I’ve often wondered if it was be easier (and far more romantic) to date in the Pride and Prejudice age. Girls back then had to deal with so much less — less Tinder creeps, less impromptu peen pics, and less time spent deciphering convoluted midnight texts. I’ve always thought that back in the days of Price and Prejudice, men would write beautiful, flowery letters that proved their love, after long, involved courtships. Now, most boys can barely be bothered to send a text back.
Emily Brand, a writer and historian in the UK, has a new book called Mr. Darcy’s Guide to Courtship that describes exactly what ladies in the 18th century dealt with, and I might be wrong re: romance (because, spoiler alert, it wasn’t pretty). She consulted The New Academy of Compliments, an advice book about courtship in New York. It had a plethora of absolutely ridiculous pick-up lines, from, “Sweet lady, your virtues have so strangely taken up my thoughts, that therein they encrease and multiply in abundant felicity,” to, “I am as lantern-jaw’d as you are platter-fac’d; but yet perhaps we may have lovely babes when we come together, if we can but tell how to get them.” It looks like “negging,” the awful combination insult/come-on, was just as popular back then as it is with pick-up artists and the Tinder community today.
The New Academy of Compliments also suggested that the gentleman in question should make a dramatic entrance. Now, the only dramatic guys make is when they’re too drunk to stand up straight and roll up with all their bros. In the past, men were instructed to, “bow with his hat in his right hand, and then advancing three steps traverse ways, and by degrees approach the party, and if there be more than one, he must salute them severally: if a man, by a genteel embrace, in pressing the left side with his right arm: if a woman, a proferred salute, if not a real one.” I’d much prefer a bow and salute to a sloppy, falling over hug slash make out attempt.
My favorite tid-bit is, “When a young gentleman has found a conqueress of his affection, let him not rudely accost her if she be a virgin, lest his good meaning be taken in evil part.” Good idea on consent, even today. The book also advised that it’s always healthy to do some stalking, just like when you were in high school and would casually cruise by your crush’s house just to see if he was home. Men were told to, “walk before her window, or watch her going abroad, that she may have a perfect sight of him, which commonly creates a liking love.” Unfortunately, when a guy starts stalking me I’m more inclined to feel creeped out than “liking love.”
The creepiest advice is to continue with your absurd adoration to win her over, even if she’s not exactly interested. It instructed men that if they’re denied they should, “haunt her like her shadow, and fill her ears with themes of love, settled with a few scattered protestations, which is the only way to obtain her.” Well, it looks like the 18th century was just as creepy as today, but at least they didn’t have to deal with all of those adoring stalker types on Tinder– it was in the real world exclusively.