William Heath Robinson was clearly a romantic old soul. Indeed, as Geoffrey Beare points out in his Foreword to our Heath Robinson titles:
Heath Robinson received much teasing from his family about the choice of subject for the second book, How to be a Perfect Husband, but looking back over his cartoons one finds that romance and courtship had been among his most frequently chosen subjects, from early ‘Cupid’ cartoons to such pictures as ‘The Coquette’ and ‘Stolen Kisses’ which were reproduced in Absurdities in 1934.
Here are some selected extracts to whet the appetite for further invaluable guidance from Heath Robinson and Browne. As How to be a Perfect Husband is now available as an ebook you can get your hands on this vital pre-reading before Saturday. Firstly, we have the authors’ ideas for courtship and, in particular, for attracting her interest by sharing your beloved’s interests:
Is she an ardent swimmer, counting that day wasted on which she does not astound the onlookers with her skilful trudgeon? Then he must conquer his natural distaste for water in any form, master the rudiments of the breast-stroke, and flounder manfully beside her. (By the way, may I draw the attention of all to the Heath Robinson Bathing-Suit for Evening Wear, designed for formal aquatic occasions? Though we cannot hope to outshine the peacock, we can at least look pretty snappy as we stand poised at the water’s edge, bronzed and fit and the cynosure of all eyes.)
However, the nervous swain may be unsure that his romantic feelings are reciprocated by the object of his affection. Heath Robinson and Browne can help with this too:
Personally, I hold that the Tapioca Test is as good a method as any of deciding this vital question. The young man has only to take the girl out to dinner and at the appropriate moment offer her tapioca. The girl, naturally, will refuse with a delicate shudder, whereupon her cavalier should observe casually: “No? Now, I could never marry a girl who didn’t like tapioca.” This is the crucial moment, for if the wench replies: “Oh, yeah?” and asks for a banana, it is clear that she is still heart-whole and fancy-free. If, however, she hesitates for about three seconds, and then says shyly: “On second thoughts, Mr. Dumbell, I think I will have some tapioca. It’s so delightfully vitaminous, isn’t it?” then her companion can fling up his hat and rejoice, for he has found True Love at last.
Once a man is sure his beloved is open to offers, he can contemplate making a proposal. Here again K.R.G. Browne provides valuable insight into the modern method of plighting one’s troth:
As to the actual manner of the proposal, this has changed considerably in the past hundred years. In the Victorian age, when men’s features lurked unsuspected behind a zareba of whisker, and the bustle was more of a garment than a habit, it took the form of a lengthy oration, delivered usually from the knees and prefaced by a gift of hollyhocks – or whatever flower it is that signifies to the initiated: “I’m that way about you, Baby.” Beginning: “Miss Throttlebutt, you cannot, I venture to believe, be wholly insensible of the nature of the sentiments I have long entertained towards you…” and ending, rather hoarsely: “…so let me implore you, dear Miss Throttlebutt – dare I call you Susan? – to put an end to my suspense and make me the happiest man in England – nay, in all Europe! – by bestowing upon me the inexpressible honour of your hand in marriage”, it lasted a full twenty-five minutes and did no good to the knees of the trousers.
But things are very different today. The modern suitor cannot absent himself from his office long enough to do the thing in the grand Victorian manner, while no modern girl can sit motionless and mum-chance for more than five minutes at a time. The modern proposal, therefore, is a brisk and business-like affair, averaging little more than a minute and a half from question-pop to troth-plight.
The direct method of attack, of course, is still the best: “Marry me?” “Yup,” Many young men, however, are compelled by circumstances, shyness, or an impediment in their speech to approach the subject in a more round-about manner; and it is for the benefit of such that Mr. Heath Robinson – as kindly a man as ever refrained from kicking a stray cat – has devised and illustrated divers methods whereby tongue-tied swains (though not necessarily divers; dentists, deans, and even dukes will find them useful, too) can convey to the Only Girl in the World that they are simply cuckoo about her.
To find out what Heath Robinson’s methods are for shy young men to propose I recommend that you purchase a copy of How to be a Perfect Husband (available from Amazon and all other good ebook retailers). A quick read before Saturday will ensure that your Valentine’s Day is everything you might hope for. Also, on the day that the film Fifty Shades of Grey opens in cinemas, many will prefer to turn to a more gentle approach to wooing a partner. Indeed, in How to be a Perfect Husband, Heath Robinson and Browne make it clear that they are strongly against wife beating (and, of course, husband beating too)!