This section is from the book "Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: A Guide To Correct Writing", by Thos. E. Hill. Also available from Amazon: Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: The How-To-Do-Everything Book Of Victorian America.
In the first place, observation proves that selections made in nature by the beasts of the field and fowls of the air, of couples which pair, the male is always the strongest, generally the largest, the most brave, and always the leader. The female follows, trusting to her companion, leaving him to fight the heavy battles, apparently confident in his bravery, strength and wisdom.
If nature teaches anything, it is what observation and experience in civilized life has also proved correct, that of husband and wife, rightly mated, the husband should represent the positive - the physical forces, the intellectual and the strongly-loving; while the wife will represent the negative - the sympathetic, the spiritual, and the affectional. The husband should be so strong as to be a natural protector to his family. He should be brave, that he may defend his companion. He should be wise, and he should be so thoroughly true and devoted to his wife that he will delight in being her guardian and support.
The wife, confident in the husband's strength and wisdom, will thus implicitly yield to his protecting care. And thus both will be happy - he in exercising the prerogatives which belong naturally to the guardian and protector; and she in her confidence, love and respect for her companion, whom she can implicitly trust.
Those who are neither very tall nor very short, whose eyes are neither very black nor very blue, whose hair is neither very black nor very red, - the mixed types - may marry those who are quite similar in form, complexion and temperament to themselves.
Bright red hair and a florid complexion indicate an excitable temperament. Such should marry the jet-black hair and the brunette type.
The gray, blue, black or hazel eyes should not marry those of the same color. Where the color is very pronounced, the union should be with those of a decidedly different color.
The very corpulent should unite with the thin and spare, and the short, thick-set should choose a different constitution.
The extremely irritable and nervous should unite with the lymphatic, the slow and the quiet. Thus the stolid will be prompted by the nervous companion, while the excitable will be quieted by the gentleness of the less nervous.
The quick-motioned, rapid-speaking person should marry the calm and deliberate. The warmly impulsive should unite with the stoical.
The very fine-haired, soft and delicate-skinned should not marry those like themselves; and the curly should unite with the straight and smooth hair.
The thin, long-face should marry the round-favored; and the flat nose should marry the full Roman. The woman who inherits the features and peculiarities of her father should marry a man who partakes of the characteristics of his mother; but in all these cases where the type is not pronounced, but is, on the contrary, an average or medium, those forms, features and temperaments may marry either.
But however suitable may be the physical characteristics, there are many other matters to be considered before a man and woman may take upon themselves the obligation to love and serve each other through life, and these can only be learned by acquaintance and courtship, concerning which the following suggestions may be appropriate:
Any gentleman who may continuously give special, undivided attention to a certain lady, is presumed to do so because he prefers her to others. It is reasonable to suppose that others will observe his action. It is also to be expected that the lady will herself appreciate the fact, and her feelings are likely to become engaged. Should she allow an intimacy thus to ripen upon the part of the gentleman, and to continue, it is to be expected that he will be encouraged to hope for her hand; and hence it is the duty of both lady and gentleman, if neither intends marriage, to discourage an undue intimacy which may ripen into love, as it is in the highest degree dishonorable to trifle with the affections of another. If, however, neither has objections to the other, the courtship may continue.
At length the time arrives for the gentleman to make a proposal. If he is a good judge of human nature, he will have discovered long ere this whether his favors have been acceptably received or not, and yet he may not know positively how the lady will receive an offer of marriage. It becomes him, therefore, to propose.
What shall he say? There are many ways whereby he may introduce the subject. Among these are the following:
He may write to the lady, making an offer, and request her to reply. He may, if he dare not trust to words, even in her presence write the question on a slip of paper, and request her laughingly to give a plain " no " or "yes." He may ask her if in case a gentleman very much like himself was to make a proposal of marriage to her, what she would say. She will probably laughingly reply that it will be time enough to tell what she would say when the proposal is made. And so the ice would be broken. He may jokingly remark that he intends one of these days to ask a certain lady not a thousand miles away if she will marry him, and asks her what answer she supposes the lady will give him; she will quite likely reply that it will depend upon what lady he asks. And thus he may approach the subject, by agreeable and easy stages, in a hundred ways, depending upon circumstances.
An engagement of marriage has been made. The period of court-ship prior to marriage has been passed by the contracting parties, doubtless pleasantly, and we trust profitably.
Let us hope that they have carefully studied each other's tastes, that they know each other's mental endowments, and that by visits, rides and walks, at picnics, social gatherings and public entertainments, they have found themselves suited to each other.
Upon an engagement being announced, it is courtesy for various members of the gentleman's family, generally the nearest relatives, to call upon the family of the lady, who in turn should return the call as soon as possible. Possibly the families have never been intimate; it is not necessary that they should be so, but civility will demand the exchange of visits. If the betrothed live in different towns, an exchange of kind and cordial letters between the families is etiquette, the parents or near relatives of the gentleman writing to the lady or her parents.
A present of a ring to the lady, appropriately signalizes the engagement of marriage. This is usually worn on the fore-finger of the left hand. If the parties are wealthy, this may be set with diamonds; but if in humble circumstances, the gift should be more plain. Other presents by the gentleman to the lady, of jewelry, on birthdays, Christmas or New Year's, will be very appropriate; while she, in turn, may reciprocate by gifts of articles of fancy-work made with her own hands.
Aside from the engagement-ring, a gentleman should not, at this period of acquaintance, make expensive presents to his intended bride. Articles of small value, indicative of respect and esteem, are all that should pass between them. Should the marriage take place, and coming years of labor crown their efforts with success, then valuable gifts will be much more appropriate than in the earlier years of their acquaintance.
It remains to be seen whether the intended husband will prove a financial success or not He may be over benevolent; he may be too ready to become security for others; he may prove a spendthrift; he may lose his property in a variety of ways. It is therefore wise for the lady and her friends to see that, previous to the marriage, if she have money in her own right, a sufficient sum be settled upon her to provide for all contingencies in the future. This is a matter that the gentleman should himself insist upon, even using his own money for the purpose, as many a man has found, when his own fortune was wrecked, the provision made for his wife to be his only means of support in declining years.