FROM DIANE'S ANTIQUE BOOK COLLECTION
A visit to the Etiquette instructor . . .
Trifling with a Man’s Feelings. Some young ladies pride themselves upon the conquests which they make, and would not scruple to sacrifice the happiness of an estimable person to their reprehensible vanity. Let this be far from you. If you see clearly that you have become an object of especial regard to a gentleman, and do not wish to encourage his addresses, treat him honorably and humanely, as you hope to be used with generosity by the person who may engage your own heart. Do not let him linger in suspense; but take the earliest opportunity of carefully making known your feelings on the subject. This may be done in a variety of ways.
A refined ease of manner will satisfy him, if he has any discernment, that his addresses will not be acceptable. Should your natural disposition render this difficult, show that you wish to avoid his company, and he will presently withdraw; but if even this is difficult – and who can lay down rules for another? – allow an opportunity for explanation to occur. You can then give him a polite and decisive answer; and be assured that, in whatever manner you convey your sentiments to him, if he be a man of delicacy and right feeling, he will trouble you no further. Let it never be said of you, that you permit the attentions of an honorable man when you have no heart to give him; or that you have trifled with the affections of one whom you perhaps esteem, although you resolve never to marry him.
It may be that his preference gratifies and his conversation interests you; that you are flattered by the attentions of a man whom some of your companions admire; and that, in truth, you hardly know your own mind on the subject. This will not excuse you. Every young woman ought to know the state of her own heart; and yet the happiness and future prospects of many an excellent man have been sacrificed by such unprincipled conduct.
A Poor Triumph. It is a poor triumph for a young lady to say, or to feel, that she has refused five, ten, or twenty offers of marriage; it is about the same as acknowledging herself a trifler and coquette, who, from motives of personal vanity, tempts and induces hopes and expectations which she has predetermined shall be disappointed. Such a course is, to a certain degree, both unprincipled and immodest.
A Still Greater Crime. It is a still greater crime when a man conveys the impression that he is in love, by actions, gallantries, looks, attentions, all – except that he never commits himself – and finally withdraws his devotions, exulting in the thought that he has said or written nothing which can legally bind him.
The Rejected Lover. Remember that if a gentleman makes a lady an offer, she has no right to speak of it. If she possesses either generosity or gratitude for offered affection, she will not betray a secret which does not belong to her. It is sufficiently painful to be refused, without incurring the additional mortification of being pointed out as a rejected lover.
Duty of a Rejected Suitor. The duty of the rejected suitor is quite clear. Etiquette demands that he shall accept the lady’s decision as final and retire from the field. He has no right to demand the reason of her refusal. If she assign it, he is bound to respect her secret, if it is one, and to hold it inviolable.
To persist in urging his suit or to follow up the lady with marked attentions would be in the worst possible taste. The proper course is to withdraw as much as possible from the circles in which she moves, so that she may be spared reminiscences which cannot be other than painful.
Unmanly Conduct. Rejected suitors sometimes act as if they had received injuries they were bound to avenge, and so take every opportunity of annoying or slighting the helpless victims of their former attentions. Such conduct is cowardly and unmanly, to say nothing of its utter violation of good breeding.
Wells, A. M., Richard A., MANNERS, CULTURE AND DRESS, Massachusetts, King, Richardson & Company Publishers, 1893