"There is an emanation from the heart in genuine hospitality which cannot be described, but is immediately felt, and puts the stranger at once at his ease."
--Washington Irving.

Were we to look up the meaning of the word hospitality in the dictionary, we would find it defined as the act of receiving and entertaining guests kindly, generously, and gratuitously, without expectation of reward.
According to such a definition, much that passes for hospitality in the social realm does not deserve the name. Society is a give-and¬-take arrangement, somewhat resembling the gift exchange we practise at Christmas. If you do not give you do not get; if you do not entertain you are not invited, unless it is understood that circumstances prevent your doing so. Then one is asked for what one can contribute in the way of good company, promotion of gayety, and the like. One "pays her way" by being agreeable, well gowned, popular. Thus, in a way, much social hospitality is merely social bargaining. The woman who feels indebted to her circle--or circles, for these impinge upon each other--gives a large reception or "at home." She can seldom do more than welcome the coming and speed the parting guest. Her greeting is "So delighted to see you here;" her farewell, "Good-bye; so glad you were able to come." Her guests have greeted each other in much the same casual fashion, have had some refresh¬ments warranted to destroy their appetite for dinner; have shown a handsome gown and hat--and perhaps had the former injured in the crush. One is reminded of Bunthorne's "Hollow! Hollow! Hollow!!"

Real Hospitality
Quite different is this from what we offer when we invite our friends to visit us. Here is genuine hospitality--the receiving and entertaining gratuitously those whose companionship we enjoy. One of the chief joys of having one's own home is the pleasure of being able to welcome one's friends and afford them the privilege of enjoying it also. An invitation of this kind means we are willing to incommode ourselves, incur expense, and give a measure of our time to the entertainment of those of our friends whose society we wish to enjoy familiarly. Thus it seems that an invitation to visit a friend in her home is a compliment of no mean order, although Nicole says: "'Visits are for the most part neither more nor less than inventions for discharging upon our neighbors somewhat of our own unendurable weight."

Short Visits

Visits are of much shorter duration than in those "old times" people talk about so enthusiastically--and would find so tire¬some were they to return again. Then visitors stayed week after week; were urged to remain longer when they proposed departure. The story goes of a Virginia planter who invited an old war-time friend to visit him. At the end of a month the major proposed departure. His host objected so strenuously that he agreed to stay another month. And so it went on, the guest regularly proposing to leave, the host hospitably insisting on his remaining, until in the end the old veteran died in and was buried from his friend's house. This, however, is an example not to be emulated in these less hospitable days.
There is a saying, "Short visits make long friends," that is worth consideration by those who visit. Probably the truth of the saying has been so often attested that it has given rise to the custom of specifying the date of arrival and departure of a guest when giving the invitation. It has become to be understood that the vague, indefinite invitation "Do come and see us sometime," means nothing. No one would think for a moment of taking it in good faith. If the giver wishes to entertain her friend she will ask if it will be convenient for her to visit her at a certain specified date. Nothing less counts. An understanding of this might save the unexperienced from the awkwardness of making an unwelcome visit.

The Unexpected Visit
Nothing is worse form than "the surprise visit." Generally you do surprise your hostess and very often most disagreeably. A housekeeper does not enjoy an intrusion--for such it is--¬of that kind any more than you would be pleased to have a chance caller rush unannounced into your private rooms. Even among relatives and the most intimate friends, there is nothing to justify the unexpected arrival. Nothing so strikes terror to a woman's soul as the thud of trunks on the piazza and the crunch of wheels on the gravel, meaning someone has "come to stay."
Such an arrival is a piece of presumption on the part of the visitor. She assumes she will be welcome at any time she chooses to present herself. This may be true; but at the same time there is an obligation of courtesy which requires her to consult her friend's convenience. Instead, she consults her own and utterly ignores that of her hostess, who is thus forced into entertaining her.

The Inopportune Arrival
Many awkward and sometimes amusing anecdotes are told in connection with the inopportune visit. Thus not long ago the newspapers chronicled the plight of a woman who undertook to surprise an acquaintance from whom she had not heard for several years. She was driven to their house and dismissed the carriage. A strange face met her at the door, and she learned that her friend had removed to another city nearly a twelvemonth before. "Served her right" will be everybody's verdict.
Suppose one arrives unexpectedly and finds the friend's house full of other and invited company. Then, if ever, she ought to feel herself "a rank outsider." If she is tactless enough not to give notice of her intended arrival, she probably has not the good sense to depart as quickly as possible. The man of the house may have to sleep on the parlor sofa, or the children on the floor, and ninety-nine times out of a hundred the whole family will wish her in Halifax.
Or she may arrive to find some member of the family ill, or house-cleaning or repairing in progress, or the house in the hands of the decorators. Indeed, so many unforeseen accidents may occur to make her visit an unpleasant memory, both to herself and her hostess, that only the most selfish and inconsiderate of women will so violate the social conventions as to make "surprise visits."

Visits That Save Expense
Something equally reprehensible is the visit we pay to a friend in town where we have business or desire a pleasure trip, and do not propose to have it cost us much of any¬thing. We force hospitality on our acquaintances in order to save hotel bills. They know it, and they feel about it just exactly as we would in their places--that is, that it is an imposition on good nature and a mean and selfish thing to do.
"We gave up our house and went to boarding simply because my health and my husband's salary were inadequate to the demands made upon them by our out-of-town relatives and acquaintances, who used us as a restaurant and hotel. There was seldom a week when we did not give ten or twelve meals and two or three nights lodging to people better able to pay for them than we were to furnish them. So we gave up housekeeping." This is an actual experience.

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