THE WORD present is preferable on formal occasions to the word introduce. On informal occasions neither word is expressed, though understood, as will be shown below. The correct formal introduction is:
Mrs. Jones, may I present Mr. Smith?
Mr. Distinguished, may I present Mr. Young?
The younger person is always presented to the older or more distinguished, but a gentleman is always presented to a lady, even though he is an old gentleman of great distinction and the lady a mere slip of a girl.
No lady is ever, except to the President of the United States, a cardinal, or a reigning sovereign, presented to a man. The correct introduction of either a man or woman:
To the President,
Mr. President, I have the honor to present Mrs. Jones, of Chicago.
To a Cardinal,
Your Eminence, may I present Mrs. Jones?
To a King:
Much formality of presenting names on lists is gone through beforehand; at the actual presentation an accepted name is repeated from functionary to equerry and nothing is said to the King or Queen except: Mrs. Jones.
Very few people in polite society are introduced by their formal titles. A hostess says, Mrs. Jones, may I present the Duke of Overthere? or Lord Blank?; never his Grace or his Lordship. The Honorable is merely Mr. Lordson, or Mr. Holdoffice. A doctor, a judge, a bishop, are addressed and introduced by their titles. The clergy are usually Mister unless they formally hold the title of Doctor, or Dean, or Canon. A Catholic priest is Father Kelly. A senator is always introduced as Senator, whether he is still in office or not. But the President of the United States, once he is out of office, is merely Mr. and not Ex-president.
In the briefer form of introduction commonly used,
Mrs. Worldly, Mrs. Norman,
if the two names are said in the same tone of voice it is not apparent who is introduced to whom; but by accentuating the more important persons name, it can be made as clear as though the words May I present had been used.
The more important name is said with a slightly rising inflection, the secondary as a mere statement of fact. For instance, suppose you say, Are you there? and then It is raining! Use the same inflection exactly and say, Mrs. Worldly?Mrs. Younger!
Are you there?It is raining!
Mrs. Worldly?Mrs. Younger!
The unmarried lady is presented to the married one, unless the latter is very much the younger. As a matter of fact, in introducing two ladies to each other or one gentleman to another, no distinction is made. Mrs. Smith; Mrs. Norman. Mr. Brown; Mr. Green.
To a young man, however, she should say, Mr. Struthers, have you met my daughter? If the daughter is married, she should have added, My daughter, Mrs. Smartlington. The daughters name is omitted because it is extremely bad taste (except in the South) to call her daughter Miss Mary to any one but a servant, and on the other hand she should not present a young man to Mary. The young man can easily find out her name afterward.
Other permissible forms of introduction are:
Mrs. Jones, do you know Mrs. Norman?
Mrs. Jones, you know Mrs. Robinson, dont you? (on no account say Do you not? Best Society always says dont you?)
Mrs. Robinson, have you met Mrs. Jones?
Mrs. Jones, do you know my mother?
This is my daughter Ellen, Mrs. Jones.
These are all good form, whether gentlemen are introduced to ladies, ladies to ladies, or gentlemen to gentlemen. In introducing a gentleman to a lady, you may ask Mr. Smith if he has met Mrs. Jones, but you must not ask Mrs. Jones if she has met Mr. Smith!
Do not say: Mr. Jones, shake hands with Mr. Smith, or Mrs. Jones, I want to make you acquainted with Mrs. Smith. Never say: make you acquainted with and do not, in introducing one person to another, call one of them my friend. You can say my aunt, or my sister, or my cousinbut to pick out a particular person as my friend is not only bad style but, unless you have only one friend, bad mannersas it implies Mrs. Smith is my friend and you are a stranger.
You may very properly say to Mr. Smith I want you to meet Mrs. Jones, but this is not a form of introduction, nor is it to be said in Mrs. Jones hearing. Upon leading Mr. Smith up to Mrs. Jones, you say Mrs. Jones, may I present Mr. Smith or Mrs. Jones; Mr. Smith. Under no circumstances whatsoever say Mr. Smith meet Mrs. Jones, or Mrs. Jones meet Mr. Smith. Either wording is equally preposterous.
Most people of good taste very much dislike being asked their names. To say What is your name? is always abrupt and unflattering. If you want to know with whom you have been talking, you can generally find a third person later and ask Who was the lady with the grey feather in her hat? The next time you see her you can say How do you do, Mrs. (calling her by name).
