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CHAPTER SEVEN: ON THE RECEIVING OF GUESTS
As has been mentioned at the very Beginning of this Tome, one of the Most Important Virtues is that of Hospitality.
No matter how Humble or how Grand one’s Dwelling may be, one should always tender a warm Welcome to Guests who arrive upon one’s doorstep whether Family or Friends or merely Acquaintances.
A PROPER WELCOME
It is most Unkind to keep Guests standing on the Doorstep. One should quickly invite them Inside with a kind word of Greeting. If they are Family, then of course one will show one’s Happiness at their presence with a warm Embrace. Once within, then Coats, Cloaks or Jackets should be taken. It is wise to have a Coatstand in the Hall, or hooks upon the wall nearby, for the Placing of Outer Garments.
If the Weather is Inclement, then the offer of Towels and warm water for the Cleaning of Feet is a very kind and hospitable Gesture.
Of course, one should also offer Refreshment. If it is near to a Mealtime, then naturally the Guest will be invited to Partake. If it is not, then a simple offer of Tea and Biscuits will suffice.
If the Visit is not a Social one, and the Guest or Guests have been Invited to conduct Business, then the offer of Refreshment may be postponed until after the Business is conducted.
Bring the Guest as soon as may be to a place where he or she may be Seated and be Comfortable. An Inquiry as to the Guests’ health, and to their Family is appropriate, as is an Inquiry as to the Purpose of the Visit. Once Refreshment has been brought out, then Conversation of a Congenial Nature may take place.
ONE’S DUTY AS A HOST
It is one’s Duty as a Host to make one’s Guests feel wanted. When offering Refreshment, the Guest may have the First Choice of all the offerings.
If there is not enough to go around, then as Host, one must simply Do Without. While this may sometimes be rather a painful Sacrifice, especially if the Dish in question is a Favorite, one must not allow one’s Countenance to display Dismay. Instead, enjoy the thought that one has shown Magnanimity and Generosity. For while it may be Distressing to forgo the last Slice of Cake or the last Scone, it is Delightful to see one’s Guest or Guests enjoying such treats.
If one’s Guests are Staying Overnight, then Accommodations must be found. In the Ideal Situation, one would have Proper Guest Rooms for each Member of the Party.
A well-appointed Guest Room should have one or more Beds, a washstand, and a place for the Guest to place his or her Garments. The host should provide a Ewer of clean water, a Basin, Soap and fresh Towels. A tumbler, and another Pitcher of fresh water upon a Nightstand is also a Kind Gesture, saving a Guest from having to wander Unfamiliar halls late at Night, in search of a Drink of Water. If the Guest is expected, then it is a Good Idea to make the Bed with fresh Linens before the arrival. However, a Guest who is Unexpected may, without ill-reflection on the host, be provided with the Linens with which to make his or her own Bed.
However, as is often the case, there may not be enough Guest Rooms to Go Around.
It is Proper for the Host or Hostess to offer his or her own bed if the Guests are of the same Generation or Older. If the Guests are younger, then they may properly be asked to share beds with young members of the Household, or to sleep on the Settees, or to sleep upon a Pallet made up on the Floor. In the latter case one should try to Have on Hand plenty of Pillows and Blankets for the comfort of one’s Guests.
In gatherings which have been Arranged by the Host, especially those which are for some specific Purpose, it is Customary for the Invited Guests to assemble in the Designated room at the Designated time. Only after all Guests have arrived does the Host and or Hostess make an Appearance. The exception to this is in Gatherings which are Strictly for Family. In those cases it should be the Eldest Family member who enters last. However, in practice, that is frequently also the Host and or Hostess.
If the Occasion is a Light-hearted one, then there is every Expectation that Refreshments will make an Appearance. A table to one side with a few Comestibles never goes Amiss.
However, on Solemn or Serious Occasions, it is best to offer Refreshments *afterwards*, although it is not a Bad Idea to have restorative Spirits available if Necessary.
ENTERTAINING ONE’S GUESTS
While it is Expected that a Host will provide Entertainment at a Party, when a visit or Gathering is of a less Formal Nature, it is not Incumbent upon the Host to amuse one’s Guests every waking moment. A Guest should be made to feel At Home, and this includes being able to Relax, to have simple Conversation with one’s Host and one’s Fellow Guests, without having every moment Accounted For.
Still, a Host may wish to plan Outings or other amusements to benefit his or her Guests. A Picnic or a quiet Ramble in the Countryside is often sufficient to the purpose. A Host may wish to Treat his guests to Elevenses at an Inn; a Hostess may wish to take her Guests to the Shops and perhaps to a Tea Room. If the Weather is Inclement, then Parlor Games or reading Aloud may also accomplish the Task.
If one is of a Musical bent, then time spent Playing and Listening to Music may be very Pleasant.
An Excellent means of Occupying one’s Guests, and one which is most often met with Approbation is to spend time in the Kitchen. Cooking is always an Amusing task, and even if one does not need the Assistance in the Preparing of Meals, one could perhaps Bake or make other Treats, such as Taffy or other Sweets. These tasks can occupy the Time most Pleasantly!
The Most Important thing is the Enjoy the company of one’s Guests, so that one may delight in their Presence and they in yours.
Questions often asked about the Receiving of Guests:
What if the Guest or Guests are Unwelcome or Uncongenial?
If the Guest who shows up on the Doorstep is one whose Presence is Unwelcome, then one is justified in being “Not At Home” to the Unwelcome Caller. This presumes one is Aware of who has Knocked upon the Door or Rung the Bell. Once one opens the Door, then Courtesy demands that one show the Caller Welcome, and Invite them in.
If, however, the Unwelcome Caller shows one blatant Rudeness, then one is excused for telling him or her “Good Day”! One does not need to Put Up with such Behavior. It is Unfortunate that there are those who are Rude on Purpose, finding that thusly they may Get Their Own Way, when there are those who will not gainsay them out of Politeness and a wish to Avoid Unpleasantness.
What if a Caller Arrives at an Inconvenient Time?
If one is in the midst of Important Tasks when an Uninvited Guest arrives, then one may reasonably ask him or her in, and once one has provided the Caller with Tea, then ask him or her to wait upon the Completion of the Task. This is, after all, the Risk taken when one arrives without Notice.
If one is preparing to Leave the home oneself, then it is Appropriate to ask such a Caller to join one. Or, if the Caller is Family, one may make them free of the Hole or House, until one returns.
What if a Guest overstays his or her Welcome?
While a thoughtful Guest will always Indicate to his or her Host the length of time he or she Anticipates staying, there Occasionally may arise a Guest who shows no signs of Leaving After a Reasonable Time.
If the Guest does not leave in a Week or so, one may begin to Take up one’s Normal Routine, and to drop Hints. If these are of no Avail, one might Appeal to other Members of the Family to extend an Invitation.
After a Month or more, then one is within one’s Rights to Inform the visitor that they are no longer a Guest, but a member of the Household, and to assign them such Duties as would be Expected of one who dwelt there.
For some Reason, this almost Invariably results in the Unwanted Guest deciding to go Elsewhere.
Hospitality is one of the Cardinal Virtues. To extend a Welcome to those who come to one’s Door is a Privilege and a Joy. One should not allow a Preference for Peace and Quiet cause one to Forego such a Privilege.
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