I had trouble finding illustrations or paintings for English farmhouses in the Victorian era (I’m sure I’ll stumble across a trove of Victorian farmhouse paintings just as soon as I press the Publish button), so I posted some works of home interiors by Mary Ellen Best (that’s her in the post’s featured image) and others.
The farmers of England have made a very rapid advance during the past thirty years, both in education and refinement; and the improvement might have been still more deep and extensive, had not the majority of landowners checked it by neglecting to raise the character of the farm houses. Education expands the desires and refines the taste; and if the landowner will have his estate well managed, he must obtain men of parts, who will not submit to occupy houses fit only for their labourers, but who require to be surrounded by those comforts of life to which their capital would introduce them were it employed either in commerce or trade. A superior tenantry implies superior house accommodation : intelligence and capital are ever found associated with a comfortable home. A considerable number of the farmers of the present day have received a collegiate education ; it is no longer customary for the sons of the tenantry to herd with the children of their labourers at the village school, but they are sent from home, and return with the feelings and aspirations common to those who have received a respectable middle class training. This change in the habits of the tenantry certainly renders necessary some change in the home, rendering it suitable to their improved condition.
No Farm should be so small that it cannot support a house above the pretensions of a bailiff’s cottage. It is found better for both owners and tenants, as well as for the community at large, that where the tenure of land has been in small holdings, two or more should be thrown into one good farm; and one of the criteria is the test prescribed, namely, the capability of maintaining a farm house of the proper character.
I. For a Farm of 200 acres of dairy or mixed husbandry. The farm house should contain the following accommodation :
Ground Floor, Basement, and attached Outbuildings.—One or two sitting or ” living” rooms (in the latter case the second room will be used for an office); kitchen ; back kitchen or scullery ; pantry ; larder ; cellarage, and apple chamber ; dairy and dairy offices (see pages 174 to 177 inclusive) ; wood and coal houses, ash-pit, and privy :
And on the Upper orChamber Floor, five bed-rooms.
Plan No 1, represents a farm house which may be taken as a specimen of this class. It was erected by the Editor for the Right Honourable the Viscount Palmerston, at Toothill Farm, near Romsey.
II. For a Farm of 500 acres, of tillage or mixed husbandry, the following house accommodation would be required :
Ground Floor, Basement, and attached Outbuildings.—Parlour ; “living ” room; store-room ; kitchen ; back kitchen or scullery; pantry ; larder ; cellarage, and apple chamber ; dairy offices ; brewhouse ; wood and coal houses, ash-pit, and privy.
On theUpper or Chamber Floor.—Six bed-rooms of larger size, to include one spare room ; linen closet; and water-closet.
PLAN No. 2.—The specimen of this class of farm house was designed by Mr. John Hawkins, of Hitchin, for William Alexander Dashwood, Esq., at Little Almshoe. It was built in the year 1855, by Mr. J. Jeeves, and is attached to a farm of only 350 acres, though fitted for a farm of larger area.
III. For a Farm of 1000 acres, of tillage or mixed husbandry, the arrangements for the farm house should be as follow :-
Ground Floor, Basement, and attached Outbuildings.-Parlour, sitting-room, and office ; store-room ; china closet and water-closet ; kitchen ; back kitchen or scullery; pantry and larder ; cellarage, and apple chamber ; dairy offices ; brewhouse, bake house, wood and coal houses, ash-pit, and privy.
Upper or Chamber Floor.-Seven bed-rooms of superior character, including two spare rooms, one dressing room ; a linen closet, and water-closet.
Plan No. 3.—An example of this class of farm house is given in the following drawing, representing a house near Wisbeach, erected by Mr. John Beasley, of Chapel Brampton, Northampton, for the Right Honourable the Lord Overstone, in the year 1860.
PLATE 66.-A farm house for a mixed farm of 500 acres, erected by the Earl Spencer, at Boddington, Northamptonshire. It was designed by Mr. John Beasley, of Chapel Brampton, Northampton. It is built of stone, not highly dressed, and is roofed with Welsh slates, the work being executed by estate workmen, at a cost, exclusive of the carriage of materials, of 900l.
The farm house, erected by the Right Honourable the Earl Powis, at Styche, Shropshire, is for a dairy farm of 400 acres. The house was built by contract, in the year 1863, from designs furnished by Messrs. Burd of Shrewsbury. It is constructed of brick, and is roofed with Welsh slates, and was completed at a cost of 13801., including the carriage of materials.
PLATE 67.—A farm house, or bailiff’s house, on a home farm of 227 acres, erected by Matthew Bell, Esq., at Lenhall Farm, near Canterbury, Kent, designed by the Editor. It was built by contract, in 1861, of bricks and Welsh slate, at a total cost, including the carriage of materials, of 898l. 11s., the bricks being made by the proprietor, and supplied by him to the contractor at 20s. per thousand.
The farm house, erected by W. Hans Sloane Stanley, Esq., at Rollestone, near Southampton, Hampshire, and designed by Mr. F. Eggar, Romsey, is for a mixed farm of 294 acres. The house was built by contract, in 1862, of bricks and Welsh slates, at a total cost, including carriage of materials, of 1266l. 9s. 3d.
To justify the conveniences above enumerated, it should be borne in mind that the capital employed by the tenants of the several sized farms specified should amount to 2500l. for 200 acres of land, 5250l. for 500 acres, and 10,000l. for 1000 acres ; sums which, if employed in trade or commerce, would afford even greater accommodation.
