1. How to lose your reputation in ten days: Write poetry or fall for the cute shop-boy
The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine prided itself on giving good advice to young ladies, especially those looking for husbands. As a writer enthused in an 1866 issue, “a bevy of fair damsels, all tremulous with excitement, are waiting for advice on the most important of topics—love, courtship, and matrimony.” So what did EDM advise?
For one, don’t become a writer. The EDM advised, “Write as often as you please to your female acquaintances, but do not—please don’t—write poetry for publication.” Also don’t give your aristocratic fiancé for the hot guy-next-door. You shouldn’t “dawdle over the counter because the ‘assistant’ has a dawning beard, a melodious voice, and an irresistible way of tying his neckcloth.” Who knew a well-tied cravat could be so sexy?
2. Got a rebellious son? Dress him in girl’s clothes
The Lady’s Own Paper served up all kinds of wisdom—but whether or not its words were always wise was up for debate. Citing a piece of advice in the EDM, one parent says that following the below example would help a boy who didn’t listen.
“After innumerable whippings had failed, the governess took it into her head to dress him in his sister’s clothes … and he tells us that whenever he transgressed or failed in his lessons, if his governess rang the bell, and desired the housemaid to bring some petticoats … he either begged pardon for his offences or set diligently to learn his lesson.”
Perhaps most telling of Victorian sensibilities is the postscript to this letter, which states, “It is all very well to talk of reasoning with untoward boys, but in many cases nothing short of a good whipping or what I have recommended will answer.”
A Victorian kid in leading strings.
3. Learn how to properly ride a tricycle
Women’s advice columns didn’t only apply to love, marriage, and childrearing. An 1882 issue of The Ladies’ Treasury published a query from one reader who wasn’t sure how to properly ride a tricycle: “My father has purchased a tricycle for me, and when I come to a high hill, I have to get out and push it up the hill. No pleasure this to one who can’t abide hills. What is the remedy?”
Rather than telling the writer to go somewhere flat or ask why he or she bothered writing in with such a weird question, the magazine editor simply replied, “Go to the maker and ask him.” What the tricycle maker could tell this hill-hater that common sense couldn’t, one will never know.
4. Got two guys fighting over you? Choose the rich one
A woman named Laura B. wrote in to EDM’s love letters section, “Cupid’s Letter-Bag,” in 1853, complaining, “I have two lovers and know not which to choose.” One of them was wealthy and gave her gifts; the other lacked funds, “but so attentive and kind,” and she thought the poor one would be the best husband of the two.
Laura confessed, “I have been brought up in every comfort, and dread poverty,” so she didn’t know what to do. The good old editor advised Laura to ditch the poor one, “who really may be silly enough to value affection,” and marry the rich guy.
5. Flaunt your latest skunk-skin coat
The rag Myra’s Journal loved to gossip about all things fashion, including different types of fur coats to wear. Needless to say, PETA wouldn’t be subscribing to their publication. Myra noted that “the most fashionable furs this season” included the pelts of skunk and bear. No word if the skunk smell was removed before sale.
How did you wear a bearskin coat? “The bear skin is taped to lessen the extreme weight of the fur.” Whew! God forbid you didn’t have tape and weren’t able to properly drape your bearskin coat this season.
Feature image via British Library