When a gentleman is introduced to a lady, she sometimes puts out her handespecially if he is some one she has long heard about from friends in common, but to an entire stranger she generally merely bows her head slightly and says: How do you do! Strictly speaking, it is always her place to offer her hand or not as she chooses, but if he puts out his hand, it is rude on her part to ignore it. Nothing could be more ill-bred than to treat curtly any overture made in spontaneous friendliness. No thoroughbred lady would ever refuse to shake any hand that is honorable, not even the hand of a coal heaver at the risk of her fresh white glove.
A lady sometimes shakes hands after talking with a casual stranger; at other times she does not offer her hand on parting from one who has been punctiliously presented to her. She may find the former sympathetic and the latter very much the contrary.
There is a wide distance between rudeness and reserve. You can be courteously polite and at the same time extremely aloof to a stranger who does not appeal to you, or you can be welcomingly friendly to another whom you like on sight. Individual temperament has also to be taken into consideration: one person is naturally austere, another genial. The latter shakes hands far more often than the former. As already said, it is unforgivably rude to refuse a proffered hand, but it is rarely necessary to offer your hand if you prefer not to.
Best Society has only one phrase in acknowledgment of an introduction: How do you do? It literally accepts no other. When Mr. Bachelor says, Mrs. Worldly, may I present Mr. Struthers? Mrs. Worldly says, How do you do? Struthers bows, and says nothing. To sweetly echo Mr. Struthers? with a rising inflection on thers? is not good form. Saccharine chirpings should be classed with crooked little fingers, high hand-shaking and other affectations. All affectations are bad form.
Young Struthers is presented to Mrs. Worldly. She smiles and perhaps says, I hear that you are going to be in New York all winter? Struthers answers, Yes, I am at the Columbia Law School, etc., or since he is much younger than she, he might answer, Yes, Mrs. Worldly, especially if his answer would otherwise be a curt yes or no. Otherwise he does not continue repeating her name.
After an introduction, when you have talked for some time to a stranger whom you have found agreeable, and you then take leave, you say, Good-by, I am very glad to have met you, or Good-by, I hope I shall see you again soonor some time. The other person answers, Thank you, or perhaps adds, I hope so, too. Usually Thank you is all that is necessary.
In taking leave of a group of strangersit makes no difference whether you have been introduced to them or merely included in their conversationyou bow good-by to any who happen to be looking at you, but you do not attempt to attract the attention of those who are unaware that you are turning away.
Let us suppose you are the hostess: your position is not necessarily near, but it is toward the door. Mrs. King is sitting quite close to you, Mrs. Lawrence also near. Miss Robinson and Miss Brown are much farther away.
Mrs. Jones enters. You go a few steps forward and shake hands with her, then stand aside as it were, for a second only, to see if Mrs. Jones goes to speak to any one. If she apparently knows no one, you say, Mrs. King, do you know Mrs. Jones? Mrs. King being close at hand (usually but not necessarily) rises, shakes hands with Mrs. Jones and sits down again. If Mrs. King is an elderly lady, and Mrs. Jones a young one, Mrs. King merely extends her hand and does not rise. Having said Mrs. Jones once, you do not repeat it immediately, but turning to the other lady sitting near you, you say, Mrs. Lawrence, then you look across the room and continue, Miss Robinson, Miss BrownMrs. Jones! Mrs. Lawrence, if she is young, rises and shakes hands with Mrs. Jones, and the other two bow but do not rise.
At a very big luncheon you would introduce Mrs. Jones to Mrs. King and possibly to Mrs. Lawrence, so that Mrs. Jones might have some one to talk to. But if other guests come in at this moment, Mrs. Jones finds a place for herself and after a pause, falls naturally into conversation with those she is next to, without giving her name or asking theirs.
A friends roof is supposed to be an introduction to those it shelters. In Best Society this is always recognized if the gathering is intimate, such as at a luncheon, dinner or house party; but it is not accepted at a ball or reception, or any general entertainment. People always talk to their neighbors at table whether introduced or not. It would be a breach of etiquette not to! But if Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Norman merely spoke to each other for a few moments, in the drawing-room, it is not necessary that they recognize each other afterwards.
New Yorks bad manners are often condemned and often very deservedly. Even though the cause is carelessness rather than intentional indifference, the indifference is no less actual and the rudeness inexcusable.
