Tag: Adultery

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.”

[…]Continue Reading

The Scandalous Regency Era Criminal Conversation Case of Aston v. Elliot

Symptoms of Life in London, or Love, Law, and Physic by George Cruikshank,, 1821.(image via Wellcome Library.)
Symptoms of Life in London, or Love, Law, and Physic by George Cruikshank,, 1821.
(Image via Wellcome Library.)

In January of 1818, on the second page of a small Irish newspaper, was a brief article with the sensational headline: “Projected Divorce in High Life.”  This case, which would soon become notorious in both England and France, was not, in fact, a divorce.  It was an action for criminal conversation – a tort, long extinct, in which an aggrieved husband could make a claim for damages against the lover of his adulterous spouse.  These sorts of cases were always deliciously scandalous, and none more so than that of Aston v. Elliot – a case which involved noblemen, prostitutes, syphilis, a veteran of Waterloo, and some of the highest ranking members of the beau monde.[…]Continue Reading

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