Sunday, 15 August 2010

Charles Darwin on 'The expense and anxiety of children.'

In my novel 'A Dead Man's Debt',Celeste Armitage has resolved not to marry.
Repelled by the unwanted advances of a lascivious Viscount she cannot see the attraction of marriage and added to this the disadvantages a woman endured when she married it is easy to understand her opinion.
For one thing, prior to the late 19th century, when she married a woman acquired the same legal status as a lunatic, a ward or an outlaw. Since 1066 a woman became her husband's property on marriage - indeed this was the single most important way of transferring land, valuables and property, so whatever belonged to the woman, now belonged to the man!
To make matters worse appalling double standards applied. Because of primogeniture (the eldest son inheriting absolutely everything) a husband had to be certain any offspring were his and so society expected the wife to be wholey faithful (at least until and heir and a spare had been produced!), whilst the wife was expected to turn a blind eye to her husband's infidelities!
As Dc Johnson wrote:
'Chastity in a woman is all important, because the whole of property is involved in it.'
In the 18th century John Milton reflected on the mutual comfort of marriage;
'To abate the separateness, the loneliness of the individual.'
It was from this concept of mutual compatability that the ideal of divorce of the grounds of incompatability eventually developed.
Indeed Charles Darwin approached the question of marriage in an entirely logical manner. When considering whether to propose or not he wrote two lists. Under 'Marry' he entered, 'A constant companion, a friend in old age,' and 'good for one's health.'
Under 'Not Marry' he wrote, 'The expense and anxiety of children.'
How right he was!

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