There is one rule that should be arbitrarily adhered to in the erection of farm houses ; this is, that the rooms generally occupied should look at once into the homestead. The kitchen and back offices, also, should be so arranged that the means of communication between them, the cow-house, piggery, and poultry-houses should be easy and convenient.
A very complete arrangement of farm house and connecting out-offices, which illustrates this remark, is shown in the drawing beneath. It was designed by Mr. W. H. Rice, architect, and was erected at Cartuther, Cornwall.
The treatment of this part of the subject is necessarily of a general nature. There is only one instance in which it assumes a special character, and this is where the farmer uses a certain portion of the house for conducting an important branch of his business, as in the dairy districts. The accommodation required for the manufacture of cheese and butter, &c., will be found specially set forth in the Digest.
This Farm the property of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners of England and Wales is distant about two miles from the city of Ely. It is in the occupation of the executors of the late Mr. Allden. The rainfall of the district in inches is 21.95.
Description of the Homestead.—This Homestead was erected in the years 1861 and 1862, from designs by Mr. R. Wright, of Norwich, at a cost of about £2800, exclusive of the carriage of materials and the formation of roads and approaches. Mr. Freeman, of Ely, was the builder. It is occupied in conjunction with a set of outlying old Buildings. The Yards, Sheds, and Stalls of the new Buildings were designed for the accommodation of 100 head of cattle, of different ages; but the practice has been to feed only 50 large beasts in them, of which 20 are tied up and fatted with roots, chaff, and cake in the stalls, and the remaining 30 run loose in the yards. When the stalled beasts are considered fat they are sold, and their places are filled up by the best beasts from the yards.
From 50 to 70 head of growing stock are kept during the winter at the outlying Buildings. These are grazed during the summer upon about 60 acres of low meadow land, or “washes,” which do not belong to the Farm, but form a separate hiring, on which the beasts remain from May to Michaelmas, when they are removed to the highland pasture, and there fed with hay, early turnips, and sometimes with 2 or 3 lbs. of cake each. They are then put into the stalls or yards, and prepared for market as before stated.
There is Stabling for about 35 working horses and 8 saddle or harness horses; besides a Hospital.
The Buildings were designed with a view of employing a fixed 10 horse power steam engine; but up to this time a portable engine has been adopted by the tenants to work their chaff and turnip cutter, corn and cake crushers, and other machinery.
The thrashing floor, in the central portion of the Barn, is paved with York flags and the two ends are boarded.
The Piggeries, and the cake and root stores, are paved with bricks but an alteration to asphalte is in contemplation as preferable.
The Granary occupies the upper story of the west end of the barn and is supported on iron columns. In it a crane is fixed by which the corn is raised in sacks from the floor beneath.
A Liquid manure tank is sunk in the pig yard, and the manure is pumped thence and distributed over the grass land by means of an iron cart.
The Water from the roofs is preserved in a tank to which a large force pump is attached to raise it into a cistern fixed on the tie beams of a shed, whence it is carried by means of pipes to the Buildings. The supply thus obtained is found sufficient.
Description of the Farm.—The Farm consists of 980 acres of which 170 are meadow and pasture land and the remaining 810 are arable. The arable land is of two sorts highland (so called in contradistinction to the fen land), of which there are 270 acres, and fen land amounting to 540 acres. The highland is a good arable loam, with a subsoil of boulder clay; and it is cultivated in a five-course rotation, which though somewhat varying with circumstance may be quoted as follows: 1st turnips and mangolds; 2nd oats, wheat ,and barley; 3rd, clover, peas and beans; 4th wheat; 5th, oats, beans, and barley. The fen land is a black vegetable soil, resting on a soft blue clay. This land is drained, and the water raised by a private steam-engine of 20 horse power, and a water wheel of a kind common in the Fens. Upon this description of soil the rotation generally adopted is as follows: 1st year, coleworts, mangolds, and kohl rabi; 2nd, oats, and barley; 3rd, wheat; 4th, clover, beans, and mustard; 5th, wheat. Of the roots grown on the fallows, two thirds are consumed on the land, and the remaining one third is taken to the store beasts at the Buildings.
About 300 half-bred ewes form the breeding flock the lambs are sold as soon as they are weaned. Up to Christmas the ewes are kept on the turnips, and subsequently on the kohl rabi in the day, and in the fold-yard on hay and straw chaff at night. In addition to an ewe flock, from 300 to 400 hoggets are bought in April, and fattened on the seeds, with cake. The latter are sold off as they become fat, and others are bought to fill their place until the clover hay is consumed; the whole are disposed of by the end of March.
Sanction Hill Farm
This Farm belongs to its present occupier, John Wells, Esq., of Booth Ferry House, Howden. It is situated on the sides of a deep and narrow valley in the East Riding of Yorkshire. The average annual rainfall of the district is in inches 23.12.
Description of the Homestead.—These Buildings were erected from the designs of Mr. Wells, during the years 1860, 1861, and 1862. By lengthening the period of operation, the haulage of materials and the levelling of the site were performed at such seasons as did not interfere with the regular working of the farm. The Cost of the Buildings in their completed state, including the Farm-house and Labourers’ cottages, was nearly £3900. This outlay, inclusive of the levellings and of the cartage of materials, was increased by the difficulties of the site, which involved more than ordinary labour in excavating and raising the ground to secure a level base.
