G. R. M. Devereux.

The Etiquette of Engagement and Marriage online

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intercourse preceding an actual Declaration of Love. It may be the
ante-chamber to an earthly paradise. It may but prove to be a fool's
paradise. George Eliot describes two of her characters as being "in
that stage of courtship which makes the most exquisite moment of
youth, the freshest blossom-time of passion - when each is sure of the
other's love and all its mutual divination, exalting the most trivial
word, the slightest gesture into thrills delicate and delicious as
wafted jasmine scent."

It may be that he has some honourable reason to forbid his speaking
when he would. He may fear to lose her altogether if he is too hasty.
Possibly there is another man in the case. She may be revelling in the
new joy of life without analysing its source. If she has faced the
secret of her own heart she will mount guard over herself lest word or
look should betray her, before he has told her that she does not love
in vain.

Breaches of Etiquette.

When a man finds that his attentions are unwelcome, and a woman has
used every means in her power, short of actual rudeness, to show him
that she does not desire his nearer acquaintance, he has no right to
force himself or his love upon her. He has no right to make sure of
any woman's love before he has asked her for it, unless, of course,
she has {26} betrayed herself by an unwomanly want of reticence. It is
both foolish and ill-bred for him to play the part of dog-in-the-manger
and to object to her receiving attentions from any one else. Until he
has declared himself he can assume no control over the disposal of her
favours, still less should he stoop to put a spoke in another man's

The Question of Presents.

A line must be carefully drawn between the gifts of an unconfessed
lover and of a _fiancé_. The former may send flowers, bon-bons, and
pretty trifles of that sort, or he could give her a dog or a Persian
kitten; but he must not offer her articles of jewellery or any item of
her toilette. He might give her the undressed skin of an animal that
he had shot, but he could not order a set of furs to be sent to her
from a shop. It must be remembered that ostensibly they are as yet
only friends, and though every gift will have its inward meaning, it
should not have any outward significance.

In offering a present the unconfessed lover will do well to enclose a
little note [footnote in original: For those who wish to study the art
of letter-writing there is a most excellent guide to all sorts of
correspondence, entitled, "How Shall I Word It?" published at one
shilling by C. Arthur Pearson (Limited).] couched in some such terms
as these:

"Dear Miss Grayson, - You said the other day that you could not grow
lilies of the valley in your garden, so I am venturing to send you the
accompanying basket, which I hope you will be kind enough to
accept. - Believe me, sincerely yours, Duncan Talbot."

Exchange of Hospitality.

Where both families are acquainted, and in a similar social position,
the interchange of hospitality will probably be somewhat increased in
virtue of the growing intimacy between the possible lovers. Until
there is an acknowledged engagement it would not be etiquette for his
family to single her out from the rest of her own people by inviting
her alone. A parent, {27} brother, or sister ought to be included. It
would also be diplomatic on the part of her friends not to extend too
gushing a welcome to him, while they take his belongings as a matter
of course. Because the one family can give dinner parties it does not
follow that the other should not afford just as much enjoyment by a
simpler form of hospitality. The possible lover does not come to
criticise the cuisine of the household in which the object of his
desires is to be seen.

The Man Who Lives at Home.

It will often happen that a man makes acquaintances who become friends
quite independently of his own family. But if he is seriously
contemplating matrimony he will be anxious to introduce his chosen one
to his womenkind. Supposing that his people were the older residents
in the place, he would pave the way by saying that his mother, or
sister, as the case might be, would so much like to call, and might
she do so? Unless there should be some purely feminine feud the
permission would be cordially given. If, on the other hand, the girl's
family were the first comers to the locality he would then ask the
lady to call on his people, intimating that they were longing to know
her and her daughter, and what a personal gratification it would be to
him to bring the desired meeting about. In the present day the old
hard and fast rules which used to regulate calling are no longer
observed. If acquaintance is really sought there will be no difficulty
for a woman of tact and judgment to cultivate it.

A Danger.

