The Etiquette of Engagement and Marriage
by G. R. M. Devereux
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The Etiquette of Engagement and Marriage

Describing Modern Manners and Customs of Courtship and Marriage, and giving Full Details regarding the Wedding Ceremony and Arrangements

By G.R.M. Devereux Author of "Etiquette for Women," etc, etc.

First published January 1903

This etext prepared from the reprint of March 1919 published by C. Arthur Pearson Ltd., Henrietta Street London and printed by Neill and Co. Ltd., Edinburgh.





























The word Courtship has an old-world sound about it, and carries the mind back to the statelier manners of bygone days. Nowadays we have no leisure for courtly greetings and elaborately-turned compliments. We are slackening many of the old bonds, breaking down some of the old restraint, and, though it will seem treason to members of a past generation to say it, we are, let us hope, arriving at a less artificial state of things.

During the march of civilisation Marriage and the circumstances that lead up to it have undergone many and wonderful changes, though the deep-seated fundamental idea of having a mate has remained unaltered in essence.

Just as the savage of to-day steals or fights for his dusky bride, so did our own rude forefathers of past ages look to rapine and the sword as the natural means of procuring the mate who was to minister to their joys and necessities.

As the Chinese girl of the twentieth century is bought by her husband like a piece of furniture or a cooking utensil, so the child bride of ancient Rome used to take a formal farewell of her dolls and playthings, making a solemn offering of them to the Gods, before she was sold to the husband who was legally entitled to beat her if he liked, she being nothing but his slave in the eyes of the law.

We have travelled far since then, and it would be impossible even to touch upon the main points of development that have {14} placed Engagement and Marriage upon their present footing amongst us. It is to be noted that no two countries have moved quite side by side in this matter. We find the written and unwritten laws which regulate the conduct of man to woman different to some extent in every land, and what would be an act of courtesy in one country would be regarded as a serious breach of etiquette in another.

No one has made a clean sweep of all the old formalities; there are still certain things which may and may not be done; and it is for this reason that a few hints on this ever new, ever-engrossing subject of Courtship and Marriage may be found helpful to those who are contemplating the most important step in the life of man or woman.

We are very free and easy now in England, though not quite as unconventional as they are on the other side of the Atlantic. We have abolished a great many of the false barriers erected by Mrs. Grundy or her predecessors, which kept young men and women from enjoying each other's society in an innocent, natural way. Of course there is no gain without a certain amount of loss, and while we have advanced in freedom we have retrograded in chivalry, deference, and courtesy.

The girl who daily meets a man on common ground in his business or his sport is not regarded by him with the same "distant reverence" which the devout lover of former days cherished for the lady of his heart. Perhaps as we are but human beings it is as well that we are more natural, and less given to idealise our beloved. Women are no longer brought up in the belief that it is a disgrace not to get married, and a still greater disgrace to show the least sign of being anxious to fulfil their destiny. Every normally-minded woman who is honest with herself must confess to her own heart—even if to no other—that marriage rightly understood is the life for which she was intended, and the one in which she would find the highest, purest happiness. If, however, the right man fails to appear, she can make herself very happy. She does not think that each man of her acquaintance is desirous to marry her, or that a ten minutes' tete-a-tete will expose her to the risk of a proposal.

As things go now men and women in England have abundant opportunities for seeing and knowing each other before linking their lives together. This freedom of intercourse, {15} however, is fettered here and there by what we call Etiquette, which varies considerably in the different scales of social life. The coster may have less ceremony in his wooing and wedding than the nobleman; the royal prince is hedged in by formalities unknown to the middle classes; but in every rank there are accepted traditions, written and unwritten rules, to which men and women must submit if they will be self-respecting, law-abiding citizens.



The Beginnings of Courtship—Favourable Opportunities—Intellectual Affinity—Artistic Fellowship—Athletic Comradeship—Amateur Acting—Social Intercourse—Different Ideas of Etiquette.

Who can fix the exact time at which Courtship begins? It may or may not be preceded by Love; it may coincide with the birth of the tender passion; it may possibly be well in advance of Cupid's darts; or, sad to say, it may be little more than the prelude to a purely business transaction.


Men and women meet each other on very varied planes, and each walk in life has its own opportunities. The intellectually minded may begin their courtship over musty books or choice editions, and advanced students will make love as ardently as a country maid and her rustic lover. A dry mathematical problem may be as good a medium for the lover as a nosegay or a verse of poetry.

A Love of the Arts

implies an emotional element that lends itself to love-making. Music is responsible for a great deal. The passion of the love-song, the pathos of the composer so easily become the language of the interpreter, when love is in the heart.

Athletic Comradeship.

The fascinations of Art are more sensuous than the vigorous, breezy pleasures of outdoor pursuits. For healthy-minded love-making this comradeship yields golden opportunities. {17} The outdoor pair may not look so sentimental as the artistic couple; but their hearts may be as tender and their love as true, though their hands meet over the mending of a tyre or the finding of a tennis ball instead of being clasped in the ecstasy born of sweet sounds.

Amateur Acting.

I know of an Amateur Dramatic Society that has been nicknamed the Matrimonial Club from the number of marriages that have taken place among the members. This amusement does pave the way for courtship, for in no other are the conventionalities so completely set aside for the time being. Those who have thus been brought together in make-believe are not always anxious to resume formal relations. Acting affords priceless opportunities.

Making up his Mind.

Now when a man has made up his mind that he wants to marry a certain girl, he emerges from the indefinite stage of observation, admiration, or flirtation, and begins to make his intentions known. In view of the impossibility of a universal law of etiquette, it may be said that the remarks in these pages apply to that largest section of society known as the middle classes.

When a man is in a position to marry, he should be especially careful not to single out a girl by his attentions if he does not intend to propose to her, for the way in which his conduct is regarded will be greatly influenced by his banking account, and one with a small income and smaller prospects may do things with impunity that a man in more affluent circumstances could not do without the risk of having a serious construction put upon them.


I once heard a very rich young man bewail his fate on this score. He said: "A fellow with only a hundred a year gets all the fun. He can talk to any nice girl he likes as much as he likes, and nothing is said, because people know he can't marry. But if you have a little money (his ran into thousands) {18} they say you're engaged the second time you're seen with a lady!"

This may sound mercenary, but after all it is only practical. When it is known that a man neither is nor is likely to be in a position to marry, parents encourage his visits to the house, or permit his attentions to their daughters, at their own risk. Not that lack of means will prevent falling in love—far from it! When parents think marriage impossible they sometimes give opportunities to an ineligible, and then are aggrieved at his making good use of them.

There are many things to be considered at the beginning of courtship. Much must depend upon the family of the lady.

Social Intercourse.

In a household where there is neither father nor brother on the scene a man must walk warily. He is sure to be chaffed about any special intimacy with such a family, and even well-meant chaff sometimes spoils a situation. A woman who has no grown-up son, and has lost, or is temporarily separated from, her husband, will do well to avoid any undue eagerness in cultivating masculine society. She should exercise her own intuition, and extend a cordial, unaffected welcome to such men as she thinks suitable friends, or possible husbands, for her daughters. She should be equally careful to eschew any sign of match-making intrigue or narrow-minded suspicion. If she is the right sort of mother the men will probably find in her a charming companion and valuable friend.

It is most essential that girls who have been mainly brought up under feminine influences should have ample and varied opportunities of learning something about the other sex, by personal intercourse, before there is any question of their marriage. If this is not done it will be found that they generally fall a prey to the first suitor who comes along. They have formed unreal, impossible, and often foolish ideas about men, and are unable to distinguish the tares from the wheat. A girl with brothers or men friends is far more likely to make a wise choice than one who has formed her ideas from heroes of fiction.

Where a man is introduced by the son of the house, his path is on smoother ground. As "Charlie's chum" he has a {19} perfectly reasonable and innocent excuse for his frequent visits, even though Charlie may receive a minimum of his attention. On the other hand, fathers and brothers are not always aids to courtship. They hold different views about the man to those of their womenkind, and may make things unpleasant for all parties. A man can soon establish himself as a sort of oracle in a feminine circle, and has countless chances of making himself useful to the ladies. He may have to consider the proprieties a little more, but then he is master of the situation, with none of his own kind to point out the weak joints in his armour.