The Buildings are of brick, and are slated; the bricks being made upon the estate in “force fire kilns” at a cost of fourteen shillings per thousand.
The present Stables accommodate 12 draught and 2 riding horses ; and there are, besides, 6 Loose-Boxes.
Accommodation, independent of the large Fold-Yard on the West, is provided for 40 head of cattle of different ages, and for 20 pigs.
Four cows only are kept, which are fed at the head, from a passage communicating with the root-house.
The principal Barn is divided into two compartments or floors. On the lower one are fixed a thrashing-machine and circular saw, both being driven by the shaft which drives the pulper in the adjoining root-house. The upper compartment, 18 feet high, has its floor on a level with the stack-yard, which occupies the higher ground, at the north side of the Homestead. From thence the stacks are brought by means of a tramway to the thrashing-machine, the top of which is raised about 2 feet above the floor level. As the corn is thrashed the straw is delivered into the adjoining Straw-barn, and the grain to the respective wheat and horse-corn Granaries, situated on either side. In the latter, stones and mills are fixed for bruising corn and crushing cake.
Mr. Wells writes :—“The corn, when thrashed, is raised, dressed, and deposited in either of these granaries by means of spouts and screw propellers, so that whatever description of corn is thrashed, it finds its way into the proper place without manual labour.”
In the Chaff-cutting room is fixed the chaff-cutter, driven by a separate shaft; and as the straw and hay are cut, the chaff falls into a room below, where the food is mixed and taken to the cattle without passing through the fold-yards.
The Fold-Yards are sloped, the centre of each being 6 feet below the thresholds of the doors, and covered with a layer of chalk 1 foot thick, well rammed down.
The Floors of the Buildings which contain cattle are paved with Bradford stonesetts, laid in pitch ; those of the barn, straw-shed, mill and cutting-houses, and passages, are of asphalte blocks, 18 inches square by 2 ½ inches thick.
The Rain-water from the House and Buildings, which are spouted, is conducted to iron tanks, containing about 6500 gallons. Overflow pipes are provided to convey the surplus water from these into two large underground cisterns, one containing 13,000 gallons to supply the engine which pumps its own water, the other containing 10,000 gallons, which supplies the house. There are also two circular ponds, 30 yards in diameter, which are supplied by rain-water from the hills. In the Wolds a sufficient supply of water is a great desideratum, and these arrangements have never failed as yet to secure all that has been needed. The Drainage of the Homestead is thorough; each stable is provided with an iron cess-pit, which, in connection with the drains of the yards, empties itself into one large tank in the carpenter’s yard.
Ventilation is procured by the ordinary “ventilators” in the ridges of the roof, and by several swivel-windows placed over the heads of the animals, 12 feet apart.
Such walls as are only 9 inches thick received two coats of plaster, and the whole of the inside of the Buildings is whitewashed.
No paint is used to the woodwork. It is all stained with umber, and fixed with cold boiled linseed oil and varnish.
Description of the Farm.—This Farm contains about 350 acres. It was formerly in two holdings, the old homesteads attached to which, according to the custom of the Yorkshire Wolds district, were situated in the village.
The improvements in cultivation which have signalised this district, especially the growth of turnips, have rendered it essential to complete success that the Buildings should be placed as near the centre of the farm as possible, and Mr. Wells has adopted this principle in selecting the site of the present Homestead.
The land is of a light loamy character, the surface soil for the most part varying in depth from 6 to 18 inches. The whole overlies the chalk, and when the superstratum is of considerable depth, it is usual to bring up the chalk from below, and spread it about the land at the rate of from 100 to 150 loads per acre.
Mr. Wells is a land-agent of considerable experience and wide practice, and farms nearly 1000 acres of land in addition to his own, which is here described.
Tattenhall Hall Farm
Tattenhall Hall Farm in the county of Chester, is the property of Robert Barbour, Esq., and is occupied by Mr. George Jackson. The average annual rainfall of the district is about 33 inches
Description of the Farm.—The Buildings were erected in the year 1860. Exclusive of House and Piggeries, the haulage of materials, the formation of roads, and the making of the necessary approaches they cost 1600l. This sum does not include a small portion of old materials used in them. The arrangements were designed by the tenant; Mr. J. Harrison, of Chester, acting as architect.
The dairy cows, 80 in number, occupy the principal building (the Cow-house), in close proximity with which are the Food-chambers, Machinery, and Barn. The cows are placed on each side a central feeding passage, along which the cut food is carried by a truck to the troughs ; while a constant stream of water passes along the two lines of stalls, and furnishes each with an ever fresh supply. The central portion of this large building is higher than the two ends, and contains a lay-loft, into which hay is brought direct from the field, and there stored. Ventilation is gained by an air-shaft, in the shape of a centre cupola, and by side openings.
There is accommodation for 14 calves, and 12 store stock, in addition to the dairy stock.
Stabling is provided for 9 working horses, besides which there is a Nag-stable with three stalls, a Loose-box, and a Hospital for cows.
The Piggeries, which are supplied with whey by means of a pipe-drain direct from the Dairy, are fitted up for about 50 breeding, store, and fatting pigs, and are very complete.
