Anyone who has ever been on a date (or thought about it) understands the desire to “put their best foot forward”–which, essentially, means to appear your best, show your best qualities and downplay your greatest flaws. In today’s vernacular, I’d call it “a party face”.
I shared advice published in 1853 that cautions young people to exercise extreme caution, knowing the perfectly polished lady in the ball room cannot be all there is to the woman…and to assume that poise and beauty and appeal is the same first thing in the morning, or when well and truly vexed, would be a mistake.
I wrote a post about the changing meaning of “lovemaking“ (also love-making, making love), as used in Victorian times, the phrase/term was rated G and meant the process of courtship and falling in love. Today, lovemaking usually means physical intimacies readers of Sweet Romance don’t want to see happen within the scenes of a book.
Another term that has changed, appreciably, in meaning from Victorian times to today is “lover(s)“. During the nineteenth century, the term was rated G and simply meant a person who felt affection, love, and attachment toward another person. A young, courting couple would be called lovers. Today, this previously G-rated term has come to mean those who engage in a sexual relationship (and probably love each other).
19th CENTURY ADVICE
TRUTH IN COURTSHIP.
Be true to your lover. I don’t mean stick to him, but don’t deceive him. Let him know, let her know, what sort of person you really are. Tell each other your faults; make known your real opinions; state your view of married life, and what you expect to do and do as married companions. Despise and adjure the humbugging which is almost universal among lovers. Girls keep out of sight all their failings, and do their best to cause their beaux to think them angels, and men bow like slaves to every wish or whim of their lady loves, and seem to live but to make them happy. Now this is not as it ought to be; it will not be so after marriage. The woman will grow weary of always acting her prettiest; and the man will not endure all sorts of inconveniences, and submit to all sacrifices to please the woman who is securely his own.
It is the dearest pleasure of every true woman to obey and make happy the man she loves, and if he is kind and reasonable; but how much better it would be to teach the sweetheart the truth instead of a falsehood as to her future position. I won’t say anything more to the girls, for as they have to wait to be wooed and won, and as they have fewer chances than men have, there is more excuse for them to put the best side out; only let them always strive to keep it out, and we have no further controversy with them. But men are without excuse for holding out such pretenses as they do. They are cruel and unwise. Cruel, because the pain which the woman will feel when all his subserviency [sic] and difference to her is withheld, will be in proportion to the pleasure with which it is received; unwise, because it may be such a shock to her as to cause her resolutely to rebel, or silently cease to love.– In either case the husband will be severely punished for ignoring their just relations to each other.
Holmes Country Farmer of Millersburg, Ohio, on January 26, 1865
TEST HIS DISPOSITION
The above paragraph is a snippet from the title Private Lectures to Mothers and Daughters: on sexual purity including love, courtship, marriage, sexual physiology, and the evil effects of tight lacing. By Daniel Otis Teasley, and published in 1904. Teasley (1876-1942) was apparently a Minister of the Gospel, as his published titles are obviously about religion. His advice presented in the quote, above, cautioning young ladies to entrust their affections to young men who treat their mothers and sisters kindly, is wise and still true today. Teasley’s advice, though far from out of date, reflects the Victorian America’s attitudes about courtship, bestowing favors (such as confessing love for a suitor), and preparing for marriage.
Copyright © 2017 Kristin Holt LC