Eligible Bachelors: Suitors and Courtship in the Lower Middle Class
Trying for social advancement, single men and women of the lower middle and upper working classes sought to assume the Victorian middle class rituals of courtship and engagement. Accordingly, this aim joined with the poor finances key to these classes to lead to the complicated struggle of the bachelor.
A Suitable Suitor
To be considered an appropriate suitor to a lower middle class woman, a man of similar station must address and fulfill several conditions. The importance of class, wealth, and status surfaced in that the “main requirement for a man was that he be a good provider” (Frost 82). Before attempting an engagement, a man “had to wait to inherit land or money with which to start a farm or small business” (Frost 62). Economically strained, couples “had to save carefully before setting up a household;” thus, the engagement period greatly exceeded the courting phase by two to eight more years among the lower middle class (Frost 62). Other factors, such as age, religious beliefs, and compatible temperaments, remained secondary influences to the eligibility of a suitor; however, differences in these aspects endangered the future of a wedding (“Matrimonial Engagements”).
Relationship with the Family
The success of a suitor resided notably in the interaction with and approval from the woman’s parents and relatives. Although small funds hindered the lower class parents’ ability “to control their children,” family influence remained potent enough to be “most effective at stopping weddings” (Frost 60, 75). Female relatives “evaluated prospective mates,” while the men “gave their consent or withheld it” (Frost 78). After accepting a suitor for the daughter, “the most common activity was for the man to call and take tea or supper with the woman or her family, then to sit with her for the rest of the evening” (Frost 63). Delays to the endorsement of an engagement resulted from disagreements with the suitor in the financial “marriage settlements” required to the daughter by her impending husband (“Matrimonial Engagements”). Although often...