Manners and social usages,

CHAPTER XLI.SPRING AND SUMMER ENTERTAINMENTS.


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As the season advances and the country bursts into glorious sudden spring, the garden party, the country dinner, the horseback excursions, and the asparagus parties, the hunts and the yacht voyages, the lawn-tennis and archery, the visits to the polo ground, and the delights of a visit to the friends who live within an hour of the city, at Orange and at Morristown, on the seagirt shore of Long Island or up the Hudson, begin to loom up before the city-bound worthy, and to throw a “rose hue o’er his russet cares.”

Now the first question with the neophyte who would go to the hunts (for they “break the ice” in more senses than one), as the first of the spring out-of-door entertainments, is, What does a young girl require who would “ride to hounds”? for “pale Diana,” chaste and fair, no longer hunts on foot, as she did in the days of Acteon.

She must have two thorough-bred hunters. She must have a groom, an English habit, a carefully-considered outfit, and she must be a perfect and a fearless horsewoman, and not mind a “cropper.” One of the young riders at the Meadow Brook Hunt was thrown over her horse’s head into a ditch last spring, and got up declaring she was not even bruised. Yes,

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she must learn even how to fall off her horse without breaking her ribs or her nose. It is an expensive amusement to be Diana nowadays. The result, however, of long practice on horseback seems to be that a woman becomes almost a centaur, and more fearless than a man. Then the hunt includes as its adjuncts to the young ladies certain men in pink. They “form” on a roadside, and the master of the hunt says, “Ladies and gentlemen, will you hunt ?” and he motions to the whipper-in–a gallant creature in pink also–to “throw off the dogs.”

Then the prettiest forty dogs, all spotted, start on their mad career. It is a beautiful sight, with the red-coated huntsmen following, and it looks as if the real fox would be attainable after a time, instead of the farce of an anise-seed bag which now serves to make the ghost of a scent. The low, soft hat is a favorite with our young riders, but there is this to say for the hard hat, it does break a fall. Many a fair forehead has been saved from a terrible sear by the resistant hard hat.

The habit of riding every day and of getting thoroughly accustomed to one’s seat should precede the daring attempt at a break-neck jump.” No one should pretend to hunt who has not a good seat, a good horse, and plenty of nerve. Much less should an incompetent rider venture on a friend’s horse. It has been said in England that “a man will forgive you for breaking his own neck, but not that of his favorite hunter.”

As the day for driving has come, many correspondents write to ask what is the best style of equipage

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for a young man. We can only say that a tilbury and one horse is very showy, that a dog-cart is the most “knowing,” that a high chariot is very stately, but that the two-seated Park wagon is the most appropriate in which to take out a lady. There should always be a servant behind. The art of driving is simple enough, but requires much practice. The good driver should understand his horse well, and turn his curves gently and slowly; he must know how to harness and unharness a horse, and be ready to mend any trifling disarrangement if there is a break.

Now as to driving in a carriage with ladies, a correspondent writes to ask the etiquette which should govern a gentleman’s conduct. He takes his seat with his back to the horses, opposite the ladies, nor should he assume to sit beside a lady unless requested to do so. When the carriage stops, he should jump out and assist her to alight, walking with her up her own steps, and ringing the bell. In entering the carriage he should put his left foot on the step, and enter the carriage with his right foot. This is, however, supposing that he sits facing the horses; if he sits with his back to the horses, he reverses the process. A gentleman should avoid treading on ladies’ dresses, or shutting them in the door. Ladies who have country-houses should learn to drive as well as to ride. Indeed, in these days when young women drive alone in the Park in their pony phaetons and little carts, we need hardly advise that they should learn to drive well.

As to boating, which is practised so largely by men, we hear of but few ladies who pull the oar about New

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York; but doubtless it will be done on inland streams and lakes. One gentleman should stay in the boat and help to steady it, unless the oarswomen are very expert. Short dresses and round hats should be worn, with no superincumbent drapery, As the seat of honor in a boat is that occupied by the stroke oar, it is etiquette for the owner of the boat to offer it to his friend if he be a rower.

The asparagus party is a sort of a long picnic, in which a party of friends join, and drive or ride out to some convenient inn where a good dinner can be served, with the advantage of the early vegetable cut directly from the ground. As Long Island is famous for its asparagus, these parties from New York generally select some convenient locality there, near enough to the city to be not too fatiguing a drive.

The new passion for driving a coach has now become so much of an American taste that we need not describe the pastime here. At least four coaches will start from New York for some neighboring town-New Rochelle, Yonkers, etc.–during the summer, and there is no better way of spending a May day than on top of one. As for al fresco entertainments, game pie, patties, cold beef, pressed tongue, potted meats, sandwiches, pâté de foie gras, champagne, are all taken out in hampers, and served on top of the coach by the obedient valets at the races, for those parties who go out with four horses and a London coach to see the favorite run.

We are often asked what would be the appropriate costume for a lawn party, and we can only answer that the costumes for these parties should be of a useful

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character. If it is a lawn party at a very elegant house, at Newport or up the Hudson, it may be, however, of a delicacy and elegance not proper if one is asked out in the country merely to “have a good time,” when a person would be exposed to the weather, the wear and tear of games, and of a long day in the sun, Thick boots are indispensable. But if one is invited to a wedding in the country, even if the “lawn” is to play a decided part in the entertainment, one must dress very handsomely. At the regular lawn party the lady of the house and her daughters should receive on the lawn in their bonnets.

