sketch of it.
are confessedly glad of the opportunity to leave A hint has already been dropt as to the a card, because it allows them time to despatch grudging spirit of the thing, how we give as a greater number of visits at one round; but little as we can, and get all possible credit for so it is. The very enormity of our practice it; and this is the way we do it. Having let sometimes leads to spasmodic efforts at reform. the accounts against us become as numerous Appointing a reception-day is, therefore, or, as is prudent, we draw up a list of our credi- rather, we should say, was intended to make tors, carefully districted as to residences, so as morning-calls something besides a mere form. not to make more cross-journeys than are ne- To say you will always be at home on such a cessary in going the rounds. Then we array day, is to insure to your friends the pleasure ourselves with all suitable splendour (this is a of seeing you; and what a charming conversamain point, and we often defer a call upon tional circle might thus be gathered, without dear friends for weeks, waiting till the arrivals ceremony or restraint! No wonder the fashioa from Paris shall allow us to endue a new bon- took at once. But what has fashion made of net or mantilla), and, getting into a carriage, this plan, so simple, so rational, so in accordcard-case in hand, give our list, corrected more ance with the best uses of visiting? Something anxiously than a price-current, into the keep-as vapid and senseless as a court-drawinging of the coachman, with directions to drive room, or the eternal bowings and compliments
of the Chinese! You, artless blossom of the visiting has ceased with them to be even a prairies, or belle of some rural city a thousand symbol of friendly feeling, and they look upon miles inland, should thank us for putting you it as merely a mode of exhibiting wealth, style, on your guard against Utopian constructions of and desirable acquaintances; an assertion, as our social canons. When you come to town it were, of social position. Then they will tell with your good father, and find that the lady you of the great “waste of time" incurred by of one of his city correspondents sets åpart one the old system of receiving morning calls, and morning of every week for the reception of her how much better it is to give up one day to it friends, do not imagine her to be necessarily a than every day; though, by the way, they never "good soul,” who hates to disappoint those did scruple to be “engaged” or “out” when who call on her, and therefore simply omits visits were not desirable. Another thing is— going out on that day lest she should miss but this, perhaps, they will not tell you,—that them. You will find her enshrined in all that the present is an excellent way of refining one's is grand and costly; her door guarded by ser-circle; for, as the footman has strict orders not vants, whose formal ushering will kill within to admit any one, or even receive a card, on you all hope of unaffected and kindly inter- other than the regular days, all those who are course; her parlours glittering with all she enough behind the age not to be aware of this, can possibly accumulate that is recherché (that are gradually dropt, their visits passing for is a favourite word of hers), and her own per- nothing, and remaining unreturned. So fades son arrayed with all the solicitude of splendour away the momentary dream of sociability with that morning dress allows, and sometimes some- which some simple-hearted people pleased thing more. She will receive you with prac- themselves when they heard of reception-days. tised grace, and beg you to be seated, perhaps But morning calls are not the only form of seat herself by you and inquire after your our social intercourse. We do not forget the health. Then a tall, grave servant will hand claims of "peaceful evening.” You have read you on a silver salver, a cup of chocolate, or Cowper, my dear young friend? some other permissible refreshment, while your hostess glides over the carpet to show to a new
“Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round, guest or group the identical civilities of which
And while the bubbling and loud-bissing urn you have just had the benefit. A lady sits at Throws up a steaming column, and the cups your right hand, as silent as yourself; but you That cheer, but not inebriate," etc., etc. must neither hope for an introduction, nor dare to address her without one, since both these And you have been at tea-parties too, where, things are forbidden by our code. Another besides the excellent tea and coffee and cake sits at your left, looking wistfully at the fire, and warm biscuits and sliced tongue, there was or at the stand of greenhouse plants, or, still wealth of good-humoured chat, and, if not wit, more likely, at the splendid French clock, but plenty of laughter, as the hours wore on tonot speaking a word; for she, too, has not the wards ten o'clock, when cloaks and hoods were happiness of knowing anybody who chances to brought, and the gentlemen asked to be allowed sit near her.
to see the ladies home, and, after a brisk walk, Presently she rises; the hostess hastens to everybody was in bed at eleven o'clock, and wards her, presses her hand with great affec- felt not the worse but the better next morning. tion, and begs to see her often. She falls into Well! we have evening parties too! A little the custody of the footman at the parlour door, different, however. is by him committed to his double at the hall The simple people among whom you have door, and then trips lightly down the steps to been living really enjoyed these parties. Those her carriage, to enact the same farce at the who gave them, and those who went to them, next house where there may be a reception on had social pleasure as their object. The little the same day. You look at the clock, too, bustle, or, perhaps, labour of preparation was rise—are smiled upon, and begged to come just enough to mark the occasion pleasantly. again; and, passing through the same tunnel People came together in good humour with of footmen, reach the door and the street, with themselves and with each other. There may time and opportunity to muse on the mystery have been some little scandal talked over the of visiting
tea when it was too strong—but, on the whole, Now you are not to go away with the idea there was a friendly result, and everybody that those who reduce visiting to this frigid concerned would have felt it a loss to be desystem, are, of necessity, heartless people. prived of such meetings. The very borrowings That would be very unjust. They are often of certain articles of which no ordinary, modepeople of very good hearts indeed; but they rate household is expected to have enough for have somehow allowed their notions of social extraordinary occasions, promoted good neighintercourse to become sophisticated, so that I bourhood and sociability, and the deficiencies
sometimes observable, were in some sense an ; The next question is as to the entertainment; antidote to pride.