The Machinery consists of a portable steam-engine, with a thrashing apparatus; also a small 6-inch cylinder fixed steam-engine, which drives a chaff-cutter placed in the straw dépôt, and a root-cutter and cleaner in the room below. The latter is supplied by the engine-boy from the adjacent store, and the roots, when cut, are taken by elevators and mixed with the chaff; the whole being sprinkled with hot water, or oil-cake gruel, as it descends to a chamber, the floor of which is perforated, in order to allow the waste steam from the engine to ascend and sweeten the mass. The cows are kept on this steamed food throughout the winter; as spring approaches an addition of oil-cake, bean-meal, and a little chopped seeds and clover, is made to it.
The milk, when brought from the Cow-house, is collected into two cheese-tubs, or vats, placed on the kitchen floor, and capable of containing 240 gallons. Each tub is provided with a 3-inch plug, and a strainer guards the opening through which the whey, when separated from the curd, passes into one of four slate cisterns. When all the cream has been removed from the whey, a valve is raised, which allows of the escape of the refuse whey into any or all of the pig-troughs, a little meal from the corn-flour bin being added to it. The curd, when separated, is passed through the curd mill. It is then salted, vatted, pressed into the proper cheese shapes, and elevated into the cheese drying room, and after four months’ detention, the cheeses are lowered by the same contrivance, and sent to the London market.
The buildings are drained into two large Liquid-manure tanks, the contents of which serve to irrigate about 14 acres of meadow land.
The Rain-water and the wash of the house is conducted to suitable reservoirs, and is made to flow over a small meadow at pleasure.
The Buildings are supplied with water from a pond, which receives the drainage water from about 15 acres of land.
The corn crops are well housed in Skeleton Barns having clay floors, the crops being preserved from contact with the clay, by means of an intervening layer of brushwood.
In addition to this Homestead, which has the disadvantage of not being at the centre of the holding, 24 cow-stalls, a food house, and labourer’s cottage, have been erected at a distant part of the farm. At this Steading the barren cows are fatted and the calves are kept, the latter being supplied with roots and fodder. By this means much cartage is saved, and manure is made where it is wanted.
Description of the Farm.—The Farm consists of about 320 acres, of which about 100 are arable, the rest being pasture and mcadow. The land consists mostly of clay, resting on a substratum of New Red Sandstone.
The arable land is cultivated partly on a five-course, and partly on a four-course system.
All the land requiring drainage has been drained, partly by the landlord, partly by the tenant.
During the present tenancy many old fences have been levelled, and about six miles of new and straight quick hedges have been planted ; by which means, and by filling useless pits, the productive area of the farm has been increased by more than 12 acres. Eighteen or twenty acres of swedes or mangolds are annually grown, and carried from the fields-part to the home, and part to the outlying farmstead.
A flock of 200 sheep is usually kept.
Below are some plans from the book. Click on one to enlarge and scroll through the other images.
If domestic life in rural Victorian England is your passion, then I highly recommend the BBC series, The Victorian Farm. (But you’ve probably already seen it if you’re on my blog.) Much of the information in that series comes from Henry Stephens’ The Book of the Farm.
However, I noticed Miln’s wedding information is eerily similar to the description in History of Coreaby John Ross, published in 1879. So I’ve excerpted some passages from History of Corea as well.
As I noted in my previous posts on the subject, the information presented here may not be entirely accurate. I welcome any polite corrections or additional information. I really struggled to find images for this series. Most of the photos in this post were taken a few years after the Joseon era.
Let’s first excerpt from Quaint Korea.
[Korean women] wear petticoats made very much in Western fashion, but stiffly starched into crinoline-like ungracefulness. The women of the poorer classes wear these skirts above their ankles. The women of wealth or of rank wear skirts touching the ground.
They wear a jacket or belt shaped very much like, and answering the purpose of, a corset, and a shorter jacket which is at best but an inadequate neckerchief. And under their petticoat they wear three pairs of wide trousers.
Except among the very poorest class, respectable Korean women muffle themselves in a garment like a dress or great-coat whenever they go abroad.
John Ross writes in History of Corea, “They must never be seen by any man, except their husband; hence, when they go to the street, as they do freely, they throw over them a long robe, which they pull over the head and face, leaving only the smallest space open before the eyes, necessary to see their way; and their eyes always look to the ground. They must never be seen by any man, except their husband; hence, when they go to the street, as they do freely, they throw over them a long robe, which they pull over the head and face, leaving only the smallest space open before the eyes, necessary to see their way; and their eyes always look to the ground.”
The women of Korea’s poor almost invariably wear the same colour as do the men of the same class: a blue so pale, so indefinite, and, from a short distance, so imperceptible, that it has generally been called white. … Korean women of position wear almost every conceivable colour. In China, pink and green are set aside for women, and are sacred to their wearing. I do not think that the women of Korea have the sole right to wear any colour, but they certainly have the right to wear, and the habit of wearing, almost every conceivable colour. Purples and greens are their high favourites, and green is almost invariably the hue—and a bright, deep green at that—of the generously-sleeved dress which the middle-class Korean woman (or on rare occasions, a lady) throws about her head and shoulders when she walks abroad. This green dress, which is used as a cloak, is almost exclusively the garment of the women of the middle class—the women who are not so poor that they are obliged to draw water, or to engage in any other forms of hard labour which would make the covering of their faces impossible—but who, at the same time, are occasionally obliged to go abroad on some matter of household business.
Susanna’s Note: I love the colorful clothes in Rookie Historian.
