The Chaperon


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The Chaperon by Henry James

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Stein, G. Stevenson, R. Wells, H. Chapter XIX. The Chaperon and Other Conventions. But it must be said that the very word has a repellent school-teacherish sound. To be sure the time has gone by when the presence of an elderly lady is indispensable to every gathering of young people. Young girls for whose sole benefit and protection the chaperon exists she does not exist for her own pleasure, youthful opinion to the contrary notwithstanding , have infinitely greater freedom from her surveillance than had those of other days, and the typical chaperon is seldom seen with any but very young girls, too young to have married friends.

Otherwise a young married woman, a bride perhaps scarcely out of her teens, is, on all ordinary occasions, a perfectly suitable chaperon, especially if her husband is present. A very young married woman gadding about without her husband is not a proper chaperon. There are also many occasions when a chaperon is unnecessary! It is considered perfectly correct for a young girl to drive a motor by herself, or take a young man with her, if her family know and approve of him, for any short distance in the country.

She may play golf, tennis, go to the Country Club, or Golf Club if near by , sit on the beach, go canoeing, ride horseback, and take part in the normal sports and occupations of country life. Young girls always go to private parties of every sort without their own chaperon, but the fact that a lady issues an invitation means that either she or another suitable chaperon will be present.

If she is wanting in decency and proper pride, not even Argus could watch over her! But apart from ethics, there are the conventions to think of, and the conventions of propriety demand that every young woman must be protected by a chaperon, because otherwise she will be misjudged. Grundy is given no chance to set tongues wagging. It goes without saying that a chaperon is always a lady, often one whose social position is better than that of her charge; occasionally she is a social sponsor as well as a moral one. Her position, if she is not a relative, is very like that of a companion. Above all, a chaperon must have dignity, and if she is to be of any actual service, she must be kind of heart and have intelligent sympathy and tact.

To have her charge not only care for her, but be happy with her, is the only possible way such a relationship can endure.


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  • She can perfectly well be reasonably young, and a spinster. It is by no means unusual for mothers who are either very gay or otherwise busy, and cannot give most of their time to their grown and growing daughters, to put them in charge of a resident chaperon. Often their governess—if she is a woman of the world—gives up her autocracy of the schoolroom and becomes social guardian instead.

    For just such a contingency as this it is of vital importance that confidence and sympathy exist between the chaperon and her charge.

    The Chaperon and Other Conventions. Post, Emily. Etiquette

    No modern young girl is likely to obey blindly unless she values the opinions of one in whose judgment and affection she has learned to believe. If her father is alive, the invitations go out in his name of course, and he receives with her. For example:. It is also not considered proper for a young girl ever to be alone as hostess. If the time is afternoon, very likely she pours tea and when everyone has been helped, she goes into another room. She does not stay with them ever, but she is never very far away.

    The chaperon or a parent should never go to bed until the last young man has left the house. It is an unforgivable breach of decorum to allow a young girl to sit up late at night with a young man—or a number of them. No young girl ought to let herself in with a latch-key. In old-fashioned days no lady had a latch-key. And it is still fitting and proper for a servant to open the door for her.

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    To go out with him in a small sail-boat sounds harmless enough, but might result in a questionable situation if they are becalmed, or if they are left helpless in a sudden fog. The Maine coast, for example, is particularly subject to fogs that often shut down without warning and no one going out on the water can tell whether he will be able to get back within a reasonable time or not. A man and a girl went out from Bar Harbor and did not get back until next day.

    Everyone knew the fog had come in as thick as pea-soup and that it was impossible to get home; but to the end of time her reputation will suffer for the experience. There are many places which are unsuitable, for young girls to go to whether they are chaperoned or not. Absolutely no lady unless middle-aged—and even then she would be defying convention can go to dinner or supper in a restaurant alone with a gentleman.

    A lady, not young, who is staying in a very dignified hotel, can have a gentleman dine with her.

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