Will You Be My Victorian Valentine?

I am heartbroken. I can’t possibly compose an introduction to this blog as well as Arthur Martine, the author of Martine’s Sensible Letter-writer: Being a Comprehensive and Complete Guide and Assistant for Those who Desire to Carry on an Epistolary Correspondence, might have done. He would write something rapturous such as, it is my ardent hope that these delightful letters and Victorian Valentine cards proofs, which I located in the New York Public Library Digital Collection, leave an indelible impression upon your gentle mind. Please let me impress upon you that if you find these images to your kind heart’s satisfaction, you may find great joy in downloading high-resolution TIF versions of these images and many, many more, which you may use to express your fervent admiration for another.

To Mrs. Clara Henderson,

West Twenty-third St., New York, Sept. 22d, 18—. My Dear Madam,—I am sure you are too clear sighted not to have observed the profound impression which your amiable qualities, intelligence and personal attractions have made upon my heart, and as you have not repelled my attentions nor manifested displeasure when I ventured to hint at the deep interest I felt in your welfare and happiness, I cannot help hoping that you will receive an explicit expression of my attachments, kindly and favorably. I wish it were in my power to clothe the feelings I entertain for you in such words as should make my pleadings irresistible; but after all what could I say, more than that you are very dear to me, and that the most earnest desire of my soul is to have the privilege of calling you my wife? Do you can you love me? You will not, I am certain, keep me in suspense, for you are too good and kind to trifle for a moment with sincerity like mine. Awaiting your answer, I remain, with respectful affection, Ever yours,

Francis Templeton

To Francis Templeton, ESQ.,

West Forty-second St., New York, Sept. 24th, 18—. My Dear Mr. Templeton,—I despise false delicacy, and therefore shall not pretend that I have been blind to the state of your feelings. Nay, more, I will say that if your attentions had been altogether unwelcome I should have treated them with a degree of coldness which you say I have not shown. Widows, you know, are supposed to have more experience and tact in these matters than single ladies, and depend upon it if I had disliked you I should have known how to make you aware of the fact. Under all the circumstances I think you may hope. I shall be pleased to see you whenever you feel inclined to call, and meanwhile, I remain, Yours very truly,

Clara Henderson

To Miss Maud Carter,

Pearl St., New York, March llth, 18—. My Dearest Maud,—I am off, to-morrow, and yet not altogether, for I leave my heart behind in your gentle keeping. You need not place a guard over it, however, for it is as impossible that it should stay away, as for a bit of steel to rush from a magnet. The simile is eminently correct, for you, my dear girl, are a magnet, and my heart is as true to you as steel. I shall make my absence as brief as possible. Not a day, not an hour, not a minute, shall I waste either in going or returning. Oh! this business! But I won’t complain, for we must have something for our hive besides honey—something that rhymes with it—and that we may have it, I must bestir myself. You will find me a faithful correspondent.  Like the spider, I shall drop a line by (almost) every post; and mind, you must give me letter for letter I can’t give you credit. Your returns must be prompt and punctual.

Passionately yours,

Herbert Holton

To Herbert Holton, ESQ.,

Fifth Avenue, March 11th, 18—. Dear Herbert,—What a rattlebrain you are! I cried for half an hour over your letter, though not that it was particularly pathetic, but simply because it told me you were going away. Of course I know that your journey is a matter of necessity, but that does not help my loneliness. I have two injunctions to lay upon you, and I charge you by your love, to obey them. They are comprised in six words —write often, and come back soon. I won’t pay myself so poor a compliment as to suppose you will forget me for a moment. Impatiently awaiting your return, believe me, Dear Herbert,

Yours affectionately,

Maud Carter

To Miss Belle Carpenter,

Wall St., New York, Oct . 5th, 18—. My Dear Miss,—I am accustomed to speak plainly, and know little of the niceties of etiquette. Do not think the worse of me for opening my heart to you abruptly, without any preliminary flourishes. There cannot be anything offensive, I hope, in the candid declaration that I love you. If you will give me the opportunity, I will endeavor to prove my affection by devoting my whole life to the promotion of your happiness. I should regard the pleasure of calling you my wife as the greatest that earth could afford.