A tactful suitor will be courteous to every member of his sweetheart's family. He will not for a moment let it be thought that he considers her the only one worthy of his notice. Even younger brothers and sisters are preferable as allies, and it will make the whole position much pleasanter if he is liked by her own people. He will especially make it his business to stand well with her parents. By prettily filial attentions to Mollie's mother his cause will be materially strengthened, and though the young lady may grudge the time he spends in discussing politics or stocks and shares with her father, her own common sense will tell her that it is a very good investment for the future. Moreover, a really nice-minded girl would never tolerate a man who was discourteous to her parents, however flattering his attitude might be to herself.

A Breach of Etiquette.

When a girl is staying with friends, no man should pay his addresses to her unknown to her hostess or against that lady's wishes. It is better to end a visit than to abuse hospitality. The hostess is responsible to her visitor's parents for the time being, and the lovers should consider her position. Whatever social or domestic restrictions may stand between a man and the woman he wishes to woo, he must pay a certain regard to them for her sake, if not for his own. No two households are regulated by the same code in the smaller details of etiquette.

{20} In one family old-world notions of decorum prevail, and the lover will want self-restraint and prudence; in another the law of liberty reigns supreme, and the young people do pretty much as they like. In such a circle the lover's presence will be taken for granted—one more or less does not matter—and courtship is made easy. Man being by nature a hunter who values his spoils in proportion to the dangers and difficulties overcome in the chase, is not always so keen to secure the quarry that costs the least effort, so the free and easy parents often find that their daughters remain unmarried.



Introductions—Recognition of Affinity, or Love at First Sight—How to Follow up an Acquaintance—Kindly Offices of Relations and Friends.


There are definite laws of etiquette in the matter of introductions. A man has seen the lady once, or, it may be, has watched her from a distance with longing eyes for months past. He may not make himself known to her without the aid of a third person, who should first ascertain whether his acquaintance will be agreeable to the object of his admiration. It may happen that the gods will send him some lucky chance of rendering her a timely service. He might rescue her dog from a canine street fray, pick up a trinket she had dropped, or, better still, like the people in novels, travel with her on a long journey and prove himself a tactful cavalier. Under any of these circumstances the ice would be broken, and possibly an informal introduction would take place. It ought, however, to be supplemented by more regular proceedings before any recognised intercourse is possible.

A girl is not supposed to ask for an introduction to a man, but—low be it spoken—she often does; not publicly, of course, but she simply confides in her married lady friend or favourite brother, neither of whom would naturally give her away.

A man ought not to haunt a girl whose acquaintance he wishes to make. There is a wide margin between accepting invitations to houses, or turning up opportunely at parties where he may expect to meet her, and walking obtrusively past her house several times a day, or shadowing her out shopping and at public places of amusement. A very young girl {22} might think this romantic, though youth is terribly matter-of-fact nowadays. Her elders would certainly consider it rude, and put him down as a man to be avoided. An elderly sentimental spinster would be in a flutter. A level-headed girl would think him a bore, if not a bit of a fool.

Love at First Sight.

This seems a very large order, for love means so much. That there is often a wondrous recognition of affinity, a sort of flash from soul to soul kindling the desire for closer union, is undeniable. A man suddenly sees the one whom he resolves to win for his wife. A woman realises that she has found the man of all others to whom she would gladly give herself. This is not love; it is but the herald that goes before the king.

Opinions on the subject of marrying one's first love are much divided, and one has rather to beg the question by saying that it is mainly a matter of temperament. The age at which you begin falling in love has also to be taken into account. A modern writer gives it as his opinion that "A wise man will never marry his first love, for he knows that matrimony demands as much special attention as any of the learned professions. Unqualified amateurs swell the lists of the divorce court."

The Man's Case.

It may be taken for granted that the man who has some experience of women and their ways makes a better lover than one who knows nothing of them. Love may supply him with essentials, but only practice can perfect details. A man of five-and-twenty may be supposed to know his own mind.

The Girl's Case.

The girl in her teens who gives her love and herself may find full satisfaction in her marriage; but blind self-confidence and impulsive inexperience may lay up a store of sorrow for the future. No man is wise to hurry a young girl into marriage.


How to follow up an Acquaintance.

Once the introduction is over it remains mainly with the man to make the most of his advantages. He obtains permission to call; and it is not a bad plan to allow a short interval to elapse before availing himself of the privilege. He must not seem neglectful, but may wait just long enough to give the lady time to think about him, to wonder, to wish, to long for his coming. He will be careful not to transgress any detail of etiquette in this his first call, but he will not leave without having made some distinct advance, having found some pretext for a less formal visit. He will convey to her in a subtle, meaning manner that the sun will not shine for him till he sees her again.

Her Family.

He will find out what interests her people. He will bring her father rare cuttings for his garden, or introduce him to a choice brand of cigars. He will lend her mother books, sing or recite at her pet charity entertainments, or even make a martyr of himself at flower-shows and bazaars. He will bring designs for her sister's wood-carving, or teach small Tommy to ride a bicycle.

As to the lady of his heart, he will begin by sharing her pursuits only as a means to an end, for when love-making once steps in other pursuits are neglected, if not totally shelved, for the time being. This transition stage requires great tact. He must not startle her by too sudden a development. Some women may like to be taken by storm, to be married by capture as it were, but the average girl likes to have time to enjoy being wooed and won. She basks in the gradual unfolding of his love; she rejoices over each new phase of their courtship; she lingers longingly on the threshold of her great happiness. She is intoxicated by the sense of her own power; she is touched by the deference which curbs his ardour.

Kindly Offices of Relations and Friends.

Outsiders can often make or mar a possible marriage. When the third person undertakes to introduce two people in a case {24} where even a one-sided attraction is supposed to exist, no remark should be made about it. The lady friend who tells a girl that a man "is very much taken with her," strikes a fatal blow at the unconscious grace with which the girl would otherwise have received him. The blundering brother who blurts out: "My sister says that girl's awfully gone on you, old chap!" probably makes his chum fight shy of the girl, or indulge in a little fun at her expense. It should be remembered that a nearer acquaintance does not always confirm impressions formed at a distance.

A sister who will discreetly play the part of Number Three is invaluable. A brother who will bring the man home to dinner, or arrange cycling expeditions, is a treasure. The aunt who gives dances or river parties just when he has his holiday is inestimable. The uncle who has a fancy for stage managing, and casts the two for the lovers' parts in a charmingly unconscious fashion, is a relation worth having. Married friends on either side can afford many extra and delightful opportunities of meeting. While thus smoothing the path of love, all obtrusive allusion to the suspected or recognised state of things should be carefully avoided. It is an unpardonable breach of etiquette for any one to draw attention to the movements of a couple by a laugh, a nod, or a wink which, though not intended to reach them, gives frequent rise to unpleasant situations. Her friends should guard against anything savouring of a husband-trap; his friends should avoid any indication that they look upon her as his lawful prey.

There should be no questionable chaff or talking at the possible lovers. Older people who have forgotten how tender their own sensibilities once were are rather fond of cracking jokes, and make tactless, pointed remarks. The old friend of the family who slaps the prospective suitor on the back, and in the lady's presence challenges him to kiss her under the mistletoe, only succeeds in making them both uncomfortable. The elderly relative who nods her cap, saying: "Oh yes, we know all about it! We were young ourselves once!" probably has the best intentions, but has chosen the worst way of showing them.



Intercourse between Unconfessed Lovers—The Question of Presents—Exchange of Hospitality—The Man who lives at Home—The Man in Rooms.

Unconfessed Lovers.

