Tag Archives: how to be a good house-guest

Tips for the Summer Guest: 1920

Ten Commandments for the Summer Visitor.

By Dorothy Dix

The World’s Highest Paid Woman Writer

First: Never invite yourself to anybody’s house. When you desire to graft a hotel bill do not write to one friend that you yearn to behold her beauteous countenance, and the seraphic faces of her offspring or to another acquaintance that your doctor has recommended sea baths, or mountain air for you, and will it be convenient for her to have you come and make her a little visit. Bear in mind that the United States mails are still running and pen paralysis is a rare disease. Also that the telegraph and telephone perform their accustomed functions and that those who desire your presence will have no difficulty in making it known to you.

There are many pests that go up and down in the land seeking whom they may devour, but none is so pestiferous as the self-invited guest.

Second: When you go to make a visit go at the appointed hour and on the designated train. Also take with you a small amount of baggage. Nothing gives a hostess such a sinking of the heart as for a guest to arrive with a mountain of trunks that looks as if she had come to stay to the judgment day.

Third: Don’t take your angel child with you, or your Pomeranian, pup, or your cat, or your parrot, or any pet whatsoever. For the child that draws pictures with a pin on the best mahogany table, and plays cars on the Persian rugs, and spoils things at table, and the strange dog that howls by night, and the parrot that wakes sleepers at dawn by its screeching, cause a hostess to curse her who brought these afflictions upon her, and to write “Never again” against her in her visitors’ book

Fourth: If you are a food faddist, and have to live on any sort of diet, for heaven’s sake stay at home, or go to a hotel where you can pay for the trouble you make. It’s sheer brutality to inflict a bum stomach or unstrung nerves on your friends, and If, you have to live on stale bread and skimmed milk, or have everything kept quiet while you sleep of an afternoon, win the eternal gratitude of those who ask you to visit them by saying “no.”

Fifth: Play cricket. Be a sport. When you are in Rome do as the Romans do. Fall in with every plan that has been made for your amusement, and help push things along. If a picnic has been arranged, don’t say you loathe sitting on the ground and eating messy things with ants and bugs in them, and that you will stay at home and write letters while the others go. If your hostess is a golf fiend who lives on the links, golf with her. If she plays bridge, sit in the game no matter how weary it makes you, for an unadaptable guest is even as a bull in a china shop. It upsets everything and messes up the whole place.

**

Never forget that the only way that a guest can pay her way is by making herself as agreeable as she can. Therefore pull all your little parlor tricks and go thru your repertoire. And, above all, can the argument. If you differ with your hostess on politics and religion, and the proper length of skirts, and what is going to become of the youth of the present day, keep your views to yourself. Nobody’s ideal of an agreeable guest is one with whom they were fighting all the time.

Sixth: Put the soft pedal on your attainments and possessions, and swell the chorus in praise of all that your hostess does and has. Rave over her views. Take a real heart interest in her tomato plants. Let her descant to you by the hour about her Minnie and her Johnny. Pat her doggie on the back, and keep silent about your own.

It was to get a sympathetic audience and to show off before you that you were invited. You can get even with her when she comes to see you. Anyway, it’s the price one must pay for visiting in country places, for a country home seems to bring out the vanity in people as a hot poultice brings out the measles. Seventh: Always make your hostess feel that you are having the time of your life. Wear the smile that won’t come off, and whoop up the Glad-I-Am-Here stuff, and when you feel the smile beginning to crack and that there isn’t another cheer in your system, get a telegram that calls you suddenly away.

Eighth: Never be one of the crape hangers who sits and tells what a grand time she had last summer, when she visited the Milllonbucks and what a splendid limousine they had, and how many servants they kept. It makes a hostess think bitterly of her tin Lizzie and her one maid of all work, and wonder why she is putting herself out to entertain you.

Ninth: Never flirt with your hostess’ husband, nor her son, nor her brother. It’s against all the rules of the game. It’s hitting below the belt. Even a savage respects the bread he has eaten, and as long as you are under a woman’s roof, all of her possessions are sacred to her.

Tenth: Make short visits. That is the secret of being a popular and much sought after visitor. There are so many people we would like to have come, if we could be certain when they would go. Never extend a visit, no matter how much you are entreated to do so. After-climaxes always fall flat. Never forget that it is better to go while people weep to see you leave than it is to stay when they shed tears because you refuse to depart.

(Copyright. 1920, by the Wheeler Syndicate, Inc.)

The Topeka [KS] State Journal 25-26 July 1921: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Miss Dix, whose byline frequently contained the phrase, “The World’s Highest Paid Woman Writer,” had much to say about the summer visitor. One can only conclude that her immense wealth gave her entrée to a delightful selection of summer resorts and country houses and, consequently, to the summer parasites infesting these earthly paradises.

She adds two other Commandments to the ones above, in other syndicated articles:

Don’t sponge. Provide yourself with the things you are liable to need before you leave home. There are no other guests in the world so afflicting as the borrowers. Take along your own stationery and stamps, your own toilet articles and sewing things. There isn’t a hostess who hasn’t been driven wild by the insatiable demands of girl guests who had forgotten to bring along needles and thread, and scissors and writing paper, and stamps, and curling irons, and who could have kept a relay of servants on the run supplying them with the things they had to borrow. Nobody loves a dead beat.

Mrs Daffodil is pursing her lips dubiously over this dictum. She flatters herself that she runs a well-regulated household. No guest at the Hall would ever be made to feel a “dead beat” if they forgot their sewing kit or curling iron. The maids would look askance at a guest who brought her own writing paper and stamps.  The guest rooms at the Hall, as well as the morning room, factor’s office, and library, are amply stocked with both.

Still, Miss Dix adds a final commandment that will warm the hearts of servants everywhere.

Don’t make any unnecessary trouble for the servants, and don’t withhold the tip from the maid to whose burdens you are adding. Keep your own room tidy. Hang up your clothes. Straighten up your dresser, and be not sparing of small change to faithful Mary who hooks you up, and obliging Eliza who presses out your chiffons. Chief among those who are never asked a second time are those nickel-nursing guests who keep the maids on a trot doing chores for them and who think they have sufficiently rewarded such service by handing out a few words of thanks and a dinky pocket handkerchief upon their departure. The servants determine the invitation list oftener than you think, so if you want to be a popular guest who is much sought after, be not one of those whose coming makes Hilda and Dinah threaten to give notice.

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.