Posts Tagged ‘Victorian’
My short story for June is up and available! This is another of my more humorous ones, similar in many ways to Blessed Offense. This is another in the collection I’m putting together of loosely themed seasonal stories. It’s also the last, at least until autumn, that I have already written. Which means I need to be getting back to work, doesn’t it?
Prejudice comes in many forms. For Madeleine Woodson, it is the handicap of child’s eyes, which have not yet learned to see the man who has grown up beside her. Will she learn her mistake before it’s too late?
Announcement the first!
The first of my big, BIG, BIG announcements, is that I am, AT LAST, buying a house! It’s a lovely Queen Anne Victorian, in the historic district where I live, and I’ll be blogging about it! So if you are an enthusiast of old houses, or of Victorian history, make sure you subscribe, because this is going to be FUN! (Our last house was a 1918 Colonial Revival. If you’d like to see pictures of that project, please click here.)
And of course I cannot forget…
Cry of the Peacock comes out in one month!
Are you excited? I’m excited! I’ve worked for a really long time on this book (like nine years!) and there’s never been a better time to release it, what with the hoopla over Downton Abbey and all. It’s set in 1890, around the time of the opening of the London Tube, and it’s a great love story, fashioned, in a sense, after Pride and Prejudice and Middlemarch. What has Peacock in common with Downton Abbey? Well, it’s set on a vast English estate, which is being, and has been, mismanaged. It’s about the rise of a reluctant hero (or in this case heroine) who is being groomed to inherit, though she’s not sure she wants to. Neither does she wish to be set up with the snobbish, aristocratic heir. But has she a choice?
Cry of the Peacock will be available in Kindle and paperback April 4, 2013.
(And in hardcover as well shortly following.)
In the series on Flawed Heroines, I’ve chosen to go last. Not strategically, so I might benefit from the windfall of readers my wonderful writing buddies have brought to my website (Thank you!) but because I’ve really been avoiding it. I know it must be done, but Imogen’s flaws are very personal. I have received some criticism that her reactions to certain events in her story are overwrought and too drawn out. Before I defend her, let me tell you her story.
When Imogen’s mother died from cholera, she was sent to live with an uncle, despite the fact that her aunt was her godmother. Drake Everard was very wealthy. He had worked in finance, in banking and then investments. And then he began to dabble in personal loans. To be honest I borrowed him from Dickens’ Ralph Nickleby, prurient tendencies included. Like Mr. Nickleby, Everard’s beautiful niece served as some enticement to keep the young and fast set coming to borrow money from him. It was not his intention that he should offer her as merchandise, but there was an unspoken understanding that some favoured patron might win her particular attention. One young man took the challenge, and finding an opportunity one afternoon, when the moneylender had gone out, took advantage of a moment alone with her.
I suppose one must also understand a bit about the education of women of the time. A woman was meant to be pure and innocent, she knew little if anything about the ways of men and women. If she was fortunate enough to have grown up on a farm, then she might have witnessed for herself the reproductive ways of the common beast. Not that this would have served as any admirable example to her own mode of conduct when she found herself so circumstanced as to engage in such activities. Imogen was not raised on a farm, but in colonial India with an absent father, and then in London, with her uncle. She understood that if she made herself appealing, she might have a way out of her uncle’s house. He was not opposed to making his own impositions on her, though he never carried these out to their foulest ends. She knew, at least hoped, that by using some charm and a little feminine encouragement, she might win herself a husband. What she did not understand is how easily a gentleman, and a young one with few principles (he was given to borrow money, after all) might be persuaded to take a little more than encouragement and a little less than marriage. This very sudden awakening to the ways of men and the world is part of Imogen’s trouble.
Another contributing factor is the fact that, upon her uncle’s death (which she deems her fault, as it happened when she was trying to resist him) he bestowed her with the entirety of his fortune. This, she deems, is a way of remunerating her for services rendered. She may be spoiled, damaged goods, but she is not a prostitute and she still has some hope of earning a respectable life. If you’re wondering, yes, I did borrow from Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles. In fact the story haunted me so I had to try my hand at rewriting her story.
