Vanity Fair, February 1915
ENTERTAINING FOR THE YOUNG
The Etiquette by P. G. Wodehouse. The Debauches by Reginald Birch
IN planning entertainments for the younger set it cannot be too clearly pointed out that the really smart child hostess must not insult her guests with the suggestion of parlor games. Dancing is de rigueur, provided the dances are strictly modern and do not include such atrocities as the polka or the Sir Roger de Coverley. But to ask Harold, who has done Europe twice by himself, and Amélie, who is practically engaged to an infant Marquis, to stoop to Kiss-in-the-ring and Blind Man’s Buff and Hunt-the-slipper is to ruin yourself socially in the best juvenile circles of New York. I shall never forget the look—just one look—which little Clarence G. van Doop gave a misguided conjurer who so far forgot himself as to extract a hard-boiled egg from a head which will one day control two railroads and a pork-packing business which has already been denounced at three hundred and fifty-seven Socialist meetings, in this country alone.
CARD-GAMES are admissible, provided the the stakes are sufficiently high to prevent players from becoming bored. Poker and auction bridge are always safe, but do not suggest Snap, or Animal Grab for lima beans. One of the saddest cases I can recall is that of little Angela Goldinger, who at one time showed promise of an exceedingly bright career as a hostess. Poor child, in spite of an excellent social education, she could not succeed in eradicating an infantile passion for a game called—I hate to write it—Old Maid. This degraded pastime she insisted on forcing upon her guests during nearly the whole of an evening. Too well-bred to object, they set their teeth and went through with it like heroes and heroines; but it finished Angela socially. You never see her anywhere nowadays.
As regards smoking, much must be left to the discretion of the individual hostess. Where there is little or no formality in the party, cigarettes may be passed at table: but otherwise, of course, the girls will smoke in the sitting-room after the men have left them.
A roulette-wheel and lay-out for the older boys is no bad thing, and has often saved a party which showed dangerous signs of hanging fire. It has, however, been known to lead to an occasional unpleasantness. I remember little Reginald Jopperson, the son of the Fruit Biscuit magnate, completely forgetting his breeding and accusing the heir to the Linoleum trust—who happened to be acting as bank at the moment—of having fixed the wheel when zero turned up three times in succession. On that occasion blood was actually spilt, and so serious was the episode considered that several of his clubs requested Reginald’s resignation.
As to the drama, the modern child prefers plays with a little zip to them. Almost anything that has been denounced by the Parents’ League should prove acceptable.
REFRESHMENTS are another serious problem. Broadly speaking, the child hostess cannot go wrong if she observes the following rules. Immediately on arrival, the guest should be confronted with a tray of cocktails. During dinner; sherry, hock, and champagne. After dinner, liqueurs; and possibly, though this is not essential, high-balls when the party breaks up. Only the best brands of champagne may be used. Better be seen on Fifth Avenue in the afternoon carrying a Teddy-bear than try and palm off any of the American brands in the hope that, if the butler and footmen keep their hands over the labels, your guests will not know the difference.
On the all-important matter of amusing her guests after dinner, in the event of there being no theatre-party, the child hostess must be warned to spare no expense. Only the best entertainers should be permitted to perform. If Uncle Frank wants to sing comic songs “to amuse the children,” suppress him at once. In the matter of comedy Harry Lauder and Fred Stone would be safe cards to play, but children are such stern critics of humor that it would probably be better to steer clear of it altogether and stick to such tried performers as Caruso, and Pavlowa.