Victorians Loved Self-Help Books, Just Like Us!

Illustration for article titled Victorians Loved Self-Help Books, Just Like Us!

For decades, a secret stash of Victorian books languished in the Cambridge University library tower, and naturally, students thought they were filled with high-grade bonnet-wearing scat porn. Well, librarians, bolstered by a million-dollar grant, finally sorted through those dusty tomes, and though the books were from the Victorian era, unfortunately they weren't very sexy. The books were, in fact, self-help manuals, advising polite English ladies and gentlemen on how to conduct romantic relationships, and today, the Guardian summarizes several of the books, all of which have the most fantastic titles, like Hints on Matrimony by a Practical Man, Flirting Made Easy and The New Letter Writer for Lovers, which provided templates for letters specific to certain romantic entanglements. What should a man do if he only met a woman once, but felt it was love at first sight? Check out the steamy suggestions, after the jump.


I scarcely can find courage to address you, and particularly as I cannot flatter myself that you have noticed me in any way. But, at the risk of incurring your displeasure, I feel compelled to express, with all deference, the anxiety I feel to become better acquainted with you, and to confess that you have inspired feelings warmer than those a mere acquaintance might warrant.

Uhm, SCANDALOUS. But at least that advice is coherent, unlike the advice given by Hints on Matrimony by a Practical Man. "Many go out for wool, and come home short," Hints admonishes. Which is only slightly more intelligible than this gem: "Nothing comes out of the sack but what was in it." I think that probably means if you hop into the sack with a loser, you're not going to wake up with Daniel Craig. Or at least that's what I've decided it means. Anyway, seeing these books unearthed makes me wonder what scholars will think 150 years from now about our courtship rituals. I bet they will be watching old episodes of Rock of Love and then looking for hidden silicone reserves in the Hollywood Hills.

The Secret Love Lives Of The Victorians [Guardian]

Earlier: How To Be A Good Husband
How To Be A Good Wife

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Jenna Sauers

The Industrial revolution spread the wealth around, at least a little beyond the aristocracy, so suddenly nouveau-riche commoners were in dire need of someone to tell them which fork to use for what. The Victorians invented self-help. They printed little advice guides to every imaginable social situation.