Another thing that must be considered is the fate of a young woman with money. And money, particularly, that others might get at, and feel they have a right to. Her ability to trust has been shattered. She might not ever gain it back. What hope has she of finding someone who would love her for herself and not for a sheer desire to get at the money that would come with her? And if they did, could she tell them about her past? She might keep the secret, but she knows that others know it. It might be revealed at any time, at which point she’d be ruined. But, like Tess, she is a woman of fatal honesty. She will not misrepresent herself.
So Imogen runs away, and, like Tess, tries to work her way to penance, to carve away a little place in life where she can live quietly and respectably, below the notice of others. But of course, being pretty, and having been raised in something of a genteel fashion, her condescension to the station of a housemaid is somewhat apparent. At least she becomes a curiosity and her employer, and his young nephew, take notice.
All of these things conspire against her when her marriage is arranged, yes, for a fortune. What would you do under such circumstances? The guy may be drop dead delicious, that doesn’t mean you would automatically place your heart in his hands ten minutes after he had bought it. Does it?
I probably needn’t say that my marriage wasn’t arranged. I probably needn’t say I did not inherit an immense fortune, or ran from it or hired myself out as a servant in a large country house. But I did go into marriage with some of Imogen’s issues. And I know from experience how difficult it was to trust, even though I knew my husband to be a good man (which is why I married him). I still had to deal with those issues. And there were rage issues too I had not expected. One minute I would be just fine and the next I thought I would explode. Imogen didn’t have the benefit of counseling or therapy. She didn’t have modern mores to say that a woman going into marriage unblemished was the norm rather than the exception. She had guilt, she had self loathing, she had anger. And a lot of it.
So, despite the injuries imposed upon her, despite her nearly fatalistic need for independence, Imogen’s greatest flaw is the hatred and loathing she bears for herself. How does one overcome it? It can’t be done through another. Her husband may adore her, but that means nothing considering how their union has come about, the deceptions he necessarily engaged in, or that others did in his behalf, in order to bring the marriage about. Not when he has bought her. Not when he has a right at any time to demand of her what Lionel Osborne did, and in any fashion he may like, for she is as surely property to him as the money that came with her. Only that isn’t quite right, because there is another complication in the mix in the way of his uncle, upon whom he is dependent, and toward whom he is indebted. And so, quite understandably (at least to my mind) it takes her a long time to learn that her happiness is in her own hands and no one else has that responsibility. That, despite whatever obstacles might have been placed before her, happiness is ultimately a choice she alone must make for herself. Perhaps it takes her longer than it should. But that is the very point I wished to make.
Perhaps I’m alone in my reaction to my own circumstances. I don’t believe so. And if Imogen gives one other person in this world a reason to hope, there is nothing more I could ask for. It will have been enough.
V.R. Christensen attended Brigham Young University, Idaho, where she earned a degree in Interior Design, while, at the same time studying English Literature, Art History and Sociology. When she is not writing, she is designing impractical clothing, redecorating her historical homes, or making impossible demands of her husband of seventeen years. She travels a great deal and considers herself a citizen of the world.
Currently, V.R. makes her home in Appalachian Virginia, where she lives with her three children, seven cats and a dog named Jasper.
V.R. is a member of Historical Fiction Authors Cooperative, Past Times Books, Authors Anon and Literary Underground, all of which are aimed at ensuring that the publishing revolution now upon us produces some of the finest work available to the reading public–and makes it available.
by M. Louisa Locke
When I was asked to write about flawed heroines, I immediately thought of Annie Fuller, the main protagonist in my two cozy Victorian mysteries, Maids of Misfortune and Uneasy Spirits. Annie is a young widow who lives in 1879 San Francisco and supplements her income as a boarding house owner by giving advice as the clairvoyant Madam Sibyl. As befitting cozy mysteries, my characters and plots don’t tend to be too dark, and even my hero (Annie’s romantic interest, lawyer Nate Dawson) isn’t a typical tortured bad boy in need of reform. But Annie does have her weaknesses, and her extreme independence (or perhaps her fear of being dependent) is the most obvious character flaw because it gets her into the greatest difficulties in both books and leads to a kind of recklessness in her behavior.
