Full Online Books
Authors Authors Short Stories Short Stories Long Stories Long Stories Funny Stories Funny Stories Love Stories Love Stories Stories For Kids Stories For Kids Poems Poems Essays Essays Nonfictions Nonfictions Plays Plays Folktales Folktales Fairy Tales Fairy Tales Fables Fables Learning Kitchen Learning Kitchen
Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Free Classified Website Without Registration Free Classified Website Daniel Company
Twitter Twitter Add book
Full Online Book HomeEssaysThe Lost Art Of Courtship
Famous Authors (View All Authors)
The Lost Art Of Courtship Post by :javabuddha Category :Essays Author :Myrtle Reed Date :November 2011 Read :2542

Click below to download : The Lost Art Of Courtship (Format : PDF)

The Lost Art Of Courtship

(Sidenote: Liberty of Choice)

Civilisation is so acutely developed at present that the old meaning of courtship is completely lost. None of the phenomena which precede a proposal would be deemed singular or out of place in a platonic friendship. This state of affairs gives a man every advantage and all possible liberty of choice.

Our grandparents are scandalised at modern methods. "Girls never did so," in the distant years when those dear people were young. If a young man called on grandmother once a week, and she approved of him and his prospects, she began on her household linen, without waiting for the momentous question.

Judging by the fiction of the period and by the delightful tales of old New England, which read like fairy stories to this generation, the courtships of those days were too leisurely to be very interesting. Ten-year engagements did not seem to be unusual, and it was not considered a social mistake if a man suddenly disappeared for four or five years, without the formality of mentioning his destination to the young woman who expected to marry him.

(Sidenote: Faithful Maidens)

We have all read of the faithful maidens who kept on weaving stores of fine linen and making regular pilgrimages for the letter which did not come. Years afterward, when the man finally appeared, it was all right, and the wedding went on just the same, even though in the meantime the recreant knight had married and been bereaved.

Two or three homeless children were sometimes brought cheerfully into the story, and assisted materially in the continuation of the interrupted courtship. The tears which the modern spinster sheds over such a tale are not at the pathos of the situation, but because it is possible, even in fiction, for a woman to be so destitute of spirit.

(Sidenote: Without Saying a Word)

"In dem days," as Uncle Remus would say, any attention whatever meant business. Small courtesies which are without significance now were fraught with momentous import then. In this year of grace, among all races except our own, there are ways in which a man may definitely commit himself without saying a word.

A flower or a serenade is almost equivalent to a proposal in sunny Spain. A "walking-out" period of six months is much in vogue in other parts of Europe, but the daughter of the Anglo-Saxon has no such guide to a man's intentions.

Among certain savage tribes, if a man is in love with a girl and wishes to marry her, he drags her around his tent by the hair or administers a severe beating. It may be surmised that these attentions are not altogether pleasant, but she has the advantage of knowing what the man means.

Flowers are a pretty courtesy and nothing more. The kindly thought which prompts them may be as transient as their bloom. Three or four men serenade girls on summer nights because they love to hear themselves sing. Books, and music, and sweets, which convention decrees are the only proper gifts for the unattached, may be sent to any girl, without affecting her indifference to furniture advertisements and January sales of linen.

If there is any actual courtship at the present time, the girl does just as much of it as the man. Her dainty remembrances at holiday time have little more meaning than the trifles a man bestows upon her, though the gift latitude accorded her is much wider in scope.

(Sidenote: Furniture)

When a girl gives a man furniture, she usually intends to marry him, but often merely succeeds in making things interesting for the girl who does it in spite of her. The newly-married woman attends to the personal belongings of her happy possessor with the celerity which is taught in classes for "First Aid to the Injured."

One by one, the cherished souvenirs of his bachelor days disappear. Pictures painted by rival fair ones go to adorn the servant's room, through gradual retirement backward. Rare china is mysteriously broken. Sofa cushions never "harmonise with the tone of the room," and the covers have to be changed. It takes time, but usually by the first anniversary of a man's marriage, his penates have been nobly weeded out, and the things he has left are of his wife's choosing, generously purchased with his own money.

Woe to the girl who gives a man a scarf-pin! When the bride returns the initial call, that scarf-pin adds conspicuously to her adornment. The calm appropriation makes the giver grind her teeth--- and the bride knows it.

In the man's presence, the keeper of his heart and conscience will say, sweetly: "Oh, my dear, such a dreadful thing has happened! That exquisitely embroidered scarf you made for Tom's chiffonier is utterly ruined! The colours ran the first time it was washed. You have no idea how I feel about it--it was such a beautiful thing!"

