09 February 2011

Etiquette Wednesday -- We Dine On Linen Damask

Today’s Etiquette Wednesday features a small booklet whose introduction is almost as long as the remaining book. The book, published in 1926 by the Irish & Scottish Linen Damask Guild, has a forward was written by none other than Emily Post. Yes, another "Emily" Post. Clearly, if you are interested in the subject of etiquette, you will find yourself with a vast collection of advice, big and small from Mrs. Post.

I will concede that as she became more and more a, or should I say, “the” voice of 20th century etiquette, she took many opportunities to lend her name to commercial endeavors. However, these projects never came with a scintilla of compromise from Mrs. Post.

Mrs. Post’s essay for the Irish & Scottish Linen Damask Guild provides the title to this small booklet – We Dine On Linen Damask. When one reads the essay it is clear that the title is not just a title but an admonition; a “take no prisoners” call to arms for dining etiquette. Here is just the beginning:

We Dine On Linen Damask
Emily Post

We dine on linen damask. This is merely a statement of fact – if the house in which we are dining be a perfectly appointed one. Furthermore, if our own house be one of dignity, we breakfast on linen damask. The dignity of dinner demands a linen tablecloth, and, if meticulous, it demands is not for the lace encrusted with needlework but for damask without embellishment other than its quality. No other table covering, no matter how fine or elaborate, satisfies our inherent sense of faultless suitability. In proof of which we need but to find ourselves at a table upon which is spread an unbroken expanse of smooth white tablecloth and to unfold across our knees the enveloping width of a real dinner napkin that is wide enough to tuck in easily at either side, to waken suddenly as though from a dream to the fact that we are not just eating another evening meal, but that in truth we are “dining.”

There are another 13 pages of marching orders on ones linens. The tone remains the same: eat bread and water if that is all you can afford but for the love of propriety, eat it on a damask tablecloth.

You will never grab a paper towel again without the profound shame at your lack of “faultless suitability.”


  1. I was, in fact, dining on Cheetos straight from the bag as I read your post.

    Don't tell Auntie Em.

  2. Linen damask is definitely the way to go. Although my everyday napkins tend to be, more often than not, unironed and older than I am, they really hold up.


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