But as soon as I had that thought, I felt that I had wronged my own creation. How could I call Mrs. Fuller’s fiercely independent spirit a flaw? Wasn’t I just buying into the prevalent nineteenth century view, called by historians the “Cult of True Womanhood,” that said a middle class woman like Mrs. Fuller should be pious, pure, domestic and submissive? Was Annie Fuller truly flawed because she refused to confine herself to the narrow definitions of womanly behavior in that period-particularly the submissive part?
I had consciously made her independent, modeling her on many of the real heroines of the nineteenth century, women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, and Jane Addams who had challenged the idea that women needed to be dependent and subordinate to men. I purposely gave her a childhood, mirroring the childhood of many of these historic women, that had fostered her sense of competence and equality. Annie Fuller’s mother died when she was young and, as a result, she became very close to her father, who treated her like a son and trained her to develop an extraordinary understanding of business and stock speculation. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, for example, had become a surrogate son to her lawyer father when his last remaining male heir died.
And, for Annie, like many of the women’s rights leaders of the nineteenth century, entry into adulthood became a rude awakening and threatened her of sense of confidence and independence. In Annie’s case her crisis came with her marriage to a man who belittled and abused her and eventually destroyed her fortune and left her destitute upon his death. What followed was five humiliating years living off the reluctant charity of her in-laws, a not uncommon fate for widowed women of that time. No wonder economic independence would become so important to her. She worked to achieve that independence when she turned an old San Francisco house she inherited into a boarding house. Then, when that income was insufficient, she created the role of Madam Sibyl and developed a lucrative practice as a clairvoyant, using the expertise she had gotten under her father’s tutelage to dispense business advice.
Not surprisingly, when her economic independence is threatened at the opening of Maids of Misfortune, Annie Fuller is willing to do almost anything to counter that threat, including investigating the death of one of Madam Sibyl’s clients, whose assets, including a bequest to Annie, has gone missing. However, her fierce independence, taken too far, also becomes a weakness. In her single-minded determination to remain economically independent, she acts rashly, not thinking of the consequences of those actions. As a result, in the course of her investigations, people’s freedom, in some cases their very lives, are jeopardized. Yet she refuses to listen to counsel, particularly when given by Nate Dawson, because she sees his actions in the light of the other men in her life who tried to make her submit to their will. She has confused being dependent with being open to help from someone else.
While some readers have grumbled that these struggles between the hero and heroine in my books make Annie too modern, as a professional historian of nineteenth century women, I can assure readers that Annie’s fear of dependence was very common. Some women, Like Susan B. Anthony and Sarah Grimke, refused offers of marriage for that very reason. Others, like Lucy Stone, tried to carve out marriages of equality, changing the marriage vows, keeping their own names. Other women challenged public opinion by winning a divorce, as did Laura de Force Gordon, a minor but real historical character in my second book, Uneasy Spirits.
While Annie Fuller’s independent nature is understandable, it leads to a fear of dependence in Uneasy Spirits that almost proves her undoing. In this, the second book in the series, she not only pushes Nate away because of her fear that she would lose her independence if she married him, but she pushes away all her friends when she feels they might question her decisions. What she achieves is not independence but a growing isolation, which will ultimately result in threats to her own life.
While I have Annie realize some of the ways her behavior has hurt her and others at the end of Uneasy Spirits, I don’t think that the problems she face will go away, particularly regarding her relationship with Nate. Nate Dawson, as a man of his time, thinks of his offer of marriage as gift-giving Annie economic security, protection, respectability, a home and family. By in large her friends, including her female friends, agree with him. Annie, on the other hand, fears that marriage will cause her to lose things, her name, her freedom of action, her work, and, most frightening of all, her independence. Whether these different views of marriage can be reconciled will have to be answered in subsequent books in the series, but you can believe me, as Annie’s creator, I am not going to squash her reckless and independent spirit, because where would be the fun in that!
M. Louisa Locke is a retired professor of U.S. and Women’s History, who has embarked on a second career as an historical fiction writer. The first two published books in her series of historical mysteries set in Victorian San Francisco, Maids of Misfortune and Uneasy Spirits, are bestsellers in the historical mystery category on Kindle. These books feature Annie Fuller, a boardinghouse owner and clairvoyant, and Nate Dawson, a San Francisco lawyer, who together investigate murders and other crimes, while her short stories, beginning with Dandy Detects, give secondary characters from this series a chance to get involved in their own minor mysteries. Dr. Locke is currently living in San Diego with her husband and assorted animals, where, in addition to these short stories, she is working on Bloody Lessons, the next full-length installment of her Annie Fuller/Nate Dawson series.
It is an undeniable irony of life that, despite his many blessings, man is an ungrateful brute, finding handicaps and obstacles in that which ought to bless him most. The wealthy man, comfortable in his great house, with his soft furnishings and glowing hearth, is rarely sympathetic to the plight of the poor. If a man wants for food and raiment, ought he not to work for it? There are jobs enough for those who truly want them, declares our man of wealth and wisdom—from the chair he has not left all day.
Even modern conveniences become a source of irritation when they fail us in their obligations. We have employed them, paid good money for them, ought they not to work as they were designed to do?
The weather, as mundane a thing as can be imagined, yet manages to vex our lives as few other things can. The sun that makes it possible to grow our vegetable gardens and to take our vacations to seaside towns, is often too glaring or too warm. Conversely, the rain that waters the crops, that fills the rivers and streams, ruins our plans and dampens our moods.
Our five senses, likewise, are blessings of which we are rarely mindful, save when we cannot use them to their best advantage. We curse our noses for the colds they catch, our hands for the injuries they suffer, our ears for the sounds that annoy us. The seeing man is often blinded to the subtleties of his environment by the obvious. He takes what he sees as truth and rejects what might lay beneath the surface. A beautiful house is more desirable than a humble one, however inconvenient it may be. A beautiful woman, likewise, far more suitable than she who, though clever and resourceful, has less to be proud of in her appearance.
Those five senses (though some may argue six), while so essential to our lives, are things we too often take for granted. Is it possible that one, being deprived of a part of his natural senses, might appreciate them all the more? Might he have a sweeter understanding of life and its hidden meanings?
* * *
In a large suite of rooms in a sprawling country house, sits such a man as we might put these questions to. At the moment we join him we see that he is annoyed to distraction by the apparent lack of urgency conveyed by the firm pulling of the chord to the bells that are attached at its furthest end. In short, his servants are too slow. But this is only a part (though admittedly the greater part) of his anxieties. Other considerations circumstantially have added to them, for the weather, too hot yesterday, is dreary and damp today. A strange dog has found its way onto the property and will not leave off barking. His ears are ringing and his head has begun to ache. His tea, now cold, has too much lemon. And on top of all this, he suspects he is coming down with a cold.
As to his sight, he cannot complain. That is, he has no new complaint to speak of. Arthur Tremonton was born, to his mother’s sorrow and his father’s indignation, blind.
By his staff, Arthur might have been described—were you to ask them, and assuming they were inclined to oblige—as a man of better than average looks. His hair was fair and grew thick upon his head. His eyes bore no evidence of his malady save in their unusual paleness, a liquid blue that appeared almost white. He was tall, lithe and elegant, well dressed, well groomed and immaculate in speech if not entirely in manner. And, perhaps most significantly of all, he was well educated, which was an extraordinary thing considering he had never had a single day of school. No, he had lived his life in this house, confined, almost exclusively (at first by the dictates of his parents, now dead, and then by habit) to an upper suite of rooms. He had been provided with tutors, naturally, but it was not until he had inherited his father’s library, and the vast collection of books within it, that his education ventured into anything nearing higher learning. The deficiencies consequent of an education directed by a too protective mother and an unsympathetic father were more than made up for in the years that followed their passing.
