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’

Retaining the Sweetness of Love (1923)

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

Here wraps up the tale of Richard and Sallie (featured recently in how to win a woman, from Elinor Glyn’s The Philosophy of Love. Glyn summarizes how this couple should work to keep their love going:


To keep love it requires the united effort of Richard and Sallie! It cannot be a one-sided affair!

To put the matter concisely:

(1) Love is caused by some attracting vibrations emanating from the two participants which draw each to each.

(2) Thus love depends, not upon the will of the individual, but upon what attracting power is in the other person.

(3) Thus obviously it lies with each to cultivate and continue to project the emanation if either desire to retain the love emotion of the other.

(4) When these points are clearly understood, intelligence can suggest the most suitable methods to use to accomplish the desired end, namely, the retaining of the power to draw love mutually.

So, as in everything we do in life, is it not well to use some intelligence and though over the great matters of Love?

For cynics may say what they please ~ Love is the supreme and only perfect happiness on earth. Everything else is second best ~ often a very good second, but nowhere near the real thing.

So why, when love is bound to come to us all sooner or later, not try to retain its sweetness?


How to Win a Woman, part II (1923)

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Recently, I featured some advice from the lovely and talented Elinor Glyn on how to win a woman. Excerpted from her 1923 book The Philosophy of Love, Glyn tells the story of Richard, who is trying to woo his love, Sallie. We left off wondering if any of Glyn’s tips might have paid off for our dear sweet Richard. Let’s read on and see…


He has met Sallie several times, but seems not to have been able to make much advance. He has been just ordinary and has talked of the everlasting old things that he has talked to every girl about since he first went to school. Now the next time they meet he must turn the conversation on to personal things and get her to tell him her likes and her tastes; he must make her talk about herself (not a very difficult matter with most women!), and he must plainly show his interest. He must let her feel her maneuvering to be alone with her and desires her company. And the more he lets her see that his character is strong, the more he will attract her.

It is not of the slightest consequence how masterful a man shows himself to be, if at the same time he is a passionate lover ~ the woman in the case will always adore him. It is coldness and casualness which disillusionise, and, as I said in another chapter, above all, mulish wordlessness!


Glyn goes on to give some examples of ways to show that a man loves a woman, depending on the type of girl she is and what she might respond to. It’s quite long so I will cut to the chase and get back to how Richard and Sallie are doing, in particular:


When he is quite sure that she loves him, and when the psychological moment has arrived that he asks her to marry him, he must see that his caresses are tender as well as passionate, for exquisite caresses are the strongest of love awakeners. The touch of a hand in passing is enough to make a delicious thrill! It starts the working of the magnet, and that is why continuous flirtations are so stupid.

Lovers always like to be close together. And if touching grows to mean nothing to them, then they may know very well that the intoxication is over, and at best a friendship is between them. Love always manifest itself in the desire to touch the Beloved One.

When Richard marries Sallie he can almost certainly keep her in love with him if he desires to do so. He has only to remain a masterful and fond lover to accomplish this miracle, and not subside into the usual stodgy, complacent husband, absorbed in business and too tired when he comes home to be agreeable!


In my next post, I’ll share some parting thoughts from Glyn on how Richard and Sallie (and all of you out there) might keep that love going.

How to Win a Woman, part 1 (1923)

Saturday, February 12th, 2011

This weekend prior to Valentine’s day, I return to Elinor Glyn’s The Philosophy of Love, which is a wonderful little book from 1923. In this excerpt, from a chapter titled “The Man’s Side,” the author provides advice to the fictional Richard, about the object of his love, Sallie:


A young man should be very sure that it is the special woman who is drawing him strongly, and that he is not just imagining that she is his heart’s desire because he himself is experiencing the desire to love. Do make your own examination of your emotions, Richard, when you first fall in love with some girl ~ that is, first experience that drawing sensation which makes you desire to be near her, and causes your heart to beat, and gives you a sense of exaltation. Do ask yourself if she is appealing to your mind or your soul ~ whether you feel degraded or uplifted in spirit after you have spent some time with her. Because if it is only the physical she is appealing to, you have not much chance of future happiness with her ~ and you had better crush the feeling before it has gone too far and landed you in a morass….

Men are absolutely idiotic about women once they fall in love. They cannot see their faults; they appear to have no intuition which warns them they are being deceived; they are bamboozled and led by affectations which would not for an instant impose upon women! But because men’s senses are delighted, their reason sleeps, and they court their own unhappiness.

So do try to remain awake, Richard, and strip off the glamour from your emotion for Sallie, and see if there is “anything to it.” We will suppose you do this, and find she is quite a nice girl really, regardless of her attractions; then go ahead!

Show her that you like her, and think of little things to please her ~ she will be greatly touched if you do. Make her feel that you respect as well as love her, but that you do not intend to stand any nonsense, and the first time that she is capricious and unreasonable let her see that you resent it and will not be made a fool of.

