Wednesday 1 September 2010

Pleased at Being the Object of your Preference

One of the most interesting etiquette guides I have ever come across is the Ladies and Gentlemen's Model Letter Writer. It provides standard form letters for everything a respectable Victorian might require; but the best ones relate to marriage proposals. If you're thinking about getting wed, and of a steampunk persuasion, this is the way to start.

There is, unfortunately, only a single letter showing gentlemen on how to propose ...

Braintree, Essex.
    As no opportunity has presented itself at speaking to you lately alone, I venture to address you by letter, and I assure you my happiness greatly depends on the reply with which you may deign to favour me.
    I love you, dear Miss ––, very sincerely, and if you can return my affection and become my wife, I shall consider myself the most fortunate of men.
    The income which I can place at your disposal is not large, but in my family you will find the most tender and affectionate connexions. My mother (to whom alone I have confided my secret) is rejoiced at the hope of having you for a daughter. Do not, best beloved Miss Johnstone, disappoint her and myself! Should you not reject me––if I am ever so happy as to call you my wife––the tenderest and most affectionate devotion shall be yours, and the principal and only study of my future days shall be to render your life as happy as you deservedly merit it should be. Your reply is most impatiently awaited by one whose life is wrapped up in yours. My aunt has just called, and it appears that some years since she was very intimately acquainted with your father, to whom I have written, enclosing this note for you, and stating to him the purport of its contents.
        I remain,
            Dear Miss Johnstone,
                Yours very truly,
                    HARRY CLINTON.

Whereas the ladies have many more options (perhaps reflecting the likely audience for the book) ... enjoy ...

Answer to a Proposal.
London, September 4th.
    I was very much surprised by your letter, and I will add, much pleased at being the object of your preference. I am fully sensible that it is the greatest compliment you could pay me.
    I have had frequent opportunities of learning your worth, and must candidly admit that I both like and esteem you.
    But an engagement is a very serious affair, and I am sure that I may safely appeal to your generosity for time to give the matter due consideration, especially as I do not feel at liberty to give a decisive answer without previously consulting my relatives. Trusting that you wiIl see the propriety of my request,
    I remain,
        Yours very sincerely,
            JANE ANDREWS.

Unfavourable Answer.
London, September 4th
    I was both surprised and sorry on receiving your letter, as I do not think I have ever by word or deed given you any encouragement which could induce you to make me an offer, and––deeply as I feel honoured by your preference––reasons which I am not at liberty to explain, prevent my entertaining a thought of a more intimate acquaintance.
    Trusting you will banish me from your memory, or think only of me as a sincere friend, I remain, with sincerest wishes for your future happiness and welfare,
    Yours truly,

The Oaks, March 9.
    I feel much flattered by your proposal, and if my father makes no objection to you; I shall esteem myself happy in having secured the affection of so good a man.
    Pray excuse the shortness of this letter ; it is the most awkward one I ever had to write––but I have good cause to know that you will pardon the shortcomings of
    Yours sincerely,

Answer to a proposal.
Belvoir Terrace April 1, 18––.
    Your letter was a surprise, although our long and affectionate friendship, and the many proofs you have given of tender care for me, ought to have prepared me for it. But it was a very happy surprise too, Charlie. I do not doubt you have a shrewd guess that I care a wee bit for my old friend; indeed I should be very ungrateful if I did not.
    You must speak to my father and mother on the subject. That they may consent to our union is the sincere wish of
    Your very sincerely attached,

London, April 5th, 18––.
    I scarcely know how to reply to your letter or to express what I feel at finding that you have given me your affection. I am not worthy of you in any way, but if you really think that I could make you happy. I will gladly try my best to do so.
    Of course my consent to your proposal must now depend on that of my father, to whom pray apply at once. I have prepared him for your letter.
    Believe me,
        Very truly yours,

On same subject.
London, September 4th.
    I acknowledge with much gratitude your very flattering letter, which has nevertheless given me great pain.
    It is not possible for me to accept your proposal, and my esteem and respect for you make me feel sincerely sorry to wound you by a rejection.
    Forgive me that I cannot love you as you deserve to be loved, and try to forget that you have honoured me by your choice.
    Believe me,
        Dear Sir,
            Your obliged and obedient,

Refusing a proposal.
London, August 5th.
DEAR MR. ––,
    My father has placed your letter to him in my hands, and desired me to answer the flattering proposal which it contains. It is with profound regret that I obey him; for I cannot––unhappily––respond to the feelings you are good enough to entertain for me.
    As a friend I shall ever like and esteem you, but I cannot feel for you the love which alone can make married life happy.
Allow me, however, to thank you very heartily fox the great compliment that you have paid me, and to entreat your forgiveness if anything in my manner has unconsciously given rise to the hopes I am obliged to disappoint.
    You will doubtless meet with some far worthier object by-and-by on whom to bestow your affections. That such may be the case is the sincere prayer of
    Your obliged friend,
        L. M.

The Ferns, January 1st.
    Allow me to express my grateful sense of the great honour you have done me in asking me to be your wife. It is with extreme regret that I feel myself compelled to decline your proposal. I have the greatest esteem and regard for you, but I cannot feel the affection which a wife should possess for her husband towards yourself.
    I write with much sorrow; and I trust that at some future time, when you have a little forgotten any possible pain which I may now give you, that you will renew your former friendship with,
        Dear Sir,
   Your obliged and sincere friend,

From a Lady to her Betrothed, who has not written to her.
Elm Grove, November 13th.
    It is more than a month since you wrote to me. Are you ill? or what causes your silence? I  have thought lately also that your letters were constrained and cold, as well as few and far between. Has your affection for me changed? If so, speak frankly to me, dear John. I would not for the world hold you to your promise to me, if you desired to be released from it.
    Write to me immediately, and answer me truly.
        I am, ever,
            Yours affectionately,

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