Of course it was not the library alone Arthur had inherited, but the house, as well as its sprawling park, its ample staff, and even, to his great fortune, his father’s aged valet, who had also served, these many years, as his teacher. Arthur could not read, but he could hear, and he could remember, and he could understand like few others. He possessed an almost supernatural gift of recollection, a keen comprehension of concepts, histories, theories and philosophies he could only experience in his mind. It was certainly a fortunate thing that Arthur had been born to money and position, for, at the age of seven and twenty, he could apply himself to no more practical occupation than that of a perpetual scholar. He had no skills to speak of that were not of the cerebral persuasion. Had he been born a poor man; a mill worker, or a printer, a farmer, perhaps, he would have been at the mercy of an unforgiving world. What hardships he would have had to endure! He could not imagine it. But then he never tried. A man’s hardships were his business. Arthur Tremonton had his own trials, and they were quite enough.
Where was Mrs. Pritchet with his tea! He rang the bell once more.
Some, he knew, made themselves burdensome, and with far less reason than Arthur possessed. And yet hadn’t he made something of his life?
Again, he applied his hand to the bell cord. Harder this time. Surely it was working well enough.
He would not make a nuisance of himself for the world! Such were better off dead. He would bother no one by his infirmity. And he would prefer that the consideration be reciprocated. He needed no one, which was perhaps a good thing as he had no friends. He did not like visitors and detested interruptions of any sort. Most, by now, had learned it was best to leave him in peace. Most, but not all. For those infernal charity Sisters would persist! And why must they keep coming? Their efforts were wasted to extract money, or to plumb the depths of his soul. They could not help him and he certainly did not want their pity.
Was he lonely? Well, yes. Of course he was. But he valued his privacy and solitude more than he did company. And those had ever come could never keep up a satisfactory conversation, for they could not compete with his intellect and only spoke of the things they saw and the places they went, as if they meant to brag of the talents they possessed and of which he had been born deficient. It was, in truth, nothing more than an insult to his impairment. He was blind! Was he ever going to cease to be blind? No! Would he ever be able to embark upon such adventures on his own? Of course not! So what use was there in discussing them? Try as a man might, Arthur could not be made to understand what a banana tree looked like, or an elephant or the ocean. The phrases ‘large as a house’, ‘fast as a horse’, ‘grey as the sea’… these meant nothing to him. One cannot comprehend the size and shape of a buffalo if one has not seen it for oneself. One cannot describe the shades of the dusk-lit sky if one has never seen colour or shade or even vast and open space. It is impossible. And it is insulting! And he did not cower in telling them so.
Wisely, and mercifully, these visitors had ceased over time to come at all. All but the wretched, annoying, supercilious young women of the Sisters’ Charitable Aid Society! They would come this very afternoon, despite a grumbling sky and the rain that tapped at the windows. They would come. They always came when he wished most to be left alone. Just see if they didn’t!
***Blind is a soon to be published novelette. More info will be forthcoming. Stay tuned.***
ARREST OF THE SUPPOSED MURDERESS.
From Lloyd’s Weekly News, Sunday, October 26, 1890
The Central News says the detectives in charge of the Hampstead Murder case pursued their inquiries with much persistence and skill throughout yesterday, and in the course of the afternoon were rewarded by the discovery of a valuable clue, which led to the discovery that the murdered woman left home with the intention of calling upon a Mrs. Pearsey, an intimate friend of the family, who lives at No. 2, Priory-street, Kentish-town-road. Superintendent Beard (along with Detective-inspector Banister) at once proceeded to the house of Mrs. Pearsey. He had taken but a few steps when he saw clear signs that a desperate, bloody, and prolonged struggle had taken place in the rooms.
They made a search, and in a table drawer they found a caving knife with blood on the handle, also a second carving knife with the appearance of blood on the handle. In the fender was a long, heavy poker with a kind of ring handle to it. Two panes of glass in the window had been smashed from the inside. All the walls of the kitchen and ceiling were bespattered with blood. A black skirt, with apparently blood stains on it, was found in the kitchen, and an apron which appeared to have been recently washed also with stains on it. A large rough box and a bundle of wood by the side of it also had blood marks on them. There were two doors in the kitchen, both of which had spots of blood on them. There were marks of blood on the floor and on the window sash. And there was a rug very much stained with blood. There were indications that attempts had been made to get rid of the marks. The rug was saturated with paraffin oil.
