The Art of Courtship: Vintage wisdom relayed from the mid-nineteenth century to a newspaperman thirty years later (in 1887) sheds light on choosing a wife, beginning a courtship, different types of girls (shy, coquette [flirt], “vidders” [widows], and old maids, etc.). Victorian attitudes are prevalent, including the general idea that the sick and infirm aren’t suitable to marriage (think of the children!). Everything you wished your great-great grandpa had told you about courting… and more.
In 1905, The Courier of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania published an article detailing a “Correspondence” Courtship Scam. A young, innocent girl lost more than her heart, more than $1,000 (a fortune in today’s dollar)–she lost her confidence and her trust in humanity.
A vintage newspaper article (123 years old), dated April 6, 1894, was published in a Hamburg, New York newspaper (The Sun and the Erie County Independent). Titled HOW TO ATTRACT MEN, the brief advice encapsulates the late Victorian-era’s social expectations for men and women–and sheds light on the etiquette of courtship…or how a woman might properly persuade a man to notice her (so a courtship might commence).
“A cross between guidebook and social commentary, The Spinster Book gives clever and humorous insights on topics such as courting, handling men and women, love letters, marriage and spinsterhood.” I share one of the book’s vignettes on men; how they compare to cats…and a most successful way (for a Victorian lady, at least) to win a man’s heart, an invitation to a live theater or opera production, and his undying adoration. The book was published in 1901. The author (Myrtle Reed)’s sense of humor shines through, and sheds more than a little light on Victorian attitudes about courtship.
We’ve seen the financial, legal, and emotional costs of a courtship gone wrong and culminating in a suit for breach of promise. In Victorian America, where such a consequence was possible if not common enough (to scare a young swain or two), advice of how to break up an unhealthy courtship–or cancel a planned wedding–must have been given by mothers, fathers, society matrons, and “Dear Abby’s” of the day. Indeed they did! This article includes quotes from 3 era-specific books published during the time period.