Marriage was something almost every Georgian man and woman expected but they also wanted the “perfect” mate to marry. This caused one author to write, “Let those women who seek a perfect husband, or those men who desire a perfect wife, be told by the Christian to look to some other quarter; let them indeed; be directed to some other planet than that on which we dwell.”
One magazine thought that perhaps listing the “mental and personal qualifications” for a wife, written by a single gentleman, and those necessary for a husband, written from the perspective of a single lady, might produce the perfect mate for each. Here are those qualifications provided verbatim: Continue reading →
In 1773 answers for the love lorn could be found in an eighteen century magazine. The magazine had the School of Love providing the advice, and among those who had concerns about their love life was an eighteenth century married woman named Charlotte. Charlotte posed the following question to the School of Love:
“My husband and I have lived happily for seven years. Of late his affections have begun to wander from me: I do not know upon what account, but I fear there is some other woman behind the screen. — In any case, what am I to do?” Continue reading →
The Marriage Act of 1753 was enacted to require a formal ceremony of marriage because clandestine marriages achieved by crossing over the Scottish border caused disputes as to their validity. One newspaper proposed some humorous clauses be added to the Marriage Act and here they are in their entirety.
When two young thoughtless fools, having no visible way to maintain themselves, nor any thing to begin the world with, resolve to marry and be miserable; let it be deemed PETTY LARCENY.
If a younger brother marries an old woman purely for the sake of maintenance, let it be called SELF-PRESERVATION. Continue reading →
Joseph Thornton, son of a respectable tradesman, was charged with fraud all because of a hoax and a love gone wrong. The story begins with another young man named Joseph Dale. He received an anonymous but elegantly written letter in a female hand signed with the initials E.B. Dale mentioned the letter to Thornton because they were friends and remarked that E.B. had confessed her ardent attachment towards him. She had also asked him to reply. As chance would have it, Thornton told Dale that he knew E.B. stating:
“I know the family well; I am going to tea with them; I’ll manage it, my boy.” Continue reading →
Christiana Wighton, a young girl, “verging on womanhood,” was the daughter of John Wighton, and he was head gardener to Henry Stafford-Jerningham, 9th Baron Stafford. One January evening in 1863, between nine and ten o’clock in the morning, Christiana and her younger brother James, a lad of fourteen, were proceeding home. They were some distance from their cottage, which was located in Costessy Park, when Christiana was accosted by a young man named Walston Sadler (or Saddler).
Sadler had been working for John Wighton, Christiana’s father, for about three years. During that time, Sadler had attempted to gain Christiana’s affections whenever he found himself in the company of her and her father. Sadler’s attempts were unsuccessful, possibly because it was reported he made a snuffling noise through his nose when speaking. Whatever the reason for Christiana’s disinterest, when Sadler saw Christiana without her father, he decided this was his chance and implored her to have a private conversation with him in the park. Continue reading →
Divorce was practically impossible in England until the passage of the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857. One man who decided to take advantage of the Act was Lord Colin Campbell, a Scottish Liberal politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1878 to 1885. He had become engaged to Gertrude Elizabeth Blood, daughter of the Irish landowner Edmund Maghlin Blood, in September 1880. About a month later, Campbell “underwent an operation for a painful disease from which he was suffering.” They married in July of 1881, but shortly before their marriage, Campbell intimated to his wife Gertrude that they would have to occupy separate apartments for a time. However, he never informed her that the reason why was because he was suffering from complications related to venereal disease. Continue reading →
In 1753 the “Marriage Act in Churches,” popularly known as Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act, passed in England. It suppressed clandestine marriages by requiring English and Welsh couples to marry in a church and to be 21 or older to marry without parental consent. This resulted in clandestine marriages being conducted in Scotland where the requirements for marriage were different. Thus, Gretna Green became the notable spot for marriages by eloping couples because it was just over the border. Continue reading →
One of the more well-known elopements of the 1790s involved a precocious fourteen-year-old named Clementina Clerke and a handsome Bristol surgeon-apothecary Richard Vining Perry. Clerke, who was described as “modest, amiable…obliging, timid and not forward,” eloped from a boarding school in Bristol operated by the Mills sisters (Selina and Mary). Clerke was the niece of George Ogilvie of Banff, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, “who made…[his] fortune in the West Indies, and left it to…[Clerke], whom her friends, after the fashion of the day, sent from her native place to an English boarding-school, to finish her education!” It was while at the boarding school, during Clerke’s regular promenades with her fellow classmates, that Clerke and Perry claimed to have first seen each other. The pair supposedly never spoke, but Perry bowed twice to Clerke and from these small interactions the pair “saw and mutually affected each other by the sweet, but indiscribable [sic] passion of love.” Struck by love, Perry could not resist, and one day he “slipped a note into her hand proposing that she should go off with him to be married at Gretna Green.” Continue reading →
Certain etiquette and conduct was expected of an eighteenth or nineteenth century gentleman when courting. One etiquette book noted that “courting ought never to be done except with a view to marriage.” One nineteenth century gentleman maintained that “true courtship consists in a number of quiet, gentlemanly attentions, not so pointed as to alarm, not so vague as to be misunderstood.” This meant a gentleman had to walk a fine line. He could not pay exclusive attention to any particular woman unless he was serious and wanted to pursue marriage, and he could not attend church with a woman regularly, give her costly presents, or be her constant escort unless he had serious intentions. If he neglected “all others to [solely] devote himself to a single lady he [gave] that lady reason to suppose he [was] particularly attracted to her … [and there was] danger of her feelings becoming engaged.” In addition, by avoiding such singular-focused behavior, a gentleman would avoid winning a love he could not reciprocate, stop wasting his time and money, or sidestep falling in love with someone considered unworthy.
Courtship preceded an engagement and was a period of time that allowed a man and woman to discover whether or not they were compatible. Because marriage was the goal in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, courtship was important, and perspective mates attempted to put their best foot forward. Women could accomplish this by following proper etiquette and possessing desirable qualities that would make them a good spouse. In addition, young ladies were encouraged to seek acceptable partners. Their parents were also encouraged to be involved to the extent that they were “perfectly familiar with the character of their daughter’s associates and … exercise[d] their authority so far as not to permit her to form any improper acquaintances.” After all, parents had to keep in mind their daughter might fall in love with someone whom she had frequent contact with, and, so, “if any gentleman of her acquaintance [was] particularly ineligible as a husband, he [was to] … be excluded as far as practicable from her society.” Continue reading →