Lauren Padgett, ‘The British Scandal’: Victorian Spouse-Selling

Lauren is currently following up this blog with further research about Victorian wife-selling in the Yorkshire region. Divorce as we know it was not permitted until the 1857 Matrimonial Causes Act, but there were other legal and illegal methods of ending marriages prior to this Act, each with their pros and cons. Separation mense et thoro (from bed and board) could be granted by ecclesiastical courts (but the marriage was not terminated). Annulments had a lengthy process. Private separations could

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Amanda Paxton, ‘Husbands and Wives: Nineteenth-Century Contours of Power’

By Amanda Paxton One of the most rewarding opportunities I had while researching my doctoral dissertation was working with the manuscripts of the clergyman, novelist, and social reformer Charles Kingsley in the British Library, particularly the uncompleted prose text “Elizabeth of Hungary.” Begun in 1842 but never completed, the breathtaking oversize volume was intended to provide a retelling of the life of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, whose biography served as the subject of Kingsley’s later verse closet drama, The Saint’s

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Downton Abbey & Jane Austen; Or, in Praise of Lady Mary

By Alice Villaseñor (Medaille College, Buffalo, NY) References to and parodies of Downton Abbey on popular US television shows such as The Big Bang Theory, The Colbert Report, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and Sesame Street testify to the widespread popularity of the series on this side of the pond. Because Jane Austen’s legacy as an emblem of nineteenth-century British costume drama is so engrained in our cultural consciousness (as a result of the

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Victorian Valentines: From Sentiment to Satire

Alice Crossley In 2013, the rituals of St. Valentine’s Day, often marked by romantic meals a deux, dozens of red roses, and garish greeting cards, are heavily commercialised. Some might suppose that little of the nineteenth-century quaint ritual and whimsy remains visible in the modern-day marking of this date. In fact, it really was the Victorians who initiated the mass production of valentines. Their promotion of increasingly innovative paper and lace fabrications were a visible and fashionable aspect of the

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Matrimonial Advertising: A Very Brief Madness?

By Jennifer Phegley Mrs. Punch: “A man ought to be punished for writing such idiotic love-letters.” Mr. Punch: “Logical as ever, my adored . . . but it is in the fitness of things that a love letter should be idiotic. Love is a brief (very brief) madness.” “On Love Letters.” Punch (December 11, 1869): 236. As Mr. and Mrs. Punch’s conversation indicates, love letters were a central part of courtship that could easily go awry.  In this scene, Mr.

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