Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
I’ve been dying to talk about Behind Closed Doors because it’s a perfect Nerdy History Girl book, loaded with all kinds of fascinating details about life in bygone days. In this case, the days belong to what author Amanda Vickery calls “The Long Eighteenth Century”— from about 1688-1832 (the Glorious Revolution to the Great Reform Act). While this includes early to mid-nineteenth century, an era I’m more familiar with, she’s surprised me again and again, and offered the kinds of historical tidbits (aka fresh history gossip) Susan and I delight in.
One shocker was the attitude toward marriage. We Regency writers learned early to refer to marriage as “parson’s mousetrap,” and to assume that a man happily sowed his wild oats until a clever girl came along and stole his heart.
Still, for every picture of domestic harmony (and she offers many examples) we can find the opposite, as Gillray famously illustrated. In Jane Collier’s 1753 satire, The Art of Ingeniously Tormenting, she “advised husbands bent on torturing ‘a very careful prudent wife…who by her good economy confines all the expenses under her inspection fairly within her appointment’ to stint her funds: ‘part with your money to her, like so many drops of your blood’, lecturing her ‘on extravagance for every necessary that is bought into the house’, meanwhile ‘sparing no expense for your own hounds, horses or claret.’”
These are only two tidbits. Susan and I will have more to say about this delicious book in weeks to come. Meanwhile, here’s a proper review.
And here, in accord with some FTC rule or other (which probably doesn’t apply to us, since we're not reviewers, but never mind), you need to know that, unlike the majority of books referred to in this blog, which Susan and I buy with our own hard-earned cash, this one came gratis.
Caricatures: Harmony Before Matrimony and Matrimonial Harmonics, by Gillray, 1805. Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA