Review: Mistress of Charlecote – The Memoirs of Mary Elizabeth Lucy

Several years ago, I was browsing through a research book – the title now escapes me – when I followed a tiny bibliographic note to a memoir titled Mistress of Charlecote – The Memoirs of Mary Elizabeth Lucy. Intrigued, I ordered a copy; and it has since become the favorite of all my research books. I admit, I haven’t read it from start to finish but willy-nilly, a few pages here and there. Yet wherever I begin reading, Mrs. Lucy’s voice immediately grabs me. It is intimate and unadorned, appealing to the modern reader. If you are a fan of Jane Austen or the late Regency and Victorian Eras, I highly recommend that you purchase this book.

One of the passages in her memoirs that really struck me was the description of her marriage to George Lucy in 1823. When her father informed her that she was to marry Mr. Lucy, she knelt and pleaded with him to refuse. But her father wouldn’t relent. She writes, “I had been brought up to obey my parents in everything and, though I dearly loved Papa, I had always rather feared him.” Mary Elizabeth runs to her mother in the nursery and weeps. Her mother assures the distraught young woman that she will learn to love her husband — an assumption that later proves correct. On her twentieth birthday, Mr. Lucy visited Elizabeth Lucy at her home, Boddlewyddan, in Wales (I’ve been there!), bringing her a Brussels lace wedding veil and jewelry made of diamonds and rubies. They were married on December 2nd by special license at St. Asaph. With tears in her eyes, Mary Elizabeth’s old nurse dressed her in a white silk bridal robe. Her new lady’s maid arranged her hair in a “wreath of orange blossoms.” Four bridesmaids wore “simple white cashmere, their bonnets lines with pink, my favorite color.” Lucy writes, “The solemnisation of the matrimony over, as I rose from my knees I fainted away.” Her nurse sprinkled water on the bride’s face to help her recover. Once the marriage was attested, the new Mrs. Lucy was dressed in a swan’s down tippet and muff that was “large enough for a harlequin to jump through (the fashion of the time)”. The bridesmaids threw old satin shoes for “good luck” and she rode away in her husband’s new carriage that was drawn by four horses with postilions, all decorated in “white favours.”

The book has lovely, realistic stories of society balls, dinner parties, Queen Victoria, and the Great Exhibition. Mrs. Lucy, widowed at forty-two, lived into her eighties. She had many children, several of whom died in infancy or youth and there are accounts of their illnesses and her anguish in the book. In all, the volume is a gracious description of a gentlewoman’s life in Victorian England.

Find out more about Charlecote and Mary Elizabeth Lucy at Charlecote Uncovered.

Another review of Mistress of Charlecote – The Memoirs of Mary Elizabeth Lucy on the Jane Austen Centre website

Whom You May Not Marry in 1837

When plotting your next late Regency or early Victorian romance, you may want to check these handy marriage rules before your lovely young heroine falls in love with the hot son of the brother of her cruel, elderly, late husband and the couple must flee England for the Appalachian Mountains (that’s where I found my husband.)

The following is excerpted from The Female’s Friend, and General Domestic Adviser: Including a Complete Alphabetical Receipt Book. Instructions in Dress Making, &c by Robert Huish and published in 1837.

AFFINITY.—Prohibited degrees of consanguinity or relationship by blood, as well as affinity or relationship by marriage, on the man’s part.

The husband and wife being, he who is related to one by consanguinity, is related to the other by affinity, in the same degree.  Marriage in the descending or ascending line, that is, of children with their father, grandfather, mother, grandmother, and so upwards, are prohibited without limit, because they are the cause, immediately or mediately, of such children’s being; and it is directly repugnant to the order of their nature, which hath assigned several duties and offices essential to each, that would thereby be inverted and overthrown. A parent cannot obey his child, and therefore it is unnatural that a parent should be wife to a child.

Further, such absolute prohibitions are necessary, to prevent the incongruity, absurdity, and monstrous enormity of the relations to be begotten:—the son or daughter, for instance, born of the mother and begotten by the son, considered as born of the mother, would be a brother or sister to the father, but as begotten by him would be a son or daughter. It is certain, however, that civilians have not been much employed in annulling incestuous marriages, contracted between men and their grandmothers, or their grandfathers’ wives, —or between women and their grandfathers; but an alliance not very remote from such a one, happened by a man marrying the wife of his great uncle, which was declared not to be within the levitical degrees. The question whether a man can marry his wife’s sister is not finally determined.

A Collection of Victorian Flirtations

The holiday season has arrived!  We must make sure that we observe proper postage stamp flirtation when we send out our holiday greeting cards or that we know how to use our fork and knife to tell that special Victorian gentleman at our dining table that we want to meet him after dinner.  So, as a little early holiday present, I’m listing below all the various Victorian flirtations as described in The Mystery of Love, Courtship and Marriage Explained by Henry J Wehman, published in 1890 . Grab your hats, parasols, gloves and handkerchiefs and go flirt!

