Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Etiquette of Love, Courtship, and Marriage II


"Falling in Love" is a very common expression, though at the same time an expression which we do not altogether admire. It conveys the idea of a certain degree of fatalism - an irresistible fatality, which sways its sceptre over the heart and affections of the sexes, and must be yielded to either with or without reason. It is as common to hear people talk of a person "falling in love." as to hear of a person falling into a pit, or falling from a precipice, and the idea has been conveyed to youthful hearts that "falling in love" is a natural consequence that cannot be resisted.

Such notions have vulgarized and degraded the nature of true love. They have not unfrequently led to a yielding up of the heart to the first fits of excitement or passion. They have detracted from true love that high and holy character which it ought to maintain. They have destroyed that one existence in which lives all the finest feelings of which humanity is capable, and have poured into the Eden of life, a flood of degradation and death.

There are a variety of causes which may lead to a person's "falling in love." The heart of woman is generally so soft and tender when unadulterated with the specious flattery and deceitfulness of men that there is in them a precocious tendency to submit at once to this soft emotion. In many instances this may be considered an amiable weakness, but its amiability has been questioned; - not, however, without its mitigating circumstances. The heart of woman must cleave to some object. If a young girl has been so unfortunate as to lose her parents, and is without brother or sister, or any affectionate relative in the world, unto whom can she cling for friendship and solace? The bestowment of friendship, or the little attentions of kindness which etiquette demands from any gentleman, will seize with giant strength upon the affections of such an one.

Some woman are naturally so grateful, - so plentifully endowed with the "milk of human kindness," that this feeling carries away their hearts, and ere they are aware of the fact, they have actually "fallen in love." Love steals upon them like sleep stealing upon the senses, or like the rising sunbeams dispersing the shades of night: - it is warm, placid, and imperceptible.

Men in general are more calculating and more careful as to the manner in which they allow their affections to be placed. Sometimes indeed he is so smitten with the beauty and external accomplishments of a lady at first sight, that in despite of all reason and consideration he would plunge into the abyss of matrimony. But this only prevails in the heigh day of youthful love. A woman centres all her existence in this one feeling of love-
"In this she lives, or else she has no life."
A man has many objects of pursuit and ambition. His worldly interests call off his attention. His character and future prospects open channels of enterprize before him.

It is necessary to have some correct knowledge of the real character of the lady or gentleman before you allow your affections to be fixed. Men are so apt to disguise their real character that it is no easy matter for a lady to scan it. He may have the address of a gentleman, a very handsome exterior, and equally skilled in all the points of etiquette, but these are not sufficient to constitute him an agreeable home companion. It is necessary to know something of his disposition, habits, and tastes, before he is fixed upon for a lover. If he has a low opinion of the female sex, or speaks disrespectfully of them; or if from other causes the ladies entertain unworthy views of him - if his moral and religious character will not bear scrutiny - if he is disrespectful to his parents or friends, and ungentle to his sisters - these are infallible proofs that were he married he would manifest the same dispositions. But on the other hand, if he is affectionate and kind to his mother and sisters he will be so to his wife. The same remarks will also apply to the females.

In the bestowment of the affections, suitability of character must also be taken into consideration, as the happiness of wedded life greatly depends on this. Passion is always blind to the faults of a lover. Youth is frequently dazzled by false splendour, and that suitability of character which is of such paramount importance is overlooked.

Let the individual on whom you fix your choice be as much as possible in your own sphere of life. A man of fine parts and good education would not find that consummation of happiness so devoutly to be wished in the married life were he united to a vulgar uncultivated female; and a lady of taste and refinement would be miserably blessed with a rude, coarse, plebian husband.

We know the propensity there is in young ladies especially to advance themselves to a higher sphere of society by marriage; but it is to be lamented that such marriages generally turn out unfavourably. Many an history of humiliation and sorrow has been the result of unequal marriages. Many a wife has had to mourn and grieve in silence that she ever aspired to a more elevated rank in society, and all the advantages of external pomp and appearance would have been sacrificed for a more humble and faithful swain.

Source: T.E.G., The Etiquette of Love, Courtship, and Marriage (London: Simpkin, Marshall & Co. ; Easingwold: Thomas Gill, 1847), 15-20.

N.B.: This is only one section of the small book, The Etiquette of Love, Courtship, and Marriage. Further sections will be used for future posts.


  1. Thanks for sharing such a interesting post.Courtship, love,and marriage are seen today as very private affairs, and historians have generally concluded that after the late eighteenth century young people began to enjoy great autonomy in courtship and decisions about marriage.

  2. I do believe in the sanctity of marriage. People nowadays seem to take for granted the true essence of it.