Rain. Rain. Rain.
Where has the summer gone? And not just weather-wise – where has the summer gone time-wise?
Alas, dear Reader, I sit here on a rainy Saturday morning, one that feels more like autumn, wondering what has happened to all the grand plans I had for the summer. My hopes lay as dashed as my morning glories being pelted by the rain. *Sigh*
Of course, I exaggerate.
But, I do feel a great sense of disappointment in this moment. And, I fear my DEB feels somewhat deprived, as we have not been as sociable this summer season as we had intended.
I’d promised, once we were settled in our new home that we would entertain regularly. Heaven knows, I have more than enough blue and white china to do the job!
By chance, I even found a wonderful old book to support my efforts: The Perfect Hostess by Rose Henniker Heaton.
Published in London in 1931, The Perfect Hostess, is a delightful compendium of recipes, poems and words of wit and wisdom that makes one long for the days when ladies and gentlemen ‘dressed’ for cocktails and dinner, wore tiaras (the ladies that is) and had servants to tidy up after them!
The tone of the book is very, very tongue-in-cheek (just my sort of thing!). Imagine Emily Post, with a very wicked sense of humour.
For example here is Rose’s suggestions for entertaining when “The Woman your Husband Nearly Married comes to Lunch”:
Order of Procedure
Engage a charwoman the day before to come in and rub up the brasses, clean the silver, etc.
Make special efforts over the flowers.
See that a fire is burning cheerfully.
Interesting magazines lying about.
Volume of Proust, complete with paper-cutter, in a prominent position on the table.
Children on view in their new and spotless smocks.
Numerous invitation propped up on the chimney-piece.
Wear your most becoming frock and your husband’s latest present.
Dry Martini with Olives
Lobster Cream en coupe
Fried chicken à la Marengo
Merveille aux Marrons
Coffee and Cigarettes
I’m intrigued not only being Rose’s intricate attention to detail, but also by the social interaction of “serving the competition”.
While there is more than a bit of showiness and “one-up-(wo)man-ship” transpiring here, much of Rose’s advice is about hosting—and living—with grace and tact. Such as, in one section, she advises the great care and graciousness with which one should host relatives who are less well off.
I love her recommendations for hosting international visitors: “Mamie and Silas K. Huskinson of Ohio, U.S.A come down to Breakfast”:
Fried Eggs and Bacon
Never try to make Americans or foreigners feel at home – had they wished to feel at home, they would have remained in their own country -- Be British.
Making people feel cared for, loved and respected is central to Rose’s arguments; and this triple-headed theme is key to the recommendations Rose provides on marriage.
“Things a Wife Ought to Know”
How to cook at least six simple things (i.e., Boil potatoes, roast a joint, grill a cutlet, fry bacon and sausages, make a good white sauce and scramble an egg).
How to iron a tie properly.
How to play a good game of tennis, and a fair hand at bridge.
How to mend socks (and occasionally do so).
How to drive a car (but not how to clean it).
That a perfectly run house can be the most uncomfortable spot on earth.
That an untidy, badly run house will ruin any marriage, and is a disgrace to any intelligent woman.
“Things a Husband Ought to Know”
How to repair the electric light when it fuses.
How to put a washer on a tap.
How to mend the electric bells.
How to mark-out the tennis court.
How to find your keys when you lose them.
How to mend things.
How to make excuses for you over the telephone.
How to garden.
How to be nice to you when you have made a perfect fool of yourself.
“Things Women Forget”
(1) That there is a limit to every banking account.
(2) The precise hour of any appointment.
(3) That a man is still a man even if he happens to be their husband.
(4) That the most trivial unkindness is capable of immense hurt, and a man has no power of retaliation.
(5) Last, they do not remember that they are generally loved vastly more than ever they love.
Although much of this is a bit dated and old-fashioned, I think there more than an ounce or two of wisdom here.