Flirtations

Signaling

Language of Flowers

Ring Position

Victorian Window Signaling, Hat Flirtations, Love Letters and More

Gentle readers, oh horror! I’ve run out of passages that I want to excerpt from The Mystery of Love, Courtship and Marriage Explained by Henry J Wehman, published in 1890! I adore this book, so I’m feeling a bit sad. *Sniffs and dabs eyes with lacy handkerchief *

Once again, I’m overzealous with images from Cassell’s Family Magazine from 1890. But I don’t care. When I see these illustrations, my inner Susanna child gets excited like she did over the Tasha Tudor illustrations in her Frances Hodgson Burnett books.


Susanna’s note: And, of course, some of Wehman’s passion drenched love letters. How I will miss them!

To Miss Charlotte Vonk.

Dear Charlotte:— My feelings have reached a point which demands expression, and I must tell you something which I hope may not seem to you unwelcome. I have felt for weeks that life meant nothing for me unless you passed through it by my side, as my precious little wife. I love you as ardently as ever a man loved a woman, and all that there is in me of good, whatever powers of mind or body, I will deem it the highest bliss to devote to you. Dear one, you must have felt something of this. When I have touched your hand it has seemed to me that the electric sensation which pervaded my whole being must have affected you. I put the matter to the touch to win or lose, because I can endure this agony of suspense no longer. I pray you by all that is holy in love to think deeply on my words, that I love you from my very soul. Will you make life a heaven for me by saying “Yes?”

Most respectfully yours,

Paul Preston

To Miss Hannah Palmer.

Dear Hannah: — “When there is love in the heart there are rainbows in the eyes.” Dearest, you have thrown a sweet enchantment around me, and I am only happy when near you. By day your worth and beauty haunt me wherever I go, and at night your teasing blue eyes dance thro’ all my dreams— my life, I love you!

“By all the token flowers that tell
What words can never speak so well;
By love’s alternate joy and woe—
Zoe mou sas agapo”

Sweetheart, will you be my wife? I have plenty to make us happy. Our love will draw down the angels! Be my sun by day darling, and my moon by night. My halls are lonely. Eventide is dreary!

“Oh, then is the time when most I miss you,
And I swear by the stars and my soul and say
That I will have you, and hold you, and kiss you,
Though the whole world stand in the way.”

Be the bright angel of my existence, sweet, and I will love you!

“Till the sun grows cold,
And the stars are old,
And the leaves of the Judgement Book unfold!”

I remain, yours truly,

George Atridge

Susanna’s Note: No, no dear Hannah and Charlotte! Don’t accept these men!  I beg you. Not until you have read Wehman’s commandments for husbands and wives. 

 

Husband’s Commandments

  • Thou shalt love no other man but me.
  • Thou shalt not have a daguerreotype or any any other likeness of any man but thy husband.
  • Thou shalt not keep it in secret, and worship it; for I, thy husband, am a jealous husband.
  • Thou shalt not speak thy husband’s name with levity.
  • Remember thy husband’s commandments to keep them sacred.
  • Honor thy husband and obey him, that thou may’st be long in in the home he has given thee.
  • Thou shalt not find fault when thy husband chews and smokes.
  • Thou shalt not scold.
  • Thou shalt not permit thy husband to wear a buttonless shirt, but shall keep his clothing in good repair.
  • Thou shalt not continually gad about, neglecting thy husband and family.
  • Thou shalt not strive to live in the style of thy neighbor unless thy husband is able to support it.
  • Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s fine house, nor his fine furniture, nor his wife’s thousand dollar shawl, nor her fifty dollar handkerchief, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.
  • Thou shalt not go to Women’s Rights meetings, neither to speak thyself nor to hear others speak.
  • Thou shalt not scold if thy husband stays out till after twelve o’clock at night.
  • Thou shalt not sum up large bills at the stores, which thy husband is unable to foot; for verily he knoweth his means.

Wife’s Commandments

  • Thou shalt have no other woman but me.
  • Thou shalt not have a picture or likeness of any other woman but me ; for I only am thy wife, and a jealous wife.
  • Remember thy wife’s commandments to keep them sacred.
  • Love and cherish thy wife, and no other woman; that you may live lovingly together in the home thou gavest unto her.
  • Thou shalt not find fault when thy wife goes out to spend money, buying fashionable shawls and dresses; for I am thy wife. Thou shalt not scold. Thou shalt not suffer thy wife to wear a thread bare dress, but shall keep her decently clad and in good repair.
  • Thou also shalt furnish buttons and thread to keep thine and thy children’s shirts in order. Fail not.
  • Thou shalt not gad about, from saloon to saloon, after sunset neglecting thy wife and children.
  • Thou shalt not dress thyself in fashion, unless thou dress thy wife also.
  • Thou shalt not go to spiritual or other slight-of-hand meetings, neither to speak thyself, or hear others speak: thus saith thy wife.
  • Thou shalt not find fault if thy wife should fail in getting the meals in due time ; for, knowest thou, O man !— better late than never.
  • Thou shalt not drink beer nor spirits, nor chew, nor smoke-; for knowest thou it consumeth money. Verily, verily I say unto thee: I am mistress of the house thou gavest unto me.

