Q Dear Miss Abigail:
I have a friend that is leaving soon. He is from another country and is going home ~ forever! I really want to give him a sentimental but useful gift. Any ideas?
A Dear Charlotte:
Oooh! Presents! One of my favorite topics. Here are some gift-giving tips, and some bonus thoughts about giving and receiving them, from John A. Ruth’s Decorum: A Practical Treatise on Etiqutte and Dress of the Best American Society. Enjoy!
Presents Among Friends. Among friends, presents ought to be made of things of small value; or, if valuable, their worth should be derived from the style of the workmanship, or from some accidental circumstance, rather than from the inherent and solid richness. Especially never offer to a lady a gift of great cost: it is in the highest degree indelicate, and looks as if you were desirous of placing her under an obligation to you, and of buying her good will. The gifts made by ladies to gentlemen are of the most refined nature possible: they should be little articles not purchased, but deriving a priceless value as being the offspring of their gentle skill; a little picture from their pencil, or a trifle from their needle.
Praising Presents. If you make a present, and it is praised by the receiver, you should not yourself commence undervaluing it. If one is offered to you, always accept it; and however small it may be, receive it with civil and expressed thanks, without any kind of affection. Avoid all such deprecatory phrases, as ‘I fear I rob you,’ etc.
Making Parade. A present should be made with as little parade and ceremony as possible. If it is a small matter, a gold pencil-case, a thimble to a lady, or an affair of that sort, it should not be offered formally, but in an indirect way, ~ left in her basket, or slipped on to her finger, by means of a ribbon attached to it without a remark of any kind.
How to Receive a Present. Receive a present in the spirit in which it is given and with a quiet expression of thanks. On the other hand, never, when what you have given is admired, spoil the effect by saying it is of no value, or worse still, that you have no use for it, have others, or anything of that kind. Simply remark that you are gratified at finding it has given pleasure.
Refusing a Gift. Never refuse a gift if offered in kindness unless the circumstances are such that you cannot with propriety or consistency receive it. Neither in receiving a present make such comments as ‘I am ashamed to rob you;’ ‘I am sure I ought not to take it,’ which seems to indicate that your friend cannot afford to make the gift.
Value of Presents. In the eyes of persons of delicacy, presents are of no worth, except from the manner in which they are bestowed; strive then to gain them this value.
Source: Ruth, John A. Decorum: A Practical Treatise on Etiquette and Dress of the Best American Society. New York: Union Publishing House, 1880.
~ pp. 219, 220-221 ~