Women are very quick to see when they are being courted for their sons
or brothers, and they do not always like it. It is discourteous, and
very transparent, to send an invitation to a girl the day after her
brother has come home on leave in which you hope "that Captain Boyle
will be able to accompany her," when practically you have ignored her
existence since the last time he was at home. It is not kind or
considerate to try and monopolise the society of any man whose {28}
business or profession only permits of his being at home at long
intervals. A girl may want to have him with her very much indeed, but
she should not be piqued and feel injured if he excuses himself on
the ground of having to take his sister out, or spend his evening with
his parents. He will be all the better husband for this courtesy to
his own relations. Of course his people may be very dull, possibly
unpleasant, and in that case real friendship will be a labour, if not
an impossibility; but, for the man's sake, they must be treated in
such a way as not to hurt either his feelings or their own. The same,
naturally, holds good with regard to her belongings.

The Man who Lives in Rooms

is a much easier person to cultivate. You take it for granted that he
is dull, that his dinners are not well cooked, and that he misses the
delights of home. So you ask him to drop in when he likes. "We are
nearly always in to tea;" or "We dine at 7.30, and if you take us as
we are, there will be a place for you." As soon as a man sees that
this sort of invitation is really meant he will not be slow to avail
himself of it. Not that he will come to dinner every other night, but
he will drop in to tea, and turn up in the course of the evening for a
little music and a chat. He gets into the habit of coming in on Sunday
afternoons, and generally ends by staying to supper.

As a Host.

All this means a great deal to a lone bachelor, and makes him long for
a home of his own. In return for this delightful hospitality he will,
perhaps, ask a sister to stay with him and give a tea-party in his
rooms. Later on he will have seats for a theatre, and arrange a nice
little dinner or supper in town. Where dramatic delights are out of
reach he will plan a river or cycling expedition, he will entertain
his friends at a local cricket match, he will inspire his fellow
bachelors to give a dance; and there will be only one guest whose
presence is of any importance to him.

He will not let it appear that he is paying a debt; he will {29}
imply, rather, that the ladies are conferring a favour upon him. He
will consult her mother as to many arrangements, and make sure that all
the guests are to her liking. He will not be afraid of asking a possible
rival, who might be more dangerous when absent than present. While
thus entertaining the lady of his choice, the suitor must discern
nicely between paying her special honour and taking it for granted
that she already belongs to him. He must not advertise the fact that
the party is given for her, by neglecting his other guests, or by
omitting pleasant courtesies to less-favoured maidens.



_Intercourse with (1) The Home Girl; (2) The Bachelor Girl; (3) The
Business Girl; (4) The Student or Professional Girl - Friends who
become Lovers._

The Home Girl.

As has already been said, the would-be lover will do well to study the
workings of his lady's home. If she has many domestic duties to
perform he will arrange his spare time to fit in with hers. He will
not call at such times as would be inconvenient and run the risk of
ructions, simply because he knows _she_ will be glad to see him. He
will not look aggrieved if she refuses to go out cycling with him
because she has promised to take the little ones out blackberrying. He
will seize a golden chance and go with them. When he is at her home,
he will not act as if the whole place belonged to him, and he will be
careful not to become a bore.

Men of leisure, and men whose professions place them on confidential
terms, such as doctors and clergymen, have the greatest opportunities
of knowing the Home Girl at her best, and at her worst. The last two
see her under conditions that show what she is really made of, and not
merely what she appears in society, for they have access to the house
in times of trouble when outsiders are excluded.

The Bachelor Girl

is pretty sure to be out of her teens, but not necessarily in the
thirties. She will probably have girl chums who, like herself, are
living in a more or less independent fashion. She sometimes indulges
in anti-matrimonial theories, and it may prove most interesting to
convert her from the error of her ways. A man has such beautifully
sure ground under his feet when she has given him plainly to
understand that she prefers {31} friendship to love. A would-be suitor
will find his opportunities of intercourse regulated by her standard
of conventionality. She is free to make her own life, with her own
code of conduct, her own ideas of responsibility.