Ouch! History is much more fun in retrospect. And now I must dash off from the house, which my husband gavest me, to gad about to my Women’s Rights meeting where I am speaking.   Dinner will be late, of course, because I will have spent the evening worshiping another man’s daguerreotype and coveting my neighbor’s thousand dollar shawl.




Secret Flirtations at the Dinner Table and More Victorian Love Letters

It was an overcast day, and I was in a bad mood. All morning, I sat and stared at my computer screen with no creative inspiration, no burning desire. My mind was dull, dull, dull.  Then I realized what was wrong: I hadn’t posted in months from The Mystery of Love, Courtship and Marriage Explained by Henry J Wehman, published in 1890!  I was in withdrawal. I needed some bombastic Victorian Gothic lovin’ and fast.

I flipped through an issue of Cassell’s Family Magazine from 1890 (I found this lovely campy short story that I will have to post later! You’ll love it!) and photoshopped some great illustrations. Actually, I found too many illustrations. So in the next few days, I’ll create a post on hat flirtations that includes the additional images.

Anyhoo, let Mr. Wehman teach us the basics of dining room flirtation, as well as more lessons on how to write love letters.

 

And now for some yummy love letters!

FROM A YOUNG MAN WHO IS MODEST BUT SINCERE.

TO MISS ANNA WATTS:

Since our last interview you have been constantly in my thoughts, and from your actions, if not your words, I gleaned that the love I have cherished for you during the past five months is in a slight degree reciprocated. Am I wrong in this conclusion? I pray not.  If right, may I hope that some day in the near future you will become my wife? You are the one woman in the world for whom the intensity of my love is equaled only by its sincerity. Financially I have very little to offer you, but, with hard work, my prospects are promising, and what greater inspiration can a man have than the woman he loves to work for? I realized your superiority to me in every way, and yet I beg you to accept my name and a comparatively humble position, when you are fitted for and capable of filling the highest position in the land. My only plea is that I love you. Feeling sure that, after giving this matter serious and deliberate consideration, you will write me frankly, believe me, with deepest respect and admiration, as anxiously awaiting you reply.

JAMES McKNIGHT

FROM A GENTLEMAN TO A LADY, REQUESTING HER PHOTOGRAPH.

DEAR JOSEPHINE:

Do you remember about  a month ago promising that, if I would give it the first place in my album, you would give me your photograph? I promised, and have faithfully kept the page blank, but your picture does not come. Have you repented your generosity, or have other friends appropriated all the pile of cards you showed me? You cannot escape on the ground of poverty, for I know that your last sitting was a complete success, and have a great desire to own one of those exquisite profiles that you tantalize me by withholding.

Do, my dear Josey, send me at once the promised picture, that it may comfort me for absence from your presence.

Yours, most affectionately,

KARL

FROM A GENTLEMAN TO A LADY, REQUESTING PERMISSIONS TO CALL

MISS VICTORIA DAVIDSON:

Having had the pleasure of meeting you once at the house of our mutual friend, Mrs. Bowen, I venture to write to request permission to call upon you at your own residence. I have been but a short time a resident in this city, but your father will, I think, remember Mr. Martin Krider, of Chicago, who is my uncle..

Trusting that you will pardon the liberty I am taking, and grant me a position among your gentleman acquaintances, I am,

Very respectfully,

H.T. KRIDER

WILL YOU BE MINE

DEAR SARAH:

As  my duties will not allow me to see you in person for some time, I feel unable to refrain any longer from asking a question which has lingered on my lips for months. My actions have been such that you cannot have failed to see my intentions, and, as they have not been rebuked, I have concluded my feelings are reciprocated.  As you are aware, I am alone, having no relatives, and I desire to have a companion—one of home I shall use my every effort to make happy, and who will in turn do likewise. Will you be that companion?  I have not taken this step without first considering your happiness, that being as much to me as my own. My business is sufficiently profitable to support us, and I know I can give you as comfortable a home as the one from which I desire to take you. And I assure you that, unless I was sure of being able to keep sorrow as far away from you in the future as it has been in the past, I would not ask you to be mine.

I await what I trust will be a favorable reply.

Sincerely yours,

HARVEY STONE

Susanna’s note: I have many more lessons in flirting from  The Mystery of Love, Courtship and Marriage Explained. Just check the site archives on the right.