Hints to Young Men on Marriage: 1875

Remember, gentlemen, choose your wife for her thrift and industry!

Remember, gentlemen, choose your wife for her thrift and industry!

Since we recently gave young ladies advice on choosing an agreeable husband, it is only fair that the gentlemen should receive


When a young professional marries, be often fondly imagines he is acting wisely in choosing his wife from a family poorer than his own. He fancies that a young lady brought up with few luxuries will be simple in her ideas. He calculates that, having never had money to spend, she will be moderate in her expenditure; that being a poor man’s daughter, she is better fitted for the part of a poor man’s wife; and that having lived in a household supported on, say £400 a year, she will be easily able to make ends meet where there is £500. He could hardly make a greater mistake. There are brilliant exceptions, no doubt. But the girl who has never had money to spend, and who has never seen money spent, has no idea how to spend it when she has it. She thinks £500 a year a fortune. Her notions of what may be done with it are perfectly unlimited. Broughams, little dinners, an occasional box at Covent Garden, Mudie’s, a maid, lots of new dresses, gloves that need never to be cleaned or mended, all these and other visions float through her mind. She is of course very soon awakened to realities, and she is at first amazed at the rapidity with which her housekeeping allowance melted away. The regions of extras is never reached, and it is well if she does not soon get into debt with her weekly bills or forestall her Income to pay for something she has ordered without having counted the cost. A man with a small income consults his future comfort to some better purpose by choosing a wife where there is money, even If he is not to have any share of it with her. If she has seen her father give hundreds of pounds for a picture or a horse, she at least knows how much such things cost; and If, as in most families of the kind, the young: ladles have a regular allowance, she is able to tell how much will be required for dress. And how impossible It will be to have any of the things which an inexperienced wife will wish for and perhaps expect. She has also the advantage of knowing how little married happiness really depends upon such things, and how small is the gratification to be obtained from possessing them. And she probably knows that extravagance is just as fatal to £50,000 a year as to £500, and that to keep out of debt requires management, whatever the amount of annual income. Accustomed to many servants, she knows what care will be needed to get the work of even a small house done by two; and so she helps them as much as possible, will take a share in the dusting, especially of ornaments, will not hesitate to go to the hall door when they are busy. On Sunday she will receive the milk in the orthodox manner through the area rails, rather than keep the cook from performing her devotions, or taking a walk with her sweetheart. Even if she is not a good housekeeper, her servants have some consideration for her in return, and perhaps even occasionally endeavor to be saving and careful in their own departments.

London Saturday Review,  1875

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  As one whose father chose his wife on the basis of her skill in binding sheaves, Mrs Daffodil appreciates this generally sound advice, although she suspects that the declaration “even If he is not to have any share of it with her” is a touch disingenous.  As the saying goes, it is just as easy to fall in love with a rich girl as a poor one. Mrs Daffodil has observed what may ensue when a young lady from a stately home marries beneath her. It is more likely to include running to Papa for pocket money behind her lord and master’s back, and, ultimately, a separate maintenance order, than servants denying themselves to oblige their mistress.

Mrs Daffodil digresses, but thinking of considerate mistresses brought Lord Gerald and Lady Mary of Whittsend Hall to mind. After the unfortunate affair of the decapitation of the stillroom maid by a dumbwaiter in the course of a romp with George, 10th Earl of Downleigh, Mrs Daffodil was pleased to discover a suitable distant cousin to inherit the estate when his Lordship died of what the doctor diagnosed as nervous dyspepsia. The new Lord Gerald had taken a degree in agriculture and had a wife–Lady Mary– who had grown up in a great house and knew the necessary economies as well as how to repair tapestry and launder the loose covers in soapwort.  We all felt most fortunate to acquire such a charming and considerate master and mistress after the many irregularities of his late Lordship, who seems to have personally repopulated entire parts of rural Essex.

You may read the entire tale in the title story of A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. It is also available as an e-book at Barnes & Noble.

2 thoughts on “Hints to Young Men on Marriage: 1875

  1. Pingback: Whether Marriage or Single Life is to be Preferred: 1815 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses

  2. Pingback: People Who Should Not Marry: 1903 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s