Detective-inspector Banister took the knives and poker into the parlour, where the prisoner was sitting, and she began to whistle and assume an air of most perfect indifference. The witness and Mr. Beard then saw some of the other inmates of the house and took their statements. He then returned to the parlour, where the prisoner was still whistling. He said to her, “Mrs. Pearsey, I am going to arrest you for the wilful murder of Mrs. Hogg last night, and also on suspicion of the wilful murder of the female child of Mrs. Hogg.” She jumped out of the chair, and said, “You can arrest me if you like; I am quite willing to go with you; I think you have made a great mistake.” She then handed him the latchkey produced and said, “This is the key of 141, Prince of Wales’s-road; Clara gave it to me to-day.” She was then taken in a cab to the Kentish-town police-station. On the way she said to the Detective-inspector Banister, “Why do you charge me with the crime?” He said, “On account of the evidence.” She then observed, “Well, I would not do such a dreadful thing; I would not hurt anyone.” He then told her to take off her gloves. She took them off and she was wearing two wedding rings, one a brass ring and the other a very broad gold one. In her bonnet-box he had previously found a card case belonging to the deceased woman’s husband, containing some of his address cards. The prisoners’ hands were very much cut and scratched about and all her clothing was considerably stained with blood. The police had taken possession of the clothing she was wearing, and had provided her with cothes form the workhouse. The deceased had no wedding-ring on, but her finger bore the impression of a wide ring. He had fitted the ring on, and it fitted the deceased’s finger and corresponded with the mark on the finger.
Detective-inspector Banister later noted that Mrs. Pearsey had been living with a man and represented herself as being married. The name she was given was not her proper one.
The police also have a man under surveillance, on suspicion of being concerned in the crime, but for obvious reasons it is desired that his identity shall not even be hinted at for the present. The suspicion against him, however, is so strong that he may be arrested at any moment, and that the public will then be in possession of the motive for this shocking crime.
A later report says that about 6:30 on Friday evening Mrs. Peasey was seen to leave the house pushing a perambulator similar to that found. Priory-street is a small street with no thoroughfare, just on the Kentish-town side of Camden-road station. To reach the spot where the body was found it must have been necessary to pass the residence of the murdered woman in Prince of Wales’s-road, and thence by way of Haverstock-hill to Eaton-avenue and Crossfield-road, a distance of considerably over a mile. Subsequently the perambulator was conveyed for another mile or more before it was abandoned in Hamilton-terrace.
Of the many wonders of this digital age, perhaps one of the greatest is all the old books that are now being scanned and published, many of them for free, and which are now readily available. I don’t know how I would have navigated much of my research without the internet and the reliable information that is now available. One of my recent finds (and timely, it was) is a book called “Husband and Wife, and the Married Women’s Property Act of 1882″ by Charles E. Baker. This is an 1882 edition of a book that was printed earlier, but which was updated to include the perceived ramifications of The Married Women’s Property Act, which formally passed in November of 1882, but which did not take affect until January of 1883. The Married Women’s Property Act being the backdrop of Of Moths and Butterflies, I found this incredibly pertinent. Moreover, there were some legal questions I had had to sort of blindly navigate around. Finding this text was a godsend. I do not like to guess at legal matters. I loath the idea of inventing research and facts. Fortunately, I know enough about the era and how things were done to have guessed fairly nearly accurately. And it was a relief to have my theories substantiated. This book lays it all out quite plainly.
I discussed in an earlier post, the different means by which a couple might be married. Firstly, by publishing banns in the local parish, secondly by special license (a prohibitively expensive practice), or, thirdly, by what was called an “ordinary license”. This is what anyone with any money would have done. It was on this that I needed specific details, as it seems a practice little understood.
By the canon law of England, the archbishops, bishops, and certain others have power to grant licenses for the solemnisation of matrimony, without the banns being first published, between persons one of whom shall be resident at the time within the diocese of the bishop in whose name such licence is granted.
