I’m currently reading Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain. She was born in 1896 and this book is an Autobiographical Study of the Years 1900 – 1925.
I’ve read up to the beginning of 1915, just after the outbreak of the First World War. It’s fascinating and there are so many passages I could highlight, but for now I’m quoting these that I read this morning. Vera Brittain wrote this book in 1933 and she pointed out the change from 1915 to 1933. Just think of the vast difference between life now and then, nearly 100 years ago.
Sophisticated present-day girls, free immediately after leaving school to come and go as they wish, or living, as independent professional women, in their own rooms or flats, have no conception of the difficulties under which courtships were contracted by provincial young ladies in 1915. There was no privacy for a boy and girl whose mutual feelings had reached their most delicate and bewildering stage; the whole series of complicated relationships leading from acquaintance to engagement had to be conducted in public or not at all. (page 120)
Everything in a young woman’s life was supervised and discussed in the family circle, letters were observed and commented upon. Vera had never been anywhere by herself until she left home to go to Oxford University, on train journeys her ticket was bought for her and she had to send a telegram home immediately she arrived.
In 1915 (aged 19) she was deeply in love with a young man, Roland Leighton, her brother’s friend, but had never been alone with him or without constant observation and the possibility of interruption. She wrote:
Consequently, by the middle of that January, our desire to see one another alone had passed beyond the bounds of toleration. (page 121)
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