Dating and marriage in the victorian era
Phegley’s informative work investigates the surprising ways in which Victorians negotiated romantic relations in disparate class, gender, and social networks, which provides a welcome contrast to monolithic discussions of “the marriage market.” Relying largely on conduct books, etiquette manuals, newspapers, and periodicals, Phegley’s goals are twofold: (1) to provide a thorough outline of the ways in which courtship and marital rituals across classes were reified in print and (2) to highlight how such practices were revised and resisted in both print and practice.
In her next chapter, Phegley examines the rules and activities of courtship defined in etiquette books and periodical features, and considers how such practices offered women some control.
Occurring in a variety of arenas—elite balls during the London season, middle-class picnics, lawn games, and home visits, as well as working-class coffeehouses and walks—private romantic interaction depended as much upon class status as upon individual opportunism.
The trappings of the wedding idealized in fashionable guidebooks and periodicals were displayed in the arrangement of the bridal party, wedding attire, ceremonial rituals, nuptial meal, and honeymoon.Phegley indicates how massive an undertaking a Victorian wedding could be, contrasting this largesse with the simplicity of working-class rural weddings and growing critiques of the “fashionable” wedding in the press, where critics reasserted the ideal of love over status.Chapter 5 addresses the people left out of marriage by circumstance or by choice.Some men had cards made for the express purpose of clandestine flirting, and would pass them to a woman without anyone noticing.Unless and until the female recipient read the card, its true message would remain a mystery.