There is a fascinating, yet withal tormenting, insecurity in the intercourse preceding an actual Declaration of Love. It may be the ante-chamber to an earthly paradise. It may but prove to be a fool's paradise. George Eliot describes two of her characters as being "in that stage of courtship which makes the most exquisite moment of youth, the freshest blossom-time of passion—when each is sure of the other's love and all its mutual divination, exalting the most trivial word, the slightest gesture into thrills delicate and delicious as wafted jasmine scent."

It may be that he has some honourable reason to forbid his speaking when he would. He may fear to lose her altogether if he is too hasty. Possibly there is another man in the case. She may be revelling in the new joy of life without analysing its source. If she has faced the secret of her own heart she will mount guard over herself lest word or look should betray her, before he has told her that she does not love in vain.

Breaches of Etiquette.

When a man finds that his attentions are unwelcome, and a woman has used every means in her power, short of actual rudeness, to show him that she does not desire his nearer acquaintance, he has no right to force himself or his love upon her. He has no right to make sure of any woman's love before he has asked her for it, unless, of course, she has {26} betrayed herself by an unwomanly want of reticence. It is both foolish and ill-bred for him to play the part of dog-in-the-manger and to object to her receiving attentions from any one else. Until he has declared himself he can assume no control over the disposal of her favours, still less should he stoop to put a spoke in another man's wheel.

The Question of Presents.

A line must be carefully drawn between the gifts of an unconfessed lover and of a fiance. The former may send flowers, bon-bons, and pretty trifles of that sort, or he could give her a dog or a Persian kitten; but he must not offer her articles of jewellery or any item of her toilette. He might give her the undressed skin of an animal that he had shot, but he could not order a set of furs to be sent to her from a shop. It must be remembered that ostensibly they are as yet only friends, and though every gift will have its inward meaning, it should not have any outward significance.

In offering a present the unconfessed lover will do well to enclose a little note [footnote in original: For those who wish to study the art of letter-writing there is a most excellent guide to all sorts of correspondence, entitled, "How Shall I Word It?" published at one shilling by C. Arthur Pearson (Limited).] couched in some such terms as these:

"Dear Miss Grayson,—You said the other day that you could not grow lilies of the valley in your garden, so I am venturing to send you the accompanying basket, which I hope you will be kind enough to accept.—Believe me, sincerely yours, Duncan Talbot."

Exchange of Hospitality.

Where both families are acquainted, and in a similar social position, the interchange of hospitality will probably be somewhat increased in virtue of the growing intimacy between the possible lovers. Until there is an acknowledged engagement it would not be etiquette for his family to single her out from the rest of her own people by inviting her alone. A parent, {27} brother, or sister ought to be included. It would also be diplomatic on the part of her friends not to extend too gushing a welcome to him, while they take his belongings as a matter of course. Because the one family can give dinner parties it does not follow that the other should not afford just as much enjoyment by a simpler form of hospitality. The possible lover does not come to criticise the cuisine of the household in which the object of his desires is to be seen.

The Man Who Lives at Home.

It will often happen that a man makes acquaintances who become friends quite independently of his own family. But if he is seriously contemplating matrimony he will be anxious to introduce his chosen one to his womenkind. Supposing that his people were the older residents in the place, he would pave the way by saying that his mother, or sister, as the case might be, would so much like to call, and might she do so? Unless there should be some purely feminine feud the permission would be cordially given. If, on the other hand, the girl's family were the first comers to the locality he would then ask the lady to call on his people, intimating that they were longing to know her and her daughter, and what a personal gratification it would be to him to bring the desired meeting about. In the present day the old hard and fast rules which used to regulate calling are no longer observed. If acquaintance is really sought there will be no difficulty for a woman of tact and judgment to cultivate it.

A Danger.

Women are very quick to see when they are being courted for their sons or brothers, and they do not always like it. It is discourteous, and very transparent, to send an invitation to a girl the day after her brother has come home on leave in which you hope "that Captain Boyle will be able to accompany her," when practically you have ignored her existence since the last time he was at home. It is not kind or considerate to try and monopolise the society of any man whose {28} business or profession only permits of his being at home at long intervals. A girl may want to have him with her very much indeed, but she should not be piqued and feel injured if he excuses himself on the ground of having to take his sister out, or spend his evening with his parents. He will be all the better husband for this courtesy to his own relations. Of course his people may be very dull, possibly unpleasant, and in that case real friendship will be a labour, if not an impossibility; but, for the man's sake, they must be treated in such a way as not to hurt either his feelings or their own. The same, naturally, holds good with regard to her belongings.

The Man who Lives in Rooms

is a much easier person to cultivate. You take it for granted that he is dull, that his dinners are not well cooked, and that he misses the delights of home. So you ask him to drop in when he likes. "We are nearly always in to tea;" or "We dine at 7.30, and if you take us as we are, there will be a place for you." As soon as a man sees that this sort of invitation is really meant he will not be slow to avail himself of it. Not that he will come to dinner every other night, but he will drop in to tea, and turn up in the course of the evening for a little music and a chat. He gets into the habit of coming in on Sunday afternoons, and generally ends by staying to supper.

As a Host.

All this means a great deal to a lone bachelor, and makes him long for a home of his own. In return for this delightful hospitality he will, perhaps, ask a sister to stay with him and give a tea-party in his rooms. Later on he will have seats for a theatre, and arrange a nice little dinner or supper in town. Where dramatic delights are out of reach he will plan a river or cycling expedition, he will entertain his friends at a local cricket match, he will inspire his fellow bachelors to give a dance; and there will be only one guest whose presence is of any importance to him.

He will not let it appear that he is paying a debt; he will {29} imply, rather, that the ladies are conferring a favour upon him. He will consult her mother as to many arrangements, and make sure that all the guests are to her liking. He will not be afraid of asking a possible rival, who might be more dangerous when absent than present. While thus entertaining the lady of his choice, the suitor must discern nicely between paying her special honour and taking it for granted that she already belongs to him. He must not advertise the fact that the party is given for her, by neglecting his other guests, or by omitting pleasant courtesies to less-favoured maidens.



Intercourse with (1) The Home Girl; (2) The Bachelor Girl; (3) The Business Girl; (4) The Student or Professional Girl—Friends who become Lovers.

The Home Girl.

As has already been said, the would-be lover will do well to study the workings of his lady's home. If she has many domestic duties to perform he will arrange his spare time to fit in with hers. He will not call at such times as would be inconvenient and run the risk of ructions, simply because he knows she will be glad to see him. He will not look aggrieved if she refuses to go out cycling with him because she has promised to take the little ones out blackberrying. He will seize a golden chance and go with them. When he is at her home, he will not act as if the whole place belonged to him, and he will be careful not to become a bore.

Men of leisure, and men whose professions place them on confidential terms, such as doctors and clergymen, have the greatest opportunities of knowing the Home Girl at her best, and at her worst. The last two see her under conditions that show what she is really made of, and not merely what she appears in society, for they have access to the house in times of trouble when outsiders are excluded.

The Bachelor Girl

is pretty sure to be out of her teens, but not necessarily in the thirties. She will probably have girl chums who, like herself, are living in a more or less independent fashion. She sometimes indulges in anti-matrimonial theories, and it may prove most interesting to convert her from the error of her ways. A man has such beautifully sure ground under his feet when she has given him plainly to understand that she prefers {31} friendship to love. A would-be suitor will find his opportunities of intercourse regulated by her standard of conventionality. She is free to make her own life, with her own code of conduct, her own ideas of responsibility.

She meets him frankly on what she deems common ground; but he sees the other side of things, for men and women never can and never will look at life from the same point of view. His knowledge should make him all the more jealous of her fair fame, but he must walk warily lest he wound her womanly dignity. She will do nothing wrong, her heart is too pure for that, but he must not let her do what may even appear to be wrong. At first she will be a little intoxicated with the sense of her own freedom. He must never take advantage of that, for he knows that the woman always pays.

They will probably include one of her chums in their cosy tea-parties at her rooms, and there will be no secret of his coming and going. He will see her home from the theatre, concert, or lecture, but he will not go and smoke in her flat till the small hours. He will discriminate as to the restaurant where they have lunch together, and he will not invite her to a tete-a-tete supper after the play. She will entertain him at her club, and he will guard against the assumption of rights that are not his.

