Friday, 30 November 2012

Is "Happy Ever After" Just a Fairy Tale?

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Romance readers expect a 'happy ever after' ending - but is this just a fairy tale?
Whilst doing research for my historical romances, it is amazing how the truth can be stranger than fiction. In the past, when couples married if their dreams didn't come true and a husband tired of his wife, it seems selling the spouse was an acceptable means of disposing of her. If this theme seems familiar, it may be because Thomas Hardy used the subject of wife-selling in his novel, The Mayor of Casterbridge.
Wife-selling on market day.
Since a wife was legally her husband's property and there were no laws against selling a spouse, it seems it was not an unusual occurrence.
The toll book of the Bell Inn, Birmingham records such a sale:
‘Samuel Whitehouse….this day sold his wife, Mary Whitehouse, in the open market to Thomas Griffiths…value 1 shilling. Taken with all her faults.’
31st August 1773
 
It was even noted with alarm (or sarcasm?) in the Times on 22nd July 1797:
‘The increasing value of the fair sex is esteemed by several eminent writers to the certain criterion of increasing civilization…and refined improvement as the price of wives has risen at that market [Smithfield] from half a guinea to three guineas and a half [GBP 294 today!].’


Indeed, another example was the clergyman, Thomas Snowdell, who married during the brief reign of King Edward VI (Henry VIII's son). When Edward died and his half-sister Mary took the throne, Queen Mary changed the law such that married clerics faced a choice between giving up their living…or their wife. The Rev. Snowdell decided his stipend was the more important of the two options and sold his wife to the local butcher!
 
Contempary drawing by Thomas Rowlandson.
 
However some husbands were a little too honest when selling their wives, as with farmer Joseph Thomson and his spouse of 3 years. He offered her for auction in Carlisle, listing her bad points as
Born serpent’ and ‘his tormentor.’
Amongst her better features he lists;
‘She can read novels, milk cows, makes butter and scold the maid…she is a good judge of the quality of rum, gin or whisky from long experience of tasting it.’
Thomson wanted 50 shillings (GBP 160 today) but accepted the knock down price of 20 shillings and a Newfoundland dog, which all parties were happy with!

We all know marriage is no fairy tale (except in romantic fiction J )but really, part- exchanging a wife for a dog - whatever next?
 

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42 comments:

  1. I had heard of the practice of selling a wife I just didn't realize it was widely practiced. WOW! Love your blog and this post was awesome! Cute kitty pics too. Thanks Carin
    mawmom at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, Carin, so glad you enjoyed the post.
      Thank you for visiting.
      Grace x

      Delete
  2. Love the post, Grace! Thanks so much for participating in the hop!
    Love Natalie-Nicole xx

    ReplyDelete
  3. It's my pleasure!
    Thank you for organising the hop - it was fun thinking of a post that fitted the 'fairy tale' theme, whilst staying true to my passion for history. I hope you enjoyed the result.
    Grace x

    ReplyDelete
  4. Many years ago I had a husband I wish I could have sold. Just as well I couldn't, he wouldn't have brought much on the open market. Let's all give three cheers for easily obtained divorces.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Great post very interesting .Have a fantastic weekend

    flanagan@mebtel.net

    ReplyDelete
  6. Well I don't think I would have wanted to be married back then LOL. I honestly didn't know wives could legally be sold. Things you learn when you hop around during a hop.

    vampiremistress2010(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  7. Great cat pictures! Thank you for sharing.

    elewkf1 at yahoo dot com

    ReplyDelete
  8. Wow, those do not sound like good times! So, happy to be living now!

    grapeapril75(AT)gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks for the chance to win!
    natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com

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  10. Really enjoyed the feature and I've subscribed to your newsletter!

    Thanks for the great giveaway!

    - khriscc (at) yahoo (dot) com

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  11. Hi Grace. Thanks for sharing this. It's insane. I imagine women wouldn't have risked getting married and sold, except without a husband to support them, how could they survive. They were caught between the rock and the hard place. Too sad.

    laurathomas61(at)att(dot)net

    ReplyDelete
  12. Ha, really enjoyed your post. And I subscribed. :) Thanks for the giveaway.

    imsocool(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  13. wow, this stuff I didn't know, thanks for sharing!
    and yes, I subscribed :)
    Karina
    swordlily_girl[at]yahoo[dot]com

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thank you for the chance to win!
    verusbognar (at) gmail (dot) com

    ReplyDelete
  15. Let's face it, the man who sold his wife for cash AND a dog, definitely got the good end of the bargain. Us women are difficult sometimes and dogs love us unconditionally. There is a song called Love Me Like My Dog that this makes me think of. I cannot recall who sings the song but if you are an animal lover, you must listen to it!

    Thanks so much for the amazing giveaway and being a part of this fun hop!

    Happy Holidays,
    Marlena
    charmedpoms(at)yahoo(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  16. Thanks for the giveaway and for being part of the HOP!
    fantasy_angel381(at)ayhoo(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  17. jeez, didn't know that o.O learned something new today :)
    subscribed to your newsletter

    fiza700[at]gmail[dot]com

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  18. Thanks for being part of the hop and for the chance to win. <^_^>
    reneebennett35 (at) yahoo (dot) com

    ReplyDelete
  19. LOL..Following via e-mail as katieamanda1(at)yahoo(dot)com Thanks for participating!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Thanks for the chance.

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    By the by, I love the layout of your blog!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Thanks lots for this

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    ReplyDelete
  22. When we married I told my husband I would be a "widow not a divorcee" and he knew PRECISELY what I meant *cue evil laugh* So you can imagine his fate should he try to sell me. . . .

    ReplyDelete
  23. Ha! It was nice to get a fun history lesson along with the fairy tales.

    dancingcelt at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  24. Great Post and history lesson.

    Thanks for being on the blog hop.

    Bookworm (dot) judy (at) gmail (dot) com

    ReplyDelete
  25. Thanks for the giveaway.
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  26. Really interesting post. Thanks for the giveaway!

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  27. Great post! Thanks for participating! :)

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    ReplyDelete
  28. Nice post.

    bn100candg(at)hotmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  29. Glad I wasn't around in those days.

    Thanks for the opportunity to share and check out new authors.

    Belinda G
    belgre AT comcast DOT net

    ReplyDelete
  30. Great and interesting post. :)
    I learned a few things as well. ;)
    Thank you for the wonderful giveaway!
    trb0917 at gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  31. Thx for the great hop stop.

    blinkysthebest at aol dot com

    ReplyDelete
  32. Thanks for sharing!

    bacchus76 at myself dot com

    ReplyDelete
  33. I love fairy tales! When i see new fairy tale themed books, i cant help but get them. :) Beauty and the Beast has always been my favorite! I love the characters and the plot. So good! Thanks for the awesome hop and giveaway! Best wishes and many blessings to you!
    shadowluvs2read(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  34. Oh my! Truth is stranger than fiction sometimes. Thanks for sharing and thanks for the giveaway opportunity.

    sophiarose1816 at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  35. Thanks! Happy Holidays!
    gokarter418 (at) aol (dot) com

    ReplyDelete
  36. Hi. I always loved Cinderella.

    Chris
    ceagles48218@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
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  38. The title pic is available in Hi-Res at the its author's Flickr here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/thawt/8027969222

    ReplyDelete

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