Yachting is a favorite “summer entertainment,” and for those who love the sea it is unparalleled for its excitement, Yachting dresses should be made of serge or tweed, and possess warmth and durability, and young women can trim them according to taste with the name and insignia of their favorite yacht.

For a lawn-tennis party the players dress in flannels made for the purpose, and for a lady the jersey is indispensable, as giving so much freedom to the arms. These parties begin in May at all the country-houses and country parks about our larger towns, and certainly furnish as much healthful amusement as anything can do.

Archery has not yet become acclimated in America, but there are clubs in certain circles which promise a future for this game.

Now for those who go to country-houses to stay “over Sunday,” as is the fashion about New York, let us give one word of advice. Always hold yourself at the disposal of those at whose house you

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are staying. If they propose a plan of action for you, fall in with it. If your visit is prolonged for a week, endeavor to amuse yourself as much as possible. Do not let your hostess see that you are dependent on her for amusement. Remember, however welcome you may be, you are not always wanted. A good hostess also learns when to let her guests alone. A gentleman visitor who neither shoots, fishes, boats, reads, writes letters, nor does anything but hang about, letting himself be “amused,” is an intolerable nuisance. He had better go to the billiard-room and practice caroms by himself, or retire to the stables and smoke.

A lady visitor should show a similar tact in retiring to her own room to read or write letters, allowing her hostess to have her mornings or her afternoons to herself, as she pleases. Some people are “born visitors.” They have the genius of tact to perceive, the genius of finesse to execute, case and frankness of manner, a knowledge of the world that nothing can surprise, a calmness of temper that nothing can disturb, and a kindness of disposition that can never be exhausted. Such a visitor is greatly in demand everywhere.

A good-natured host and hostess place everything at the disposal of a visitor–their horses, carriages, books, and grounds. And here the utmost delicacy should be observed. Never ride a horse too fast or too far. Never take the coachman beyond his usual limits. Never pluck a flower in the ornamental grounds without asking permission, for in these days of ornamental and fanciful gardening it is necessary to be careful and remember that each flower is a tint in a

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well-considered picture. Never dog’s-ear or disfigure the books, or leave them lying about; if you take them from their shelves, put them back. Be thoughtful in your treatment of the servants, and give those who immediately wait upon you some small gratuity. And if family prayers are read, always try to be present.

So much for the possibility of a “summer entertainment” at a country-house, one of the most agreeable of all, if the apple-blossoms are just out, and the charm of spring is over the whole scene.

We hear of a “rustic masquerade” as one of the spring entertainments at a country-house in Orange. This, it would seem, might be very suitable all over the country, if woods and water are near enough for the shepherds and shepherdesses. A copy of the garden parties which made Boucher the painter that he was, and in which we almost hear the wind rustling through the sedge, the refreshing murmur of the fountain, and see the gayly dressed marquise put her violet slipper on the turf, and the elegant and stately gentlemen as they light up the neighboring arbor with their fine silk coats in his pictures–a copy of such garden parties as those which made Watteau’s fame (he has put them all on the fans, and the young people have only to copy them)–this would indeed be a “rustic masquerade,” which might amuse and “draw” for a charity. Many of our country towns on the borders of lakes, many of the places near New York in their own fine grounds, would offer a terrestrial paradise for such a garden party.

To drive out to Jerome Park to breakfast, to get the early strawberry and the delicious cream–this is

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a spring entertainment which many of our business men indulge in, coming back to their work in New York refreshed and invigorated. The men of pleasure of this period have, as they have always had, an ample provision of amusement–not always the most useful, it is true–yet we are glad to see that the out-of-door excitements begin to distance the excitements of the gaming-table. Betting on the turf is not carried to the ruinous extent here that it is in England, while the polo, the base-ball, the boating, and the “riding to hounds “–open to ridicule as it is, in some ways of looking at it–are all healthful. The spring season has its little dinners, lunches, and weddings, but very few evening entertainments.

After a young girl has ransacked the fashionable world all winter, and been at all the fêtes and balls, concerts, operas, and suppers, she does not care for parties in May. Such infatuated ardor for amusement would make sad havoc of her charms if she did. It is quite enough if she finishes her exciting winter with a fancy dance or private theatricals at some charitable entertainment.

A high tea is served in courses like a dinner, excepting with less formality. The lady sits at one end of the table with the silver tea-tray before her, while the gentleman has before him cold chicken, or even, perhaps, a hot dish like roast partridges, to carve. Frequently scalloped oysters are passed, and always salads, so that those who are in the habit of dining at that hour have a solid meal. There are hot cakes and biscuits and sweetmeats on the table, so that it is really the old-fashioned tea of our grandmothers re-enforced

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by some solid dishes. It is intended to save the servants trouble on Sunday evening, but it is really more trouble to them as now served, as it gives the waiter additional dishes to wash, and quite as much service. It saves the cook, however.

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