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 ‘proposal’

What the Heck is Holding Me Back?

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Q Dear Miss Abigail:

I was introduced to this gorgeous Vietnamese girl by a friend of mine. While she was here for a training course, we went out a lot and had a really good time. We had a few very passionate times together, especially on her last day in my country. We still keep in touch by mail and loooong distance calls.

Gosh, do I miss her. I’ve promised to visit her at the end of this year, 1997, but something is bothering me . . . I don’t know what it is???? I love her very much and am thinking I might pop the question, but I don’t know how and I don’t know what the heck is holding me back. You might say I’m lacking confidence in myself . . . but then . . . arrrrggghh!!!! Please shed me some lights . . . please . . . please . . . pleassssssssssee . . . .

Going Goo Goo

A Dear Goo Goo:

Whew! Take a deep breath there, buddy. S-l-o-w down. Sounds like you are having a bit of anxiety about marriage. Listen to these words of advice from Sex and the Single Man. I think they might help.

1963: Rational and Irrational Fears of Marriage

Let us not rashly assume that all fears of getting married are irrational or neurotic; for some aren’t. As we have pointed out in the last two chapters, there are many real disadvantages of the marital state, and there is also a good chance that if you do wed you may easily pick the wrong girl. Consequently, there are some very good reasons for seriously considering, if not completely avoiding, marriage; and you do have some cause for fear in this connection.

You may, for example, truly be unable to afford marriage; and may logically have to put aside any idea of getting hitched for one or more years from now, when you may be in a much better financial condition. Or you may be too emotionally unbalanced, at the moment, to live together with any normal woman; and you may wish to go for therapeutic help, or otherwise to work out some of your emotional problems, before you attempt to do so. Or you may live in a small community where there is very little chance of your obtaining the kind of intelligent, cultured, stable girl whom you would like to marry; and you may decide to put off marrying for a time, until you go to reside in a larger community, where the marital choices might be much better.

Since, in general, marriage is a serious affair, and since it may be most inconvenient (and expensive!) for you to make a poor choice in the marriage you are contemplating, you should certainly, to say the least, be cautious about marrying, and should not precipitately jump into the first fairly good relationship that presents itself. Live with the girl, if you wish, if you think that there is only a fair chance of your affair with her working out; or court her for a long period of time until you think that the chances of a good mating are improved. But don’t marry anyone, normally, until you are reasonably sure that she is for you ~ unless (and this is rare) you are equally sure that you can easily get out of the marriage, later, without undue costs.

Source: Ellis, Albert. Sex and the Single Man. New York: Lyle Stuart, 1963.
~ pp. 210-11 ~

“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 ~