The Perils of May-December Marriages in the Nineteenth Century

The Arranged Marriage by Vasili Pukirev, 1861.
The Arranged Marriage by Vasili Pukirev, 1861.

While researching for another article, I happened upon an 1840s book which espouses harsh—and quite unintentionally hilarious—views on age disparities in marriage.  This book, titled The Midwife’s Guide, is actually a Victorian edition of the 17th century sex and midwifery manual known as Aristotle’s Masterpiece.  Written by an unknown author purporting to be Aristotle, it was the most widely read sex manual in 19th century England.  Only a fraction of the text is devoted to May-December marriages, but those brief pages leave one in no doubt of how the author feels about matches of unequal years.  He begins by writing:

“When greedy parents, for the sake of riches, will match a daughter that is scarcely seventeen, to an old miser that is above threescore; can anyone imagine that such a conjunction can ever yield satisfaction, where the inclinations are as opposite as the months of June and January.”

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Classical Cats: The Feline Muses of Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel

The Piano Lesson by Henriëtte Ronner-Knip, 1897.
The Piano Lesson by Henriëtte Ronner-Knip, 1897.

One does not have to be a fan of classical music to be familiar with the works of French composers Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel.  The two rivals were part of the Impressionism movement in classical music, a movement inspired by Impressionist painters like Monet, Manet, and Renoir and poets such as Verlaine and Baudelaire.  They were also renowned cat lovers who famously allowed their feline muses to prowl at liberty amongst their papers while composing such masterpieces as Clair de Lune and Boléro. […]Continue Reading

Midwives, Abortion, and the Offences Against the Person Act of 1861

The Convalescence by Gustave Léonard de Jonghe, (1829-1893).
The Convalescence by Gustave Léonard de Jonghe, (1829-1893).

Under the Offences Against the Person Act of 1861, any pregnant woman who acted with intent to “procure her own miscarriage” was guilty of a felony and could, if convicted, be sentenced to “penal servitude for life.”  This same law that punished women who attempted to rid themselves of an unwanted pregnancy also punished the nurses and midwives who were frequently engaged to assist them.  In most cases, it was impossible to enforce the law.  However, when a woman died as a result of complications following an abortion, the person who had performed the procedure could be charged with murder and even sentenced to death.[…]Continue Reading

The Victorian Easter Bunny

“In Germany the children believe that the Easter hare places eggs and other presents in the baskets they leave outside the nursery on the eve of Easter.”  The Cornishman, 1892.

Easter Card circa 1908.(Image via New York Public Library)
Easter Card circa 1908.
(Image via New York Public Library)

Though the origin of Easter eggs and Easter bunnies can be traced back to ancient times, the Victorians did not begin to celebrate Easter in the way that we know now until the late 19th century.  It was then that Easter bunnies became fashionable.  Before the 1880s, however, it was in Germany—not in England or the United States—that children believed in the “Easter hare.”  As American author Linda Beard states in her 1893 book How to Amuse Yourself and Others:

“In Germany, too, we should find that children believe as sincerely in the Easter hare as they do in Santa Claus in our country; and the saying, that ‘the hares lay the Easter eggs,’ is never doubted by the little ones.”

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From Chancery Court to Mansfield Park: A One Year Anniversary Digest

Young Lady in a Boat by James Tissot, 1870.
Young Lady in a Boat by James Tissot, 1870.

Last March, a questionnaire from my literary agent about my social media presence prompted me to finally join Facebook and Twitter.  The very next day on March 23, 2015, I started this blog.  Initially, I wasn’t sure which direction I would go in, however, in real life I’m a crackerjack researcher and—according to my last boss—I write exceptionally compelling briefs.  Since my latest book hadn’t sold yet and I had no blurbs or buy links to post, I decided to focus my skills on the subjects I love best: 19th century Romance, Literature, and History.

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