Social Success: Tips For The Perfect Victorian Dinner

As this is the time of year for getting together and making merry, Behind The Past thought it was time to assemble a few general hints and directions regarding that all-important meal: dinner.

With our handy list of basic tips, you’ll be certain to have a thorough grounding in all of the essentials, which will enable you to host the perfect evening of cuisine-based entertainment:

  • Firstly, one must remember that a dinner, in the sense of a dinner party, is as much a creation as it is a meal. It is as much an experience as an event. As soon as the guests have stepped through your door, their happiness and enjoyment is your primary concern. They are not being fed, they are being entertained.
  • Moreover, unless you are serving chilled champagne and Roman punch (a champagne and rum based concoction) then you have no right to call this event a dinner.
  • Also, it is considered fashionable by some to lay two tablecloths when there are 14-16 (and presumably, more) guests.
  • There should always be flowers on the table. There is no excuse for not having flowers on the table.
  • However, do try to decorate the table with good taste. No one likes a gaudy dinner table, after all.
  • As well as this, no one likes their hot food served cold. A lamp should be kept burning to re-heat any dishes which have cooled.
  • With regards to food served, there should be two soups, white and brown, and two fish, dressed and undressed. There should also be a plain joint of roast and an assortment of accompanying savoury articles, such as sausages, pickles, cold pies or cold ham. The quantity and the arrangement of the various courses will naturally depend on the number guests, of course.

So to conclude, do not fret or fear the prospect of guests! Rather, embrace this season of goodwill and invite all who you think may be useful to you at some later date…


Beeton, Isabella Mary, The Book Of Household Management, [First published by S. O. Beeton in 24 Monthly Parts 1859-1861. First published in a bound edition 1861].

Bury, Lady Charlotte Campbell, The Lady’s Own Cookery Book And New Dinner Table Directory; In Which Will be Found A Large Collection Of Original Receipts, Including Not Only The Result of the Authoress’ Many Years of Observation, Experience And Research But Also The Contributions Of An Extensive Circle Of Acquaintance Adapted To The Use Of Persons Living In The Highest Style And For Those Of Moderate Fortune [Third Edition], (London: Henry Colburn, 1844).


This entry was tagged Entertainment, Etiquette, Food, Social Success, Victorian. Bookmark the permalink.

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