Gearhart the Gentleman: Marriage Proposals
Dear Sir Gearheart,
I'll be frank: I'm in love. What's the best way for a respectable young gentleman to propose marriage? If I don't marry this girl, I'll die.
First I must congratulate you on experiencing one of life's supremest joys. Few things surpass falling in love—assuming that person returns your affections. I do hope the lady of whom you speak adores you as much as you adore her. Otherwise, proposing marriage could prove to be a humiliating episode. Your lady friend may reject you and perhaps with less kindness than she ought to reserve for such an answer. Even if she accepts your proposal, perhaps her guardians would not approve of such a union. So before you make haste, I suggest you investigate the situation as a whole.
First, ask yourself if your lady friend appears to be in love with you. Surely you will be biased in your evaluation of her feelings, but try to observe her behavior around you as objectively as possible. Common signs of love include blushing, excessive smiling, occasional difficulty in speaking, frequent touching, and the stealing of glances. I find it best to consult the wisdom of an older man or woman you trust. That person might be able to evaluate your lady friend's feelings for you, assuming you ask such a person to escort you the next time you call upon your lady friend. If it seems likely that your lady friend is in love with you, you may proceed to evaluating the next point.
Secondly—but equally important if you are to behave as a “respectable young gentleman”--you must divine whether your lady friend's family approves of you. Ask yourself the following questions: Do you and your lady friend share the same social status? If not, are you at least higher in rank than she? (Aim for 'yes' to either question.) Have you committed any past transgressions against your lady friend or her family? If not, have you done so against anyone in a manner which may be made public? (Aim for 'no' to either question.) Have you gone to prison for any offense, no matter how seemingly small? (Again, aim for 'no.') Are you gainfully employed in a noble or, at least, decent profession? If not, have you a considerable inheritance? (Aim for 'yes' to either question.) Do you and your lady friend share the same race, ethnicity, and religion? (Aim for 'yes' to all. This is England, not the Colonies.)
If you can reasonably say your lady friend is in love with you and that her family approves of you, you have every right to propose. Simply bring your lady friend to a private location (but not one so private that you may be tempted to act in a most inappropriately amorous manner) and ask her if she wishes to be your bride. Should she say yes, your next duty is to request her parents' permission. There is no need to present a ring unless you plan for a long engagement.
Godspeed, Lover Boy!