Wives and concubines and daughters of mandarins and of men of wealth do not often leave their own (by courtesy) house and gardens. When they do, they go in palanquins. They enter the palanquin in their own court-yard; the blinds or curtains are tightly closed. The chair is borne away on the shoulders … and is usually followed by one or more female servants or waiting women, who run closely behind it, looking on the ground, and carrying a fan, which indicates the rank of the palanquined mistress.
In some parts of Korea, among some classes of the poor, the women wear a very short white jacket which barely covers the upper part of the bosom.
The dress of a Korean lady is as elaborate as the dress of a Korean working-woman is plain. The example of simplicity set by Queen Min is followed by almost none of the Korean women who can afford to do otherwise. The wardrobe of a Korean lady contains garments of silk, surprising in quantity, and covetable in quality, but satins are unknown, and the glimmer and glitter … must be made alone by the lustre of silk, and enhanced by as much tinsel, as many jewels and ornaments as the wearer can possibly afford.
[Cosmetics] are greatly used all over [Asia]. But in two particulars there is less to be said against the face-painting of Eastern women than there is to be said against the face-painting of the women of the West. In Asia, hair-oil, rouge, powder, kohl for the eyes and eyebrows, and brilliant pigments for the lips, are put on frankly, and are as avowedly, and as sincerely, a seemly and decent adornment, and as much an item of being “dressed up,” as is a silken petticoat or a jewelled necklet.
[The Korean woman] lays on the thick layers of brilliant red and ghastly white as devoutly and as dutifully as she says her prayers. The other good word I have to say for the cosmetics of [Korea] is this—they are infinitely less harmful than the cosmetics we are wont to use in Europe. I know that. For, on the stage I have tried both very thoroughly.
A well-to-do Korean woman usually has a very interesting collection of hair-pins. They are long, heavily ornamented, made of silver, of gold, or of copper; more usually of silver. Some of them are very beautiful, and some that I have seen reminded me very much of the long silver pins that are thrust through the braids of Italian peasant women.
The well-to-do women, especially in the capital, now very generally wear European under-clothing. They invariably wear a pouch which is fastened by cords to their girdle. This is their pocket, the only pocket they have, except their sleeves, and in it they carry a tiger’s claw for luck, a small cushion of sachet, or a bottle of thick, rich perfume, some of their favourite pieces of jewellery, scissors usually, or a knife, two or three of their most frequently used toilet implements, and almost invariably a small Korean chess-board and chess-men. The board and the pieces are often made of silver or even of gold. Chess is, perhaps, the most popular of all Korea’s many games, and the Korean women of the leisure class play it incessantly. The pocket also contains, more likely than not, the official book of female politeness; a book which every Korean lady studies assiduously. But whatever this pocket contains or does not contain, it must by no means be without several charms, charms for good luck, charms for health, charms for wealth, and for any or every other good desirable under the Korean sun. Of its charms the most valuable is the tiger’s claw … The tiger is probably the most dreaded foe of the Koreans.
The hands of a Korean lady are always exquisitely kept, and usually loaded with rings, often with rings of very great value.
Among some classes of Korean women the dressing of their hair is the most important item of their toilet, and one skilled in ways Korean, and in signs of Korean rank, can very readily determine, from a glance at her coiffure, who and what a Korean woman is. The ladies of the court wear their hair in different prescribed ways. The geisha girls have an artistic fashion of their own, and a Korean woman servant, one part of whose duty is to fetch and to carry, makes out of the braids of her own hair an enormous cushion upon which she can carry with the greatest security a huge bundle, or a vast dish of food.
The men of no other race are so amply dowered with hats as are the men of Korea. Probably the women of no other civilized country are so badly off for head-gear as are the women of Chosön… The only hat the Korean women wear now is the folded dress which I have described before. There is indeed a jaunty, little embroidered cap not unlike a modified Turkish fez, or the glorious capote of a French vivandière.
The following description of a Joseon era wedding is excerpted from History of Corea by John Ross.
Ordinarily, the father of young hopeful begins the preparations for marriage ; but the father of a girl may look out a husband for her at pleasure. Fathers and mothers are even, if possible, more absolute than in China. The father makes enquiries as to who, of all his acquaintances, possesses a daughter eligible in years, appearance, character, and position. Having ascertained, he consults with his wife, who gets on her long robe, pulls it over her face, and starts for the house of the young lady. If the interview does not satisfy the old lady, the process is repeated. When a good match is met with, a mutual friend of the two parental parties is engaged to perform the task of sounding the girl’s parents, who may stop all further advances at once; or the father of the girl may, in his turn, visit the house of the aspirant, and have an unofficial interview with the young man, in the same manner as his daughter was visited before. When both parties are agreeable, formal negotiations are opened by the father of the young man writing a long red-paper letter to his friend ; first giving his own name and address, then asking carefully about his friend’s health, &c., and expressing the warmest wishes for his welfare ; and last of all, like some postscripts, be mentions that he has one, two, or three sons, as the case may be; that number one is unmarried, and of marriageable age; that after careful enquiry among his many friends, he has discovered that his friend has a marriageable daughter, &c., &c. This letter is written in presence of the middle man, to whom it is handed for delivery to the girl’s father. There is, however, no engagement on either side, and either may draw back, until the girl’s father replies in an equally formal manner, accepting the proposal for his daughter, after which acceptation the young people are virtually married; for, if before the final consummation of marriage the young man dies, the girl is a widow, and acts as such, never marrying except with disgrace. It is a queer custom, and a most unequal and unjust one; for if the woman dies, the youth can marry when he chooses.
