Cupid surfing

With all the millions of pages out there on the Web, surprisingly few are

devoted to courtship and love.

There are, as we all know, a profusion of pages devoted to the more graphic variations on the theme - and perhaps even more that utilize love as a catalyst for commerce. Still, selective searching reveals sites that provide surfers with both a glimpse of the evolution of courtship, and a chance to test for themselves the wisdom of the ages.

For a historical overview, check out The History of Private Life: Courtship in Early America from The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. This text-only page looks at changes in courtship rituals between the early 18th century (when

love was considered the result of marriage, rather than a reason for it) and the mid-19th century (when parental influence and economic 'compatibility' lost ground to romantic love in choosing a spouse). If you'd like to cover more territory - both geographically and chronologically - About.com's ) Women's History site has an extensive collection of resources on marriage, courtship and divorce practices - ranging from Ancient Greece to the 20th Century.

For information specific to Feb. 14, The History Channel's History of Valentine's Day supplies some background on both the Christian and the ancient Roman roots of the holiday. In an effort to provide a few helpful Valentine's Day role models, the History Channel briefly reviews the romantic lives of famous couples, including:

• Harry and Bess Truman, featuring a few examples from the more than 1300 letters Harry wrote to Bess (currently preserved in the Truman Library).

• Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning who, speaking of correspondence, generated almost 600 letters over a twenty-month period.

• Jackie and Rachel Robinson, supporting each other through years of segregation and racism.

After absorbing some history, you may be looking for counsel about your own relationships. Sometimes you need a more problem-specific resource than The Prophet. Miss Abigail's Time Warp Advice collects and disseminates only the brightest pearls of wisdom from "social instruction" books published between 1822 and 1978. While subjects covered include everything from a 1905 review of "Sidewalk Etiquette" to "Leopard Skin and Grandmothers - A Bad Mix?", there is also a good deal of material on the subjects of the heart. This indispensable reference work also includes advice on such vital communication skills as writing "Letters of Affection" and putting "Heart-Warmth in Your Voice," ("It behooves everyone to place the speaking voice correctly and to modulate it musically"). Meanwhile, the romantically confused can consult "How to Tell Whether You Are in Love." ("If he bores you at times until you feel like screaming...you don't really love him.")

Of course, all this training is in search of a goal, but for those "who find the years passing with no promising opportunity to marry," "Those Who May Not Marry" shows readers how to "plan their lives accordingly," by facing reality, and finding a desirable emotional outlet - so that "their personalities are not warped by single life."

As the old saying goes, "You can always get someone to love you - even if you have to do it yourself."

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