The Business Girl.

The daily life of the Business Girl is of necessity a regular one, and the man who wants to know more of her knows where to find her. If by chance he is employed in the same firm, he has daily chances of making headway with her. He can often render her little services, help her over rough places, and make life as pleasant again for her. All this can be so managed that no one, save perhaps a lynx-eyed rival, will know anything about it. He will certainly not make her the talk of the office by bragging of his conquest, and laying wagers as to his chance of success, or get her into hot water by hindering her at her work.

She will keep her own counsel, and not giggle with other girls when he comes along. Of course she will tell her special friend all about it, for what is the good of a love-affair if you cannot talk to some one on the all-engrossing subject?

{32} She will not display the buttonhole he bought her on the way from the train to all the other girls as his gift, nor will she be foolish and give herself away by hanging about his room door in the hopes of seeing him. She will always find time for a word or a bright glance when they do meet, by accident of course.

He will not make her conspicuous by always travelling home with her, but he will be at hand to pilot her through a fog, to help her out of a crowd, or to get her a place when there is anything to be seen. He will make it plain that he thinks of her, and is ever on the alert to play the part of her cavalier.

She is practical and self-reliant, as a rule, but she does not object to be courted. When they plan a Saturday outing she will not propose what she knows to be beyond his means, but she will pardon him for a little extravagance in her honour.

Social Inequality.

When a man in a superior position begins paying attentions to a girl filling a subordinate post, he will probably expose her to the jealousy, and possible malice, of her fellows; but this will depend greatly upon the girl herself. In this case the suitor must steer clear of anything like patronage. If she is worthy of his notice she is worthy of his respect and consideration. He will be careful not to take her to any place of amusement where she would feel out of her element, or run the risk of being snubbed by any of his own rich friends. The son of a wealthy merchant would not give as much pleasure to a girl earning thirty shillings in his father's office if he took her to supper at the Carlton, as if he selected some less magnificent restaurant. She would feel more at home on the river, or at Earl's Court, than on the lawn at Hurlingham. He would show her that his pleasure was to be with her, and he would wait till he could call her his wife before introducing her to a new world.

The Student or Professional Girl.

There is a little country called Bohemia, whose laws rule the kingdom of Art, and whose government seems a trifle erratic to those who live outside the charmed circle. Students of {33} music, painting, sculpture, and the drama have a code of Etiquette that may be called adaptable; but it does not follow that because a man is an artist he must therefore be deficient in courtesy to women; nor is it yet inevitable that when a girl develops a talent for drawing she should violate all the proprieties.

Falling in love with music-masters is a very old story, but it is not quite a thing of the past. A man has no right to work on the emotions of his pupil merely for his own amusement or to gratify his vanity. He may find that it infuses more soul into her music, but she is a woman as well as an artist. Where both have the artistic temperament highly developed, it is playing with fire indeed.

The Dramatic Student is thrown into very mixed society. She is left with a great deal of spare time on her hands when merely understudying, or out of an engagement. She is forced to keep late hours, and may be exposed to many unpleasant experiences. I know of one man who was so distressed at the girl of his heart having to cross London by the last 'bus every night that he changed his quarters and took rooms as near to where she was living as he could, in order to be able to see her home without making the fact unduly conspicuous.

This was a delicate act of courtesy, and I am glad to say that they are now happily married.

The Medical Student and Hospital Nurse are generally women with a special turn of mind, and in the former case the work of training is so absorbing that it can hardly be run concurrently with the delights of courtship. The nurse soon learns to take care of herself, and has many special opportunities of studying the lords of creation. She sees some of the noblest and most gifted of them at their work, the wildest of them at play, and all and sundry in their hour of weakness; and this experience should be borne in mind by the man who seeks to win her. She will not regard him as a demi-god, nor as a hero of romance. She will not appeal to the man who wants a mere plaything in his wife. She will have far higher gifts than the society doll, but she will be a woman to be wooed, and worth the winning.


Friends who become Lovers.

There are those who say that friendship excludes love, and there is a kind of friendship which can only exist where love is impossible and undesired. On the other hand we know that sometimes the boy and girl who have grown up side by side, who have shared each other's pranks and penalties, do wake up one day to find a new element asserting itself in their intercourse. A certain shyness springs up between them only to be dispelled by fuller, sweeter comradeship. This development sometimes takes place during a period of separation, or when a possible rival appears on the scene. It usually assumes concrete form in the man's mind first. He may hide his love under the guise of friendship till he feels he has a right to make it known. It may be that he has to go abroad to seek the wherewithal to start a home, and when he has succeeded he will write some such letter as this:—

"My Dear Clari,—When I threw up my berth at home you wondered why I was in such a hurry to leave the old country, and home, and you, and it was very hard not to tell you the real reason. I came out here to make enough money to set up housekeeping, and, dear, I want you to come and help me, now I have succeeded so far. I know it is a tremendous thing to ask, and that I am entirely unworthy of the sacrifice you would be making; but, dear, we know each other pretty well by this, and I hope you can trust yourself to me. If you only knew how I have longed to tell you this through the last two years of our sweet, but to me unsatisfying, friendship you would not keep me in suspense any longer than you can help. You have been the one thought and object of my life ever since I came out, and I have lived in fear of some other fellow getting in before me.

I think I must always have loved you, it seems a part of myself, but it was your first ball that woke me up.

Let me know soon, dear.—Ever and always your devoted


However the change from friendship to love comes about, the man must be just as courteous as if she had only crossed {35} his path in the fulness of her young womanhood. He must not take her for granted because he knew her in pinafores, nor slight her sensibilities because he taught her to climb trees. If he is negligent other men will supply his deficiencies. As a lover he is bound to appear in a new light, and he must look to it that he does not suffer by the change. The friend ought to make the best lover, for he knows the tastes and weaknesses, the temperament and surroundings of the woman he has chosen. They will be bound by countless old associations, but this very familiarity may breed, not contempt, but a matter-of-fact mental attitude that will rob courtship of more than half its charm.



Flirts, Male and Female—He Changes his Mind on the Verge of a Proposal—How She accepts the Situation—How She may give Encouragement or ward off an Unwelcome Offer.

It may be questioned whether there is any etiquette in flirtation. Yes, I think there is. Flirts of both sexes may be divided into two large classes—(1) the wanton and deliberate; (2) the kindly and spontaneous.


The first class are birds of prey. The man is probably very charming, a delightful companion, an ideal cavalier, a man whose society a woman always enjoys—especially if she does not take him seriously. It is she who fails to realise that she is only one of a large number who fall victims and suffer accordingly. She blissfully accepts his subtle suggestion that she is the one woman in the world for him—so she is while they are together—and flatters herself that though he may have flirted with others he is really in love with her. When once the sport of the moment is over he leaves his prey, more or less cruelly wounded, and gaily seeks new fields for his prowess. This sort of man likes young and inexperienced girls or women whose confiding trust exceeds their power of discernment.

It is an unpardonable breach of etiquette for a man to abuse hospitality and the privilege of intercourse by wanton conduct of this kind.

Making a Girl Conspicuous.

A man should remember that it is the woman who suffers from the breath of slander or the pettiness of gossip. Such {37} things affect him but little, if at all. Suppose that two young people belong to a public tennis or dramatic club. The man singles out one particular girl by his attentions, makes a point of always seeing her home, establishes himself as her constant cavalier, and thus puts it in the power of the gossips to say "Well, if they are not engaged they ought to be!" After a time he cools off, for no other reason than that he is tired of the girl or has possibly seen a fresh and more attractive face. It may have dawned upon him that he might be asked his intentions, and he does not care to confess that he never had any. This course of action is especially unfair in the case of a young girl whose experience of men's ways is but beginning. An older woman ought to be able to take care of herself, and if she thinks such a game worth the candle, no one can blame the man for helping her to play it.