It is by no means unheard of that after sitting at table next to the guest of honor, a New Yorker will meet her the next day with utter unrecognition. Not because the New Yorker means to cut the stranger or feels the slightest unwillingness to continue the acquaintance, but because few New Yorkers possess enthusiasm enough to make an effort to remember all the new faces they come in contact with, but allow all those who are not especially fixed in their attention, to drift easily out of mind and recognition. It is mortifyingly true; no one is so ignorantly indifferent to everything outside his or her own personal concern as the socially fashionable New Yorker, unless it is the Londoner! The late Theodore Roosevelt was a brilliantly shining exception. And, of course, and happily, there are other men and women like him in this. But there are also enough of the snail-in-shell variety to give color to the very just resentment that those from other and more gracious cities hold against New Yorkers.
Everywhere else in the world (except London), the impulse of self-cultivation, if not the more generous ones of consideration and hospitality, induces people of good breeding to try and make the effort to find out what manner of mind, or experience, or talent, a stranger has; and to remember, at least out of courtesy, anyone for whose benefit a friend of theirs gave a dinner or luncheon. To fashionable New York, however, luncheon was at one-thirty; at three there is something else occupying the momentthat is all.
Nearly all people of the Atlantic Coast dislike general introductions, and present people to each other as little as possible. In the West, however, people do not feel comfortable in a room full of strangers. Whether or not to introduce people therefore becomes not merely a question of propriety, but of consideration for local custom.
The question as to when introductions should be made, or not made, is one of the most elusive points in the entire range of social knowledge. Whenever necessary to bridge an awkward situation, is a definition that is exact enough, but not very helpful or clear. The hostess who allows a guest to stand, awkward and unknown, in the middle of her drawing-room is no worse than she who pounces on every chance acquaintance and drags unwilling victims into forced recognition of each other, everywhere and on all occasions.
First, in order of importance, is the presentation of everyone to guests of honor, whether the guests are distinguished strangers for whom a dinner is given, or a bride and groom, or a débutante being introduced to society. It is the height of rudeness for anyone to go to an entertainment given in honor of some one and fail to meet him. (Even though ones memory is too feeble to remember him afterward!)
The host must always see that every gentleman either knows or is presented to the lady he is to take in to dinner, and also, if possible, to the one who is to sit at the other side of him. If the latter introduction is overlooked, people sitting next each other at table nearly always introduce themselves. A gentleman says, How do you do, Mrs. Jones. I am Arthur Robinson. Or showing her his place card, I have to introduce myself, this is my name. Or the lady says first, I am Mrs. Hunter Jones. And the man answers, How do you do, Mrs. Jones, my name is Titherington Smith.
Even in New Yorks most introductionless circles, people always introduce:
A small group of people who are to sit together anywhere.
Partners at dinner.
The guests at a house party.
Everyone at a small dinner or luncheon.
The four who are at the same bridge table.
Partners or fellow-players in any game.
At a dance, when an invitation has been asked for a stranger, the friend who vouched for him should personally present him to the hostess. Mrs. Worldly, this is Mr. Robinson, whom you said I might bring. The hostess shakes hands and smiles and says: I am very glad to see you, Mr. Robinson.
A guest in a box at the opera always introduces any gentleman who comes to speak to her, to her hostess, unless the latter is engrossed in conversation with a visitor of her own, or unless other people block the distance between so that an introduction would be forced and awkward.
A newly arriving visitor in a ladys drawing-room is not introduced to another who is taking leave. Nor is an animated conversation between two persons interrupted to introduce a third. Nor is any one ever led around a room and introduced right and left.
If two ladies or young girls are walking together and they meet a third who stops to speak to one of them, the other walks slowly on and does not stand awkwardly by and wait for an introduction. If the third is asked by the one she knows, to join them, the sauntering friend is overtaken and an introduction always made. The third, however, must not join them unless invited to do so.
At a very large dinner, people (excepting the gentlemen and ladies who are to sit next to each other at table) are not collectively introduced. After dinner, men in the smoking room or left at table always talk to their neighbors whether they have been introduced or not, and ladies in the drawing-room do the same. But unless they meet soon again, or have found each other so agreeable that they make an effort to continue the acquaintance, they become strangers again, equally whether they were introduced or not.
Degrees of introduction are utterly unknown to best society. It makes not the slightest difference so far as any ones acceptance or rejection of another is concerned how an introduction is worded or, on occasions, whether an introduction takes place at all.
Fashionable people in very large cities take introductions lightly; they are veritable ships that pass in the night. They show their red or green signalswhich are merely polite sentences and pleasant mannersand they pass on again.
