Bachelor hospitality – Everyday etiquette from year 1905

bachelor hospitality etiquette rules

The number of single-person households have been growing steadily in the last couple of decades and the development is set to continue the same way in the future. This will also have implications on men and our way of living – not least in our homes.

In the book Everyday Etiquette from year 1905, the authors Marion Harland and Virginia Van de Water wrote a chapter about Bachelor Hospitality that you find below. A chapter that could turn out to be useful for the man that needs to know more about how to run a household.

Not so many nowadays think of hiring a housekeeper for taking care of their household, but if you can afford it – why not? But keep in mind that most of the etiquette literature written in those days were for people in the upper-class that really could afford the luxury of servants and bigger apartments and houses.

However, there are lots of good advices in this text about bachelor hospitality that can come to use also in today’s society.


The day is past when the bachelor is supposed to have no home, no mode of entertaining his friends, no lares and penates, and no “ain fireside.” lie is now an independent householder, keeping house if he choose to do so, with a corps of efficient servants, presided over by a competent housekeeper, or, in a simpler manner having a small apartment of his own, attended by a man-servant or maid, if he take his meals in this apartment. Oftener, however, he prefers to dispense with housekeeping cares and live in a tiny apartment of two or three rooms, going out to a restaurant for his meals. He is then the most independent of creatures. If he can afford to have a man to take care of his rooms and his clothes, well and good. If not, he pays a woman to come in regularly to clean his apartment, and she takes charge of his bed-making and dusting or,—if he be very deft, systematic and industrious,—he does this kind of thing himself.

In any of the cases just cited he is at liberty to entertain. He may have an afternoon tea, or a reception, or an aftertheater chafing-dish supper. Unless he has his own suite of dining-room, kitchen and butler’s pantry, he can not serve a regular meal in his rooms. But there are many informal, Bohemian affairs to which he can invite his friends. For the after-theater supper, for instance, he may engage a man to assist him and to have everything in readiness when the host and his part}/ arrive at the apartment. The host, himself, will prepare the chafingdish dainty, and with this may be passed articles supplied by a near-by caterer, such as sandwiches, ices and cakes. He may make bis own coffee in a Vienna coffee-pot. The whole proceeding is delightful, informal, and Bohemian in the best sense of the word.

Asine qua non to all bachelor entertaining is a chaperon. The married woman can not be dispensed with on such occasions. The host may be gray-headed and old enough to be a grandfather many times over, but, as an unmarried man, be must have a chaperon for his woinenguests. If he object to this, lie must reconcile himself to entertaining only those of his own sex.

The age of this essential appendage to the social party makes no difference, so long as the prefix “Mrs.” is attached to her name. She may be a bride of only a few weeks’ standing,—but the fact that she is married is the essential.

The would-be host, then, first of all, engages his chaperon,—asking her as a favor to assist him in his hospitable efforts. She should accept graciously, but the man will show by his manner that he is honored by her undertaking this office for him. She must be promptly at his rooms at the hour mentioned, as it would be the height of impropriety for one of the young women to arrive there before the matron. If she prefer she may accompany a bevy of the girls invited. To her the host defers, from her he asks advice, and to her he pays special deference. If there is tea to be poured, as at an afternoon function, it is she who is asked to do it, and she may, with a pretty air of assuming responsibility, manage affairs somewhat as if in her own home, still remembering that she is a guest. In this matter tact and a knowledge of the ways of the world play a large part. The chaperon is bound to remain until the last girl takes her departure, after which it is quite en regie for the host to offer his escort, unless she ac- companies the last guest, or a carriage be awaiting her. The host thanks her cordially for her kind offices, and she in turn expresses herself f as honored by the compliment he has paid her.

Perhaps the simplest form of entertainment for the unmarried man to give in his own quarters is the afternoon tea in some of its various forms. For this function the man must not issue cards, but must write personal notes, or ask his guests verbally. It is well for him to invite several friends who will supply music, as this breaks up the monotony. If he have some friend who is especially gifted musically, and whom he would gladly bring before the eyes of the public, he may make the presence of this friend an excellent reason for his afternoon reception.

After having secured the chaperon’s acceptance he may write some such note as the following:

“My dear Miss Brown: I shall be delighted if you, with a few other choice spirits, will take tea with me in my apartment next Tuesday afternoon about four o’clock. I shall have with me at that time my friend, Mr. Frank Merrill, who sings, 1 think, passing well. I want my friends who appreciate music and to whom his voice will give pleasure to hear him in my rooms at the time mentioned. Do come!

Henry Barbour.

August 10, 1905.”

There should, if possible, be a maid, or a man in livery to attend the door at this time, but, if this is not practicable, and the affair be very informal, the host may himself admit his guests, and escort them to the door when they leave. The only refreshments necessary are thin bread-and-butter, and some dainty sandwiches, small cakes and tea with sugar, cream, and thin slices of lemon. These things are arranged upon a prettily set table in one corner of the room, and are presided over by the chaperon, who also, when the opportunity affords, moves about among the guests, chatting to each and all as if she were in her own drawing-O room. If the man have several rooms, one may be opened as a dressing-room in which the women may lay their wraps. The men-guests may leave their coats and hats on the hull table or rack.

When the guests depart it is pretty and deferential for the host to thank the women for making his apartment bright and attractive for the afternoon. It is always well for a man to show by his manner that his woman-guest has honored him by her presence.

An evening reception may he conducted along the same lines, hut at this time coffee and chocolate take the place of tea. Or, if the host prefer, he may serve only cake and coffee, or punch, or ices in addition to the cake and coffee.

If a bachelor be also a householder to the extent of running a regular menage, he may give a dinner in his home just as a woman might. He first engages his chaperon, then invites his guests. The chaperon is the guest of honor, is taken out to dinner by the host and sits at his right. It is also her place to make the move for the women to leave the men to their cigars and coffee, and proceed to the drawing-room. Here, after a very few minutes, the women are joined by the men or, at all events, by the host, who may, if he like, give his men-guests permission to linger in the dining-room a little longer than he does. They will, however, not take long advantage of this permission, but, at the expiration of five or ten minutes, will follow their host to the drawingroom.

The man who can not entertain in his own rooms may return any hospitality shown to him by giving a supper or dinner at a restaurant or hotel. In this case he must still have a chaperon,—if the party is to be made up of unmarried persons. For such an affair as this he engages his table and orders the dinner beforehand, seeing for himself that the flowers and decorations chosen are just what lie wishes. It is his place to escort the chaperon to the restaurant and to seat her at his right. Everything is so perfectly conducted at well-regulated restaurants that the course of the dinner will progress without the host’s concerning himself about it. This is certainly the luxury of entertaining. If, however, the host wishes to give an order, he should beckon to a waiter, and, in a low tone, make the necessary suggestion, or give the requisite order. It is, at such a juncture, the part of the chaperon to keep the conversational ball rolling, — in short, to act as if she were hostess.

The dinner over, the host escorts his guests as far as the door of the restaurant, going to the various carriages with the women, then calls up the chaperon’s carriage and, himself, accompanies her to her home.

At a bachelor dinner the host may provide corsage bouquets for the ladies and boutonnieres for the men. It is also a pretty compliment for him to send to the chaperon at his afternoon or evening reception, flowers for her to wear. But this is not essential, and is a compliment that maybe dispensed with in the case of a man who must consider the small economies of life.

Of course, no dinner-call is made on the bachelor entertainer. It is hardly worth while to suggest that the women whom he has honored make a point of soon inviting him to their homes. In this day there is little need to remind women of the attentions they may with propriety pay to an eligible and unattached man.

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