The Female Flirt.

A woman in the first class of flirts is possibly more dangerous than the man. She has no heart, only insatiable vanity. She uses her powers on all who come in her way, regardless of any claim another of her sex may have upon them. Lover, husband, and friend, they are all fair game for her, and if hearts are damaged, well, she is always sure that her own will remain intact. Her veracity is as elastic as her conscience. Her charms are equalled by her unscrupulousness.

She will keep the youth in bondage without the slightest intention of ever marrying him. She will fool the mature man who is desperately in earnest, while she is angling after some one wealthier or more amusing. If she does elect to wed one of her victims, it is, in all probability, only to carry out her devastating tactics on a larger scale.

Kindly, Spontaneous Flirts.

The members of the second class, men and women, are charming without being dangerous. They love the society of the other sex; they have the art of pleasing and make use of it, but they play the game fairly. There is no poaching, no snares are laid for the unwary, and if harm is done it is because people have misunderstood them. The man flirts because he loves {38} to say pretty things to a woman. He revels in an interchange of banter and repartee which makes her eyes sparkle and his pulses beat the faster. The girl flirts out of the abundance of her joyous vitality. She suits herself to the companion of the hour. She knows nothing of the tender passion, she is not taking life quite seriously yet, but she has the delicacy to draw back when she sees danger signals in the eyes or the lingering clasp of her friend's hand. She will not make a fool of him. She is too straight for that.

Withdrawing Gracefully.

It is no easy matter to change the course of things when one has drifted into a flirtation. It behoves a girl then to choose her man carefully, and not to place herself in any false position towards him. If he is not chivalrous enough to take a delicately conveyed hint, he will only imagine that she is playing a more subtle game of coquetry, and by redoubling his attentions make himself the reverse of agreeable. No man with any regard for the most elementary rules of etiquette would either embarrass a lady by keeping up a tone that she had even indirectly discouraged, or insult her by insinuating that she had led him on.

He Changes his Mind on the Verge of a Proposal.

This is bound to be an awkward development for both parties, and it will take all a man's tact to avoid giving pain, and possibly gaining credit for having behaved badly. It is, nevertheless, the best time for a change to come. It may be that he has idealised the object of his attentions, looked at her through eyes blinded by her beauty, or dazzled by her fascination. He has not stopped to think what sort of woman she really is, what lies beneath that fair exterior. Then the word is spoken, the action witnessed, the mood revealed which makes him shrink from the thought of making her his wife.

His Way of Escape.

He will either seek safety in flight after a perfectly polite, but clearly-defined farewell; or he will gradually withdraw {39} from the terms of intimacy upon which he has stood. In no way must he be discourteous either to the lady or her friends.

Slow Awakening.

A man may change his mind almost imperceptibly. He will not turn against the woman, but he will realise that she can never be more to him than a friend, a genial chum. The cause of this is most likely the advent of the right woman. Force of contrast has a way of sorting people out. He will tell his friend the truth, and she will like him all the better for his confidence in her.

How She Accepts the Situation.

A brave, self-respecting woman will not like being left any more than her weaker sister, but she will take the blow standing, and be able to rejoice in the happiness of others. She will face her own sorrow alone and will utter no sound of complaint. It is an impertinence for acquaintances to condole with her. The sympathy of her loved ones will be hard enough to bear. She will be perfectly loyal to the woman her friend has chosen.

How She may give Encouragement.

There are women who leave the men very little to do in the way of courtship. Encouragement can, however, he given in a true womanly fashion. She can wear his flowers in preference to any others, and may judiciously let him see that she has kept the best in water after the dance. She will accept his escort and receive his attentions graciously, so as to show that they are valued.

Due Reserve.

She should never bestow effusive attentions on her lover, nor boast of his devotion to her. She may let him see that he stands well with her without telling him that he comes first. It is good for him to see that other men are in the running, and she must not let her feeling for him lead her into {40} discourtesy to any one else. She can let him do the wooing without being either haughty or capricious, for no man likes a woman who openly runs after him.

Transparent Devices.

A nice-minded girl does not always try to detach her lover from the rest of the company, though she enjoys a tete-a-tete as much as he does. She does not want to be sent with him on fictitious errands to the bottom of the garden. She leaves him to find the opportunities, and has a horror of her matchmaking relations.

How She may Ward off an Unwelcome Offer.

It is commonly agreed that a woman ought to be able to do this in the vast majority of cases. Her own intuition is seldom at fault. Even at the eleventh hour she may save the situation by a timely jest, a kindly bit of inconsequence, a sudden humorous inspiration—not at his expense, of course—and the man who is not a fool will see that it is not the psychological moment. Above all she must avoid being alone with him. Let her keep a child at her side, pay attention to the greatest bore, listen with grateful patience to the most prosy person she knows, rather than leave the ground clear for him. She should not go for moonlight strolls, nor to look for the Southern Cross on board ship, if she really wants to stave off his proposal. There is no need to be rude, and even if she has to appear unsympathetic, that is better than to humiliate him by a rejection. Some women glory over their hapless suitors as an Indian counts his scalps. This is the height of bad taste and heartlessness. We may be forgiven for hoping that they get left in the end themselves.



The Question of Age—Young Lovers—Young Men who Woo Maturity—Old Men who Court Youth—Middle-aged Lovers.

The Question of Age.

At what age should the responsibilities of the married state be undertaken? In the best years of life if possible. Not in the physical and mental immaturity of early youth. How can the child-wife of seventeen fulfil all the duties of her position, and endow her child with the needful strength for the journey of life? How can the boy of twenty be expected to work for three without getting weary before his day has well begun? And how can either of them really know wherein true happiness lies? Most probably such a pair will learn to curse their folly before they reach maturity.

But marriage should not be shelved, and driven off to the vague period called middle-age, without excellent reason. The woman of thirty-eight and the man of forty-five will spoil their children immoderately while they are little, and be out of touch with them as they grow up. The average mother of sixty is unable to keep pace with her young daughter. The man who is nearing seventy has travelled very far away from his son who is just starting life under present-day conditions.

The Best Age.

What is a suitable disparity between the ages of man and woman? A girl of two- or three-and-twenty and a man of twenty-eight or thirty are my ideal of a suitably matched couple.


Young Lovers.

"Love at twenty-two is a terribly intoxicating draft," says a writer, and the sight of young lovers is one that softens all but the most cynical. We smile at their inconsequence; tremble, almost, at their rapturous happiness; yawn, it may be, over their mutual ecstasies, still we know they are passing through a phase, they are lifted for the time being out of the commonplace, and we make excuses.

But these blissful young people are apt to take too much for granted. Because Doris worships Harry it does not follow that her family are to be inflicted morning, noon, and night with his presence or his praises. She has no right to imply that every moment spent apart from him is wasted. She has no call to give up her share of household duties or to forsake her own studies, just to wander about restlessly counting the minutes till he shall come, or to spend the intervals between his visits in dressing for his next appearance. She should not look bored directly the conversation turns away from him, or exalt her idol over those who have loved and cared for her since infancy.

Young Men who Woo Maturity.

There seems to be a tendency nowadays for the surplus years to be on the woman's side. This is, in most cases, a grievous mistake. The girls are often to blame for it. In the pride of their youth they snub the young admirers whom they do not think worth their notice. An older woman knows how to heal the wound thus inflicted, and with her experience, her greater tolerance, and her charms mellowed, but not yet faded by age, she can win passionate devotion from one of these singed butterflies. She welcomes him with a dash of maternal tenderness in her manner, she takes an interest in his doings and subtly flatters his vanity, while her own heart is glad that she still has the power to please.


He soon feels quite at home with her and grows more venturesome. She feels her youth renewed, and they drift into {43} closer relations. She salves her conscience with the thought that she is keeping him out of harm's way. She makes no secret of the disparity between them, though she may avoid the cold fact of figures. He fondly thinks she will never grow old. Such a connection may be the salvation of an unstable youth, especially if she does not let him marry her. She may make a man of him, a good husband for a girl young enough to be her daughter. She will not tell him to go and marry the girl, if she is in earnest, as such a course would only call forth his protests of undying devotion to herself; but she will imperceptibly let him see that she is no mate for him, and he will think he has found it out for himself. He may feel a little ashamed at leaving her, but she will make it easy for him, and perhaps give a sigh of relief that she has been saved from making a fool of herself.

