WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Hobgoblin

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Hobgoblin

So we expect stories of ghosts, ghoulies, skeletons, monsters, and even vampyres during the Regency. Anything else?

Glad you asked.

Hobgoblin (noun)

An elf or fairy; a little man or woman. Also a mischievous sprite that causes fear or disquiet, 1709. From Hobbe “hob” elf and a variant of Robin Goodfellow, an elf character in German folklore, and goblin, 1520s.

Winter or The Goblin Story, after Hamilton, 1795, British Museum.

 

Ghost stories are so much fun!

 

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WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Bow-Wow

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Bow-Wow

I love doggies. All shapes, sizes, and breeds. No wonder I’ve developed an affinity for the Regency era. Simply Google “Regency era dogs” and your screen will be inundated with pages of images (just a paltry 525,000 results). My fondness for dogs naturally lent itself to a fondness for Lady Bertram in Mansfield Park, my least favorite Austen novel.

To the education of her daughters Lady Bertram paid not the smallest attention. She had not time for such cares. She was a woman who spent her days in sitting, nicely dressed, on a sofa, doing some long piece of needlework, of little use and no beauty, thinking more of her pug than her children… Mansfield Park, Chapter 2

Portrait of Sylvie de la Rue by Francois van der Donckt, 1810, Groeninge Museum, Bruges.

She is a simple woman of a fairly simple mind, but doggedly (sorry, not sorry) devoted to her precious Pug. Not counting Edward and his ambiguous feelings, surely no one paid Fanny so great a compliment as Lady Bertram:

And still pursuing the same cheerful thoughts, she soon afterwards added, “And I will tell you what, Fanny, which is more than I did for Maria: the next time Pug has a litter you shall have a puppy.” Mansfield Park, Chapter 33

Bow-Wow

The childish name for a dog.

The Misses de Balleroy by Henri-Francois Riesener, between 1805-1815, Columbia Museum of Art.

Regency England was mad for dogs. Regency ladies, especially, kept their tiny little canine companions close, if the sheer number of portraits of ladies and their dogs is any indication. I know dog fighting was also a popular “entertainment” of the time, but I shall “let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.” I shall dwell on a small selection of doggies, great and small.

Frederica, Duchess of York by Peter Edward Stroehling.

According to the Georgian Index, Regency England’s top dogs were English Bulldogs, Collies, Dalmatians, Great Danes, English Foxhounds, Greyhounds, English Mastiffs, Newfoundlands, English Pointers, Pomeranians, Poodles, Pugs, Curly Coated Retrievers, Spaniels, and Terriers.

Jane Fleming, Countess of Harrington by Peter Edward Stroehling, year unknown, Thirlestane Castle.

Jane Austen’s World has a thorough and sometimes difficult-to-read post about Georgian Era dogs, illuminating the wide variety of roles occupied by canines: from faithful companion to hunting champion to paid entertainer to abandoned garbage-scavenger in the slums. I won’t retype her findings here, but it is a must-read for the curious.

Le Bon Genre, No. 35. Le Chiens a la Mode.

Dogs even made their mark in the fashion world.

Observoateur des Modes, No. 454, Bureau, rue Feydeau, No. 20. Modes Parisienne.

Winter Carriage Dress, La Belle Assemblée, 1818.

I’ll close with a few more favorites discovered in my massive Google search.

The Rev. and Mrs. Thomas Gisborne of Leicestershire, 1786, by Joseph Wright of Derby.

Good Companions by Vittorio Reggianini, private collection.

The Pet by Vittorio Reggianini.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Jaw-Me-Dead

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Jaw-Me-Dead

Several weeks ago, a Word of the Week featured the quotes of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. I received this hilarious Twitter shout-out from Dolores of Course:

Anytime a person is impelled to Jane Austen, it’s a good thing. My goal this week is to invoke the urge toward Sense and Sensibility; specifically, Mrs. Charlotte Palmer, and her incessant chatter, and her husband’s priceless reactions to it.

And really, does one need an excuse to watch a period version of Dr. House?

Jaw-Me-Dead

A jaw-me-dead is a talkative fellow; jaw being speech, discourse.

