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.
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.
The Victorian Era was a time of Romanticism: flowery language, love letters as a part of courtship; and Valentine’s Day! Expectations and societal norms during the latter 19th century was filled with some traditions we recognize today, and some we might not.
Fans of Mail Order Bride historical romances know that many of these marriages of convenience involved letter-writing for a couple to become acquainted and perhaps eventually marry. The curious thing is that writing and love letters between a courting couple wasn’t a phenomenon for those separated by distance. Couples in the Victorian-Era United States often sent love letters to one another as part of their courtship, even when the other party resided nearby.