The Dark Side.

For the woman who marries a man much younger than herself there is the inevitable picture of later life to be faced. The ridicule of society will be felt if it is not heard. The advance of age is relentless and will make her an old woman when he is just in his prime. She may pray for death to come and set him free, or she may paint her face and wear a golden wig, accentuating the ruthless lines round her tired eyes; but if they live long enough both husband and wife will suffer.

The Old Man who Courts Youth.

"The older we get the younger we like them!" was a favourite saying of an old fox-hunting squire I used to know. There are old men who seem to have lost but little of youth's vitality, and whom many a girl would be proud to marry. There are others—and it seems like an act of sacrilege to let any young life be linked to what remains of theirs.

The old man disarms suspicion by his fatherly attitude, and the beginnings of courtship are made easy by the latitude allowed to his years. His experience stands him in good stead. An old unmarried man has generally either a very {44} good or a very bad reason for being single. The girl who marries her grandfather's contemporary will probably regain her freedom while still in her prime; but she cannot calculate beforehand what price she will have paid for it.

The real love of an old man must have much pathos in it, and she who accepts it must deal tenderly with it, even in her moments of disillusion. The elderly rake who buys a young wife from entirely selfish motives will see that he does not lose by the bargain.

Middle-aged Lovers.

No one would wish that the couple to whom love has come when youth has passed should take their pleasure sadly, but one does look for a self-restraint and dignity that shall be compatible with maturity. The woman of forty-five can love perhaps more deeply than the girl of eighteen. She can experience the full joy of being beloved; but she only exposes herself to ridicule if she takes the public into her confidence. It is not only bad taste to see such a one gushing over her lover, aping the little ways of sweet seventeen and coquetting like a kitten, telling the curious world, in fact, how rejoiced she is to be no more "an unappropriated blessing."

Poor soul! It may be that she has put through weary years of heart loneliness, but surely she might have learnt to hold her joy as sacred as her sorrow. Let her smarten herself up, by all means. Her happiness will suit nice gowns and dainty lace. Let her choose warm colours and handsome fabrics, and shun white muslin and blue ribbons.

The Man.

The middle-aged lover may be as impulsive as a boy, and his friends will smile, but not with the contempt they would show to the woman. He is generally very much in earnest, even if his motive be practical rather than romantic. He should be most careful never to hurt the woman he has chosen by neglecting her for younger, fresher faces. He should not suppose that she is too old to care for lover-like attentions. No woman is ever too old for that. He should {45} not make her a laughing-stock by talking as if she were "sweet and twenty," or draw notice to the fact that she has passed her first youth. She will enjoy being taken care of, being planned for, and being eased of her burdens; but while showing her all courtesy let him give her credit for some self-reliance, for she has managed so far to get through life without him.



Proposals: Premeditated, Spontaneous, Practical, or Romantic—No Rule Possible—Tact in Choosing the Opportunity—Unseemly Haste an Insult to a Woman—Keen Sense of Humour Dangerous to Sentiment—Some Things to Avoid—Vaguely Worded Offers—When She may take the Initiative.

Proposals of Marriage.

The modes of making an offer of marriage are as manifold as the minds of the men who make them. The cautious, long-headed man, whose heart is ever dominated by his head, will think out the situation carefully beforehand, and couch his offer in moderate and measured terms. The impulsive lover will be carried away by a wave of emotion, and, perhaps before he has really made up his mind, will pour out the first passionate words that come to his lips. The clear-headed business man will not lose sight of the practical advantages to be gained from the union he suggests. The creature of romance will be poetic and delightful even if utterly impossible. It may be safely said, however, that no general rule can be laid down, and that no man ever asked this important question exactly in the words or at the time he had previously selected.

Tact in Choosing the Opportunity.

The great thing is to seize the auspicious moment, to strike the responsive chord when the two minds are in harmony. A man who tries to propose when a servant is expected to arrive with a scuttle of coals, or when the children are just tumbling in from school, is not likely to meet with much {47} favour. We cannot all have the momentous question put in the witching hour of moonlight, or in the suggestive stillness of a summer's eve, but the tactful man will know when to speak, and how to turn dull prose into the sweetest rhythm.

Too Much Haste.

I do know of a case where two young people made acquaintance, wooed and married in something over a fortnight. No sane man would advocate such haste. It seems almost an impertinence for a lover to ask a woman to give herself into his keeping when he has only just made his entrance into her life. It must be admitted that Love defies time as well as locksmiths. A few hours may bring kindred souls nearer to each other than double the number of years would do in an ordinary acquaintance. On board ship, especially in the tropics, things mature with a rapidity seldom found ashore. Certain circumstances conspire to hasten the happy development, and certain conditions may justify exceptional haste. When a long separation is pending a man may be forgiven for hurrying to know his fate; but for the ordinary stay-at-home man to be introduced one week and propose the next is, to put it mildly, a doubtful compliment.

Too Keen a Sense of Humour.

A momentary realisation of the comic side of things may dash the cup of happiness from a woman's lips. An involuntary smile will be taken for heartlessness by the man who is so terribly in earnest. A humorous word will be little short of an insult, a jest but a proof of scorn. His vanity, if not his heart, will receive a wound that is not lightly to be healed. There are those who laugh from sheer nervous excitement; let them not lose the men they love by a lack of self-control that may be so cruelly misconstrued.

Some Things to Avoid.

The nervous, unready wooer both endures and inflicts agonies of mind if he tries to make a verbal offer. He had {48} much better write, for then he will at least be intelligible. The vacillating woman has no right to let a man propose to her and then accept him just because she cannot make up her mind to tell him the truth. She may mean to be kind, but she only causes unnecessary pain. No woman is justified in keeping a man in suspense while she angles for a better matrimonial prize. No honourable offer of marriage should be rejected rudely, unkindly, or with scorn. Let there be but few words spoken, but let them be simple, courteous, and, above all, definite. Let him see that you are sensible of the honour he has done you, even while you retain the right to dispose of your heart as you think best.

Vaguely Worded Offers.

It is said that the indefinite form of proposal is in favour at present. It would seem that, however he may elect to say it, the man should clearly make the lady understand that he is asking her to be his wife. She cannot very well urge him to be explicit, and, while a modest woman might thus lose her lover, an intriguing female might annex a man who had never intended to propose to her. The suitor should be quite frank as to his social position and means. It may be necessary to enter into private details of his past life. He should not conceal anything like family disgrace from the one he is asking to share his name.

Her Point of View.

A woman who loves will not need to be told how to answer her lover's request. Both lips and eyes will be eloquent without a teacher. There may be cases where a woman is justified in accepting a man for whom she only feels liking and respect, provided she has been quite frank with him, and he is content to have it so. If a man has the fidelity and pertinacity to ask a woman a second or third time he may find that the intervening years have worked in his favour; but no woman should say Yes merely because she is tired of saying No.


When She May Take the Initiative.

Old-fashioned folk say "Never." An American writer, who calls himself "A Speculative Bachelor," has quite another idea on the subject. He asks: "Shall Girls Propose?" "Why is it that in the matter of initiative a coarse, unattractive young man should have the privilege to ask any unmarried woman in the whole world to marry him, while his refined and much more accomplished sister must make no motion towards any choice of her own except to sit still and wait for some other girl's mediocre brother to make a proposal to her?"

He goes on to suggest that the practice is a survival of Asiatic barbarism. While there is no denying the truth of the above picture, it does go against the grain to think of a woman asking a man to marry her. We know that ladies of queenly rank have to do it, and lose no dignity thereby; but we are not all anxious to be royal. There is something repellent in the idea of a direct offer of marriage coming from a woman's lips. Indirectly, however, she may do much to further her own happiness.

