Love and courtship 1890s style

I love the Internet Archive.  It’s this great repository of out-of-print books on every topic under the sun, plus a seemingly endless collection for everything from images to moving pictures, recordings and more from libraries in North America and even around the world.  If, like me, you can happily spend hours browsing used book stores and libraries, this is your kinda place!

Beware the timesucker, in other words, beware the timesucker.

But with that warning out of the way, while there the other night, looking for a copy of Fordyce’s Sermons – that collection of stern 18th century sermons chock full of advice to devout young ladies and beloved of Austen’s obsequious Mr. Collins and Georgian parents everywhere – I stumbled across this delightful little title:

Now, really what’s not to love about that cover?  You’ll find it here, in a wide variety of formats and you can download to your ereader or computer for perusal at your leisure.

So what do I love about this little book? Well, first off, that title?  It just makes me giggle.

The amorous couple, in kelly green, aren’t bad either.

But dare not suppose this book isn’t a volume containing *intoning seriously* “important social advice”.  Because chock a block this little gem is too, with historical etiquette and warnings against imprudence enough to make anyone guffaw (and then brush up on their napkin flirtation skills – always a critical ability to master).  Chapter headings include:

“How to know you are really in love” which notes dampeningly that:

  • Many young people, particularly of the male kind, imagine themselves in love when in truth they are not.  Their supposed passion is but a fancy of the moment.  An ardent young man is introduced to a pretty or interesting girl, and after a quarter of an hour’s conversation is (in his own opinion) over head and ears in love with her.

Don’t give up on that dream of love too soon, however.  “How to Woo a Widow”  is more positive and points out that:

  • Bashful youths delight in the courtship of widows. This interesting class of females are not the least shy in the presence of the opposite sex. On the contrary, they are extremely docile and agreeable…In making love to a widow you have nothing to do but answer her questions and return her caresses.

Well.  Enough said.

And then, finally, if your romance has progressed sufficiently that it’s time to ‘pop the question’, the sprightly gentleman can seal the deal with one these of oh-so-original gems:

“Ellen, one word from you would make me the happiest man in the universe !”
“I should be cruel not to speak it, then, unless it is a very hard one. ‘
”It’s a word of three letters, and answers the question, Will you have me ?”
The lady, of course, says Yes, unless she happen to prefer a word of only two letters, and answers is No.

Or even better (or worse, depending on your perspective!):

One timid gentleman asks, ” Have you any objection to change your name?” and follows this with another, which clenches its significance:  ” How would mine suit you ?”

That’s clearly the great-granddaddy of the pick-up lines about your jeans looking better on his floor.  Good ideas never go out of style, it seems.

And finally, if this romantic example doesn’t get your heart to beat a little faster, you’re clearly a confirmed and irredeemable flirt, leading a good-hearted gentleman with honourable intentions astray.

” My Eliza, we must do what all the world evidently expects we shall.”
“All the world is very impertinent.”
” I know it—but it can’t be helped. When shall I tell the parson to be ready?”

Oh, baby.  Oh, baby.  Oh.  Romance personified.

So if you have questions about how to refuse a marriage proposal, just what to print on your ‘At Home’ cards after the big day or even need a ready stock of execrable love poetry, “The Mysteries of Love, Courtship and Marriage” may well be the book for you.


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