Balls served a variety of purposes for the Victorians of London Society. Balls were a common source of entertainment. Balls were also an opportunity to meet the eligible gentlemen in society. Balls also provided the opportunity for a lady to display her wealth and abilities for social gaieties.
The strict codes of etiquette practiced at these balls was also no small matter. To our perspective today, the etiquette codes may seem a lot for an individual to remember. On the positive side, what a pleasant skill that has been lost to the past.
The Lady at the Ball
The hostess should see that all ladies are provided with a ball card accompanied with a pencil. Upon the card is itemized the printed program of dances and a space for writing names or other particulars.
Upon arriving at the ball, a lady was required to dance first with her escort. Interestingly enough, etiquette required that a lady's escort assure she is provided partners and enjoys the evening. (The lady could choose to dance with whomever she pleased). In addition, it was a gentleman's responsibility to be watchful that all ladies in attendance had the opportunity to dance.
White kid gloves were worn at all times throughout dancing. If a supper was to be served, it was recommended a lady bring two pairs of gloves. (A lady never ate supper while wearing her gloves).
When the ball was over, her escort was required to see her home. However, the lady was not obligated to invite the gentlemen into her home. Etiquette required that a gentleman actually decline should such an invitation be extended.
The Gentleman at the Ball
A true gentleman never had the aroma of "strong drink or tobacco" on his person in the presence of a lady. A gentleman was also admonished not to "play the clown" in the ballroom. One did not want to be a buffoon by dressing strangely, making unusual noises, or swaggering about the ballroom. (Can you imagine such a character in a romance story?)
A gentleman was not supposed to approach a lady for an introduction after the ball. "Ballroom introductions close with the dancing."
Other etiquette features to apply in Society for the London gentlemen are as follows---