Most sincerely yours,

Albert Seaton

To Albert Seaton, ESQ.

East Thirty-eighth St., New York, Oct. 7th, 18—. Dear Sir,—I have received your letter, and must say that there is an air of straight-forward sincerity about it that I like. Fine phrases have never been much to my taste, for I have found the language of truth simple and direct. Following your own example, and waiving all evasion, I will say at once that I think you worthy of the affection you solicit, and that, with the consent of my parents, I shall not object to receive your addresses. I shall be at home to-morrow evening and shall be glad to see you. Yours sincerely,

Belle Carpenter

To Miss Kate Martin,

Chicago, Iii., Sept. l0th, 18– My Dearest Kate,—This sheet of paper, though I should cover it with loving words, could never tell you truly how I long to see you again. Time does not run on with me now at the same pace as with other people; the hours seem days, the days weeks, while I am absent from you, and I have no faith in the accuracy of clocks and almanacs. Ah! if there was truth in clairvoyance, wouldn’t I be with you at this moment! I wonder if you are as impatient to see me as I am to fly to you? Sometimes it seems as if I must leave business and everything else to the Fates, and takes the first train to New York. However, the hours do move, though they don’t appear to, and in a few more weeks we shall meet again. Let me hear from you as frequently as possible in the meantime. Tell me of your health, your amusements and your affection.

Remember that every word you write will be a comfort to me. Unchangeably yours,

William Archer

To William Archer, ESQ.,

Bleecker St., New York, Sept. 16th, 18—. Dear William,—Your affectionate letter was most welcome. I won’t tell you where I keep it, but I dare say you will guess that it is not very far from my heart. I need not inform you, for you know it well, that you have my entire and undivided affection, and that I look forward to your return with the most pleasurable emotions. I am in excellent health, but cannot know real happiness until I share it with yon. There, now I think you will not complain that I do not reciprocate your devotion. According to the rules of etiquette I suppose I ought to be more reserved; but truth is truth, and you shall never have aught else

From your attached

Kate Martin

To Miss Jane Grover,

Wednesday, Oct. 20th, 18– Dearest Jane,—The delightful hours I have passed in your society have left an impression on my mind that is altogether indelible, and cannot be effaced even by time itself. The frequent opportunities I have possessed, of observing the thousand acts of amiability and kindness which mark the daily tenor of your life, have ripened my feelings of affectionate regard into a passion at once ardent and sincere, until I have at length associated my hopes of future happiness with the idea of you as a life-partner in them. Believe me, dearest Jane, this is no puerile fancy, but the matured result of a long and warmly cherished admiration of your many charms of person and mind. It is love—pure, devoted love: and I feel confident your knowledge of my character will lead you to ascribe my motives to their true source.

May I then implore you to consult your own heart, and, should this avowal of my fervent and honorable passion for you be crowned with your acceptance and approval, to grant me permission to refer the matter to your parents. Anxiously waiting your answer, I am, dearest Jane,

Your sincere and faithful lover,

Henry Barclay

To Henry Barclay, ESQ.

Dear Henry,—I have just perused your too flattering letter, and, believe me, I feel so excited that I scarcely know how or what to reply. You cannot but have observed that the favorable impressions I received on the night of our first meeting, have gradually deepened as our intimacy matured, and it would be false modesty in me now to disclaim a feeling of the sincerest and most affectionate regard-for you, after such undoubted proofs of your attachment. Dear Henry, my heart is yours. Need I say more than that your proposals to my parents will find a warm and not uninterested advocate, in one to whom the acceptance of them will be happiness—their rejection a misfortune?

Excuse the brevity of this letter, for I cannot trust myself to say more than that I am,

Yours affectionately,

Jane Grover

To Miss Alice Martine,

Chestnut St., Philadelphia, May 2d, 18—. My Dear Miss,—I have intended many times when we have been together to put the simple question, which this note is intended to propose; but although it seems the easiest thing in the world to make an offer of marriage, yet when the heart is as deeply interested in the answer as mine is, it is apt to fail one at the critical moment. Can I, dare I hope, that you will permit me to call you mine? Am I mistaken, misled by vanity, in supposing that this proposal, made in the truest spirit of respectful love, will not be displeasing to you? My position and prospects warrant me in saying that I can provide for you a comfortable home, and I may truly add that without you no place can be a home to me. Anxiously awaiting your answer, I remain, Yours affectionately,

