Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How A Dinner List Is Kept

Nearly every hostess keeps a dinner list—apart from her general visiting list—of people with whom she is accustomed to dine, or to invite to dinner or other small entertainments. But the prominent hostess, if she has grown daughters and continually gives parties of all sorts and sizes and ages, usually keeps her list in a more complete and "ready reference" order.

Mrs. Gilding, for instance, has guest lists separately indexed. Under the general heading "Dinners," she has older married, younger married, girls, men. Her luncheon list is taken from her dinner list. "Bridge" includes especially good players of all ages; "dances," young married people, young girls, and dancing men. Then she has a cross-index list of "Important Persons," meaning those of real distinction who are always the foundation of all good society; "Amusing," usually people of talent—invaluable for house parties; and "New People," including many varieties and un-assorted. Mrs. Gilding exchanges invitations with a number of these because they are interesting or amusing, or because their parties are diverting and dazzling. And Mrs. Gilding herself, being typical of New York's Cavalier element rather than its Puritan strain, personally prefers diversion to edification. Needless to say, "Boston's Best," being ninety-eight per cent. Puritan, has no "new" list. Besides her list of "New People," she has a short "frivolous" list of other Cavaliers like herself, and a "Neutral" list, which is the most valuable of all because it comprises those who "go" with everyone. Besides her own lists she has a "Pantry" list, a list that is actually made out for the benefit of the butler, so that on occasions he can invite guests to "fill in." The "Pantry" list comprises only intimate friends who belong on the "Neutral" list and fit in everywhere; young girls and young and older single men.

Allowing the butler to invite guests at his own discretion is not quite as casual as it sounds. It is very often an unavoidable expedient. For instance, at four o'clock in the afternoon, Mr. Blank telephones that he cannot come to dinner that same evening. Mrs. Gilding is out; to wait until she returns will make it too late to fill the place. Her butler who has been with her for years knows quite as well as Mrs. Gilding herself exactly which people belong in the same group. The dinner cards being already in his possession, he can see not only who is expected for dinner but the two ladies between whom Mr. Blank has been placed, and he thereupon selects some one on the "Pantry" list who is suitable for Mr. Blank's place at the table, and telephones the invitation. Perhaps he calls up a dozen before he finds one disengaged. When Mrs. Gilding returns he says, "Mr. Blank telephoned he would not be able to come for dinner as he was called to Washington. Mr. Bachelor will be happy to come in his place." Married people are seldom on this list, because the butler need not undertake to fill any but an odd place—that of a gentleman particularly. Otherwise two ladies would be seated together.

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