Recently, while researching, I came across a “Spinster’s Numeration Table” printed in the 1837 edition of the New Monthly Magazine. This table lists out the various ages of an unmarried woman and corresponds them to certain characteristics. It is meant to be humorous, but—as with all humor of this sort—there is a grain of historical truth to be gleaned from the descriptions. The table gives us insight into how spinsters were viewed and at what age unmarried women were deemed to be past their prime.[…]Continue Reading
Gold bracelets and bangles were popular throughout the Victorian era. They came in a variety of styles, including thin bracelets, heavy bracelets, and bracelets adorned with jewels. Most were fairly commonplace in appearance; however, in the late nineteenth century, a new style emerged on the scene in the form of gold bracelets made to look—and sometimes function—like handcuffs. As the 1879 edition of Godey’s Lady’s Book reports;[…]Continue Reading
‘As the supply alluded to is to be levied upon all old maids, beyond a certain age, and intitled to certain yearly or other income; I make no doubt but both Houses of Parliament will speedily manifest their hearty concurrence thereto.’
The London Magazine, 1777.
The 1777 edition of the London Magazine includes an interesting letter to the editor in which a gentleman—who signs himself as ‘A Friend to the Community’—has appended a proposed bill to levy a tax of ‘6d. in the pound’ on old maids. He claims that this tax will generate revenues of nearly £300,000 per annum, a sum which could then be used to help fund the British war against the American colonies. The proposed bill begins by stating:[…]Continue Reading
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.”
For many single ladies and gentlemen of the 19th century, placing a matrimonial advertisement in a local newspaper was considered a viable alternative to traditional courtship. It was especially popular with those who were new to an area or those who had no family or social groups through which they might otherwise obtain an introduction to a suitable partner. Naturally, there were those traditionalists who frowned upon this method of acquiring a spouse. It was viewed as undignified, indelicate, and dangerous. Even so, matrimonial advertisements were utilized by men and women of every age and every class throughout the Regency and Victorian eras. […]Continue Reading