The Victorian Deception

Somewhere in the past twenty-five years, as the purity movement was developing, there came into play an idea… or rather, an ideal.  This ideal begain to slowly influence the purity movement, in the name of ‘Good Old Days’ and courtship, and eventually has risen to be one of the major contributors to the purity perspective today.  This is the ideal of the Victorian courtship.

I have heard numerous girls chatter about this span of time in history, enamored with the dresses and courtly love of the people involved.  They see the flowers, lawn bowling, and walks; the lazy summer days and mint juleps; and the carraiges with  matching bays.  It was a day when men courted ladies with impeccable manners and propriety, not so much as speaking inappropriately in their presence.  It was a day of the family and the home, when women’s rights had not yet made its impact on society and the world was resting between war and depression. 

My dears, it is a delusion.

Partly because of the state of relationships today, I think the Victorian era has been colored to be more wonderful than it actually was.  Yet in truth, this period of time was nothing to be admired, and even more truthfully, it is nothing to be attained.  The Victorian time came after decades of war and uprising.  It was the eye of the storm between the Civil War and the beginning of the 20th Century — the most tumultuous century yet.  These years are presented as a time of leisure and love — a love that to many innocent girls is viewed as ‘ideal’.

Before the 1890’s there was an entire century of relationships.  There were generations of couples courting each other.  Before the Victorian times, men and women went for walks, had friendships, took carriage rides (unchaperoned) and danced together.  The culture was not the over-sexualized one we see today, but our ancestors had the same desires that you do.  Friendship did not cause them to give in to them.  They controlled themselves.

Sweeping in came the Victorian era.  No longer was it proper for a man and woman to spend time together unsupervised.  No longer was it appropriate for courtship to be fun.  It became a career move for men, and for women it was a game of love.  It became rules and stifled emotions… resulting in hidden sins and smouldering hearts.  What used to be in freedom became regulated and constantly under suspicion. 

Have you ever watched Pride and Prejudice?  I bet you have!  Notice that there is not always present a parent or an adult in every walk between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy.  Notice that they exchanged letters and there was no one to bash them with a wooden spoon.  They were free, and in their freedom they chose to operate in propriety.  It is under pressure that many choose to rebel. 

The age of Emma and Elizabeth ended in the Victorian era, but while times change, desires do not.  It became unacceptable to have those desires when they are a real part of human nature — so rather than going away, emotions flamed higher in the dark, where no one could see.  Courtship in the Victorian era was not ideal… it was simply a facade. 

Transferring the Victorian model of courtship from its time to ours is not only difficult but also foolish.  This model reinforces the false pretense that  human beings do not have emotions, or that those emotions are still to be stifled even when we reach marriageble age.  I am not saying that we give full vent to our desires — no one should doubt my commitment to purity throughout my lifetime.  However, we need to understand that who we are in Christ rules our every action if we obey Him, and that letting fear and pride regulate our emotions and desires leads to our own destruction.

The generation following the Victorian era is a perfect example of the results of such a mentality.  The Roaring 20’s came whirling out of the stiff, unrealistic love of its parent decade.  The children of the Victorians rejected the entire method of courtship that their parents perpetuated and instead began the downward spiral into where we are today.  It didn’t come out of nowhere.  Dating didn’t just pop into someone’s head one day.  It resulted partly from the Victorian deception that love is a method, not a liberty.

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3 Responses

  1. That was a very interesting point Phylicia! Beautiful things can usually be a deceiving. While I like the Victorian era because of its etiquette I find it extreme in societal status treatments(e.g. Emma). Thanks for pointing out the “ideal” commonly mistaken as an idea.

  2. Good point Phylicia! Self-control has always been part of the equation. Despite the best efforts of parents in the Victorian age, people still found ways to submit to sin.

    While it is nice (and at some ages necessary) to have parental supervision, at some point it becomes impossible. By then, a Christian had better have learned to control themselves or there will be consequences.

  3. Fantastic post!

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