It isn't easy to find just the right approach to win that special person's heart. But as Valentine's Day approaches, perplexed suitors can turn to the Rauner Special Collections Library for suggestions. Richardson's New Fashionable Lady's Valentine Writer and Richardson's New London Fashionable Gentleman's Valentine Writer, both compiled in the early 19th century, offer gender-specific solutions to even the most difficult matters of romantic etiquette. Gentlemen may find valentines "From a Person of Low Occupation to his Favourite Lass," and "From a Person of Comfortable Circumstances to his Favourite Lady," plus several in between. For those questions of love particularly vexing for ladies, the Valentine Writer offers the appropriate verse no matter where Cupid's arrow is pointed. Options include Valentines for "A Baker," "A Clerk," "A Pedantic Gentleman," "A Conceited Fop," and even a category unheard of at Dartmouth, "A Gentleman Not Remarkable for Erudition."
"Etiquette manuals such as these make fascinating reading, but they also help students better understand the historical context for novels they read in class," says Special Collections Librarian Jay Satterfield. "How is a 21st-century student supposed to understand when there has been a breach of good manners in a 19th-century British novel unless he or she can find just what was proper behavior at the time?"
By LAUREL STAVIS
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Last Updated: 5/30/08