Ernest Irving

To Ernest Irving, ESQ.,

Green St., Philadelphia, May 5th, 18—. Dear Sir,—Your offer of marriage is certainly unexpected, but it is made in a manner so diffident and respectful as to preclude the possibility of its giving offense. I am not offended; but marriage is a serious matter, and although I confess my own inclinations are in your favor, I must advise with those who have a right to be consulted, before I give you a decided answer. I think I may say, however, in the meantime, that you need not despair. Sincerely yours,

Alice Martine

To Miss Lizzie Bolton,

Madison Square, New York, Feb. 24th, 18—. Dear Miss,—Although I have been in your society but once, the impression you have made upon me is so deep and powerful, that I cannot forbear writing to you, in defiance of all rules of etiquette. Affection is sometimes of slow growth; but sometimes too it springs up in a moment. In half an hour after I was introduced to you, my heart was no longer my own. I have not the assurance to suppose that I have been fortunate enough to create any interest in yours; but will you allow me to cultivate your acquaintance in the hope of being able to win your regard in the course of time? Petitioning for a few lines in reply, I remain, dear Miss,

Yours devotedly,

Clarence Boardman

To Clarence Boardman, Esq.,

East Thirty-fourth St., New York, Feb. 27th, 18—. Dear Sir,—I ought, I suppose, to call you severely to account for your declaration of love at first sight, but I cannot in conscience do so ; for to tell you the truth, I have thought more about you since our brief interview than I should be willing to admit, if you had not come to confession first. And now a word or two in seriousness: We know but little as yet of each other, and hearts should not be exchanged in the dark. I shall be happy to receive you here as a friend, and as to our future relations to each other, we shall be better able to judge what they ought to be, when we know each other more intimately. I am, dear sir, Yours truly,

Lizzie Bolton

To Mr. Henry Hilton,

Walnut St., Philadelphia, Dec. 2d, 18—. Sir,—I have heard of your flirtations since you have been at New York. In fact I have been told that you were false enough to deny your engagement to me, in the hope of making yourself more acceptable as a beau to your new lady acquaintances. Under such circumstances I am quite willing to release you from all your promises. You are free, sir! I have no inclination to share your affections with half a dozen others. Nothing less than a whole heart will satisfy me.

Yours etc.,

Augusta Wells

To Miss Augusta Wells,

My Dear Gussie,—You have been imposed upon ; by whom I know not, but unquestionably by some one who has a grudge against me. I have never since our engagement paid more attention to any lady than ordinary politeness required. My heart has never wandered from you for a moment. Dismiss such groundless suspicions from your mind. Your letter has wounded me deeply. To break off our engagement would be to render me the most miserable of men. I am willing that the strictest inquiry should be made into my conduct, for it will bear the closest scrutiny.

Dearest, let me hear from you again soon, and in the old kind vein. Ever yours,

Harry Hilton

Dear Frank,—No letter again! You are really growing intolerably negligent, and I shall begin to think that you are getting tired of me, and that some new attraction is in the field. Knowing how anxious I am respecting your health and welfare, I am sure you will give me the credit of not writing from idle jealousy, although really I feel grieved and anxious at your unusual neglect.

I have no news just at present—indeed, I am too much out of spirits to write at any great length. Pray hasten to remove all doubt from the mind of one whose thoughts, day and night, are upon you only.

Your affectionate

Fanny

To Miss Lucy Hartman,

No. — St. Luke’s Place, Oct. 3d, 18—. My Dear Lucy,—It is with pain I write to you in aught that can seem like a strain of reproach, but I confess that your conduct last night both surprised and vexed me. Your marked approbation of the attentions paid to you by Mr. Walters was as obvious as your neglect of myself. Believe me, I am in no way given to idle jealousy—still less am I selfish or unmanly enough to wish to deprive any lady on whom I have so firmly fixed my affections, of any pleasure to be obtained in good society. But my peace of mind would be lost forever, did I believe that I have lost one atom of your affection.