She meets him frankly on what she deems common ground; but he sees the
other side of things, for men and women never can and never will look
at life from the same point of view. His knowledge should make him all
the more jealous of her fair fame, but he must walk warily lest he
wound her womanly dignity. She will do nothing wrong, her heart is too
pure for that, but he must not let her do what may even appear to be
wrong. At first she will be a little intoxicated with the sense of her
own freedom. He must never take advantage of that, for he knows that
the woman always pays.

They will probably include one of her chums in their cosy tea-parties
at her rooms, and there will be no secret of his coming and going. He
will see her home from the theatre, concert, or lecture, but he will
not go and smoke in her flat till the small hours. He will
discriminate as to the restaurant where they have lunch together, and
he will not invite her to a _tête-à-tête_ supper after the play. She
will entertain him at her club, and he will guard against the
assumption of rights that are not his.

The Business Girl.

The daily life of the Business Girl is of necessity a regular one, and
the man who wants to know more of her knows where to find her. If by
chance he is employed in the same firm, he has daily chances of making
headway with her. He can often render her little services, help her
over rough places, and make life as pleasant again for her. All this
can be so managed that no one, save perhaps a lynx-eyed rival, will
know anything about it. He will certainly not make her the talk of the
office by bragging of his conquest, and laying wagers as to his chance
of success, or get her into hot water by hindering her at her work.

She will keep her own counsel, and not giggle with other girls when he
comes along. Of course she will tell her special friend all about it,
for what is the good of a love-affair if you cannot talk to some one
on the all-engrossing subject?

{32} She will not display the buttonhole he bought her on the way from
the train to all the other girls as his gift, nor will she be foolish
and give herself away by hanging about his room door in the hopes of
seeing him. She will always find time for a word or a bright glance
when they do meet, by accident of course.

He will not make her conspicuous by always travelling home with her,
but he will be at hand to pilot her through a fog, to help her out of
a crowd, or to get her a place when there is anything to be seen. He
will make it plain that he thinks of her, and is ever on the alert to
play the part of her cavalier.

She is practical and self-reliant, as a rule, but she does not object
to be courted. When they plan a Saturday outing she will not propose
what she knows to be beyond his means, but she will pardon him for a
little extravagance in her honour.

Social Inequality.

When a man in a superior position begins paying attentions to a girl
filling a subordinate post, he will probably expose her to the
jealousy, and possible malice, of her fellows; but this will depend
greatly upon the girl herself. In this case the suitor must steer
clear of anything like patronage. If she is worthy of his notice she
is worthy of his respect and consideration. He will be careful not to
take her to any place of amusement where she would feel out of her
element, or run the risk of being snubbed by any of his own rich
friends. The son of a wealthy merchant would not give as much pleasure
to a girl earning thirty shillings in his father's office if he took
her to supper at the Carlton, as if he selected some less magnificent
restaurant. She would feel more at home on the river, or at Earl's
Court, than on the lawn at Hurlingham. He would show her that his
pleasure was to be with her, and he would wait till he could call her
his wife before introducing her to a new world.

The Student or Professional Girl.

There is a little country called Bohemia, whose laws rule the kingdom
of Art, and whose government seems a trifle erratic to those who live
outside the charmed circle. Students of {33} music, painting,
sculpture, and the drama have a code of Etiquette that may be called
adaptable; but it does not follow that because a man is an artist he
must therefore be deficient in courtesy to women; nor is it yet
inevitable that when a girl develops a talent for drawing she should
violate all the proprieties.

Falling in love with music-masters is a very old story, but it is not
quite a thing of the past. A man has no right to work on the emotions
of his pupil merely for his own amusement or to gratify his vanity. He
may find that it infuses more soul into her music, but she is a woman
as well as an artist. Where both have the artistic temperament highly
developed, it is playing with fire indeed.

