I've had my eye on you
How not to propose marriage
Unless you’re from Yorkshire, it's highly unlikely that you'll understand every word of the following letter. In fact, even if you are from Yorkshire some of it could prove tricky. But it matters not. I seriously recommend watching the footage of this proposal being read at Letters Live by Taron Egerton—embedded beneath the transcript—as his performance is so perfect that it transcends the barriers of dialect and vocabulary. Or something.
On 29 November 1866, in the Yorkshire village of Middlesmoor, a middle-aged farmer by the name of Simon Fallowfield plucked up the courage to propose marriage—not in person, but by letter, and not to someone he knew particularly well but to a young local lady named Mary Foster who had, for her sins, repeatedly caught his eye. It is little surprise to learn that Mary declined Simon’s most generous offer. Whether his Plan B was effective is another question altogether.
My Dear Miss,
I now take up my pen to write to you hoping these few lines will find you well as it leaves me at present Thank God for it. You will perhaps be surprised that I should make so bold as to write to you who is such a lady and I hope you will not be vex at me for it. I hardly dare say what I want, I am so timid about ladies, and my heart trimmels like a hespin. But I once seed in a book that faint heart never won fair lady, so here goes.
I am a farmer in a small way and my age is rather more than forty years and my mother lives with me and keeps my house, and she has been very poorly lately and cannot stir about much and I think I should be more comfortabler with a wife.
I have had my eye on you a long time and I think you are a very nice young woman and one that would make me happy if only you think so. We keep a servant girl to milk three kye and do the work in the house, and she goes on a bit in the summer to gadder wickens and she snags a few turnips in the back kend. I do a piece of work on the farm myself and attends Pately Market, and I sometimes show a few sheep and I feeds between 3 & 4 pigs agen Christmas, and the same is very useful in the house to make pies and cakes and so forth, and I sells the hams to help pay for the barley meal.
I have about 73 pound in Naisbro Bank and we have a nice little parlour downstairs with a blue carpet, and an oven on the side of the fireplace and the old woman on the other side smoking. The Golden Rules claimed up on the walls above the long settle, and you could sit all day in the easy chair and knit and mend my kytles and leggums, and you could make the tea ready agin I come in, and you could make butter for Pately Market, and I would drive you to church every Sunday in the spring cart, and I would do all that bees in my power to make you happy. So I hope to hear from you. I am in desprit and Yurnest, and will marry you at May Day, or if my mother dies afore I shall want you afore. If only you will accept of me, my dear, we could be very happy together.
I hope you will let me know your mind by return of post, and if you are favourable I will come up to scratch. So no more at present from your well wisher and true love.
PS I hope you will say nothing about this. If you will not accept of me i have another very nice woman in my eye, and i think shall marry her if you do not accept of me, but i thought you would suit me mother better, she being very crusty at times.