Susanna’s note: The plot of the K-drama Bossam – Steal The Fate is centered around a woman whose fiancé dies, and she cannot marry again.
An auspicious day is discovered by horology, on which the bridegroom sends presents of female clothing, and of materials for a “man’s” clothing, to the bride, including stuff for the long outer, wider, manly robe, which he assumes on his marriage-day for the first time in his life. After these are sent, the bridegroom is permitted to tie up his hair in a knot on the crown of his head, in old Chinese style; his uncut hair having been previously plaited in a queue similar to the present Chinese or Manchu fashion. The Corean never cuts off any of his hair and never shaves. There is, however, on the middle of the crown of his head a little spot, which could be covered with a sixpence, which was burnt on the occasion of his first childish illness; and that spot is made a little larger when the knot is tied, as the accumulation of hair on the top of his head makes the head uncomfortably hot, and causes sore eyes. And the bridegroom having become a man, now goes round to pay his humble respects to all the relations and friends of his father. On the night of the day on which the bridegroom sent his presents, the friends of his father collect at his house, sit up all night, and eat, drink, and make merry.
As Corea is an extremely poor country, there are many who cannot afford to get wives for their sons, and there are many men who grow up bachelors of a respectable age … The male human being who is unmarried is never called a “man,” whatever his age, but goes by the name of “yatow”; a name given by the Chinese to unmarriageble young girls: and the “man” of thirteen or fourteen has perfect right to strike, abuse, order about the “yatow” of thirty, who dares not as much as open his lips to complain.
Another auspicious day, perhaps the third after present-day, is found for “diang gaighanda”—the marriage. On the night before the marriage, the bride sends back her husband’s garments made by herself, being her first wifely duty done. An auspicious hour is fixed for the departure of the bridegroom and his party from his own house to that of the bride. In front of the procession is a servant on horseback, carrying a life-size likeness of a wild goose, covered by red cotton cloth, which he holds with both hands. Then follows the bridegroom, also on horseback; his groom riding after him, all his other servants following on horseback. The bridegroom’s father brings up the rear, with his servants behind, all riding,–the number of horses and amount of display being bounded only by the purse of the parties, but in all cases implying great expense.
Arrived at the house, the wild goose man first dismounts, enters and places the wild goose on the top of a huge bowl of rice, and then retires. The father then dismounts outside the main gate, and the bridegroom last of all. Etiquette demands that all the company should stand facing the east, in which position they doff their grand official hats, richly embroidered outer robes, and boots, worn by permission on this day by plebeian as by my lord. In their ordinary apparel, they are now led into the house by the bride’s father, who has come out to welcome them, the bridegroom advancing first of all. No sooner are they comfortably seated, thạn a scene of the greatest confusion and uproarious mirth takes place. The bridegroom is a scholar, and has been accompanied by all his fellow-scholars, who now suddenly dash on him in a body, and carry him off in spite of all striving and remonstrance on his part. They hold him a prisoner till his father-in-law redeems him with a handsome bribe, on which they hand him over, and depart to make merry with their plunder.
The bridegroom’s party is then regaled with food, after partaking of which they all depart, each of the servants with a little present of money, leaving the bridegroom alone to pay his respects to the ancestral tablet of his bride. And in the evening he is introduced into the bride’s chamber, which is decked out with flowers, two bowls of rice on the kang, in each of which is stuck a yellow candlestick and a burning candle. There he remains alone, till the bride is by and by escorted by her mother and female relations in the house, and the married people see each other for the first time. They are at once left alone and the door closed. On the next day the bride divides the one queue, in which her hair had been hitherto done up, into two; each containing half her hair, and plaited back on the crown of the head, one on each side, towards the forehead, in which fashion she wears it ever after. On the third day, the young couple may return to the bridegroom’s father’s house ; but if not then, a whole year must pass ere they go thither, many allowing two years. When they do arrive at the young husband’s house, they both worship his ancestral tablet.
At marriage, a red paper with written characters is handed them, which is afterwards cut in two,—each retaining half; for in case of future trouble, the husband cannot marry again, if he has not the half showing him independent; for many married people separate in Corea, from “incompatibility of temper,” or other reasons; nor need we wonder at the fact. The separated husband, with his half of this red paper, can easily obtain another wife, but not without; while she is supposed never again to marry.
One of the lower class informed me that the youth went to the father-in-law’s house, a month before marriage, and saw the girl. That if both, or either, were dissatisfied, they could break the match, by persistent opposition, in spite of parental chastisement (!) which is likely enough; for mutual choice was the ancient custom of the country.
Oh, joy! Spring allergies are here again. To celebrate, I spent yesterday incapacitated on the couch watching K-dramas, including re-watching episodes of one of my newer favorites Mr. Queen.
All of this reminds me that I must continue my series on women in late Joseon Korea, as excerpted from Louise Jordan Miln’s book Quaint Korea, published in 1895. Today I’ve posted passages about Korean geishas known as Kisaeng. These women, usually between 16 and 22 years of age, were formally trained for their profession and regulated by the Korean government. Miln refers to these women as geisha. I’ve replaced these references with the Korean word Kisaeng. If you’re interested in learning more about Kisaeng, the Wikipedia entry for the Kisaeng is great.
As I caveated in my previous post on Joseon women, this excerpt is only one American woman’s observation of her experiences in Korea. You are welcome to politely correct or add more information (or suggest really good K-dramas!)
