My Dearest Reader—Do you sit glumly at your writing desk, your quill poised as you stare at your blank Valentine’s Day card? Do you not possess the flowery prose to express your ardent, undying, and very proper love for another? Never fear! The Parlour Letter-writer And Secretary’s Assistant, published in 1845, can help. This volume is overflowing with sappy expressions of adoration that are perfect for almost any Victorian romantic relationship. I have excerpted a few letters for your reading pleasure. I am, gentle reader, Yours most sincerely.
To a Lady.
My dearest Harriet—Ever since the fatal or auspicious evening that I was introduced to your endearing presence, my heart has been riveted to the lovely image of her, who must become the arbitress of my future happiness or misery; that the latter will be the case, will not endure a moment’s reflection, for independent of my own feelings, it would be cruel to suppose that a bosom formed of virtues most sensitive and tender, could ever consign a heart touched with those very virtues to become the victim of aspiring delusion. No, my dear Harriet, you will never overwhelm me with such a fatal reply, and thus annihilate all those endearing prospects of future felicity, which I have so ardently cherished; as an alleviation, then, to those fond feelings, which are at present severely agitated by suspense, permit me, my dear girl, to address your respected parents, for a formal recognition of my visits and attentions to a concession from my Harriet, will relieve me from a state of inexpressible anxiety, and in part secure to me a glowing tranquility, which is only in the power of you, my love, to bestow. Anxiously expecting a favourable reply, I am, dearest Harriet, yours sincerely.
Sir—In answer to your flattering letter, I must beg leave to remind you, that in giving you the permission of addressing my beloved parents upon the subject of your attachment to me, such permission must be understood as implying a reciprocity of feeling; which indeed, in a point involving all the consequences of my future happiness, is no ordinary speculation; however, that I may not incur the charge of cruelty from one whom, I must acknowledge, I at present value with no ordinary esteem, I shall, with the permission of my parents, feel much pleasure in a continuation of your society; but with regard to the success of your present enterprise, time and circumstances alone must determine. Begging you to receive my best acknowledgments for the honour conferred, I remain, sir, with sincere regard, Your affectionate friend.
From a Gentleman to a Widow.
Madam—Since our first introduction, I have no longer been master of my own heart; your wit, beauty, and numerous good qualities, have enslaved it, and thus I offer it to your acceptance.
I will not condescend to employ flattery, for your own excellent understanding would condemn it; neither will I attempt to draw any romantic pictures of conjugal happiness; you are aware of what may be expected from the marriage state, from a man, I trust, of liberal ideas, and who is tenderly devoted to you. You have known me a sufficient time to be a judge of my merits (if I possess any); I shall therefore content myself with making you an offer of my hand and heart, which I trust you will accept. My circumstances, also, you are intimately acquainted with; it will, therefore, be needless for me to enter upon them. Suffice it to say, I can insure you every real comfort in life. Anxiously waiting for a reply to this letter, I remain, dear madam, Your devoted lover.
Sir—The very short time we have been acquainted, prevents my answering your letter in the decisive manner your professions seem to desire. Having already trod the path of conjugal happiness, it is a duty incumbent on me, not to mar my present widowed comforts by any delusive engagement; my former union having contributed to give me more correct views of life, requires that, previous to forming a second engagement, I should use a more matured discretion than may be expected from our sex in our tender years. Upon a better acquaintance, our views may be more congenial; until then, your regard for me will, I trust, spare me a reconsideration of your proposal. With the greatest respect for your kind attentions and esteem, I remain, sir, Yours most sincerely.
From an Officer to a Lady.
My adored Girl—Your beloved society was to me a source of the purest delight. You may me judge, therefore, from your own sentiments, how miserable the order for my removal from you made me. Driven almost to despair, I reprobated the service, and would have given worlds to have resigned my commission, but it fortunately came into my mind that I might still pour out the warm feelings of my heart to you, my beloved, by means of my pen; this soothed my grief, and supported me under our painful separation.
The amusements of this place afford no pleasure to me, it being impossible for me to enjoy that in which you do not partake: no, my beloved, my only happiness consists in fancying scenes of ideal bliss which can never be accomplished till you are mine forever.