If she is fond of you she will not want to lose you, and if she is not, you had better retire in any case ~ the abject lover is such a pitiful creature! But to make her love you in the beginning, when she seems to be indifferent, you must use intelligence.

Nothing pleases a woman so much as a quiet self-confidence in a man and his showing that he is taking trouble about her. If he asks her out to dinner, that he has arranged everything for her comfort; if he is to meet her anywhere, that he is not casual about it.

Any action which suggests to the woman that the man has used thought about her is delightful to her self-love.

Audacity, when it does not develop into impertinence, is also a great charm!


Curious to see how things turn out for Richard and Sallie? Tune in to my next installment

Professor Huggum

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

Professor Huggum

Yet another card in this month’s Fun Card series: “Wholesale dealer in Love, Hugs, Squeezes and Kisses… samples free on request!” Hee! This one speaks for itself.

Lover’s Fun Card Set: Kicking off the Month of Love

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

Lover's Fun Card SetIt’s February, and you know what that means – Valentine’s Day! Which is super fantastic if you have a mate in your life. Of course, if you are still looking for — or on a break from — love, it can be a bit of a downer what with all that mushy red heart stuff happening all around you.

Never fear, Miss Abigail is here to help! All this month, I’ll be featuring advice for the lovelorn, advice for those in love, and those looking for love. I’ll highlight some of my favorite posts about love and heartbreak, the joys of being single, and the joys of making out.

As a special treat, I’m going to share with you something I forgot I had in my collection, until I found them on my bookshelf the other day. It’s the Lover’s Fun Card Set. “This card case has dozen real funny cards each one good” says the cover, so it’s bound to bring you some chuckles this month. I’m not sure of the date, so we’ll just have to go with “classic.” I’ll post the first one this weekend.

And if you haven’t picked up my book Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating, and Marriage yet, February would be a great time to do it, don’t you agree?

Falling in Love with a Married Man

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

tender anguish and exciting unfulfillmentThis was originally written long ago with Monica Lewinsky on the mind, but perhaps it will continue to guide other young people as they make decisions about who they spend their time with.

1956: Falling in Love with a Married Man

Very little has ever been written about falling in love with a married man. It is supposed not to happen. Yet it is not at all uncommon, especially among teen-age girls, and even among older women, too. The reasons are understandable.

Married Men are Older. For the teen-age girl, the married man is usually older and therefore, in her eyes, more experienced and mature. We have already seen that girls mature earlier than boys of their own age. So it often happens that a girl who is growing up much faster than the boys around her thinks that they are childish and silly and finds herself dreaming about the charms of older men. The married men she has contact with ~ the coach, a teacher, perhaps the principal, or a minister ~ seems so much more grown up and excitingly mature that her love interests turn to them rather than to the boys of her own age who are still just “children.”

Girls may do foolish things in their attachments to older men. They should guard themselves from becoming either too obvious in their infatuations or too deeply engrossed inside themselves. Fortunately, most girls outgrow this stage fairly soon and may look back upon these early crushes with amused wonder. But while emotionally entangled with the older man, it is not funny at all.

The Romance of Unfulfillment is Different. Not being able to do something about love makes the romance especially exciting. When one loves a boy of one’s own age and kind, who is a possible fiancé and husband, one can date and dream and plan for a common future. One’s friends can talk about the plans and one’s family may tease. One is free to tell the world about his love and its great promise. It pours out in a thousand ways.

But loving a married man gives no such outlets. It just isn’t done. Almost no one can be told about how wonderful he is. There can be no plans that give promise ~ nothing but dreams that go around and around, tenderly reliving his possible light touch, the way he looks, the way one feels about him, and the utter hopelessness of the affection. Love with no place to go tends to be absorbing, tensely frustrating, full of tender anguish and exciting unfulfillment. With all its excitement and romance, it still has no future, no place in our fullest lives.

Society Scorns the Other Woman. In almost all triangles involving married persons, it is the unmarried outsider who is blamed for the affair. Marriage is such a sacred institution that any girl or woman who alienates the affection of the married man is apt to be held in contempt by most people. The girl who wants to punish herself will find that getting involved with a married man is a sure way of doing it. Girls who are going through difficult days in breaking away from their parents may unconsciously get themselves into disgrace as a way to hurt their families. They find that social disapproval falls fast and hard upon the heads of the silly school girls who do it.

Source: Duvall, Evelyn Millis. Facts of Life and Love for Teen-Agers. New York: Association Press, 1956.
~ pp. 316-17, 320-21 ~

How Do Couples Live Together?

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

take the plant of love to the sunniest placeQ Dear Miss Abigail:

How do couples live together and survive more than a few years?