_The Dramatic Student_ is thrown into very mixed society. She is left
with a great deal of spare time on her hands when merely
understudying, or out of an engagement. She is forced to keep late
hours, and may be exposed to many unpleasant experiences. I know of
one man who was so distressed at the girl of his heart having to cross
London by the last 'bus every night that he changed his quarters and
took rooms as near to where she was living as he could, in order to be
able to see her home without making the fact unduly conspicuous.

This was a delicate act of courtesy, and I am glad to say that they
are now happily married.

_The Medical Student and Hospital Nurse_ are generally women with a
special turn of mind, and in the former case the work of training is
so absorbing that it can hardly be run concurrently with the delights
of courtship. The nurse soon learns to take care of herself, and has
many special opportunities of studying the lords of creation. She sees
some of the noblest and most gifted of them at their work, the wildest
of them at play, and all and sundry in their hour of weakness; and
this experience should be borne in mind by the man who seeks to win
her. She will not regard him as a demi-god, nor as a hero of romance.
She will not appeal to the man who wants a mere plaything in his wife.
She will have far higher gifts than the society doll, but she will be
a woman to be wooed, and worth the winning.


Friends who become Lovers.

There are those who say that friendship excludes love, and there is a
kind of friendship which can only exist where love is impossible and
undesired. On the other hand we know that sometimes the boy and girl
who have grown up side by side, who have shared each other's pranks and
penalties, do wake up one day to find a new element asserting itself
in their intercourse. A certain shyness springs up between them only
to be dispelled by fuller, sweeter comradeship. This development
sometimes takes place during a period of separation, or when a
possible rival appears on the scene. It usually assumes concrete form
in the man's mind first. He may hide his love under the guise of
friendship till he feels he has a right to make it known. It may be
that he has to go abroad to seek the wherewithal to start a home, and
when he has succeeded he will write some such letter as this: -

"My Dear Clari, - When I threw up my berth at home you wondered why I
was in such a hurry to leave the old country, and home, and you, and
it was very hard not to tell you the real reason. I came out here to
make enough money to set up housekeeping, and, dear, I want you to
come and help me, now I have succeeded so far. I know it is a
tremendous thing to ask, and that I am entirely unworthy of the
sacrifice you would be making; but, dear, we know each other pretty
well by this, and I hope you can trust yourself to me. If you only
knew how I have longed to tell you this through the last two years of
our sweet, but to me unsatisfying, friendship you would not keep me in
suspense any longer than you can help. You have been the one thought
and object of my life ever since I came out, and I have lived in fear
of some other fellow getting in before me.

I think I must always have loved you, it seems a part of myself, but
it was your first ball that woke me up.

Let me know soon, dear. - Ever and always your devoted


However the change from friendship to love comes about, the man must be
just as courteous as if she had only crossed {35} his path in the
fulness of her young womanhood. He must not take her for granted because
he knew her in pinafores, nor slight her sensibilities because he taught
her to climb trees. If he is negligent other men will supply his
deficiencies. As a lover he is bound to appear in a new light, and he
must look to it that he does not suffer by the change. The friend
ought to make the best lover, for he knows the tastes and weaknesses,
the temperament and surroundings of the woman he has chosen. They will
be bound by countless old associations, but this very familiarity may
breed, not contempt, but a matter-of-fact mental attitude that will
rob courtship of more than half its charm.



_Flirts, Male and Female - He Changes his Mind on the Verge of a
Proposal - How She accepts the Situation - How She may give
Encouragement or ward off an Unwelcome Offer._

It may be questioned whether there is any etiquette in flirtation.
Yes, I think there is. Flirts of both sexes may be divided into two
large classes - (1) the wanton and deliberate; (2) the kindly and


The first class are birds of prey. The man is probably very charming,
a delightful companion, an ideal cavalier, a man whose society a woman
always enjoys - especially if she does not take him seriously. It is
she who fails to realise that she is only one of a large number who
fall victims and suffer accordingly. She blissfully accepts his subtle
suggestion that she is _the_ one woman in the world for him - so she is
while they are together - and flatters herself that though he may have
flirted with others he is really in love with her. When once the sport
of the moment is over he leaves his prey, more or less cruelly
wounded, and gaily seeks new fields for his prowess. This sort of man
likes young and inexperienced girls or women whose confiding trust
exceeds their power of discernment.

