Who is Miss Abigail?

Abigail Grotke
Silver Spring, MD
email: missabigail at missabigail dot com
twitter: @DearMissAbigail

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Miss Abigail has a collection of over 1,000 classic advice books, spanning from 1822 to 1978 and covering a variety of topics, from love and romance to etiquette and charm. The collection sparked the idea for this site, then a book, Miss Abigail's Guide to Dating, Mating, and Marriage, which has inspired an Off-Broadway production of the same name!


Posts Tagged ‘love letters’

Letters of Affection

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Oh, Laura, can you love me in return?Q Dear Miss Abigail:

Hello! I’m a seventeen-year-old boy from Norway. For the first time in my life, I`ve met a girl who seems special from all of the other girls. I’m not a good-looking boy (rather normal), but she is the most beautiful girl I have ever seen. She can choose from all of the boys she wants, so what should I do to get her interested in me?

Sad boy

A Dear Sad Boy:

Cheer up, young man! It’s time to get creative and tell her how you feel. I suggest you get your pen out and send a letter. Our dear friend Professor Jefferis, in his 1911 Search Lights, or Light on Dark Corners, gives some tips for just the occasion. Though your gal will probably think you more clever if you write on actual paper and use the good old-fashioned postal service to mail it, if you choose to send an email instead, I suppose that wouldn’t be so horrid.

1911: Letter Writing

Any extravagant flattery should be avoided, both as tending to disgust those to whom it is addressed, as well as to degrade the writers, and to create suspicion as to their sincerity. The sentiments should spring from the tenderness of the heart, and, when faithfully and delicately expressed, will never be read without exciting sympathy or emotion in all hearts not absolutely deadened by insensitivity.

Declaration of Affection

Dear Nellie:
Will you allow me, in a few plain and simple words, respectfully to express the sincere esteem and affection I entertain for you, and to ask whether I may venture to hope that these sentiments are returned? I love you truly and earnestly, and knowing you admire frankness and candor in all things, I cannot think that you will take offense at this letter. Perhaps it is self-flattery to suppose I have any place in your regard. Should this be so, the error will carry with it its own punishment, for my happy dream will be over. I will try to think otherwise, however, and shall await your answer with hope. Trusting soon to hear from you, I remain, dear Nellie, Sincerely Yours,
J. L. Master

To Miss Nellie Reynolds, Hartford, Conn.

An Ardent Declaration

Naperville, Ill., June 10th, 1894.My Dearest Laura:
I can no longer restrain myself from writing to you, dearest and best of girls, what I have often been on the point of saying to you. I love you so much that I cannot find words in which to express my feelings. I have loved you from the very first day we met, and always shall. Do you blame me because I write so freely? I should be unworthy of you if I did not tell you the whole truth. Oh, Laura, can you love me in return? I am sure I shall not be able to bear it if your answer is unfavorable. I will study your every wish if you will give me the right to do so. May I hope? Send just one kind word to your sincere friend,
Harry Smith

Source: Jefferis, B. G., and J. L. Nichols. Search Lights, or, Light on Dark Corners. Naperville, Ill.: J. L. Nichols & Co., 1911.
~ p. 43-44 ~

1881: Love Letters

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

This week I received a lovely gift from a coworker, Gene, who was looking to lighten his bookshelves at home. Knowing I had my little obsession with advice books (he came to my Valentine’s Day presentation at the Library of Congress), he so graciously gave me a book written in 1881 called National Encyclopedia of Business and Social Forms: The Laws of Etiquette &c.; &c.; by James D. McCabe.

Coincidentally, the book has a section on correspondence, which ties in nicely with the Post article I mentioned in my previous post.

For those of you thinking about texting a very brief note to the one you are wooing, let’s take a look back at how things were done back in the 1880s, waaaay before all this technology hit. I was going to quote something from the “Love Letters” section, but this one from “Letters of Excuse” struck me as a bit more entertaining, and more appropriate for the length of a blog post. The subject for this sample letter is “To a lady, apologizing for a broken engagement.”

Richmond, Ind., May 10th, 1881.

My Dear Miss Lee:

Permit me to explain my failure to keep my appointment with you this evening. I was on my way to your house, with the assurance of a pleasant evening, when I unfortunately stepped upon some slippery substance, lost my footing and fell to the ground, spraining my ankle severely. I am now confined to the house in consequence of this accident.

I regret my disappointment as much as the accident, but hope that the future may afford us many pleasant meetings.

Sincerely your friend,
Albert Holliday

Now, would you prefer this instead?

“sorry cant keep fun date W U this evening. but slipped and fell 2 the ground, hurt ankle. stuck @ home. sorry, try again 2MORO?”

Yeah, I didn’t think so.