The word geisha is a Japanese word, and it signifies “accomplished person.” The Korean word for the class of women of whom I am writing is ki-saing.
And as the women of the Korean gentry are more secluded than those of any other Asian gentry, so are the Kisaeng girls of Chosön more interesting, more fascinating…Women seem to be an indispensable element of society after all. Social enjoyment without them is more or less a failure, at least in any very prolonged form
The Kisaeng girls have names of their own, but then the Kisaeng have individuality; live lives, if not moral, why still, not colourless, and mix with men, if not on an equality, at least with a good deal of familiarity; and it would be rather awkward if the men who are dependent upon them for female society … had no name by which to call them. The “Fragrant Iris” was the name of a Kisaeng girl whose acquaintance Mr. Lowell tells us he made in Korea, and four of her companions were called “Peach Blossom,” “Plum Flower,” “Rose,” and “Moonbeam.”
To please, to amuse, to understand, and to companion men, mentally and socially, is their chief duty, their chief occupation, and their most earnest study. The Kisaeng girl is, as a rule, rather better educated than the concubine, better educated, quite possibly, than the wife; for the Kisaeng must make her way, and hold any position she gains, solely by personal talent, personal attractiveness, and personal attainments. Not for her to lay at the man’s feet a son who may worship him into the most desirable corner of the Korean heaven; only for her to please him while she is with him, to touch for him odd instruments and sing to them soft, weird songs, to shake the soft perfume of her hair across his cheek and the perfume of the flowers she wears upon the bowl of food, or of fish, or fruit she humbly places before him; only for her to laugh at his humour, flat howsoever it may be; only for her to applaud his ambitions, urge on his hopes, charm away his fears; only for her to please; never for her, save by accident, to be pleased.
In proportion to the populations of the two countries there are far fewer Geisha in Korea than in Japan, but this is solely, I think, because Korea is so much poorer than Japan; for nowhere are women of their profession more appreciated, more esteemed, and treated by men more on an equality than they are in Chosön. The Korean Kisaeng is systematically and carefully trained for her intended profession. Several years are occupied by her education, and not until she is proficient in singing, in dancing, in reciting, in the playing of many instruments, in repartee, in the pouring of wine, in the filling and lighting of pipes, in making herself generally useful at feasts and festivals, and above all, in being good-natured, is she allowed to ply her trade. In or near every large Korean city are picturesque little buildings called “pleasure-houses.” They are very like the tea-houses of Japan. They are usually built in some secluded spot, and are surrounded by the brilliance of flowers, and half hidden beneath the shadow of trees. They are scantily but artistically furnished, and are running over with tea and sweetmeats and girls.
The Kisaeng of the King are, of course, the flower of the profession, and are dressed even more elaborately than the ordinary Kisaeng, which is quite superfluous.
Most Asian dances are slow. Probably the slowest of them all is the dance of the Korean Kisaeng. The Kisaeng herself is covered and covered from throat to ankle. It would be imprudent to say how many dresses she usually wears at once. She dresses in silk and in glimmering tissues. Before dancing she usually takes off two or three of her gowns, and tucks up the trains of the robes she still wears, but even so she is very much dressed, and a thoroughly well-clad person. In winter she wears bands of costly fur on her jaunty little cap, and an edge of the same fur about her delightful little jacket of fine cashmere, or of silk. She wears most brilliant colours, and all her garments are perfumed and exquisitely clean. Indeed, cleanliness must be her ideal of godliness.
Her parents are poor, always very poor, and she is pretty, always very pretty. It is this prettiness which causes her almost from her babyhood to be destined for the amusement profession. It makes her suitable for that profession, and ensures her probable success in it. Her parents gladly set her aside from the toilers of the family, and she is given every possible advantage of mind and person. So she is insured a life of ease, and even of comparative luxury. She is a blooming, gladsome thing, with gleaming eyes, and laughing lips, and happy dancing feet. She looks like some marvelous human flower when you meet her in the streets of Söul, and forms an indescribable contrast to the draggled crowds that draw apart to let her pass as she goes on her laughing way to her well-paid work.
Kisaengs are greatly in demand for picnics, and in the summer often spend days in the cool, fragrant woods, playing for, reciting to, and feasting with some merry party of pleasure-makers. If their services are required at a Korean feast they usually slip in one by one when the meal is more than half done. The host and his guests make room for them, and each girl seats herself near to a man whose attendant she thus becomes for the entire evening. They pour wine for the men, and see that all their wants and creature comforts are well looked after. They do not eat unless the men voluntarily feed them. To feed them is to give them a great mark of favour, and it would be the worst of bad form for them to refuse any morsel so offered. After the feast they sing and dance in turn and together. They recite love stories and ballads, and strum industriously away upon Korean instruments. Their singing is very plaintive: as sad as any earthly music, but it is not sweet nor pleasing to European ears. To introduce them for an evening into the most respectable family circle is regarded as the best of good taste. Some of these girls live together, many of them live, nominally at least, in the homes of their own childhood. They form strange contrasts to their sisters of approximately the same age, whose lives have been lives of virtue and incessant work.
Kisaengs never by any chance become familiar with, or are treated familiarly by the women of the households into which they are occasionally introduced, and yet some of them are not unchaste in their personal lives. This, however, is of course very exceptional. Occasionally the Kisaeng becomes the concubine of a man of position, or the personal attendant of a man of wealth.