Mrs. Charlotte Palmer is a giggly, silly, chatterbox…but also essentially a nice person. Just like her mother, Mrs. Jennings, she loves gossip – and sharing it as soon as possible with all her friends. Mr. Palmer, on the surface, is a dour sourpuss whose only conversation seems to be one-liners delivered in passive aggressive rebuttal of his wife’s pronouncements. He’s quiet where she is exuberant. When the action moves to his home, we see he is really serious and concerned about the health of his guest (Marianne) and his family, and that his acerbity is more posture than truth.

Mr. Palmer’s role as straight man to his wife’s Jaw-Me-Dead is pure entertainment.

Mrs. Palmer was several years younger than Lady Middleton, and totally unlike her in every respect. She was short and plump, had a very pretty face, and the finest expression of good humour in it that could possibly be. Her manners were by no means so elegant as her sister’s, but they were much more prepossessing. She came in with a smile, smiled all the time of her visit, except when she laughed, and smiled when she went away. Her husband was a grave looking young man of five or six and twenty, with an air of more fashion and sense than his wife, but of less willingness to please or be pleased. He entered the room with a look of self-consequence, slightly bowed to the ladies, without speaking a word, and, after briefly surveying them and their apartments, took up a newspaper from the table, and continued to read it as long as he staid.

Mrs. Palmer, on the contrary, who was strongly endowed by nature with a turn for being uniformly civil and happy, was hardly seated before her admiration of the parlour and every thing in it burst forth.

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 19

Only look, sister, how delightful every thing is! How I should like such a house for myself! Should not you, Mr. Palmer?”

Mr. Palmer made her no answer, and did not even raise his eyes from the newspaper.

“Mr. Palmer does not hear me,” said she, laughing; “he never does sometimes. It is so ridiculous!”

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 19

“But indeed you must and shall come. I am sure you will like it of all things. The Westons will be with us, and it will be quite delightful. You cannot think what a sweet place Cleveland is; and we are so gay now, for Mr. Palmer is always going about the country canvassing against the election; and so many people came to dine with us that I never saw before, it is quite charming! But, poor fellow! it is very fatiguing to him! for he is forced to make every body like him.”

Elinor could hardly keep her countenance as she assented to the hardship of such an obligation.

“How charming it will be,” said Charlotte, “when he is in Parliament!–won’t it? How I shall laugh! It will be so ridiculous to see all his letters directed to him with an M.P.–But do you know, he says, he will never frank for me? He declares he won’t. Don’t you, Mr. Palmer?”

Mr. Palmer took no notice of her.

“He cannot bear writing, you know,” she continued–“he says it is quite shocking.”

“No,” said he, “I never said any thing so irrational. Don’t palm all your abuses of languages upon me.”

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 20

“Mr. Palmer will be so happy to see you,” said she; “What do you think he said when he heard of your coming with Mamma? I forget what it was now, but it was something so droll!”

After an hour or two spent in what her mother called comfortable chat, or in other words, in every variety of inquiry concerning all their acquaintance on Mrs. Jennings’s side, and in laughter without cause on Mrs. Palmer’s, it was proposed by the latter that they should all accompany her to some shops where she had business that morning…

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 26

Nothing was wanting on Mrs. Palmer’s side that constant and friendly good humour could do, to make them feel themselves welcome. The openness and heartiness of her manner more than atoned for that want of recollection and elegance which made her often deficient in the forms of politeness; her kindness, recommended by so pretty a face, was engaging; her folly, though evident was not disgusting, because it was not conceited; and Elinor could have forgiven every thing but her laugh.

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 42

He came, examined his patient, and though encouraging Miss Dashwood to expect that a very few days would restore her sister to health, yet, by pronouncing her disorder to have a putrid tendency, and allowing the word “infection” to pass his lips, gave instant alarm to Mrs. Palmer, on her baby’s account. Mrs. Jennings, who had been inclined from the first to think Marianne’s complaint more serious than Elinor, now looked very grave on Mr. Harris’s report, and confirming Charlotte’s fears and caution, urged the necessity of her immediate removal with her infant; and Mr. Palmer, though treating their apprehensions as idle, found the anxiety and importunity of his wife too great to be withstood. Her departure, therefore, was fixed on; and within an hour after Mr. Harris’s arrival, she set off, with her little boy and his nurse, for the house of a near relation of Mr. Palmer’s, who lived a few miles on the other side of Bath; whither her husband promised, at her earnest entreaty, to join her in a day or two; and whither she was almost equally urgent with her mother to accompany her.

