When it came to finding the love of her life, your average Victorian lady was far from helpless—as a matter of fact, she had more than a few tricks up her sleeve. Sure, she couldn’t just call up a boy and invite him to a Wilco concert, but she could make a grand stairway entrance during a society ball, or smile at a gentleman mysteriously from across a quiet, stuffy drawing room while slowly fanning herself. I’m just saying—even back then, single ladies had options. And a few of the sneakier ones might still work today!
So why not reach back in time for some ever-so-romantic (and efficient!) courting techniques from our favorite 19th-century novels of manners? Here are 5 vintage literary tricks for capturing the heart of a modern fellow.
1. Catch cold while walking to his house in the rain, then spend weeks as his invalid guest while you slowly—and fetchingly—recover your health.
Hey—it helped Jane Bennet land that stone fox Mr. Bingley in Pride and Prejudice, right? Not only that, but a convenient convalescence also jumpstarted the romance between Wuthering Heights’ Catherine Earnshaw and her wealthy neighbor Edgar Linton (which may not have ended well, but you can’t blame that on the method). Best of all, with this approach you get to show up on your crush’s doorstep looking charmingly bedraggled in your drenched petticoat, with a fevered blush and your hair in wet ringlets. He’ll have no choice but to insist that you stay with him for as many weeks as it takes for you to gain your strength back. In the meantime, make yourself at home in his guest quarters (or on his guest futon in the corner of the living room), and enjoy the hospitality of his many servants (or his HDTV). Keep up the bedridden thing for as long as possible, and before you know it, you’ll be up and walking again—down the aisle.
2. Become a governess to his children
This is a slightly more roundabout way to get a first date, but it’s nearly foolproof. Once you’ve presented your extensive governess qualifications to the staff of your single dad crush’s vast estate and been hired to watch his children, the object of your affection is guaranteed to slowly fall in love with you as you sit outside on the sunny lawn, teaching his kids their letters. Amirite, Jane Eyre? (Just make sure the governess you eventually hire to replace you isn’t following the same playbook.)
3. Wander around his moor
Some people might suggest that it’s creepy or desperate, lurking in an area where you know your crush has been seen a few times and hoping you’ll run into him—but I say nothing beats a casual encounter in a bleak, windswept field dotted with vibrant wildflowers. If you do happen to see him, just keep it casual, you know? Say something like, “Oh hey, you hang out on this moor too? I didn’t expect to see you here. Yeah, I’m really into low vegetation, myself,” or “Oh, I was just in the moorberhood. Thought I’d do some traipsing; you know how it is. So…you like lanterns?”
4. Attend his ball
I know what you’re thinking—why on earth would I want to waste my time with something so dull and frivolous as a ball? But just remember: an invitation to a ball is the old-timey version of inviting someone up “to see your DVD collection.” That’s right: attending a ball at the mansion of your love interest gives you the chance to take things to the next level. Plus, you get to dress fancy, engage in murmured pleasantries with your busybody neighbors, enjoy cold refreshments, and make eyes at your crush as you sweep past him while dancing the quadrille. The Masque of the Red Death aside, there is no drawback to attending a ball.
5. Or, shun his ball
Then again, if you’re completely smitten, maybe it’s better to make yourself scarce, so that your crush notices your absence. After all, sometimes it’s good to leave him guessing. “Where’s that striking young woman I have found myself recently becoming aware of? The one who caught a chill and spent six weeks lying on my couch watching House of Cards and ordering Chinese takeout? I saw her on my moor just the other day. I wonder why she couldn’t make it to my ball.” Aww, yeah. Works every time.
What’s your preferred old-school pickup method?