The wretched donor of the scarf attempts consolation by saying that it doesn't matter. It never was intended for Tom, but as every stitch in it was taken while he was with her, he insisted that he must have it as a souvenir of that happy summer. She adds that it was carefully washed before it was given to him, that she has never known that kind of silk to fade, and that something must have been done to it to make the colours run.

(Sidenote: A Pitched Battle)

The short-sighted man at this juncture felicitates himself because the two are getting on so well together. He never realises that a pitched battle has occurred under his very nose, and that the honours are about even.

If Tom possesses a particularly unfortunate flash-light photograph of the girl, the bride joyfully frames it and puts it on the mantel where all may see. If the original of the caricature remonstrates, the happy wife sweetly temporises and insists that it remain, because "Tom is so fond of it," and says, "it looks just like her."

Devious indeed are the paths of woman. She far excels the "Heathen Chinee" in his famous specialty of "ways that are dark and tricks that are vain."

Courtship is a game that a girl has to play without knowing the trump. The only way she ever succeeds at it is by playing to an imaginary trump of her own, which may be either open, disarming friendliness, or simple indifference.

When a man finds the way to a woman's heart a boulevard, he has taken the wrong road. When his path is easy and his burden light, it is time for him to doubt. When his progress seems like making a new way to the Klondike, he needs only to keep his courage and go on.

For, after all, it is woman who decides. A clever girl may usually marry any man she sees fit to honour with the responsibility of her bills. The ardent lover counts for considerably less than he is wont to suppose.

(Sidenote: The Only One They Know)

There is a good old scheme which the world of lovers has unanimously adopted, in order to find out where they stand. It is so simple as to make one weep, but it is the only one they know. This consists of an intentional absence, judiciously timed.

Suppose a man has been spending three or four evenings a week with the same girl, for a period of two or three months. Flowers, books, and chocolates have occasionally appeared, as well as invitations to the theatre. The man has been fed out of the chafing-dish, and also with accidental cake, for men are as fond of sugar as women, though they are ashamed to admit it.

Suddenly, without warning, the man misses an evening, then another, then another. Two weeks go by, and still no man. The neighbours and the family begin to ask questions of a personal nature.

It is at this stage that the immature and childish woman will write the man a note, expressing regret for his long absence, and trusting that nothing may interfere with their "pleasant friendship." Sometimes the note brings the man back immediately and sometimes it doesn't. He very seldom condescends to make an explanation. If he does, it is merely a casual allusion to "business." This is the only excuse even a bright man can think of.

(Sidenote: "Climbing a Tree")

This act is technically known among girls as "climbing a tree." When a man does it, he wants a girl to bring a ladder and a lunch and plead with him to come down and be happy, but doing as he wishes is no way to attract a man up a tree.

Men are as impervious to tears and pleadings as a good mackintosh to mist, but at the touch of indifference, they melt like wax. So when her quondam lover attempts metaphorical athletics, the wise girl smiles and withdraws into her shell.

She takes care that he shall not see her unless he comes to her. She draws the shades the moment the lamps are lighted. If he happens to pass the house in the evening, he may think she is out, or that she has company--it is all the same to her. She arranges various evenings with girl friends and gets books from the library. This is known as "provisioning the citadel for a siege."

(Sidenote: Pride and Pride)

It is a contest between pride and pride which occurs in every courtship, and the girl usually wins. True lovers are as certain to return as Bo-Peep's flock or a systematically deported cat. Shame-faced, but surely, the man comes back.

Various laboratory note-books yield the same result. A single entry indicates the general trend of the affair.

MAN calls on GIRL after five weeks of unexplained absence. She asks no questions, but keeps the conversation impersonal, even after he shows symptoms of wishing to change its character.

MAN. (Finally.) "I haven't seen you for an awfully long time."

GIRL. "Haven't you? Now that I think of it, it has been some time."

MAN. "How long has it been, I wonder?"

GIRL. "I haven't the least idea. Ten days or two weeks, I guess."

MAN. (Hastily.) "Oh no, it's been much longer than that. Let's see, it's"--(makes great effort with memory)--"why, it's five weeks! Five weeks and three days! Don't you remember?"

GIRL. "I hadn't thought of it. It doesn't seem that long. How time does fly, doesn't it!" (Long silence.)

MAN. "I've been awfully busy. I wanted to come over, but I just couldn't."

GIRL. "I've been very busy, too." (Voluminous detail of her affairs follows, entirely pleasant in character.)

