Following on from our earlier discussion of how to pay a call in Regency Society, we now turn our attention to the art of the calling card. The correct usage of the calling card shows good manners and propriety. It displays to your friends, and importantly those who you hope to soon count among your friends, that you are well-versed in the nuanced rules and proper etiquette of Society.
The form of the calling card is of the utmost importance. We are judged on first sight by our appearance, and the same can be said for a calling card. The ideal calling card should be white card of good quality, with your name printed in a clear but pleasant black script. If appropriate, your current abode or ‘at home’ days can be neatly written in your own hand.
When arriving to make a call, you should present your card to the butler. He will then see if the person you wish to visit is at home. If not, you can leave your card so that your acquaintance knows you called. This can be particularly useful if you are returning a call, and do not wish the other person to feel slighted.
Cards received can be displayed by a family in their hallway, so that everyone else visiting can see who among the good and the great the family can count among their acquaintance. Naturally, if is up to the reader to decide if this is good social climbing or horrid vulgarity.
However, on the subject of vulgarity, it is important to stress that the calling card has a number of pitfalls to be avoided. A lady should never call upon a gentleman, and thus by extension, should never leave her card for him. In addition, if someone makes their ‘at home’ hours public, and you call and leave your card during them, it does rather suggest that you were deliberately avoiding them and only making a ‘show’ of friendship. Similarly, it has been known for people to hide and wait for people to leave, before dropping off their card to ‘return’ a call in a mode of social subterfuge. This is all well and good, until the deceit is uncovered.
In short, the calling card is a useful addition to the practice of making and returning calls. It is, nevertheless, and etiquette art form which needs to be mastered to be used effectively.
Kloester, Jennifer, Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, (London: William Heinemann, 2005).
Ross, Josephine, Jane Austen’s Guide to Good Manners: Compliments, Charades and Horrible Blunders, (London: Bloomsbury, 2006).
Sullivan, Margaret C, The Jane Austen Handbook: Proper Life Skills From Regency England, (Philadelphia: Quirk Books, 2007).