A Dear Sergio:

Lucky for you I happen to own R. F. Horton’s On the Art of Living Together. I just love the fact that my copy has a wonderful little advert pasted to the inside cover:

Another of the
The Mulberries
Furnished Rooms
8 Hillside Ave. Summit, N.J.

I suppose the proprietors of The Mulberries really wanted their transients to get along…. Oh, pardon me, I got distracted. Back to your question. I believe this excerpt will provide some guidance for you.

1896: Living Together as Husband and Wife

Love is not enough for living together happily as man and wife, at any rate in the sense that love is usually understood in the days preceding the honeymoon. For the simple truth is, love is a delicate plant, which has to be cultivated and to grow; it is not a ready-made and infrangible chain of golden links. You may have a love as passionate, and as patient of death, as Romeo’s and Juliet’s; and if death throws his bridal veil over you both, you may pass into the unseen, an apparent proof that love is stronger than death. But love is not necessarily stronger than life. You may live and grow apart, though death would only have united you.

Let us suppose that Romeo and Juliet had survived, and had carried out their purpose of living together. It is a daring thought, and I doubt Shakespeare would not like it. But alack-a-day, I have seen Romeo and Juliet living together, and they have made a sorry business of it. For, to begin with, a passionate love cannot by the very nature of our emotional faculties be retained at full tension always, and what is to happen, when for the moment the harp must be unstrung? Unless there is a less taut tie of mutual respect and common interests, it is like enough that the harp will not be restrung at all. Disillusioned, disgusted, chilled to the soul, you will leave the fine instrument under cover in the corner of your drawing-room, and seek for other music to fill the empty house.

But even if this danger is provided for, and the love is secure against the fitfulness of those stormier emotions, and the dulness of their temporary exhaustion, it is still true that love in wedded life, as before, requires laborious and self-sacrificing culture. Woe betide the man who used courtesy as a mode of courting, and then put it aside with his court dress, not for home use but for state occasions. And what but the grace of God can save a married life in which a woman saves all her charms of manner, her wit, her accomplishments for the world which she would win, and not for the husband whom she thinks she has won?

If a man and a woman are to live together well, they must take the plant of love to the sunniest and securest place in their habitation. They must water it with tears of repentance, or tears of joy; they must jealously remove the destroying insects, and pluck off the dead leaves, that the living may take their place. And if they think they have any business in this life more pressing than the care and culture of the plant, they are undeserving of one another, and time’s revenges will be swift and stern. Their love-vows will echo in their lives like perjuries; the sight of their love-letters in a forgotten drawer will affect them with shame and scorn; in the bitterness of their own disappointment they will charge God foolishly, and think that every plant of love has a worm at the root because they neglected theirs, and every married life is wretched because they did not deserve happiness.

A man must give his mind to a wife, and a wife must give her mind to a husband, as well as the heart, if they are to make a success of it.

Source: Horton, Robert F. On the Art of Living Together. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1896.
~ pp. 72-75 ~

What is the Proper Age for Marriage?

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

early marriage is to be discouragedQ Dear Miss Abigail:

What do you consider a proper age for a woman to get married?


A Dear Considering:

So, my dear, you are thinking about taking the jump into eternal bliss. This is a very important decision for you to make, whatever age you are, so I’ve dug carefully through the books and found the following excerpt. Perhaps Dr. Bowman’s words will help you make up your mind.

1938: The Appropriate Age for Marriage

Many a young person faces the question as to the appropriate age for marriage. It is generally considered that the reckless and imprudent marry too early, while the educated and cultured marry too late. There is also a definite relationship between the age of marriage and subsequent happiness. The advantages of early marriage seem to be: First, it is easier to adjust to one another than when habits and ideas have become so well fixed. Second, it is often better for the children if the parents are reasonably young. This relates both to the greater ease for the woman in childbearing, and also the psychological adjustments between children and parents. Third, in case of the woman, increasing age lessens her chance of marrying.

The disadvantages of early marriage are: First, it may thwart the vocational or educational plans of the husband; second, it may handicap his earning power. To have a family dependent on him at the time he is struggling to get ahead in his vocation may keep him so tied down that he cannot acquire the means for self-improvement and advancement. Third, the qualities essential for a good mate are often not appreciated until the middle or later twenties. The young person is likely to mistake infatuation for love. It frequently happens that the person with whom he thinks he is in love at twenty will not attract him at all at the age of twenty-five when his judgment has become more mature. Fourth, when older, a person is more ready to settle down to the responsibilities of home life. Studies of marital happiness tend to show that there is a definite relationship between early marriage and subsequent unhappiness and divorce. . . .

