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.

If the girl is pleased with her beau, and means to accept him, the letter needs no reply; but if she thinks he is in too great a hurry, or if she is indifferent towards him, or wishes to coquette him a little, she may write hack as follows:

Five o’clock.

Dear Mr. Seymour:

Your note took me by surprise, and I beg that you will excuse me from responding to it for the present. I shall have no objection to meeting you as a friend at all reasonable times; but let us not speak of closer ties at present. Truly yours,

E. Thorne.

A young man having had a dispute with his sweetheart, goes off in a cold mood, and writes her a note the next morning. [N. B. Some lovers may contrive to get up a little quarrel for this purpose.] The opportunity to write such a note as this should not be lost, as almost any girl would relish the “edging in” of her lover’s declaration by such means. If the dispute be a “got up thing” it must be done neatly, so that she will not suspect you:

Allentown, Friday, A. M.

Dear Sarah:

Excuse me for writing this note, I was much vexed when I left you last evening, and I now feel ashamed of it, and ask your forgiveness, I have scarcely the courage to go to you today, and yet I shall be very unhappy if I do not. 0h, Sarah, my love for you cannot be expressed in words. I have heard and read of woman’s devotedness, and if I could only experience a little of it from you, this earth would be a heaven to me. What shall I do to win your heart? Hereafter I will never contradict you in anything. My whole study shall be to please you and make you happy. And can you love me a little in return. I feel that I shall be rewarded with a loving smile when next we meet. Till then adieu.


The following is a letter to a young lady with, whom your acquaintance is very limited. You cannot speak to her with as much familiarity as you would to one in whose family you have been intimate;

Tuesday Morning.

My dear Miss Clatton:

Feeling an interest in you that it is impossible to describe in words,
I have resorted to my pen, and I hope I may not offend you in so doing. Nothing short of the holiest feeling of the human heart would ever prompt me to intrude myself upon the notice of a young lady under any circumstances: and if I know my own heart it feels an interest in you that no effort of mine can shake off. I wish you could appreciate this feeling, and I am sure you would pity me if you did not receive me as a suitor. The object of this note is to ask your permission to pay you friendly visits with a view to closer ties should my society prove agreeable, I will not even request an answer in writing, though if you are pleased to accord me one I shall of course feel highly flattered. I will do myself the honor of calling on you Wednesday evening, on which occasion I hope for much happiness. Yours with much esteem,

John Davis

If the lady is pleased with him — or if she thinks he is a person that she can respect as a friend and will be agreeable as an acquaintance; she can answer the note in a brief manner, something to the following effect ;

Wednesday Morning,

Mr. Davis:

Dear Sir: I received your note and thank you for your candor and kind confidence. I shall be happy to see you this evening; and whenever you are pleased to call on me I shall endeavor to make you welcome. Truly yours,

Letitia K Clayton.

A young fellow to whom his sweetheart had given “the cold shoulder” for some good cause, wishes to show his penitence, and at the same time flatter her a little. He therefore humbles himself as per example:

Wednesday, 8th July, 18–,

My dearest Josephine:

For thus I will still venture to call you, though my heart tells me that I no longer possess either your confidence or your esteem. What shall I do to regain your favor? Must I protest that the love I bear you is false? Would this odious perjury be worthy a heart where you reign supreme ? Pity me, Josephine, but do not scorn me. Deign at least to dispose of my fate. Let me know your will. Whatever it may be, I will obey. Impose upon me an eternal silence! I will keep it strictly. Banish me from your presence! I swear to leave you forever. In fact I will cheerfully do anything that you request, except to forget you, which would be impossible. Josephine, I still hope for forgiveness. If you are
not beyond the reach of mercy, I pray you throw of that haughty coldness that almost drives me to despair. One kind and encouraging word would make me the happiest man living. Can you not speak it? Will you not allow me to expiate my offence? If not, I must know my fate from your own mouth.

Despairingly, your loving friend,
Sam’l Barnes. 

Illustrations from Cassell’s Family Magazine, Volume 8, 1894

Check back tomorrow when we discuss the language of flowers,  learn more flirtations, and perhaps read another letter.  Adieu till then.

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