A Phonographic Proposal: 1899

phonograph recording couple


A Backward Swain Utilized His Adored One’s Phonograph.

A few days ago a neatly dressed, well appearing young man entered a music store in this city and asked to look at their line of phonographs.

The obliging clerk, in a courteous manner, showed him how the instruments were operated and entered into a minute description concerning the delicate parts of which they are composed. The young man seemed to be ill at ease, acting in a manner to lead one to surmise that he had some grave problem before him with which to grapple. And as future developments proved, he most assuredly had.

After several unsuccessful attempts he finally opened the conversation or the subject which had called him thither. Could they furnish him a blank “record” and would they record it?

When assured by the clerk that they were only too pleased to thus accommodate him, he asked that the blank be placed in the instrument. This was done, and the stranger, taking the mouth piece, started out something like the following, or at least as near as the clerk could remember:

‘Dear Alice. I trust you will pardon me, but for the past year I have silently worshipped you, only from a distance, as I could never summon sufficient courage to declare my suit. Heaven at last seems to have provided the way, and I hasten to avail myself of this opportunity, my adored one, etc. etc.” This ardent lover, by means of the phonograph did declare his love.

When the sheet was taken from the instrument, he asked that it be carefully wrapped as he wished to preserve it.

By this time the curiosity of the clerk was fully aroused and in a polite way inquired if it was to be used at an evening’s entertainment. If such was the fact it would surely make a hit.

The love stricken swain hesitated a moment, and then explained that he trusted it would make a hit, but not in the way suggested. Calling the clerk to one side in a confidential manner, he told how he had loved the young lady in question for nearly a year but could never bring himself to the point of a positive declaration and had almost given up in despair, when lo! And behold! The lady of his choice purchased a phonograph and now he would simply present her with the “record” with a request that she place it in the instrument and the business was done.

Trenton [NJ] Evening News 24 October 1899: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Ah, the young and their fascination with technology! One imagines that a young person in the same situation to-day might propose via “text message” or a “tweet” on their self-centred “I-phones.” That is what comes of neglecting the teaching of elocution in the classroom.

The suitor too timid to “pop the question” was a figure of legend and fun in the Victorian and Edwardian press. This lover was much too late:

A tardy but rapturous wooer corresponded with a girl for three years, but delayed his marriage proposal too long. A short time ago he received a letter and a portrait from her. The letter almost petrified him it announced that she had been married two years, and the photo was of her baby. “My husband and I have enjoyed your letters very much.” she wrote, “but you’d better stop writing now, as I have to spend all my time caring for the baby.” Lake County Press 25 January 1906, Page 7

Some gentlemen needed  gentle encouragement:

Undoubtedly one way of testifying a genuine affection is by helping a somewhat timid suitor. A member of the House of Commons was once very grateful for a graceful and witty bit of encouragement from the lady of his choice.

For a long time he had been paying the lady attention and had taken her to attend the House until she was well acquainted with the rules. One day he brought a bouqet of flowers, and said, “May I offer you my handful of flowers?”

She replied promptly, “I move to amend by omitting all after the word hand!”

He blushingly and happily accepted the amendment, and the motion was adopted unaminously. Atchison [KS] Blade 24 December 1892: p. 5

Most women longed for the decisive male:

Of all women she is most to be pitied who has a hesitating admirer, who boggles about popping the question. How perfectly satisfactory was the conduct of that brave old Puritan who rode up to the door of the house of the girl of his choice, and having desired her to be called out to him said, without circumlocution, “Rachel, the Lord hath sent me to marry thee,” when the girl answered with equal promptitude and devoutness, “The Lord’s will be done!” Macon [GA] Telegraph 25 December 1893: p. 8

Mrs Daffodil suspects, however, that the timidity on the part of so many young men was a reflection of the dreaded interview with Papa.


It wasn’t the thought of asking the girl that caused his courage to drop,

It wasn’t popping the question, but the task of questioning pop. Evening Post 20 May 1933, Page 19

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.


5 thoughts on “A Phonographic Proposal: 1899

    1. chriswoodyard Post author

      There is something to be said for evenings ’round the phonograph, although most of the advertisements for the machines show the young people “cutting a rug”–another aid to courtship!



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