Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Victorian and Edwardian Etiquette of Declaring or Declining Love

When the opportunity offers to settle the matter, there is little doubt in the mind of the lover and little hesitation on the part of the woman. 
Finding and Declaring Love 
In a great majority of cases in America, at least, where access to the young woman is gained through a thousand social channels, the real declaration of love comes spontaneously, and is accepted or rejected before there is opportunity even for the formal proposal. For by a thousand half-unconscious signs does that state of mind reveal itself. So it happens that when the opportunity offers to settle the matter, there is little doubt in the mind of the lover and little hesitation on the part of the woman.
Parents should carefully watch the young men who frequent their houses, in order to see that undesirable intimacies are not formed with their daughters, for friendships and intimacies soon lead to love. Many a girl, feeling convinced that she had loved unwisely, has entered upon the married state with heart and reason at variance, when she might have given up the acquaintance, in the beginning of it, very easily. 
The most perfect reserve in courtship, even in cases of the most ardent attachment, is indispensable to the confidence and trust of married life to come. All public display of devotion should be avoided, for it tends to lessen mutual respect, and it makes the actors ridiculous in the eyes or others. It is quite possible for a man to show every conceivable attention to the one to whom he is engaged, and yet to avoid committing the slightest offence against delicacy or good taste. 
It is quite possible for a man to show attention, and even assiduity up to a certain point, without becoming a lover; and it is equally possible for the girl to let it be seen that he is not disagreeable to her, without actually encouraging him. No man likes to be refused, and no man of tact will risk a refusal. 
Long engagements are usually entered into by people who are quite young, but who, for some reason, cannot marry. As the years go on their tastes may change, and yet each may feel that honor binds the one to the other. The woman chosen by a man when he is twenty-one is seldom the woman he would chose when he is forty. When people marry young they grow accustomed to each other, and, oddly enough, they grow to be alike; but during a long engagement their tastes are apt to change, and the result is apt to be anything but a happy one. Of course, there are exceptions, but, generalizing, the long engagement is to be feared.
This is true in that society where really well-bred and noble-minded women hold sway, for no woman of character permits the man to be long in doubt of her withdrawal of herself, when she sees he is attracted and yet knows that she cannot respond to his advances. The method of proposing is not a matter for a book on etiquette. It concerns, along with all major matters of morals, those deeper things of life, for which there is no instruction beyond the inculcation of high ideals.          

It is enough to say that an engagement has been broken mutually, even though no reason is obvious.
Declining Love 

A young girl’s own safety, as regards her present and future happiness, demands that she receive attentions from only the best of young men,—those of whom her reason would approve, if the acquaintance should lead to more than acquaintance. 
In many circles to-day it is enough to say that an engagement has been broken mutually, even though no reason is obvious. This should be so, for if too much comment attaches to the breaking of a marriage engagement, marriages will be entered into the almost certain outcome of which is the divorce court. 
A lady should never accept any but trivial gifts, such as flowers, a book, a piece of music, or a box of confectionery, from a gentleman who is not related to her. Even a marriage engagement does not make the acceptance of costly gifts wise.

 Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Moderator and Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia