Manners and social usages,

CHAPTER XXXIX.GARDEN-PARTIES.


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Many of our correspondents ask us, “What shall we order for a garden-party?” We must answer that the first thing to order is a fine day. In these fortunate days the morning revelations of Old Probabilities give us an almost exact knowledge of what of rain or sunshine the future has in store.

A rain or tornado which starts from Alaska, where the weather is made nowadays, will almost certainly be here on the third day; so the hostess who is willing to send a hasty bidding can perhaps avoid rain. It is the custom, however, to send invitations for these garden-parties a fortnight before they are to occur. At Newport they are arranged weeks beforehand, and if the weather is bad the entertainment takes place in-doors.

When invitations are given to a suburban place to which people are expected to go by rail or any public means of conveyance, a card should also be sent stating the hours at which trains leave, which train or boat to take, and any other information that may add to the comfort of the guest. These invitations are engraved, and printed on note-paper, which should be perfectly plain, or bear the family crest in water-mark only, and read somewhat as follows:

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Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Smith
request the pleasure of
Mr. and Mrs. Conway Brown’s
company on Tuesday, the thirtieth of July,
at four o’clock.

Garden Party. Yonkers, New York.

Then, on the card enclosed, might be printed,

Carriages will meet the 3.30 train from Grand Central Depot.

If the invitation is to a country place not easy of access, still more explicit directions should be given.

The garden-party proper is always held entirely in the open air. In England the refreshments are served under a marquee in the grounds, and in that inclement clime no one seems to think it a hardship if a shower of rain comes down, and ruins fine silks and beautiful bonnets. But in our fine sunshiny land we are very much afraid of rain, and our malarious soil is not considered always safe, so that the thoughtful hostess often has her table in-doors, piazzas filled with chairs, Turkey rugs laid clown on the grass, and every preparation made that the elderly and timid and rheumatic may enjoy the garden-party without endangering their health.

A hostess should see that her lawn-tennis ground is in order, the croquet laid out, and the archery tools all in place, so that her guests may amuse themselves with these different games. Sometimes balls and races are added to these amusements, and often a platform is laid for dancing, if the turf be not sufficiently dry. A hand of musicians is essential to a very elegant and successful garden-party, and a varied selection of music, grave and gay, should be rendered. Although

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at a dinner-party there is reason to fear that an orchestra may be a nuisance, at a garden-party the open air and space are sufficient guarantees against this danger.

If the hostess wishes her entertainment to be served out-of-doors, of course all the dishes must be cold. Salads, cold birds, and ham, tongue, and pâté de foie gras, cold pâtés, and salmon dressed with a green sauce, jellies, Charlottes, ices, cakes, punch, and champagne, are the proper things to offer. A cup of hot tea should be always ready in the house for those who desire it.

At a garden-party proper the hostess receives out on the lawn, wearing her hat or bonnet, and takes it for granted that the party will be entirely out-of-doors. The carriages, however, drive up to the door, and the ladies can go up-stairs and deposit their wraps and brush off the dust, if they wish. A servant should be in attendance to show the guests to that part of the grounds in which the lady is receiving.

At Newport these parties are generally conducted on the principle of an afternoon tea, and after the mistress of the house has received her guests, they wander through the grounds, and, when weary, return to the house for refreshment. Pâté de foie gras, sandwiches, cold birds, plates of delicious jellied tongue, lobster salad, and sometimes hot cakes and hot broiled chicken, are served at these high teas. Coffee and tea and wine are also offered, but these are at mixed entertainments which have grown out of the somewhat unusual hours observed at Newport in the season.

There is a sort of public garden-party in this country

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which prevails on semi-official occasions, such as the laying of a foundation-stone for a public building, the birthday of a prominent individual, a Sunday-school festival, or an entertainment given to a public functionary. These are banquets, and for them the invitations are somewhat general, and should be officially issued. For the private garden-party it is proper for a lady to ask for an invitation for a friend, as there is always plenty of room; but it should also be observed that where this request is not answered affirmatively, offence should not be taken. It is sometimes very difficult for a lady to understand why her request for an invitation to her friend is refused; but she should never take the refusal as a discourtesy to herself. There may be reasons which cannot be explained.

Ladies always wear bonnets at a garden-party, and the sensible fashion of short dresses has hitherto prevailed; but it is rumored that a recent edict of the Princess of Wales against short dresses at her garden-parties will find followers on this side of the water, notably at Newport, which out-Herods Herod in its respect to English fashions.