It is an unpardonable breach of etiquette for a man to abuse
hospitality and the privilege of intercourse by wanton conduct of this

Making a Girl Conspicuous.

A man should remember that it is the woman who suffers from the breath
of slander or the pettiness of gossip. Such {37} things affect him but
little, if at all. Suppose that two young people belong to a public
tennis or dramatic club. The man singles out one particular girl by
his attentions, makes a point of always seeing her home, establishes
himself as her constant cavalier, and thus puts it in the power of the
gossips to say "Well, if they are not engaged they ought to be!" After
a time he cools off, for no other reason than that he is tired of the
girl or has possibly seen a fresh and more attractive face. It may
have dawned upon him that he might be asked his intentions, and he
does not care to confess that he never had any. This course of action
is especially unfair in the case of a young girl whose experience of
men's ways is but beginning. An older woman ought to be able to take
care of herself, and if she thinks such a game worth the candle, no
one can blame the man for helping her to play it.

The Female Flirt.

A woman in the first class of flirts is possibly more dangerous than
the man. She has no heart, only insatiable vanity. She uses her powers
on all who come in her way, regardless of any claim another of her sex
may have upon them. Lover, husband, and friend, they are all fair game
for her, and if hearts are damaged, well, she is always sure that her
own will remain intact. Her veracity is as elastic as her conscience.
Her charms are equalled by her unscrupulousness.

She will keep the youth in bondage without the slightest intention of
ever marrying him. She will fool the mature man who is desperately in
earnest, while she is angling after some one wealthier or more
amusing. If she does elect to wed one of her victims, it is, in all
probability, only to carry out her devastating tactics on a larger

Kindly, Spontaneous Flirts.

The members of the second class, men and women, are charming without
being dangerous. They love the society of the other sex; they have the
art of pleasing and make use of it, but they play the game fairly.
There is no poaching, no snares are laid for the unwary, and if harm
is done it is because people have misunderstood them. The man flirts
because he loves {38} to say pretty things to a woman. He revels in an
interchange of banter and repartee which makes her eyes sparkle and
his pulses beat the faster. The girl flirts out of the abundance of
her joyous vitality. She suits herself to the companion of the hour.
She knows nothing of the tender passion, she is not taking life quite
seriously yet, but she has the delicacy to draw back when she sees
danger signals in the eyes or the lingering clasp of her friend's
hand. She will not make a fool of him. She is too straight for that.

Withdrawing Gracefully.

It is no easy matter to change the course of things when one has
drifted into a flirtation. It behoves a girl then to choose her man
carefully, and not to place herself in any false position towards him.
If he is not chivalrous enough to take a delicately conveyed hint, he
will only imagine that she is playing a more subtle game of coquetry,
and by redoubling his attentions make himself the reverse of
agreeable. No man with any regard for the most elementary rules of
etiquette would either embarrass a lady by keeping up a tone that she
had even indirectly discouraged, or insult her by insinuating that she
had led him on.

He Changes his Mind on the Verge of a Proposal.

This is bound to be an awkward development for both parties, and it
will take all a man's tact to avoid giving pain, and possibly gaining
credit for having behaved badly. It is, nevertheless, the best time
for a change to come. It may be that he has idealised the object of
his attentions, looked at her through eyes blinded by her beauty, or
dazzled by her fascination. He has not stopped to think what sort of
woman she really is, what lies beneath that fair exterior. Then the
word is spoken, the action witnessed, the mood revealed which makes
him shrink from the thought of making her his wife.

His Way of Escape.

He will either seek safety in flight after a perfectly polite, but
clearly-defined farewell; or he will gradually withdraw {39} from the

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Online LibraryG. R. M. DevereuxThe Etiquette of Engagement and Marriage → online text (page 2 of 9)