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 43

Emma Thompson’s faithful and Oscar-winning adaptation of Sense and Sensibility in 1995 showcases the quirky banter of the Palmers to perfection. How many of us could keep our cool and droll sense of humor in the face of such a steadfast Jaw-Me-Dead as Mrs. Palmer?

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Jerry Sneak

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Jerry Sneak

Sometimes, in the course of writing a blog post, I stumble across a gem that makes me happy to chase that research rabbit. This was one of those weeks.

England has a fascinating tradition of ‘mock mayors,’ counterfeit leaders whose main purpose was ridiculing those in power, and encouraging the populace to do the same. These mayors have few duties aside from allowing towns to air their dirty laundry in satirical and grandiose manner. The custom originated in the early 1700s, faded out in the mid-19th century, and has blessedly come back into practice of late. According to a delightful article at Atlas Obscura, mock mayors

…let a town air out its frustrations, its lunacies, its long-lasting quirks. In the city of Penryn, the Mock Mayor of Mylor was attended by torch-bearers, a band, and sergeants armed with “monstrous cabbages.” His supporters, the “nutters,” returned from hazelnut harvesting and ran through town, kindling bonfires and setting off fireworks.

Launceston had a “Mayor of the Pig Market,” who was plied with beer, covered in flour, and paraded around town with a frying pan tied to his hair. In Exeter, the sole duty of the “Mayor of the Bullring” was keeping animals off the streets, and he was allowed to order people to carry their horses out of town on market day.

Oh, how I would support this in my home town.

History records the most famous of mockers as the Mayor of Garratt, with the first elected in 1747 and the last in 1810. The candidates were as flamboyant as possible in both dress and behavior, and adopted ridiculous names such as Lord Twankum and Squire Blow-Me-Down. Garratt was a small hamlet between Wandsworth and Tooting, now in South London but previously in the county of Surrey. Mayoral election always took place at the same time as the real election for Parliament, a time ripe for parody and derision, and the event became almost carnival-like. Crowds, both working and fashionable, flocked to Garratt for each mock election, and area merchants benefited greatly from the attention.

Popularity soared when Samuel Foote wrote his successful play, The Mayor of Garrett, in 1763. It was appropriately subtitled A Farce in Two Acts, and starred the author himself in the lead role.

Mr. Foote in the Character of Major Sturgeon, in The Mayor of Garratt by Johann Gottfried, 1765, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Jerry Sneak

A henpecked husband: from a celebrated character in one of Mr. Foote’s plays, representing a man governed by his wife.

One of the funniest characters in The Mayor of Garratt is Jerry Sneak, the constantly put-upon husband of one Mrs. Sneak.

Enter Mrs. Sneak, handed by the Major.

Mrs. Sneak: Dear major, I demand a million of pardons.
I have given you a profusion of trouble; but my husband
is such a goose-cap, that I can’t get no good out of him
at home or abroad. Jerry, Jerry Sneak! — Your blessing,
sir Jacob.

Sir Jacob: Daughter, you are welcome to Garratt.

Mrs. Sneak: Why, Jerry Sneak ! I say.

(Enter Jerry Sneak, with a band-box, a hoop-petticoat
under his arm, and cardinal, etc., etc.)

Sneak: Here, lovy.

Mrs. Sneak: Here, looby. There lay these things in the
bell; and then go and look after the horse- Are you sure
you have got all the things out of the chaise ?

Sneak: Yes, chuck.

Mrs. S: Then give me my fan.

[Jerry Sneak drops the things in searching his pockets for the fan.)

Mrs. Sneak: Did ever mortal see such a— I declare, I am
quite ashamed to be seen with him abroad : go, get you
gone out of my sight.

Sneak: I go, lovy. Good day to my father-in-law.

Samuel Thomas Russell as Jerry Sneak in the play ‘The Mayor of Garratt’ by Samuel Foote, by Samuel De Wilde, 1810-1811, Yale Center for British Art.

Jerry Sneak is like most browbeaten husbands seen on television these days: full of jabbering bravado when with his friends, yet quick to economize his words, tuck tail, and obey when his wife bellows.

Bruin: It is all your own fault, brother Sneak.