When She May Help.

A lady of high rank may take the initiative in breaking down the barrier of social inequality which she sees is standing between her and her lover, for a man who would be held back by such a consideration would be worth bending to. The very wealthy woman, who is so often wooed for her banking account, yet is well worthy to be loved for herself, may see with secret joy that only his comparative poverty is holding back the man of her choice, and she lets love melt the golden barrier that is keeping them apart. The woman whose heart has gone out to one physically handicapped in the race with his fellows; who knows that were he as other men he would woo her with the love he is now too noble to express, surely she may take the initiative, and only gain in womanly sweetness by so doing? The woman who realises that the assurance of her love and faith will impel the man to more strenuous effort, and make his working and waiting {50} brighter for the goal that lies beyond, may be forgiven if in her intense sympathy she betray somewhat of her desire to crown his success.

A Warning.

There must be no mistake made. The wish must not be father to the thought. She must be sure that she is beloved and desired. She must throw out the most delicate feelers, so sensitive that they will at once detect coldness, and withdraw into the shell of her reserve. She must not offer herself unsought. She may not fling herself into the arms of any man's pity.

Whether there are any women who avail themselves of the supposed privilege of Leap Year, is a question that can only be answered by those who possibly prefer to keep silence. It is a questionable joke when a man says before his wife that "she married him"; but can any self-respecting woman conceive the humiliation of having such words, with the sting of truth in them, flung at her in the moment of passion or with the cool contempt of scorn?



Engagements—The Attitude of Parents and Guardians—Making it Known—In the Family—To Outside Friends—Congratulations—The Choice and Giving of the Ring—Making Acquaintance of Future Relations—Personally or by Letter.


In former days Etiquette demanded that the suitor should first make his request to the lady's parents. This may still be done with advantage in exceptional cases, notably that of a young man with his way still to make, but whose love and ambition prompt him to choose a wife from the higher social circle to which he hopes to climb. In the ordinary run of life the suitor goes first to the principal person, and when fortified by her consent bravely faces the parental music. It is not honourable for a man to make a girl an offer when he knows that her parents have a pronounced objection to him as a son-in-law. So long as she is under age, or in a dependent position, he has no right to ask her to either deceive or defy those to whom she owes duty and obedience.

The Interview.

"Asking Papa" is often a momentous matter. Some fathers are quite unreasonable, but the more honest and straightforward the suitor is the better. Let him be modest, but without cringing. There should be no suspicion that he is conferring a favour; he is rather asking a man to give him of his best, and it is his love that emboldens him to make the request.

He should state plainly what his income and prospects are, the probable date at which he will be able to marry, and how he {52} proposes to provide for his wife. He must not resent being somewhat closely questioned before his reception into a family, and should be ready to give all particulars respecting himself that may be required. Parents who value their daughter do right to exercise wise forethought before entrusting her to a comparative stranger. He should carefully avoid any unseemly curiosity as to what marriage portion his bride will have. Most men state plainly how their daughters will be dowered, unless they have reason to suspect the suitor of mercenary motives.

The father in his turn owes a measure of confidence to his child's lover, and there are some warnings that it is cruel to withhold, notably where there is any taint of insanity in the family. In the case of a fatherless girl the suitor must address himself to her mother, nearest relative, or guardian.


Where consent to the engagement is refused, a man of honour and good-feeling will abide by the decision, and not try to force his way into a family where he is unwelcome. He need not necessarily be fickle. Time may bring things about that will enable him, without loss of dignity, to make another and more successful attempt.

Attitude of Parents and Guardians.

Parents are often placed in great difficulties by their daughters' love affairs. They may refuse to countenance an engagement, but they cannot change the minds of the young people. On the contrary, opposition brings a sense of martyrdom which will strengthen the misplaced affection, while with judicious indifference it might have died a natural death. It is a question whether the affair shall go on in secret, nominally unknown to them, or whether they shall so far countenance it as to leave no excuse for deception. Now that so much legitimate freedom is given to girls, I cannot think that a man is acting honourably in wooing his love "under the rose," and exposing her to the matter of scandal-mongers.

Where there is nothing against a man's character or {53} antecedents, if he is able to support a wife, and the lovers are attached to each other, it seems tyrannical for parents to refuse their consent, and thus spoil their daughter's happiness.

Making it Known.

Once the engagement is ratified by the consent of the powers that be, a few days should elapse before the event is made public. The lady's parents generally give a dinner party to their most intimate friends, or an At Home if they wish to include a larger number of guests, at which the important announcement is made. The father or mother will tell the news to the most important guest or nearest relation, and it will gradually spread. Possibly the health of the happy pair may be drunk.

Friends at a Distance.

The mother of the lady writes to tell friends at a distance, but the fiancee would tell the good news to her own particular chums in an informal way. A motherless girl must do it all for herself. The man tells his own people and friends of his good fortune in the way that suits him best.


There are many ways of offering good wishes to the engaged couple. A warm clasp of the hand and a few heartfelt words are better than all the studied elegance of phrase in the world. It is often difficult to be quite sincere in offering our congratulations, for our friends choose rather oddly, to our tastes, sometimes. When the choice of your dear friend falls on your pet abomination the case is hard indeed. You can congratulate him, though you want to tell him she is worlds too good for him; but what to say to her when you feel that she is making a disastrous match is a painful problem. You can honestly wish that her brightest dreams may be realised, even where you have little hope of it. Let there be no bitterness in the congratulations. Respect the happiness of the lovers even if you cannot understand it.


The Ring.

In choosing the ring the lover should first think of its durability and then of its sweet symbolism. It should be the best he can afford, and the small detail of fit is not to be ignored. The choice of stones and style will depend upon taste and the money available, but, personally, I like an engagement ring to be of special design, unlike any that other women are likely to wear. One good stone is far better than a number of smaller ones.

Making Acquaintance with Future Relations.

This is one of the bride-elect's sorest trials, for even when people like a girl very well as a friend, they do not always welcome her as a member of their family. She must face the fact that they have not chosen her, and the more simply and naturally she bears herself under the inevitable criticism the better. It is fatal to try and make a good impression. Tact and intuition will do a great deal for her, but much lies in the power of his relations to make or mar the happiness of her entry into their midst. I know of a girl, who lived a long way from her fiance, who was made quite miserable during her occasional visits to his home by the discourtesy of his sisters. He was in town all day, and of course knew nothing of the discomfort she endured in his absence. He knows now, and it has not increased his brotherly love.

What She Should Avoid.

It is bad manners in a girl to try and show off her power over her lover in his own home, or anywhere else, for the matter of that. It is foolish to pretend that she does not care for him, or to talk of her wedding-day as if it were her execution. I have known girls who did this. She should not devote herself exclusively to him, and thereby fail in courtesy to his family or their friends. She should not boast of her own people, or infer that her home is superior to theirs. She should guard especially against anything that looks like wishing to oust her lover's mother from her place in his affections. Women are nearly always a little jealous of the girls their sons marry, and care must be taken to disarm this.



When the introductions take place mainly by letter, many stumbling-blocks are removed from the path of the bride-elect. It only behoves her to reply with ready, grateful recognition to the words of welcome, which should be gracious and warm-hearted on the part of his friends. The following may serve as an example:—

From his Mother

"My dear Sybil,—Frank has told me of his engagement to you, and I am writing to tell you how glad I am and how fully I enter into his happiness. I feel sure, my dear child, that he will make you a good and loving husband, for he has been such a dear son to me.

"I have always prayed that he might find a wife who would appreciate his love and share his highest interests. I am now satisfied that he has done this, dear. I want you to come and stay with me as soon as you can, so that we may learn to understand each other. It ought not to be difficult, now that we have so much in common.—With kind love, believe me, affectionately yours, Alice Stanley."

The above letter would imply that the mother knew a good deal about the girl her son was going to marry, and of course she would try to write in a cordial strain, even though she was taking her future daughter-in-law upon the son's recommendation.

