GETTING THINGS MIXED
Some Amusing Situations Resulting from People Receiving the Wrong Cards.
The harm wrought by cards is not only confined to those used for games; the once innocuous visiting card has also been perverted from innocent uses and has become quite a factor in mischief-making.
“Do the best you can for five dollars, for that is all you will get,” wrote an infatuated but impecunious youth to a florist with whom he was in the habit of dealing, and inclosing another card, told the florist to send it and the flowers to his latest inamorata, but the cards got mixed somehow, and it was the message written for the florist which the young woman received and read to her great astonishment.
“Thank you for your flowers, Mr. Smith,” she said that evening. “I think he gave a good deal for five dollars, don’t you?” and as the young man stared amazed she walked off with his hated rival, while the slow dawn of comprehension gradually enlightened her unlucky suitor as to what had occurred. Still more funny and much more disastrous was the mistake of a valet employed by a youth of upper tendom, who took the wrong box to the house of a young woman, with the envelope his master had given him, which contained a card upon which was written: “Please wear these tonight. I chose what I thought would suit you best.” But what was the astonishment and indignation of the maiden upon opening the box to find within it—a pair of trousers! That the unfortunate donor hastened to explain the terrible mistake as soon as he discovered the blunder made no difference. The story got about. Society was in convulsions of laughter and he was never forgiven. Still another card story is the following:
“Will you take my address, sir?” said a popular hairdresser and barber, as a customer was leaving the shop. The latter pocketed the bit of pasteboard handed him mechanically, and with his mind on other things, and, freshly shaven and well groomed, proceeded on his way to make a round of visits.
“I think Miss S__ is expecting you,” said the footman, as he glanced at the card given to him by this youth, “but if you will wait a minute I will see if it is all right.”
“Deuced odd,” soliloquized the visitor, as he walked into the drawing room. A second after the servant reappeared.
“Will you please walk upstairs; Miss S___ is in the front room,” he said. Thinking that the sitting-room might be upstairs the visitor followed the man unsuspectingly and not until he was ushered into a prettily furnished bedroom and saw a young lady sitting before a glass in a pink dressing gown with her hair down her back, did he realized there had been a mistake. He had given the footman the card which the hairdresser had thrust upon him. N.Y. Tribune.
The Wyandott Herald [Kansas City, KS] 30 March 1899: p. 4
A gentleman’s visiting cards. National Trust Collections
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The etiquette of visiting cards was rigidly codified and mistakes might too easily occur, as we have seen above. Here are some of the regulations for 1896:
THE ETIQUETTE OF CARDS AND CALLING
Every woman who desires to be up in the usages of good form, should, if she is not to the manner born, study the etiquette of card-leaving. The rules which govern such things are as immutable as the laws of the Medes and Persians, although from one season to another there is apt to be a few trifling changes.
In cities, where one has a large circle of acquaintances, visits of ceremony must necessarily be paid, but not with frequency. It is a breach of etiquette to invite anyone to a social function without having first called. Many women who cling to the rigid code of etiquette make a point of calling or leaving cards upon those persons whose acquaintance they consider desirable.
However, even this ceremony is frequently omitted by those with a long visiting-list, who save themselves time and trouble by sending invitations to an afternoon tea or reception, to all whom they wish to keep on their visiting-list: those who do not receive cards, may take it as an intimation that further acquaintance is undesirable.
Women of fashion or business find it impossible to receive on any but certain days of the week, the day being printed upon their visiting-cards; to expect to be received at any other time, unless in the case of an intimate friend, would be a mistake. [We have seen how even a doll, “Mademoiselle Frou-Frou,” had her at-home days printed on her visiting cards.]
Persons who wish to adhere strictly to the truth, object to the term “not at home,” and believe that a lady should “beg to be excused.” “Not at home” means, according to the strict social code, that one is not receiving, and is impersonal and general. To “beg to be excused” seems somewhat of a personal affront, and might appear as if some particular person’s call was not acceptable.
When a stranger arrives in a distant city, it is proper to send cards apprising friends of his or her arrival. A change of address also necessitates the despatching of cards, for where time is precious, it is annoying to make a call in vain.
When leaving cards at a hotel, the name of the person upon whom one calls should be written across the top of the card, for the reason that it might otherwise go astray.
On regular reception days it would be quite incorrect to send one’s cards by the footman; one must call in person or not at all. In this country, where there are few men of leisure, it is an understood thing for a wife to leave her husband’s cards. She should leave one of her own and two of her husband’s, the latter for the master and mistress. The custom of leaving cards on every member of a large family has fallen into disuse, although many people still adhere to it; it is proper to do so upon the occasion of the initial call, but is quite unnecessary afterward.
Upon reception days, the visitor does not send her card by the servant, but, on entering or leaving, drops it in the card-receiver, which usually stands on the hall table. After a reception or tea it is not absolutely necessary to call, as attendance at that function takes the place of a visit.
In the case of a friend visiting at the house of a person with whom there has been no previous acquaintance, the courtesy of sending a card to the hostess should be extended; it is not, however, necessary that she should appear or acknowledge it in any way.
In large cities, the hours for calling are between three and six P.M.; it would be a solecism to call during the morning hours, except on business, or in the case of extreme intimacy. It is permissible for a gentlemen who has no other time at his disposal to pay a call in the evening.
It is indispensable that a call be made, not later than a week after a dinner; the French designate this as the visite de digestion. After every formal entertainment, such as a ball, wedding, or christening, cards should be left.
Godey’s Lady’s Book January, 1896
Some visiting cards, rather less correct, were ornamented with pretty lithographs.
And yet, sometimes sending in the wrong card was all for the best:
SENT IN THE WRONG CARD.
And There was a Glorious Mistake Which, After All, Ended All Right.
“It might not always be pleasant to be taken for someone else,” said the man who asked for an experience, “but in my case it was the most delightful incident of my life. You see, it happened in this way. I was going to visit an interior town of some size and my neighbor, old Jo Peters, who was rich and crabbed and eccentric, but not a bad sort withal, asked me to call on a sister he had living there.
“’I ain’t seen her in twenty years’ he said to me ‘and like enough she don’t care a picayune whether she ever sees or hears of me or not, but I’d kind of like to know how she’s fixed since her husband died a spell ago. You might just skirmish round and see how the land lays.’
“When I reached F__, the western town in which Peter’s folks lived I attended to my business first and then went to call on his sister.
“Now, I am not in the habit of using cards when I make a call, like swell folks but I had a business card and it struck me it would be about right to send that in to the folks and wait in the parlor to see what came of it.
“Well, such a screeching and shouting I never heard in my life and I began to think I had struck a lunatic asylum and a few minutes later I was sure of it, for three women came rushing into the room and they all began calling me Uncle Jo and hugging me within an inch of my life.
“’One at a time,’ I said, for though the mother was handsome, the girls were just peaches and cream, and it was hard for me to tell them that I was not their Uncle Jo. I had sent in his business card instead of my own and that’s how they made the mistake. The girls seemed to think it a good joke, but the widow was awfully flustrated. [sic] However, the next time I kissed her it wasn’t any mistake.”
Knoxville [TN] Journal 30 August 1896: p. 7
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.