William Wells Brown, the child of a slave and slave owner, grew up in St. Louis in the early nineteenth century. He was sold many times before he escaped slavery in 1834. He adopted the name Wells Brown after the Quaker who helped him as a runaway. Having no formal education, Wells Brown taught himself to read and went on to become the first African American to publish a novel, play, and a travel guide. He wrote Three Years in Europe: Places I Have Seen and People I Have Met while lecturing on abolitionism in Europe. I’ve excerpted his description of The Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace, which was the first world’s fair.
A Day in the Crystal Palace.
London, June 27th, 1851.
Presuming that you will expect from me some account of the great World’s Fair, I take my pen to give you my own impressions, although I am afraid that anything which I may say about this “Lion of the day,” will fall far short of a description. On Monday last, I quitted my lodgings at an early hour, and started for the Crystal Palace. This day was fine, such as we seldom experience in London, with a clear sky, and invigorating air, whose vitality was as rousing to the spirits as a blast from the “horn of Astolpho.” Although it was not yet 10 o’clock when I entered Piccadilly, every omnibus was full, inside and out, and the street was lined with one living stream, as far as the eye could reach, all wending their way to the “Glass-House.” No metropolis in the world presents such facilities as London for the reception of the Great Exhibition, now collected within its walls. Throughout its myriads of veins, the stream of industry and toil pulses with sleepless energy. Everyone seems to feel that this great Capital of the world, is the fittest place wherein they might offer homage to the dignity of toil. I had already begun to feel fatigued by my pedestrian excursion as I passed “Apsley House,” the residence of the Duke of Wellington, and emerged into Hyde Park.
I had hoped that on getting into the Park, I would be out of the crowd that seemed to press so heavily in the street. But in this I was mistaken. I here found myself surrounded by and moving with an overwhelming mass, such as I had never before witnessed. And, away in the distance, I beheld a dense crowd, and above every other object, was seen the lofty summit of the Crystal Palace. The drive in the Park was lined with princely-looking vehicles of every description. The drivers in their bright red and gold uniforms, the pages and footmen in their blue trousers and white silk stockings, and the horses dressed up in their neat, silver-mounted harness, made the scene altogether one of great splendour. I was soon at the door, paid my shilling, and entered the building at the south end of the Transept. For the first ten or twenty minutes I was so lost in astonishment, and absorbed in pleasing wonder, that I could do nothing but gaze up and down the vista of the noble building. The Crystal Palace resembles in some respects, the interior of the cathedrals of this country. One long avenue from east to west is intersected by a transept, which divides the building into two nearly equal parts. This is the greatest building the world ever saw, before which the Pyramids of Egypt, and the Colossus of Rhodes must hide their diminished heads. The palace was not full at any time during the day, there being only 64,000 persons present. Those who love to study the human countenance in all its infinite varieties, can find ample scope for the indulgence of their taste, by a visit to the World’s Fair. All countries are there represented—Europeans, Asians, Americans and Africans, with their numerous subdivisions… Of all places of curious costumes and different fashions, none has ever yet presented such a variety as this Exhibition.
There is a great deal of freedom in the Exhibition. The servant who walks behind his mistress through the Park feels that he can crowd against her in the Exhibition. The Queen and the day labourer, the Prince and the merchant, the peer and the pauper… all meet here upon terms of perfect equality. This amalgamation of rank, this kindly blending of interests, and forgetfulness of the cold formalities of ranks and grades, cannot but be attended with the very best results. I was pleased to see such a goodly sprinkling of my own countrymen in the Exhibition—I mean Black men and women—well-dressed, and moving about with their fairer brethren. This, some of our pro-slavery Americans did not seem to relish very well. There was no help for it. As I walked through the American part of the Crystal Palace, some of our Virginian neighbours eyed me closely and with jealous looks, especially as an English lady was leaning on my arm. But their sneering looks did not disturb me in the least. I remained the longer in their department, and criticised the bad appearance of their goods the more.
In so vast a place as the Great Exhibition one scarcely knows what to visit first, or what to look upon last. After wandering about through the building for five hours, I sat down in one of the galleries and looked at the fine marble statue of Virginius, with the knife in his hand and about to take the life of his beloved and beautiful daughter, to save her from the hands of Appius Claudius. The admirer of genius will linger for hours among the great variety of statues in the long avenue. Large statues of Lords Eldon and Stowell, carved out of solid marble, each weighing above twenty tons, are among the most gigantic in the building.
Among the many things in the Crystal Palace, there are some which receive greater attention than others, around which may always be seen large groups of the visitors. The first of these is the Koh-i-noor, the “Mountain of Light.” This is the largest and most valuable diamond in the world, said to be worth £2,000,000 sterling. It is indeed a great source of attraction to those who go to the Exhibition for the first time, but it is doubtful whether it obtains such admiration afterwards. We saw more than one spectator turn away with the idea that after all it was only a piece of glass. After some jamming, I got a look at the precious jewel, and although in a brass-grated cage, strong enough to hold a lion, I found it to be no larger than the third of a hen’s egg. Two policemen remain by its side day and night.
The finest thing in the Exhibition, is the “Veiled Vestal,” a statue of a woman carved in marble, with a veil over her face, and so neatly done, that it looks as if it had been thrown over after it was finished. The Exhibition presents many things which appeal to the eye and touch the heart, and altogether, it is so decorated and furnished, as to excite the dullest mind, and satisfy the most fastidious.