The tale of Elizabeth Smith (and her second husband’s first wife’s first husband), 1766

Sometimes, when trawling through historical records, a researcher comes across personal stories that seem destined for Hollywood. Take this dramatic tale of romance triumphing against all the odds, featuring sexually-charged teenage servants, illegimate pregnancy, forced separation, triple bigamy, a few deaths, and a gouty clergyman in a sedan chair. All in that world-renowned town of passion and enchantment... Bicester. Before... Continue Reading →

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A New Sort of Holyday for Husbands, or a warning to troublesome wives, 1733

Here is a particularly heartwarming (*cough*) report of one man's enthusiastic embrace of widowhood in London in 1733. Yes folks, the 'new holyday for husbands' is to be enjoyed when your troublesome wife drops dead. Charming. (Although I do appreciate the tactful description of said wife. Next time anyone asks me about a break-up I am going to... Continue Reading →

How to carouse like a proper Regency gent

Courtesy of the Chester Courant, below is a foolproof guide to the Regency rake's perfect night out... Ladies, if you're looking for Mr Darcy, you're in the wrong place. Gentlemen, if you fancy recreating such a 'glorious frolic' yourself: 1) Impress your friends by drinking too much, loudly singing rude songs and telling obscene stories 2) Impress the ladies by... Continue Reading →

How to Elope in Style, 1793

Detail from 'The Elopement' (1828) In the late eighteenth century, if you were under the age of 21 then you were generally considered too young to be trusted with your own heart. The Marriage Act of 1753 had decreed that no wedding conducted on English soil would be considered valid unless there was a formal church... Continue Reading →

Husband Wanted, Military Man Preferred

Possibly my favourite possession in the world is my little collection of eighteenth-century newspaper scraps, apparently compiled by a Georgian gent with a particular interest in matrimonial adverts (fascinating) and buying horses (not so fascinating). Frustratingly I have no idea who he was, although his few helpful scribblings suggest that he was busying himself with... Continue Reading →

The 70-Year-Old Virgin, 1738

To Georgian Edinburgh, where in the summer of 1738 an almost-centenarian wed a nervous "undefiled" lady of about seventy. My interest was caught by the idea that her primary reason for pursuing marriage at such an advanced age was a fear of the "old maid's curse" – presumably the already well-established saying that old maids... Continue Reading →

How to Sell a Wife, 1787

Unbridled passions! Sibling rivalry! Threatened suicide! Wife selling! A party down the pub! What more could you want from this news report of 1787? Not only does it give a lively insight into love and marriage in the eighteenth century, but it proves once and for all that Bristol is a city where romance never... Continue Reading →

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