Monday, 11 March 2013

The Perfect Spouse

Check out these stringent criteria that  were promoted in the Victorian era as guidelines for finding the perfect wife.  I found them in an article on Courtship and Marriage Etiquette from the London Journal (1871).  The author's name wasn't mentioned.  I wonder whether it was a male or female.  See what you think:

1.  A good wife shouldn't talk too much:
  • The chattering woman is worse than the chattering man. Her experience is necessarily so limited that she must talk about the same thing over and over again. If she is not fond of reading—which she seldom is—she is a nuisance. If given to strong-mindedness, sermonizing proclivities, mothers' meetings, and literary "swarries," she is simply an abomination. Such a shallow creature cannot make a good wife.
2.  Or too little:
  • a woman who prides herself on her brevity of speech is generally a sullen creature
3.  Or be a lazy layabout:
  • If a man marries an idle young woman, few will pity his misfortune. He had far better fill his coat pockets with his mother's flat-irons and jump from a penny steamboat. There would be an end of him then, and a coroner's verdict would give him Christian burial; but for him knowingly to marry an idle, gossiping, down-at-heeler, tangled-haired slattern, would be a living death, and the universal jeer would be, “ Served him right!"
4.  Or have a slovenly mother:
  • Good mothers make good daughters! Let lovers visit the homes of their sweethearts, or those they desire to make such, early in the forenoon, and if they find them tidy, the rooms in apple-pie order, and the mother neatly attired, they may rely upon it that the home education of the daughter has not been neglected. If they should find them habitually otherwise, and the mother grimy, grumbling, or bawling out complaints in a state of huddled-on clothing, more like a pauper nurse than a decent matron, the wisest thing they can do is civilly to bid such a family good morning, and for the last time. It would be next to a miracle if a good wife came out of a slovenly household.
5.  Or be untidy:
  • If she is trim about her feet, wears clothes that fit her and become her complexion, also has a natty, even if rather a saucy way of carrying her head, with its mystery of decorations, he may conclude that what cannot be exhibited has not long been out of the hands of the laundress. A nicely-dressed girl is one of the fairest flowers a man could gaze upon. 
Not exactly "Cosmo" advice! 
To be fair, the same writer warns women against marrying a gambler, a spendthrift, a drunkard, a compulsive borrower, an "airy fairy" schemer or a shabby, untidy layabout.

Below is an example of related Victorian humour from George Du Maurier's book English Society at Home. As you can see, political correctness wasn't a factor at the time!

He.—"Look! Here comes young Brummell Washington, with his bride. I wonder what on earth induced him to marry her?"
She.—"Oh, probably somebody bet him he wouldn't!"

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