|Mrs Elton with her housekeeper.|
When planning a dinner or card party, hostesses set aside part of the day to organise menus with their housekeeper or cook. Emma’s new bride, Mrs Elton, complained: ‘I believe I was half an hour this morning shut up with my housekeeper.’
|Mrs Elton and her pearls.|
If only one course was served, the company was told ‘You see your dinner’ when they sat down to dine. But for a special dinner party, at least two courses were provided. When Pride and Prejudice’s Mrs Bennet invited Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy to a family dinner at Longbourn, she, ‘did not think anything less than two courses could be good enough for a man on whom she had such anxious designs, or satisfy the appetite and pride of one who had ten thousand a year.’
|Perkins, 'Every Woman Her Own Housekeeper'.|
All the dishes for the first course were placed on the table at the same time. Then the serving dishes were ‘removed’ for the second course, which was arranged in a similar fashion. Guests ate a little of what they fancy from the dishes closest to them, perhaps asking a servant to pass them a favourite dish, if wanted, from the far end of the table.
|'The gentlemen did approach'.|
Genteel hostesses dressed smartly though not over-grand, so that their guests did not feel inferior if only modestly attired; but for dinner parties, ladies and gentlemen normally wore full evening dress.
Charles Brock coloured illustrations for Emma, and black and white illustration for Pride and Prejudice, courtesy of Mollands.
A sample 3 course dinner for the month of March. John Perkins, Every Woman Her Own House-keeper, (London, 1796). Courtesy Google Books.