Indeed, a long dress is very pretty on the grass and under the trees. At Buckingham Palace a garden-party given to the Viceroy of Egypt several years ago presented a very Watteau-like picture. Worth’s handsomest dresses were freely displayed, and the lovely grounds and old trees at the back of the palace were in fine full dress for the occasion.

In fact, England is the land for garden-parties, with its turf of velvet softness, its flowing lime-trees,

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its splendid old oaks, and its finished landscape gardening. There are but few places as yet in America which afford the clipped-box avenues, the arcades of blossoming rose-vines, the pleached alleys, the finely kept and perfect gravel-walks, or, Better than all, the quiet, old-fashioned gardens, down which the ladies may walk, rivals of the flowers.

But there are some such places; and a green lawn, a few trees, a good prospect, a fine day, and something to eat, are really all the absolute requirements for a garden-party. In the neighborhood of New York very charming garden-parties have been given: at the Brooklyn Navy-yard and the camp of the soldier, at the head-quarters of the officers of marines, and at the ever-lovely Governor’s Island.

Up the Hudson, out at Orange (with its multitudinous pretty settlements), all along the coast of Long Island, the garden-party is almost imperatively necessary. The owner of a fine place is expected to allow the unfortunates who must stay in town at least one sniff of his roses and new-mown hay.

Lawn-tennis has had a great share in making the garden-party popular; and in remote country places ladies should learn how to give these parties, and, with very little trouble, make the most of our fine climate. There is no doubt that a little awkwardness is to be overcome in the beginning, for no one knows exactly what to do. Deprived of the friendly shelter of a house, guests wander forlornly about; but a graceful and ready hostess will soon suggest that a croquet or lawn-tennis party be formed, or that a contest at archery be entered upon, or that even a card-party

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is in order, or that a game of checkers can be played under the trees.

Servants should be taught to preserve the proprieties of the feast, if the meal be served under the trees. There should be no piles of dishes, knives, forks, or spoons, visible on the green grass; baskets should be in readiness to carry off everything as soon as used. There should be a sufficient quantity of glass and china in use, and plenty of napkins, so that there need be no delay. The lemonade and punch bowls should be replenished from the dining-room as soon as they show signs of depletion, and a set of neat maid-servants can be advantageously employed in watching the table, and seeing that the cups, spoons, plates, wine-glasses, and forks are in sufficient quantity and clean. If tea is served, maid-servants are better than men, as they are careful that the tea is hot, and the spoons, cream, and sugar forthcoming. Fruit is an agreeable addition to a garden-party entertainment, and pines, melons, peaches, grapes, strawberries, are all served in their season. Pains should be taken to have these fruits of the very best that can be obtained.

Claret-cup, champagne-cup, and soda-water, brandy and shandy-gaff, are provided on a separate table for the gentlemen; Apollinaris water, and the various aerated waters so fashionable now, are also provided. Although gentlemen help themselves, it is necessary to have a servant in attendance to remove the wine-glasses, tumblers, and goblets as they are used, and to replenish the decanters and pitchers as they are emptied, and to supply fresh glasses. Many hospitable hosts offer their guests old Madeira, sherry, and port.

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The decanters are placed on the regular luncheon-table, and glasses of wine are carried by servants, on silver trays, to the ladies who are sitting on the piazzas and under the trees. Small thin tumblers are used for the claret and champagne cup, which should be held in silver or glass pitchers.

If strawberries and cream are served, a small napkin should be put between the saucer and plate, and a dessert spoon and fork handed with each plate.

The servants who carry about refreshments from the tent or the table where they are served should be warned to be very careful in this part of the service, as many a fine gown has been spoiled, by a dish of strawberries and cream or a glass of punch or lemonade being overturned, through a servant’s want of care.

Ices are now served at garden-parties in small paper cups placed on ice-plates–a fashion which is very neat, and which saves much of the mussiness which has heretofore been a feature of these entertainments. Numbers of small tables should be brought with the camp-stools, and placed at convenient intervals, where the guests can deposit their plates.

A lady should not use her handsome glass or china at these al fresco entertainments. It is sure to be broken. It is better to hire all the necessary glass, silver, and china from the caterer, as it saves a world of counting and trouble.

No doubt the garden-party is a troublesome affair, particularly if the refreshments are out-of-doors, but it is very beautiful and very amusing, and worth all the trouble. It is just as pleasant, however, if the table is in-doors.

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