You are aware, Julia, that I was fearful of making your father acquainted with our mutual attachment, otherwise than by letter. The enclosed is for him; it contains a declaration of my affection for you; yet, acquainted as I am with his goodness, I am induced to hope for the most flattering result. Expecting to hear from you by return of post, am, my beloved Julia, Your faithful and affectionate lover.
The Lady’s Answer.
Dear Orlando—Your own feelings will explain to you how welcome your dear letter was to your own affectionate Julia, and how grieved I was to learn that you were compelled to tear yourself away from me, even for a short time; but, my dear Orlando, be assured that whether together or absent, your Julia is, and will be, eternally and affectionately your own. Should any obstruction arise, it must spring from yourself alone, as my happiness or misery in this world depends entirely upon your conduct; my very existence being interwoven with your well-being and general prosperity. My father has directed me to transmit you the enclosed. I have every reason to suppose it will prove agreeable, though I can assure you I am totally ignorant of its contents, and can only surmise them, by our last night’s conversation, when he hoped I should be as happy as he wished me. I must acknowledge my pride is not a little gratified at your statement, “that you can enjoy no pleasures in which I do not share.” It is an avowal, dear Orlando, which thrills my heart with unfeigned joy, and never shall you have, on my part, the smallest reason to think otherwise. Anxiously expecting to hear from you soon, I am, dear Orlando, Inviolably yours.
From a Rich Gentleman to a Lady, with a Proposal of Marriage.
Madam—You will, perhaps, be surprised at receiving a letter from me; but as I have written it with the most honourable motives, I trust I may expect your pardon should the contents not be perfectly congenial to your views. However, I have every reason to conclude that in making you a proposal consistent with the passion I bear you, that I am not trespassing on a heart already bestowed on some favoured object. I therefore flatter myself that I may not be altogether unsuccessful in arriving at the happy preference to which I ardently aspire. My circumstances and station of life you are fully aware of, and I am happy to say that although there may be a disparity in point of fortune, nevertheless the very amiable qualities of your heart, and accomplishments of person, which have truly riveted my affections on you, have made such an impression on my family, that I can assure you, it would afford them the highest pleasure imaginable to reckon you in the number of their relations. Having prefaced, my dear madam, thus far, permit me to entreat a favourable reception of my attentions; and believe me that your consent will make me the happiest of my sex; on the contrary, madam, a refusal will render me the most miserable of beings; and I feel confident that a heart so truly amiable, will never give a moment’s pain to one who is truly fascinated with your charms, unless some fatal obstacle should exist, of which I am wholly unconscious. Anxiously expecting an answer, which may allay the unsettled feelings which at present agitate a heart wholly yours, I am, dear madam, Your sincere and affectionate admirer.
The Lady’s Answer.
I am truly sensible of the honour you have conferred on me, by the proposal which your letter contains, and can assure you I should be doing an injustice to my own feelings, were I to express sentiments in reply, otherwise than agreeable to your professed wish; the main difficulty to a concession on my part, is fully and agreeably removed, by the very flattering estimation in which you represent me to be held by your amiable and beloved family; had not that been the case, it would have been with much reluctance (supposing it to have been possible) that you would have elicited a consent from me, as I am too well aware of the unhappiness which generally ensues, from the protracted scorn and contempt of haughty relatives, where marriages are formed upon a disparity of fortune. But as I feel convinced that the merits of your family are not to be estimated by any ordinary standard, and that their most ardent wish is to promote your comfort and happiness, believe me, dear sir, I feel highly gratified at the honour of being considered by them worthy of being elevated to the most prominent station, as a contributor to it. You will have the goodness to present my most dutiful respects to them, and accept the sincere and tender affection Of your respectful and honoured.
From a Sailor to his Intended Wife.
Dearest Mary—An order has just arrived for our ship to sail immediately for the East Indies, where it is probable we shall remain for three years; but notwithstanding this, my dear girl, be assured that neither time nor absence will make any alteration in the affectionate heart of your devoted sailor. Keep up your spirits, then, my dear, and fear not on account of your lover, for
“There’s a sweet little cherub that sits up aloft,
To watch for the life of poor Jack.”
And be assured that whatever may be our course, you will be the pole towards which the needle of my affections will constantly turn. I have got my half of the sixpence which we broke between us, and will preserve it as a sacred deposit; and should I fall among the glorious dead, it shall accompany me to my watery grave. Remember me, dearest Mary, and I trust that Fortune with her smile will soon enable me to return with wealth and honour, to lay them at your feet. May fair winds and a prosperous voyage attend you through life; and, in expectation of an early answer, I am, dearest, lovely Mary, Your affectionate lover.