MAN. (Tenderly.) "Were you so busy you didn't miss me?"

GIRL. "Why, I can't say I missed you, exactly, but I always thought of you pleasantly."

MAN. "Did you think of me often?"

GIRL. (Laughing.) "I didn't keep any record of it. Do you want me to cut a notch in the handle of my parasol every time I think of you? If all my friends were so exacting, I'd have time for nothing else. I'd need a new one every week and the house would be full of shavings. All my fingers would be cut, too."

MAN. (Unconsciously showing his hand.) "I thought you'd write me a note."

(Sidenote: His Short Suit)

GIRL. (Leading his short suit.) "You could have waited on your front steps till the garbage man took you away, and I wouldn't have written you any note."

MAN. (With evident sincerity.) "That's no dream! I could do just that!" (Proposal follows in due course, MAN making full and complete confession.)

If he is foolish enough to complicate his game with another girl, he loses much more than he gains, for he lowers the whole affair to the level of a flirtation, and destroys any belief the girl may have had in him. He also forces her to do the same thing, in self-defence. Flirtation is the only game in which it is advisable and popular to trump one's partner's ace.

He who would win a woman must challenge her admiration, prove himself worthy of her regard, appeal to her sympathy--and then wound her. She is never wholly his until she realises that he has the power to make her miserable as well as to make her happy, and that love is an infinite capacity for suffering.

A man who does it consciously is apt to overdo it, out of sheer enthusiasm, and if a girl suspects that it is done intentionally, the hurt loses its sting and changes her love to bitterness. A succession of attempts is also useless, for a man never hurts a woman twice in exactly the same way. When he has run the range of possible stabs, she is out of his reach--unless she is his wife.

(Sidenote: A State Secret)

The intentional absence scheme is too transparent to succeed, and temporary devotion to another girl is definite damage to his cause, for it indicates fickleness and instability. There is only one way by which a man may discover his true position without asking any questions, and that is--a state secret. Now and then a man strikes it by accident, but nobody ever tells--even brothers or platonic friends.

Some men select a wife as they would a horse, paying due attention to appearance, gait, disposition, age, teeth, and grooming. High spirits and a little wildness are rather desirable than otherwise, if both are young. Men who have had many horses or many wives and have grown old with both, have a slight inclination toward sedate ways and domestic traits.

(Sidenote: The "Woman's Column")

Modern society makes it fully as easy to choose the one as the other. In communities where the chaperone idea is at its prosperous zenith, a man may see a girl under nearly all circumstances. The men who conduct the "Woman's Column" in many pleasing journals are still writing of the effect it has on a man to catch a girl in curl papers of a morning, though curl papers have been obsolete for many and many a moon.

Cycling, golf, and kindred out-door amusements have been the death of careless morning attire. Uncorseted woman is unhappy woman, and the girl of whom the versatile journalist writes died long ago. Perhaps it is because a newspaper man can write anything at four minutes' notice and do it well, that the press fairly reeks with "advice to women."

The question, propounded in a newspaper column, "What Kind of a Girl Does a Man Like Best," will bring out a voluminous symposium which adds materially to the gaiety of the nation. It would be only fair to have this sort of thing temporarily reversed--to tell men how to make home happy for their wives and how to keep a woman's love, after it has once been given.

Some clever newspaper woman might win everlasting laurels for herself if she would contribute to this much neglected branch of human knowledge. How is a man to know that a shirt-front which looks like a railroad map diverts one's mind from his instructive remarks? How is he to know that a cane is a nuisance when he fares forth with a girl? It is true that sisters might possibly attempt this, but the modern sister is heavily overworked at present and it is not kind to suggest an addition to her cares.

(Sidenote: Neglected By His Kind)

There is no advice of any sort given to men except on the single subject of choosing a wife. This is to be found only in the books in the Sabbath-School library, or in occasional columns of the limited number of saffron dailies which illuminate the age. Surely, man has been neglected by his kind!

(Sidenote: Indecision)

The general masculine attitude indicates widespread belief in the promise, "Ask, and ye shall receive." A man will tell his best friend that he doesn't know whether to marry a certain girl. If she hears of his indecision there is trouble ahead, if he finally decides in the affirmative, and it is quite possible that he may not marry her.

After the door of a woman's heart has once swung on its silent hinges, a man thinks he can prop it open with a brick and go away and leave it. A storm is apt to displace the brick, however--and there is a heavy spring on the door. Woe to the masculine finger that is in the way!