Sneak: D’ye think so ?— She is a sweet pretty creature.

Bruin: A vixen.

Sneak: Why, to say the truth, she does now and then
hector a little; and, between ourselves, domineers like the
devil: O Lord, I lead the life of a dog: why, she allows
me but two shillings a week for my pocket.

Bruin: No !

Sneak: No, man; ’tis she that receives and pays all:
and then I am forced to trot after her to church, with her
cardinal, pattens, and prayer-book, for all the world as
if I was still a ‘prentice.

Bruin: Zounds! I would souse them all in the kennel.

Sneak: I durst not. —And then at table, I never gets
what I loves.

Bruin: The devil!

Sneak: No; she always helps me herself to the tough
drumsticks of turkies, and the damned fat flaps of
shoulders of mutton; I don’t think I have eat a bit of
under-crust since we have been married: you see,
brother Bruin, I am almost as thin as a lath.

Bruin: An absolute skeleton!

Sneak: Now, if you think I could carry my point, I
would so swinge and leather my lambkin; God, I would
so curry and claw her.

Bruin: By the lord Harry, she richly deserves it.

Sneak: Will you, brother, lend me a lift?

Bruin: Command me at all times.

Sneak: Why then, I will verily pluck up a spirit; and
the first time she offers to—

Mrs. Sneak: [without.] Jerry, Jerry Sneak!

Sneak: Gad’s my life, sure as a gun that’s her voice.

The Mayor of Garratt, Jerry Sneak discovereing Major Sturgeon with his wife, 1799, British Museum.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Cow

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Cow

It’s Labor Day in the good ol’ US of A – a day to honor the industry and ingenuity of the American worker that gave rise to the prosperity and well-being of this great country.

It is also the unofficial last day of summer, and day to retire all things white to the back of the closet. Most recently, it has become the day to prematurely usher in fall by dousing everything in pumpkin spice.

In honor of taking it easy, putting up your feet, and not doing that thing you do, I found a barely relevant but entirely hilarious word for the week. And it fits with my current series on the foibles of marriage.

Cow

To sleep like a cow, with an arse at one’s arse; said of a married man, supposing they sleep with their backs towards their wives, according to the following proclamation:

All you that in your beds do lie,
Turn to your wives, and occupy:
And when that you have done your best,
Turn a-se to a-se, and take your rest.

Perhaps it would be better, surely classier, were I to quote a loftier poem in honor of labor day. So I shall.

When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He returning chide,
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask; But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts. Who best
Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at His bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.
~John Milton, Sonnet XIX: On His Blindness

 

Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Distracted Division

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Distracted Division

To appropriate a popular meme, ‘one does not simply Google arguing Regency couples’ and find any art for one’s blog post. When in doubt, fall back on that other internet savlo, ‘What Would Jane Do?’

She’d write about it so that I could have illustrious quotes for this week’s post. That’s what she did. Truly, few couples bicker as well as the Bennets.

“My dear Mr. Bennet,” said his lady to him one day, “have you heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?”

Mr. Bennet replied that he had not.

“But it is,” returned she; “for Mrs. Long has just been here, and she told me all about it.”

Mr. Bennet made no answer.

“Do not you want to know who has taken it?” cried his wife impatiently.

“You want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it.”

This was invitation enough.

“Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says that Netherfield is taken by a young man of large fortune from the north of England; that he came down on Monday in a chaise and four to see the place, and was so much delighted with it that he agreed with Mr. Morris immediately; that he is to take possession before Michaelmas, and some of his servants are to be in the house by the end of next week.”

“What is his name?”

“Bingley.”

“Is he married or single?”

“Oh! single, my dear, to be sure! A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls!”

“How so? how can it affect them?”

“My dear Mr. Bennet,” replied his wife, “how can you be so tiresome! You must know that I am thinking of his marrying one of them.”

“Is that his design in settling here?”

“Design! nonsense, how can you talk so! But it is very likely that he may fall in love with one of them, and therefore you must visit him as soon as he comes.”

“I see no occasion for that. You and the girls may go, or you may send them by themselves, which perhaps will be still better; for, as you are as handsome as any of them, Mr. Bingley might like you the best of the party.”

“My dear, you flatter me. I certainly have had my share of beauty, but I do not pretend to be any thing extraordinary now. When a woman has five grown up daughters, she ought to give over thinking of her own beauty.”

