So, you have finally found yourself a girlfriend. Congratulations! After the faintly traumatic experience of courtship – the dodgy chat up lines, the dangers of womanly wiles, the endless sighing – you might be forgiven for thinking that you are allowed a little bit of a rest. Oh, dear reader – It Is Not So. The unfortunate truth is that the all-conquering suitor must keep up his attentions, unless he wants his mistress’ eye to rove. The man openly leering at other women in the tavern corner isn’t going to instil any confidence of a lasting affection, but the man consumed by excessive ‘Ravings of Love’ is going to eventually become a turn-off. So, how to strike the right balance? Fortunately, Advice to Lovers (1680) is on hand to reveal all, offering thoughts on how gallants might “always keep the Love and Favour of their mistresses.” The short answer:
Essentially, do the things you know she likes, attend to her every need, and don’t tell her that her bum looks big in that dress. Seems like common sense to me. Fortunately, the author goes into a bit more detail about three of the “thousand Errours” that “exasperate and Vex the Women”, and might even strike a budding relationship dead.
Firstly, don’t be clingy and weird.
in particular, avoid too vigorously shaking your noddle.*
Those men are most obnoxious to them, who are possess’d with great Ravings of Love, than others; who as often as they meet their Adored-She, do break out into such Extremities of Grief and Sorrow as that they are always expressing it with the odd solemnities of wringed hands, and shaken Noddles; of wreath-Chops, and Antick Grimaces; who require such strange and difficult Things, that they are render’d Contemptible, and Odious, even by their clinging Importunity.
Secondly, don’t accuse her of being unfaithful every time she looks at, or speaks to, another man
Or stand creepily in the corner watching her whenever she does.
Others, unjustly Jealous, are so severe against those they suspect, that they will not allow their Ladies so much as to speak, and look or leer upon them: By which Madness and Folly they do not only incense the Women, but make them twitter after those, whom before they minded not
And thirdly, don’t babble on about other men’s deficiencies
It will only force him into her thoughts, and who knows but she may decide she quite fancies him after all?
Many, to render their Rivals Odious, do usually draw them in such a character, viz. That Fellow is the happiest Fool in the World; For thought he is not endow’d with the Charms of Beauty, nor with the Gravity of Prudence, nor Resolutions of Valour, nor enrich’d or adorn’d with any other Excellency, yet all the Woman in the Countrey stick up their Tails and gad after him; and are at Cuff and Kick for the Enjoyment of Him. Thus whilst they spit their venom, and envy his good Fortune, and though he is in no wise taking, yet the Women suspect some hidden Vertue to ly Dormant in him.
Image (top): detail from ‘The Sailor’s Present’, c1778
Image (bottom): detail from ‘Hatred, or Jealousy’ by Thomas Rowlandson (1800)