From the Notebook: Victorian Courting Customs

First thing’s first: someone has randomly thanked me for posting in this journal, and encouraged me to keep up the good work. I don’t know who wrote the comment, but let me thank you for leaving it. Writing is a lonely adventure sometimes. Random, anonymous comments, while frustrating because the commenter remains mysterious, are greatly appreciated. Not to gush or anything, because the comment is a little sparse, but I’ve been having a semi-bad week thanks to school stresses and residual back/leg pain from an injury, and this random comment completely made my day.

All right. Now that I’ve managed to contain my pleasure, I thought I’d treat you all with a little bit of something something from my notes about courtships. I missed Valentine’s Day, but February is the month of love and hey, I am a romance writer, so here’s an excerpt from my research journal:

Courtship at most formal:

  • Man wants to marry?
    1. Consider future prospects, financial position –> justify his trying to attract women?
    2. See if chosen women return his affection “with delicacy and caution to avoid compromising her” (can happen even before meeting the girl)
      -Might see her in church, at a ball, be family friend
    3. If haven’t met her before, arrange for mutual friend to introduce him to family
      -If no mutual friend, good sign the idea should be dropped cuz families don’t run in same social circle
  • Girl and Guy meet in family circles with at least one married member present…allows girl to “assess his worth”
    -Does he diss women? Does he attend church? Are his hobbies “low and vulgar?”
    -He also can’t be lazy, eccentric, frivolous or foppish
    -He better have enough biz interest to ensure they’ll have future $$ 

    -Also allows him to see if she is attentive to her duties, respectful/affectionate to parents, kind to siblings, mellow…

  • If she turns out to be a flirt or he a jerk, they can remove themselves from the courtship at this process and not feel guilty
  • Now he can speak to her father. If dad’s agreeable, speak to daughter

Parent’s involvement along gender lines: dad takes care of financial concerns, mom looks at social compatability.

If all looks good, invitations set so couple can meet, give talking opportunities…

Information gleaned from Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England by Judith Flanders

In other words, courtship was a business back then. I’m not sure how many happy couples were created out of such a courtship system, but given the number of romantic fiction authors, I hope there were a lot. Or at least a few. But then, given the divorce rate these days, and, knowing that for many couples, the divisive topic was money, maybe we should consider marriage more of a business than we do?

Anyway, Happy belated Valentine’s Day! May your muse bless you with beautiful prose that befits the month of love.