Point in this book’s favor: it’s a reprint compliation of material dating to 1873-1890. Ergo, genuine Victorian-period advice on how to behave.
Point against this book’s favor: it’s American advice, which I was not able to tell when I ordered it.
Still, I find it helpful; Hill, the original writer, describes certain scenarios in ways that jibe with my impressions for the other side of the pond, while fleshing them out such that I can better understand the proper (or improper) behavior. So I feel I can use it, with caution.
Much to my surprise, he even gets a few random proto-feminist brownie points. I was highly entertained that “Professor Hill’s Guide to Love and Marriage” begins with a few paragraphs reassuring the reader that there’s nothing wrong in these modern days with being an “old maid” — indeed, women’s opportunities nowadays are so diverse that there’s really no reason to get married unless you actually find someone suitable that you like. (Professor Hill’s Guide to Love and Marriage: don’t do it!) He also claims that when the financial failure of a marriage is blamed on the wife’s imprudent spending, it’s usually because the husband never told the wife they were in monetary straits; properly informed wives, he (rather optimistically) says, will always keep within the family’s means. I frowned a bit when he advised wives that some nights their husbands may come home from a hard day at the office and carry on in the same autocratic manner they use with their employees, and it’s just best to suck it up — but then he went on to advise husbands that sometimes their wives’ “variable condition of health” may put her in a bad mood, and then it’s just best to overlook it and carry on. The sauce which is good for the goose is, indeed, also good for the gander, and that pleases me.
(In fact, the only place I caught him being noticeably one-sided, he did so in favor of women: husbands should, he recommends, keep their wives well-informed as to their business affairs, and take their prudent advice — but stay the hell out of affairs of household management.)
It’s a small book, half taken up with illustrations, but some of those go with the text: a dinner scene, for example, illustrating a bunch of examples of What Not To Do, with helpful annotations. Not a hugely informative resource, but entertaining and quick to read.