Award-winning Regency romance author–and fellow teacher–Regina Jeffers talks about the etiquette of social calls, and how Jane Austen used them as a pivot point in her novels. 


In the 1800s, morning calls or visiting upon a household developed a certain protocol, and those who broke protocol were often shunned. First a calling card was presented to the household’s servant. It was common for those who came to London for the Season to drive about with a footman in tow to present one’s cards to acquaintances. Do you recall Mrs. Jennings doing so in Sense and Sensibility? “The morning was chiefly spent in leaving cards at the houses of Mrs. Jennings’s acquaintance to inform them of her being in town.”

One would leave three cards with the servant: one from the lady for the house’s mistress; one from the caller’s husband for the house’s mistress and another for the house’s master. Displaying cards of those who had called was commonplace. It gave one social status to display cards from those of the nobility. In Persuasion, the Elliots took care to display “…the cards of the Dowager Viscountess Dalrymple and the Hon. Miss Carteret, to be arranged where they might be most visible.”

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