If some one presents you to Mrs. Smith for the second time on the same occasion, you smile and say I have already met Mrs. Smith, but you say nothing if you met Mrs. Smith long ago and she showed no interest in you at that time.
Most rules are elastic and contract and expand according to circumstances. You do not remind Mrs. Smith of having met her before, but on meeting again any one who was brought to your own house, or one who showed you an especial courtesy you instinctively say, I am so glad to see you again.
INCLUDING SOMEONE IN CONVERSATION WITHOUT AN INTRODUCTION
On occasions it happens that in talking to one person you want to include another in your conversation without making an introduction. For instance: suppose you are talking to a seedsman and a friend joins you in your garden. You greet your friend, and then include her by saying, Mr. Smith is suggesting that I dig up these cannas and put in delphiniums. Whether your friend gives an opinion as to the change in color of your flower bed or not, she has been made part of your conversation.
This same maneuver of evading an introduction is also resorted to when you are not sure that an acquaintance will be agreeable to one or both of those whom an accidental circumstance has brought together.
You must never introduce people to each other in public places unless you are certain beyond a doubt that the introduction will be agreeable to both. You cannot commit a greater social blunder than to introduce, to a person of position, some one she does not care to know, especially on shipboard, in hotels, or in other very small, rather public, communities where people are so closely thrown together that it is correspondingly difficult to avoid undesirable acquaintances who have been given the wedge of an introduction.
As said above, introductions in very large cities are unimportant. In New York, where people are meeting new faces daily, seldom seeing the same one twice in a year, it requires a tenacious memory to recognize those one hoped most to see again, and others are blotted out at once.
Or, an elder lady asks: Arent you Mary Smith? I have known your mother since she was your age. Or a young woman says: Arent you Mrs. Worldly? Mrs. Worldly, looking rather freezingly, politely says Yes and waits. And the stranger continues, I think my sister Millicent Manners is a friend of yours. Mrs. Worldly at once unbends. Oh, yes, indeed, I am devoted to Millicent! And you must be ?
A lady who goes to see another to get a reference for a servant, or to ask her aid in an organization for charity, would never consider such a meeting as an introduction, even though they talked for an hour. Nor would she offer to shake hands in leaving. On the other hand, neighbors who are continually meeting, gradually become accustomed to say How do you do? when they meet, even though they never become acquaintances.
Let us suppose some one addresses you, and then slightly disconcerted says: You dont remember me, do you? The polite thingunless his manner does not ring true, is to say Why, of course, I do. And then if a few neutral remarks lead to no enlightening topic, and bring no further memory, you ask at the first opportunity who it was that addressed you. If the person should prove actually to be unknown, it is very easy to repel any further advances. But nearly always you find it is some one you ought to have known, and your hiding the fact of your forgetfulness saves you from the rather rude and stupid situation of blankly declaring: I dont remember you.
At a private dance, young men nowadays introduce their men friends to young women without first asking the latters permission, because all those invited to a ladys house are supposed to be eligible for presentation to everyone, or they would not be there.
At a public ball young men and women keep very much to their own particular small circle and are not apt to meet outsiders at all. Under these circumstances a gentleman should be very careful not to introduce a youth whom he knows nothing about to a lady of his acquaintanceor at least he should ask her first. He can say frankly: There is a man called Sliders who has asked to meet you. I dont know who he is, but he seems decent. Shall I introduce him? The lady can say Yes; or, Id rather not.
If you are a man and your introduction is to a lady, you go to her house as soon as you arrive in her city, and leave the letter with your card at her door. Usually you do not ask to see her; but if it is between four and six oclock it is quite correct to do so if you choose. Presenting yourself with a letter is always a little awkward. Most people prefer to leave their cards without asking to be received.
If your letter is to a man, you mail it to his house, unless the letter is a business one. In the latter case you go to his office, and send in your card and the letter. Meanwhile you wait in the reception room until he has read the letter and sends for you to come into his private office.
If you are a woman, you mail your letter of social introduction and do nothing further until you receive an acknowledgment. If the recipient of your letter leaves her card on you, you in return leave yours on her. But the obligation of a written introduction is such that only illness can excuse her not asking you to her houseeither formally or informally.
When a man receives a letter introducing another man, he calls the person introduced on the telephone and asks how he may be of service to him. If he does not invite the newcomer to his house, he may put him up at his club, or have him take luncheon or dinner at a restaurant, as the circumstances seem to warrant.