In 1887 Samuel Wells authored a best selling book entitled “How to Behave: A Pocket Manual of Republican Etiquette and Guide to Correct Personal Habits".
Amongst the chapters is one devoted to courtship, romance and marriage, wherein the author reveals the nine secrets of how to court and romance the true love of your life.
Although the wisdom contained within was penned over 120 years ago, we would all do well to heed its advice.
The following tips, if carefully followed, will ensure a loving and caring lifetime relationship. (For the sake of clarity I have slightly edited some of the author's wording).
1. Particular Attentions.
Avoid even the slightest appearance of trifling with the feelings of a woman. A female coquette (flirt) is bad enough. A male coquette ought to be banished from society. Let there be a clearly perceived, if not an easily defined, distinction between the attentions of common courtesy, or of friendship, and those of love. All misunderstanding on this point can and must be avoided.
The particular attentions you pay to the object of your devotion should not make you rude or uncivil to other women. Every woman is her sister, and should be treated with becoming respect and attention. Your special attentions to her in society should not be such as to make her or you the subject of ridicule. Make no public exhibition of your endearments.
If you make presents, let them be selected with good taste, and of such cost as is fully warranted by your means. Your mistress will not love you better for any extravagance in this matter. The value of a gift is not to be estimated in dollars and cents. A lady of good sense and delicacy will discourage in her lover all needless expenditure in ministering to her gratification, or in proof of his devotion.
Lovers usually feel a certain need of confidants in their affairs of the heart. In general, they should be of the opposite sex. A young man may with profit open his heart to his mother, an elder sister, or a female friend considerably older than himself. The young lady may with equal advantage make a brother, an uncle, or some good middle-aged married man the repository of her love secrets, her hopes, and her fears.
We shall make no attempt to prescribe a form for “popping the question. " Each must do it in his own way; but let it be clearly understood and admit no evasion. A single word-yes, less than that, on the lady's part, will suffice to answer it.
If the carefully studied phrases which you have repeated so many times and so fluently to yourself, will persist in sticking in your throat and choking you, put them correctly and neatly on a sheet of the finest white note paper, enclosed in a fine but plain white envelope. Seal it handsomely with wax, address and direct it carefully, and find some way to convey it to her hand. The lady's answer should be frank and unequivocal, revealing briefly and modestly her real feelings and consequent decision.
5. Asking “Pa. "
Asking the consent of parents or guardians is, in this country, where women claim a right to choose for themselves, a mere form, and may often be dispensed with. The lady's wishes, however, should be complied with in this as in all other matters. And if consent is refused? This will rarely happen. If it does, there is a remedy, and we should have a poor opinion of the love or the spirit of the woman who would hesitate to apply it.
If she is of age, she has a legal as well as a moral right to bestow her love and her hand upon whom she pleases. If she is not of age, the legal aspect of the affair may be different, but, at worst, she can wait until her majority puts her in possession of all her rights.
If a lady finds it necessary to say “no" to a proposal, she should do it in the kindest and most considerate manner, so as not to inflict unnecessary pain; but her answer should be definite and decisive, and the gentleman should at once withdraw his suit. If ladies say “no" when they mean “yes, " to a sincere and earnest suitor, they must suffer the consequences.
The “engaged" need not take particular pains to proclaim the nature of the relation in which they stand to each other, neither should they attempt or desire to conceal it. Their intercourse with each other should be frank and confiding, but prudent, and their conduct in reference to other persons of the opposite sex, such as will not give occasion for a single pang of jealousy.
Of the “getting ready, " which follows the engagement, on the part of the lady, our fair readers know a great deal more than we could tell them.
8. Breaking Off.
Engagements made in accordance with the simple and brief advice given, will seldom be broken off. If such a painful necessity occurs, let it be met with firmness, but with delicacy. If you have made a mistake, it is infinitely better to correct it at the last moment than not at all. A marriage is not so easily “broken off. "
On breaking off an engagement, all letters, presents, etc. , should be returned, and both parties should consider themselves pledged to the most honorable and delicate conduct in reference to the whole matter, and to the private affairs of each other, a knowledge of which their former relation may have put into their possession.
It devolves upon the lady to fix the day. She will hardly disregard the stereotyped request of the impatient lover to make it an “early" one; but she knows best how soon the never-to-be-neglected “preparations" can be made.
Do not make up your mind to wait till you have acquired a fortune before you marry. You should not, however, assume the responsibilities of a family without a reasonable prospect of being able to maintain one. If you are established in business, or have an adequate income for the immediate requirements of the new relation, you may safely trust your own energy and self-reliance for the rest.
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