A man often hesitates between two young women and asks his friends which he shall marry. Custom has permitted the courtship of both and neither has the right to feel aggrieved, because it is exceedingly bad form for a girl to love a man before he has asked her to.

Now and then a third girl is a man's confidante at this trying period. Nothing so bores a person as to be a man's "guide, philosopher and friend" in his perplexities with other girls. To one distinct class of women men tell their troubles and the other class sees that they have plenty to tell. It is better to be in the second category than in the first.

Sooner or later, the confidante explains the whole affair to the subjects of the confidence and strange, new kinds of trouble immediately come to the rash man. It is a common failing to expect another person to keep a secret which we have just proved is beyond our own capability.

(Sidenote: The Adamantine Fortress)

When a man has once deeply wounded a woman's pride, he may just as well give up his hope of winning her. At that barrier, the little blind god may plead in vain. Love's face may be sad, his big, sightless eyes soft with tears, and his helpless hands outstretched in pleading and prayer, but that stern sentinel will never yield. Wounded love is easily forgiven, wounded belief sometimes forgotten, but wounded pride--never. It is the adamantine fortress. There is only one path which leads to the house of forgiveness--that of understanding, and it is impassable if woman's pride has come between.

A girl never knows whether a courtship is in progress or not, unless a man tells her. He may be interested and amused, but not in love. It is only in the comic papers that a stern parent waits upon the continuous caller and demands to know his "intentions," so a girl must, perforce, be her own guide.

(Sidenote: The Continuous Caller)

A man may call upon a girl so constantly and so regularly that the neighbours daily expect wedding invitations, and the family inquire why he does not have his trunk sent to the house. Later, quite casually, he will announce his engagement to a girl who is somewhere else. This fiancée is always a peculiarly broad-minded girl who knows all about her lover's attentions to the other and does not in the least object. She wants him to "have a good time" when he is away from her, and he is naturally anxious to please her. He wants the other girl to know his wife--he is sure they will be good friends.

Lasting feminine friendships are not built upon foundations of that kind. It is very unfortunate, for the world would be gladdened by many more than now exist.

According to geometry, "things which are equal to the same thing are equal to each other," and it would seem, from the standpoint of pure reason, that people who are fond of the same people would naturally be congenial and take pleasure in being together.

But a sensitive spinster is often grieved when she discovers that her men friends do not readily assimilate. If she leaves two of them to entertain each other, the conversation does not flow with desirable spontaneity. There is no lack of courtesy between them, however, even of that finer sort which keeps them both there, lest one, by leaving, should seem to remind his companion that it was late.

On the contrary, if a man is fond of two different girls, they are seldom to be seen apart. They exchange long visits regularly and this thoughtfulness often saves him from making an extra call.

(Sidenote: A Happy Triumvirate)

A happy triumvirate is thus formed and the claws of it do not show. Sometimes it is hard to decide between them, and he cuts the Gordian knot by marrying someone else, but the friendship is never the same afterward. The girls are no longer boon companions and when the man crosses their paths, they manage to convey the impression of great distance.

(Sidenote: Narrowed Down to Two)

In the beginning, almost any number may join in the game, but the inevitable process of selection eventually narrows it down to two. Society has given men a little the best of it, but perhaps woman's finer sight compensates her for the apparent disadvantages--and even Love, who deals the cards, is too blind to see the fatal consequences of his mistakes.

(The end)
Myrtle Reed's essay: Lost Art Of Courtship

If you like this book please share to your friends :

The Natural History Of Proposals The Natural History Of Proposals

The Natural History Of Proposals
(Sidenote: The Inquiring Spinster) There is no subject which presents more difficulties to the inquiring spinster. Contemporary spinsters, when approached upon the topic, are anything but encouraging; apparently lacking the ability to distinguish between impertinent intrusion into their personal affairs and the scientific spirit which prompts the collection of statistics. Married women, when asked to repeat the exact language of the lover at the happy moment, are wont to transfix the sensitive aspirant for knowledge with lofty scorn. Mothers are accustomed to dissemble and say they "have forgotten." Men in general are uncommunicative, though occasionally some rare soul will expand under

The Philosophy Of Love The Philosophy Of Love

The Philosophy Of Love
(Sidenote: The Prevailing Theme) A modern novelist has greatly lamented because the prevailing theme of fiction is love. Every story is a love story, every romance finds its inspiration in the heart, and even the musty tomes of history are beset by the little blind god. One or two men have dared to write books from which women have been excluded as rigorously as from the Chinese stage, but the world of readers has not loudly clamoured for more of the same sort. A story of adventure loses none of its interest if there is some fair damsel to be rescued