Read CHAPTER XX - FUNERALS of The Complete Bachelor Manners for Men , free online book, by Walter Germain, on

When a death occurs in the house all matters should at once be placed in charge of a relative or a friend of the family. The family itself should be kept away from every one as much as possible, and none of the sad details left to them. They should not be seen until the day of the funeral. Front windows should be shut, blinds and shades pulled down, and the outer or storm door of the house closed. A servant is stationed in the hall near the door, as on reception days, to receive the cards of persons calling. All acquaintances who have been entertained at the house leave cards in person, others may mail them. Only intimate friends of the family are admitted to the house.

Should you send flowers, do not purchase or order any set designs. They are hideous remind one of the tenement funerals, and are strikingly inappropriate. A bunch of white roses or of violets is a beautiful offering for a young woman, or two palms crossed, with violets or lilies of the valley attached, for a man or an elderly person. These should be accompanied by your card. If you have been an intimate friend, a few words written a short note of condolence would not be amiss. To all of these notes, and in acknowledgment of these offerings, one of the family nearest the deceased in relationship should respond by sending their card with the words, “Thank you for your kind sympathy,” or something of that sort, written upon it.

As a rule, when the deceased is a young man who belongs to several clubs or who has a numerous acquaintance, it is better to have the funeral from a church. Pallbearers are chosen from among his intimate friends; a relative never acts as pallbearer. It is not customary for any except the nearest relatives to go to the cemetery. Ladies of the family do not accompany the remains to the cemetery, and they frequently do not attend the funeral services at the church if the deceased is a man.

If the funeral services are held at the house the relatives and intimate friends are invited into the back parlor, dining room, or upstairs, and make their appearance only when the services begin. The undertaker attends to seating people, arranging the rooms, etc.

There is only one proper dress for a man to wear at a funeral. It should consist of black frock coat, dark trousers, dark scarf and gloves (gray or dark tan, but not black, unless you are a relative), and top hat. Should you be a relative or a pallbearer, wear a black weed on your hat.

As to periods of mourning, there seems to be some little difference of opinion in New York. Ward McAllister treated the subject in quite an exhaustive manner, advocating short mourning terms even for the nearest relatives. For a wife eighteen months is considered the proper thing; for a parent, twelve to eighteen months, sometimes two years; for a brother or a sister, one year; and for a grandparent, six months. A maternal or paternal uncle or aunt is entitled to about two months or less, according to the intimacy which has existed between the families. Seclusion from society is generally consonant with mourning for near relatives. However, people now go to the theater and small dinners and teas after nine months of mourning for the very nearest relatives.

It is not necessary for a man to shroud himself in black. A silk hat with a crape band nearly to the top should be worn by widowers during the first year of their widowerhood; but black shirt studs, black sleeve buttons, handkerchiefs bordered with black, and the other abominations in which the grief-stricken Frenchman arrays himself are not tolerated in this country. In deep mourning one can wear black ties and black gloves, but a white linen tie in summer is permissible. I do not advocate the use of black scarf pins. A black band on the sleeve of a gray suit is also another affectation which should be avoided. Cards should be left after a funeral.

There is no code of etiquette established as yet for divorce. Second marriages should be as quiet as possible. This advice is given to bachelors who are contemplating matrimony with divorcees.


If you are chosen godfather, you are expected to send a silver mug to your godchild. Christening parties are held about four in the afternoon. Afternoon dress is required.

When giving a dinner or any entertainment at a certain well-known New York restaurant do not refer to it as “Del’s.” This is an earmark of vulgarity.

When speaking of the city of New York do not refer to it as “Gotham.” This shows the worst kind of provincialism and a vulgar spirit.

Even should your friends be among the most exclusive and fashionable in any place, they are never “swells,” nor do they belong to the “Four Hundred.” The latter term was once used by a gentleman to designate the probable list of people who were to entertain in New York that season, and has no bearing whatever upon the question of social limit.

If you send flowers never have them arranged in set designs. Fair voyagers will thank you much more if you send fruit, sweets, or books, as flowers on shipboard or railroad trains are nuisances. Books, sweets, and flowers are the only gifts which a bachelor can offer or a woman accept from him.

The terms “lady” and “gentleman” are distinctive. Your friends and acquaintances are all supposed to be ladies and gentlemen. To distinguish them as such implies a doubt. Should you call at a house you ask if the “ladies” are in, so as to distinguish them from the other females in the household. You also toast the “ladies.” In referring to the gentler sex, it is more complimentary to speak of them as “women.” You would say, “She is a clever woman,” not a “clever lady.” The person who speaks of “a lady or a gentleman friend” has a defined social position on the Bowery.

Avoid slang, especially that of the music halls or the comic newspapers. You can well afford not to be “up to date.”

In greeting a person say “Good morning,” “Good afternoon,” or “Good evening,” but refrain from such inane phrases as “Delighted, I’m sure.” On introduction or presentation, it is sufficient to say “I am delighted to meet you.” Avoid also the “How d’y do?” “How are you?” “Very well, I thank you.” All this is idiotic.

Whistle all you like in your bedroom, but not in public.

Gentlefolk have “friends” stopping with them, never “company.” Servants have and keep “company.”

When you refer to wine it means any kind of vintage, and not necessarily champagne. Therefore beware of the “gentleman who opens wine,” or the one who gives a “wine party,” whatever that may mean. We speak of a dinner, but not of a dinner party. A party to the play, no matter where the location of the places may be, is never a “box party.”

Do not be a professed jester nor yet a punster. The clowns of society are not enviable beings.

When speaking of a fashionable woman do not refer to her as a “society woman.” That would imply that she belongs to various societies or guilds, which is not probably the impression you desire to convey.

When a person has a predilection for the use of the word “elegant,” and especially when it is employed in the sense of beautiful, good, charming, or delightful, you are quite just in your estimation of his or her vulgarity.

Answers to questions should be given in the direct affirmative or the direct negative. “All right” is not, to say the least, civil, and is ill-bred.

Never exhibit your accomplishments, unless “by special request,” in the public parlors of hotels, or saloons of ships, or other places of general gathering. The persons who sing and play the piano and make themselves bores are as reprehensible as the window opening and shutting fiends, the fidgety travelers, the loud-voiced and constant complaining, all of whom are most obnoxious.

Under great provocation the expletive “damn” is tolerated by society, but it should be whispered and not pronounced aloud. The man who swears is certainly beyond the pale, and the one who uses silly and senseless exclamations is not far away from him. One of the marks of a gentleman is his complete mastery of himself under the most trying and aggravating circumstances.

These are but few of the many “don’ts” which it seems necessary to repeat in works of this kind. For a more extended catalogue of social and grammatical sins, the reader is referred to that excellent book The Verbalist, by Alfred Ayres, and the clever little brochure Don’t. A careful study of these will assist him much in reviewing elementary questions, the knowledge of which was taken for granted by the author of the Complete Bachelor.