The Etiquette of Pleasure: 1922

Mrs Daffodil, in honour of the Olympics, is sharing posts on sports and recreation. To-day Mr Donald Ogden Stewart tells us all about “the etiquette of pleasure.”

DOStewart man ripping up pool table

In this work-a-day world, one is likely to forget that there is an etiquette of pleasure just as there is an etiquette of dancing or the opera. One often hears a charming hostess refuse to invite this or that person to her home for a game of billiards on the ground that he or she is a “bum sport” or a “rotten loser.” The above scene illustrates one of the little, but conspicuous, blunders that people make. The gentleman, having missed his fifth consecutive shot, has broken his cue over his knee and is ripping the baize off the table with the sharp end. This little display is not considered to be in the best taste.

donald ogden stewart man clutching horse

The man of culture and refinement, while always considerate to those beneath him in station, never, under any circumstances, loses control of his emotions for an instant. Though the gentleman-rider in the picture may be touchingly fond of his steeplechase horse, it is unpardonably bad form for him to make an exhibition of his affection while going over the brush in plain view of numbers of total strangers. In doing so he simply is making a “guy” of himself, and it is no more than he deserves if those in the gallery raise their eyebrows slightly and smile knowingly.

GOLF” (from an old Scottish word meaning “golf“) is becoming increasingly popular in the United States, and almost every city now has at least one private club devoted to the pursuit of this stylish pastime. Indeed, in many of our larger metropolises, the popular enthusiasm has reached such heights that free “public” courses have been provided for the citizens with, I may say, somewhat laughable results, as witness the fact that I myself have often seen persons playing on these “public” courses in ordinary shirts and trousers, tennis shoes, and suspenders.

The influence of this “democratization” on the etiquette of what was once an exclusive sport has been, in many instances, deplorable, and I am sure that our golf-playing forefathers would turn over in their graves, were they to “play around” to-day on one of the “public” courses. In no pastime are the customs and unwritten laws more clearly defined, and it is essential that the young lady or gentleman of fashion who contemplates an afternoon on the “links” devote considerable time and attention to the various niceties of the etiquette of this ancient and honorable game.

A young man, for example, when playing with his employer, should always take pains to let his employer win. This is sometimes extremely difficult, but with practise even the most stubborn of obstacles can be overcome. On the first tee, for instance, after the employer, having swung and missed the ball completely one or two times, has managed to drive a distance of some forty-nine yards to the extreme right, the young man should take care to miss the ball completely three times, and then drive forty-eight yards to the extreme left. This is generally done by closing the eyes tightly and rising up sharply on both toes just before hitting the ball.

On the “greens” it is customary for a young man to “concede” his employer every “putt” which is within twenty feet of the hole. If the employer insists on “putting” (Ed. note:—He won’t) and misses, the young man should take care to miss his own “putt.” After both have “holed out,” the young man should ask, “How many strokes, sir?” The employer will reply, “Let me see–I think I took seven for this hole, didn’t I?” A well-bred young man will not under any circumstances remind his employer that he saw him use at least three strokes for the drive, three strokes for his second shot, four strokes in the “rough,” seven strokes in the “bunker,” and three “putts” on the “green,” but will at once reply, “No, sir, I think you only took six, altogether.” The employer will then say, “Well, well, call it six. I generally get five on this hole. What did you take?” The young man should then laugh cheerily and reply, “Oh, I took my customary seven.” To which the employer will genially say, “Too bad!”

After the employer has thus won his first three holes he will begin to offer the young man advice on how to improve his game. This is perhaps the most trying part of the afternoon’s sport, but a young man of correct breeding and good taste will always remember the respect due an older man, and will not make the vulgar error of telling his employer to, for God’s sake, shut up before he gets a brassy in his ear.

A wife playing with her husband should do everything in her power to make the game enjoyable for the latter. She should encourage him, when possible, with little cheering proverbs, such as, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” and she should aid him with her advice when she thinks he is in need of it. Thus, when he drives into the sycamore tree on number eleven, she should say, “Don’t you think, dear, that if you aimed a little bit more to the right. . . .” et cetera, When they come to number fourteen and his second shot lands in the middle of the lake, she should remark, “Perhaps you didn’t hit it hard enough, dear.” And when, on the eighteenth, his approach goes through the second-story window of the club-house, she should say, “Dear, I wonder if you didn’t hit that too hard?” Such a wife is a true helpmate, and not merely a pretty ornament on which a silly husband can hang expensive clothes, and if he is the right sort of man, he will appreciate this, and refrain from striking her with a niblick after this last remark.

A young wife who does not play the game herself can, nevertheless, be of great help to her husband by listening patiently, night after night, while he tells her how he drove the green on number three, and took a four on number eight (par five), and came up to the fourteenth one under fours. Caddies should be treated at all times with the respect and pity due one‘s fellow creatures who are “unfortunate.” The sins of the fathers are visited upon the children, and one should always remember that it is not, after all, the poor caddy’s fault that he was born blind.

DOStewart hunting

Nothing so completely betrays the “Cockney” as a faulty knowledge of sporting terms. The young lady at the left has just returned from the hunting-field hand-in-hand with the dashing “lead,” —who happens to be an eligible billionaire. Her hostess, the mother of the sub-deb at the right, has greeted her by hissing, “S—s—so! I see you’ve had a good day’s hunting!” The use of this unsportsmanlike expression-—instead of the correct “Hope you had a good run,” or “Where did you find?”—at once discloses the hostess’s mean origin, and the young lady will almost certainly never accept another invitation to her house.

DOStewart card game

In spite of his haughty airs and fine clothes, the gentleman betrays that he is not much accustomed to good society when, having been asked by his hostess if he would care to remove his coat and waistcoat during the warm evening of bridge, he, in doing so, reveals the presence of several useful cards hidden about his person. This sort of thing, while often tolerated at less formal “stag” poker-parties, is seldom, if ever, permissible when ladies are present. The young man was simply ignorant of the fact that Hoyle and not Herman the Great [the conjuror] is the generally accepted authority on cards among the better people of the “beau monde.”


DOStewart man shoots loader

You will exclaim, no doubt, on looking at the scene depicted above, “Chechez la femme.” It is, however, nothing so serious as you will pardonably suppose .The gentleman is merely an inexperienced “gun” at a shooting-party, who has begun following his bird before it has risen above the head of his loader. This very clumsy violation of the etiquette of sport proves, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that he has learned to shoot from the comic papers, and that his coat-of-arms can never again be thought anything but bogus.

Harper’s Bazaar, Volume 57, 1922

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The classic selection above is from the American screen-writer and humourist Donald Ogden Stewart, author of the parody etiquette book, Perfect Behavior, which P.G. Wodehouse said was his favourite book.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.


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