[Studies] show conclusively that too early marriage is to be discouraged. It may be that men of 25 years, or above, and women of 22, or older, have acquired greater wisdom in choosing a suitable mate; it may be that they enter upon marriage more fully prepared, or that they are more ready to settle down to the responsibilities of home and family. Certainly, the age of marriage should be given serious consideration, and when one or both are younger than the ideal age, special preparation should be undertaken on their part and on the part of their parents, in order to offset some of the dangers of their immaturity.

Source: Bowman, Warren D. Home Builders of Tomorrow. Elgin, Ill.: The Elgin Press, 1938.
~ pp. 93-96 ~

“Can I, um, like, Marry Your Daughter?”

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

the utmost careQ Dear Miss Abigail:

What are the various older traditions (Victorian Era, for instance) for how to go about proposing? In particular, how and when to ask the bride-to-be’s father for her hand?


A Dear Traditionalist:

Ah, the 1880s. A time of proper manners and traditions. Who could ask for anything more? I was certain I’d find some thoughts on the moment of engagement for you in J. A . Ruth’s etiquette book titled Decorum, and I was correct. So good luck with your proposal, and extra good luck with Papa! We’re all rooting for you.

1880: Proposal of Marriage

The mode in which the avowal of love should be made, must of course, depend upon circumstances. It would be impossible to indicate the style in which the matter should be told. The heart and the head ~ the best and truest partners ~ suggest the most proper fashion. Station, power, talent, wealth, complexion; all have much to do with the matter; they must all be taken into consideration in a formal request for a lady’s hand. If the communication be made by letter, the utmost care should be taken that the proposal be clearly, simply, and honestly stated. Every allusion to the lady should be made with marked respect. Let it, however, be taken as a rule that an interview is best; but let it be remembered that all rules have exceptions.

Asking Papa. When a gentleman is accepted by the lady of his choice, the next thing in order is to go at once to her parents for their approval. In presenting his suit to them he should remember that it is not from the sentimental but the practical side that they will regard the affair. Therefore, after describing the state of his affections in as calm a manner as possible, and perhaps hinting that their daughter is not indifferent to him, let him at once frankly, without waiting to be questioned, give an account of his pecuniary resources and his general prospects in life, in order that the parents may judge whether he can properly provide for a wife and possible family. A pertinent anecdote was recently going the rounds of the newspapers. A father asked a young man who had applied to him for his daughter’s hand how much property he had. ‘None,’ he replied, but he was ‘chock full of days’ work.’ The anecdote concluded by saying that he got the girl. And we believe all sensible fathers would sooner bestow their daughters upon industrious, energetic young men who are not afraid of days’ work than upon idle loungers with a fortune at their command.

Source: Ruth, John A. Decorum: A Practical Treatise on Etiquette and Dress of the Best American Society. New York: Union Publishing House, 1880.
~ pp. 185-89 ~

Am I in Love?

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

they miss one another terribly when apartQ Dear Miss Abigail:

How do I know if I’m in love?

Rocky Road

A Dear Rocky:

Ah, one of those age-old questions that just never seems to die. At least you should take confort in the fact that you are not alone. Millions of people out there, including this writer, have wondered the same thing at some point in their lives. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I’m going on a hunch that you are a teenager or in your twenties, so I found this passage that seems like it might provide some answers. It’s from the extremely ~ as many old advice books were ~ Christian book titled Youth Looks at Love, written by Letha Scanzoni in 1965.

1965: Puppy Love

Diane and Don were both shy teenagers when they found themselves seated next to one another at a church social. Soon they discovered they enjoyed talking togther and that they felt less self-conscious in crowds when they were with each other.

They began going steady and they liked to do things together. Often they helped one another with homework or even visited one another to help with household chores. One day they washed Don’s father’s car together, another time they took Diane’s small brothers on a picnic while her parents were shopping for some new furniture. Then there were the days they picked cherries and berries at a farm outside of town, so that their mothers would have canning fruit at the lowest prices possible.

Each feels more self-confident when with the other, and they miss one another terribly when apart. They feel they are ‘in love,’ yet realize they are much too young to be sure this is the love on which a successful marriage could be based. Until they are sure one way or the other, they’ll continue their good times and companionship.

This is the love of the early teens. For weeks Jeff and Julie are sure they are in love. Songs like ‘Too Young’ have great appeal for them. They are together constantly: on the phone, in person, passing notes in school, through daydreams (and night dreams, too). Then gradually, or perhaps suddenly, they find their interest in one another is dwindling and a new interest replaces it.

Again, this is normal and nothing to be laughed at. As evangelist Billy Graham has pointed out, ‘Don’t scoff at puppy love. It’s very real to the puppies!’ Yet, like a crush, it is not a love which could make a successful marriage. Ralph G. Eckert speaks of an alert teen-age fellow who observed that puppy love is fine, but if one married just on puppy love ‘he’d probably lead a dog’ life.’

Source: Scanzoni, Letha. Youth Looks at Love. Westwood, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1965.
~ pp. 70-71 ~