A man should never pour her gravy without permission - some dating advice from the Victorians

The Victorians may have a reputation for being prudish, but researchers in England have uncovered 19th-century manuals featuring explicit sex and flirtation advice.

Manuals, which were easily available in the period, advise people how to write effective love letters - including how to flirt by positioning stamps on envelopes.

A guide on how to spot a good husband advises singletons to look for a variety of noses, such as large, broad, sharp or Roman.

Flat noses apparently suggest a "flatness of mind and character", while blunt noses belong to people who are "soulless", the advice states.

    Victorian tips on how to spot a good man:

  • Someone who walks quickly is probably going to do well in business, as they will “pass most of their competitors on the highway of life”. A dragging or shuffling walk suggests someone lacks “mental snap” and vigour, while it was said that someone whose walk was “mincing and affected” rarely accomplished much;
  • A loud laugh suggests lots of feelings but little sense, and people with a vulgar laugh – who “ha, ha right out” – should be avoided. Beware of those who suppress their laughter though; this could mean they are sly and secretive;
  • Look for someone who opens their mouth often, so you know they are not hiding deformed teeth. You also want someone who opens their eyes fully, as someone “who keeps their eyes half shut are peek-a-boos and eaves-droppers”;
  • The colour of the eyes could also express character. Light eyes indicate warmth of feeling, and dark eyes power;
  • Hair colour was also important. Black hair signified power, and “fiery red hair” ardour, passion, but a quick and intense temper. It also mattered how fine the hair was – coarse hair suggested “powerful animal passions and strength of character”, while fine hair suggested purity and refinement;
  • Style also mattered. Curly hair implied a variable disposition, and a man who could blow hot or cold. Straight hair suggested an “evenness” of character, and a man with a “clear head and superior talents”;
  • Someone tall was likely to have higher aspirations and more ambition than someone short. However, tall people could be sluggish, whereas short people had “exquisite mentalities”.

Daters must avoid bad breath "at all costs", not pick their noses, stick their fingers in their ears or "scratch anything vulgar".

Looking bored on dates is discouraged, as well as drumming fingers, rubbing hands, yawning or sighing aloud.

Dogs and children should never be taken on a date and men should not offer expensive gifts - unless he is engaged, but only then if they are presented with no ceremony.

Dr Sarah Jones, a historian at the University of Exeter, unearthed the dating advice.

"Despite our ideas about Victorian prudery, our 19th century ancestors were just as concerned as us about dating the right people, marrying well, and having good sex - in short, they were probably more modern than you think," Dr Jones said.

"Many of these texts were written for people who were quite young - just starting to date or to think about getting married, or else newly wedded and confronted with married life for the first time.

"Some were aimed specifically at women, and include specific instructions about finding a good husband, running the home, and raising children.

"Though we don't know exactly who followed these tips or how successful they were, the manuals would surely have been an important source of information about topics around sex, love, and marriage at this time."

One guide states that a man must take care of a woman he has invited to a party but "should never pour her gravy without permission".

Guides studied by Dr Jones include The Modern Art of Making Love, 1900, as well as A Guide To Purity and Physical Manhood, Advice To Maiden, Wife and Mother.

The 1894 guide Love, Courtship and Marriage was also examined, as well as 1890's The Mystery of Love, Courtship and Marriage Explained.

KEYWORDS: dating, victorians

 

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