Definition of Love Making was Rated G in 19th Century

Definition of Love Making was Rated G in 19th Century

In  my recent post about The Proper (and safe) Way to Terminate a Victorian American Courtship because we all know the threat of a suit of [Victorian American Romance and Breach of Promise] was too great, a quote by the Reverend George W. Hudson in his 1883 book sounded rather scandalous. The good reverend actually said “making love”–and he didn’t mean in a sexual way. It’s essential to note that the term had a very different meaning in the 19th Century and early 20th Century (first article, below, is from late 1910) than it does now.

Here’s the quote from my most recent article:

“Courtship, properly, has but one object, viz., marriage; for it is nothing more nor less than love-making, and, no young man has a right to proffer his love to a young lady, nor ask hers in return, except with the intention of making her his wife.”

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~ Reverend George W. Hudson, The Marriage Guide for Young Men: A Manual of  Courtship and Marriage, 1883, p. 57

The Reverend wasn’t the only one to use this term. It was everywhere in the 19th Century United States, England and her holdings (such as Australia and Ireland).

Part 1. The Leavenworth Post of Leavenworth, Kansas on 15 September, 1910.

Part 1. The Leavenworth Post of Leavenworth, Kansas on 15 September, 1910.

Part 2. The Leavenworth Post of Leavenworth, Kansas on 15 September, 1910.

Part 2. The Leavenworth Post of Leavenworth, Kansas on 15 September, 1910.

A newspaper article titled St. Valentine’s Day appeared on 15 February, 1860 in The New York Times.  A brief line from the lengthy piece reads:

“…The decline and fall of St. Valentine is a not altogether wholesome sign, for it implies, we fancy, not that love-making is going out of fashion, but that it is growing less tender and fanciful than of old–a change by no means to be commended. When all days and all seasons are Valentine’s days, we may be sure that none will be.”

I submit that no newspaper of 1860 would have printed an article with today’s casual term lovemaking (spelled any way at all: one word, hyphenated, or two words) in today’s context. Reputable papers chose delicate euphemisms for anything remotely related and always kept language Rated G.

Love making_definition

The phrase / term was in use as early as 1822 when in Poughkeepsie, New York, the Poughkeepsie Journal, on 11 September (1822) reported the most unfortunate swindling of a widow of 2 months of her savings, wealth, and comforts of home. A boarder came into her home nearly penniless and charmed her with sweet talk, kisses, promises, words of love, avowals of marriage to come–just as soon as he reconciled with his wealthy father. All of which were lies, and he left her destitute. In context of this tale told to the magistrate, in an attempt to bid the law to aid her in regaining her property from the man who sent her his tailor’s bills, hat-maker’s bills, and for new boots, too. The print of the article did not scan well to digital, likely owed to the age of the newspaper (nearly 200 years old), but here’s a snippet of the phrase in context:

A snippet from Poughkeepsie Journal, part 1. (11 September, 1822)

A snippet from Poughkeepsie Journal, part 1. (11 September, 1822)

A transcription of the above snippet, in case it’s too difficult to decipher:

“…I allowed him to have board expecting to be paid from the profits of a school which he said he meant to establish; but he soon gave up the notion of school keeping, for that of love making, and began to practice his wiles on my too susceptible heart…”

And a few paragraphs later…

Another snippet, a few paragraphs later from Poughkeepsie Journal (on 11 September, 1822).

Another snippet, a few paragraphs later from Poughkeepsie Journal (on 11 September, 1822).

A transcription of the above snippet, in case it’s too difficult to decipher:

“I then said that if he would pay me all he owed for money borrowed and for board, he might go where he pleased. He answered that he had paid me in kisses on my old lips more than all was worth; and God knows I would rather have one dollar than all his kisses, for he had left me nothing but a broken heart–he had eaten me out of house and home.”

The article is quite lengthy. Enough to show that a friend of the family, an attorney, had no trouble standing by her story as the truth and that the widow had not lost her reputation one wit, but the cad (her boarder and would-have-been husband) went to jail. Hence, it’s conceivable that the term meant the same in 1822 as it did in 1860.

The following article appeared in The Long-Island Star of Brooklyn New York in December of 1835. In context, it’s obviously innocent and talking about courtship, showing interest, making social invitations, gift-giving: courtship.

In context, I believe it’s clear the definition of Love Making, in 1835, was fully Rated G.

Opening 2 paragraphs of an article (including minimal header as was typical of the era) published in The Long-Island Star of Brooklyn, New York, on 15 December, 1835.

Opening 2 paragraphs of an article (including minimal header as was typical of the era) published in The Long-Island Star of Brooklyn, New York, on 15 December, 1835.

snip made to meme. love making

I gathered my bravery about me and used the term “lovemaking” in my sweet (wholesome) romance novella, WANTED: Midwife Bride, my contribution to the Timeless Romance Anthology: Mail Order Bride Collection. I knew readers would either understand the context of the 19th and 20th centuries, or they wouldn’t–and would take today’s common definition. Either way, I believed the phrasing would be “mild enough”.

On the one-week anniversary of their wedding, Naomi walked home from the clinic, hand in hand with her husband. The sun had begun its slow descent, taking with it the oppressive heat of the day. Shadows lengthened.

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Already, the depth of intimacy between them astounded her. One year and eight months with Ernie and she’d never felt so close, so well-known, so… cherished. The growing tenderness between them was sweet, and Joe’s lovemaking reached her heart.

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~ first 2 paragraphs of Chapter Ten, WANTED: Midwife Bride, by Kristin Holt, Copyright © 2015-2016.

What do you think? Had you understood the term / phrase in 19th and 20th Centuries’ definition?

As used in my two paragraphs above, within my recent publication (WANTED: Midwife Bride), if considered in today’s language, is it too much for a PG-rated (or milder) novella? Your honest opinion is all that matters.

Courting in Public Parks: NY, NY, May 1893 A Proper Victorian Courtship Is it O.K. to Use Okay in Historical Fiction? Victorian American Romance and Breach of Promise First Historical Use of term “Correspondence Courtship” Old Fashioned Notions about Marriageable Women America’s Victorian Era Love Letters  Courtship, Old West Style Real Mail-Order Bride SUCESS Stories! Nineteenth Century Mail-Order Bride SCAMS, Part 1: all 12 articles in this series are linked Book Review: Hearts West: True Stories of Mail-Order Brides on the Frontier, by Chris Enss NEWSPAPER Brides vs. Mail-Order Brides Mail Order Brides in the 19th Century American West Victorian Leap Year Traditions, Part 1 Victorian Leap-Year Traditions, Part 2 Leap Into Love– The Victorian Way: Sweet Americana Sweethearts

Copyright © 2016 Kristin Holt, LC

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