Victorian courtship
July 24, 2006 3:59 PM   Subscribe

How can I find out what dating/courtship was really like in upper-class Victorian England?

I'm talking about detailed, maybe firsthand accounts of the whole process, from soup to nuts, so to speak: who you were allowed to woo, what hoops you had to jump through, who you had to impress (and how), how you popped the question, how long things took, etc, plus the whole sex-as-mystery thing at the end.
posted by gottabefunky to Society & Culture (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Books like Victorian Diaries might be a good starting point.

(And, if you think sex was a mystery for upper-class men, you might want to dip into Judith Walkowitz's Prostitution and Victorian Society: Women, Class, and the State.)
posted by jack_mo at 4:14 PM on July 24, 2006

I found Peter Gay's The Education of the Senses interesting with a good number of original sources and I second jack_mo's recommendation of Judith Walkowitz.
posted by annaramma at 4:38 PM on July 24, 2006

If anybody can help you, it would be thomas j wise. I suggest you drop her a line if she doesn't happen on this thread.
posted by languagehat at 4:59 PM on July 24, 2006

History books on courtship and women's history/gender relations in general. I'm afraid I don't know Victorian history that well, but there are excellent books on courtship and relationships in earlier periods (like Tudor England).
posted by jb at 5:36 PM on July 24, 2006

Ask whoever in your extended family is the geneology enthusiest if they have copies of diaries of great-great-great grandmother/fathers.
Reading fragments of the diary of mine, written as she was a girl / young woman emmigrating from England, was quite interesting along those lines.

Also check out the myriad etiquitte guides of the time. There are some online, but I can't find a link...
posted by -harlequin- at 5:43 PM on July 24, 2006

Ginger Frost, Promises Broken: Courtship, Class, and Gender in Victorian England. Randall Craig's Promising Language: Betrothal in Victorian Law and Fiction may be too forbidding for non-academics.

For work with some information about courtship, albeit not dedicated to it, try Leonore Davidoff and Catherine Hall, Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class, 1780-1850; Judith Flanders, Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England; and M. Jeanne Peterson, Family, Love, and Work in the Lives of Victorian Gentlemwomen.
posted by thomas j wise at 5:47 PM on July 24, 2006

You might enjoy watching Regency House Party (I ordered it from netflix). Even though the Regency ere predates the Victorian era, it didn't last that long and I'm guessing there are only subtle differences between regency and victorian social norms.
posted by necessitas at 7:43 PM on July 24, 2006

While your question concerns love in the upper-class, perhaps you'd also be interested in lust in the proverbial gutter: Love In The Time Of Victoria: Sexuality and Desire Among Working-Class Men and Women in 19Th-Century London.
posted by grabbingsand at 5:42 AM on July 25, 2006

See also When Passion Reigned: Sex and the Victorians.
posted by scratch at 6:48 AM on July 25, 2006

For a 1st-person account, see Molly Hughes's books, specifically A London Girl of the 1880s.
posted by JanetLand at 7:20 AM on July 25, 2006

Although that one is more middle class, not upper, sorry.
posted by JanetLand at 8:10 AM on July 25, 2006

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