“In such cases, a woman has not often much beauty to think of.”

“But, my dear, you must indeed go and see Mr. Bingley when he comes into the neighbourhood.”

“It is more than I engage for, I assure you.”

“But consider your daughters. Only think what an establishment it would be for one of them. Sir William and Lady Lucas are determined to go, merely on that account, for in general, you know they visit no new comers. Indeed you must go, for it will be impossible for us to visit him, if you do not.”

“You are over-scrupulous, surely. I dare say Mr. Bingley will be very glad to see you; and I will send a few lines by you to assure him of my hearty consent to his marrying which ever he chooses of the girls; though I must throw in a good word for my little Lizzy.”

“I desire you will do no such thing. Lizzy is not a bit better than the others; and I am sure she is not half so handsome as Jane, nor half so good humoured as Lydia. But you are always giving her the preference.”

“They have none of them much to recommend them,” replied he; “they are all silly and ignorant like other girls; but Lizzy has something more of quickness than her sisters.”

“Mr. Bennet, how can you abuse your own children in such way? You take delight in vexing me. You have no compassion on my poor nerves.”

“You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these twenty years at least.”

“Ah! you do not know what I suffer.”

“But I hope you will get over it, and live to see many young men of four thousand a year come into the neighbourhood.”

“It will be no use to us if twenty such should come, since you will not visit them.”

“Depend upon it, my dear, that when there are twenty I will visit them all.”

Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three and twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his character. Her mind was less difficult to develop. She was a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper. When she was discontented, she fancied herself nervous. The business of her life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting and news.

Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 1

Distracted Division

Husband and wife fighting.

Mr. Bennet was among the earliest of those who waited on Mr. Bingley. He had always intended to visit him, though to the last always assuring his wife that he should not go; and till the evening after the visit was paid, she had no knowledge of it. It was then disclosed in the following manner ….

“When is your next ball to be, Lizzy?”

“To-morrow fortnight.”

“Aye, so it is,” cried her mother, “and Mrs. Long does not come back till the day before; so it will be impossible for her to introduce him, for she will not know him herself.”

“Then, my dear, you may have the advantage of your friend, and introduce Mr. Bingley to her.”

“Impossible, Mr. Bennet, impossible, when I am not acquainted with him myself; how can you be so teasing?”

“I honour your circumspection. A fortnight’s acquaintance is certainly very little. One cannot know what a man really is by the end of a fortnight. But if we do not venture, somebody else will; and after all, Mrs. Long and her nieces must stand their chance; and therefore, as she will think it an act of kindness, if you decline the office, I will take it on myself.”

The girls stared at their father. Mrs. Bennet said only, “Nonsense, nonsense!”

“What can be the meaning of that emphatic exclamation?” cried he. “Do you consider the forms of introduction, and the stress that is laid on them, as nonsense? I cannot quite agree with you there. What say you, Mary? for you are a young lady of deep reflection I know, and read great books, and make extracts.”

Mary wished to say something very sensible, but knew not how.

“While Mary is adjusting her ideas,” he continued, “let us return to Mr. Bingley.”

“I am sick of Mr. Bingley,” cried his wife.

“I am sorry to hear that; but why did not you tell me so before? If I had known as much this morning, I certainly would not have called on him. It is very unlucky; but as I have actually paid the visit, we cannot escape the acquaintance now.”

The astonishment of the ladies was just what he wished; that of Mrs. Bennet perhaps surpassing the rest; though when the first tumult of joy was over, she began to declare that it was what she had expected all the while.

“How good it was in you, my dear Mr. Bennet! But I knew I should persuade you at last. I was sure you loved our girls too well to neglect such an acquaintance. Well, how pleased I am! and it is such a good joke, too, that you should have gone this morning, and never said a word about it till now.”

“Now, Kitty, you may cough as much as you choose,” said Mr. Bennet; and, as he spoke, he left the room, fatigued with the raptures of his wife.

Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 2

“Oh! my dear Mr. Bennet,” as she entered the room, “we have had a most delightful evening, a most excellent ball. I wish you had been there. Jane was so admired, nothing could be like it. Every body said how well she looked; and Mr. Bingley thought her quite beautiful, and danced with her twice. Only think of that my dear; he actually danced with her twice; and she was the only creature in the room that he asked a second time. First of all, he asked Miss Lucas. I was so vexed to see him stand up with her; but, however, he did not admire her at all: indeed, nobody can, you know; and he seemed quite struck with Jane as she was going down the dance. So, he enquired who she was, and got introduced, and asked her for the two next. Then, the two third he danced with Miss King, and the two fourth with Maria Lucas, and the two fifth with Jane again, and the two sixth with Lizzy, and the Boulanger –”

“If he had had any compassion for me,” cried her husband impatiently, “he would not have danced half so much! For God’s sake, say no more of his partners. Oh! that he had sprained his ankle in the first dance!”

“Oh! my dear,” continued Mrs. Bennet, “I am quite delighted with him. He is so excessively handsome! and his sisters are charming women. I never in my life saw any thing more elegant than their dresses. I dare say the lace upon Mrs. Hurst’s gown –”

Here she was interrupted again. Mr. Bennet protested against any description of finery.

Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 3

“This was a lucky idea of mine, indeed!” said Mrs. Bennet, more than once, as if the credit of making it rain were all her own. Till the next morning, however, she was not aware of all the felicity of her contrivance. Breakfast was scarcely over when a servant from Netherfield brought the following note for Elizabeth:

My dearest Lizzy,

I find myself very unwell this morning, which, I suppose, is to be imputed to my getting wet through yesterday. My kind friends will not hear of my returning home till I am better. They insist also on my seeing Mr. Jones — therefore do not be alarmed if you should hear of his having been to me — and excepting a sore throat and head-ache, there is not much the matter with me.

Yours, &c.

“Well, my dear,” said Mr. Bennet, when Elizabeth had read the note aloud, “if your daughter should have a dangerous fit of illness, if she should die, it would be a comfort to know that it was all in pursuit of Mr. Bingley, and under your orders.”

“Oh! I am not at all afraid of her dying. People do not die of little trifling colds. She will be taken good care of. As long is she stays there, it is all very well. I would go and see her, if I could have the carriage.”

Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 7

“Oh! Mr. Bennet, you are wanted immediately; we are all in an uproar. You must come and make Lizzy marry Mr. Collins, for she vows she will not have him, and if you do not make haste he will change his mind and not have her.”

Mr. Bennet raised his eyes from his book as she entered, and fixed them on her face with a calm unconcern which was not in the least altered by her communication.

“I have not the pleasure of understanding you,” said he, when she had finished her speech. “Of what are you talking?”

“Of Mr. Collins and Lizzy. Lizzy declares she will not have Mr. Collins, and Mr. Collins begins to say that he will not have Lizzy.”

“And what am I to do on the occasion? — It seems an hopeless business.”

“Speak to Lizzy about it yourself. Tell her that you insist upon her marrying him.”

“Let her be called down. She shall hear my opinion.”

Mrs. Bennet rang the bell, and Miss Elizabeth was summoned to the library.

“Come here, child,” cried her father as she appeared. “I have sent for you on an affair of importance. I understand that Mr. Collins has made you an offer of marriage. Is it true?” Elizabeth replied that it was. “Very well — and this offer of marriage you have refused?”

“I have, Sir.”

“Very well. We now come to the point. Your mother insists upon your accepting it. Is not it so, Mrs. Bennet?”

“Yes, or I will never see her again.”

“An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. — Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.”

Elizabeth could not but smile at such a conclusion of such a beginning; but Mrs. Bennet, who had persuaded herself that her husband regarded the affair as she wished, was excessively disappointed.

“What do you mean, Mr. Bennet, by talking in this way? You promised me to insist upon her marrying him.”

“My dear,” replied her husband, “I have two small favours to request. First, that you will allow me the free use of my understanding on the present occasion; and secondly, of my room. I shall be glad to have the library to myself as soon as may be.”

Not yet, however, in spite of her disappointment in her husband, did Mrs. Bennet give up the point. She talked to Elizabeth again and again; coaxed and threatened her by turns. She endeavoured to secure Jane in her interest; but Jane, with all possible mildness, declined interfering; and Elizabeth, sometimes with real earnestness, and sometimes with playful gaiety, replied to her attacks. Though her manner varied, however, her determination never did.

Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 20

If you’ve never met the magnificent ‘Bickering’ Bennets, please do.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Curtain Lecture

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Curtain Lecture

My apologies for the lack of a post last week. Evidently I angered the gods because my laptop died, our internet service was down, and I couldn’t get the hamsters to run fast enough to power the antique desktop computer for backup. I tried using my phone, but it just laughed at me.

So you’ve married but everything has turned out chalk and cheese rather than peas in a pod. What’s a Regency era couple to do?

Keep on keeping on.
Suffer in silence.
Stay the course.

In other words, you’ve made your bed.

The Devil to Pay; _The Wife Metamorphos’d, or Neptune resposing after Fording the Jordan by James Gillray, published 24 October 1791 by Hannah Humphrey, National Portrait Gallery.

Curtain Lecture

A woman who scolds her husband when in bed, is said to read him a curtain lecture.

There were three ways to get out of marriage: annulment, divorce, and death. The last is self-explanatory, so I’ll only address the first two.

Annulment

The prolific and popular Regency novel trope – that of marrying for one year for -insert reason here- and then dissolving the marriage amicably as if it had never occurred…it’s also the biggest Regency novel anachronism. Unlike today, where marrying and annuling are as easy as filling out a form and paying a $25 fee to your local county clerk, annuling a marriage during the Regency came with specific prerequisite boxes to tick. Minors could not marry if they were too young (no younger than age seven, if you please) or without permission of their guardian if they were not yet one and twenty. No one could marry under a false name, or if one party was already married. These conditions constituted the annulable actions of fraud. Also, a marriage was voidable if one party was not compos mentis, meaning in control of their faculties. Lastly, a marriage was dissolvable if one party – namely the male – was incapable of performing the marriage act, i.e. impotent. The marriage did not have to be consummated to be valid, but the ability to consummate had to be present.

So, gentle reader, to annul a marriage in Regency England, there had to be fraud, incompetance, or impotence. You had to be too young, too headstrong to get your guardian’s permission, too daft, or too flaccid.

Divorce

Divorce was as rare as annulments since the qualifications were just as injurious to the reputations of both spouses. Kristen Koster reports 276 divorces occurred between 1765 and 1857; after the passage of the first British divorce bill in 1697 and up through the year 1857, only four divorces were granted to women (and that not until 1801). I shudder to think how many divorces occurred last week, let alone last year, in our modern and enlightened times.

A Regency divorce was expensive, drawn-out, highly publicized, and excruciating for both parties. Divorce first had to be pursued in court as a legal separation on grounds of adultery. Next, the husband had to sue his wife’s lover for criminal conversation – often abbreviated crim. con. – which means exactly what it sounds like: another man had a criminal (he was not her husband) conversation (of the lewdest kind between unmarried people) with someone else’s wife. Today we would more politely call this ‘alienation of affection.’ If the husband proved his case, he would be awarded damanges for the illegal intercourse between his wife and her lover…but he still wasn’t divorced. No, the next step was petitioning Parliament to end the marriage, with witnesses and testimony, full of all manner of lurid and demeaning moments. Parliament would then decide a ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ for a bill of divorcement. Both sides bore the brunt of society’s snub: while the man would always fare better, he was still a social outcast and no longer considered marriable. The wife, as the adultress, was completely cast from ‘good society’ and usually retreated to the anonymity of the country or, if her family allowed, her parents’ home.

The feuding couple could simply stop at the first step, that of the legal separation, but it came with its own baggage, although mostly for the wife. Don’t forget, a man could simply leave his wife anytime he chose, but she could not do the same. He could summon the law to have her fetched and returned, no questions asked. If the wife truly desired to live apart from her husband, a legal separation was her only recourse. It required the husband to pay for his wife’s financial support while removing her requirements to keep his house and occupy his bed. The price here was social ostracization for the wife, and she could never remarry should she find a more suitable mate. Any future children would be illegitimate and neither her husband nor her lover would be required to offer financial support.

Annulment and divorce were far from easy, quick, cheap, or quiet.

It was a good idea to make sure you were ready for – and even resigned to – all aspects of the marriage bed.

Fashionable Contrasts; _or_ The Duchess’s little Shoe yielding to the Magnitude of the Duke’s Foot by James Gillray, published 24 January 1792 by Hannah Humphrey, National Portrait Gallery.

 

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