Pray write, and assure me that you still preserve your undivided affection for

Your devoted but grieved

Arthur

To Miss Catherine Morton,

Arch St., Philadelphia, Oct. 22st, 18—. My Dearest Kate,—How grieved am I that you should think me capable of wavering in my affection toward you, and inflicting a slight upon one, in whom my whole hopes of happiness are centered! Believe me, my attentions to Miss Hamilton were never intended for anything more than common courtesy. My long acquaintance with her father, and my knowledge of her amiable character—as well as the circumstance of her being a comparative stranger to the Howards,—such were my sole reasons for paying more attention to her than I might otherwise have done.

Pray rest confident in the belief that my affection for you is as unchanging as my regret is great that I should ever have given you cause to doubt it, and believe me, Dearest Kate,

Yours, ever sincerely and devotedly,

William Lloyd

Secret Flirtations at the Dinner Table and More Victorian Love Letters

It was an overcast day, and I was in a bad mood. All morning, I sat and stared at my computer screen with no creative inspiration, no burning desire. My mind was dull, dull, dull.  Then I realized what was wrong: I hadn’t posted in months from The Mystery of Love, Courtship and Marriage Explained by Henry J Wehman, published in 1890!  I was in withdrawal. I needed some bombastic Victorian Gothic lovin’ and fast.

I flipped through an issue of Cassell’s Family Magazine from 1890 (I found this lovely campy short story that I will have to post later! You’ll love it!) and photoshopped some great illustrations. Actually, I found too many illustrations. So in the next few days, I’ll create a post on hat flirtations that includes the additional images.

Anyhoo, let Mr. Wehman teach us the basics of dining room flirtation, as well as more lessons on how to write love letters.

 

And now for some yummy love letters!

FROM A YOUNG MAN WHO IS MODEST BUT SINCERE.

TO MISS ANNA WATTS:

Since our last interview you have been constantly in my thoughts, and from your actions, if not your words, I gleaned that the love I have cherished for you during the past five months is in a slight degree reciprocated. Am I wrong in this conclusion? I pray not.  If right, may I hope that some day in the near future you will become my wife? You are the one woman in the world for whom the intensity of my love is equaled only by its sincerity. Financially I have very little to offer you, but, with hard work, my prospects are promising, and what greater inspiration can a man have than the woman he loves to work for? I realized your superiority to me in every way, and yet I beg you to accept my name and a comparatively humble position, when you are fitted for and capable of filling the highest position in the land. My only plea is that I love you. Feeling sure that, after giving this matter serious and deliberate consideration, you will write me frankly, believe me, with deepest respect and admiration, as anxiously awaiting you reply.

JAMES McKNIGHT

FROM A GENTLEMAN TO A LADY, REQUESTING HER PHOTOGRAPH.

DEAR JOSEPHINE:

Do you remember about  a month ago promising that, if I would give it the first place in my album, you would give me your photograph? I promised, and have faithfully kept the page blank, but your picture does not come. Have you repented your generosity, or have other friends appropriated all the pile of cards you showed me? You cannot escape on the ground of poverty, for I know that your last sitting was a complete success, and have a great desire to own one of those exquisite profiles that you tantalize me by withholding.

Do, my dear Josey, send me at once the promised picture, that it may comfort me for absence from your presence.

Yours, most affectionately,

KARL

FROM A GENTLEMAN TO A LADY, REQUESTING PERMISSIONS TO CALL

MISS VICTORIA DAVIDSON:

Having had the pleasure of meeting you once at the house of our mutual friend, Mrs. Bowen, I venture to write to request permission to call upon you at your own residence. I have been but a short time a resident in this city, but your father will, I think, remember Mr. Martin Krider, of Chicago, who is my uncle..

Trusting that you will pardon the liberty I am taking, and grant me a position among your gentleman acquaintances, I am,

Very respectfully,

H.T. KRIDER

WILL YOU BE MINE

DEAR SARAH:

As  my duties will not allow me to see you in person for some time, I feel unable to refrain any longer from asking a question which has lingered on my lips for months. My actions have been such that you cannot have failed to see my intentions, and, as they have not been rebuked, I have concluded my feelings are reciprocated.  As you are aware, I am alone, having no relatives, and I desire to have a companion—one of home I shall use my every effort to make happy, and who will in turn do likewise. Will you be that companion?  I have not taken this step without first considering your happiness, that being as much to me as my own. My business is sufficiently profitable to support us, and I know I can give you as comfortable a home as the one from which I desire to take you. And I assure you that, unless I was sure of being able to keep sorrow as far away from you in the future as it has been in the past, I would not ask you to be mine.

