When Victorian photographer Julia Margaret Cameron went to stay with friends, she surprised them by covering the walls and furniture of the spare bedroom with floral transfers during the night.
In similar fashion, James Whistler repaid his host's hospitality by turning his library into the vividly painted Peacock Room that now rests in the Freer Gallery.
Neither host was pleased, and both might well have bemoaned the fact that among the endless books on hospitality and manners, most instruction is aimed at the host. The guest who brings a house gift and does not run up long-distance telephone charges is thought to have performed in exemplary fashion.
No one thinks to caution guests not to rearrange furniture, life style's or their host's eating habits. It is not the guest's duty to convert the host to vegetarianism or to insist that if you close your eyes and open your mouth, you will find that you love smoked eel.
Nor is it the guest's duty to offer a critical commentary on the host's friends. The guest who surveyed a dinner party held in his honor, turned to his host and inquired in a loud and angry voice, "Who are these people?" was not a good guest.
Nor was the man who arrived, set down his bag by the door (assuming, perhaps, that the porter would find it) and asked his host what night he should keep open for the dinner that surely would be given in his honor.
The good guest has a sampler embroidered on the inner lid of his suitcase: "Home is where the heart is, not where the hat is."
Some guests are blithe in their belief that wherever they are is home and, like Whistler and Cameron, they upend the host's house in order to suit themselves; others are too anxious to please, nagging away at the host's privacy in a constant and obtrusive desire to help.
If someone refuses your help, go off and play. They either think you will make a mess of it and find it easier to do things themselves, or they are so organized they have no need of assistance.
Very short visits are easy: People can endure anything for a day or two. Long visits work themselves out, compromises made so friendships can survive. It is the in-between visits, those of a week or so, which are difficult, too long for comfort and too short for compromise.
It is these visits that require rules for the guests as well as for the host. Prime among them should be acceptance of the fact that though the guest may be on holiday, often the host is not.
Good guests fit themselves into the routine of the house, and do not sulk if the host or hostess is unable to lunch at a nearby restaurant or make a day trip to a historical site.
Most hosts and hostesses happily devote evenings to their visitors; they will offer more time if they have it, but good guests entertain themselves.
Good guests always straighten up the guest room before they leave, offering to change the sheets on the bed.
They never take on projects they cannot complete, painting six pickets on a picket fence so that the host will be forced to do the rest. And they do not offer to do things unless they do them well, whether it is fixing a dripping faucet or making a cheese souffle. The host does not want to have to call a plumber to puzzle out the pieces that are left on the kitchen floor.
Guests should try to resist the urge to buy every bit of food they see. If an army travels on its stomach, so do most holiday makers and for every scene the eye takes in, the mouth takes in a bite.
Bakery bread and local jams that would be ignored on home territory are irresistible on strange turf. So are the little boxes of strawberries bought from a roadside stand and the bushel baskets of zucchini.
The reason the guest should practice restraint has nothing to do with waist and everything to do with waste. For when the guest departs the food does not, and the host is stuck giving houseroom to three loaves of bread, six jars of open olives and 12 partially eaten pies.
Guests should not spend the entire day in their bathrobes sitting around the kitchen table discussing what to do.
Guests should remember to take the extra house key with them when they go out so that when they return at 1 in the morning they will not need to bang on the door and wake their hosts.
Guests who travel with children or pets should make sure that neither bite and that at least a modicum of behavior is displayed by both.
This rule can be bent when the host or hostess is the grandparent because their discomfort will be moderated by the satisfaction of being able to say: "See! See! This is the kind of thing I had to put up with when you were 2!"
Guests should state the length of their visit and keep to those dates. Announce on the morning of your departure that you have decided to stay an extra day and you may be treated to the spectacle of a grown-up lying on the floor and crying.