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Q&A Courtship and Marriage In Jane Austen’s World (and a giveaway) — 24 Comments

  1. We know that husbands could beat their wives with a stick no thicker than the size the husbands’ hands. However, were there any other legal limitations on the abuse they could render? And were they ever punished?

  2. What exactly was the etiquette on first names? Was it improper for a man to use the first name of ANY unmarried woman who wasn’t a relative, or were exceptions made for close friends? Would Elizabeth be referred to as Miss Bennet (instead of Miss Elizabeth) whenever Jane wasn’t around to be the default Miss Bennet? And what about married women? Charlotte is referred to as Mrs. Collins after her marriage, but Lady Catherine is always Lady Catherine…

  3. What about Edward Ferrars – why was it considered lazy to go to university? – he describes it as having to got to be seen to be doing something as he did not want to enter the army as it was far to smart for him and dangerous in times of war.
    Thank you Maria –

  4. I cannot imagine Sir Thomas Bertram giving Fanny a dowry. Despite his considerable estate, both locally and overseas, he had occasional periods where he seems to have been strapped for cash and he no doubt paid a sizable dowry when Maria married Mr Rushworth. He was much happier on a personal level with Edmund and Fanny’s marriage and I am sure he always had their finances in mind. He may have helped them directly and I am sure
    he constantly looked for opportunities for Edmund. But for anyone to marry someone as portionless as Fanny was had to be a bold or unusual marriage. Sr Thomas worries when the idea of taking her into his family comes up, that if Fanny is raised among the gentry, she will expect to marry a gentleman and not many would families would accept her as a wife since she will bring no money and some lower class family connections into the marriage

  5. It seems like proposals of marriage can be given without any signs of courtship (Darcy’s confession of ardently loving Elizabeth and the asking for her consent to be his wife). Was this a common practice? And was there a period of time of acquaintance that had to pass before a man could make an offer? Or could he just “pop the question” at any time?

  6. Why did they have dowries? I have read that the men would spend it all, or it would be held (for example, in a Trust) for the female and offspring as their security if the male dies. Thank you for the giveaway,a nd the book sounds so interesting.

  7. One plot I’ve seen a few times in regency stories is a woman who hopes to marry a rich gentleman will try to compromise herself in hopes that he will have to marry her. I am curious if this actually a common occurrence in reality and whether a woman’s reputation was as easily compromised as the stories suggest. For instance, a letter being given between a man and a woman, being alone in a room together with the door shut or a gentleman asking for a lock of a woman’s hair, etc.

  8. Were there any instances when the man took the wife’s surname? And what were some marriage customs that became ‘outdated’ and left behind beginning in the Regency period?

  9. Despite the strict rules of propriety that supposedly governed the behavior of engaged couples, I’ve read statistics that claim somewhere between 30% to 50% of brides were pregnant at the time of their marriage. (I realize statistics gleaned from the Internet can be totally inaccurate.) With the constant demand for being chaperoned, just how did these eager couples pull this off? Also, how did the courtship practices differ for the landed gentry, the nobility, the tradesmen class, and the servant class? Did the period of time from engagement to marriage vary with class distinctions?

  10. If a betrothed couple decide they aren’t compatible even after courtship and eventually a proposal was offered and accepted, what stigmas were placed on the bride and groom? Today the change is so easy, but back in Regency time it sure was not.

  11. Was there a usual/expected length of time for courtships and engagements, respectively. Also, what were the consequences of a broken engagement to both men and women? Were they dependent on who broke the engagement?

  12. What was the practice for wedding gowns for the various classes? I would imagine Georgiana could afford much more elaborate gowns for a wedding than the Bennet sisters. And what colors were worn? White gowns for brides was not the practice although I don’t know when that practice came in. And books talk about bridesmaids, but was that practice? I know they had to have witnesses so who stood in for that position? Was it a relative or a friend, older or near the same age? Were wedding always in the mornings with breakfasts to follow? I can’t remember any other time of day being used in stories I have read.

  13. How is that one’s income was common knowledge among one’s acquaintances? For example,as soon as Bingley moved into the neighborhood, he was declared to have an income of 5000 a year. And the inheritance of women was also known. We’re people less reticent about discussing their incomes than we are today?

  14. What time of day were weddings usually held? I thought I read somewhere that morning weddings were very common. And how were weddings usually celebrated (by the different classes)?

  15. Hi!
    Thanks for your help and the great giveaway, Maria!

    I’m interested in the process of drawing up a settlement before the wedding – was it done for all the women (except perhaps the very poorest), or only the Gentry and aristrocracy? How much was considered “enough” for a widow to live on? Who looked after the money? How was it ensured that the husband didn’t touch this money? And what happened to it, if the woman died before her husband (childbirth, disease, etc.)? Was this money always inherited by the daughters (like the Bennet girls all get 1000 upon Mrs. Bennets death)?

    And if we’re already talking about money:
    – Col. Fitzwilliam let’s Lizzy know that he needs to marry for money…how big exactly would the dowry have to be? How much does he make as a Colonel? Couldn’t he afford to keep a wife (in more or less comfort) or did he simply want to marry and be done with his military carreer?
    – “What pin money, what jewelry”… Mrs. Bennet is in raptures over Lizzy’s choice – how much pin money might she expect? How much would a Mrs. Darcy need to dress in style (and therefore show off her husband’s welth)? How much would Darcy give her of his ten thousand a year?

  16. I asked this question earlier, but it seems to have disappeared. How much of a scandal was it to break an engagement? Did it depend on who broke the engagement? Would a lady become “devalued” after a broken engagement?

  17. Hi to everybody,
    I’m Claudia, I live in Bologna,Italy, and thanks to a Jane Austen Book Club in my town’s main library I have rediscovered JA and come back to her novels and life with increasing interest and pleasure.
    Mrs Grace’s book deals with a fascinating topic;I look forward to reading all the answers she will be able to give.
    I would like to know at what age it was thought proper to get married and if there were differences due to the social status.
    Thank you so much!
    Claudia

  18. Maria, you are usually such a force of nature that I am worried to see you haven’t answered any of these questions. Would you like me to answer them for you?

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