The idea of two people having compatible romantic affections is always pleasant. However, not every proposal can be accepted. There are some occasions when a moment that is supposed to be romantic is...
So, for all of you who are in painful deliberations on how to give a proposal, or whether or not to accept it, take the tips from these following literary gentlemen on several pitfalls to avoid when expressing the violence of your affection.
Mr. Guppy--Giving a Proposal Like a Law Contract
Drinking off four glasses of wine in front of your intended fiancee before you propose is undoubtedly an error in delicacy. Offering her one is another grave error, hardly likely to be recovered from. But such unromantic things as discussing absolute secrecy and expected salary before you even get around to 'adoration' are the clinching factors that will deny you all prospect of future happiness.
"My present salary, Miss Summerson, at Kenge and Carboy's, is two pound a week. When I first had the happiness of looking upon you, it was one fifteen, and had stood at that figure for a lengthened period. A rise of five has since taken place, and a further rise of five is guaranteed at the expiration of a term not exceeding twelve months from the present date. My mother has a little property, which takes the form of a small life annuity, upon which she lives in an independent though unassuming manner in the Old Street Road. She is eminently calculated for a mother-in-law. She never interferes, is all for peace, and her disposition easy. She has her failings--as who has not?--but I never knew her do it when company was present, at which time you may freely trust her with wines, spirits, or malt liquors. My own abode is lodgings at Penton Place, Pentonville. It is lowly, but airy, open at the back, and considered one of the 'ealthiest outlets. Miss Summerson! In the mildest language, I adore you. Would you be so kind as to allow me (as I may say) to file a declaration--to make an offer!"
Mr. Guppy went down on his knees. I was well behind my table and not much frightened. I said, "Get up from that ridiculous position immediately, sir, or you will oblige me to break my implied promise and ring the bell!"
....He looked piteously, but slowly rose and did so.
"Yet what a mockery it is, miss," he said with his hand upon his heart and shaking his head at me in a melancholy manner over the tray, "to be stationed behind food at such a moment. The soul recoils from food at such a moment, miss."~Bleak House
Mr. Collins--Using Powerpoint Format
While having points is excellent in a workshop or talk, it cramps the spontaneous style of a proposal. Coupled with a powerpoint that has 'Sponsored by Lady Catherine' pasted all over it, and you're not likely for success. Leave the points at home and just assure her in the most animated language of the violence of your affection.
``My reasons for marrying are, first, that I think it a right thing for every clergyman in easy circumstances (like myself) to set the example of matrimony in his parish. Secondly, that I am convinced it will add very greatly to my happiness; and thirdly -- which perhaps I ought to have mentioned earlier, that it is the particular advice and recommendation of the very noble lady whom I have the honour of calling patroness. Twice has she condescended to give me her opinion (unasked too!) on this subject; and it was but the very Saturday night before I left Hunsford -- between our pools at quadrille, while Mrs. Jenkinson was arranging Miss de Bourgh's foot-stool, that she said, "Mr. Collins, you must marry."
"And now nothing remains for me but to assure you in the most animated language of the violence of my affection." ~Pride and Prejudice
Billy Andrews was always a good-meaning, if slow-thinking lad in the Anne of Green Gables series. But when it came to winning the coveted Anne, he didn't muster up quite enough good-meaning to make a go of it. Proposals may in some cases be acceptable by letter; but they are never, ever acceptable by way of a sister. That always secures an immediate and unalterable refusal.
"Anne," said Jane, still more solemnly, "what do you think of my brother Billy?"
Anne gasped over this unexpected question, and floundered helplessly in her thoughts. Goodness, what did she think of Billy Andrews? She had never thought anything about him--round-faced, stupid, perpetually smiling, good-natured Billy Andrews. Did anybody ever thinking about Billy Andrews?...
"Would you like him for a husband?" asked Jane calmly....."Billy wants to marry you. He's always been crazy about you--and now father has given him the upper farm in his own name and there's nothing to prevent him from getting married. But he's so shy he couldn't ask you himself if you'd have him, so he got me to do it. I'd rather not have, but he gave me no peace till I said I would, if I got a good chance. What do you think about it, Anne?"
[...] "I--I couldn't marry Billy, you know, Jane," she managed to gasp. "Why, such an idea never occurred to me--never!"
"I don't suppose it did," agreed Jane. "Billy has always been far too shy to think of courting. But you might think it over, Anne. Billy is a good fellow. I must say that, if he is my brother. He has no bad habits and he's a great worker, and you can depend on him. 'A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.' He told me to tell you he'd be quite willing to wait till you got through college, if you insisted, though he'd rather get married this spring before the planting begins." ~Anne of the Island
Sam--Practical Proposals to Pretty Strangers
Anne was subject to the most unromantic proposals of any hapless heroine. But Sam's probably takes the cake for there being no vestige of romantic affection in it. A straight-speaker, and an honest fellow, he chafed at the bit a little too soon. While in some instances premature proposals may be acceptable, they are only so if given with extra adoration and love.
Unfortunately, Sam is a practical fellow.
There was another long silence. Finally Sam removed his straw again and said,
"Will yeh hev me?"
"Wh--a--t!" gasped Anne.
"Will yeh hev me?"
"Do you mean--marry you?" queried poor Anne feebly.
"Why, I'm hardly acquainted with you," cried Anne indignantly.
"But yeh'd git acquainted with me after we was married," said Sam.
Anne gathered up her poor dignity.
"Certainly I won't marry you," she said haughtily.
"Wall, yeh might do worse," expostulated Sam. "I'm a good worker and I've got some money in the bank."
"Whatever put such an idea into your head?" said Anne, her sense of humor getting the better of her wrath.
"Yeh're a likely-looking girl and hev a right-smart way o' stepping," said Sam. I don't want no lazy woman. Think it over. I won't change my mind yit awhile. Wall, I must be gitting. Gotter milk the cows." ~Anne of the Island
These are several of the amusing ones that come to mind at the moment. There are plenty of tips to take from wicked proposals as well--Black Donald falling to his imminent death when his proposals proves unacceptable to his lady-love. (Don't Stand on Trapdoors For Fear of an Angry Refusal) De Montalvo's dastardly bargain with Lysbeth that cursed him and his children to his dying day. (Don't Threaten a Rival; It Never Goes Well) Reginald Front de Bouf and Maurice de Bracy's unsuccessful threats in Ivanhoe; (Don't Carry off Fair Ladies When Robin Hood is in the Neighborhood) and Adison Cheetham's blackmail to secure himself his chosen bride. (Better Make Sure You Have a Last Name They Would Want to be Called By) But all these, though they contain applicable and entertaining lessons, do not have funny proposals in and of themselves. They are simply dramatic.
On a serious note, the worse literary proposal I ever read was so exhausting that I shudder whenever I recall the book. When Dean Priest wanted to marry Emily in Montgomery's Emily Climbs, he was so jealous of her writing that, when she brought him her treasured manuscript, he told her it was terrible so she would give up her writing. She promptly burned the manuscript, and was so heart-broken that she accepted his proposal of marriage. When their relationship started to flounder, he told her that he had lied; her book was genius, and he said it was bad simply because he wanted her to give up her writing for him. But it was too late; and she couldn't get a word of it back again.
He's too small to hate. He's simply contemptible.
Go read it, and you'll see what I mean.
And if you want more funny proposals, L.M. Montgomery, fascinatingly enough, has an abundance of them. I turned down several in my attempts to pursue variety. But read Anne, or A Tangled Web, or a variety of her short stories, and you'll find a lot of laugh-out-loud moments.
Do you have any Worst Proposals to add to this list? I'd love to see them!