LOVE AND COURTSHIP.
Learn to win a lady’s faith
Nobly, as the thing is high;
Bravely, as for life and death,
With a loyal gravity.
Lead her from the festive boards;
Point her to the starry skies;
Guard her by your truthful words
Pure from courtship’s flatteries.—Mrs. Browning.
I.—A HINT OR TWO.
To treat the subject of love and courtship in all its bearings would require a volume. It is with the etiquette of the tender passion that we have to do here. A few preliminary hints, however, will not be deemed out of place.
Boys often fall in love (and girls too, we believe) at a very tender age. Some charming cousin, or a classmate of his sister, in the village school, weaves silken meshes around the throbbing heart of the young man in his teens. This is well. He is made better and happier by his boyish loves—for he generally has a succession of them, but they are seldom permanent. They are only beautiful foreshadowings of the deeper and more earnest love of manhood, which is to bind him to his other self with ties which only death can sever. Read Ik Marvel’s “Dream Life.”
Before a young man has reached the proper age to marry—say twenty-five, as an average—he ought to have acquired such a knowledge of himself, physically and mentally considered, and of the principles which ought to decide the choice of matrimonial partners and govern the relations of the sexes, as will enable him to set up[Pg 111] a proper standard of female excellence, and to determine what qualities, physical and mental, should characterize the woman who is to be the angel of his home and the mother of his children. With this knowledge he is prepared to go into society and choose his mate, following trustingly the attractions of his soul. Love is an affair of the heart, but the head should be its privy counselor.
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.
Women reach maturity earlier than men, and may marry earlier—say (as an average age), at twenty. The injunction, “Know thyself,” applies with as much emphasis to a woman as to a man. Her perceptions are keener than ours, and her sensibilities finer, and she may trust more to instinct, but she should add to these natural qualifications a thorough knowledge of her own physical and mental constitution, and of whatever relates to the requirements of her destiny as wife and mother. The importance of sound health and a perfect development, can not be overrated. Without these you are NEVER fit to marry.[P]
Having satisfied yourself that you really love a woman—be careful, as you value your future happiness and hers, not to make a mistake in this matter—you will find occasion to manifest, in a thousand ways, your [Pg 112]preference, by means of those tender but delicate and deferential attentions which love always prompts. “Let the heart speak.” The heart you address will understand its language. Be earnest, sincere, self-loyal, and manly in this matter above all others. Let there be no nauseous flattery and no sickly sentimentality Leave the former to fops and the latter to beardless school-boys.
Though women do not “propose”—that is, as a general rule—they “make love” to the men none the less; and it is right. The divine attraction is mutual, and should have its proper expression on both sides. If you are attracted toward a man who seems to you an embodiment of all that is noble and manly, you do injustice both to him and yourself if you do not, in some way entirely consistent with maiden modesty, allow him to see and feel that he pleases you. But you do not need our instructions, and we will only hint, in conclusion, that forwardness, flirting, and a too obtrusive manifestation of preference are not agreeable to men of sense. As a man should be manly, so should a woman be womanly in her love.
1. Particular Attentions.
Avoid even the slightest appearance of trifling with the feelings of a woman. A female coquette 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[Pg 113] 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[Pg 114] your throat and choking you, put them correctly and neatly on a sheet of the finest white note paper, inclosed in a fine but plain white envelope (see “How to Write”), 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 does not love you well enough to do this, at any sacrifice, you should consider the refusal of her friends a very fortunate occurrence. 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 will my “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 directions contained in the first section of this chapter, 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.
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