For avoiding fraud and collusion in obtaining licences for marriage, it is enacted that, before any such licence be granted, one of the parties must personally swear before the surrogate, or other person having authority to grant the same, that he or she believes that there is no impediment of kindred or alliance, or of any other lawful cause, to bar or hinder the proceeding of the matirmony according to the licence; and that one of the parties has, for fifteen days immediately preceding such lincence, had his or her usual place of abode within the parish or chapelry within which such marriage is to be solemnised; and, where either of the parties, not being a widower or widow, shall be under the age of twenty-one years, that the consent of the person or persons whose consent to such marriage is required by law has been obtained thereto; but if there shall be no person having authority to give such consent, then, upon oath made to that effect, the licence will be granted. And if any such licence has been procured by a party to such marriage, when one or both of the parties to the marriage are under the age of twenty-one years, not being a widower or widow, by means of such party willfully and knowingly bearing falsely, the marriage, if duly solemnised, will not be void, but the guilty party will forfeit all property accruing from the marriage for the benefit of the innocent party, or of the issue of the marriage, if proceedings for that purpose be instituted within one year after the solemnisation of the marriage.
Generally it may be said that if a name has been assumed and inserted in the licence for the purpose of fraud, in order to enable the party to contract marriage and to conceal himself from the party to whom he is about to be married, then the licence would be void; but where a name has been previously so assumed as to have become the name which the party has acquired by reputation, then the insertion of that name in the license will not render the licence void.
It was mentioned at the commencement of this chapter that the present law of divorce was formed in order to put a stop to the evils that were arising from the too easy manner in whcih marriage might be declared to be altogether null and void but it must not be supposed that marriage may not now be declared to have been illegally contracted and to be void.
It has been previously shown that in order to make a marriage legal, the following requisites are necessary:
1. It must be celebrated after publication of banns, or by special or ordinary licence, or at a registrar’s by licensc or certificate.
2. It must be celebrated in a church or registrar’s office, in which marriages may be legally solemnised, except in the case of special licence.
3. The persons to be married must be single persons, and not related to eachother within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity.
4. They must be of sound mind and sound body (so far as performing the duties of matrimony is concerned), and they must consent to the marriage.
If, therefore, any of these requisites are wanting, the marriage will be voidable, that is to say that the judge of the Divorce Court on hearing the petition and the evidence, an considering whether both parties were fully aware at the time of the marriage of the informality, may decide that the marriage was altogether null and void. But to begin with, the law always presumes that the marriage is valid until it an be proved that it was otherwise, so that strict proof will be required of the informality, and if the informality relates merely to the ceremony, then something further will be required to show that the informality was not a pure mistake of wich no advantage ought to be taken.
Incapacity of mind and incapacity of body also form grounds whereon to present a petition, praying that the marriage may be declared, void and so, too, where one of the parties has been coerced and has gone through the marriage under the influence of force or fear. Fraud, again, if proved, is sufficient ground whereon to obtain a decree for nullity of marriage;
But when the ground on which the suit is based is the respondent’s incapacity of body, the respondent may plead that there has been delay in bringing the suit, and if this, coupled with indirect motives, can be proved,t he petitioner will not be entitled to relief.
So what does all this mean? In Of Moths and Butterflies there is an argument for annullment on grounds purely technical. That being that Archer signed the licence in a name that was not his own. Except that he always knew it to be his name. So on his part, there was no fraud, but because the uncle usurped power over the money, and ultimately over the marriage itself, the fraud may be laid at his door. Was there real grounds for annulment? No. Not really. And non-consumation wouldn’t have held. Not in this case, because Imogen was the refuser (in contrast to the case between Effie Gray and John Ruskin, by which case the world was shocked, not by her desire for annullment, but because of his indifference toward his comely wife), neither would she do anything to bring unsavory attention upon herself. But keep in mind that these fears have generated in a mind used to thinking in such terms. Sir Edmund assmes Imogen would behave so because he would, and because he hates women in general. The threat, truly, is not that the marriage might be disolved, (though she would have had grounds to seek a separation) but that the truth of their combined histories might be made public. Still, it was necessary for me to know who must go to get the license and how it was done, and by what particulars Wyndham might think he had a case agaisnt them. It’s amazing to me how much a man’s word was relied upon back then. No birth certificates (not everyone had one), simply a man’s word and the signing of his name to attest that he was who he said he was.