I await what I trust will be a favorable reply.

Sincerely yours,

HARVEY STONE

Susanna’s note: I have many more lessons in flirting from  The Mystery of Love, Courtship and Marriage Explained. Just check the site archives on the right. 

Victorian Lessons: How to Flirt with Gloves, the Importance of Ring Position, and Writing Love Letters that Get You Married (or not)

Good heavens, it has been months since I last visited The Mystery of Love, Courtship and Marriage Explained by Henry J Wehman, published in 1890.  How my heart has missed its missives of love and longing. Tonight, I learned why I had so much trouble getting dates in my early 20s. It seems I was wearing my ring the wrong finger! I was telegraphing to men of wealth and station my intention to die unmarried.  Not only that, I was constantly biting the tips of my gloves not knowing that I was telling gentlemen to go away. I should been striking my gloves over my shoulder inviting men to follow me.

So, let us learn the proper ways to telegraph love with glove and rings, as well as how to write love letters to strangers, inconstant lovers and heavenly angels that you fell in love with at first sight.

Most of the images in this post come from Cassell’s Family Magazine.

Let’s get started….

Love’s Telegraph

If a gentleman wants a wife, he wears a ring on the first finger of the left hand; if he is engaged, he wears it on the second finger; if married, on the third; and on the fourth if he never intends to be married. When a lady is not engaged, she wears a hoop or diamond on her first finger; if engaged, on the second; if married, on the third and on the fourth if she intends to die unmarried. When a gentleman presents a fan, flower, or trinket to a lady with the left hand, this on his part is an overture of regard; should she receive it with the left hand, it is considered as an acceptance of his esteem; but if with the right hand, it is a refusal of the offer. Thus, by a few simple tokens explained by rule, the passion of love is expressed and through the medium of the telegraph, the most timid and diffident man may, without difficulty, communicate his sentiments of regard to a lady, and, in case his offer should be refused, avoid experiencing the mortification of an explicit refusal.

Letter to a young lady after seeing her in a store:

Madam:

 You will perhaps think it extraordinary that a young man should take the liberty of addressing you without even the formality of a previous introduction. I have to apologize, therefore, and I hope that you will at least forgive me if you cannot confer the favor which I would ask.  I have so far seen only through the window of ——‘s store, bit cannot explain to you how great a desire I feel that I should enjoy the very great pleasure of your acquaintance. I might perhaps obtain this, if you allowed me to do so, by means of some mutual friend, but I know of none. There is no alternative for me but a direct request, and I thought it more respectful to make it by letter. It would at this moment, be impertinent to allude further to the great admiration which I have for you, in begging you to give me an opportunity of introducing myself, and I must add of satisfying you of my respectability. I feel that I have already run the risk of causing you annoyance. To have done so would have been a source of deep regret.  I trust that you will be so kind as to give me even the slightest intimation of your wishes, and you may depend upon my intruding no further without your permission.

Respectfully,

HERBERT WHITE

Her reply

Sir:

Your note has very much surprised me. You are so entirely unknown to me that cannot guess what my correspondent’s appearance even may be. Under these circumstances I must decline saying more than that I can neither refuse nor comply with your request. I think indeed that I ought at once to refuse it.

ROSE

From a lady to an inconstant lover:

Dear C—-:

It is with great reluctance that I enter upon a subject which has given me great pain, and upon which silence has become impossible if I would preserve my self-respect. You cannot but be aware that I have just reason for saying that you have much displeased me. You have apparently forgotten what is due to me, circumstanced as we are, thus far at least.  You cannot suppose that I can tamely see you disregard my feelings, by conduct toward other ladies from which I should naturally have the right to expect  you to abstain. I am not so vulgar a person as to be jealous.  When there is cause to infer changed feelings, or unfaithfulness to promises of constancy, jealousy is not the remedy. What the remedy is I need not say – we both of us have it in our own hands. I am sure you will agree with me that we must come to some understanding by which the future shall be governed. Neither you nor I can bear a divided allegiance.  Believe me that I write more in sorrow than in anger. You have made me very unhappy, and perhaps thoughtlessly. But it will take much to reassure me of your unaltered regard

