Tongue-in-check advice to men about to propose, first published in Melbourne Punch on Thursday 10 September 1868.



Men about to marry have had some very good and pithy advice given through the medium of your columns, but the primary step – viz., proposing – has been lost sight of; therefore, with your permission, I shall make a few observations on that most important subject.

My first piece of advice is, as soon as you find yourself on the verge of committing yourself by offering some fair one your ” ‘eart and ‘and” (as C-PE has it), or saying any thing equally foolish and damaging to yourself (unless the lady is a bona-fide heiress), stop; and if your head is screwed upon your shoulders properly, you may manage to change the subject; but, whatever you do, stop, and stop before you are irretrievably lost to your old bachelor friends.

You perhaps have shared the enjoyment of two or (if the stroke is severe) perhaps six dances at one of our assemblies with one of our Collins-street goddesses (you at once perceive that Mr. HIGINBOTHAM does not write this). She may either have been a blonde or a brunette. This will depend altogether upon the fact of your being light or dark; for if the former, then you are bound to be susceptible of a brunette’s charms, or vice versa, and you – after having gone through the sworn ordeal of ” punishing” a few ” battle-axes,” and stated to this brother bachelor “isn’t she a stunner?” or to that ditto “my word, what a plum she is” – upon re-entering the ball-room begin to fancy that particular young lady is “perhaps one of the most remarkable” in the room. Take care! for after enclosing another ” battle-axe” you will be convinced that she is the best in the room as to temper, looks, figure, and style, or I may say manners, There is no knowing what a mine of troubles and trials you may open for yourself, deluded youth. Take advice from an old bachelor, and believe him when he tells you that you are rapidly approaching that state which is little short of insanity, for what right have you to express even to yourself any opinion whatever as to the quality of her temper before the marriage register is signed. (Entre nous, if you wish to get a true description of any young lady’s temper, just cross-question one of her old school-fellows.) A woman’s temper, if she should be a vixen, may be likened to an acceptance payable 30 days after marriage, and is sure to appear with punctuality, if only to make up for long confinement, Of course there is another sort, viz.: – those in the meek-eyed, dovelike style; but believe me when I say have nothing to do with a spiritless girl, for the grand reason that as you cannot “take the breeks off a Highlander,” neither can you ever enjoy a quarrel (or fall-out and fall-in again) if the only spirit in the house is inside your own waistcoat. I have known a man, whose wife had no more temper than she had gold-dust in her eye, greeted upon his return from business with “CHARLES, dear ! I wish you would give JOHNNY a whipping – he does deserve it, but I can’t do it;” and the poor man has had to wind up his day’s work by giving his rising son what PADDY gave the drum. So much for temper. Now we come to the looks and figures.

When I say looks, I must be understood to mean features, for now-a-days we cannot go beyond the bounds of the face but we at once encroach upon what may truly be called false ground, for what lady now wears her own hair? and it takes a far clearer-headed man than a half-frenzied “spoon” to know false from real; and after marriage it is likely that you, who have gone to the expense and trouble of marrying a red-haired (we beg pardon, a golden) beauty, will in a few weeks find her sporting raven locks; and unless you receive fair warning of the contemplated change, you may pass her in the street, and sign that you are a married man. As to figure. As a rule, a tall man at once takes to a “four-foot-two” damsel, and vice versa. Why? no one philosopher or other can say, but my humble opinion on the subject is that the tall man thinks that he will more easily control the little woman; but it is all a delusion, for as a lion may be tormented by a mosquito, so may a small wife trouble a large husband. With the present fashion of short walking dresses, one may satisfy himself at three hundred yards distance as to whether a lady has a pretty understanding or not, but fight shy of all who now wear long dresses hung round their persons as a Tonga native wears her mat, or a lubra her blanket.

In conclusion I may state, though long years have passed and gone, I have never been troubled by any lady. So, fellow bachelors, beware! and follow my example, and you may still enjoy many more quiet, dinners, evenings at your club, and oyster suppers, all which you deprive yourself of by marrying; and to be married one must have proposed, so don’t propose and there’ll be no marrying, and I shall feel proud at having been the means of having saved some fellow creatures from plunging into that dismal swamp yclept “Matrimony,”—Yours, &c.,


P.S.—Should the fit attack you severely, go and live on the top of the Dandenong Ranges, and devote yourself to the cultivation of raspberries. I believe that the medical profession unanimously consider this to be the best antidote for a wound from CUPID’S bow.


Source: To Men About To Propose (1868, September 10). Melbourne Punch (Vic. : 1855 – 1900), p. 3.