When I see the word 'amusement' in terms of public settings I'm thinking Amusement parks with roller coasters and other fun rides. However, when our 19th century characters or ancestors mentioned the word it has a different connotation. During the 19th century they were generally meaning the theatre, opera, lectures and concerts.
PLACES OF AMUSEMENT.
Do Not accept an invitation to visit any place of public amusement, with a gentleman with whom you are but slightly acquainted, unless there is another lady also invited. You may, as a young lady, go with a relative or your fiancee, without a chaperon, but not otherwise.
Having received an invitation which it is proper for you to accept, write an answer immediately, appointing an hour for your escort to call for you, and be sure that you are ready in good season. To arrive late is not only annoying to those near your seat, whom you disturb when you enter, but it is ill-bred; you will be supposed to be some one who is unable to come early, instead of appearing as a lady who is mistress of her own time.
If the evening is cloudy, or it rains, your escort will probably bring a carriage; and let me say a few words here about entering and leaving a carriage.
How to get in is difficult, but of less importance than getting out; because if you stumble in, no one sees you, but some one who may happen to be in the carriage; but how to get out is so important, that I will illustrate it by a short diplomatic anecdote:—
"The Princess of Hesse-Darmstadt," says M. Mercy d'Argenteau, an ambassador of the last century, "having Deen desired by the Empress of Austria to bring her three daughters to court, in order that her Imperial Majesty might choose one of them for a wife to one of her sons, drove up in her coach to the palace gate. Scarcely had they entered the presence, when, before even speaking to them, the empress went up to the second daughter, and, taking her by the hand, said, 'I choose this young lady.' The mother, astonished at the sudlenness of her choice, inquired what had actuated it. 'I watched the young ladies get out of their carriage,' said the empress. 'Your eldest daughter stepped on her dress, and only saved herself from falling by an awkward scramble; the youngest jumped from the coach to the ground, without touching the steps; the second, just lifting her dress in front, so as she descended to show the point of her shoe, calmly stepped from the carriage to the ground, neither hurriedly nor stiffly, but with grace and dignity: she is fit to be an empress; her eldest sister is too awkward, her youngest too wild.'"
The Theatre.—Here you must wear your bonnet, though you may throw aside your cloak or shawl, if you desire it. Your escort will pass to your seats first, and then turn and offer his hand to lead you to your own. Once seated, give your attention entirely to the actors whilst the curtain is up—to your companion when it is down.
Do not look round the house with your glass. A lady's deportment should be very modest in a theatre. Avoid carefully every motion or gesture that will attract attention. To flirt a fan, converse in whispers, indulge in extravagant gestures of merriment or admiration, laugh loudly or clap your hands together, are all excessively vulgar and unlady-like. Never turn your head to look at those seated behind you, or near you.
If you speak to your companion while the curtain is up, lower your voice, that you may not disturb others interested in the conversation on the stage.
The Opera.—Here you should wear full dress, an opera cloak, and either a head-dress, or dressy bonnet of some thin material. Your gloves must be of kid, white, or some very light tint to suit your dress. Many dresp for the opera, as they would for the theatre; but the beauty of the house is much enhanced by each lady contributing her full dress toilette to the general effect.
If you go to the dressing-room, leave your hood and shawl in the care of the woman in waiting, whom you must fee when she returns them to you.
If you do not wish to go to the dressing-room, allow your escort to take off your shawl or cloak, and throw it over the back of the seat. As your opera cloak must be light enough to keep on all the evening, though you may throw it open, you must wear over it a heavier cloak or a shawl. Throw this off in the lobby, just before you enter your box. Your gloves you must keep on all the evening.
Avoid handling the play bills, as the printing ink will soil your gloves in a few minutes, making your hands appear very badly for the rest of the evening.
You should be in your seat at the opera before th« overture commences.
Never converse during the performance. Even the lowest toned remark will disturb a real lover of music, and these will be near you on all sides. Exclamations of admiration, "Exquisite!" "Beautiful!" or "Lovely!" are in the worst taste. Show your appreciation by quiet attention to every note, and avoid every exclamation or gesture.
In our new opera houses there are rooms for promenade, and between the acts your escort may invite you to walk there. You may accept the invitation with perfect propriety. He will leave the box first and then offer his hand' to you. In the lobby take his arm, and keep it until you return to the box. If you have taken your cloak or shawl to your seat, leave them there during your promenade. Return to your seat when the gong sounds the recall, that you may not disturb others after the next act commences.
In walking up and down in the promenading saloon, you may pass and repass friends. Bow the first time you meet them, but not again.
If you meet your gentlemen friends there, bow, but do not stop to speak. They may join you for once round the room, then allow them to leave you. Your escort will feel justly offended if you allow any other gentlemen to engross your attention entirely when he has invited you to the entertainment.
Concerts—Here, as at the opera, you may wear a bonnet or not, as you will. Go early to the hall, unless you have secured a seat, and then, be in time for tho first song. If you are unavoidably late, enter quietly, and take a seat near the door. It is very rude to push forward to the front of the hall, and either crowd those upon the tenches, or force some gentleman to offer you his place. If the hall is so crowded that even the back seats are full, and a gentleman offers you his place, you should thank him before accepting it.
Again, I repeat, do not converse, or disturb those around you by exclamations or gesticulations.
Lectures—Two ladies may attend a lecture, unaccompanied by a gentleman, without attracting attention.
The dress, bonnet, and cloak, worn in the street, should be worn in a lecture-room, as these are, by no means, occasions for full dress.
If you return at an early hour from any place of amusement, invite your escort into the house upon your arrival there, and lay aside your bonnet and shawl. If you keep them on, he will conclude that you expect him to shorten his visit. If it is late when you reach home, he will probably decline your invitation to enter. If, however, he accepts it, do not lay aside your shawl, and he will soon leave you.
If he asks permission to call in the morning, you must, unless prevented by an imperative engagement, remain at home to see him.
Upon your way home from the theatre, concert, or opera, speak warmly of the pleasure of the evening, and, at parting, thank him for that pleasure. Show by your manner that you have heartily enjoyed the entertainment you owe to his civility. If you are weary, do not allow him to see it. If disappointed, conceal that also. You will be able to find some good points in the performance; speak of these and ignore the bad ones.
If at the theatre, opera, or in a concert-room, you see an acquaintance, you are not expected to recognize her, unless near enough to speak. A lady must not bow tc any one, even her own sister, across a theatre or concert room.
Source: The Ladies' Book of Etiquette, and Manual of Politeness:©1872