My dearest John—Your kind letter, my dearest soul, has made me very unhappy. Indeed, it is cruel that we must part just at the moment when I expected we should be married. However, God’s will be done!
Be careful of yourself, my dear John, and remember that if any misfortune happens to you, I shall not long survive it. I am too happy in knowing how truly you love me, which causes me the more sorrow at the thought of parting from you. I have sent you, by the mail-coach, a few articles, which I am sure you will value for the sake of the giver; and be assured, whenever it shall please God for your return, you will find me Your still constant, faithful, and affectionate true love.
From a Jealous Lover to his Intended Wife.
October 20th, 18—. My dear Selina— Ah! my Selina, for I cannot entertain the dreadful thought for a moment that you are not mine, how can you be so cruel as to harrow my feelings by a pointed display of your attentions to young men, who, but for your apparent solicitude for their compliments, would have had no pretext for wounding a heart by their assiduity to acknowledge the marked distinction with which you treated them ; I had fondly hoped that the vows of mutual fidelity, and reciprocal love, with which we had pledged each other, would never have been erased from your tender bosom, but alas! what have I not to fear from the agonized feelings I experienced yesterday evening. If, my lovely Selina, you have the smallest respect for your vows, or the least spark of that attractive flame, which once seemed to glow for your now desponding Alfred, you will, by returning me a consolatory answer, heal the wounds you have so cruelly inflicted on a heart so devotedly your own : oh! Selina, let me but once again believe you are mine, and you will banish a load of misery from a heart tenderly and sincerely devoted to you. I am, cruel Selina, Your truly unhappy.
The Lady’s Answer.
My dear Alfred—Who could have supposed that you, who have made such ardent professions of tenderness, could have charged me, your own Selina, with cruelty? Were it not that I have, in compassion to your present feelings, condescended to attribute the charge to an over-sensitive heart, you would not have received any consolatory explanation of the circumstances which seem deep-ly to have affected you; the young men of whom you appear to be so nonsensically jealous, have been from children most intimately connected with our family, and not having had the pleasure of a visit from them for some years, and the particular marks of attention and respect with which I have been invariably treated by their respective families, might have caused that assiduity which they have a right to expect, and my own conscious feelings could not have refused; sorry should I be, my dear Alfred, to cause you a moment’s uneasiness; but since the whole affair has been purely accidental, I cannot but say that I am pleased in some measure with the result, since it has convinced me that your professions of love were genuine, and that I have no occasion to despair of a continuation of those affections, over which I appear to have some control, provided you will be equally alive to the exercise of your own good sense, in suppressing timely such ridiculous paroxysms of jealousy. I am, my dear Alfred, Yours affectionately.
From a Gentleman to a Lady greatly his Superior in Rank and Fortune.
Madam—I have no excuse to offer for my presumption in addressing this letter to a lady so greatly my superior, except my ardent love and admiration, which will be sufficient, I hope, to plead my pardon, and to procure me your pity. I have long tenderly loved you with the utmost fondness, but, till this moment, could never resolve to make a disclosure of my passion, on account of the inequality of our situations. Say then, madam, will you permit me to make you an offer of my hand and heart? Will you suffer me to indulge the pleasing expectation of receiving from you a return of mutual love? I can only add, that I am duly sensible of my temerity, but should you condescend to accept my proposal, and by uniting your destiny with mine, make me the happiest of men, then shall my life be devoted to the constant promotion of your happiness. I am, dear madam, Ever yours.
Sir—As from the whole tenor of your conduct, I have long flattered myself with the possession of your heart, I will confess that I was not much surprised at the receipt of your letter. Believe me, sir, I consider the mere distinction arising from birth or wealth, as idle things. With this impression upon my mind, I feel no hesitation in avowing that I have long loved you with a mutual warmth of affection. Consequently, I can offer no objection to the proposal you have honoured me with; and I consider myself highly distinguished in being selected by you as the female worthy of becoming your wife. Having made this confession, I shall not endeavour to restrain your happiness by any false affectation of reserve, but content myself with stating that I am ready to become your wife; for which purpose I leave the necessary arrangements to you. I am, dear sir, Yours faithfully.