Alfred Tennyson wrote, “In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” As it’s nearly spring, by the calendar at least, here are a couple of takes on the gentle art of courtship.
JOSH BILLINGS ON COURTING
Courting is a luxury, it is salad, it is ice water, it is a beveridge, it is the pla spell ov the soul.
The man who haz never courted haz lived in vain; he haz bin a blind man amung landskapes and waterskapes; he haz bin a deff man in the land ov hand orgins, and by the side ov murmuring canals.
Courting is like 2 little springs ov soft water that steel out from under a rock at the fut ov a mountain and run down the hill side by side singing and dansing and spatering each uther, eddying and frothing and kaskading, now hiding under a bank, now full ov sun and now full ov shadder, till bimeby they jine and then they go slow.
I am in faver ov long courting; it gives the parties a chance to find out each uther’s trump kards, it is good exercise, and is jist as innersent as 2 merino lambs. Courting is like strawberries and creem, wants to be did slow, then yu git the flaver.
As a ginral thing I wouldn’t brag on uther gals mutch when I wuz courting, it mite look as tho yu knoo to mutch.
If yu will court 3 years in this wa, awl the time on the square, if yu don’t say it is a leetle the slikest time in yure life, yu kan git measured for a hat at my expense, and pay for it.
Don’t court for munny, nor buty, nor relashuns, theze things are jist about as onsartin as the keroseen refining bissness, liabel to git out ov repair and bust at enny minnit.
Court a gal for fun, for the luv yu bear her, for the vartue and goodniss thare is in her; court her for a wife and for a muther, court her as yu wud court a farm—for the strength ov the soil and the parfeckshun ov the title; court her as tho she wasnt a fule, and yu a nuther; court her in the kitchen, in the parlor, over the wash-tub, and at the pianner; court this wa, yung man, and if yu don’t git a good wife and she don’t git a good husband, the falt won’t be in the courting.
Yung man, yu kan rely upon Josh Billings, and if yu kant make these rules wurk jist send for him and he will sho yu how the thing is did, and it shant kost yu a cent.
Josh Billings was the pen name of a famous 19th century humorist and lecturer named Henry Wheeler Shaw. In his writing, Shaw often used wildly erratic phonetic spelling which seemed to endear him to his readers.
Another, more recent commentary on courtship was penned in 1927 by “The Cheerful Plowman,” aka Edward Tufft, and appeared in a 1927 issue of Pennsylvania Farmer magazine.
This movie show is spoiled for me by other things I have to see!
A spruce young fellow, quite a sheik, with hair greased back all smooth and sleek,
With nothing much below the skull, gray matter quite as thin as mull!
A giggling girl with shallow face and rather cheap and brassy grace,
Not just the kind I used to know when I went courting years ago!
You see, when I get tired and done I like a movie full of fun;
Long weary sessions with the cows and weary miles behind the plows
Make us old busy farmer men need recreation now and then,
So movies full of spice and pep restore the vigor to our step!
Yes, when I go I would relax, relieve the brain and muscle tax.
I would just settle back and grin until my tonsils tumbled in,
Throw back my head and stretch my arms, forget a while the cows and farms!
But, oh, how can I, tell me true, surrounded by this courting crew?
How can I ease my soul and face in such a public courting place?
How can I see a movie show when all about me row on row,
A hundred shows are being staged and all my senses are enraged?
My education may be queer, the product of an early year,
But it is still my firm belief that public courting leads to grief;
I offer as my brief report the parlor is the place to court!
Back when I was courting – more than a half-century ago – I wasn’t much for public courting, although I didn’t want it under the eyes of a mother or father in “the parlor” either. The wide front bench seat of my car at the drive-in theater, or parked on some secluded, moonlit lane was my idea of the “ideel plase!”
– Sam Moore
This drawing, titled “Courting,” is from an 1885 edition of Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn” and is furnished courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.