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.

Let Mr. Wehman teach us the basics of dining room flirtation and more lessons on writing love letters.

Victorian Dining Table Signaling

Drawing a napkin or handkerchief through the hand — I desire to converse by signal with you.

Holding it by the corners — Is it agreeable?

Playing with fork — I have something to tell you.

Holding up the knife and fork in each hand — When can I see you?

Laying both together left of the plate — After the meal.

Clenching right hand on table — Tonight.

Napkin held with three fingers — Yes.

Held with two fingers — No.

Holding Napkin to chin with forefinger to mouth — Cease signaling.

Standing knife and fork thus, A — Can I meet you?

Balancing fork on edge of cup — Are you engaged tonight?

Striking fork with knife — I shall go out.

Balancing fork on knife — Meet me.

Placing knife over the glass — Will you be alone?

Stirring spoon in cup slowly — Will you be late?

Slapping the ear, as if brushing away a fly — I don’t understand.

And now for some Victorian 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,


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. Rider

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

3 Replies to “Secret Flirtations at the Dinner Table and More Victorian Love Letters”

  1. @Ella, some of the letters have replies, but these didn’t. I think I’ve posted some of the replies before.

I would love to hear your thoughts!

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