Yours truly

EMMA

Love at First Sight:

To Miss Rose Terry:

It is but a few short months since we met, and yet in that time I have come to regard you more in the light of a heavenly angel than an earthly mortal, and in thee, dearest, I have found the ideal I have so long pictured as the woman I could love and cherish for a lifetime. I have neither wealth or station to offer thee, but instead an honest, loyal and lasting love, which you will increase tenfold in brightness and glory if you will accept it. This is sudden – too sudden, I fear – but my excuse is the hope of winning a sweet, gracious wife, who alone can make me happy. Write me at the earliest moment, I beseech thee, dearest love, and tell me if I am to be the happiest man in all the world. With feelings of the highest esteem and the deepest, most loyal love, I am thine.

JAMES LEON

See more posts from The Mystery of Love, Courtship and Marriage Explained:

More Victorian Love Letters and the Basics of Postage Stamp Flirtation

Valentine’s Day Edition: The Language of Flowers, How to Write a Victorian Love Letter, and Parasol Flirtations

How to Write Victorian Love Letters

Handkerchief and Fan Flirtations

Valentine’s Day Edition: The Language of Flowers, How to Write a Victorian Love Letter, and Parasol Flirtations

Once again, I am excerpting from what is becoming my favorite book, The Mystery of Love, Courtship and Marriage Explained, 1890. Using my Photoshop skills, I merged a passage about the language of flowers with a floral graphic from Cassell’s Family Magazine, 1885 . I hope you will enjoy this special Valentine’s Day present from me to you. 

 

Continue reading “Valentine’s Day Edition: The Language of Flowers, How to Write a Victorian Love Letter, and Parasol Flirtations”

The Mystery of Love, Courtship and Marriage Explained — How to Write Victorian Love Letters

So, you sit with a pen in your hand and a blank Valentine’s Day card before you.  But you just can’t think of those special words to express your true feelings for your beloved. Have no fear, The Mystery of Love, Courtship and Marriage Explained, 189o has come to your rescue. This book is filled with great advice and sample letters just for you and your special circumstances.

Let’s get started:

Love Letters: It is almost impossible to lay down rules for writing a love letter. Some young gentlemen make themselves very ridiculous with their pens. They overdo the thing. After you are engaged to be married, it is best not to be too sweet upon your sweetheart, or she may become disgusted. Before engagement, she will perhaps bear a little soft-solder or highfalutin, if not laid on too thick. But not put too many adjectives in your letters, and as a general rule avoid the repetition of endearing terms. One dose of adulation is quite sufficient to give at one time. If your sweetheart is a sensible girl, she will make wry faces even at that. The generality of the sex, however, love to be loved, and how are they to know the fact that they are loved unless they are told? To write a sensible love letter requires more talent than to solve, with your pen, a profound problem in philosophy. Lovers must not then expect much from each other’s epistles. As the object of this little treatise is to aid young men in their courtships, we will give a few specimens of letters that may be written to bring about an understanding between would-be contracting parties. Also forms of answers to the same where young ladies desire to return their autographs:


The following letter may be written by a young man who has shown a partiality for the society of a lady, but who has not had the courage to tell her that “he adores her.” If she accepts him under such circumstances, she will consider herself as good as engaged to be married.

Tuesday Afternoon.

Dear Miss Thorne:

I hope you will forgive me for presuming to write to you without permission, for I assure you it is with reluctance I take up my pen, But I feel that I must reveal to you my feelings and my hopes. Trusting that my attentions have, in a measure, prepared you for a demonstration of some kind as regards the future, I now throw myself at your feet, and ask your love! If I know my own heart, it has an unalterable affection for you. Can you, and will you respond to it? I will be with you this evening, when I hope to be greeted with loving smiles of approval. Adieu till then,

H. Seymour.

Continue reading “The Mystery of Love, Courtship and Marriage Explained — How to Write Victorian Love Letters”