and this would be a still more anxious affair Now all this sounds like a sentimental, Uto- than it is, if its form and extent were not in pian, if not shabby romance to us, so far have good measure prescribed by fashion. There we departed from such primitiveness. To be- are certainly must-haves, and may-haves, here gin, we all say we hate parties. When we go as elsewhere; but the liberty of choice is not to them we groan and declare them stupid, and very extensive. If you do not provide the when we give them we say still worse things. must-haves you are “ mean," of course; but it When we are about to give, there is a close is only by adding the may-haves that you can calculation either as to the cheapest way, or as hope to be elegant. The cost may seem formito the most recherché, without regard to ex- dable, perhaps ; but it has been made matter pense. Of course these two views apply to of accurate computation, that one large party, different extent of means, and the former is the even though it be a handsome one, costs less in more frequent. Where money is no object, the the end than the habit of hospitality for which anxiety is to do something that nobody else can it is the substitute, so it is not worth while to do; whether in splendour of decorations or flinch. We must do our “duty to society," costliness of supper. If Mrs. A. had a thousand and this is the cheapest way. dollars worth of flowers in her rooms, Mrs. B. Do you ask me if there are among us no oldwill strain every nerve to have twice or three fashioned people, who continue to invite their times as many, though all the greenhouses friends because they love them and wish to see within ten miles of the city must be stripped to them, offering only such moderate entertainobtain them. If Mrs. C. bought all the game ment as may serve to promote social feeling? in market for her supper, Mrs. D.'s anxiety is Yes, indeed! there are even some who will ask to send to the prairies for hers,--and so in you to dine, for the mere pleasure of your comother matters. Mrs. E. had the prima donna pany, and with no intention to astonish you or to sing at her soirée, and Mrs. F. at once en
excite your envy! We boast that it was a lady gages the whole opera troupe. This is the of our city, who declined giving a large party principle, and its manifestations are infinite. to “return invitations,” saying she did not wish But, perhaps, these freaks are characteristic of “to exhaust, in the prodigality of a night, the circles into which wondering eyes like yours hospitality of a year.” Ten such could be are never likely to penetrate, so we will say found among us, we may hope; leaven enough, something of the other classes of party-givers, perhaps, to work out, in time, a change for the those who feel themselves under a sort of ne
better in our social plan. Conversation is by cessity to invite a great many people for whom no means despised, in some circles, even though they care nothing, merely because these people it turn on subjects of moral or literary interest, have before invited them. Obligations of this and parlour music, which aims at no eclat, is sort are of so exceedingly complicated a cha- to be heard sometimes among people who could racter, that none but a metaphysician could be afford to hire opera singers. expected fully to unravel them. The idea of
It must be confessed that the wholesale paying one invitation by another is the main method of “doing up” our social obligations is one, and whether the invited choose to come or
a convenient one on some accounts. not, is very little to the purpose. The invita- vents jealousy by placing all alike on a footing tion discharges the debt, and places the party- of perfect indifference. The apportionment of giver in the position of creditor, necessitating, civilities is a very delicate matter. Really, in of course, another party, and so on, in endless some cases, it is walking among eggs to invite series. It is to be observed in passing, that only a few of your friends at a time. both debtor and creditor in this shifting-scale choose them as being acquainted with each believe themselves discharging a duty they other, somebody will be offended at being inowe society.” This is another opportunity of cluded or excluded. If intellectual sympathy getting rid of undesirable acquaintances, since be your touchstone, for every one gratified to leave one to whom we "owe” an invitation there will be two miffed, and so on with all out of a general party, is equivalent to a final other classifications. Attempts have been dismissal. This being the case, it is, of course, made to obviate this difficulty. One lady prohighly necessary to see that everybody is asked posed to consider as congenial all those who that ought to be asked, and only those omitted keep carriages, but the circle proved so very whom it is desirable to ignore, and for this dull, that she was obliged to exert her ingepurpose, every lady must keep a “ visiting nuity for another common quality by which to list.” It is on these occasions that we take arrange her soirées. Another tried the expecare to invite our country friends, especially if dient of inviting her fashionable friends at one we have stayed a few weeks at their houses time, her husband's political friends at another, during the preceding summer.
and the religious friends whom both were desi
rous to propitiate, at another; but her task | tail our acquaintances. When we would kindle was as perplexing as that of the man who had a fire, we do not begin by scattering the coals the fox, the goose, and the bag of oats to ferry in every direction; so neither should we atover the river in a boat that would hold but one tempt to promote social feeling by making of them at a time. So large parties have it; and formal calls once or twice a year.
If we give in the murky shadow of this simulacrum of offence, so be it; it shows that there was nosociability we are likely to freeze for some thing to lose. If we find ourselves left out of time to come; certainly until all purely mer- what is called fashionable society, let us bless cantile calculation is banished from our civili- our stars, and devote the time thus saved to ties.
something that we really like. What a gain It is with visiting as with travelling; those there would be if anything drove us to living who would make the most of either must begin for ourselves and not for other people; for our by learning to renounce. We cannot do every friends, rather than for a world, which, after thing; and to enjoy our friends we must cur- | all our sacrifices, cares not a pin about us !
THERE is certainly not much to commend or not been such as to soften them. But we admire in the outward aspect of this humble have not come hither to find architectural pile. Its general features partake of the stern- beauty; “far from us and from our friends be ness of the times in which it was reared, and such frigid philosophy.”—It is in the spirit its fate through the intervening centuries has with which Samuel Johnson visited Iona that