Southern Belle Courtship and Southern Belle Dating

A gentleman whose thoughts are not upon marriage should not pay too exclusive attentions to any one lady. He may call upon all and extend invitations to any or all to attend public places of amuse ment with him, or may act as their escort on occasions, and no one of the many has any right to feel herself injured. But as soon as he neglects all others to devote himself to a single lady he gives that lady reason to suppose he is particularly attracted to her, and there is danger of her feelings becoming engaged.

Neither should a young lady allow marked attentions from any one to whom she is not specially attracted, for two reasons : one, that she may not do an injury to the gentleman in seeming to give his suit encouragement, and the other, that she may not harm herself in keeping aloof from her those whom she might like better, but who will not approach her under the mistaken idea that her feelings are already interested. A young lady will on no account encourage the addresses of one whom she perceives to be seriously interested in her unless she feels it possible that in time she may be able to return his affections.

The prerogative of proposing lies with man, but the prerogative of refusing lies with woman; and this prerogative a lady of tact and kind heart can and will exercise before her suitor is brought to the humiliation of a direct offer. She may let him see that she receives with equal favor attentions from others, and she may check in a kindly but firm manner too frequent visits to herself. She should try, while discouraging him as a lover, to still retain him as a friend.

A young man who has used sufficient delicacy and deliberation in the matter, and who, moreover, is capable of taking a hint when it is offered him, need hardly go to the length of a declaration when a refusal only awaits him.

It is very injudicious, not to say presumptuous, for a gentleman to make a proposal to a young lady on too brief an acquaintance. He may be perfectly satisfied as to her merits, but how can he imagine himself so attractive as to suppose her equally satisfied on her part? A lady who would accept a gentleman at first sight can hardly possess the discretion needed to make her a good wife. Therefore, impatient and impassioned young man, nurse your ardor for a time unless you wish to ensure for yourself disappointment.

No doubt there is such a thing as love at first sight, but love alone is a very uncertain foundation upon which to base marriage. There should be thorough acquaintanceship and a certain knowledge of harmony of tastes and temperaments before matrimony is ventured upon.

Southern Belle Courtship

It is impossible to lay down any strict rule as to the proper mode of courtship and proposal. A French authority will tell us that it is the business of the parents to settle all preliminaries. In England it is considered en regle for the young man to ask the consent of the parents to pay addresses to their daughter. In this country the matter is left almost entirely to the young people.

It seems most reasonable that courtship should precede engagement, and that circumstances must determine whether it lead to engagement. Thus, a man may begin seriously to court a girl, but may discover before any promise binds them to each other that they are entirely unsuited to one an other, when he may with perfect propriety, and without serious injury to the lady, withdraw his attentions. But suppose he has already applied to and gained the consent of her parents to pay her his addresses. They have, no doubt, communicated the fact to their daughter, and they all consider him as under a partial engagement. How, then, when he comes to perceive that a marriage between them cannot fail to be unhappy and unfortunate, can he go to them and to her and say this and withdraw his suit with dignity and with the proper feeling on both sides? Of course such a proceeding is possible, but hardly probable, is likely to produce much pain and embarrassment.

Certain authorities would insist that the leave of parents must always be obtained before the daughter is asked to give herself in marriage. While we would not insinuate that there is anything improper or wrong in such a course, still, we think, in this country, with our social customs, it is best not to be too strict in this regard. Each case has its own peculiar circumstances which must govern it, and it seems at least pardonable to us if the young man should prefer to know his fate directly from the lips of the most interested party before he submits himself to the cooler judgment and the critical observation of the father and mother, who are not by any means in love with him, and who may possibly regard him with a some what jealous eye as having already monopolized their daughter’s affections and now desirous to steal her outright.

Parents should always be perfectly familiar with the character of their daughter’s associates, and they should exercise their authority so far as not to permit her to form any improper acquaint in regulating the social relations of their daughter parents should bear in mind the possibility of her falling in love with any one with whom she may come in frequent contact. Therefore, if any gentleman of her acquaintance is particularly ineligible as a husband, he should be excluded as far as practicable from her society.

Parents, especially mothers, should also watch with a jealous, care the tendencies of their daughter’s affections; and if they see them turning toward unworthy or undesirable objects, influence of some sort should be brought to bear to counteract this. Open remonstrance and objection will not do it. It will in nine cases out of ten have a result the exact contrary of that desired. Great delicacy and tact are required to manage matters rightly. A more suitable person may, if available, be brought forward, in the hope of attracting the young girl’s attention. The objectionable traits of the undesirable suitor should be made apparent to her 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.

Parents should always be able to tell from observation and instinct just how matters stand with their daughter; and if the suitor is an acceptable one and everything satisfactory , then the most scrupulous rules of etiquette will not object to their letting the young couple alone. If the lover chooses to propose directly to the lady and consult her father afterward, consider that he has a perfect right to do so. If her parents have sanctioned his visits and attentions by a silent consent, he has a right to believe that his addresses will be favorably received by them. If he has a scrupulous regard for old-fashioned notions of decorum and applies to the father first, accept his suit graciously, at the same time thanking him for his honorable conduct.

Reference: Duffey, E. B. 1877. The Ladies’ and Gntlemen’s Etiquette: A Complete Manual of the Manners and Dress of American Society. Philadelphia: Porter and Coates.

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