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They were exposed to temptations unknown to most of their fathers in a society more restrictive than that which their sons would enjoy.

Women were at even more of a disadvantage in that restrictive society as they still could not seek out men or make "the first move." Their prerogative was, as was often quoted, "but to accept or decline".

-- My objections to the proposal contained in your letter, though few in number, demand some attention and, I am well assured, cannot be overcome. I have a son seventeen years of age, and consequently too far advanced to learn filial duty from one not much his senior.

As to my little fortune, I consider myself merely the trustee for my children....

Armed with , at least they could express their refusal in a more forthright way than had the previous generation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Heather Palmer, has served as the Curator of three historic house museums and was also the Historian of Blair House, the President's Guest House.

The short paragraph headed "Refusal on the grounds of dislike" is important information to a historian today for what it reveals about the life of men in 1879.

That such a letter was not absurd to include in a serious work is mute testimony to the number of young men who "failed" in the world. -- I am astonished at your temerity, or, rather, your impudence.

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To readers today the index titles for these letters sound wildly humorous.Usually the tone of the letter is vague and contains assurances that the honored lady thanks the gentleman for his offer but she cannot accept his proposal.The Victorian precept that a lady "never explains or complains" is followed rigidly.At least enough young men had to be trying that route in order to justify the letter manual's inclusion of "Refusal on the grounds that the suitor is much younger than herself".The text is interesting enough to be cited at length: "Dear Sir.