Written by Guest Blogger Ann Parker
Congratulations to contest winner Jacqueline Seewald.
Today, I welcome Ann Parker, the author of one of my favorite series. Ann is a California-based science/corporate writer by day and an historical mystery writer by night. The latest installment in her award-winning Silver Rush series, Mercury’s Rise, will be released November 1.
If you thought on-line dating was difficult, find out what single women had to put up with a mere 150 years ago.
Ladies and Gentlemen: A Pause, If You Please, in Your Texting
Nowadays, so much in the dating and courtship arena seems to take place in the electronic world. Dating websites, cell phones, texting, IMing, Facebooking – but go back to 1880, and it’s a different world as far as etiquette and dating.
A VERY different world.
My Silver Rush historical mysteries are set in the 1880s silver mining boomtown of Leadville, Colorado. And even in there, a time and place of great social flux (today’s down-and-out miner could be tomorrow’s millionaire), there were rules to govern the interactions of the sexes in polite society.
Whenever I need to determine what the etiquette of the day allowed, I turn to my bookcase and a lovely leather-bound volume titled Our Deportment or the Manners, Conduct and Dress of the Most Refined Society (by John H. Young, A.M., copyright 1880) for advice.
J.H.Y. never lets me down.
For instance, he has this to say about the introduction of a gentleman to a lady:
A gentleman should not be introduced to a lady, unless her permission has been previously obtained … When a gentleman is introduced to a lady, both bow slightly, and the gentleman opens conversation.
And, for those who are wondering, the proper form of introduction is to present the gentleman to the lady first. As the introducer, one bows first to the lady and says,
Miss C., allow me to introduce to you Mr. D. Mr. D., Miss C.
Mr. D. then should bow and say,
It gives me great pleasure to form your acquaintance, Miss C.
or some such.
A future caution notes,
An unmarried lady should not shake hands with gentlemen indiscriminately.
As for introductions at a ball (and yes, there were balls, soirees, receptions, five-o’clock teas, and all the rest in Leadville), there were also very strict rules:
Gentlemen who are introduced to ladies at a ball, solely for the purpose of dancing, wait to be recognized before speaking with ladies upon meeting afterwards, but they are at liberty to recall themselves by lifting their hats in passing.
a gentleman cannot, after being introduced to a young lady, ask her for more than two dances during the same evening.
Obviously, this is no mosh pit we’re talking about.
On forming street acquaintances, the author is even more emphatic:
A lady never forms an acquaintance upon the street, or seeks to attract the attention or admiration of person of the other sex. To do so would render false her claims to ladyhood, if it did not make her liable to far graver charges.
I think J.H.Y. would have heart failure if he had the opportunity to hang out at the local mall on weekends and observe today’s courting rituals… If nothing else, though, it makes for entertaining people-watching!
As for “popping the question,” the overeager gentleman of yore was warned that
It is very injudicious, not to say presumptuous, for a gentleman to make a proposal to a young lady on too brief an acquaintance. A lady who would accept a gentleman at first sight can hardly possess the discretion needed to make a good wife.
Hmmm. No wonder my protagonist, Inez Stannert, has had some difficulties in the matrimonial side of her life. Mark Stannert walked into her life and two weeks later, they eloped. So much for discretion on the part of my sleuth!
Other advice regarding courtship and proposals in the U.S. versus the Continent and elsewhere:
It is impossible to lay down any rule as to the proper mode of courtship and proposal. In France it is the business of the parents to settle all preliminaries. In England the young man asks the consent of the parents to pay address to their daughter. In this country the matter is left almost entirely to the young people.
Ah yes, three cheers for those independent Americans!
Finally, a word of warning to parents, regarding undesirable suitors:
Parents, especially mothers, should also watch with a jealous care the tendencies of their daughters affections…. The objectionable traits of the undesirable suitor should be made apparent to [the daughter] without the act seeming to be intentional; and if all this fails, let change of scene and surroundings by travel or visiting accomplish the desired result. The latter course will generally do it, if matters have not been allowed to progress too far and the young girl is not informed why she is temporarily banished from home.
So, there you go, ladies and gentlemen. Life in the past lane, regarding dating and courting. You may now return to your iPhones and Droids, your Skyping and Tweeting. Just keep in mind the following timeless advice from over a century ago:
Never hesitate in acts of politeness for fear they will not be recognized or returned. One cannot be too polite so long as he conforms to rules, while it is easy to lack politeness by neglect of them.
Leave a comment on this post by midnight October 3 and you will be eligible to win one of Ann’s Silver Rush mysteries! Winner may choose from Silver Lies (first in the series), Iron Ties (second in the series) or Leaden Skies (third in the series).
Learn more about Ann and her series at http://www.annparker.net.