It was also pointed out to me by a wise and dear friend, that what the law says, and how it was actually carried out, are two different things entirely. Which is obviously true. But, in the end, this is a work of fiction, and yes, I’ve taken a few liberties in order to make the point I wished to make, and to provide that it should resonate with a modern audience in times totally different, and yet while we yearn for very similar things. None of this is to say that the story is an impossible one. It’s just highly improbable. But isn’t that what makes it all so interesting? Besides, if it were true (and what if it is, after all) who would believe it?
When the ceremony is over, the question sometimes arises whether the bride is to be kissed by the bridegroom. We should leave its decision to the instinct of affection were we not solemnly warned by a portentous authority on the deportment that “the practice is decidedly to be avoided; it is never followed by people in the best society. A bridegroom with any tact will take care that this is known to his wife, since any disappointment of expectations would be a breach of good breeding. The bride is congratulated by all her friends in the church, and elderly relatives will kiss her in congratulations: This is, of course, now settled beyond all peradventure of doubt by the fact that, according to the same authority, “The queen was kissed by the Duke of Sussex, but not by Prince Albert.”
So what do we really learn from this passage? Firstly, in 1873, despite what the author later says to the contrary, “the question sometimes arises.” Which means it’s not firmly established rule. That, the discussion should be had beforehand as to whether there would be a kiss or not, leads me to believe there were as many ceremonial kisses as there were avoidances of the practice. And that, by not kissing her, some “disappointment of expectations” might result.
I also find it interesting that the example of the Queen was used. (Note that she didn’t cite said ‘authority’) The Queen was married to Albert in 1840. That was over thirty years prior. So was the fashion only just catching on for the question to still be raised? It is fairly common knowledge that society (and that’s society with a lower case ‘s’, meaning all groups of people everywhere) adopted, as much as they were able, the practices of the court. But Victoria was not the prude we often think her. The Duke of Sussex, her elder uncle (he would die three years later) did kiss her, however. I cannot help but note that he was brother of George the IV, of King William, too. I don’t mean to suggest that the kiss was not perfectly chaste, but to found a pattern of chaste behavior after his example might be stretching it a bit.
Also, consider Albert. I find it frustrating that so much speculation has been made upon his lack of zeal for female flesh before (or in fact during) his marriage. There are men, believe it or not, whose primary objective in life has little to do with sex and more to do with obtaining knowledge, bettering the world, and being worthy of one’s place in it. For the record, he and Victoria had a healthy sex life. Neither was ashamed of it, though Victoria did often lament the consequences. She would much rather have been Queen and lover than mother, but birth control was not an option for the respectable. Albert, though, as I suggested earlier, was of a different make than many, and he had been reared for a higher purpose. Considering him in the way of personality types, he was not your ordinary man. An INTP on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, he was a phlegmatic type, deeply introverted and kept his feelings to himself, never on show for the public to see. But he did have feelings, and rather strong ones. The prime goal of his young life was to be worthy of Victoria, and to contribute something meaningful to England and to the world. And society, at the time, had quite had their fill of George IV’s example (which was not much alleviated by William, who followed.) The fact that Albert did not kiss her in public was most probably a personal choice for him. Considering that their wedding would have been a highly publicised spectacle, a ceremony of state rather than a private and personal one, they both might have deemed it inappropriate.
So did grooms kiss their brides in the Victorian era? Well, yes. Perhaps not all of them. Perhaps those in the highest echelons of Society, or those pretending to it, did not (I’m reminded of the Lammle wedding in Dickens’ ‘Our Mutual Friend’) but it did happen. Perhaps more particularly in the country than in London. Mostly, though, literature of the era (my chief source of reference for social do’s and don’t's) skips over the actual ceremony. Books end with proposals, not weddings, so it’s hard to know for certain.
In the end, though, the final decision for what I do, is ultimately made by my impression of what the reader would want. Does the reader want to read an impossible love story, concluding with a wedding (or perhaps there are two) without a kiss at all? Well… I rather think not.
And if you think that was a spoiler, think again.