Lessons in "Old School" Love - Part 2
By Myles Sinnamon, Project Coordinator, State Library of Queensland | 14 February 2016
Once you've survived the courting process you may be ready for the next level of commitment. If your romance didn't go according to plan simply read part one of Lessons in "Old School" Love.
Victorian journalist Theodosia Ada Wallace in her 1909 book The etiquette of Australia : a handy book of the common usages of everyday life and society, admits there are few rules governing engagements in Australia, but suggests that "it is better not to announce an engagement if it is to be a long one". A long, drawn-out engagement is boring says Theodosia - "perpetually going out together creates monotony, and robs by anticipation of early married life one of its greatest charms".
Although Theodosia believed it was optional to give an engagement ring, she was very much in favour of betrothal presents given to the intended bride. Padlocked bracelets or a set of furs suggested as "a suitable bethrothal present", going on to state, "In fact, almost anything will do, and the more presents the better".
Controversially Theodosia goes against the "old fashioned" idea that presents should be returned if an engagement is broken, as they are essentially "damaged goods" and "to receive one's presents back is like having a knife turned in the wound (for hearts cannot change in a day)".
If your engagement ends in disaster Theodosia recommends returning old love letters to your ex-fiancée as "their dumb eloquence" often melts the stony heart and leads to a renewal of love.
Wallace's The etiquette of Australia : a handy book of the common usages of everyday life and society (1909) suggests that you can restrict the size of your wedding by only inviting your favourite friends."The atmosphere at a wedding is electric and telepathic - people who only go to criticise or from curiosity are best left out...a wedding is not a spectacle".
Theodosia also advises to invite several bachelors to your weddings as other female guests will enjoy it - "Girls enjoy another girl's wedding more when there are plenty of men to pay them attention...".
Writing speeches for weddings always requires careful attention. Back in 1967 some Queenslanders may have turned to John P. Munro's Model speeches and toasts for inspiration, however there are a few old-fashioned examples which were probably inappropriate even in their day.
Munro's book is basically a template for writing a speech, allowing the user to simply insert the relevant person's name, however it is advisable to steer clear of the following examples -
- "I congratulate the bridegroom on securing a bride so well trained in household duties by so capable a tutor as her mother" - a toast to the parents of the bride
- "We feel that in her new home our daughter will give proof of the training which it has been our privelege and our pleasure to impart to her" - a response from the father of the bride
Historical issues of Australian Women's Weekly can make for interesting reading when looking for perspectives on love and romance. An article in a 1956 edition entitled "How to get a man" contains the opinions of a number of women and men, from all different walks of life, about their perfect mate. For example, University professor, middle aged and married said "..qualities which, as a young man, I expected in a girl, I would say she should be clean. She should be slender. If, by unfortunate chance, her teeth aren't her own, then she should have the best money can buy".
Ship's doctor, young, bachelor initially remarks that his standards aren't particular high only to then rattle off his ideal woman, saying she should have "good teeth" and "good ankles", must have a "will to work" as "buttons have to be sewn on, hot stoves have to be sweated over", she must have "good looks" as "no man could be expected to live with a plain slattern" and the most important attribute was "no brains" because "a woman with brains argues, disagrees and wants her own way". Whether this attitude is a reflection of the ship doctor's youth, or the reason for his bachelor state I'll leave to the reader to decide.
Myles Sinnamon - Project Coordinator, State Library of Queensland
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