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Victorian Romance and Relationships

By Dawn Aiello of Victorian Lace, Author and Copyright Owner of Article

 Victorian Romance and relationships required much more etiquette than dating of today, however, some things about being single haven't changed much in the past century. A hundred years ago, unmarried Victorian women still complained that all the best men were "taken", and they wondered about how to find their "Mr. Right". Advice manuals were prevalent in the Victorian years, and women would turn to these books for the advice that they provided--however good or bad the advice was--and most of the messages that women received were contradictory. For example, most all advice manuals of the time warned against marrying young.

In one particular manual written in 1874, it stated, "A young woman cannot be considered in any sense prepared for this union under 21; 25 is better." However, at the same time, statistically, women who didn't marry early in life, might not be able to marry at all. A book published in the 1870's called "A True Friend", wrote that after analyzing marriages in Massachusetts, it was concluded that "an unmarried female at the age of 20 has lost one-fourth of her chances of ever becoming united in wedlock; at 25, three-fourths, and at 30, nine-tenths." But, even then, the book goes on to emphasize that even though a woman's chances of marrying decreases dramatically after the age of 20, and basically were non-existent after 30, that she should not go out and marry the first man who was willing. The book states, "A female at twenty-five is far more likely to marry well than at an earlier period." Although, the book doesn't make clear what the exact meaning of "marrying well" is; whether that would be by achieving happiness in marriage, or achieving financial security in marriage--or possibly both.

Dates of the time were usually always supervised, and most typically, women were not allowed to be alone with a man until they were engaged. She was never allowed to go anywhere alone with a man without her mother's permission. She could never be out with a gentleman late at night, just as it was considered extremely impolite for a gentleman to stay late at a woman's home, even though they were never alone together. Usually the date was some type of family gathering. It was acceptable for a man to call on a lady with her permission, but when saying good night, the woman was not allowed to go any farther than the parlor door, and then a servant or parent would see the gentleman out.

Functions such as a Church Social or a Holiday Dance would have been considered suitable places to meet a potential partner, and glamorous balls were common (see more under "Gala and Glamour of the Gilded Age"). However, just because a gentleman might have been introduced to a lady for the purpose of dancing did not imply that he should assume that he could speak to her at another time or place. This would have been considered to be improper, and if he wished to become better acquainted with the lady, then he would need to drop subtle hints to a mutual friend and possibly arrange for the friend to introduce him, properly. Flirting was usually frowned upon. To encourage the hopes or engage the affections of someone you did not intend to marry was not only considered to be thoughtless, but immoral. However, subtle suggestiveness would be acceptable when the flirting technique was done with a personal accessory, such as a fan (see more under "The Flutter of a Fan"), or a parasol, for example. Calling cards were customary, and used in a variety of circumstances. For example, once a couple had been formally introduced, a gentleman could then offer to escort the young lady home by offering his card to her. The woman might collect several calling cards throughout the evening, but then, to the gentleman that she most preferred, she would present her own card, thus, accepting his offer.

Age difference was really not such an issue in the Victorian Era. Someone her own age, or even a few years younger, was perfectly acceptable for a young woman, but so was a husband who was substantially older than she. What parents and young ladies looked for mostly would have been a solid character, an established position in society, and a comfortable income. However, some fear of passing through life unmarried led women to marry unwisely. Men did not seem to face this stigma; the assumption was that they could marry IF they wanted to. If they did not, they were always called "bachelors", no matter their age, while women over 30 were referred to slightingly as "old maids". Still, LOVE was considered the essential, all-important ingredient in relationships, and while arranged marriages were still common in some European countries, in the United States, they were not. As one of the famous advice manuals cautioned, "Do not marry a man who you are not sure of loving, no matter how long you have been engaged to him."

For men, love was important, but for women, it was absolutely necessary. As a 19th century book states: "Man's nature leads him forth into a struggle and bustle of the world. Love is but the embellishment of his early life, or a song piped in the intervals of the acts...But a woman's whole life is a history of the affections. The heart is her world."


Article Information:
Article Name: Victorian Romance and Relationships
Website: http:www.thehistorybox.com |Author: Dawn Aiello  Victorian Lace
Source: This article was written by Dawn Aiello of Victorian Lace. She has copyright ownership.
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