The girl's answer might be on these lines:—

"My dear Mrs. Stanley,—You cannot think how glad I was to receive your most kind letter. It is such a relief to feel that you do not disapprove of Frank's choice. I only hope that you may still approve when you know me better. I am delighted to accept your kind invitation, and can come on the 14th if that will suit you. I can hardly yet realise my great happiness, and feel that I can never do enough for Frank.—With many thanks for your kindness, believe me, with love, yours affectionately, Sybil Carlton."



His Visits to her Home—The Engaged Couple in Public—In Society—Visiting at the same House—Going about together—The Question of Expenses.

His Visits to her Home.

If distance parts the loving couple he will only be able to spend his leave, or annual holidays, with her, and will make a point of consulting her movements before he lays any plans for his leisure time. If he could meet her abroad, or at the seaside, he would not go off yachting without her, nor postpone his holiday till the shooting had begun rather than spend the month of June with her in the suburbs. If he lives in the same neighbourhood as his beloved he will have many opportunities of being with her. He ought never to neglect his work for his courtship, and a girl should be very careful not to propose such a thing. It is a poor lookout for their future if they put pleasure first. He will probably be expected or permitted to spend two or three evenings a week at her home, dine there on Sundays, and, if he is busy all the week, devote Saturday afternoons to her entirely. A man of leisure can make his own arrangements; the business or professional man must do his love-making when he can.

The Engaged Couple in Public.

"Some men like to advertise their kissing rights," said an engaged man to me the other day; "but for my part I don't think there should be anything in the bearing of an engaged couple in public to indicate that they are more than friends." Here, I think, we have the etiquette of the matter in a nutshell. Wherever the lovers are they will be supremely conscious of each other's presence, but it need not be writ {57} large over their actions. It is sometimes debated whether lovers should kiss in public. As the sweetest kisses must ever be those exchanged "under four eyes," as the Germans put it, there seems little advantage in a mere conventional "peck" in the public gaze. A close clasp of the hand, a silent greeting of the eyes, will be truer to the love that is held too sacred for exhibition.

The man's attentions should never merge into questionable hilarity. He ought to respect as well as love the woman he hopes to marry. She should equally avoid gushing and tyrannising over him. To see a girl ordering her fiance about, making him fetch and carry like a black boy, and taking his submission as her due, is enough to justify the hope that the worm will turn to some purpose when she least expects it. There should be nothing abject in love on either side. It hurts to see the dog-like look of entreaty in human eyes. Things should be more on a level; the hearts of man and woman should give and take gladly of their best, with love that is pure, brave, and unashamed.

In Society.

Mutual friends will be sure to invite the engaged couple to various social functions. Where it is possible and convenient they will arrive and leave together. He will naturally be eager to escort her about as much as he can; they must, however, be prepared to sacrifice themselves on such occasions. He will see that she has all she wants at a garden party or At Home, but he will not glare at another man for handing her an ice or a cup of tea; nor will he neglect his duties to sit in his sweetheart's pocket, or stand behind her chair to warn off intruders. On the other hand he will not attract attention by devoting himself to any one particular lady, or play into the hands of the wanton flirt.

A well-bred woman or girl will not give herself away by allowing awkward pauses to break the conversation because her thoughts and eyes are hungrily trying to follow her lover, who is manfully assisting the hostess. She will not make herself conspicuous in her behaviour with any other admirer, but be perfectly at ease with any man to whom she may have occasion to speak.

If any of the lady's friends wish to make her fiance's acquaintance they will send him an invitation to a dance or party through her, not an informal message, but a card such as they send to their other guests, which she will pass on to him.


Visiting at the same House.

The engaged couple are not considered good company by outsiders, so when they are included in a house-party they should exercise a little healthful self-control. The cosy corners, shady walks, and secluded nooks are not their monopoly. The two who are beginning to make love ought to have a chance. Others may have business to discuss, arrangements to make, or letters to write for which they desire privacy, and the pervading presence of the betrothed pair is apt to become irritating. When etiquette requires that they should be parted, it is their duty to fall in courteously with any arrangement their hostess may make.

Going about Together.

The amount of tete-a-tete intercourse will differ in almost every case. It seems most natural that lovers should go about together as much as possible, seeing that they are learning to pass their lives together. The girl who has taken little expeditions with her fiance will be spared much of the embarrassment that might mar the opening of the honeymoon if she felt shy and strange, cut off from all her old moorings. They will spend long days on the river, take rambles into the country, see the sights of the town, and do a hundred other things that will be doubly delightful just because they are alone together.

The Question of Expenses.

It is sometimes taken for granted that the fiance must pay all expenses when he takes his sweetheart about. This, I think, should depend upon circumstances. The rich lover does well to lavish his money upon his future wife, and will {59} take a pride in so doing. The man of moderate means who has to work for his income will do well to put by all he can for future emergencies, and if the girl to whom he is engaged has her own money or an ample allowance, it is much better that they should come to an understanding to share the cost of their pleasures, in view of possible necessities.

This need not prevent the poorer man from spending a certain amount upon his love. Every now and then there will be special days when he will play the host, and they will be red-letter days to both. If she is going anywhere by his special invitation he would naturally defray her expenses; but on their weekly jaunts why should he be put to the double outlay when he wants to save all he can to start their home? Why should he reduce his balance at the bank by first-class fares, theatre tickets, and taxis two or three times a week, when he may have to borrow money to buy their furniture? No girl ought to expect or encourage this sort of thing. She is not afraid of being under an obligation to him, for love knows no such thing, but she has the wisdom to look ahead.



Love-Letters—Long or Short Engagements—Broken Engagements—Clandestine Engagements—When Justifiable—The Mother in the Secret—Friends who act as Go-Between.


There are, I believe, engaged couples who, after parting from each other at 7 P.M., write a long letter before going to bed that night, containing all that they had not time to say. If they have the time and energy to spare it concerns no one but themselves; but it seems a pity to make a rule of this sort, as it may become a tax, and the breaking of it on either side may cause pain if not friction.

There will be times without number when delightful little love-letters will have to be written. They will come as a joyful surprise and be twice as sweet as those that are expected.

When daily or even frequent meetings are impossible, then the love-letter has a most important part to play in the course of true love. Letters are a very valuable addition to personal intercourse. It is not safe to judge a person entirely from them, but taking them side by side with personal knowledge they throw a good deal of light on a character. The glamour of the beloved presence is not there to blind, the charm of manner or voice is not powerful to fascinate, so the words stand on their own merits. Sometimes they do not quite fit in with what we know of the writer. They show us another side of one we love. It may be endearing, it may be the reverse. In any case the letters that pass between an engaged couple should be kept absolutely private. We know the story of the man who wrote the same love-letters to two girls, who {61} discovered his treachery by comparing their respective treasures. Such a case is, I hope, purely fictional, but there ought to be some exceptionally good reason for divulging the sweet nothings that go to make up the typical love-letter. For the one to whom they are addressed they will be sublime, to the outsider they will probably be only ridiculous.

The Length of Engagements.

Considering what a vital change marriage is bound to bring into the lives of those who make the contract, it would seem the height of rashness to hurry into it with a person of whom one knows but little. It may be contended that the mutual attitude of lovers during their engagement is not calculated to enlarge their real knowledge of each other. Certainly not, if the marriage is to take place while they are at fever-heat, living in a whirl of emotional rapture. But let an engagement be long enough for their love to settle down into a more normal state, where their reasoning faculties will be able to work—then they will gain a clearer estimate of their mutual fitness, and may learn a good deal about each other.

It has been said that no man should make an offer of marriage till he is in a position to support a wife. This is a little hard. If a man is worth having, he is worth waiting for. He has no right to speak till he has some definite prospect in view, or unless he is fully determined to do his best to further his own interests. No girl or woman should be expected to waste her youth and wear out her heart as the promised wife of a man who is not trying to make their marriage possible. Above all, no man should be mean enough to take money from the one to whom he is engaged merely to indulge his own idleness.

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